Love at Second Sight

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Project Beginners
Projects, Riikka Talonpoika, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team



First published London, 1916




An appalling crash, piercing shrieks, a loud, unequal quarrel on a
staircase, the sharp bang of a door….

Edith started up from her restful corner on the blue sofa by the fire,
where she had been thinking about her guest, and rushed to the door.

‘Archie—Archie! Come here directly! What’s that noise?’

A boy of ten came calmly into the room.

‘It wasn’t me that made the noise,’ he said, ‘it was Madame Frabelle.’

His mother looked at him. He was a handsome, fair boy with clear grey
eyes that looked you straight in the face without telling you anything
at all, long eyelashes that softened, but gave a sly humour to his
glance, a round face, a very large forehead, and smooth straw-coloured
hair. Already at this early age he had the expressionless reserve of the
public school where he was to be sent, with something of the suave
superiority of the university for which he was intended. Edith thought
he inherited both of these traits from her.

* * * * *

She gazed at him, wondering, as she had often wondered, at the
impossibility of guessing, even vaguely, what was really going on behind
that large brow. And he looked back observantly, but not expressively,
at her. She was a slim, fair, pretty woman, with more vividness and
character than usually goes with her type. Like the boy, she had
long-lashed grey eyes, and blond-cendre hair: her mouth and chin were
of the Burne-Jones order, and her charm, which was great but
unintentional, and generally unconscious, appealed partly to the senses
and partly to the intellect. She was essentially not one of those women
who irritate all their own sex by their power (and still more by their
fixed determination) to attract men; she was really and unusually
indifferent to general admiration. Still, that she was not a cold woman,
not incapable of passionate feeling, was obvious to any physiognomist;
the fully curved lips showed her generous and pleasure-loving
temperament, while the softly glancing, intelligent, smiling eyes spoke
fastidiousness and discrimination. Her voice was low and soft, with a
vibrating sound in it, and she laughed often and easily, being very
ready to see and enjoy the amusing side of life. But observation and
emotion alike were instinctively veiled by a quiet, reposeful manner, so
that she made herself further popular by appearing retiring. Edith
Ottley might so easily have been the centre of any group, and yet—she
was not! Women were grateful to her, and in return admitted that she was
pretty, unaffected and charming. Today she was dressed very simply in
dark blue and might have passed for Archie’s elder sister.

‘It isn’t anything. It wasn’t my fault. It was her fault. Madame
Frabelle said she would teach me to take away her mandolin and use it
for a cricket bat. She needn’t teach me; I know already.’

‘Now, Archie, you know perfectly well you’ve no right to go into her
room when she isn’t there.’

‘How can I go in when she is there?… She won’t let me. Besides, I
don’t want to.’

‘It isn’t nice of you; you ought not to go into her room without her

‘It isn’t her room; it’s your room. At least, it’s the spare room.’

‘Have you done any harm to the mandolin?’

He paused a little, as he often did before answering, as if in absence
of mind, and then said, as though starting up from a reverie:

‘Er—no. No harm.’

‘Well, what have you done?’

‘I can mend it,’ he answered.

‘Madame Frabelle has been very kind to you, Archie. I’m sorry you’re not
behaving nicely to a guest in your mother’s house. It isn’t the act of a

‘Oh. Well, there are a great many things in her room, Mother; some of
them are rather jolly.’

‘Go and say you’re sorry, Archie. And you mustn’t do it again.’

‘Will it be the act of a gentleman to say I’m sorry? It’ll be the act of
a story-teller, you know.’

‘What! Aren’t you sorry to have bothered her?’

‘I’m sorry she found it out,’ he said, as he turned to the door.

‘These perpetual scenes and quarrels between my son and my guest are
most painful to me,’ Edith said, with assumed solemnity.

He looked grave. ‘Well, she needn’t have quarrelled.’

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