ORA WEST was trimming her hat. It was a straw hat that had cost a shilling or 동탄오피 two when it came into her deft hands, and the trimming would only prove to have cost a shilling or two when it became attached to the hat, and leaving the deft hands was put onto her extremely pretty head. But by that time the hat would certainly have become a very pretty hat. This she was explaining with great volubility to her friend.

“You are rich, darling May,” she said, “and in consequence your attitude toward hats is a little opulent and vulgar. I can put the feathers and the flags and the birds’ eggs in exactly the same place as Biondinetti, or whoever it is who sells you hats.”

“No, not exactly,” said Mary, with the quietness that real conviction brings. She was quite certain about that point, and so did not care to shout over it. It is only when people are not certain about what they say, that they drown their want of conviction in arguments. Conviction always swims.

Dora had several pins in her mouth, and so did not reply at once. In itself the pin-reason was excellent, and more excellent was the fact that she did not wish to reply, knowing the quiet truth of Mary’s conviction, especially since she could not settle the exact angle at which a very large white feather should be put. It pierced the hat, once inward once outward, that was{31} Biondinetti all over, but where in heaven’s name ought it to start from? So she only made a little impatient noise with her lips, and even that was difficult, since there was a danger of causing a pin to be sucked into her mouth. But she made it successfully. She poised the feather a moment, focussing its appearance against the hat. The effect produced by the impatient noise was sufficient to ensure her against any immediate reply. Then suddenly the inspiration came, and with a pair of tiny scissors she cut a strand or two in the straw and stuck the quill feather through the holes.

“There,” she said, “and you pay Biondinetti two guineas for doing that. I can’t, and I wouldn’t if I could. Austell wrote to me last week and said the swans were moulting, and I telegraphed—that cost sixpence and a little thought, instead of two guineas—to tell him to send me big wing feathers. He’s a dreadful ass; we all know that, but he had the sense to see I wanted feathers, and to catch a swan and pluck——”

“What a disgusting butcher,” said May. “I don’t mean butcher, I mean vivisectionist.”

“And how do you think you get your feathers, darling?” asked Dora.

“I don’t know; I never ask. The hat comes from the shop.”

“Then don’t ask now, because I will tell you. Your horrid shop has birds killed, and then plucks them. It does; you can’t deny it. Whereas with me the swan was just moulting, and Austell assisted Nature, which we all do. He caught its head in a landing-net and it tried to peck, he says{32}——”

Dora West stopped suddenly in the middle of these surprising remarks, and held out the hat at arm’s length in order to observe the effect of the feather. She had one of those enchanting faces that are overwhelmingly pretty for no particular reason. You could, if you chose, argue her prettiness away, by maintaining with justification that no single feature on it had warrantable claims. They were all passable, it is true, but it was not clear how it came about that the sum of them was so delicious. Her eyes were gray, and had nothing striking to recommend them, her nose turned up at the tip far too markedly to be able to claim beauty, and the mouth was quite certainly too large. Yet even allowing for the charm of her extreme youth and the vigour and vividness of her vitality, there was no accounting for the supreme prettiness that was there. So the sensible thing was to stop arguing and look at it again, and more sensible yet, to say something that should make her laugh. For her laugh was the most enchanting thing of all; then every feature laughed, there was no telling where it began or where it ended. May before now had declared that from quite a distance off, when Dora’s back was turned, she had in a ballroom seen she was amused because the back of her neck and her shoulders were laughing so much. “Oh, Nature wants a lot of assistance,” she went on. “She is perfectly hopeless if you leave her to herself. Look at the flowers even, which are quite the nicest thing she does. Roses, for instance; all she could think of in the way of roses was the ordinary wild dog rose. I don’t say it is bad, but how paltry, if you have had simply millions of years to invent roses in. Then man comes{33} along, who is the only really unnatural being, and in quite a few years invents all the heavenly roses which we see now. Of course Nature did it, in a sense, but she did it with his assistance.”

“But why do you call man unnatural?” asked May.

“Why? Because he saw at once how stupid Nature was, and had to invent all the things that make life tolerable. He lit fires, and built houses, and made laws, and motor-cars, and shops, and—and boats and button hooks. Motor-cars, too; all that Nature could think of in the way of locomotion was horses.”

The feathers were inserted in absolutely the right place, and Dora breathed a heavy sigh of satisfaction, laid the hat down on the end of the sofa, hovered over the tea table for a moment, and selected an enormous bun.

“And Nature gives us brains,” she continued, with her mouth full, “and the moment we begin to use them, as I have been doing over that hat, which is Biondinetti, she decrees that we shall be so hungry that we have to stop and eat instead. The same with talking: she gives us a tongue to talk with and after quite a few minutes, talking makes us hungry too, and we have to use our tongue to help us to swallow. Did you know you swallowed with your tongue, darling? I never did till yesterday. I thought I swallowed with my throat, but apparently the tongue helps. That’s why we can’t talk with our mouths full as I am doing.”

May Thurston looked at the hat on the end of the sofa for a while, and then transferred her gaze to her friend.

“I don’t think I agree with you,” she said. “At{34} least I allow that many people don’t know what being natural means, but I think all the nicest people are natural. You, for instance, and me and Mrs. Osborne last night at her dance. Never before have I seen a hostess really enjoying herself at her own ball. She stood at the top of the stairs and beamed, she danced and beamed——”

“And never before have you seen a person like Mrs. Osborne dance,” remarked Dora.

“Well, not often. Anyhow, she enjoyed herself tremendously and was perfectly natural.”

Dora shook her head.

“It won’t do, darling,” she said. “I allow that Mrs. Osborne beamed all the time and enjoyed herself enormously. But why? Because everybody was there. Was she ever so much pleased at Sheffield, do you suppose, or wherever it was they came from? I am sure she was not. But last night she was pleased because every duchess and marchioness who counts at all was there, as well as heaps that don’t count at all. She’s a snob: probably the finest ever seen, and by what process of reasoning you arrive at the fact that a snob is natural is beyond me. I agree that heaps of nice people are snobs, but snobbishness is in itself the most artificial quality of an artificial age. Snobs are the crowning and passionate protest against Nature——”