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MRS. DELANCIE seems to have made a conquest," said Pat Melling. She spoke lightheartedly, observing a situation which struck her as slightly comic, but there was nothing lighthearted about Miss Nottington's reply. " She's ten years older than he is: ten years at least." There was so much rancour and bitterness in the rejoinder that Pat was surprised and a little discomfited, until she glanced from the " widow-de-luxe " (as Pat and Tom called Mrs. Delancie), to the shrunken homespun of the elderly spinster. Pat was still very young and all these elderly people were just " old " to her. It must be rather hard to be a paid companion when you had come down in the world, thought Pat, even though being a companion kept you in luxury in the Spa Hotel at Bourne Regis. Miss Nottington was a very intelligent, well-informed, well-mannered elderly lady: she was certainly a lady in a rather dated sense, reminiscent of a more punctilious era. She performed the duties of companion to old Mrs. Smythe quite beautifully, always on the spot when needed, always melting into the background when not needed, conscientious, industrious, tactful. And she was quite the plainest female, of any age, whom Pat had ever seen: not ugly—plain; colourless, dried up as a wrinkled leaf, angular, myopic and dyspeptic. Her age was a matter for doubt—anything from a prematurely aged fifty to a vigorous if sere seventy.
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