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64 TO THE LIGHTHOUSEAnd indeed it was only by waiting patiently, andhearing that there was an old woman in the kitchenwith very red cheeks, drinking soup out of a basin,that Mrs Ramsay at last prompted that parrot-likeinstinct which had picked up Mildred’s words quiteaccurately and could now produce them, if onewaited, in a colourless singsong. Shifting from footto foot, Cam repeated the words: ‘No, they haven’t,and I’ve told Ellen to clear away tea.'

Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley had not come backthen. That could only mean, Mrs Ramsay thought,one thing. She must accept him, or she must refusehim. This going off after luncheon for a walk, eventhough Andrew was with them—what could it mean?except that she had decided, rightly, Mrs Ramsaythought (and she was very, very fond of Minta), toaccept that good fellow, who might not be brilliant,but then, thought Mrs Ramsay, realizing that Jameswas tugging at her to make her go on reading aloudthe Fisherman and his Wife, she did in her own heartinfinitely prefer boobies to clever men who wrote dis-sertations ; Charles Tansley for instance. Anyhow itmust have happened, one way or the other, by now.

But she read: ‘Next morning the wife awoke first,and it was just daybreak, and from her bed she sawthe beautiful country lying before her. Her husbandwas still stretching himself. . . .'

But how could Minta say now that she wouldnot have him? Not if she agreed to spend wholeafternoons trapesing about the country alone—forAndrew would be off after his crabs—but possiblyNancy was with them. She tried to recall the sightof them standing at the hall door after lunch. There