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TIME PASSESwould Mrs. McNab see that the house was ready, oneof the young ladies wrote; would she get this done;would she get that done; all in a hurry. They mightbe coming for the summer; had left everything tothe last; expected to find things as they had left them.Slowly and painfully, with broom and pail, mopping,scouring, Mrs. McNab, Mrs. Bast stayed the corrup-tion and the rot; rescued from the pool of Time thatwas fast closing over them now a basin, now a cup-board; fetched up from oblivion all the Waverleynovels and a tea-set one morning; in the afternoonrestored to sun and air a brass fender and a set ofsteel fire-irons. George, Mrs. Bast’s son, caught therats, and cut the grass. They had the builders. At-tended with the creaking of hinges and the screechingof bolts, the slamming and banging of damp-swollenwoodwork, some rusty laborious birth seemed to betaking place, as the women, stooping, rising, groan-ing, singing, slapped and slammed, upstairs now,now down in the cellars. Oh, they said, the work!

They drank their tea in the bedroom sometimes,or in the study; breaking off work at mid-day withthe smudge on their faces, and their old hands claspedand cramped with the broom handles. Flopped onchairs they contemplated now the magnificent con-quest over taps and bath; now the more arduous,more partial triumph over long rows of books, blackas ravens once, now white-stained, breeding palemushrooms and secreting furtive spiders. Once more,as she felt the tea warm in her, the telescope fitteditself to Mrs. McNab’s eyes, and in a ring of lightshe saw the old gentleman, lean as a rake, wagging his head, as she came up with the washing, talking163