Of Human Bondage

By W. Somerset Maugham
1915
1,009 pages

It was a week later. Philip was sitting on the floor in the drawing-room at Miss Watkin’s house in Onslow gardens. He was an only child and used to amusing himself. The room was filled with massive furniture, and on each of the sofas were three big cushions. There was a cushion too in each arm-chair. All these he had taken and, with the help of the gilt rout chairs, light and easy to move, had made an elaborate cave in which he could hide himself from the Red Indians who were lurking behind the curtains. He put his ear to the floor and listened to the herd of buffaloes that raced across the prairie. Presently, hearing the door open, he held his breath so that he might not be discovered; but a violent hand piled away a chair and the cushions fell down.

‘You naughty boy, Miss Watkin WILL be cross with you.’

‘Hulloa, Emma!’ he said.

The nurse bent down and kissed him, then began to shake out the cushions, and put them back in their places.

‘Am I to come home?’ he asked.

‘Yes, I’ve come to fetch you.’

‘You’ve got a new dress on.’

It was in eighteen-eighty-five, and she wore a bustle. Her gown was of black velvet, with tight sleeves and sloping shoulders, and the skirt had three large flounces. She wore a black bonnet with velvet strings. She hesitated. The question she had expected did not come, and so she could not give the answer she had prepared.

‘Aren’t you going to ask how your mamma is?’ she said at length.

‘Oh, I forgot. How is mamma?’

Now she was ready.

‘Your mamma is quite well and happy.’

‘Oh, I am glad.’ …

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