The Girls of Slender Means

Free The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

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Authors: Muriel Spark
Tags: Fiction, Literary, General
notion that their vehicles were supplied by "American" oil, and so were not subject to the conscience of British austerity or the reproachful question about the necessity of the journey displayed at all places of public transport.
        Jane, observing Selina's long glance of perfect balance and equanimity resting upon Nicholas, immediately foresaw that she would be disposed in the front seat with Felix while Selina stepped, with her arch-footed poise, into the back, where Nicholas would join her; and she foresaw that this arrangement would come about with effortless elegance. She had no objection to Felix, but she could not hope to win him for herself, having nothing to offer a man like Felix. She felt she had a certain something, though small, to offer Nicholas, this being her literary and brain-work side which Selina lacked. It was in fact a misunderstanding of Nicholas—she vaguely thought of him as a more attractive Rudi Bittesch—to imagine he would receive more pleasure and reassurance from a literary girl than simply a girl. It was the girl in Jane that had moved him to kiss her at the party; she might have gone further with Nicholas without her literary leanings. This was a mistake she continued to make in her relations with men, inferring from her own preference for men of books and literature their preferences for women of the same business. And it never really occurred to her that literary men, if they like women at all, do not want literary women but girls.
        But Jane was presently proved right in her prediction about the seating arrangements in the car; and it was her repeated accuracy of intuition in such particulars as these which gave her confidence in her later career as a prophetic gossip-columnist.
        Meantime the brown-lined drawing room began to chirp into life as the girls came in from the dining room bearing trays of coffee cups. The three spinsters, Greggie, Collie and Jarvie, were introduced to the guests, as was their accustomed right. They sat in hard chairs and poured coffee for the young loungers. Collie and Jarvie were known to be in the process of a religious quarrel, but they made an effort to conceal their differences for the occasion. Jarvie, however, was agitated by the fact that her coffee cup had been filled too full by Collie. She laid the cup and swimming saucer on a table a little way behind her, and ignored it significantly. She was dressed to go out, with gloves, bag and hat. She was presently going to take her Sunday-school class. The gloves were made of a stout green-brown suede. Jarvie smoothed them out on her lap, then fluttered her fingers over the cuffs, turning them back. They revealed the utility stamp, two half-moons facing the same way, which was the mark of price-controlled clothes and which, on dresses, where the mark was merely stamped on a tape sewn on the inside, everyone removed. Jarvie surveyed her gloves' irremovable utility mark with her head at a slight angle, as if considering some questions connected with it. She then smoothed out the gloves again and jerkily adjusted her spectacles. Jane felt in a great panic to get married. Nicholas, on hearing that Jarvie was about to go to teach a Sunday-school class, was solicitous to enquire about it.
        "I think we had better drop the subject of religion," Jarvie said, as if in conclusion of an argument long in progress. Collie said, "I thought we _had__ dropped it. What a lovely day for Richmond!"
        Selina slouched elegantly in her chair, untouched by the threat of becoming a spinster, as she would never be that sort of spinster, anyway. Jane recalled the beginning of the religious quarrel overheard on all floors, since it had taken place in the echoing wash-room on the second landing. Collie had at first accused Jarvie of failing to clean the sink after using it to wash up her dishes of stuff, which she surreptitiously cooked on her gas-ring where only kettles were lawfully permitted. Then,

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