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Mrs. Murphy wasn't the least bit perturbed.
"Don't apologize, Mrs. Stugere," she said. (Stugere was a name I had cleverly invented for the occasion.) "You've probably heard we were in modest circumstances, and you didn't expect to see such beautiful things."
She paused, and I seized the chance to get in right by saying, "Mrs. Murphy, you must have a great many admirers."
She shook her heavy tan head. "I don't. Charles does. These gifts are from men who want Charles to enroll at their school."
She settled her bulges in her own chair and nodded at the chair opposite her. "Sit down, Mrs. Stugere."
Her eyes were still on me, and I smiled a bit uncertainly. "Thank you, Mrs. Murphy," I said, and I sat down.
She looked up at a wall clock. "It's now 8:15. At 8:20, I'm expecting another visitor." She pursed her moist mouth. "Mrs. Stugere, I can give you exactly five minutes."
She tilted her chair back, folded her hands over her ponderous middle and closed her eyes. Then, slowly and distinctly, she began to speak. I gripped the arms of my chair and forced myself to concentrate.
"Mrs. Stugere," she said, "I am a widow. For the past 18 years, I've worked hard to support Charles. Now it's up to Charles to support me."