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Leonora   By: (1867-1931)

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LEONORA

A Novel

by

ARNOLD BENNETT

Author of The Grand Babylon Hotel , The Gates of Wrath , Anna of the Five Towns , etc.

1903

CONTENTS

I. THE HOUSEHOLD AT HILLPORT II. MESHACH AND HANNAH III. THE CALL IV. AN INTIMACY V. THE CHANCE VI. COMIC OPERA VII. THE DEPARTURE VIII. THE DANCE IX. A DEATH IN THE FAMILY X. IN THE GARDEN XI. THE REFUSAL XII. IN LONDON

CHAPTER I

THE HOUSEHOLD AT HILLPORT

She was walking, with her customary air of haughty and rapt leisure, across the market place of Bursley, when she observed in front of her, at the top of Oldcastle Street, two men conversing and gesticulating vehemently, each seated alone in a dog cart. These persons, who had met from opposite directions, were her husband, John Stanway, the earthenware manufacturer, and David Dain, the solicitor who practised at Hanbridge. Stanway's cob, always quicker to start than to stop, had been pulled up with difficulty, drawing his cart just clear of the other one, so that the two portly and middle aged talkers were most uncomfortably obliged to twist their necks in order to see one another; the attitude did nothing to ease the obvious asperity of the discussion. She thought the spectacle undignified and silly; and she marvelled, as all women marvel, that men who conduct themselves so magisterially should sometimes appear so infantile. She felt glad that it was Thursday afternoon, and the shops closed and the streets empty.

Immediately John Stanway caught sight of her he said a few words to the lawyer in a somewhat different key, and descended from his vehicle. As she came up to them Mr. Dain saluted her with bashful abruptness, and her proud face broke as if by the loosing of a spell into a generous and captivating smile; Mr. Dain blushed, the vision was too much for his composure; he moved his horse forward a yard or two, and then jerked it back again, gruffly advising it to stand still. Stanway turned to her bluntly, unceremoniously, as to a creature to whom he owed nothing. She noticed once more how the whole character of his face was changed under annoyance.

'Here, Nora!' he said, speaking with the raw anger of a man with a new born grievance, 'run this home for me. I'm going over to Hanbridge with Mr. Dain.'

'Very well,' she agreed with soothing calmness, and taking the reins she climbed up to the high driving seat.

'And I say, Nora Wo back !' he flamed out passionately to the impatient cob, 'where're your manners, you idiot? I say, Nora, I doubt I shall be late for tea half past six. Tell Milly she must be in. The others too.' He gave these instructions in a lower tone, and emphasised them by a stormy and ominous frown. Then with an injured 'Now, Dain!' he got into the equipage of his legal adviser and departed towards Hanbridge, trailing clouds of vexation.

Leonora drove smartly but cautiously down the steep slope of Oldcastle Street; she could drive as well as a woman may. A group of clay soiled girls lounging in the archway of a manufactory exchanged rude but admiring remarks about her as she passed. The paces of the cob, the dazzle of the silver plated harness, the fine lines of the cart, the unbending mien of the driver, made a glittering cynosure for envy. All around was grime, squalor, servitude, ugliness; the inglorious travail of two hundred thousand people, above ground and below it, filled the day and the night. But here, as it were suddenly, out of that earthy and laborious bed, rose the blossom of luxury, grace, and leisure, the final elegance of the industrial district of the Five Towns. The contrast between Leonora and the rough creatures in the archway, between the flower and the phosphates which nourished it, was sharp and decisive: and Leonora, in the September sunshine, was well aware of the contrast. She felt that the loud voiced girls were at one extremity of the scale and she at the other; and this arrangement seemed natural, necessary, inevitable.

She was a beautiful woman... Continue reading book >>




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