Hm, going to have a band, are you? said another of the workmen. He was pale. He had a haggard look as his dark eyes scanned the tennis-court. What was he thinking?
Only a very small band, said Laura gently. Perhaps he wouldnt mind so much if the band was quite small. But the tall fellow interrupted.
Look here, miss, thats the place. Against those trees. Over there. Thatll do fine.
Against the karakas. Then the karaka-trees would be hidden. And they were so lovely, with their broad, gleaming leaves, and their clusters of yellow fruit. They were like trees you imagined growing on a desert island, proud, solitary, lifting their leaves and fruits to the sun in a kind of silent splendour. Must they be hidden by a marquee?
They must. Already the men had shouldered their staves and were making for the place. Only the tall fellow was left. He bent down, pinched a sprig of lavender, put his thumb and forefinger to his nose and snuffed up the smell. When Laura saw that gesture she forgot all about the karakas in her wonder at him caring for things like thatcaring for the smell of lavender. How many men that she knew would have done such a thing? Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. Why couldnt she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper? She would get on much better with men like these.
Its all the fault, she decided, as the tall fellow drew something on the back of an envelope, something that was to be looped up or left to hang, of these absurd class distinctions. Well, for her part, she didnt feel them. Not a bit, not an atom...And now there came the chock-chock of wooden hammers. Some one whistled, some one sang out, Are you right there, matey? Matey! The friendliness of it, thetheJust to prove how happy she was, just to show the tall fellow how at home she felt, and how she despised stupid conventions, Laura took a big bite of her bread-and-butter as she stared at the little drawing. She felt just like a work-girl.
Laura, Laura, where are you? Telephone, Laura! a voice cried from the house.
Coming! Away she skimmed, over the lawn, up the path, up the steps, across the veranda, and into the porch. In the hall her father and Laurie were brushing their hats ready to go to the office.
I say, Laura, said Laurie very fast, you might just give a squiz at my coat before this afternoon. See if it wants pressing.
I will, said she. Suddenly she couldnt stop herself. She ran at Laurie and gave him a small, quick squeeze. Oh, I do love parties, dont you? gasped Laura.
Ra-ther, said Lauries warm, boyish voice, and he squeezed his sister too, and gave her a gentle push. Dash off to the telephone, old girl.
The telephone. Yes, yes; oh yes. Kitty? Good morning, dear. Come to lunch? Do, dear. Delighted of course. It will only be a very scratch mealjust the sandwich crusts and broken meringue-shells and whats left over. Yes, isnt it a perfect morning? Your white? Oh, I certainly should. One momenthold the line. Mothers calling. And Laura sat back. What, mother? Cant hear.
Mrs. Sheridans voice floated down the stairs. Tell her to wear that sweet hat she had on last Sunday.
Mother says youre to wear that sweet hat you had on last Sunday. Good. One oclock. Bye-bye.
Laura put back the receiver, flung her arms over her head, took a deep breath, stretched and let them fall. Huh, she sighed, and the moment after the sigh she sat up quickly. She was still, listening. All the doors in the house seemed to be open. The house was alive with soft, quick steps and running voices. The green baize door that led to the kitchen regions swung open and shut with a muffled thud. And now
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