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Miss Middleton
by [?]

“I expect it’s because you say it AFTER you’ve finished arguing, instead of BEFORE,”

“Perhaps that’s it.”

“I never argue with mother. I simply tell her to do something, and she tells me afterwards why she hasn’t.”

“Really, I think Mrs Middleton has done wonderfully well, considering. Some parents don’t even tell you why they haven’t.”

“Oh, I’d recommend her anywhere,” said Miss Middleton confidently.

We dropped into silence again. Anyhow, it was MY favourite waltz.

“You did say, didn’t you, the first dance we had together,” said Miss Middleton dreamily, “that you preferred not to talk when you danced?”

“Didn’t I say that I should prefer to do whatever you preferred? That sounds more like me.”

“I don’t think it does, a bit.”

“No, perhaps you’re right. Besides, I remember now what I did say. I said that much as I enjoyed the pleasant give and take of friendly conversation, dearly as I loved even the irresponsible monologue or the biting repartee, yet still more was I attached to the silent worship of the valse’s mazy rhythm. ‘BUT,’ I went on to say, ‘but,’ I added, with surprising originality, ‘every rule has an exception. YOU are the exception. May I have two dances, and then we’ll try one of each?'”

“What did I say?”

“You said, ‘Sir, something tells me that we shall be great friends. I like your face, and I like the way your tie goes under your left ear. I cannot give you ALL the dances on the programme, because I have my mother with me to-night, and you know what mothers are. They NOTICE. But anything up to half a dozen, distributed at such intervals that one’s guardians will think it’s the same dance, you are heartily welcome to. And if you care to take me in to supper, there is–I have the information straight from the stable–a line in unbreakable meringues which would well be worth our attention.’ That’s what you said.”

“But what a memory!”

“I can remember more than that. I can rememher the actual struggle. I got my meringue down on the mat, both shoulders touching, in one minute, forty-three seconds.”

The band died slowly down until no sound could be heard above the rustle of frocks … and suddenly everybody realized that it had stopped.

“Bother,” said Miss Middleton.

“That’s just like a band,” I said bitterly.

“I’ll tell it to go on again; it’s MY band.”

“It will be your devoted band if you ask it prettily enough.”

Miss Middleton went away, and came back to the sound of music, looking rather pleased with herself.

“Did you give him the famous smile?” I asked. “Yes, that one.”

“I said, ‘WOULD you mind playing that one again, PLEASE?’ And then–“

“And then you looked as if you were just going to cry, and at the last moment you smiled and said, ‘Hooray.’ And he said, ‘Certainly, madam.’ Isn’t that right?”

“I believe you’re cleverer than some of us think,” said Miss Middleton, a trifle anxiously.

“I sometimes think so too. However, to get back to what we were saying–I came here to recover my usual calm, and I shan’t be at all calm if I’m only going to get this one dance from you. As an old friend of the family, who has broken most of the windows, I beg for another.”

“To get back to what I was saying–I’ve simply GOT to do a lot of duty dances. Can’t you take me to the Zoo or the Post-Impressionists instead?”

“I’d rather do both. I mean all three. No, I mean both.”

“Well, perhaps I would, too.”

“You know, I think you’d be doing good. I’ve had a horrible week–canvassing, and standing in the streets, and shouting, and reading leaders, and arguing, and saying, ‘My point is perfectly simple,’ and–and–swearing, and all sorts of things. It’s awfully jolly to–to feel that there’s always–well, all THIS,” and I looked round the room, “to come back to.”

“Isn’t that beautiful Miss Ellison I introduced you to just now part of ‘all this’?”