The Reflections of Ambrosine
Part 5 out of 5
It was long, and from an unknown firm of lawyers in America, to say
that papa had died out in the West, leaving me and grandmamma a
perfectly colossal fortune--all made in the space of three years, it
must have been.
I seemed past feeling any grief. Papa was a shadow, a strange flash in
my life for so long a time now.
I was perfectly unacquainted with business, and had no more idea than
a child what I should have to do about this. I wished I had a friend
to advise me. Where could I turn? I thought of Antony. For the first
time since my widowhood I let my thoughts turn to him. He would give
me any advice I wanted, but then--no, he had had the good taste never
even to write to me. There was time enough for our meeting. I would
not push fate--I, who had been a widow only two months.
The only thing there seemed for me to do was to start for America
immediately, and, after taking paid advice--one gets very good advice
by paying for it--Roy, McGreggor, my lawyer, and I left England one
cold and bleak March morning.
As my trip to America was one of business entirely, and was
unaccompanied by any interesting incidents or adventures, I have let
it pass by in silence. I was too busy all the time, and too lonely,
to take many fresh impressions. It seemed hurry and rush, continuous
noises, and tension of the nerves. I felt glad when I once more found
myself on board the great liner that was taking me to England.
It was fortunately a fine passage, not even really cold at the end of
May. Just over a year ago since I was a very young girl, wondering
what life had in store for me, and in twelve months a whole chapter of
events and sensations had passed. I seemed to know the whole string of
emotions--or so I thought.
I had my deck-chair put where I could watch the waves receding as the
great ship cut her way through them.
The salt air seemed to bring fresh life to me--fresh life and fresh
ideas. Two things were certain--first, that I was now much too rich
for one woman, and Amelia, who had tasted nothing but the rough bits
of life, was much too poor after her long service.
A scheme had come into my head in these months alone.
My mother-in-law was still an imbecile, happy and contented. She was
surrounded with nurses and all the attention that money and affection
could buy. Why should not poor Amelia get some pleasure out of life?
I had a feeling that I, too, meant to live when the period of my
mourning should be over; and how glorious to live and to forget that
I had ever even had the name of Gurrage! I would give the whole of
Augustus's fortune to Amelia; then she would gain by it, and I,
too, would have the satisfaction of feeling that my marriage was an
episode, a year to be blotted out of my life.
This thought would never have come if Mrs. Gurrage had not passed into
another sphere of mental living. I would not have wounded her for the
I settled all the details in my mind, on my voyage home, and no sooner
got to London than I executed them. The law is a slow and delaying
business, and even a deed of gift requires endless formalities to go
Amelia was overcome. Her gratitude was speechless some days, and at
others broke into torrents of words.
"I can have aunt to live with me back in the dear old home," she
To Amelia the crimson-satin boudoir, and the negro figures, and the
bears, and the stained-glass window are all household gods, and far
be it from me to wish to disillusionize her.
And I? I can take my household gods to a more congenial setting,
perhaps. Who can tell? With the summer coming on and the birds singing
it would be useless for me to pretend to grieve any more. A joy lives
always in my heart. Some day--not too soon, but some day--I shall see
I shall never hurry matters. If he cares for me as deeply as I once
thought, he will write to me soon or make some sign. Meanwhile--oh, I
am free! Free and rich and young again! The shadows are fading away.
Grandmamma was right.
"Remember, above all things, that life is full of compensations."
Dear grandmamma! I wish you could come back to enjoy this second youth
Shall I travel? It is late June now. Shall I go and see the world,
or shall I wait, and perhaps, later on, have a companion to see it
To avoid the Coronation festivities, when all details about my
transfer of Augustus's property to Amelia were finished, I went over
to France. I should stop at Versailles for a month and see the Marquis
in Paris, and then, perhaps, go back to the cottage.
I had often heard from Lady Tilchester--charming, sympathetic,
feminine letters. I must come to them at Harley whenever I decided to
go out a little, she said. I felt the whole of the world was opening
fairly for me.
I stopped a day or two in Paris to do a little shopping on my way to
Versailles, and coming down the steps at Ritz one day I met Mr. Budge.
He had come over for a breath of gayer air, he told me, after the
"You are looking wonderfully well," he said, "and not quite fifty
years old now."
"I am hardly more than thirty," I informed him, "and hope, if the
weather keeps fine, to grow a little younger still."
He said he was glad to hear it, and prayed I would let him come and
see the process.
"One grows in the night, when one is asleep," I said, "so no one can
see it. But if you would care to take tea with me in the afternoon,
I shall be very pleased to see you."
He came the next day.
We talked gravely, as was befitting my mourning. He gave me news of my
friends at Harley.
Lady Tilchester, he said, had a new scheme on hand for the employment
of the returning volunteers whose places in business had been filled
up in their absence. She was absorbed in this undertaking, but when
not too busy was more charming than ever.
"I spent a Sunday at Harley a couple of weeks ago." he said. "I don't
think many of the people were there that you met before--none, I
believe, but Sir Antony Thornhirst."
"And how was he?" I tried to say as naturally as possible.
"He seemed in the best of health and spirits. There is an intelligent
person, if you like. I wish he would enter Parliament."
"But Sir Antony is a Tory, I understand, Mr. Budge! He would be no
use to you," I said.
"Yes, indeed, he would. We want some brilliancy just now in the House
to wake us up. It does not matter which side it comes from."
"Don't you think he is too casual to care enough about it? He would
not give himself the trouble to enter Parliament, I believe."
"That is just it. The ablest people are so lazy. Lady Tilchester has
often tried to persuade him, but he has some whimsical answer ready,
and remains at large."
I should like to have talked much more on this subject, but Mr. Budge
changed the conversation. He drifted into saying some personal things
which did not quite please me, considering my mourning. They were not
in perfect taste. I remembered how in the beginning I had not liked
his hands. One's first instincts are generally right.
When he had gone I said to myself I should not care to see him any
In Paris one finds a hundred things to do and to buy if one happens
suddenly to have become a rich widow, as is my case. My few days
stretched themselves into a week.
I had a letter from the Marquis de Rochermont. He was returning to
his tiny apartments in the Rue de Varennes the following day, after
a fortnight's absence, he told me. The dear old Marquis! I should be
glad to see him again. He must be a very old man now, almost eighty,
although he was several years grandmamma's junior.
He would lunch with me with pleasure, he said, and at one next day
arrived in my sitting-room. He looked just as he used to do at first,
but soon I noticed his gayety was gone. He seemed frail and older. He
had deeply grieved for grandmamma.
His conversation was much the same, however. We spoke English as
usual. I had grown, he said, into the most beautiful woman he had ever
seen in his life, and my air and my dignity were worthy of the _ancien
regime_. I had found, he hoped, that his _conseils_ had been of some
use to me in my brief married life.
"Yes, Marquis," I said, "I have often been grateful to you and
"You are of a great _richesse_ now, _n'est-ce pas, mon enfant_?"
"Yes, of a _richesse_. And so I have given all the Gurrage money back
to one of their family--you may remember her--Amelia Hoad was her
"Ah!" he said, and he kissed my hand. "That was worthy of you and
worthy of your race. It would have pleased our dear madam."
"I had become so rich, you see, from papa, I did not really want the
money, and I had a feeling that if I gave it all back I should have no
further ties with them. I could slip away into another atmosphere and
gradually forget this year of my life."
We had a delightful luncheon, in spite of my poor old guest's
infirmities; he had grown blinder and more tottering since last we
met. He eat very little and sipped his sparkling hock.
I had determined somehow to try and give him some of my great wealth;
but how even to broach the subject I did not know. At last, driven
into a corner with nervousness, I blurted out my wishes.
"Oh, I want you to benefit too, dear friend!" I said. "You shared our
poverty, why not my riches?"
His old, faded cheeks turned pink. He rose from his chair.
"I thank you, madam," he said, haughtily. "The de Rochermonts do not
accept money from women."
I felt as I used to when grandmamma was ever displeased with me. My
"Oh, please forgive me!" I implored. "I have always looked upon myself
as almost your child, although we are no relations, dear Marquis, and
"_Assez, assez, mon enfant_," he said, and he resumed his chair, "You
meant it _gentiment_, but it was a _betise quand meme_. We shall speak
of it no more."
Before he left he gave me some more _conseils_.
"You took no _amant_, child? No? Well, perhaps in England it was as
well. But now listen to me. Be in no hurry _de prendre un second
mari_. The _agrements_ of life are at their beginnings for you. All
doors fly open to a _jeune et belle veuve_. _Amusez-vous bien._"
I looked at him. We were such old friends. I could speak to him.
"Even if one loved some one very much, Marquis?" I asked.
"_On ne sait jamais combien de temps cela va durer, l'amour a vingt
ans! C'est dangereux!_" And he shook his head. Then, with an air of
illumination, "It is your kinsman, Sir Thornhirst?" he said.
"And you love him very much?"
"I think so."
"In all cases wait--_attendez_--_surtout_--_point trop de hate!_"
Versailles for me is always full of charms. There is a dignity about
it which reminds me of grandmamma. I love to walk in the galleries
and look at the portraits of the great ladies of the past. The gay
_insouciance_ of their expressions, the daintiness of their poses,
the beautiful and suitable color of everything give me a sense of
satisfaction and repose.
I had been there for some little while, spending days of peace and
reflection, when, nearly eight months after the death of Augustus,
I received two letters.
It was a most curious coincidence that neither of my correspondents
had written to me before, even letters of condolence, and that they
should select the same date now.
The letters were from Antony and the Duke. They were both
"Comtesse," Antony wrote, "you know I am thinking of you always. When
may I come and see you, and where?"
The Duke's was longer. It began conventionally, and went on in
delicate language to tell me that time was passing, and surely soon I
must be thinking of seeing my friends again, and he was entirely at my
disposition when I should return to England.
This amused me. Antony's caused me a wave of joy. Oh! should I be able
to take the Marquis's advice and wait for several years? I feared not.
Of course, I should not think of marrying Antony yet. It would be
absolutely indecent haste. Certainly not for eighteen months or two
years, anyway. But there could be no harm in my seeing him soon.
Excitement tingled to my very finger-tips at the thought. I did not
answer either letter for nearly a week. I walked about the gardens at
Versailles and luxuriously enjoyed my musings.
I was, as it were, a cat playing with a mouse, only I was both cat and
One day I would picture our meeting--Antony's and mine. The next I
would push him away from my thoughts, and decide that I would not even
let him come to me until the year was up. Then, again, when it grew
evening, and the darkness gradually crept up, there came a scent in
the air which affected me so that I longed to see him at once--to see
him--to let him kiss me. Oh, to myself I hardly dared to think of
The kisses of Augustus were, as yet, the only ones I knew.
At last I wrote my answers.
To the Duke I said my plans were uncertain. I did not know when I
should return to England; probably not at all until next year, as
I thought of going to Egypt for the winter. I finished with some
Antony's answer took longer to write, and was only a few words when
"I am staying at Versailles," I wrote. "If you like to come and see me
casually--to talk about the ancestors--you may; but not for a week."
Why I made this stipulation of a week I do not know. Directly I had
posted the letter I felt the time could never pass. It was with the
greatest difficulty I prevented myself from sending a telegram of
three words: "Come now. To-day." How would he find me looking? Would
he, too, think I had improved in appearance? I had grown an inch, it
seemed to me. I was never very short, but now, at five feet seven, he
could not call me "little Comtesse" any more. Oh, to hear his dear
voice! To look into his greeny-blue, beautiful eyes! Oh, I fear no
advice in the world of a hundred marquises could keep me from Antony
Would Wednesday never come? The Wednesday in August after the
Coronation, that was the day I had fixed for our meeting.
Should I be out, and leave a message for him to follow me into the
gardens, or should I quietly stay in my sitting-room? What should
we say to each other? I must be very calm, of course, and appear
perfectly indifferent, and we must not speak upon any subjects but the
pictures here, and our mutual friends, and the pleasure of Paris, and
the health of the dogs.
He had replied, immediately:
"I shall be there, and we can talk of the ancestors--and other
things," No, there must be no "other things" yet.
But what immense joy all this was to think about for me! I who had
never in all my life been able to do as I pleased. Now I would nibble
at my cake and enjoy its every crumb--not seize and eat it all at
On Tuesday morning I got a telegram from Lady Tilchester, sent from
Paris. I had written to her some days before. She had run over to Ritz
for a week, she said, to recover from her fatigues of the Saturday,
and would I come into town, and lunch with her that day at half-past
With delight I started in my automobile. I had not seen her for
"Oh, you beautiful thing!" she exclaimed, when we met, "I have never
seen such a change in any one. You are like an opening rose, a
glorious, fresh flower."
She looked tired, I thought, but fascinating as ever. We lunched
together in the restaurant, and had a long conversation.
She told me an amusing story of the American Lady Luffton, whom she
had seen the day before. An expected family event had prevented her
from gracing the Coronation.
"My dear"--and Lady Tilchester imitated her voice exactly--"it is a
dispensation of Providence that circumstances did not permit me to
attend this ceremony. You Englishwomen would have gone anyhow; but
we Americans are different. But, I say, it is a dispensation of
Providence, as I am considerably contented with Luffy and my position
up to the present time. But if I had gotten there, stuffed behind with
the baronesses, and had seen those duchesses marching along with their
strawberry-leaves ahead of me, I kinder think I should have had a fit
of dyspepsia right there in the Abbey."
After lunch we went up to the sitting-room. I meant to stay for half
an hour before going back to Versailles.
Telegrams called Lady Tilchester away for a little. She is always so
full of business.
"I shall send Muriel to entertain you while I answer these," she said.
"I brought her over with me to have a glimpse of Paris, too."
In a few moments the sound of feet running down the passage caused me
to turn round as the door opened and a slender child of ten or eleven
entered the room. She was facing the light. I happened to be standing
with my back to the window.
"How do you do?" she said, sweetly, and put out her little hand.
"Mother says I may come and talk to you."
There are some moments in life too anguishing for words!
Her face is the face of Lady Tilchester, but her eyes--her eyes are
grayish-greeny-blue, with black edges, and that look like a cat's,
that can see in the dark.
Now I know whom her photograph reminded me of.
There can be only one other pair of such eyes in the world.
I don't remember what I said. Something kind and _banal_. Then I
invented an excuse to go away.
"Give my best love to your mother, dear," I said, "and say I must not
stop another moment. I have remembered an important appointment with
the dressmaker, and I must fly!"
She put up her _mignonne_ oval face to kiss me.
"I have heard so much of you," she said. "I wanted so to see you. I
wish you could have stayed." And so we kissed and parted.
When I got into the automobile outside, I felt as if I were going
to faint for a few awful moments. Everything was clear to me now!
I remembered the little photograph on his mantel-piece, his sudden
changing of the conversation, a number of small things unnoticed at
the time. How had I been so ridiculously blind? It was because she
seemed so great and noble, and utterly apart from all these things.
Had it been Babykins or Lady Grenellen, or any other woman, this
discovery would have made no difference to me. I did not doubt that
Antony loved me, and me only, now. He had been "not wearyingly
faithful," like the rest of his world, that was all.
But she--Lady Tilchester--my friend! Oh, I could not take her lover
from her! She who had always been so good to me, from the first moment
of our acquaintance, kind and sympathetic and dear! I owed her deepest
gratitude. If one of us must suffer, it should certainly be I. I could
not play her false like this. Of course she loved him still! He was
often with her, I knew, and her face had softened when first she spoke
of him. They had known each other for fourteen years, she had said. I
seemed to see it all. This was her "mid-summer madness," and Antony
had gone away to travel for several years, and then returned to her
again. They had probably been so happy together until I came upon the
Well, they can be happy once more when he forgets me. I, at least,
shall not stand in the way. Dear Margaret, I am not so mean as that!
You shall keep your lover, and I will never have mine!
All my life I shall hate the road to Versailles. "Go at top speed,"
I told my chauffeur.
I felt if we might dash against a tree and have done with the whole
matter, it would be the best thing in the end.
The rapid motion through the air revived me. I had my wits about me
when we drew up at the hotel door.
"I am going to Switzerland to-night," I said to McGreggor. "Pack up
She is a maid of wonderful sense.
"Very well, ma'am," she said, without the slightest appearance of
I sat down and wrote a telegram to Antony. It would just catch him. He
was to leave by the night mail:
"I have seen Muriel and I know. Lady Tilchester has been
always kind to me. Do not come. Good-bye."
Then I took it to the post-office myself.
That night we left for Lucerne--McGreggor and Roy and I.
It being August, crowds of tourists faced me everywhere. Lucerne,
which I had always heard was such a pretty place, filled me with
loathing. I only stayed a day there. At last, after stopping in
several places, we arrived one afternoon at Zuiebad. Here, at
least, there were no tourists, only ugly rheumatic invalids, and
unattractive. What made me choose such a place I do not know, unless
it was because I happened to see the name printed large upon the map.
Any place would do. I had not felt much in my rapid rush. A numbness,
as of a limb cut off, an utter indifference to everything in life.
But when I found myself alone in the vast pine-woods, an anguish, as
of physical pain, took possession of me. Every tree spoke to me of
Antony. The surroundings were all perfect.
What would he do? Would he follow me and try to persuade me to alter
my mind? Oh no, he could never do that. He would know that this must
be final. What had been his idea all along? How could he think I
should never find out, and having done so, that I would ever accept
such a position?
Or was it that he, like all his world, thought so lightly of passing
from one love to another that fidelity to Lady Tilchester was among
the catalogue of things that do not count.
I had taken no pains to hide my whereabouts.
At each hotel they would know to where I had gone on. For days a
feverish excitement took possession of me. Every knock at the door
made me start. Would he write? Would he make any sign? I almost prayed
not, and yet I feared and longed to hear from him.
This is not a school-girl love story I am writing, but the chronicle
of my life. I have always despised sentimental heart-burnings, and
when I used to read of the heroine dying for love, it always made me
laugh. But, oh, never again can I know such bitterness in life as I
have suffered in this black week--to have been so near to bliss, and
now to be away forever!
What good to me were my freedom and riches? As well be married or
dead. I never knew before how much I had been looking forward to
seeing Antony again. I never realized how, instinctively, for months
my soul had been living in the background on this thought.
And now it was all finished. I must not be a coward. Oh, how I wished
again for grandmamma's spirit! This time I must tear the whole thing
out of my life at once.
To go on caring for another woman's lover was beneath contempt.
When I should have recovered a little, I would go back to England and
mix with the world, and gradually forget, and eventually marry the
Duke. Fortunately, as the Marquis said, _a vingt ans_ one could never
be sure of love lasting. So probably I should soon be cured, and there
would be compensation in being an English duchess. It was a great
position, as Miss Corrisande K. Trumpet had said. And all men make
good enough husbands if you have control of the dollars, I remember
Well, I should have control of the dollars. So we should see.
The Duke was a gentleman, too, and intelligent, agreeable, and had
liberal views. His Duchess might eventually have a "friend," like the
rest, he had said. So, no doubt, I should be able to acquire the habit
of thus amusing myself. Why should I hesitate, when the best and the
noblest gave me examples?
All my ideas on those subjects had fallen to pieces like a pack of
"'Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow you die.'"
Well, I had never eaten or drunk of happiness yet, and now my heart
was dead. So what was the good of it all, anyway? _A quoi bon_? and
again, _a quoi bon_? That is what the trees said to me when they tired
of calling for Antony.
I breakfasted and lunched and dined and walked miles every day. I
loathed my food. I hated the faces of the people who stared at me.
I fear I even snapped at McGreggor. Roy was my only comfort.
But gradually the beauty and peace of the pine-forests soothed me.
Better thoughts came. I said to myself: "Enough. Now you will go home
and face life. At least you can try to do some good in the world,
and with your great wealth make some poor creatures happy. You have
behaved according to your own idea of gratitude and honor. No one
asked you to do it; therefore, why sit there and growl at fate? Have
courage to carry the thing through. No more contemptible repinings."
* * * * *
Far away up the hills there is a path that leads to an open space--a
tiny peep out over the tree-tops, sheer precipices below. I would go
there for the last time, and to-morrow return to England.
The climb was steep. I was a little out of breath, and leaned on the
stone ledge to rest myself when I arrived at the top. I was quite
The knife on my chatelaine caught in the lichen and dragged at the
chain. It angered me. I took it off the twisted ring and looked at it.
"Little 'ill omen,' as he called you, is it your fault that once fate,
once honor, once gratitude to a woman have kept me from my love? Well,
I shall throw you away now, then I shall have no link left to remind
me of foolish things that might have been."
I lifted my arm, and with all my might flung the tiny, glittering
thing out into the air. It fell far away down among the tree-tops in
Then I turned to go down the hill. I had done with ridiculous
sentiment, which I had always disliked and despised.
Footsteps were coming towards me up the long, winding path. It was a
lonely place. I hoped it was not one of the fat German Jews who had
followed me once or twice. Ugly creatures!--hardly human, they seemed
to me. I wished I had Roy with me. He had gone with McGreggor into the
A bend in the path hid the person from view until we met face to face.
And then I saw it was Antony, and it seemed as if my heart stopped
"At last I have found you, Ambrosine, sweetheart!" he said, and he
clasped me in his arms and kissed my lips.
Then I forgot Lady Tilchester and gratitude and honor and
self-control, because in nature I find there is a stronger force than
all these things, and that is the _touch_ of the one we love.
* * * * *
It was perhaps an hour afterwards. The shadows looked blue among the
We sat on a little wooden bench. There was a warm, still silence. Not
a twig moved. A joy so infinite seemed everywhere around.
"It was all over between us ten years ago," Antony said. "It only
lasted a year or two, when we were very young. The situation galled us
both too much, and Tilchester was always my friend. She knows I love
you, and she only cares for her great works and her fine position now.
So you need not have fled, Comtesse."
"I shall tell you something, Antony." I whispered. "I am glad I am
doing no wrong, but if it was to break Lady Tilchester's heart, if
grandmamma were to come back and curse me here for forgetting all her
teachings, if it was almost disgrace--now that I know what it is like
to stay in your arms--I should stay!"
Back to Full Books