(By S. Maugham)
Margaret Dauncey lived in an art studio near the Boulevard Montparnasse with Susie Boyd. Susie was eager to see Arthur. She had heard a great deal about the young man and knew about his romance with Margaret. For years Susie had led the monotonous life of a teacher in a school for young ladies, and when Margaret, who had been her pupil, told her of her intention to spend a couple of years in Paris to study art, Susie willingly agreed to accompany her. With almost maternal pride Susie watched how each year added new charm to Margaret’s extraordinary beauty. She was proud to think that she would hand over to Arthur Burdon a woman whose character she had helped to form.
Susie Boyd was thirty but she looked older. She was not pretty but her face was so kind, her sense of humour so attractive that no one after ten minutes thought of her ugliness. Her taste was so good, her talent for dressing so remarkable that she was able to make the most of herself. It was due to her influence that Margaret was dressed always in the latest fashion.
There was a knock at the door, and Arthur came in.
’This is the fairy prince,’ said Margaret, leading him to her friend.
’I’m glad to see you to thank you for all you’ve done for Margaret,’ he smiled, taking Susie’s hand.
While Margaret was preparing tea, his eyes followed her movements with a touching doglike devotion. Margaret felt that he was looking at her and turned round. Their eyes met and they stood some time gazing at each other silently.
’Don’t be a pair of perfect idiots,’ exclaimed Susie gaily. ’I’m dying for my tea.’
The lovers laughed and blushed. Margaret smiled with happy pride. For all her good nature, Susie could not help feeling a pang of jealousy: for she was also capable of love but no one had ever tried to find it. No one had ever whispered in her ear the charming nonsense that she read in books. She knew that she had no beauty to help her and she was not young any longer but her instinct told her that she was made to be a good wife and the mother of children.
’What a fool I am!’ thought Susie.
When Margaret had closed the door on Arthur, she turned to Susie. ’Well, what do you think of him?’ she asked smiling.
Susie hesitated for a moment.
’You know, before I’d seen him I hoped with all my heart that he would make you happy. I was afraid. I knew he was much older than you. He was the first man you’d ever met. But now, when I saw him, I hope with all my heart that you’d make him happy. It’s not you I’m frightened for now but him.’
Margaret did not answer; she could not understand what Susie meant.
’I don’t think you can realise how awfully he may suffer. Be very careful, Margaret, and be very good to him, for you can make him more unhappy than any human being can be.’
’Oh, but I want him to be happy,’ cried Margaret. ’I’ll do all I can to make him happy.’
Her eyes filled with tears and her voice broke. Susie, with a little laugh that was half hysterical, kissed her.
’My dear, for Heaven’s sake, don’t cry.’
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Susie treated Margaret as if Margaret were_______.
- her daughter
- her rival
- her enemy
- her mother
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