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Chapter 2

Supper proceeded merrily.

The table was soon littered with dirty dishes, empty bottles, and guttering candles that needed snuffing. These candles flung crooked shadows about the room, illuminating the faces of Mr. Varley, Mrs. Purdie and her brother Ted with grotesque exaggeration, until they resembled nothing so much as the huge puppet heads that Paulina had so often seen leering down at her from Punch and Judy shows. Ted was asleep, snoring, his mouth wide open, a gross unlovely sight; opposite, their chairs drawn close together, sat Mr. Varley and Mrs. Purdie, their faces flushed and heated, whispering amorously into each other's ears. Mrs. Purdie, who occasionally emitted a shrill neighing laugh, wore her best cap cocked rakishly over one eye.

Paulina crept like a mouse from the table and went to snuggle close by the fire, that had sunk into a crimson ruin of smoldering coal. She was warm, and she was no longer hungry, but comfortably replete; by all rights, then and by the standards of her world, she should have been' utterly happy. So she was at first unable to account for the melancholy and intense desolation which weighed so heavily upon her soul. And then a peal of ribald laughter from the supper table reminded her once more of Mrs. Purdie, and of all that she most dreaded.

Glancing over her shoulder she beheld upon her father s face an expression of dumb sheepish enchantment. He remained thus transfixed for some seconds, then, leaning forward, kissed the woman hungrily, and their mouths clung together as though neither could bear to move