Part 4 out of 5
gallery that crosses the hall.
Tea was laid out on a large, low table, with plates and jam and cakes
and muffins--a nice, comfortable, substantial meal. A fire of whole
logs burned in the colossal, open chimney. The huge, heavily shaded
lamps concentrated all the light beneath them, viewed from above.
And like a group of summer-flowers the women, in their light and
fluffy tea-gowns, added the touch of grace to the heavy darkness of
the old stone walls. I paused a while and watched them.
Lady Grenellen, gorgeous as a sultana, seemed to have collected all
the cushions to enhance her comfort as she lay back in a low, deep
sofa. Augustus sat beside her. From here one could not see his
ugliness, and the dark claret color of his smoking-suit rather set off
her gown. She had the most alluring expression upon her face, which
just caught the light. His attitude was humble. The storm, for the
present, was over between them.
Two other women, the heiress, Babykins, and Lord Tilchester, and
several young men sat round the table like children eating their
The Duke and Miss Martina B. Cadwallader were examining the armor.
Some one was playing the piano softly. Merry laughter floated upward.
I doubt if any other country could produce such a scene. It would have
"Why, by the stars and stripes, there is a ghost in the gallery!"
exclaimed Miss Corrisande K. Trumpet, pointing to me. The faint
glimmer of my white velvet tea-gown must have caught her eyes as I
"No, I am not a ghost," I called, "and I am coming down to eat hot
muffins." So I crossed and descended the turret stairs.
Lady Tilchester had not appeared yet.
I sat down at the table next "Billy." It was all so gay and friendly
no one could feel depressed.
Viewed close, Miss Trumpet was, for her age, too splendidly attired.
She looked prettier in her simple travelling-dress. But her spirits
and her repartee left nothing to be desired. She kept us all amused,
and, whether Lady Grenellen would eventually permit it or no, Lord
Luffton seemed immensely _epris_ with her now.
There was only one other girl at the table, Lady Agatha de Champion,
and her slouching, stooping figure and fuzzled hair did not show to
advantage beside the heiress's upright, rounded shape and well-brushed
"Where have you been all the afternoon?" demanded the Duke,
reproachfully, over my shoulder. "I searched everywhere down-stairs,
and finally sent to your room, but your maid knew nothing of you."
"I have been sitting with Lady Tilchester in her sitting-room," I
"Here comes Margaret. She shall answer to me for kidnapping my guests
like this." And he went forward to meet her.
"Do not scold me," said Lady Tilchester, as she returned with him.
"I think Mrs. Gurrage will tell you we have spent a very pleasant
"Indeed, yes," I said.
"And I mean to spend a pleasant evening," he whispered, low, to me.
"As soon as you have eaten that horrid muffin I shall carry you off
to see my pictures."
I looked at Lady Tilchester. What would she wish me to do?
"Impress upon him the necessity of being charming to the heiress.
You were quite right. He has a serious rival," she whispered, and we
The Duke can be agreeable in his unattractive, lackadaisical way.
He is so full of information, not of the statistical kind like Miss
Trumpet, but the result of immense cultivation.
"What do you think of my heiress?" he said, at last, as we paused
beneath a Tintoretto. I said everything suitable and encouraging I
could think of.
"I am quite pleased with her," he allowed, "but I fear she will not
be content with the role I had planned out for my Duchess. She is
too individual. I feel it is I who would subside and attend to the
nurseries and the spring cleaning. However, I mean to go through with
it, although I am in a hideous position, because, you know, I am
falling very deeply in love with you."
"How inconvenient for you!"' I said, smiling. "But please do not let
that interfere with your prospects. You must attend to the subject of
pleasing the heiress, as I see great signs of Lord Luffton cutting the
ground from under your feet."
He stared at me incredulously.
"Luffy!" he said, aghast. "Oh, but Cordelia would take care of that.
He is her friend."
"Oh, how you amuse me, all of you," I said, laughing, "with your loves
and your jealousies and your little arrangements! Every one two and
two; every one with a 'friend.'"
"Anyway, we are not wearyingly faithful."
"No; but to a stranger you ought to issue a kind of
guide-book--'Trespassers will be prosecuted' here, 'A change would
be welcomed' there, etc."
"'Pon my word new editions would have to come out every three months,
then. In the space of a year you would find a general shuffle had
"Shall you let your Duchess have a 'friend'?" I asked.
He mused a little.
"Could I have found my cow brewer's daughter, she would have been too
virtuously middle class to have thought of such a thing. And if I take
this American--well, the Americans are so new a nation they have still
a moral sense. So I think I am pretty safe."
"Old nations are deficient in this quality, then?"
"Yes. Artificial things are more worn out, and they get back nearer
"But you would object to a 'friend'?"
"Considerably, until the succession was firmly secured. After that,
I suppose, my Duchess might please herself. She probably would, too,
without consulting me. You don't see the whole of your neighbors
eating cake and remain content with your own monotonous
This appeared to be very true. He continued in a meditative way:
"Because a few what we call civilized nations have set up a standard
of morality for themselves, that does not change the ways of human
nature. What we call morality has no existence in the natural world."
"Why should the respectable middle-class brewer's daughter have so
strong a sense of it, then?" I asked.
"Because propriety is their god from one generation to another. You
can almost overcome nature with a god sometimes. Babykins has a theory
that the food we eat makes a difference in the ways of our class, but
I don't believe that. It is because we hunt and shoot and live lives
of inclination, not compulsion, like the middle classes, and so we get
back nearer to nature."
"You are a sophist, I fear," I said, smiling. "See, here is Miss
Martina B. Cadwallader advancing upon us. Stern virtue is on every
line of her face, anyway!"
"Pardon me, Dook," she said, "but the guide to Myrlton I purchased at
the station gave me to understand I should find a second portrait of
Queen Elizabeth in this gallery. I cannot see it. Would you be good
enough to indicate the picture to me?"
"Oh, that was a duplicate," said the Duke, resignedly. "I sold it at
Christie's last year. It brought me in ten thousand pounds--more than
it was worth. I lived in comfort upon it for quite six months."
"You don't say!" said Martina B. Cadwallader.
Before the party said good-night, the meanest observer could have told
that things were going at sixes and sevens, no one doing exactly what
was expected of them.
Signs of disturbance showed as early as the few minutes before dinner.
Lord Luffton was openly seeking the society of the heiress, with no
regard to the blandishments of Lady Grenellen. But by half-past eleven
the clouds had spread all round.
Augustus, perhaps, looked the most upset. He had spent an evening on
thorns of jealousy. First, snubbed sharply by the fair Cordelia; then,
having to witness her ineffectual attempts to detach Lord Luffton from
The Duke, while devoting himself to me, could not quite conceal his
annoyance at the turn affairs were taking.
Miss Martina B. Cadwallader was plainly irritated with her niece for
not attending to the business they had come for. Babykins was exerting
her mosquito propensities and stinging every one all round. In fact,
only the few casual guests, who did not count one way or another,
seemed calm and undisturbed.
"It is really provoking," Lady Tilchester said to me. "What on earth
did they ask Luffy here for? He is noted for this sort of thing, and,
of course, posing as a war hero adds an extra lustre to his charms."
The only two people supremely unconscious of delinquencies were the
causes of all the trouble--Lord Luffton and Miss Trumpet.
They had gone off to look at the pictures in the long gallery, and
at twenty minutes to twelve were nowhere to be seen.
Lady Glenellen's eyes flashed ominously.
"Let us go to bed," she said. "Betty, why don't you have the lights
Fortunately the aunt did not hear this remark. As her face showed, she
was quite capable of a sharp reply to anything, and though, no doubt,
annoyed with the niece, would certainly defend her.
"We had better go and look for them," said the Duke.
"Perhaps they have fallen down the oubliette," suggested Babykins.
"You don't tell me there is danger?" demanded Miss Martina B.
Cadwallader, anxiously, "On this trip I am answerable to her poppa
for Corrisande's safety."
We started, more or less in a body, towards the gallery, Lady
Tilchester, with her usual tact, stopping to point out any notable
picture or tapestry to the aunt on the way, so that the search should
not look too pointed.
In the farthest corner, perched on a high window-seat--that must
have required a knowledge of vaulting to reach--sat the guilty pair,
dangling their feet. Anything more engaging than Miss Trumpet looked
could not be imagined. The tiniest pink satin slippers peeped out
of billows of exquisite _dessous_. Her little face seemed a mass of
dimpling smiles. Not a trace of embarrassment appeared in her manner.
"I say, Duke," she called, "you have got a sweet place here. We have
been watching for the monk to pass, but he has not come yet."
The Duke stepped forward to help her down.
"Don't you trouble," she said. "Why, we had a gymnasium at the
convent. I can jump."
Lady Grenellen now appeared upon the scene. She looked like an angry
cat. I turned, with Lady Tilchester, and left the rest of the party.
What happened I do not know, but when they joined us all in the hall
again the heiress was with the Duke, Lord Luffton walked alone, while
Augustus, once more beaming, was close to Lady Grenellen's side. So it
is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
Next day, after a delightful shooting-lunch and a brisk walk back, the
heiress came to my room and talked to me.
She had apparently taken a great fancy to me, and we had had several
"I don't know why, but you give me the impression that you are a
stranger, too, like Aunt Martina and me," she said. "You don't look at
all like the rest of the Englishwomen. Why, your back is not nearly so
long. I could almost take you for an American, you are so _chic_."
"Even Lady Tilchester, who is by far the nicest and grandest of them,
does not look such an aristocrat as you do."
(Miss Trumpet pronounces it _arrist_-tocrat.)
"I assure you, I am a very ordinary person," I said. "But you are
right, I am a stranger, too."
"Now I am glad to hear that," said Miss Trumpet, beginning to polish
her nails with my polisher, which was lying on the dressing-table.
"Because then I can talk to you. You know I have come here to sample
the Duke. Poppa is so set on the idea of my being a duchess. But it
seems to me, if you are going to buy a husband, you might as well buy
the one you like best. Don't you think so?"
"I entirely agree with you," I said, feelingly. "You would probably be
happier with the one you prefer, even if he were only a humble baron."
And I smiled at her slyly.
"Now that is just what I wanted to ask you about. But if I took Lord
Luffton, instead of the Duke, should I have to walk a long way behind
at the Coronation next year?"
"I am afraid you would," I said.
She looked puzzled and undecided.
"That is worrying me," she said. "As for the men themselves--well, we
don't think so much of them over in America as you do here. It is no
wonder Englishmen are so full of assurance, the way they are treated.
You would never find an American woman showing a man she was madly
jealous of him, like Lady Grenellen did last night. Why, we keep them
in their places across the Atlantic."
"So I have heard," I said.
"I have been accustomed to be run after all my life," she continued,
"so it does not amount to anything, a man making love to me. But he is
beautiful, isn't he?--Lord Luffton, I mean."
"Yes, though he has the reputation of great fickleness. The Duke would
probably make a better husband," I said.
I felt I owed it to Lady Tilchester to do something towards advancing
"Oh, as for that, a man always makes a good enough husband if you
have the control of the dollars, and poppa would see to that," said
This seemed so true I had nothing to say.
"Now, I will tell you," she continued, examining her nails, which
shone as bright as glass. "I have got a kind of soft feeling for that
Baron, but I would like to be an English duchess. Now, which would you
take, if you were me?"
"Oh, I could not possibly advise you," I said. "You must weigh the
advantages, and your level head will be sure to choose for the best."
"The position of an English duchess is splendid, though, isn't it? An
Italian duke came over last fall, and poppa thought of him for about
a day. But there is the bother of a foreign language, and all their
silly ways to learn, so I told poppa I would have an English one or
marry an American. It does seem a pity I can't have both the Baron and
the Duke!" and she laughed with girlish mirth.
I thought of my conversation the night before, and wondered.
* * * * *
That evening the Duke, also, made me confidences.
He was immensely taken with Miss Trumpet, he allowed, and could almost
look upon the matter as a pleasure instead of a duty now.
"If you had shown the slightest sign that you would ever care for
me, I should not have thought of her, though," he said. "You will be
sorry, one day, that you are as cold as ice."
"Why should a person be accused of having no musical sense because one
particular tune does not cause one rhapsodies?" I asked. "The one idea
of a man seems to be, if a woman does not adore him personally, it is
because she is as cold as ice. Surely that is illogical."
He looked at me very straightly for a moment.
"I believe you do care for some one," he said. "I shall watch and
"Very well," I laughed.
None of the people I have met since my marriage have seemed to think
it possible that I should care for Augustus, or that my wedding-ring
should be the slightest bar to my feelings or their advances.
"You are a dangerously attractive woman, you know--one's idea of what
a lady ought to look like. And you move with a grace one never sees
now. And your eyes--your eyes are the eyes of the Sphinx. I fancy, if
I could make you care, I would forget all the world. I am glad you are
"I understood you to say you were greatly attracted by Miss Trumpet,"
I said, demurely.
And so the evening passed.
"I think it is going all right," Lady Tilchester said to me as we
walked up-stairs together. "They are making arrangements to meet in
London, and Luffy has not been asked to join the theatre-party."
"No. He is going to lunch and to take them to skate," I said.
"Oh, the clever girl!" and she laughed. "But I expect she will decide
to be a duchess, in the end."
"If you could tell her anything especially splendid about her position
at the Coronation next year, should she accept the Duke, I am sure it
would have an effect."
"Cordelia is behaving like a fool about it. She asked them here, and
made all the arrangements, and now is absolutely uncivil to them."
"How flattered Lord Luffton ought to be!" I laughed.
"Yes, if it were any one else; but Cordelia has too many fancies.
How glad one should be that one has other interests in life! Really,
when I look round at most of my friends, I feel thankful. Perhaps,
otherwise, I should have been as they are."
Augustus had greatly profited by Lord Luffton's defection. Whether it
was to make the latter jealous, I do not know, but Lady Grenellen had
been remarkably gracious to him all the evening.
I learned, casually, that she was to be the fourth at Dane Mount.
"We shall be such a little party," she said. "Only myself and you and
your husband. I asked Antony to take me in, as it is on the road to
Headbrook, where I go the next day, I thought he was having a large
I wished she was not going; there seemed something degrading about
I had not let myself think of this visit. And now it would be the day
but one after to-morrow!
A strange restlessness and excitement took possession of me. I could
It was a raw, foggy morning when we all left Myrlton. The Duke
accompanied us to London, and we were a merry party in the train,
in spite of eight of us playing bridge.
Augustus told me he had business in town, and would stay the night
and over Sunday, arriving at Dane Mount by the four-o'clock train on
"If you leave home at three, in the motor," he said, "we shall get
there exactly at the same time."
And so I returned to Ledstone alone.
The fog was white round the windows as I came down to my solitary
breakfast on the 4th. My heart sank. What if it should be too thick
for me to start? I could not bear to think of the disappointment that
I forced myself to practise for an hour after breakfast. Then I wrote
a long letter to the Marquis de Rochermont. Then I looked again at my
watch and again at the fog. I should start at half-past two, to give
plenty of time, as we should certainly have to go slowly.
At last, at last, luncheon came. I never felt less hungry, nor had the
servants ever appeared so pompous and slow. It seemed as if it could
never be half-past two.
However, it struck eventually, and the automobile came round to the
For the first five miles the fog was very thick. We had to creep
along. Then it lifted a little, then fell again. But at half-past
four we turned into the lodge-gates. I could see nothing in front of
me. The trees seemed like gaunt ghosts, with the mist and the dying
daylight. The drive across the park and up the long avenue was fraught
with difficulty. Even when we arrived I could see nothing but the
bright lights from the windows. But as the door was thrown open,
I realised that Antony was standing there against the flood of
I seem always to be saying my heart beats, but there is no other way
of describing the extraordinary and unusual physical sensation that
happens to me when I meet this man.
"Welcome!" he said, as he helped me out of the automobile. "Welcome
to Dane Mount!"
A broad corridor, full of trophies of the chase and armor and carved
oak, leads to a splendid hall, high to the top of the house, with a
great staircase and galleries running round. It is hung with tapestry
and pictures, and full of old and beautiful furniture.
Three huge, rough-coated hounds lay on the lion-skin before the fire.
They rose, haughtily, to greet me.
"Ulfus, Belfus, and Bedevere, come and be introduced to a fair lady,"
said Antony. "You can be quite civil, she is of the family."
The dogs came forward.
"What darlings!" I said, patted them all. They received the caresses
with dignity, and, without gush, made me understand they were glad to
Then we said some _banal_ things to each other--Antony and I--about
the fog and the difficulty of getting here and the length of the
I did not look at him much. I felt excited and awkward--and happy.
"I am not going to let you stay here a minute in those damp things,"
he said. "I shall give you into the hands of Mrs. Harrison, my
housekeeper, to take you to your room. When you have got into a
tea-gown, you will find me here again." And he rang the bell.
Grandmamma would have approved of Mrs. Harrison when she appeared. She
is like the housekeepers one reads of in books--stately and plump, and
clothed in black silk, with a fat, gold-and-cameo brooch fastening a
neat cambric collar.
She conducted me up the staircase and into the most exquisite bedroom
I have ever dreamed of in my life.
It is white, and panelled, and full of really old and beautiful
French furniture. Everything is in keeping, even to the locks on the
doors and the bell-ropes. How grandmamma would have appreciated this!
And the fineness of the linen, and the softness of the pillows and
sofa-cushions! And everywhere great bowls of roses--my favorite
flower. Roses in November!
"Oh, what a lovely room!" I exclaimed, as I went round and looked at
"It is pretty, ma'am. It has only just been arranged," said Mrs.
Harrison, much gratified. "Sir Antony bid me ask you to order anything
you can possibly want."
Then she indicated which bell rang into my maid's room and which for
the house-maids, and with a few more polite wishes for my comfort, and
the information that the room prepared for Augustus was some way down
the corridor, on the right, she left me in McGreggor's hands.
With great promptness the luggage had been carried up, so I was not
long getting into a tea-gown.
Augustus and Lady Grenellen would have arrived by the time I got down
to the hall again. They ought to have been here before me, but no
doubt the train was late.
The soft _crepe de chine_ of my skirts made no _frou-frou_. Antony
did not see me as I looked over the bend of the stairs descending; he
was staring into the fire, an expression I have never seen before on
I stopped. Presently he looked up.
"How silently you came, Comtesse! I did not hear you."
"You were thinking deeply. Upon what grave matters of state?"
"None at all. Do you know Lady Grenellen and your husband have not
arrived? The brougham has with difficulty returned from the station
after waiting until the train was in, and there was no sign of them."
A joy, unbidden and instantly suppressed, pervaded me as he spoke.
"Perhaps they missed the train and will catch the next," I hazarded.
"The fog in London is quite exceptional, the guard said. I have given
orders for the coachman to return and try for the next train. It gets
in at 6:42. After that there is one at 7, and the last one is at
10:18. But they will probably telegraph."
"It makes me laugh," I said.
"Come and have tea. We shall not bother our heads about them. They
are, fortunately, well able to take care of themselves."
Antony led the way to the library, where the tea was laid out.
I never have sat in such a comfortable sofa or felt more cosily at
home. Everything pleased me. All is in perfect taste.
Antony talked to me gayly as he gave me some tea. It was as if he
wanted to remove the least feeling of awkwardness this unusual
situation might possibly cause me to feel.
Ulfus, Belfus, and Bedevere had followed us, and now lay, like three
grim guardians, upon the tiger-skin hearth-rug.
"How is your arm?" I asked.
"Oh, that is all right. I had the shot taken out and it has quite
healed up. Wonderful escape we had that day!" And he laughed.
"And you were so good about it! Augustus said he would have shot back
if Mr. Dodd had hit him."
"Mrs. Dodd would have made a nice target. One does not often come
across a person like that. Are all your guests at Ledstone of the
same sort as those I met?"
"No. Some of them are worse," I replied, gravely, smiling at him.
"Next time you shall come to an earlier party. You would enjoy
that." And I laughed, thinking of the first batch of relations we
"I will come whenever you ask me," he said, quite simply.
"No. You know I would never ask you again, if I could help it. Oh,
you were so kind, but it--" I stopped. I did not know how to say what
I meant. I had better not have said so much.
"I don't want you to have that feeling. It amuses me to come,
Comtesse, only you feed one too well. Do you remember how I drank
everything I could get hold of, to please you?"
"You were ridiculous!" And I laughed.
"I thought I was heroic." Then, in another voice: "I think you must
have that boudoir altered a little, you know, before long. I can't say
I found your sofa comfortable."
"Not like this." And I lay back luxuriously.
"I generally choose things with a reason, if I can."
"That sounds like one of grandmamma's speeches." Then I stupidly
blushed, remembering, apropos of what she had said, almost the same
thing. It was when she accepted Mrs. Gurrage's invitation to the ball,
where she calculated I should meet Antony. That was before she had the
fainting-fit. I stared into the fire. What would have happened by now,
if she could have carried out that plan--the "suitable and happy"
arrangement of my future!
"Comtesse, why do you stop suddenly and blush, and then stare into the
fire? Your grandmother was not, I am sure, in the habit of saying such
startling things as to cause you such emotions."
I looked up at him. I suppose my eyes were troubled, for he said, so
"Dear little girl, I won't tease you. Tell me, have you read any more
books on philosophy lately?"
I drank the last sip of my tea, and held out my cup. It was nice tea.
"No, I have not had time to read anything. There, you can take my
cup. You have such pretty things here. Everything is suitable, and it
gives me pleasure. I don't feel philosophical; I feel genuine human
"That is good to know. Well, we won't be philosophical, then, we will
be humanly happy," and he sat down beside me.
I took up, idly, a little book that was lying on a table near, because
my silly heart had begun to beat again, like Lydia Languish or any
vaporish young lady in an early romance. I looked at the title and
Antony looked at me. I read it over without taking in the sense, and
then the name arrested my attention.
"_A Digit of the Moon_," I said, "What a queer title!"
"What long eyelashes you have, Comtesse!" said Antony, apropos of
nothing. "They make a great shadow on your cheek, and they have no
business to be so dark, with your light, mud-colored hair."
"How rude, to call my hair mud-colored!" I said, indignantly, "I
always thought it _blond cendre_."
"So it is, and it shines like burnished metal. But you are a vain
little thing, I expect, and I did not wish to encourage you."
His voice was full of a caress. I did not dare to look into his queer
"You have black eyelashes yourself, and as I am of the family, why may
I not have them too?" I said, pouting.
"Of course you can have them or anything else you wish, to oblige you.
But I should rather like to know how long your hair is when you let it
down. You look as if you had a great quantity there, but probably it
is not all your own." And he smiled provokingly.
"If I was not afraid of the servants coming in I would undo it to show
you," I replied, with great indignation and a sadden feeling that I,
too, could tease. "I never heard anything so insulting!"
"My servants are well trained. It is not six o'clock yet. They won't
come in until half-past six, unless I ring. You have plenty of time."
A spirit of _coquetterie_ came over me for the first time in my life.
I took out the two great tortoise-shell pins that held it up, and let
my hair tumble down around me. It falls in heavy waves nearly to my
"That is perfectly beautiful!" said Antony, almost reverently. "I
apologize. It is your own."
I got up and shook it out and stood before him. It hung all round
me like a cloak. Oh, I was in a wicked mood, and I do not defend my
"Comtesse," he said, and his eyes swam, "fiendish little temptress,
put up that hair. And come, I will tell you about _A Digit of the
I pretended to feel greatly snubbed, and in a minute had twisted it
to my head again.
"It is a queer title," I said.
Antony talked a little faster than usual. It seemed as if he was
breathing rather quickly.
"I shall give you this book. It only came out last year. I think it is
one of the most delightful things that ever was written. You must read
it carefully." And he put it into my hand. "The description, in the
beginning, of the ingredients which God used to create woman is quite
exquisite. Listen, I will read it to you." And he took the book again.
His voice is the most refined and the tones are deep. One cannot say
what quality there is in some voices and pronunciation that makes them
so attractive. If Antony were an ugly man he still would be alluring
with such a voice as his. I listened intently until the last word.
"It is, indeed, a beautiful description," I said.
"You probably are all those things, Comtesse, except, perhaps, the
'chattering of the monkeys.' You don't speak much."
"And do you feel like 'man'?"
"That I cannot do with you, or without you? Yes, especially the latter
part of the sentence."
I got up from the sofa and looked about the room. It seemed as if we
were getting on dangerous ground.
"How comfortable men make their habitations! And I like the smell," I
said, sniffing. "The pine-logs, I suppose."
"And the cedar panelling, perhaps, scents the place a little when it
"You have thousands of books here." And I looked round at the high
shelves between the long windows. "And what a nice piano! How happy
you must be!"
"I should have been--and am sometimes, still," he said. "The Duke had
a good room, too, at Myrlton."
I sat down on the sofa again. Antony had risen and leaned against the
mantel-piece. He was idly pulling the ears of Bedevere, who, sitting
there, reached up into his hand. I never could have imagined dogs so
big as are these three.
"Of course you went to Myrlton. I had forgotten. The Duke made love
to you, I suppose?"
"Why should you suppose?"
"Because I saw signs of it at Harley. Don't you remember how I carried
you off to the woods while he fetched your umbrella?"
"Well, did he make love to you?"
"Why should you think any man would make love to me? It is ridiculous.
You seem to forget I have only been married five months. Even in a
well-bred world, where they have gone back to nature, they don't begin
as soon as that, do they?"
"You are prevaricating. He did make love to you, then?"
"Lady Grenellen had brought an heiress there for him, and he was busy
"And you made it as difficult for him as possible to do his duty. How
heartless of you, Comtesse! I would not have believed it of you."
His voice was more mocking than I had ever heard it.
"I did nothing of the kind."
"He is an agreeable fellow, Berty."
"Full of information."
Then our eyes met.
"Comtesse, we are not here to talk about the Duke of Myrlshire in
these our few minutes of grace. The 6.42 train will soon be in." And
he sat down again beside me.
"What shall we talk about, then?" I asked, trying to keep my head.
A maddening sensation of excitement made my voice sound strained.
"First, I want to tell you how beautiful I find my room. If you had
known my taste, and had it done to please me, you could not have found
anything I should like so much."
"I did know your taste, and I had it done to please you. It is for
you. No one else shall ever sleep there," he said, simply, and looked
deep into my eyes.
I had nothing to say.
"I like to know there is a room for you in my house. I want everything
in it to be exactly as you desire. When you have time to look, I
think you will find some agreeable books, and your old friends La
Rochefoucauld, etc. But if there is a thing you want changed, it would
give me pleasure to change it."
I was stupefied. I could not speak.
"Over the mantel-piece is the little pastel by La Tour I told you I
bought last year."
"Oh! it is good of you!" I managed to say.
"I have at least the satisfaction of knowing that I please myself
too if it gives you pleasure. I want you to feel there is one corner
in the world where you are really at home with the things that are
sympathetic to you, so that whenever you will come over like this it
will give you a feeling of repose."
"Oh! it is dear of you!"
"You said the other day," he continued, "that I, at all events, was
never serious, and I told you I would tell you that when you came here
to Dane Mount. Well, I tell you now--I am serious in this--that if
there is anything in the world I can do to make you happy I will do
"It makes me happy to know you understand--that there is some one of
my kin. Oh! I have been very lonely since grandmamma died!"
He looked at me long, and we neither of us spoke.
"It was a very cruel turn of fate that we did not meet this time last
year," he said at last.
"Comtesse, I want to make your life happier. I want to introduce you
to several nice women I know. I shall have a big party next month.
Will you come and stay again? Then you will gradually get a pleasant
society round you, and you need not trouble about the Dodds and the
Springers--no, Springle was their name, wasn't it?"
"Yes. It is so kind of you, all this thought for me. Oh, Sir Antony, I
have nothing to say!" I faltered.
"Do not call me _Sir_ Antony, child. It hurts me. You must not
forget we are cousins. You are Ambrosine to me, or my dearest little
The clock struck half-past six. The servants entered the room to take
the tea-things away, and while they were there a footman brought in
three telegrams, one for me and two for my host.
Mine was from Augustus, and ran:
"Hope you have arrived safely. Hear fog bad in country too.
Impossible to get to Liverpool Street yet. Awfully worried
at your being alone there. Shall come by last train."
Antony handed the two others to me. One was from Lady Grenellen, the
other from Augustus, both expressing their annoyance and regret. The
telegrams were all sent off at the same hour from Piccadilly, so
apparently they were together, my husband and his friend.
"It is comic," I said, "this situation! Augustus and Lady Grenellen
fog-bound in London, and you and I here, it is the fault of none of
"I like a fog," said Antony, with his old, whimsical smile, all trace
of seriousness departed. "A good, useful thing, a fog. Hope it won't
lift in a hurry."
"Now come and show me the ancestors," I said.
He led the way to the drawing-room--a great room, all painted white,
too, and in each faded green-brocade panel hangs a picture. The
electric lights are so arranged that each was perfectly illuminated.
They were all interesting to me, especially the portraits of our
"That must be your grandfather's father," said Antony, pointing to a
portly gentleman, with lightly powdered hair and a blue riding-coat,
painted at the end of the eighteenth century. "It was his eldest son,
who had no sons, and left the place to his daughter, who married Sir
"But where is your great-great-grandmother that you told me about,
and rather insinuated she was as nice as my Ambrosine Eustasie de
"There she is, in the place of honor. She was painted by Gainsborough,
after she married. What do you think of her?"
"Oh! she is lovely," I said, "and she has your cat's eyes."
"'She is your ancestress, too, but she is not like you. Do you see the
dog in the picture?"
"Yes. Why, it is just the portrait of one of your three knights!"
"Have you never heard the tradition, then?"
"As long as Dane Mount possesses that breed of dogs fortune is to
favor the owner; but if they die out I can't tell you what calamities
are not to overtake him. It has been going for hundreds of years."
"Then Ulfus, Belfus, and Bedevere are the descendants of that dog in
"No wonder they give themselves such airs."
"Do you hear that, boys?" said Antony, turning to the three, who had
again followed us. "My Comtesse says you give yourselves airs. Come
and die for her to show her your real sentiments."
The three great fellows advanced in their dignified way, casting
adoring glances at their master.
"Now die, all of you!"
They sneezed and curled up their lips, and made the usual grimaces of
dogs when they are moved and self-conscious, but they all three lay
flat down at my feet.
"I _am_ flattered," I said, "and I have not even a biscuit to give
"We are not so sordid as that at Dane Mount. We do not die for
biscuits, but because we love the lady," said Antony.
I bent down and kissed Ulfus, who was nearest to me.
"Now I am going to show you some Thornhirst pictures and some older
Athelstans that are in the hall and the dining-room, and a portrait
of my mother that I have in my own smoking-room."
Antony made the most interesting guide. There was something amusing
and to the point about all his comments. I soon knew the different
characteristics of each member of the family. One or two, especially
of the Thornhirsts, are wonderfully like him--the same level, dark
eyebrows and firm mouths.
"This is my sanctum," he said, at last, opening a door down a
corridor, and we went into a large room with a lower ceiling than the
rest of the apartments I had been into. It is panelled with cedar-wood
also and sparely hung with old prints. A delicious smell of burning
pine-logs again greeted me. The thick, silk curtains were drawn. The
lamps were softly shaded. An old dog of the same family as the three
knights basked before the fire. It was all cosey and homelike.
"Oh! this is a nice room, too!" I exclaimed.
"I spend a good deal of time here. One grows to like one's rooms."
His mother's portrait hangs over the fireplace, a charming face, whose
beauty is not even disguised by the hideous fashions of 1870, when it
"She died when I was in Russia," said Antony.
My eyes fell on the mantel-piece. The narrow ledge held three
photographs, one of a man, one of Lady Tilchester, and the centre
one--an amateur production, evidently--of a little girl with bare
feet, putting one fat toe into a stream, her hat hanging down her
back, and her face bent down looking at the water.
"What a dear little picture," I said. "Who is that?"
"Oh, that is the Tilchester child, Muriel Harley," he said,
carelessly. "We snap-shotted her paddling in the burn in Scotland
a year or two ago. Come, it is dressing-time. I must send you
up-stairs." And then, as we left the room, "You look so comfortable
in that tea-gown! Don't bother to change," he said.
"Why deprive me of displaying to you the splendors I brought over on
purpose?" I said, gayly, as I ran up the broad steps.
I do not think there can be a more agreeable form of entertainment
than a _tete-a-tete_ dinner, provided your companion is sympathetic.
Anyway, to me this will always be one of the golden hours in my life
to look back upon.
Never had Antony been so attractive. Every sentence was well
expressed, and only when one came to think of them afterwards, did
one discover their subtle flattery.
By the time the servants had finally left the room I felt like a
purring cat whose fur has been all stroked the right way--at peace
with the world.
The dinner had been exquisite, but I was too excited to feel hungry.
"Comtesse," said Antony, looking at the clock, "there is one good hour
before the arrivals by the last train can possibly get here. Shall we
spend it in the library or the drawing-room?" He did not suggest his
"The library. It is more cosey."
As he held the door open for me, there was an expression in his face
which again caused me the ridiculous sensation I have spoken of so
often. I suddenly realized that life at some moments is worth living.
Perhaps grandmamma and the Marquis were right after all, and these
glimpses of paradise are the compensations.
"Will you play to me, Comtesse?" Antony said when we got to the
library and he opened the piano. "I shall be selfish and sit in a
comfortable chair and listen to you."
I am not a great musician, but grandmamma always said my playing gave
her pleasure. The music makes me feel--so, perhaps, that is why it
makes others feel, too.
I played on, it seemed to me, a long time. Then, after some tender
bits of Greig, running from one to another, I suddenly stopped. The
music had been talking too much to me. It said, over and over again:
"Ambrosine, you love this man. He is beginning to absorb the whole of
your life." And, again: "Life is short. This happiness will be over in
a few moments. Live while you may."
"Why do you stop, Comtesse?" asked Antony, in a moved voice.
"I--do not know."
He rose and came and leaned on the piano, I felt--oh! I had never been
so agitated in my life. At all costs he must not say anything to me,
nothing that I should have to stop, nothing to break this beautiful
"Oh! do you not hear the sound of carriage-wheels?" I exclaimed, in a
It broke the spell.
Antony walked to the window. He pulled the curtains aside and opened
a shutter to look upon the night.
"It is the thickest fog I ever remember," he said. "I doubt if the
brougham, which put up at the station, could get back here, even if
they have come by the last train."
"Oh! of course they have come!" I said, unsteadily.
He did not answer, but carefully closed the shutter again and drew the
curtains. I went to the fireplace and began caressing one of the dogs.
My hands were cold as ice. Antony lost a little of his _sang-froid_.
He picked up a paper-knife and put it down again.
It seemed to me my heart was thumping so loudly that he must hear it
where he stood.
We both listened intently. Neither of us spoke. Eleven o'clock struck.
The butler entered the room.
"Bilsworth has managed to get here on one of the horses, Sir Antony,
and he says the last train is in, and no one arrived by it."
"Very well," said Antony, calmly. "You can shut up for the night."
And the butler went out, softly closing the door behind him.
Before I opened my eyes next morning in my beautiful room a telegram
came from Augustus--a long telegram written the night before, telling
me that it was impossible to penetrate the fog that night, and I was
to come up and join him at once in London, as he had just decided to
go to the war with his Yeomanry. He could not keep out of it longer,
as all his brother officers had volunteered, so he had felt obliged
to do so, too. They were to start in less than three weeks.
"I shall go by the ten-o'clock train," I told McGreggor, as I
scribbled my reply. "I must get up at once. Ask for my breakfast to
be brought up here."
I was dressed by nine o'clock and sipping my chocolate.
The daintiness of the old Dresden china equipage pleased me, forced
itself upon my notice in spite of the deep preoccupation of my mind.
An exquisite bunch of fresh roses lay on the tray, and a note from
Antony--only a few words--hoping I had slept well and saying the
brougham would be ready for me at half-past nine, and that he also
was going to London.
McGreggor had left the room. Oh! am I very wicked? I kissed the
writing before I threw the paper in the fire!
And so Augustus is going to the war, after all. It must have been some
very strong influence which persuaded him to volunteer, he who hated
the very thought.
I felt bitterly annoyed with myself that this news did not cause me
any grief. I have been this man's wife for five months, and his going
into danger in a far country leaves me cold. But I did, indeed, grieve
for his mother. Her many good qualities came back to me. This will be
a terrible blow to her.
I looked up at the little pastel by La Tour. The sprightly French
Marquise smiled back at me.
"Good-bye," I said. "You, pretty Marquise, would call me a fool
because to-day Antony is not my lover. But I--oh, I am glad!"
He did not even kiss my finger-tips last night. We parted sadly after
a storm of words neither he nor I had ever meant to speak.
"_Il s'en faut bien que nous commissions tout ce que nos passions nous
Once more La Rochefoucauld has spoken truth.
Why the situation is as it is I cannot tell. In my bringing up, the
idea of taking a lover after marriage seemed a more or less natural
thing, and not altogether a deadly sin, provided the affair was
conducted _sans fanfaronnade_, without scandal. It was not that
grandmamma and the Marquis actually discussed such matters in my
hearing, but the general tone of their conversation gave that
Marriage, as the Marquis said to me, was not a pleasure--it is a means
to an end, a tax of society. The _agrements_ of life came afterwards.
I had always understood he had been grandmamma's lover.
Once I heard him express this sentiment when I was supposed to be
reading my book: The marriage vows, he said, were the only ones a
gentleman might break without great blemish to his honor. This was the
atmosphere I had always lived in, and since my wedding the people of
my own class that I have met do not seem to hold different views. Lord
Tilchester is Babykins's lover. The Duke has passed on from several
women, and, to come nearer home, there are my husband and Lady
Grenellen. Only Lady Tilchester seems noble and above all these
Why did I hesitate? I do not know. There is a something in my spirit
which cried out against the meanness of it, the degradation, the
sacrilege. I could not break my word to Augustus. Oh! I could not
stoop to desecrate myself, and to act for all the future--hours of
And now after to-day I will never see Antony alone again. That we
shall casually meet I cannot guard against. But never again shall I
stay in his house. Never again awake in this beautiful room. Never
"The brougham is at the door, ma'am," said McGreggor, interrupting my
thoughts, and I descended the stairs. The fog was still gray and raw,
but had considerably lifted.
In the uncompromising daylight Antony's face looked haggard and drawn.
"Comtesse," he said, as we drove along, "I cannot forgive myself for
causing you pain last night. Nothing was further from my thoughts than
to harass and disturb you--here, in my own house--that I wanted you
to look upon as your haven of rest. But I am not made of stone. The
situation was exceptional--and I love you."
In spite of our imminent parting, joy rushed through me at his words.
Oh! could I ever get tired of hearing Antony say "I love you"?
"You did not cause me pain," I said. "We had drifted, neither knowing
where. It was fate."
"Darling, do you remember our talk in your sitting-room, and of the
_coup de foudre_? Well, it has struck us both. Oh! I could curse
myself! Your dear little white face looks up at me pathetically
without a reproach, and I have been a selfish brute to even tell you
I love you. I meant to be your friend and comrade that you might feel
you had at least some one that would stand by you forever. I wanted to
make your life pleasanter, and now my mad folly has spoiled it all,
and you decree that we must part. Oh! my little Comtesse, my loving
you has only been to hurt you!"
"Oh no. It makes me glad to know it--only--only I cannot see you any
"I would promise never to say another word that could disturb you. Oh!
Why must we say good-bye?"
"Because I could not promise not to wish you to say things. You must
surely know if we went on meeting it could only have one end."
"Well, I will do as you wish, my darling white rose. In my eyes you
are above the angels."
Antony's voice when it is moved could wile a bird from off a tree.
Then I told him of my telegram, and I know he, too, felt glad that
last night we had parted as we had.
"Ambrosine, listen to me," he said, "I will not try to see you, but if
you want anything in the world done for you, promise to let me do it."
"There is just one thing I want to know," I said. "That day before my
wedding, when you sent me the knife and the note saying it was not too
late to cut the Gordian knot, what did you mean? Did you care for me,
"I do not know exactly what I meant. I was greatly attracted by you.
That day we came over I very nearly said to you then, 'Come along away
with me,' and then we never met again until your wedding. When I sent
the knife I half wondered what you would say. I wrote the note half
in joke, half in earnest. My principal feeling was that I could not
bear you to marry Augustus. If we had chanced to meet then, really,
I should have taken you off to Gretna Green."
"Alas!" I said.
The footman opened the door. We had arrived at the station.
We did not travel in the same carriage going to London. We had agreed
it would be better not. And I do not think any one, seeing Antony
calmly handing me into the hired brougham Augustus had sent to me,
would have guessed that we were parting forever, and that, to me at
least, all joy in the world had fled.
It is stupid to go on talking about one's feelings. Having cut off
one's hand, I am sure grandmamma would say it would be drivelling and
mawkish to meditate over each drop of blood.
I tried hard to think of other things. I counted the stupid pattern on
the braid that ornamented the inside of the brougham. I counted the
lamp-posts, with their murky lights, showing through the fog. I looked
at McGreggor sitting stolidly opposite me. Could any emotions happen
to that wooden mask? "Have you a lover that you have said good-bye to
forever, I wonder? And is that why your face is carved out of stone?"
I said to myself.
In spite of all grandmamma's stoical bringing-up, it was physical pain
I was suffering.
In Queen Victoria Street a hansom passed us and I caught a misty
glimpse of Antony. He smiled mechanically as he raised his hat.
And so this is the end.
The fog is falling thickly again. Everything is damp and cold and
black as night.
And I--Oh! I wish--
"Hallo, little woman! Glad to see you!" said Augustus, in a thick and
tipsy voice, as I got out of the carriage. And he kissed me in front
of all the people at the hotel door.
The ship sailed a week ago and Augustus has gone to the war. Oh, I
hate to look back and think of those dreadful three weeks before he
A nightmare of hideous scenes. Alternate drunkenness and inordinate
affection for me, or sullen silence and cringing fear. Oh, of all
the frightful moments there are in life, there can be none so dark as
those that some women have to suffer from the drunken passions and
ways of men!
Augustus would have deserted at the last moment if an opportunity had
offered. His mother made matters worse, as, instead of remembering
her country as so many mothers have, and sending her son on his way
with brave and glorious words, she wept and lamented from morning
"I told you so, Gussie," she said, when she first met us in London. "I
was always against your joining that Yeomanry. I told you it wasn't
only the uniform, and it might get you into trouble some day. Oh, to
think that an extra glass of champagne could have made you volunteer.
And now you've got to go to the war and you have broken my heart."
Augustus's own terror was pitiable to see if it had not roused all my
Oh, that I should bear the name of a craven!
Lady Grenellen was also in London. When he was sober enough and not
engaged with his military duties, Augustus went to see her, and if she
happened to be unkind to him he vented his annoyance upon me on his
Had it not been that he was going to the war, I could not, for my
own self-respect, have put up with the position any longer. But that
thought, and the sight of his weeping mother, made me bear all things
in silence. I could not add to her griefs.
She quite broke down one day.
"I always knew Gussie took too much. It began at Cambridge, long ago,"
she wept. "But after he first saw you and fell in love, he gave it
up, I hoped, and now it has broken out again. I thought marrying you
would have cured him. Oh, deary me! I feared some one would tell your
grandma, and she would break off the match. I was glad when your
wedding was over." And she sobbed and rocked herself to and fro. "I'm
grateful to you, my dear, for what you have done for him. It's been
ugly for you lately. But there--there, he's going to the war and I
shall never see him again!"
"Do not take that gloomy view. The war is nearly over. There is no
danger now," I said, to comfort her. "Augustus will only have riding
about and a healthy out-door life, and it will probably cure him."
"I've lived in fear ever since the war began, and now it's come," she
wailed, refusing to be comforted.
I said everything else I could, and eventually she cheered up for a
few days after this, but at the end broke down again, and now, Amelia
writes, lies prostrate in a darkened room. Amelia is having her time
of trial. They left for Bournemouth yesterday.
Am I a cold and heartless woman because now that Augustus has gone I
can only feel relief?
One of his last speeches was not calculated to leave an agreeable
"You'd better look out how you behave while I am away," he said. "I'd
kick up a row in a minute, only you're such a lump of ice no man would
bother with you." Then, in a passion: "I wish to God they would, and
take you off, so I could get some one of more use to me!" He was
surprised that I did not wish him to kiss me ten minutes after this.
And now he has gone, and for six months, at any rate, I shall be free
from his companionship.
When he returns things shall be started on a different footing.
I came down to Ledstone by myself yesterday. I have no plans. Perhaps
I shall stay here until Christmas, when I am to go to Bournemouth to
The house seems more than ever big and hideously oppressive. I must
find some interest. The old numbness has returned with double force. I
take up a book and put it down again. I roam from one room to another.
I am restless and rebellious--rebellious with fate.
I know grandmamma would be angry with me could she come back to me
now. She would say I was behaving with the want of self-control of a
common person, and not as one of our race. Well, perhaps she is right.
I shall go to the cottage and see Hephzibah and give myself a shock.
That may do me good.
I never willingly let myself think of Antony, but unconsciously my
thoughts are always turning to the evening in the fog. I do not know
where he is. He may be at Dane Mount, only these few miles off, and
yet we must not meet.
I wonder if Ambrosine Eustasie de Calincourt had ever a lover.
Probably--and she would have listened to him, being of her time.
Oh, what is this quality in me that makes me as I am--a flabby thing,
with strength enough to push away all I desire in life, to keep
untarnished my idea of honor, and yet too weak to tear the matter from
my mind once I have done so?
How grandmamma would despise me!
I think of the Princess's answer to the riddle of the nineteenth day
in _A Digit of the Moon_. I am this middle thing, and it is only the
very bad and very good that achieve peace and perfect happiness.
"Come, Roy, away with us! Let us run, as we used to do last year when
we were young. Let us shake ourselves and laugh. No more of this
unworthy repining! There are some in the world that have but one eye,
and some but one leg, and they cannot see or run, and are worse off
than we are, my friend. So think of that, and don't lift your lip at
me, and tell me it is cold, and you want to stay by the fire."
All the blinds were down in the front of the cottage as I unlatched
the garden gate--the gate I had passed through last following
grandmamma's coffin to her grave. I ran round to the back door and
soon found Hephzibah.
Her joy was great to see me there, her only regret being she had not
known I was coming that she might have had the fires lit. They were
all laid, and she soon put a match to them.
With what pride she showed me how she had kept everything! Then she
left me alone, standing in the little drawing-room. It seemed so
wonderfully small to me now. The pieces of brocade still hid the
magenta "suite," but arranged with a prim stiffness they lacked in
our day. Dear Hephzibah! She had been dusting them, and would not
fold them up and put them away in case that I should ever come.
The china all stood as it used, and grandmamma's chair with her
footstool, and the little table near it with her magnifying-glass and
spectacle-case. There were her books, the old French classics, and the
modern yellow backs, her paper-knife still in one, half-cut. I never
realized how happy I had been here, in this little room, a year ago.
How happy, and, oh, how ridiculously young! My work-box stood in its
usual place, a bit of fine embroidery protruding from its lid.
For the first time in my life I sat down in grandmamma's chair. Oh, if
something of her spirit could descend upon me! I tried to think of her
maxims, her wonderful courage, her cheerfulness in all adversities,
her wit, her gayety. I seemed a paltry, feeble creature daring to sit
there, in her _bergere_, and sigh at fate. No, I would grumble no
more. I, too, would be of the race.
How long I mused there I do not know. The fire was burning low.
I went up to my own old room, I must see everything, now I was here.
It struck me with a freezing chill as I opened the door. The fire had
not drawn here, and lay a mass of smouldering sticks and paper in the
There was my little white bed, cold and narrow. The dressing-table,
with its muslin flounces and cheap, white-bordered mirror. Even the
china tray was there, where, I remember, my jewels lay the night
before my wedding, and close beside it, the red-morroco case Antony's
present had come in--left behind, by mistake, I suppose, when the
other gifts were packed away. The note he had written me with it was
still in its lid.
The paper felt icy to touch. I pulled it out and read it to the end.
Then I threw it in the fire. The sullen, charred sticks had not life
enough to burn it. I lit a match and watched the bright flames curl up
the chimney until all was destroyed. Then I fled. Here at least in the
cottage I will never come again. The room is full of ghosts.
On the whole, however, my visit did me good. I returned to Ledstone
with a firm determination to be more like grandmamma.
A telegram was awaiting me from Augustus, sent from his first
stopping-place. He had caught the measles, it appeared. The measles!
I thought only children got the measles.
Poor Augustus! He would make a bad patient. I was truly sorry, and
sent the most affectionate and sympathetic answer I could think of
to meet him at St. Helena.
I wrote to the war office, asking them please to send me any further
news when they received it. But the measles! It almost made me laugh.
Next day Lady Tilchester wrote and asked me to go to Harley. She had
heard I was alone, and would be so delighted to have me for a week,
I started two days afterwards. To see her would give me pleasure.
"How very white and thin you are looking, dear!" she said, as we sat
together in her sitting-room the first afternoon I arrived. "You are
not the same person as the very young girl who danced at the Yeomanry
ball in May. How old are you, Ambrosine?"
"I was twenty in October."
"Twenty years old! Only twenty years old, and with that sad face!
Nothing in life ought to make one sad at twenty. You look like a
piteous child. I could imagine Muriel, with a dead bird, or a set
of kittens to be drowned, looking as pathetic as you do."
"I know, I am ashamed of myself," I said, "Grandmamma would be so
angry with me if she were here."
"Well, now we are going to cheer you up. The Duke is coming on
Saturday. He is not married yet, you see."
"Oh, tell me how the affair went," I said, smiling. "It--it's--a month
ago we were at Myrlton."
"The silly girl preferred Luffy, but for the last weeks they both were
hanging on. Miss Trumpet and her aunt were staying at Claridge's, and
they tell me it was too ridiculous! Luffy lunched with them every day,
and Berty dined in the evening."
"You did not tell her about the Coronation, then?"
"Yes, I _did_! But just for once in a way she had fallen in
love--Luffy _is_ beautiful, you know!--and, my dear child, any girl or
woman in love is the most unreasonable, absurd creature on the face of
"Yes, I know. But the Americans don't get in love like other nations.
She assured me they knew how to keep men in their places on the other
side of the Atlantic."
"But the 'place' of a man is doing exactly what the particular woman
in the case wants him to do, don't forget that! And Miss Trumpet
finally decided, last week, that she wanted him to be her husband."
"Poor Duke!" I said.
"Oh, I don't think Berty minds very much. Anyway, you will be able
to console him."
"You have quite a mistaken idea there. He likes to talk about himself,
and explain to me his views on morals as manners, but he is not
the least interested in _me_. I am a very good listener, you know.
Grandmamma never let me interrupt people."
"Poor old Berty!" she said. "He has the best heart underneath all his
silly mannerisms. I have known him since he was a child. He is much
older than he looks, almost my age, in fact."
"How has Lady Grenellen taken the engagement?" I asked.
"Cordelia? Oh, she is simply furious. It is the first time any other
woman has ever had a chance with her. An English girl would have a
rather blank prospect in front of her for the afterwards. But these
Americans are so wonderfully clever and sensible, probably Luffy will
remain Miss Trumpet's devoted slave for years."
Lord Tilchester entered the room, and said "How d'y do," to me. He is
a gruff, unattractive person. I do not know what Babykins sees in him.
He spent his time eating tea-cake and feeding the dogs, with a casual
remark here and there. At last he left. I was glad. Lady Tilchester's
manner to him is always gracious and complacent. She attends to his
wishes, and talks to him without yawning. She must be my model for my
future treating of Augustus This is the most perfect and beautiful
lady in the world. I think.
There were only a couple of men staying in the house besides myself
until the Saturday, when a crowd of people came. In these few days
I got to know Margaret Tilchester more intimately. Her beautiful
nature would stand any test. All her real and intense interests are
concentrated upon her schemes to benefit mankind, practical, sensible
schemes, with no sentiment about them. I wish I could see her
children. The boy is, of course, at Eton, and the little girl is again
away, visiting her grandmother. There are dozens of photographs of
them about, and the girl keeps reminding me of some one, I cannot fix
who. She looks a dear little creature. Oh, I should love a baby! But
still I shall always pray I may never have a child.
The Duke arrived with the other guests on Saturday. He looked just the
same. His reverse of fortune had not altered his appearance. He seemed
extremely glad to see me.
"You have heard how the affair went," he said to me the first night
after dinner. "After keeping me in the most ridiculous position,
dangling for weeks, she preferred Luffy."
"Yes, I heard."
"My only satisfaction out of the whole thing is that, for once,
Cordelia is paid out in her own coin. As a rule, she only cares to
take away some one who belongs to some other woman, and now this
little girl has turned the tables."
"How spiteful of you, when Lady Grenellen was trying to arrange for
your future happiness!"
"Nothing of the kind. You don't know Cordelia. She is only afraid I
shall shut up Myrlton, or let it, and she amuses herself a good deal
there. She thought if I had a rich wife her opportunities would
oftener occur. I can only keep it open in the autumn now."
"Oh, you are a wonderful company!" I laughed.
"I wish you were a widow. You would suit me in every way."
"Hush!" I said, frowning. "I do not like you to speak so, even in
"But I always told you I loved you," he said, resignedly.
"Nonsense. What is this ridiculous love you all speak about? A silly
passion that only wants what it cannot have, or, if it succeeds,
immediately translates itself to some one else. You told me so
yourself. You said at least you were not wearyingly faithful--you,
as a class."
"How you confute one with argument, lovely lady! I shall call you
Portia. But what an adorable Portia!"
"Now stop," I said, severely. "I would rather hear your views on
morality and religion than the rubbish you are now talking."
"I have never been more snubbed in my life. Even Miss Corrisande K.
Trumpet did not flatten me out as you do," he said, with feigned
"You told me in the beginning I looked unlike the Englishwomen. Well,
I am unlike them. I am a person of bad nature. I refuse to be bored."
"And I bore you?"
"Only when you talk silly sentiment."
"Then it is a bargain. If I don't bore you, you will be friends with
"And if you do--_bon soir, monsieur_," and I rose, laughing, and
joined my hostess.
The party this time was much nicer than the former one I came to.
It was composed of clever, interesting people. The conversation was
often brilliant and elevating. No one talked like Babykins or Lady
Grenellen. In fact, it appeared another society altogether. It seemed
impossible among these people to realize that perhaps, in reality,
they are like the rest. There was not a word or a look which would
suggest that they held any but the highest views.
Lady Tilchester shone among them. She seemed to be in a suitable
setting. They were mostly of very high rank, and the rest politicians
and diplomats. They did not clip their sentences and use pet words,
and they did not smoke cigarettes all the time.
The women, although not nearly so well dressed or attractive to look
at, were much more agreeable to one another, and one was a perfectly
wonderful musician. Her playing delighted us all. She played the
things of Greig that I played to Antony on the evening at Dane Mount.
I sat by myself and listened. I seemed to see his face and hear
his voice, but the good resolutions I had made while sitting in
grandmamma's chair helped me to put these thoughts away.
I felt more at rest, at peace, here. Every one's life seemed full of
interest--interest in something great. I would like this society best
if I had to choose which I would frequent, but I can realize that
people as good as these, but duller and less brilliant, would make
one look at the clock.
Perhaps Lady Tilchester's plan of having every sort at her house is
the best, after all. Then she can have variety and never be bored.
I wonder if it is the occupation of their minds with great things,
in this set, which balances with the "lives of compulsion" led by
the middle classes, and so prevents them also from "getting back to
nature," as the Duke said.
It is an interesting problem.
Mr. Budge sat down and talked to me. He has a very strong character,
I am sure, and I was flattered that he should think me worth speaking
"I admire your perfect stillness," he said at last, after there had
been a pause of a moment or two. "I have never seen a woman sit so
still. It is a great quality."
"I was not allowed to fidget when I was young," I said. "Perhaps one
acquires repose as a habit."
"When you were young! Why, you look only a baby now! I would take you
for about eighteen years old, and that is what interests me. Your eyes
have a question and a story in them that is not usual at eighteen."
"Oh, I am ever so much older than that! I must be at least fifty!" I
He smiled. "I am fifty. It is a terrible age."
"I dare say it would be nice to be fifty if one had been long enough
young--to get there gradually. But to jump there, that is what is not
"And you have jumped to fifty? I thought there was a story in those
"Why do you say that? You are the second person who has said I have
the eyes of the Sphinx. I would like to know why?" I asked.
"Because they are inscrutable. They suggest much and reveal nothing.
It would interest me deeply to hear your impression of things."
"The world, the flesh, or the devil--anything that would make you lift
the curtain a little. For instance, what do you think of this society
"They all seem to be clever people with interests in life."
"Most people have interests in life. The candle would soon burn out
otherwise. What are yours, if I may ask?"
"I am observing. I have not decided yet what interests me. I would
like to travel, I think, and see the world."
"That is an easy matter at your age. But have you no other desires?"
"No, unless it would be to sleep very soundly and enjoy my food."
"What a little cynic! A gross little materialist! And you look the
embodiment of etherealism."
"At fifty I have always understood creature comforts begin to matter
more. Each age has its pleasures."
"Tell me something else about the emotions of the fifty-year-olds."
"They get up in the morning and they wonder if it will rain, and,
if they are in England, it often answers them by pouring. Then they
breakfast, and wonder if they will read or play the piano or walk, or
if it matters a scrap if they do none of these things, and presently
they look at the papers, and they see the war is going on still, and
people are being killed, and they wonder to what end. And they read
that the opposition is accusing the government of all sorts of crimes
and negligences, and they remember that is the fate of governments,
whichever side is in. And then they lunch, perhaps, and see friends.
And they find they want some one else's husband but their own, and
that the husband, perhaps, only cares for sport, or some one else's
wife. And then they sleep after lunch, and drive, and have tea, and
read books about philosophy, and dine, and yawn, and finally go to
"What a terrible picture! And when they were young what did they do?"
"It is so long ago I heard of that, but I will try to remember. They
woke feeling the day was a glorious thing in front of them, that even
if they were in England, and it was raining, the sun would soon come
out. And they sang while they dressed, and, if it was summer, they
rushed round the garden, and loved all the flowers, and the scent in
the air, and the beauty of the lights and colors, and the dear little
butterflies. And they saw the shades on the trees, and they heard the
different notes in the birds' songs. And they were hungry, and glad
to eat bread and milk. And every goose was a swan, and every moment
full of joy, because they said to themselves, 'Something glorious' is
coming to me, also, in this most glorious world!'"
I laughed softly. It seemed so true, and so long ago.
Mr. Budge looked at me. His face was grave and puzzled.
"Child," he said, "it grieves me to hear you talk so. I assure you, I,
who am really fifty, still enjoy all those things that you say only
the very young can appreciate."
"We have changed places, then!" I answered, lightly. "And I see Lady
Tilchester making a move towards bed. That is a delightful place,
where fifty and fifteen can both enjoy oblivion--so good-night!" And
I smiled at him over my shoulder as I walked towards the door!
Next day, after church, the Duke and I went for a walk. He kept his
promise and did not bore me. We discussed all sorts of things, some
interesting, and all in the abstract. We left personalities alone. At
last he said:
"Until the beginning of the nineteenth century things went along
gradually. People could look ahead for a hundred years and say, with
something like certainty, what would be likely to take place. But
since then everything has gone with such leaps and bounds that no one
could prophesy! Though in five hundred years we shall probably be a
wretched republic, constructed out of the debris of the old order, and
the Americans will be an aristocratic nation with a king."
"What makes you think so?"
"Because when companies of people get sufficiently rich not to have
to work they grow to like whatever will appeal to their vanity and
self-importance. There is a halo round a title, and you can leave it
to your children. A king becomes a necessity then."
"An American king! It does seem a strange idea. Well, we shall not be
there to see, so it does not matter to us. 'Sufficient unto the day is
the evil thereof.'"
"History always repeats itself. Look at the Romans, a civilized
republic, and then they must have an emperor."
"And then the barbarians came and the whole thing was blotted out. And
so in the end, _a quoi bon_? No one was ever benefited."
"But the world would not go on if we said '_a quoi bon_' to
everything. The fortunate thing is that for the time we think things
matter immensely. When people begin to feel nothing matters at all, it
is because their livers are out of order. And when a nation becomes
apathetic, that is what is the matter too. Look at Italy or Spain!
Their livers are completely out of order. All their institutions are
jaundiced and each country is going down-hill."
"Poor Spain and Italy!" I said, and I laughed.
"I like to hear you laugh, I don't care what it is about," said the
"I believe if I had your great position and traditions of family I
should try to be a strong influence in the country. I would try to
make a name for myself in history," I said. "I would not be contented
with being just a duke."
"Ah, if I had you always near me perhaps I should," and he sighed
"Now, now! you are breaking your bargain, and talking personally,
which will bore me."
"But you began it. I was quietly discussing something--the evolution
of the world, I think--when you gave me your opinion of what you would
do in my case."
"Yes, but I am permitted to be illogical, not being a man, and I am
thinking it might cause me an interest if I had your case."
"I will tell you what my grandfather, the tenth Duke, said to me when
he was a very old man--you know his record, of course? He was one of
the greatest politicians and _litterateurs_ of his time, but had been
in the Guards when a boy, and at sixteen fought at Waterloo. 'After
having tasted the best of most things in life, Robert,' he said, 'I
can tell you there are only two things really worth having--women and
Before the end of my visit to Harley the Duke and I became fast
friends, and while not possessing Antony's lightness of wit or
personal attractions, he is an agreeable companion and out of the
ordinary run of young men. He promised me, as we said good-bye, that
he would think of my words, and try to do something with his life to
deserve my good opinion.
"Come here whenever you are lonely, dear child," said my beautiful
hostess, as we parted. "We delight in having you, and you must not
mope at home all by yourself."
The roads were too bad for the automobile, so I drove back to Ledstone
in my victoria. It was a brilliant, frosty day, the 11th of December.
Something in the air sent my spirits up. I felt if Mr. Budge had only
been with me I could have told him I was growing younger. My first
interest when I got home should be to alter my boudoir. Augustus had
left me fairly provided with money, and I could, at all events, run up
what bills I pleased. That thought brought me back to the last bill I
had tried to incur.
What had been the result of my orders? Would the shop-people have told
Lady Grenellen that a strange lady had sent her the tea-gowns? Would
she have wondered about them and made inquiries? I had heard nothing
further. I dismissed the subject and returned to my boudoir. I
was just thinking deeply what change I should make as we drove up
the avenue. Should I take away the mustard walls and do the whole
thing white, or have it pale green, or what? Then we caught up a
telegraph-boy. He handed me the orange envelope.
It was from the war office, and ran:
"We are deeply grieved to inform you intelligence has been
received that your husband, Lieutenant Augustus Gurrage, of the
Tilchester Yeomanry, died of measles on board the troop-ship
_Aurora_ on the 6th instant."
The sky suddenly became dark, I remember nothing more until I found
myself in the hall with a crowd of servants round me. For the first
time in my life I had fainted. I shall not analyze my feelings at this
time. The principal emotions were horror and shock.
Oh, poor Augustus! to have died all alone at sea! Oh, I did, indeed,
grieve for him! And the measles, which I had almost laughed at! The
measles to have killed him! Afterwards, when we heard the details, it
appeared his constitution was so weakened with the quantity of alcohol
he taken in those last three weeks that he had no strength to stand
against the attack.
My one thought was for his poor mother. A telegram had gone to her,
too, it appeared.
I left for Bournemouth by the first train I could catch, but when I
arrived I was met by a doctor. Mrs. Gurrage had lost her reason, he
told me, upon hearing the news. She had been weak and ailing and in
bed ever since her return from London, and this had proved the last
straw, and now she lay, a childish imbecile, in her gorgeous bedroom
Oh, I can never write the horrors poor Amelia and I went through for
the next ten days. The sadness of it all! My poor mother-in-law did
not recognize me. She talked incessantly of Augustus. She seemed quite
happy. He was a boy again to her--sometimes an infant, and at others
almost grown up.
Once or twice she asked Amelia if I was not the new tenant at the
"She's a pretty girl," she said, "and Gussie's wonderful took with
Her poor voice had gone back to the sound and pronunciation of her
early youth. Sometimes her accent was so broad and her expression so
unusual that I could hardly understand her.
They had buried Augustus at sea. A grand and glorious grave, I think.
By the beginning of the new year I found myself a very rich woman.
Augustus had left me his fortune, to be divided with his mother,
should she survive him, and if not, to go to me and any possible
children we might have. The will had been made directly we returned
to Ledstone after our wedding.
Amelia received only a very small legacy.
Towards the end of January there was a change in the poor invalid
up-stairs. My presence began to awake some memories. She was unhappy,
and pointed at me. I disturbed and distressed her. It grieved me.
I would so willingly have stayed and nursed her, but the doctors
absolutely forbade my ever going into her room.
We had all the greatest specialists down from London to consult about
her case, but they all shook their heads. It seemed hopeless and most
unlikely she would ever recover her reason.
One great physician said to me, with truth:
"For the poor lady's sake I could almost hope she will remain in her
present state. She is happy and quite harmless, whereas she would
suffer agonies of grief should she recover."
I tried to take this view, and after making every possible arrangement
for her comfort and attendance I left for London. There was a great
deal of business to be seen about in connection with the will.
Lady Tilchester had telegraphed at once all her sympathy, and I got
numbers of letters from all sorts of people.
Among them Lady Grenellen! A beautifully expressed note, full of the
When I got back to Ledstone, after my week in London, I found
quantities of letters and bills had accumulated for Augustus. His
lawyers were coming down the next day to sort and settle everything.
They had been piled up in the smoking-room.
I sadly glanced through them as they lay. Oh, I am not a hypocrite to
say that when I first went back into this room, full of tipsy horrors
as its associations were, it brought Augustus back so vividly that I
sat down and cried.
I had never wished him ill, and would have given him back his life if
I could. To die so young, with everything to make existence fair! It
seemed too sad.
I lifted the pile of papers, one after another, and at last came upon
one with the address printed on the outside of the envelope--the
address of the dress-maker where Lady Grenellen's clothes came from.
This bill the lawyers should not see. I looked carefully to the end of
the pile. There were no more of any consequence. I wished I could find
her letters too, to save them also. The drawers were all locked. I
could not think that night what to do, but when the lawyers came next
day I asked them to give me any letters they might find with the same
writing on the envelope as the one I showed them--her note of sympathy
to me--and not to examine them.
And so it was that a day or two afterwards I had before me six letters
with a gold coronet emblazoned upon the envelopes.
I had paid the bill. I wrote the check and despatched it the night
I found it, and now the receipt also lay beside the letters. I tied
them together and sealed the bundle with Augustus's seal. I put the
receipted bill with them, and enclosed the whole packet in another
envelope, and addressed it to Lady Grenellen.
I had not answered her letter of sympathy. This would be my answer.
A thick skin is a fortunate gift, it appears, and one I had thought
of extreme rareness in the class to which she belongs. What was my
surprise to receive a gushing letter of thanks by return of post! My
husband and she had been such friends, she said, and he had helped
her before so kindly out of her difficulties, and it was too good of
me to have paid this bill--she could see by the date I must have paid
it--and it all was too sad, and she hoped we should meet later on,
perhaps at Harley! Her own husband was coming home, slightly wounded,
Had I been in a laughing mood I should have laughed aloud at the
effrontery of the whole thing. Well, perhaps it was better so. As far
as I am concerned the whole incident shall be forgotten--a memory of
Augustus sunk into the past.
And so January passed and February began.
It seems in life that things all come together. One's days go on
smoothly, uneventfully, for months, and then, one after another, a
series of startling, unusual events occurs, which changes the course
of the peaceful river.
At the end of February--I was still at Ledstone, and my daily
communications from Amelia told me my poor mother-in-law was still a
happy idiot--another telegram came to me--this time it was addressed
to grandmamma--to grandmamma at the cottage! The very outside startled