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Froggy Froggy is offline
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For once in his life Rodney was taken by surprise. His researches into his uncle's affairs had been confined to their commercial side. He knew practically nothing of his private life. He had never heard it spoken of, and had asked no questions. He had a vague idea that his uncle was a bachelor. He knew that he lived in rooms, and--accidentally--had learnt that he had relations with certain ladies of a kind which one does not associate with a family man. That he had ever had a wife and, still less, a daughter he had never guessed. Even in the midst of his surprise he reproached himself for his stupidity that such an important point should have escaped him! As he regarded the girl in front of him he perceived that she was her father's child.

She was about his height, he being short and fat. One day, if appearances were not misleading, she also would be plump. Already she had something of her father's rubicund countenance; her cheeks were red, even a trifle blotchy. She had dark hair and eyes, both her mouth and nose were a little too big. Yet he did not find her disagreeable to look at. On the contrary, there was something about her which appealed to him, just as he was conscious that there was something about him which appealed to her. Where a girl was concerned it was strange how some subtle instinct told him these things. He was moved to audacity.

"If you're my cousin, oughtn't I to kiss you?"

Her eyes lit up. Her lips parted, showing her beautiful teeth; if they were a little large, they were very white and even.

"As I've had no experience of cousins, how can I say?"

"I shouldn't like you to feel that I'm beginning by evading what, for aught either of us can tell, might be my duty."

Stooping, he kissed her on the mouth. Though it was little more than a butterfly's kiss, her lips seemed to meet his with a gentle pressure which he found agreeable.
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  #12  
Old 1 Day Ago
Froggy Froggy is offline
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ou are a cousin!" she exclaimed.

"I'm glad you are," he replied.

"Didn't you really know you had a cousin?" He shook his head. "Nor I; isn't it queer? I only found it out the other day by the merest accident; in some respects dad is the most secretive person. I've been abroad for the last five years. How old do you think I am?"

There was a frankness, a friendliness about this cousin which amused him. In that sense she could not have been more unlike her sire.

"Twenty-two."

"I'm twenty-five--isn't it awful? How old are you?"

"I regret to say that I am only twenty-three. I'm afraid you'll regard me as only a kid."

"Shall I? I don't think I shall. You don't look as if you were 'only a kid.' I've been what papa calls 'finishing my education.' Fancy! at my time of life! If my mother had been living I shouldn't have stood it; but, as you know, she died when I was only a tiny tot; and I knew dad--so I lay, comparatively, low. I've been living here and there and everywhere with the queerest duennas, though they really have been dears; and now and then I have had a good time, though I've had some frightfully dull ones. But at last I have struck. You know we've got a house in Russell Square?" Again he shook his head. "What do you know?"

"So far as you are concerned--nothing. I know that I'm clerk to my uncle, and that's all."

"Well, we have got a house in Russell Square. It's been shut up all these years--papa's been living in rooms. But I've made him refurbish it, and he's made it really nice--when he does undertake to do a thing he does it well--and I'm installed in it as mistress. Of course, I know Russell Square's out of the way, but they are good houses, and, if I can only manage dad, I'm going to have a real good time."

"Did he tell you about me?"

"Not he. Don't I tell you that I only discovered your existence by the merest accident? Do you remember a boy named Henderson who was at school with you?"

"Alfred Henderson--very well; we moved together from form to form."

"I know his sister Cissie; we were at school together, years ago, and she knows you. She told me the other day that you were in your uncle's office in St. Paul's Churchyard, and that his name was Graham Patterson, and was he any relation of mine. I nearly had a fit. When dad came home I bombarded him with questions---- What have you done to offend him?"

"Nothing of which I'm conscious. Ever since I've been in the office I've been aware that he dislikes me, though I assure you that I've done my best to please him and give him no cause of complaint."

"Well, he does not like you, and that's a fact. He as good as forbade me to make your acquaintance; but, as he wouldn't give any reasons, I decided to find out for myself what sort of person you were, and--then be guided by circumstances. The truth is, I've had enough of obeying dad, and that's another fact. If I'm not careful I shall end my days in a convent, and the conventual life has not the slightest attraction for me. I've got a will of my own, and when a girl is twenty-five it's about time that she should let such a very unreasonable parent as mine seems to be know it. I'm sure Cissie Henderson is a girl who knows what she is talking about, and as she said all sorts of nice things about you, and nothing else but nice things, I made up my mind that, since I had a cousin, I'd find out for myself what kind of cousin my cousin was. There is dad. Now you see how I manage him."

A heavy step and a loud voice were heard without; then the door was thrown back upon its hinges.

"Gladys! What does this mean?"
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