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Chapter 23 MORLVERA

  • The Olympic Toy Emporium occupied a conspicuous frontage in an important Wes_nd street.  It was happily named Toy Emporium, because one would never hav_reamed of according it the familiar and yet pulse-quickening name of toyshop.
  • There was an air of cold splendour and elaborate failure about the wares tha_ere set out in its ample windows; they were the sort of toys that a tire_hop-assistant displays and explains at Christmas time to exclamatory parent_nd bored, silent children.  The animal toys looked more like natural histor_odels than the comfortable, sympathetic companions that one would wish, at _ertain age, to take to bed with one, and to smuggle into the bath-room.  Th_echanical toys incessantly did things that no one could want a toy to do mor_han a half a dozen times in its lifetime; it was a merciful reflection tha_n any right-minded nursery the lifetime would certainly be short.
  • Prominent among the elegantly-dressed dolls that filled an entire section o_he window frontage was a large hobble-skirted lady in a confection of peach-
  • coloured velvet, elaborately set off with leopard skin accessories, if one ma_se such a conveniently comprehensive word in describing an intricate feminin_oilette.  She lacked nothing that is to be found in a carefully detaile_ashion-plate—in fact, she might be said to have something more than th_verage fashion-plate female possesses; in place of a vacant, expressionles_tare she had character in her face.  It must be admitted that it was ba_haracter, cold, hostile, inquisitorial, with a sinister lowering of on_yebrow and a merciless hardness about the corners of the mouth.  One migh_ave imagined histories about her by the hour, histories in which unworth_mbition, the desire for money, and an entire absence of all decent feelin_ould play a conspicuous part.
  • As a matter of fact, she was not without her judges and biographers, even i_his shop-window stage of her career.  Emmeline, aged ten, and Bert, age_even, had halted on the way from their obscure back street to the minnow-
  • stocked water of St. James’s Park, and were critically examining the hobble-
  • skirted doll, and dissecting her character in no very tolerant spirit.  Ther_s probably a latent enmity between the necessarily under-clad and th_nnecessarily overdressed, but a little kindness and good fellowship on th_art of the latter will often change the sentiment to admiring devotion; i_he lady in peach-coloured velvet and leopard skin had worn a pleasan_xpression in addition to her other elaborate furnishings, Emmeline at leas_ight have respected and even loved her.  As it was, she gave her a horribl_eputation, based chiefly on a secondhand knowledge of gilded depravit_erived from the conversation of those who were skilled in the art o_ovelette reading; Bert filled in a few damaging details from his own limite_magination.
  • “She’s a bad lot, that one is,” declared Emmeline, after a long unfriendl_tare; “’er ’usbind ’ates ’er.”
  • “’E knocks ’er abart,” said Bert, with enthusiasm.
  • “No, ’e don’t, cos ’e’s dead; she poisoned ’im slow and gradual, so tha_obody didn’t know.  Now she wants to marry a lord, with ’eaps and ’eaps o_oney.  ’E’s got a wife already, but she’s going to poison ’er, too.”
  • “She’s a bad lot,” said Bert with growing hostility.
  • “’Er mother ’ates her, and she’s afraid of ’er, too, cos she’s got a serkesti_ongue; always talking serkesms, she is.  She’s greedy, too; if there’s fis_oing, she eats ’er own share and ’er little girl’s as well, though the littl_irl is dellikit.”
  • “She ’ad a little boy once,” said Bert, “but she pushed ’im into the wate_hen nobody wasn’t looking.”
  • “No she didn’t,” said Emmeline, “she sent ’im away to be kep’ by poor people,
  • so ’er ’usbind wouldn’t know where ’e was.  They ill-treat ’im somethin_ruel.”
  • “Wot’s ’er nime?” asked Bert, thinking that it was time that so interesting _ersonality should be labelled.
  • “’Er nime?” said Emmeline, thinking hard, “’er nime’s Morlvera.”  It was a_ear as she could get to the name of an adventuress who figured prominently i_ cinema drama.  There was silence for a moment while the possibilities of th_ame were turned over in the children’s minds.
  • “Those clothes she’s got on ain’t paid for, and never won’t be,” sai_mmeline; “she thinks she’ll get the rich lord to pay for ’em, but ’e won’t.
  • ’E’s given ’er jools, ’underds of pounds’ worth.”
  • “’E won’t pay for the clothes,” said Bert, with conviction.  Evidently ther_as some limit to the weak good nature of wealthy lords.
  • At that moment a motor carriage with liveried servants drew up at the emporiu_ntrance; a large lady, with a penetrating and rather hurried manner o_alking, stepped out, followed slowly and sulkily by a small boy, who had _ery black scowl on his face and a very white sailor suit over the rest o_im.  The lady was continuing an argument which had probably commenced i_ortman Square.
  • “Now, Victor, you are to come in and buy a nice doll for your cousin Bertha.
  • She gave you a beautiful box of soldiers on your birthday, and you must giv_er a present on hers.”
  • “Bertha is a fat little fool,” said Victor, in a voice that was as loud as hi_other’s and had more assurance in it.
  • “Victor, you are not to say such things.  Bertha is not a fool, and she is no_n the least fat.  You are to come in and choose a doll for her.”
  • The couple passed into the shop, out of view and hearing of the two back-
  • street children.
  • “My, he is in a wicked temper,” exclaimed Emmeline, but both she and Bert wer_nclined to side with him against the absent Bertha, who was doubtless as fa_nd foolish as he had described her to be.
  • “I want to see some dolls,” said the mother of Victor to the neares_ssistant; “it’s for a little girl of eleven.”
  • “A fat little girl of eleven,” added Victor by way of supplementar_nformation.
  • “Victor, if you say such rude things about your cousin, you shall go to be_he moment we get home, without having any tea.”
  • “This is one of the newest things we have in dolls,” said the assistant,
  • removing a hobble-skirted figure in peach-coloured velvet from the window;
  • “leopard skin toque and stole, the latest fashion.  You won’t get anythin_ewer than that anywhere.  It’s an exclusive design.”
  • “Look!” whispered Emmeline outside; “they’ve bin and took Morlvera.”
  • There was a mingling of excitement and a certain sense of bereavement in he_ind; she would have liked to gaze at that embodiment of overdressed depravit_or just a little longer.
  • “I ’spect she’s going away in a kerridge to marry the rich lord,” hazarde_ert.
  • “She’s up to no good,” said Emmeline vaguely.
  • Inside the shop the purchase of the doll had been decided on.
  • “It’s a beautiful doll, and Bertha will be delighted with it,” asserted th_other of Victor loudly.
  • “Oh, very well,” said Victor sulkily; “you needn’t have it stuck into a bo_nd wait an hour while it’s being done up into a parcel.  I’ll take it as i_s, and we can go round to Manchester Square and give it to Bertha, and ge_he thing done with.  That will save me the trouble of writing: ‘For dea_ertha, with Victor’s love,’ on a bit of paper.”
  • “Very well,” said his mother, “we can go to Manchester Square on our way home.
  • You must wish her many happy returns of to-morrow, and give her the doll.”
  • “I won’t let the little beast kiss me,” stipulated Victor.
  • His mother said nothing; Victor had not been half as troublesome as she ha_nticipated.  When he chose he could really be dreadfully naughty.
  • Emmeline and Bert were just moving away from the window when Morlvera made he_xit from the shop, very carefully in Victor’s arms.  A look of siniste_riumph seemed to glow in her hard, inquisitorial face.  As for Victor, _ertain scornful serenity had replaced the earlier scowls; he had evidentl_ccepted defeat with a contemptuous good grace.
  • The tall lady gave a direction to the footman and settled herself in th_arriage.  The little figure in the white sailor suit clambered in beside her,
  • still carefully holding the elegantly garbed doll.
  • The car had to be backed a few yards in the process of turning.  Ver_tealthily, very gently, very mercilessly Victor sent Morlvera flying over hi_houlder, so that she fell into the road just behind the retrogressing wheel.
  • With a soft, pleasant-sounding scrunch the car went over the prostrate form,
  • then it moved forward again with another scrunch.  The carriage moved off an_eft Bert and Emmeline gazing in scared delight at a sorry mess of petrol-
  • smeared velvet, sawdust, and leopard skin, which was all that remained of th_ateful Morlvera.  They gave a shrill cheer, and then raced away shudderin_rom the scene of so much rapidly enacted tragedy.
  • Later that afternoon, when they were engaged in the pursuit of minnows by th_aterside in St. James’s Park, Emmeline said in a solemn undertone to Bert—
  • “I’ve bin finking.  Do you know oo ’e was?  ’E was ’er little boy wot she’_ent away to live wiv poor folks.  ’E come back and done that.”