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Chronicles of Avonlea Lucy Maud Montgomery

V. The Winning of Lucinda

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Mrs. George knew who Lucinda was--a cousin of the second generation, and, in spite of her thirty-five years, the acknowledged beauty of the whole Penhallow connection.

She was one of those rare women who keep their loveliness unmarred by the passage of years. She had ripened and matured, but she had not grown old. The older Penhallows were still inclined, from sheer force of habit, to look upon her as a girl, and the younger Penhallows hailed her as one of themselves. Yet Lucinda never aped girlishness; good taste and a strong sense of humour preserved her amid many temptations thereto. She was simply a beautiful, fully developed woman, with whom Time had declared a truce, young with a mellow youth which had nothing to do with years.

Mrs. George liked and admired Lucinda. Now, when Mrs. George liked and admired any person, it was a matter of necessity with her to impart her opinions to the most convenient confidant. In this case it was Romney Penhallow to whom Mrs. George remarked sweetly:

"Really, don't you think our Lucinda is looking remarkably well this fall?"

It seemed a very harmless, inane, well-meant question. Poor Mrs. George might well be excused for feeling bewildered over the effect. Romney gathered his long legs together, stood up, and swept the unfortunate speaker a crushing Penhallow bow of state.

"Far be it from me to disagree with the opinion of a lady-- especially when it concerns another lady," he said, as he left the blue room.

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Overcome by the mordant satire in his tone, Mrs. George glanced speechlessly at Lucinda. Behold, Lucinda had squarely turned her back on the party and was gazing out into the garden, with a very decided flush on the snowy curves of her neck and cheek. Then Mrs. George looked at her sisters-in-law. They were regarding her with the tolerant amusement they might bestow on a blundering child. Mrs. George experienced that subtle prescience whereby it is given us to know that we have put our foot in it. She felt herself turning an uncomfortable brick-red. What Penhallow skeleton had she unwittingly jangled? Why, oh, why, was it such an evident breach of the proprieties to praise Lucinda?

Mrs. George was devoutly thankful that a summons to the tea-table rescued her from her mire of embarrassment. The meal was spoiled for her, however; the mortifying recollection of her mysterious blunder conspired with her curiosity to banish appetite. As soon as possible after tea she decoyed Mrs. Frederick out into the garden and in the dahlia walk solemnly demanded the reason of it all.

Mrs. Frederick indulged in a laugh which put the mettle of her festal brown silk seams to the test.

"My dear Cecilia, it was SO amusing," she said, a little patronizingly.

"But WHY!" cried Mrs. George, resenting the patronage and the mystery. "What was so dreadful in what I said? Or so funny? And WHO is this Romney Penhallow who mustn't be spoken to?"

"Oh, Romney is one of the Charlottetown Penhallows," explained Mrs. Frederick. "He is a lawyer there. He is a first cousin of Lucinda's and a second of George's--or is he? Oh, bother! You must go to Uncle John if you want the genealogy. I'm in a chronic muddle concerning Penhallow relationship. And, as for Romney, of course you can speak to him about anything you like except Lucinda. Oh, you innocent! To ask him if he didn't think Lucinda was looking well! And right before her, too! Of course he thought you did it on purpose to tease him. That was what made him so savage and sarcastic."

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Chronicles of Avonlea
Lucy Maud Montgomery

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