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“A cauliflower gratin salad? A horseradish sauce salad?”
“You’re making a great fuss about nothing.”
“A bread and butter pudding salad?”
One of the twins snorted.
Even as Cecilia guessed what would come next, it began to happen. Betty turned to her, gripped her arm, and made her appeal. “Miss Cee, it was a roast what was ordered and we’ve been at it all day in temperatures above the boiling point of blood.”
The scene was novel, the spectators were an unusual element, but the dilemma was familiar enough: how to keep the peace and not humiliate her nike blazers sale mother. Also, Cecilia had resolved afresh to be with her brother on the terrace; it was therefore important to be with the winning faction and push to a quick conclusion. She took her mother aside, and Betty, who knew the form well enough, ordered everyone back to their business. Emily and Cecilia Tallis stood by the open door that led to the kitchen garden.
“Darling, there’s a heat wave and I’m not going to be talked out of a salad.”
“Emily, I know it’s far too hot, but Leon’s absolutely dying for one of Betty’s roasts. He goes on about them all the time. I heard him boasting about them to Mr. Marshall.”
“Oh my God,” Emily said.
“I’m with you. I don’t want a roast. Best thing is to give everyone a choice. Send Polly out to cut some lettuces. There’s beetroot in the larder. Betty can do some new potatoes and let them cool.”
“Darling, you’re right. You know, I’d hate to let little Leon down.”
And so it was resolved and the roast was saved. With tactful good grace, Betty set Doll to scrubbing new potatoes, and Polly went outside cheap nike free run 2 with a knife.
As they came away from the kitchen Emily put on her dark glasses and said, “I’m glad that’s settled because what’s really bothering me is Briony. I know she’s upset. She’s moping around outside and I’m going to bring her in.”
“Good idea. I was worried about her too,” Cecilia said. She was not inclined to dissuade her mother from wandering far away from the terrace.
The drawing room which had trans nike free trainers uk fixed Cecilia that morning with its parallelograms of light was now in gloom, lit by a single lamp near the fireplace. The open French windows framed a greenish sky, and against that, in silhouette at some distance, the familiar head and shoulders of her brother. As she made her way across the room she heard the tinkle of ice cubes against his glass, and as she stepped out she smelled the pennyroyal, chamomile and feverfew crushed underfoot, and headier now than in the morning. No one remembered the name, or even the appearance, of the temporary gardener who made it his project some years back to plant up the cracks between the paving stones. At the time, no one understood what he had in mind. Perhaps that was why he was sacked.
“Sis! I’ve been out here forty minutes and I’m half stewed.”
“Sorry. Where’s my drink?”
On a l nike blazers ow wooden table set against the wall of the house was a paraffin globe lamp and ranged around it a rudimentary bar. At last the gin and tonic was in her hand. She lit a cigarette from his and they chinked glasses.
“I like the frock.”
“Can you see it?”
“Turn round. Gorgeous. I’d forgotten about that mole.”
“How’s the bank?”
“Dull and perfectly pleasant. We live for the evenings and weekends. When are you going to come?”
They wandered off the terrace onto the gravel path between the roses. The Triton pond rose before them, an inky mass whose complicated outline was honed against a sky turning greener as the light fell. They could hear the trickle of water, and Cecilia thought she could smell it too, silvery and sharp. It may have been the drink in her hand.
She said after a pause, “I am going a little mad here.”
“Being ever nike free 3.0 review yone’s mother again. D’you know, there are girls getting all sorts of jobs now. Even taking the civil service exams. That would please the Old Man.”
“They’d never have me with a third.”
“Once your life gets going you’ll find that stuff doesn’t mean a thing.”
They reached the fountain and turned to face the house, and remained in silence for a while, leaning against the parapet, at the site of her disgrace. Reckless, ridiculous, and above all shaming. Only time, a prudish veil of hours, prevented her brother from seeing her as she had been. But she had no such protection from Robbie. He had seen her, he would always be able to see her, even as time smoothed out the memory to a barroom tale. She was still irritated with her brother cheap nike blazers about the invitation, but she needed him, she wanted a share in his freedom. Solicitously, s he prompted him to give her his news.
In Leon’s life, or rather, in his account of his life, no one was mean-spirited, no one schemed or lied or betrayed. Everyone was celebrated at least in some degree, as though it was a cause for wonder that anyone existed at all. He remembered al nike free l his friends’ best lines. The effect of one of Leon’s anecdotes was to make his listener warm to humankind and its failings. Everyone was, at a minimal estimate, “a good egg” or “a decent sort,” and motivation was never judged to be at variance with outward show. If there was mystery or contradiction in a friend, Leon took the long view and found a benign explanation. Literature and politics, science and religion did not bore him—they simply had no place in his world, and nor did any matter about which people seriously disagreed. He had taken a degree in law and was happy to have forgotten the whole experience. It was hard to imagine him ever lonely, or bored or despondent; his equanimity was bottomless, as was his lack of ambition, and he assum nike free running shoes ed that everyone else was much like him. Despite all this, his blandness was perfectly tolerable, even soothing.
He talked first of his rowing club. He had been stroke for the second eight recently, and though everyone had been kind, he thought he was happier taking the pace from someone else. Likewise, at the bank there had been mention of promotion and when nothing came of it he was somewhat relieved. Then the girls: the actress Mary, who had been so wonderful in Private Lives, had suddenly removed herself without explanation to Glasgow and no one knew why. He suspected she was tending a dying relative. Francine, who spoke beautiful French and had outraged the world nike free run 2 review by wearing a monocle, had gone with him to a Gilbert and Sullivan last week and in the interval they had seen the King who had seemed to glance in their direction. The sweet, dependable, well-connected Barbara whom Jack and Emily thought he should marry had invited him to spend a week at her parents’ castle in the Highlands. He thought it would be churlish not to go.
Whenever he seemed about to dry up, Cecilia prodded him with another question. Inexplicably, his rent at the Albany had gone down. An old friend had go nike free run plus t a girl with a lisp pregnant, had married her and was jolly happy. Another was buying a motorbike. The father of a chum had bought a vacuum cleaner factory and said it was a license to print money. Someone’s grandmother was a brave old stick for walking half a mile on a broken leg. As sweet as the evening air, this talk moved through and round her, conjuring a world of good intentions and pleasant outcomes. Shoulder to shoulder, half standing, half sitting, they faced their childhood home whose architecturally confused medieval references seemed now to be whimsically lighthearted; their mother’s migraine was a comic interlude in a light opera, the sadness of the twins a sentimental extravagance, the incident in the kitchen no more than the merry jostling of lively spirits.
When it was her turn to give an account of recent months, it was impossible not to be influenced by Leon’s tone, though her version of it came through, helplessly, as mockery. She ridiculed her own attempts at genealogy; the family tree was wintry and bare, nike free review as well as rootless. Grandfather Harry Tallis was the son of a farm laborer who, for some reason, had changed his name from Cartwright and whose birth and marriage were not recorded. As for Clarissa—all those daylight hours curled up on the bed with pins and needles in her arm—it surely proved the case of Paradise Lost in reverse—the heroine became more loathsome as her death-fixated virtue was revealed. Leon nodded and pursed his lips; he would not pretend to kno nike free 5.0 v4 w what she was talking about, nor would he interrupt. She gave a farcical hue to her weeks of boredom and solitude, of how she had come to be with the family, and make amends for being away, and had found her parents and sister absent in their different ways. Encouraged by her brother’s generous near-laughter, she attempted comic sketches based on her daily need for more cigarettes, on Briony tearing down her poster, on the twins outside her room with a sock each, and on their mother’s desire for a miracle at the feast—roast potatoes into potato salad. Leon did not take the biblical reference here. There was desperation in all she said, an emptiness at its core, or something excluded or unnamed that made her talk faster, and exaggerate with less conviction. The agreeable nullity of Leon’s life was a polished artifact, its ease deceptive, its limitations achieved by invisibl nike free 3.0 sale e hard work and the accidents of character, none of which she could hope to rival. She linked her arm with his and squeezed. That was another thing about Leon: soft and charming in company, but through his jacket his arm had the consistency of tropical hardwood. She felt soft at every level, and transparent. He was looking at her fondly.
“What’s up, Cee?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” ③

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