The Reflections of Ambrosine
Part 3 out of 5
McCormack is taking it over to you. And a little stronger this
time, please. I don't care for this new-fangled taste for weak
tea--dish-water, I call it--only fit for the jaded digestions of
worn-out worldly women."
"Who owns this fog-horn?" my kinsman whispered. "Will it come out
shooting to-morrow? The game-book record will be considerably lower
"It won't shoot; it will only lunch," I whispered back.
Somehow, my spirits had risen. I loved to sit and laugh there
with--Antony. (I think of him as Antony, now we are cousins, I must
I poured out the blackest tea I could, and inadvertently put a lump
of sugar into it. I am afraid I was not attending.
Mr. McCormack, a big, burly youth, with a red face and fearfully
nervous manners, stood first on one foot, then on the other, while he
waited for the cup, which, eventually, he took back to Mrs. Dodd.
All this time Antony was sitting talking to me in his delightfully
lazy way, quite undisturbed by any one else in the room. He has
exactly grandmamma's manner of finding a general company simply
He was just telling an amusing story of the house in Scotland he
had come from, when an explosion happened at the other side of
the fireplace. Loud coughing and choking, mixed with a clatter of
teaspoons and china--and, amid a terrified silence, the fog-horn
"Surely, Mrs. Gussie, I told you plain enough that sugar in my tea
makes me sick."
I apologized as well as I could, and repaired my want of attention,
and then I felt my other guests must claim me, so I whispered to
"Do go and talk to Lady Wakely, please. You are preventing me from
doing my duty! I am listening to you instead."
But he rose, and crossed over to the fat wife of the member for this
division, and soon her face beamed with smiles.
I soothed Mr. McCormack, who somehow felt the sugar had been his
Augustus mollified the fog-horn Dodd, and peace was restored all
It is a long time between tea and dinner when the days are growing
short. It was only half-past six when every excuse for lingering over
the teacups had expired.
What on earth could one do with this ill-assorted company for a whole
Augustus, with a desire to be extremely smart, had commanded dinner at
Mercifully, the decent people and some of the men played bridge, and
were soon engaged at one or two tables. Augustus, who is growing fond
of the game, made one of the fourth, thus leaving five of our guests
hanging upon my hands.
"Shall I show you your rooms? Perhaps you would like to rest before
dinner," I said to the ladies, who were good enough to assent, with
the exception of Mrs. Dodd, who snorted at the idea of resting.
"Wullie," she said to Mr. Dodd. She had evidently picked up the
Scotch pronunciation of his name from him, a quiet, red-haired man
originally from Glasgow. He was hovering in the direction of one of
the bridge-tables. "Wullie, don't let me see you playing that game of
cards. There are letters to be written to Martha and my mother. Come
with me," she commanded.
Mr. Dodd obeyed, and they retired to the library together.
They are evidently quite at home here, and did not need any attention
Antony Thornhirst was the only other guest unemployed, and he
immediately rose and went to write letters in the hall, he said.
He had refused to play bridge on account of this important
So at last I got the two women off to their rooms, and was standing
irresolutely for a second, glancing over the balustrade after closing
the last door, when my kinsman looked up.
"Comtesse," he called, softly, "won't you come down and tell me when
the post goes?"
I descended the stairs. He was standing at the bottom by one of the
negro figures when I reached the last step.
"Have you not some quiet corner where we might sit and talk of our
ancestors?" he asked, with a comic look in his cat's eyes. "This place
is so draughty, and I am afraid of the bears! And we should disturb
that loving couple in the library and the bridge-players in the
drawing-room. Have you no suggestions for my comfort? I am one of your
guests, too, you know!"
"There is Mrs. Gurrage's boudoir, that has straight-up, padded chairs
and crimson satin, and there is my own, that is mustard yellow. Which
could you bear best before dinner?" I said, laughing.
"Oh! the yellow--mustard is stimulating and will give me an appetite."
So we walked up the stairs again together and he followed me down the
thickly carpeted passage to my highly gilded shrine.
For the first time since I have owned it, I felt sorry I had been too
numb to make it nice. The house-maids arrange it in the morning, and
there it stays, a monument of the English upholsterer's idea of a
Louis XV. boudoir.
As I told Hephzibah, the little copy of La Rochefoucauld and the
miniature of Ambrosine Eustasie are the only things of mine--my
own--that are here, besides all my new books, of course.
I sat down in the straight-backed sofa. It has terra-cotta and buff
tulips running over the mustard brocade. The gilt part runs into your
Antony sat at the other end.
A very fat, rich cushion of "school of art" embroidery, with frills,
fell between us. We looked up at the same moment and our eyes met, and
we both laughed.
"You remind me of a picture I bought last year," Antony said. "It
was a little pastel by La Tour, and the last owner had framed it in
a brand-new, brilliant gilt Florentine frame."
Suddenly, as he spoke, a sense of shame came over me. I felt how wrong
I had been to laugh with him about this--my home. It is because, after
all these months, I cannot realize that Ledstone is my home that I
have been capable of committing this bad taste.
I felt my cheeks getting red and I looked down.
"I--I like bright colors," I said, defiantly. "They are cheerful
"Sweet Comtesse!" interrupted Antony, in his mocking tone, which does
not anger me. "Tell me about your books."
He got up lazily, and began reading the titles of a heap on the table
"What strange books for a little girl! Who on earth recommended you
"No one. I knew nothing at all about modern books, so I just sent for
all and any I saw in the advertisements in the papers. Most of them
are great rubbish, it seems to me, but there are one or two I like."
He did not speak for a few moments.
"All on philosophy! You ought to read novels at your age."
"I did get some in the beginning, but they seemed all untrue and
mawkish, or sad and dramatic, and the heroines did such silly things,
and the men were mostly brutes, so I have given them up. Unless I see
the advertisement of a thrilling burglary or mystery story, I read
those. They are not true, either, and one knows it, but they make one
forget when it rains."
"All women profess to have a little taste for philosophy and
beautifully bound Marcus Aureliuses, and _Maximes_, and love
poems--clever little scraps covered in exquisite bindings. And one out
of a thousand understands what the letter-press is about. I am weary
of seeing the same on every boudoir-table, and yet some of them are
delightful books in themselves. You have none of these, I see."
He picked up the La Rochefoucauld.
"Yes, here is one, but this is an old edition." He turned to the
title-leaf and read the date, then looked at the cover. It is bound
in brown leather and has the same arms and coronet upon it that my
chatelaine has--the arms of Ambrosine Eustasie de Calincourt and an
"A. E. de C." entwined, all tooled in faded gold.
"The arms on my knife!" Antony said, pulling it from his
waistcoat-pocket and comparing them.
"My knife," I said.
"Tell me all about her--A.E. de C.," he commanded, seating himself
on the sofa again.
"She was my great-great-grandmother, and was guillotined. See--I
will show you her miniature," and I took it from its case on the
writing-table. I have had a leather covering made to keep safe the
old, paste frame. It has doors that shut, and I don't let her look
too much at the mustard-yellow walls, my pretty ancestress.
"What an extraordinary likeness!" Antony exclaimed, as he looked
at it. "Are you sure I am not dreaming and you are not your own
"No, I am myself. But I am supposed to be like her, though."
"It is the very image of you. She has your air and carriage of the
head, and--and--" he looked at it very carefully under the electric
light which sprouts from a twisted bunch of brass lilies on the wall,
their stalks suggesting a modern Louis XV. nightmare.
"Well, never mind. Now I want to hear her story." And we both sat down
again for the third time on the tulip-sofa.
I told him the history just as I had told him the outline of my life
the day in the Harley woods. Only, as then I felt I was speaking of
another person, now I seemed to be talking of myself when I came to
the part of walking up the guillotine steps.
"And so they cut her head off--poor little lady!" said Antony, when I
had finished, and he looked straight into my eyes.
The pillow of art-needlework and frills had fallen to the floor--even
it could not remain comfortably on the hard seat! There was nothing
between us on the sofa.
Antony leaned forward, close to me. His voice was strangely moved.
"Comtesse!" he began, when McGreggor knocked at the door.
"Mr. Gurrage is calling you, ma'am," she said, in her heavy, Scotch
voice, "and he seems in a hurry, ma'am."
"Ambrosine!" echoed impatiently in the hall.
"Why, it must be dressing-time!" said Antony, calmly, looking at his
watch. "I must not keep you," and he quietly left the room as Augustus
burst in from my bedroom door.
"Where on earth have you been?" he said, crossly. "That Dodd woman
has been driving us all mad! Willie Dodd came and joined us at bridge
and took McCormack's place, and the old she-tike came after him and
chattered like a monkey until she got him away. Where were you that
you did not look after her?"
"I was here, in my sitting-room, talking to Sir Antony Thornhirst," I
said, almost laughing. The picture of Mrs. Dodd at the bridge-table
amused me to think of. Augustus saw me smiling, and he looked less
"She is an old wretch," he said. "I wish I had not to ask Willie Dodd
every year, but business is business, and I'll trouble you to be civil
to them. We will weed out the whole of this lot, gradually, now. The
mater will go off to Bournemouth at this time of the year, and so,
by-and-by, we can have nothing but smart people."
The evening passed in an endless, boring round. This sort of company
does not adapt itself as the people at Harley did. With my best
endeavors to be a good hostess, the uneasiness of my guests prevented
me from making them feel comfortable or at home.
Mrs. Dodd's impertinence would have been insupportable if it had not
been so funny.
She complained of most things--the draughts, the inconvenience of the
hours of the train departures, and so on.
She was gorgeously dressed and hung with diamonds. Without being
exceptionally stout, everything is so tight and pushed-up that she
seems to come straight out from her chin in a kind of platform, where
the diamonds lose themselves in a narrow, perpendicular depression in
Antony sat next me at dinner, at one side; on the other was old Sir
Samuel Wakely. Mr. Dodd on his left hand had Miss Springle, the
playful, giddy daughter of one of the guns.
She chaffed him all the time, much to the annoyance of his life's
partner, who was sitting opposite, and who, owing to an erection of
flowers, was unable to quite see what was going on.
"Yes," we heard Mr. Dodd say, at last, "I nearly bought it in Paris at
the Exhibition. Eh! but it was a beautiful statue!"
"I like statues," said Miss Springle.
"Well, she was just a perfect specimen of a woman, but Missus Dodd
wouldna let me purchase her, because the puir thing wasna dressed. I
didna think it could matter in marble."
"What's that you are saying about Mrs. Dodd?" demanded that lady from
across the table, dodging the chrysanthemums.
"I was telling Miss Springle, my dear, of the statue of 'Innocence' I
wanted to buy at the Exhibition at Paris," replied Mr. Dodd, meekly,
"and that you wouldna let me on account of the scanty clothing."
"Innocence, indeed!" snorted Mrs. Dodd. "Pretty names they give things
over there! And her clothing scant, you call it, Wullie? Why, you are
stretching a point to the verge of untruth to call it clothing at
all--a scarf of muslin and a couple of doves! Anyhow, I'll have it
known I'll not have a naked woman in my drawing-room, in marble or
The conversation of the whole table was paralyzed by her voice. My eye
caught Antony's, and we both laughed.
"There, there, my dear, don't be even suggesting such things," said
Mr. Dodd, soothingly.
"La! Mrs. Dodd, you make me blush," giggled Miss Springle.
I wondered what Antony thought of it all, and whether he had ever been
among such people before. His face betrayed nothing after he laughed
with me, and he seemed to be quietly enjoying his dinner, which,
fortunately, was good.
It was only for a few minutes before we all said good-night that we
spoke together alone.
"Shall you be down to breakfast, Comtesse?" he asked me.
"Oh yes," I said, "These people would never understand. They would
think I was being deliberately rude if I breakfasted in my room."
"At nine o'clock, then?"
"Lend me your La Rochefoucauld to read to-night?" he asked.
"With pleasure. I will have it sent to your room."
"No, let me get it from your mustard boudoir myself. I shall be coming
up, probably, to change into a smoking-coat, and my room is down that
way, you know."
So we said good-night.
Half an hour afterwards, I was standing by my sitting-room fire when
Antony came into the room. He leaned on the mantel-piece beside me and
looked down into my face.
"When will you come over to Dane Mount, Comtesse? I want to show you
_my_ great-great-grandmother. She was yours, too, by-the-way," he
"When will you ask us?"
"In about a fortnight. I have to run about Norfolk until then. Will
you come some time near the 4th of November?"
"I shall have to ask Augustus, but I dare say we can."
He frowned slightly at the mention of Augustus.
"Of course. Well, I will not have a party, only some one to talk
to--your husband. The ancestors won't interest him, probably."
"Oh! Do ask Lady Tilchester," I said. "I love her."
He bent down suddenly to look at the Dresden clock.
"No, I don't think so. She will be entertaining herself just then," he
said, "and probably could not get away. But leave it to me, I promise
to arrange that Augustus shall not be bored."
He picked up La Rochefoucauld and opened it.
"I see you have marked some of the _maximes_."
"No. Grandmamma and the Marquis must have done that. Look, they are
all of the most witty and cynical that are pencilled. I can hear them
talking when I read them. That is just how they spoke to one another."
He read aloud:
"'_C'est une grande folie de vouloir etre sage tout seul_!' Don't
be '_sage tout seul_,' Comtesse. Let me keep you company in your
_sagesse_," he said.
I looked up at him. His eyes were full of a quizzical smile. There
is something in the way his head is set, a distinction, an air of
command. It infinitely pleases me. I felt--I know not what!
"Now I will say good-night. I am tired, and it is getting late," I
"Good-night, Comtesse," and he walked to the door. "I shall be down
at nine o'clock."
And so we parted.
On the morrow it had cleared up and flashes of blue sky were
appearing. Augustus and Mr. McCormack had both had too much to drink
the night before, at dinner, and were looking, and no doubt feeling,
mixed and ill-tempered.
The morning was long after the shooters had gone. It seemed as if one
o'clock, when we were to start for the lunch, would never come.
Miss Springle had some passages-at-arms with Mrs. Dodd. They had all
been down to breakfast but Lady Wakely and another woman, who were
accustomed to the ways of the world.
I had never seen any shooting before. The whole thing was new to me.
Augustus had insisted upon selecting what he considered a suitable
costume for me. We had been up to London several times together to try
it on, and, on the whole, though a little _outre_ in its checks, it is
"Do you shoot, yourself, Mrs. Gussie?" Mrs. Dodd asked, when we
assembled in the hall, ready to start.
"No; do you?" I replied.
"Of course not! The idea! But, seeing your skirt so very short, I
should have guessed you were a sportswoman and killed the birds
yourself!" and she sniffed ominously.
"Do birds get killed with a skirt?" Miss Springle asked, pertly. She
hates Mrs. Dodd. They were neighbors In Liverpool, originally. "I
thought you had to shoot at them?"
Mrs. Dodd snorted.
"You will get awfully muddy, Mrs. Dodd, in your long cashmere," Miss
Springle continued. "And Mr. Dodd told me, when I met him coming
from the bath this morning, to be sure not to wear any colors--they
frighten the birds. I am certain he will object to that yellow
paradise-plume in your hat."
Mrs. Dodd looked ready to fight.
"Mr. Dodd had better talk to me about my hat!" she said, growing
purple in the face. "I call all these modern sporting-costumes
indecent, and when I was a girl I should have been whipped for coming
out shooting in the things you have got on, Miss Springle!"
"Really! you don't say so!" said Miss Springle, innocently, "Why, I
never heard they shot birds in Liverpool, Mrs. Dodd."
I interfered. The expression of my elder guest's face was becoming
"Let us get into the brake," I said.
Lady Wakely sat next me.
"Very unpleasant person, Mrs. Dodd," she whispered, wheezily, as we
drove off, "She is here every year. My dear, you are good-natured to
put up with her."
Lunch was laid out in the barn of one of the farm-houses. Augustus had
given orders that it should be of the most sumptuous description, and
the chef had done marvels.
The table looked like a wedding-breakfast when we got there, with
flowers and printed menus.
The sportsmen were not long in making their appearance. It was
a rather warm day, and Mr. McCormack and Mr. Dodd, who were not
accustomed to much exercise, I suppose, without ceremony mopped
Antony, who was walking behind, with Sir Samuel Wakely, appeared such
an astonishingly cool contrast to them. His coat did not look new, but
as if it had seen service. Only everything fitted and hung right, and
he walks with an ease and grace that would have pleased grandmamma.
Augustus had a thunderous expression on his face. So had Wilks, the
head keeper. Later, I gathered there had been a great quantity of
birds, but the commercial friends had not been very successful in
their destruction. In fact, Mr. Dodd had only secured two brace,
besides one of the beaters in the shoulder, and a dog.
Antony sat by me.
"Dangerous work, shooting," he said, smiling, as he looked at the
menu. "What is your average list of killed in a pheasant battue?"
"What--what kind of killed?" I asked, laughing.
"Guests or beaters or dogs--anything but the birds."
"Cutlets ha la ravigotte or 'ommard ha lamerican, Sir Antony?" the
voice of the first footman sounded in our ears.
"Oh--er--get me a little Irish stew or some cold beef," said Antony,
plaintively, still with the menu in his hand.
"We've no--Irish stew--except what is prepared for the beaters, Sir
Antony," said James, apologetically. He had come from a ducal house
and knew the world. "Shall I get you some of that, Sir Antony?"
"No, don't mind." Then, turning to me, "What are you eating,
Comtesse?" he asked. "I will have some of that."
"It is truffled partridge in aspic," I said, disagreeably. "You can
pick out the truffles if you are afraid of them."
"Truffled partridge, then," he said to James, resignedly, and when
it came he deliberately ate the truffles first.
"Hock, claret, Burgundy, or champagne, Sir Antony?" demanded the
"Oh--er--I will have the whole four!"
His face had the most comical expression of chastened resignation as
he glanced at me.
Griggson poured out bumpers in the four glasses.
"I shall now shoot like your friend from Liverpool," said Antony, "and
if I kill your husband and most of the guests I cannot be blamed for
it," and he drank down the hock.
"Don't be so foolish," I said, laughing, in spite of having pretended
to be annoyed with him.
"I would drink anything rather than incur your displeasure," he said,
with great humility, as he took up the claret. "Must I eat everything
on the menu, too?"
I appeared not to hear, and turned to Mr. Dodd, who was on my other
side, his usually pale face still crimson with walking so fast and
this feast of Lucullus he was partaking of.
"I had bad luck this morning, Mrs. Gussie," he said, in a humble
voice. "I am sorry about that man and dog, and I am afraid the
gentleman on your right must have got a pellet also--eh, sir?" and
he addressed Antony.
"A mere trifle," said my neighbor "on the right," with his most suave
air and a twinkle in his eye as he finished the claret. "Just a shot
or two in the left arm--a mere nothing, when one considers the dangers
the whole line were incurring."
"You were shot in the arm, Sir Antony?" I exclaimed, suddenly, feeling
a great dislike to Mr. Dodd. "Oh, but people should not shoot if they
are so careless, surely!"
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," said Mr. Dodd, huffily. "I am not
careless. I have been shooting now for a matter of five years and only
twice before have hit any one."
"You have had the devil's own luck!" said Antony, beginning the
"You may call it luck, sir," said Mr. Dodd, "but I think a man wants a
bit of judgment, too, to shoot, and I always try to remember where my
neighbors stand. But, I must admit, with pheasant shooting in a wood
it is more difficult. It was getting a little excited with a rabbit
which caused the last accident I had."
Antony finished the Burgundy.
"Are you going to walk with us afterwards, Comtesse?" he asked me,
presently, in a low voice, his eyes still twinkling; "because, if so,
I advise you to fortify your nerve with a little orange brandy I see
they are handing now," and he began the champagne.
"Oh, I am so sorry about the whole thing. I think it is perfectly
dreadful," I said, "and--and I do hope you are not really hurt."
He showed me his wrist. His silk shirt-sleeve was wet with blood, and
his arm also had streaks on it, and just under the skin were two or
three small, black lumps.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am," I said, and my voice trembled. I
felt I wanted to take his arm and wash the blood off, and caress it,
and tell him how it grieved me that he should be wounded--and by these
people, too. I would like to have shot them all.
"Don't look so distressed, Comtesse," he said. "It does not hurt a
bit, and the whole thing amuses me. A very original character, Mr.
Dodd," and he finished the champagne.
Augustus walked with me after lunch for a little when we started. He
was in a furious temper at the non-slaughter of the partridges.
"By Jove! next year," he said, "I'll clear out the whole boiling,
whether the mater likes it or no, and have some of the people we met
at Harley. Thornhirst is the only man who has killed anything great,
though Wakely and Bush did a fair share."
I told him how dreadful I thought the accident had been.
"Good thing it was not me he shot," said Augustus. "I'd have fired
back. But the part I mind the most is the miserable bag. Wilks is mad.
We both wanted the record to go to the field; and what can we do? Only
thirty-two brace up to luncheon!"
I soothed him as well as I could.
Mrs. Dodd was puffing behind us. She had insisted upon following with
the guns, although Lady Wakely and the two other elderly women had
driven back to Ledstone.
The yellow paradise plume and bright-blue dress made a glowing spot of
color on the brown, ploughed field.
Miss Springle tripped gayly along in front with Mr. Dodd, coquettishly
tapping him on the arm and looking up in his face.
Giggles of laughter were wafted back to us. Miss Springle is a rather
pretty girl, with thick black hair.
Antony strode forward and joined us. Augustus dropped behind to speak
"You must stand with me," Antony said, "I will protect you as well as
I can, and the chances are against the shot coming my way twice in one
He was so gay. Never have I had so delightful a walk. I cannot write
down what he said. If I try to remember his words, I cannot. It is the
general impression they leave behind, rather than any actual sentence
I can recall, which makes me feel his wit is like grandmamma's, and it
reveals all the time his great knowledge of books, and people, and the
world. And there is a lightness which makes one feel how strong and
deep must be the under-current.
My spirits always rise when I am with him.
Soon we arrived at the hedge we were to stand behind.
It was all new to me, the whole scene. Out of nowhere Antony's servant
seemed to spring with two guns and a stick-seat, which he arranged for
Mrs. Dodd had panted after her husband and Miss Springle, who were
in the most open place; but Wilks was unable to contain himself with
annoyance at this.
"Not a bird will face the line if the lady's dress is seen," he said,
in despair, as he passed us, and we saw him unceremoniously insist
upon Mrs. Dodd joining Sir Samuel Wakely, who was at the thickest
corner, next us.
"The air must be black with the language Wakely is using, I will bet,"
And then the partridges began to come.
"There's a burrd! There's a burrd!" shouted Mr. Dodd, excitedly,
pointing with his gun straight at Sir Samuel's head.
"Damn you, sir!" yelled Sir Samuel back to him. "It is pure murder
the way you hold your gun."
"I'll trouble you not to swear at my husband!" roared Mrs. Dodd.
A huge covey came over at the moment, but the voices and the
bright-blue dress attracted their attention, and they all wheeled off
to the right, so that, but for two stray birds killed by Antony, this
end of the line found the drive a blank.
Augustus's rage knew no bounds.
He came up to me as if it was my fault.
"Take that old woman home this moment, Ambrosine," he said, furiously.
"Do you hear?--this minute!" and I was obliged to go up to Mrs. Dodd
and suggest our returning. I was tired, I said.
"I'll not leave Wullie with that minx," she replied, firmly. "You can
go without me, Mrs. Gussie. I'll not take it rude of you at all." I
tried to explain that I thought we were all a little in the way and
had better return to the house; but Miss Springle, who joined us,
would not hear of such a thing.
"Mr. Dodd says he can't get on without me," she said, coyly, whereupon
Mrs. Dodd gurgled with rage.
"I am afraid you will all be shot if you delay here," said Antony,
coming to my rescue. "We are going to take the next beat at right
angles, and you are all in the full line."
"Goodness, gracious me!" screamed Mrs. Dodd. "Oh, gentlemen, save me!"
And she rushed wildly towards Augustus, who was coming up, her dress
held high, showing a pair of opulent ankles and wide, flat feet
covered in thin, kid boots, while a white cotton stocking appeared
upon the stove-pipe calf that was visible above.
The yellow paradise plume floated in the wind, the hat having become
a little deranged by her rapid flight.
"Gussie Gurrage!" she yelled. "Oh, do you hear that? The gentleman
says I'll be shot!"
And she precipitated herself into the unwilling arms of Augustus.
He has not manners enough to stand such an assault. His face flushed
with annoyance, and the savage look grew round his mouth. I waited
for the explosion.
"Confound it, Mrs. Dodd!" he said. "Women have no business out
shooting, and you had better clear out and go home."
"I've never been so insulted in my life!" she snorted, as we walked
back to the farm, after a confused scene, in which Mr. Dodd and Sir
Samuel and Augustus, Miss Springle, and Mrs. Dodd herself had all
talked at once.
"Never so insulted in my life! Sent away as if I wasn't wanted. If I
hadn't known Gussie Gurrage since he was a baby I'd have boxed his
ears, that I would!"
I remained in haughty silence. I feared I should burst into screams of
laughter if I attempted speech.
Miss Springle had evaded us at the last minute, and could be seen once
more by Mr. Dodd's side as we drove past the shooters again on the
A meek woman, sister of Mr. McCormack, a Mrs. Broun by name, who had
quietly stood by her husband and had not been in any one's way, now
caught Mrs. Dodd's wrath.
"You've had a good deal to do with Jessie Springle's bringing up, I've
heard, Mrs. Broun, since her mother died, and a disgrace she is to
you, I can testify."
"Oh, dear Mrs. Dodd, how can you say such a thing?" said Mrs. Broun,
almost crying. "Jessie is a dear girl, so full of fun."
"Fun, you call it, Mrs. Broun! Looking after other women's husbands!
How would you like her to be flirting with your Tom?"
(This is the spirit my mother-in-law would approve of.)
"Oh, it is quite immodest, talking so, Mrs. Dodd!" replied the
meek lady, flushing scarlet. "Why, no one would ever think of such
things--a girl to flirt with a married man!"
"That's all you know about it, Mrs. Broun. I tell you that girl will
upset your home yet! Mark my words; but I'll not have her running
after Wullie, anyway."
The situation was becoming very strained. I felt bound to interfere by
some _banal_ remarks about the scenery, and finally we arrived back at
Ledstone and I got rid of them by conducting them to their rooms.
It poured rain again before the sportsmen returned, and they were more
or less wet and cross. Antony went straight to his room to change, and
so did the two other decent men. But the commercial friends stayed
as they were, muddy boots and all, and were grouped round the fire,
smelling of wet, hot tweed, when Mrs. Dodd sailed into the room.
"Wullie," she said, sternly, "you've no more sense than a child, and
if it was not for me you'd have been in your coffin these five years.
Go up-stairs this minute and change your boots." And off she sent him,
but not without a parting shot from Miss Springle.
"Mind you put on a blue velvet smoking-suit, Mr. Dodd, dear. I do
love gentlemen in smoking-suits," she said, giggling.
Tea was a terrible function. Oh, the difference to the merry tea at
Lady Wakely, sleepily knitting and addressing an occasional
observation to her neighbor; the rest of the women silent as the
grave, except Miss Springle and Mrs. Dodd, who sparred together like
The men could talk of nothing but the war news which had come by the
There was a gloom over the whole party. How on earth was I to escape
from the oppression? They were not people of the world, who would be
accustomed to each person doing what they pleased. They expected to be
entertained all the time. To get away from them for a moment I would
be obliged to invent some elaborate excuse.
Antony had not appeared upon the scene, or Augustus, either.
At last--at last Lady Wakely put her knitting in a bag and made a move
towards the door.
"I shall rest now," she said, in her fat, kind voice, and I
accompanied her from the room, leaving the rest of my guests to take
care of themselves. I felt I should throw the cups at their heads if
I stayed any longer.
There, in the hall, was Antony, quietly reading the papers. His
dark-blue and black silk smoking-suit was extraordinarily becoming. He
looked like a person from another planet after the people I had left
in the drawing-room.
He rose as we passed him.
"Some very interesting South African news," he said, addressing me,
and while I stopped to answer him Lady Wakely went up the stairs
"The draughts are dreadful here again, Comtesse," he said,
"Why did you not go into the library, then," I said, "or the
billiard-room, or one of the drawing-rooms?"
"I thought perhaps you might pass this way and would give me your
advice as to which room to choose."
I laughed. "The library, then, I suggest," and I started as if to go
up the stairs.
"Comtesse! You would not leave me all alone, would you? You have not
told me half enough about our ancestors yet."
"Oh, I am tired of the ancestors!" and I mounted one step and looked
"I thought perhaps you would help me to tie up my wrist."
I came down instantly. If he were pretending, I would punish him
"Come," I said, and led the way to the library, where we found the
fire had gone out.
How ashamed I felt of the servants! This must never happen again.
"Not here; it is cold and horrid." And he followed me on into my
mother-in-law's boudoir. There were no lights and no fire.
My wrath rose.
"It must be your mustard sitting-room, after all," said Antony. So up
the stairs we went. Here, at all events, the fire blazed, and the room
glowed with brilliancy.
Roy was lying on the rug and seemed enchanted to see us.
"Is it really hurting you?" I said, hurriedly.
"No, not hurting--only a stupid little scratch." And he undid his
shirt-cuff and turned up his sleeve.
"Oh!" I exclaimed. "Oh, I am so sorry!"
One of the shots had grazed the skin and made a nasty cut, which
was plastered up with sticking-plaster and clumsily tied with a
"My servant is not a genius at this sort of thing. Will you do it
I bound the handkerchief as neatly as I could, and, for some
unexplained reason, as once before at Harley, my heart beat in my
throat. I could feel his eyes watching me, although my head was bent.
I did not look up until the arm was finished. His shirt was of the
finest fine. There was some subtle scent about his coat that pleased
me. A faint perfume, as of very good cigars--nothing sweet and
effeminate, like a woman. It intensely appealed to me. I felt--I
felt--oh, I do not know at all what my feelings meant. I tried to
think of grandmamma, and how she would have told me to behave when I
was nervous. I had never been so nervous in my life before.
"You--you will not shoot to-morrow?" I faltered.
"Of course I shall. You must not trouble about this at all, Comtesse.
It is the merest scratch, and was a pure accident. He is an excellent
fellow, Mr.--er--Dodd is his name, is it not? Only pity is he did not
shoot his wife, poor fellow!"
Again, as on a former occasion, the admirable _sang-froid_ of my
kinsman carried things smoothly along. I felt quite calmed when I
looked up at him.
"We won't try sitting on that sofa to-night," I laughed. "This is a
fairly comfortable arm-chair. You are an invalid. You must sit in
it. See, I shall sit here," and I drew a low seat of a dreadfully
distorted Louis XV. and early Victorian mixed style that the
upholsterer, when bringing the things, had described to me as a
"sweet, pretty lady's-chair."
Antony sat down. The light from the lily electric branches made the
gray in his hair shine silver. He looked tired and not so mocking as
"I have settled with your husband when you are to come to Dane Mount.
He says the 4th of November will suit him."
"We shall drive over, I suppose?"
After that we neither of us spoke for a few moments.
"Did you read La Rochefoucauld last night?" I asked, presently.
"Well, why did you ask for it, then?"
"I had a very good reason."
One could never describe the expression of Antony's face. If one goes
on saying "mocking," or "cynical," or "ironical," or "quizzical," it
gives no impression of what it is. It is a mixture of all four, and
yet laughing, and--and--tender, and _insouciant_, and gay. He is
himself, and there could never be any one like him. One feels as if
all common things must vanish and shrivel up before his style of wit.
One could think of him as finishing his game of chess calmly while the
officers of the Terror waited to conduct him to the guillotine. He is
exactly--oh, but exactly!--grandmamma's idea of a gentleman. I wish
she had seen more of him.
There is nothing _poseur_ or dramatic about him. He is quite simple,
although he laughs at things all the time. I seem to have learned more
of the world, and the tone of everything, just talking to him, than
from all the books I have read lately. What would it be like if he
were interested in anything intensely, if something moved him deeply,
if he really cared?
As I sat there I thought of many things. An atmosphere of home had
suddenly come into the room. I could almost believe I could hear
"What are you thinking of so seriously, Comtesse?" he asked, lazily.
"I was wondering--"
"I was wondering if anything really mattered in life; if one could
grow old and remain numb all the time; if things are real; if--oh,
does anything matter? Tell me, you who know."
"Not many things. Later, you will regret some things you have not
done--very few you have."
"I have been reading metaphysics lately, and, it seems, one could
reason one's self into believing nothing is real. One of my books said
the ancient Cynic philosophers doubted for the sake of investigation
and the moderns investigate for the sake of doubting. What does it all
He began stroking Roy's ears. He had put his dear black-and-tan head
on Antony's knee.
"It means a great many words. Do not trouble your wise head about it.
The world is a pleasant enough place if you can pay your bills and
have a fair digestion--eh, Roy? Bones are good things, aren't they,
"You, at all events, are never serious," and I laughed.
"I will tell you about that when you come to Dane Mount."
"I wish you could have got Lady Tilchester to go, then. I do like her
so much. She has been very kind to me. It would give me pleasure to
"She is a delightful woman."
"She told me how long she had known you--since her wedding-day, I
think she said--and, oh, lots of things about you. She seemed--"
He moved his arm suddenly.
"I don't think you tied this handkerchief tight enough, Comtesse," he
said, again turning up his cuff.
I rose and looked at the bandage.
"Why, yes. It is just the same as it was. But I will do it again if
This time it did not take me so long, but that ridiculous beating
began again in my heart.
"It must have a double knot to keep it right," said Antony.
My fingers seemed clumsy. We were standing so close together there was
a something--an electricity--which made my hands tremble. Oh, this was
folly! I _must_ not let myself feel so. I finished the knot at last,
and then said, stupidly:
"I have an idea I should return to my worthy guests down-stairs,'"
"They are quite happy without you," he said, "Vain little Comtesse,
to think your presence is necessary to every one!"
"I dare say. But--I must go to them."
"No, you must not. Sit down in your low chair and forget all about
them. No good hostess fusses after her guests. People like to be left
I sat down meekly.
"I never can understand," said Antony, presently, "why your
grandmother did not let me know when first you came to the cottage.
She was fully aware of the relationship between us, even if I was
"Grandmamma was a very proud woman. We were so very poor. And then,
there was grandpapa's _betise_, which, I fancy, had quite separated
them from his family."
"What made her come to Ledstone at all, I wonder?"
I felt my cheeks getting pink, and bent down to look into the fire.
"She wanted to live in England, so that I might become English by
growing up there, and--and it was cheap. We had been in London before
that, and back in Paris, and down at Brighton, and a lot of dull
places. I remember she saw the advertisement in the paper one morning
and took the cottage immediately."
"You had heard that we were relations?" he asked.
"Yes, vaguely. But I did not know how many of you there were, only
that the present holder of the title was a Sir Antony."
"It was a strange coincidence neither of us should have caught the
other's name at the ball that night."
"Afterwards, when we talked you over at Harley, every one had got
information about you, it seemed. They were all so awfully interested
in you. You looked such an extraordinary contrast to the rest of the
"Well, I am glad of that."
"It was when I heard that your grandmother was a Frenchwoman I grasped
everything. I remembered there was some story in the family about a
younger son marrying a beautiful Parisienne. But it seemed to me it
must be too far back to be possible. And then Lady Tilchester told me
she was a very old woman. So we came over next day."
"I wish you had seen more of grandmamma," I said. "You would have got
on together. She used to say wonderful things sometimes."
"I thought her the most lovely old lady I had ever seen."
"Her maxims would fill a book as big as La Rochefoucauld."
"What a pity you did not write them down!"
"The Marquis and she had the _religion du beau_. They worshipped
everything that was beautiful and suitable and refined. They never did
anything for effect, only because the action was due to themselves and
was a good action." I paused.
"Go on, Comtesse," said Antony. "I like to hear it all."
"They really believed in _noblesse oblige_. Neither of them would have
stooped from their position--oh, not a little inch."
"It is a thing we have quite forgotten in England. It was
inconvenient, and most of us are not rich enough to indulge in it."
"But must one be rich to behave as of one's race?" I asked,
"Yes--or remain in the background, a good deal bored. To obtain
the wherewithal to enjoy this rather expensive world, people stoop
"And you don't think it dreadful?"
"I am not a Crusader. Times have changed. One can keep one's own ideas
and let others do as they please."
"Grandmamma had a maxim like that. She said it was _bourgeois_ to be
shocked and astonished at things. She believed in the difference of
classes. No one could have persuaded her that the common people are
made of the same flesh and blood as we are."
"Tell me some more."
"This was her idea of things generally: first of all, to have the
greatest self-respect; to stoop to no meanness; to desecrate the body
or mind in no way; to conquer and overcome all foolish emotions;
to be unselfish, to be gay, to be courageous; to bear physical and
moral pain without any outward show; to forever have in front of one
that a straight and beautiful carriage must be the reflection of a
straight and beautiful mind; to take pleasure in simple things, and
to be contented with what one has got if it is impossible to obtain
better--in short, never to run one's head against a stone wall or
a feather-bed, but if a good thing is to be gained by patience, or
perseverance, or concentration, to obtain it."
"I am learning. Continue," said Antony, but there was no mock in his
eyes. Only he smiled a little.
"They both had a fine contempt of death and a manner of _grand
seigneur_ and a perfect philosophy. They had the refinement of
sentiment of the _ancien regime_, only they were much less coarse. And
in the _ancien regime_ one worshipped the King and the constitution of
France, whereas grandmamma and the Marquis worshipped only _le beau_
in everything, which is higher than an individual."
"How well you tell it! I shall have to reorganize my religion."
"You are laughing at me!"
"No, I am not. I am deeply interested. Go on," and he leaned back in
the straight-backed arm-chair.
"'Never stay in the mud,' was another of grandmamma's maxims. 'It
happens that the best of us may fall there in life, but no one need
stay there,' she used to say. Even the common people could rise out
of it if they a fine enough spirit. But we were the examples, and one
must never give a bad example. For instance, the common people might
cry when they were hurt. They were only lower creatures and under the
protection of the others. They could roar, if it pleased them, as they
were the model of no one. But we could not cry, to encourage this
"And so you lived and learned all that, dear little Comtesse! No
wonder your eyes are so wise."
"I remember once I became impatient with some new stitches in my
embroidery that would not go right, and I flung the piece down
and stamped on it and tore it. Grandmamma said nothing, but she
deliberately undid a ball of silk and tangled it dreadfully, and
then gave it to me to straighten out. It was not to irritate me, she
said. But patience and discipline were necessary to enable one to get
through life with decency and pleasure, and while I untangled the silk
I should have time to reflect upon how comically ridiculous I had
been to throw down and trample upon an inanimate thing that only my
personal stupidity had caused to annoy me."
Antony looked at me a long time. He sighed a short, quick sigh, and
then said, gayly:
"You must certainly write a book for the training of the young. But
what did your grandmother say of such things as strong passions--the
mad love of one person for another, for instance? Could they be ruled
"She did not discuss those things with me. But she did say that in
life, now and then, there came a _coup de foudre_, which sometimes was
its glory and sometimes not; that this was nature, and there was no
use going absolutely contrary to nature; but that a disciplined person
was less likely to commit a _betise_, or to mistake a passing light
for the _coup de foudre_, than one who was accustomed to give way to
every emotion, as a trained soldier is better able to stand fire than
the raw recruit from the fields."
"And yet the trained soldier goes under sometimes."
"In that case, she said, there were only two courses--either to finish
the matter and go out altogether, or to get up again and fight better
Antony looked down at me. He shaded his eyes with his hand, and it
seemed as if he were observing something in my very soul. Then he
said, with a whimsical smile, "Comtesse, tell me. And did she consider
there were any great sins?"
"Oh yes. To break one's word, or in any way degrade one's race. But
she said sins were not so much sins in themselves as in their _facon
de faire_. One must remain a gentlewoman--or man--always, even in
moments of the greatest _tourbillons_. 'We are all of flesh and
blood,' she said, 'but in the same situation the _fille de chambre_
conducts herself differently to the _femme de qualite_.' What a
serious impression I am giving you of grandmamma, though! She was
a gay person, full of pleasant thoughts."
"She permitted pleasures, then?"
"But, of course, all pleasures that did not really injure other
people. She said priests and custom and convention had robbed the
world of much joy."
"She was quite right."
"She liked people to have fine perceptions. To be able to 'see with
the eye-lashes' was one of her expressions, and, I assure you, nothing
escaped her. It was very fatiguing to be long in the company of people
who passed their lives morally eating suet-pudding, she said. Avoid
stodge, she told me, and, above all, I was to avoid that sentimental,
mawkish, dismal point of view that dramatically wrote up, over
everything, 'Duty,' with a huge D. It happened that there were duties
to be done in life, but they must be accomplished quietly, or gayly,
as the case might be. 'Do not shut the mouth with a snap, and, having
done so, turn the corners down,' she said. 'These habits will not
procure friends for you.' And so I learned to take things gayly."
We were both silent for some time after this. Then Antony exerted
himself to amuse me. We talked as lightly as the skimming of swallows,
flying from one subject to another. We were as happy as laughing
children. The time passed. It seemed but a few minutes when the clock
"You will make me late for dinner!" I exclaimed. "But you reminded me
of grandmamma and the Marquis and made me talk."
"May I come again to-night--to return La Rochefoucauld?" he asked,
with his droll smile.
"I do not know. We shall see." And I ran into my room, leaving him
standing beside the fire.
When I got into my bedroom the door was open into Augustus's room
beyond. He had not come up to dress. Indeed, when I was quite ready
to go down to dinner he had not yet appeared.
Half-past eight sounded.
I descended the stairs quickly and went along the passage towards his
"den." There I met his valet.
"Mr. Gurrage is asleep, ma'am," he said, "and does not seem inclined
to wake, ma'am," and he held the door open for me to pass into the
Augustus was lying in his big chair, before the fire, his face
crimson, his mouth wide open, and snoring and breathing very heavily.
He was still in his shooting-things.
An indescribable smell of scorching tweed and spirit pervaded the
By his side was an almost finished glass of whiskey. The bottle stood
on the tray and another bottle lay, broken, on the floor.
Atkinson began clearing up this _debris_.
"Augustus!" I called, but he did not awake. "Augustus, it is time for
"If you please, ma'am," said the valet, coughing respectfully, "if I
might say so, you had better let Mr. Gurrage sleep, ma'am. I'll see
after him. He is--very angry when he is like this and woke suddenly,
I looked at the whiskey bottles and the flushed face. A sickening
disgust overwhelmed me. And there would be no Lady Tilchester to save
"Open the window," I said to Atkinson, "and persuade Mr. Gurrage to go
to bed when he wakes." And I left the room.
All my guests were assembled when I got into the first drawing-room.
Indeed, it was twenty minutes to nine.
Mrs. Dodd had the air of an aggrieved turkey-gobbler. I felt she would
fly at some one.
"We thought we should not get any dinner, Mrs. Gussie," she said,
huffily. "Folks are generally down in their own houses!"
I took no notice of this remark.
"I am so sorry to be late, Lady Wakely," I said, addressing her and
the other women, "but my husband is not well, and, I fear, will not be
able to come in to dinner. He must have caught a chill out shooting."
"Have you sent for the doctor? Because, if not, I know all about
chills with Wullie, who never changes his socks," interrupted Mrs.
Dodd. "Let me go to him, Mrs. Gussie."
"No, thank you. Do not trouble," I said. "His servant and I have
done all that is necessary, and he wishes to sleep. Let us go in
I told them each whom they were to take in, and put my own hand on
Antony's arm. It seemed as if he held it closely to his side, but he
said nothing, and we walked into the dining-room.
I do not know at all what we talked about. Certainly for three
courses everything was a blank to me. But I heard myself laughing,
and Mr. Dodd, who sat on my other hand, seemed mightily amused at
"Why, the open air and a little walking has done you all the good in
the world, Mrs. Gussie!" I was conscious, at last, that he was saying.
"Your cheeks are quite rosy and your eyes as bright as stars."
"Yes, it was a delightful day," I said.
"Talk about chills, Mr. McCormack"--Mrs. Dodd's voice carried across
the table-"I know Gussie Gurrage, and I don't believe he ever had a
chill in his life!"
Antony now began to talk to me quietly. He said very little. His voice
was particularly cool and collected. He never once looked at me. I
was grateful for that. I felt as if I could not bear to see sympathy
in his eyes. He also talked to Lady Wakely, on his other hand, and
chaffed beyond to Miss Springle.
And so the dinner passed, and the ladies rose to leave the
dining-room, Mr. McCormack holding the door for us.
As it was wide open, and all could see into the hall, an apparition
appeared upon the scene, coming from the passage that leads to the
"den"--Augustus, being supported by Atkinson and one of the footmen,
and singing snatches of some low music-hall song.
In an instant Antony had sprung forward and closed the door, Mr.
McCormack and the others standing open-mouthed and inert.
"There, I knew it was no chill!" exclaimed Mrs. Dodd.
"Hush, madam!" said Antony, sternly, his eyes flashing green-blue
fire. "We were very comfortable at the table. Shall we not all sit
Lady Wakely at once returned to her chair. The meek Mrs. Broun put
her hand on my arm in sympathy, but I annihilated her with a look as
I swept back to my seat, and soon my guests were once more in their
Then it was that Antony exerted himself to amuse this company. With
the most admirable tact and self-composure, he kept the whole party
entertained for half an hour. And when we again left the room it was
_en bande_, without ceremony, the men accompanying us.
Lady Wakely kindly said good-night in quite a few minutes, and the
other women followed her example. I spoke no word of thanks to Antony.
I did not even look into his face.
When I got to my boudoir I could hear Augustus's drunken snores from
the room beyond. He had mercifully fallen asleep.
I did not ring for McGreggor. I would stay in my sitting-room all
night. Roy came up to me and licked my hand. Then suddenly something
seemed to give way in my will, and I dropped on the rug beside my dog
and cried as I have never cried in my life, my head buried in his
soft, black coat.
Oh, grandmamma, forgive me for such weakness! But surely, if we had
known of this horror, even the Calincourts need not have kept their
word to a drunken man!
I did not hear the door open, but suddenly was conscious of Antony's
"Ambrosine, for God's sake don't cry so!" he whispered, hoarsely.
I did not look up.
"Oh, I want to thank you for your kindness," I sobbed, "but if you
would continue it you will leave me now."
He knelt on the rug beside me, but he did not even touch my hair.
"I cannot leave you--miserable like this," he said, brokenly, as
if the words were dragged from him. "Ambrosine, my dearest! Little
Comtesse, please, please do not cry!"
Joy ran through me at his words. My sobs ceased.
The drunken voice of Augustus began the song again from the next room.
I started up in terror. Oh, if he should burst into this room!
"Antony," I implored, "if you want to serve me, go!" And I opened the
He drew me into the corridor with him.
"I tell you, you shall not stay here alone with that brute!" he said,
fiercely. "Promise me you will go to your maid's room and not come
into this part of the house to-night. I will see his valet and arrange
things safely for him."
"Very well," I said, and then I ran. If I had stayed another
* * * * *
Augustus was too ill to get up next morning. It was raining again,
and, by common consent, our guests left by mid-day trains.
Sir Samuel Wakely said, with gruff kind-heartedness, when I appeared
"I have seen Wilks, and he says there is very little chance of its
clearing for us to shoot to-day, so I think Lady Wakely and I will be
starting home before luncheon-time. With your husband ill, I am sure
you would be glad to be relieved of visitors."
Lady Wakely also expressed her regret at leaving, and said a number
of kind things with perfect tact.
The good taste of some of the rest of the party was not so apparent.
Mrs. Broun gushed open sympathy and had to be snubbed; Miss Springle
giggled, while Mrs. Dodd muttered a number of disagreeable things, and
the other women remained in shocked silence.
The men were awkward and uncomfortable, too. Altogether it was a
morning that is unpleasant to remember. Antony was the only person
unmoved and exactly the same as usual. It steadied my nerves to look
I had not seen Augustus, as I had come straight from a room near
McGreggor's, where I had spent the night. As I was leaving the
dining-room I went towards the staircase, but Antony stopped me.
"Do not go up," he said. "Leave him to himself. The doctor is with
him, and when he has completely recovered he will probably be
penitent. He has only just escaped delirium tremens, and will most
likely be in bed for a day or two. Promise me that you will not go
near his room or I will stay and look after you myself."
Oh, the kindness in his voice!
"Yes, I promise," I said, meekly.
"Then I will say good-bye, Comtesse, until we meet at Dane Mount on
the 4th of November."
"Good-bye," I faltered, and we shook hands calmly before the rest of
the company standing about the hall.
But when the tuff-tuff-tuff of his automobile subsided in the
distance, I felt as if all things were dead.
The evening post brought an invitation from the Duke of Myrlshire,
asking us to go and stay with him for a small shoot on the 30th of
Augustus sent for me.
As I had promised, I had not been near him until this moment.
He was still in bed, and looked ill and unshaven. He was reading his
letters, and glanced up at me with heavy, bloodshot eyes.
"Just got a line from Myrlshire," he said, pompously, without a trace
of shame or regret in his voice.
"He says he has written to you, too; he wants me to shoot on the
I remained silent. I did not mean to irritate him, but the whole scene
made me numb with disgust.
"Why the devil don't you answer?" Augustus raged, his face flushing
darkly. "Write at once and say we shall be delighted to accept."
"You are engaged to shoot with Mr. Dodd for that date," I informed
Mr. Dodd was sent to perdition, and Mrs. Dodd, too, and then he said,
"Sit down now and write to the Duke. I would not miss this for
I did not stir from where I stood.
"Listen, Augustus," I said. "I will not visit with you anywhere, and I
will let every one know the reason, unless you swear, by whatever you
hold sacred, that you will never utterly disgrace yourself again as
you did last night. When you have decided to make this oath you can
let me know." And I left the room, leaving the air behind me thick
I had one of the most distant spare rooms prepared for myself, and
when I was going to bed a note came to me.
"I swear," it ran. "Only come back to me. I want to kiss you
"Tell Mr. Gurrage I will see him in the morning," I said to Atkinson,
and I locked my door.
Augustus was not able to leave his room for four or five days after
this. I left him almost entirely to himself, only going to see him
once a day, to hear if he required anything.
At the end of the time his penitence was complete, and he promised me
to change his ways for the future. He was horribly affectionate to me,
but peace was restored.
I cannot say that I felt any happier, but it seemed a lull and calm
after a storm. I tried to be more gentle and sympathetic to him and
to take more interest in the house.
And so, at last, the 30th arrived, and our visit to Myrlton Castle.
We had to pass through London on our way there, and Augustus left me
for an hour or two, while he went to his tailor's, he said.
I had no money to shop with. I had spent all my first quarter's
allowance on books and a late wedding-present to Hephzibah, and I
foolishly could not bring myself to ask Augustus for more.
So I sat in the hotel hall after lunch and watched the people passing
What had seemed a great sum of money to me in my days of poverty
now appeared a very meagre allowance, as I had begun to realize what
things cost. In making the settlement I had not been consulted.
Grandmamma and the Marquis had arranged matters with my future
husband, and I remember her words: "We have only been able to secure
for your personal use a very mediocre sum, but your jointure in case
of widowhood is quite magnificent."
Augustus had promised her I should have everything I wanted in the
world--"as much money as she likes to ask for, once she is my wife."
It was the "asking for" that kept me penniless. I would not be so
foolish as to spend it all at once the next time it came in. Meanwhile
the knowledge that a sovereign or two is all one possesses in one's
pocket has a depressing effect upon the spirits.
"Run up what bills you like for your clothes," Augustus has often said
to me. "I don't care, as long as they show the money that has been put
into them and you make a good dash."
So I sat on the sofa in the hotel hall musing all by myself.
Suddenly a desire came over me to take Augustus at his word. I, too,
would go to my tailor's.
I do not know London very well; but Lady Tilchester had given me the
address of the latest and most fashionable dressmaker, and I got into
a hansom and drove there.
The garments were pretty, and I ordered several tea-gowns and things
they had ready, and, as I was leaving, gave Augustus's name and
address for the account to be sent to. He should receive the bill,
as he wished.
I spoke distinctly, and perhaps more loudly than usual, as I find
shop-people so stupid with names. A young _vendeuse_, who heard me
as she entered the room, now came up.
"Oh, this is Madam Henriette's order, Madam Green," she said to the
elder woman who had been attending upon me. "Madam Henriette is
engaged just now"--and she turned to me--"but she asked me to tell
your ladyship if you should call again to-day that the things will be
sent off to-night to join you at Myrlton Castle as you wished. Mr.
Gurrage has just been in and left a message that he was sorry to miss
your ladyship, but would be at the station." Then, struck by some look
in my face, she said, "The Viscountess Grenellen, is it not?"
The elder _vendeuse_, who probably knew Lady Grenellen by sight, was
green with apprehension that some shocking gaff had been committed.
For one second I hesitated, then:
"The things I have ordered are for Lady Grenellen," I said, calmly.
Mercifully we are about the same height. "You can send them with the
others to Myrlton Castle."
And with a few casual words of admiration about a set of lingerie that
was lying on the table, I sauntered out into the street.
I do not know exactly what I felt--a sense of insult, principally.
I did not hate Lady Grenellen, and I did not feel jealous about
Augustus. But it all seemed so terribly low.
She, a gentlewoman who must have been brought up with every
surrounding that could foster the sentiment of self-respect--she, the
Duke of Myrlshire's cousin, not a _parvenue_--beautiful, charming, and
young--to accept clothes from Augustus!
Oh! To take a lover for love, that one could understand and perhaps
pardon. The Marquis was grandmamma's lover, but--but not a common
person like Augustus--for clothes!
"Back to the Carlton, miss?" said the hansom man, breaking in upon my
thoughts. Perhaps I looked undecided as I stood in the street.
I glanced at my watch. There would be just time to catch the train.
"Euston," I said, and I swung to the doors. Then, as I sat there, I
realized that my knees were trembling.
At the station Augustus had already arrived, and, under pretence
of seeing whether the servants and luggage were all there, he was
scanning the platform anxiously for Lady Grenellen.
His face fell when he saw me. Perhaps he hoped she would have arrived
I could not prevent myself from speaking in a voice of extra coldness,
although I tried hard to be natural. This was not the moment for
recriminations. Augustus noticed it, and, as usual, began to bluster.
"What's up?" he asked, irritably. "You look as white as a ghost."
"I will get into the carriage," I said, "I am cold." And Atkinson
and McGreggor arranged my cushion and rugs for me, Augustus uneasily
watching the platform meanwhile.
Two of the men who had been at Harley passed, and, seeing me, came up
and spoke. They were going to Myrlton, too, I found.
"Why don't you get in here?" I said, graciously, to the funny one they
had called "Billy," and whose other name I had never grasped. "It is
so dull to travel alone with one's husband."
He got in and sat opposite me. We talked merrily.
"Why don't you get in, Gurrage?" he said, "It is horribly cold with
the door open."
Augustus is not clever under these circumstances. He has no
_sang-froid_, and is inclined to become ill-tempered.
At the last moment, before the train started, Lady Grenellen tore down
the platform. Augustus rushed to meet her, and the guard slammed our
Whether they had got in somewhere else we should not know until we
arrived at Rugby Junction, where we were to change onto a branch line.
I used the whole force of my will to put the matter out of my head. I
told myself the doings of Augustus were nothing to me, and henceforth
should not concern me in any way.
At last I succeeded in being quite able to enjoy my companion's
At Rugby we had a quarter of an hour to wait. Nothing of the other
couple was to be seen. Apparently they must have missed the train,
A few moments before the branch train started a special dashed into
the station, and out got Lady Grenellen and Augustus. She was looking
most radiant and lovely, but Augustus had an expression of unease and
self-consciousness as he greeted us.
"Was it not too provoking, just missing the train," Lady Grenellen
said, laughing. "Mr. Gurrage insisted upon having a special. Such a
mercy he was there, as I could not possibly have afforded one."
This was the first time she had acknowledged my existence. Mr. Billy
chaffed Augustus, and we all got into a saloon carriage together. It
had been engaged by the Duke, and four or five people were already
seated in it. They appeared all to be friends of Lady Grenellen's, and
she was soon the soul of the party, laughing and telling of her mishap
about the train, her white teeth gleaming and her rouge-pink cheeks
glowing like a peach. No one could be more attractive, and I ceased
to blame Augustus, I could understand a man, if this lovely creature
looked at him with eyes of favor, giving up any one, or committing any
folly, for her sake.
Apparently, for the moment, she had finished with Augustus, for
she snubbed him sharply once or twice, and finally retired with a
beautiful young man into the compartment beyond, kissing her hand to
the rest as she went through the door.
"I am going to talk business with Luffy till we get to Myrlton," she
A savage look stamped itself upon Augustus's face. Would he vent his
anger on her, presently, or should I be the recipient of it? Time
Myrlton is a glorious place, hundreds and hundreds of years old,
and full of traditions and ghosts, with a real draw-bridge and huge
baronial hall, with the raised part, where they eat above the salt in
by-gone days. Everything is rather shabby and stiffly arranged, and,
except in the Duke's own special rooms, it looks as if no woman had
been there for years.
The Duke is a perfect host. He seemed delighted to see me, and soon
let me know that his only interest in the party was on account of my
presence among them. I felt soothed and flattered.
Lady Grenellen was in tearing spirits.
"Berty, I have got her," she laughed, as she deliberately drew a
chair, and divided the Duke and me, who were sitting a little apart.
"She isn't at all bad, and I have asked her and her aunt to come here
to-morrow," she continued. "I told them I was giving the party, and
that they should be my guests. The aunt knows what for, and I expect
the girl, too. She has at least fifty thousand a year. But she is
American. There was nothing in the English market rich enough. A
paltry ten thousand would be no use to you."
"Oh, Cordelia, I told you I would not have an American," said the
Duke, reproachfully. "Think how jumpy they are, and I can't explain to
her that I simply want her to stay at home and have lots of children
and do the house up."
"Oh yes, you can. She is from the West, and a country-girl, and, I
assure you, those Americans are quite accustomed to make a bargain.
You can settle everything of that sort with the aunt."
"Mercifully, Margaret Tilchester is arriving to-morrow, too," sighed
the Duke. "She has such admirable judgment. I shall be able to rely
"Ungrateful boy!" laughed Lady Grenellen. "After the trouble I have
taken to get her, too. Now I am going to have a sleep before dinner.
By-bye." And she sauntered off, accompanied by the beautiful young
Augustus stood biting the ends of his stubbly mustache.
No one had to bother about what the other people were doing here. The
guests did not sit round waiting to be entertained; they all seemed
perfectly at home, and did what they pleased.
The party was not large, but quite delightfully composed. I felt I
should enjoy my evening. Before going down to dinner, Augustus came
into my room. He hoped, he said, that I had some jewels on.
My appearance pleased him. He came up and kissed me. I could not speak
to him, as McGreggor was in the room, and afterwards it seemed too
late. Should I leave the affair in silence? Oh, if I had some one to
advise me!--Lady Tilchester, perhaps. And yet how, so soon after my
marriage, could I say to her: "My husband pays for another woman's
clothes, and is, I suppose, her lover. But beyond the insult of the
case, the disgust and contempt it fills me with, I am not hurt a bit,
and am only thankful for anything that keeps him away from me." What
would she think? Would she understand, because of Lord Tilchester
and Babykins, or would it, being so soon, shock her? I wish I knew.
Perhaps it is as my mother-in-law said, and I am not a flesh-and-blood
Early next day--they had come by the Scotch mail--Lord and Lady
Tilchester arrived with Babykins.
Most of the men were out shooting but the Duke and the beautiful young
man (his name is Lord Luffton), who had stayed behind to take care of
us, they said.
Lady Grenellen appeared just before lunch.
"I have ordered a brougham to meet the one-thirty train, Berty," she
said, "to bring my Americans up. They will be here in a minute. Come
into the hall with me to receive them."
The Duke accompanied her reluctantly.
"It would be as well to know their name," he said, as he sauntered
after her trailing skirts.
"Cadwallader--Miss Martina B. Cadwallader--that is the aunt, and
Miss Corrisande K. Trumpet--that is the niece," said Lady Grenellen,
The windows of the long gallery where we were all sitting looked onto
the court-yard, and two flys passed the angle of the turret.
"Look at the luggage!" exclaimed Babykins, and we all went to the
There was, indeed, a wonderful collection--both flys laden with
enormous, iron-bound trunks as big as hen-houses. A pair of smart
French maids seemed buried beneath them.
The entire party of us burned with curiosity to see the owners, but
long before they appeared we were conscious of their presence.
Two of the most highly pitched American voices I have ever heard
were saying civil things to our host and Lady Grenellen. More highly
pitched than Hephzibah's, and that is the highest, I thought, there
could be in the world.
"She is awfully good-looking," whispered Babykins, who caught sight
of them first as they came through the hall.
The aunt walked in front with Lady Grenellen, a tall woman with
a keen, dark face of the red Indian type, with pure white hair,
beautifully done, and a perfect dignity of carriage.
The heiress followed with the Duke. She is small and plump and
feminine-looking, with the sweetest dimpled face and great brown
eyes. Both were exquisitely dressed and carried little bags at their
waists. Their manner had complete assurance, without a trace of
Lady Grenellen had told us all their history. Not a possible drop of
blood bluer than a navvy's could circulate in their veins, and yet
their wrists were fine, their heads were small, and their general
appearance was that of gentlewomen.
I seemed to see pictures and sounds of my earliest childhood as they
spoke, I took to them at once.
Following the English custom, Lady Grenellen did not introduce them
to any one but Babykins, who happened to step forward, and we all
proceeded to lunch, which was laid at small, round tables.
The Duke wore an air of comic distress. His eyebrows were raised as
though trying to understand a foreign language.
I sat with Lady Tilchester at another table, and we could not hear
most of their conversation, only the sentences of the American ladies,
and they sounded like some one talking down the telephone in one of
the plays I saw in Paris. You only heard one side, not the answers
"Why, this is a real castle!" "You don't say!" "Yes, beheaded in the
hall." "Miss Trumpet has all the statistics. She read them in the
guide-book coming along." "I calculate she knows more about your
family history, Dook, than you know yourself," etc., etc.
"What a pity they have voices like that!" exclaimed Lady Tilchester.
"I know Berty will be put off, he is so ridiculously fastidious, and
it is absolutely necessary that he should marry an heiress."
"The niece is young. Perhaps hers could be softened," I said. "She is
so pretty, too."
Lady Tilchester looked at me suddenly. She had not listened to what I
"Oh, dear Mrs. Gurrage, you will help us to secure this girl? I ask
you frankly, because, of course, the Duke is in love with you, and he
naturally would not be impressed with Miss Trumpet."
I should have been angry if any one else had said this. But there is
something so adorable about Lady Tilchester she can say anything.
"You are quite mistaken. I have only seen the Duke at your house,"
I said, smiling, "and a man cannot get in love on so short an
acquaintance, can he?--besides, my being only just married."
"I suppose you have not an idea how beautiful you are, dear," she
said, kindly. "Much as I like you, I almost wish you were not staying
"I promise I will do my best to encourage the Duke to marry Miss
Trumpet, if you wish it," I said, "I think he knows it is a necessity
from what he said to me."
"Then I shall carry you up-stairs this afternoon out of harm's
way," she said, with her exquisite smile. "Berty always gives me a
dear little sitting-room next my room, and we can have a regular
school-girls' chat over the fire."
Nothing could have pleased me better. I would rather talk to this
dear lady than any Duke in the world.
After lunch some introductions were gone through.
"Now I am proud to be presented to you," said the aunt to Lady
Tilchester, with perfect composure. "We have heard a great deal of
you in our country, and my niece, Miss Trumpet, has always had the
greatest admiration for your photograph."
The niece, meanwhile, talked to me.
There is something so fresh and engaging about her that in a few
moments one almost forgot her terrible voice.
"Why, it does seem strange," she said, "with the veneration we have in
America for really old things, to hear the Duke" (she does not quite
say Dook, like the aunt. It sounds more like Juke) "call this castle
an old 'stone-heap.' I am just longing to see the place his ancestor
was beheaded upon in May, 1485. The Duke hardly seems to know about
it, but I have been led to expect, from the guide-book, that I should
see the blood on the stones."
The beautiful young man, Lord Luffton, now engaged her in
conversation, and as Lady Tilchester and I left the hall both he and
the Duke were escorting Miss Trumpet to the dais--no doubt to turn up
the carpet and search for the traditional blood upon the steps.
"They are the most wonderful nation," Lady Tilchester said, as she
linked her arm in mine. "Here is a girl looking as well bred as any
of us--more so than most of us--probably beautifully educated, and
accomplished, too, and whose father began as a common navvy or miner
out in the West. The mother is dead--she took in washing, Cordelia
says--and yet she was the sister of Miss Martina B. Cadwallader! How
on earth do they manage to look like this?"
"It is wonderful, certainly. It must be the climate," I hazarded.
"We cannot do it in England. Think of the terrible creature a girl
with such parentage would be here. Picture her ankles and hands! And
the self-consciousness, or the swagger, this situation would display!"
I thought of Mrs. Dodd and the Gurrage commercial relations generally.
"Yes, _indeed_," I said.
"They are so adaptable," she continued. "It does not seem to matter
into what nation they marry, they seem to assimilate and fit into
their places. When this little thing is a duchess, you will see she
will fulfil the position to a tee. Berty will be very lucky if he
"I think Lord Luffton will be a much greater stumbling-block than I
shall," I laughed. "Perhaps he likes the idea of fifty thousand a
"Oh, Cordelia will see about that. Babykins, who knows everything,
tells me she has fallen wildly in love with Luffy. He has only arrived
back from the war about a week. And she will not let any other woman
interfere with her. I had heard another story about her in Scotland.
They told me she was having an affair with some"--she stopped
suddenly, no doubt remembering to whom she was talking--"foreigner."
She ended the sentence with perfect tact.
The little sitting-room is in a turret and is octagon-shaped, a
dainty, charming, old-world room that grandmamma might have lived in.
We drew two chairs up to the fire and sat down cosily.
How kind and gracious and altogether charming this woman can be! Again
I can only compare her to the sun's rays, so warm and comfortable she
makes one feel. There is a nobleness and a loftiness about her which
causes even ordinary things she says to sound like fine sentiments. No
wonder Mr. Budge adores her.
We spoke very little of people. She told me of her interests and all
the schemes to benefit mankind she has in hand. At last she said:
"You have not been to Dane Mount yet, have you?"
"No. We are going there on Monday, after we leave here."
"It will interest you deeply, I am sure." And she looked into the
fire. "Antony stayed with you, did he not?"
"Yes," I said, and my voice sounded strained, remembering that
She was silent for a few moments.
"I want you to be friends with me, dear," she said, so gently. "You
are, perhaps, not always quite happy, and if ever I can do anything
for you I want you to know I will."
"Oh, dear Lady Tilchester," I said, "you have been so kind and good to
me already I shall never forget it. And I am a stranger, too, and yet
you have troubled about me."
"I liked you from the first moment we met, at the Tilchester ball.
And Antony is so interested in you, and we are such dear old friends
I should always be prejudiced in favor of any one he thought worth
There were numbers of things I wished to ask her, but somehow
my tongue felt tied. It was almost a relief when she turned the
Soon the daylight faded and the servants brought lamps.
"It is almost five," she said, at last "What a happy afternoon we have
had! I know you ever so much better now, dear. Well, I suppose the
time has come to put on tea-gowns and descend to see how affairs are
"I am going to call you Ambrosine," she said, and she kissed me. "I
am not given to sudden friendships, but there is something about
your eyes that touches me. Oh, dear, I hope fate will not force you
to commit some mid-summer madness, as I did, to regret to the end of
All the way to my room her words puzzled me. What could she mean?
The scene was picturesque and pretty as I looked at it from the
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