WILLIAM THE SHOWMAN 129
Then her mouth dropped open. She had come face to face with the little occupant of the garden house in fancy dress. She blinked and blenched and swallowed. Extraordinary how standards were changing all the world over. That this child should be considered beautiful! It was amazing. The effect, of course, of jazz and cubism, thought Miss Perkins. Miss Perkins put everything down to the effect of jazz and cubism. This child—Miss Perkins met its unblinking stare and again blenched and swallowed. She was, she knew, short-sighted, but—this—well, short-sight or no short-sight, this would never have been called beauty when she was young. With an almost superhuman effort she summoned back the ghost of her engaging smile.
" And this is Rosemary, is it ? " she said.
" Uh—huh," said the child in a gruff voice. Miss Perkins shuddered again.
" And is this the garden house we've heard so much about ? "
" Uh—huh," said the child again in the same voice. The dress wasn't at all what she'd been led to believe it was going to be, either, thought Miss Perkins. It was really rather a cheap-looking affair of sateen and imitation lace. She'd heard that it was the most exquisite Mary Queen of Scots costume in miniature. People seemed to be losing their standards about everything nowadays. What a funny head-dress, too. She'd never have thought it was meant to be a Mary Queen of Scots head-dress.
" And this is where you spend nearly all your time, isn't it, dear ? " she went on.
" Uh—huh," said the child again, in the same gruff voice.
" And what are your favourite games ? " went on Miss Perkins heroically, taking out a little note-book.
" Red Indians," said the child in the same unbeautiful voice. " Red Indians an' Pirates."