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On a west-bound omnibus Claire Fenwick sat and raged silently in the June sunshine. She was furious. What right had Lord Dawlish to look down his nose and murmur 'Noblesse oblige' when she asked him a question, as if she had suggested that he should commit some crime? It was the patronizing way he had said it that infuriated her, as if he were a superior being of some kind, governed by codes which she could not be expected to understand. Everybody nowadays did the sort of things she suggested, so what was the good of looking shocked and saying 'Noblesse oblige'?
The omnibus rolled on towards West Kensington. Claire hated the place with the bitter hate of one who had read society novels, and yearned for Grosvenor Square and butlers and a general atmosphere of soft cushions and pink-shaded lights and maids to do one's hair. She hated the cheap furniture of the little parlour, the penetrating contralto of the cook singing hymns in the kitchen, and the ubiquitousness of her small brother. He was only ten, and small for his age, yet he appeared to have the power of being in two rooms at the same time while making a nerve-racking noise in another.
It was Percy who greeted her to-day as she entered the flat.
'Halloa, Claire! I say, Claire, there's a letter for you. It came by the second post. I say, Claire, it's got an American stamp on it. Can I have it, Claire? I haven't got one in my collection.'
His sister regarded him broodingly. 'For goodness' sake don't bellow like that!' she said. 'Of course, you can have the stamp. I don't want it. Where is the letter?'
Claire took the envelope from him, extracted the letter, and handed back the envelope. Percy vanished into the dining-room with a shattering squeal of pleasure.
A voice spoke from behind a half-opened door--
'Is that you, Claire?'
'Yes, mother; I've come back to pack. They want me to go to Southampton to-night to take up Claudia Winslow's part.'
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