Mr. Sampson, bland and familiar, said he was quite certain they could get her the very thing she required. He showed her sketches.
"I know there's nothing here that would do, but I just want to show you the kind of thing I would suggest."
"Oh no, that's not the sort of thing at all," she said, as she glanced at them impatiently. "What I want is something that'll just hit 'em in the jaw and make their front teeth rattle."
"Yes, I quite understand, Miss Antonia," said the buyer, with a bland smile, but his eyes grew blank and stupid.
"I expect I shall 'ave to pop over to Paris for it in the end."
"Oh, I think we can give you satisfaction, Miss Antonia. What you can get in Paris you can get here."
When she had swept out of the department Mr. Sampson, a little worried, discussed the matter with Mrs. Hodges.
"She's a caution and no mistake," said Mrs. Hodges.
"Alice, where art thou?" remarked the buyer, irritably, and thought he had scored a point against her.
His ideas of music-hall costumes had never gone beyond short skirts, a swirl of lace, and glittering sequins; but Miss Antonia had expressed herself on that subject in no uncertain terms.
"Oh, my aunt!" she said.
And the invocation was uttered in such a tone as to indicate a rooted antipathy to anything so commonplace, even if she had not added that sequins gave her the sick. Mr. Sampson `got out' one or two ideas, but Mrs. Hodges told him frankly she did not think they would do. It was she who gave Philip the suggestion:
"Can you draw, Phil? Why don't you try your 'and and see what you can do?"
Philip bought a cheap box of water colours, and in the evening while Bell, the noisy lad of sixteen, whistling three notes, busied himself with his stamps, he made one or two sketches. He remembered some of the costumes he had seen in Paris, and he adapted one of them, getting his effect from a combination of violent, unusual colours. The result amused him and next morning he showed it to Mrs. Hodges. She was somewhat astonished, but took it at once to the buyer.
"It's unusual," he said, "there's no denying that."
It puzzled him, and at the same time his trained eye saw that it would make up admirably. To save his face he began making suggestions for altering it, but Mrs. Hodges, with more sense, advised him to show it to Miss Antonia as it was.
"It's neck or nothing with her, and she may take a fancy to it."
"It's a good deal more nothing than neck," said Mr. Sampson, looking at the _decolletage_. "He can draw, can't he? Fancy 'im keeping it dark all this time."
When Miss Antonia was announced, the buyer placed the design on the table in such a position that it must catch her eye the moment she was shown into his office. She pounced on it at once.
"What's that?" she said. "Why can't I 'ave that?"
"That's just an idea we got out for you," said Mr. Sampson casually. "D'you like it?"
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