By Frances Hodgson Burnett
CHAPTER I. THE WEAVING OF THE SHUTTLE II. A LACK OF PERCEPTION III. YOUNG LADY ANSTRUTHERS IV. A MISTAKE OF THE POSTBOY'S V. ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC VI. AN UNFAIR ENDOWMENT VII. ON BOARD THE "MERIDIANA" VIII. THE SECOND-CLASS PASSENGER IX. LADY JANE GREY X. "IS LADY ANSTRUTHERS AT HOME?" XI. "I THOUGHT YOU HAD ALL FORGOTTEN" XII. UGHTRED XIII. ONE OF THE NEW YORK DRESSES XIV. IN THE GARDENS XV. THE FIRST MAN XVI. THE PARTICULAR INCIDENT XVII. TOWNLINSON & SHEPPARD XVIII. THE FIFTEENTH EARL OF MOUNT DUNSTAN XIX. SPRING IN BOND STREET XX. THINGS OCCUR IN STORNHAM VILLAGE XXI. KEDGERS XXII. ONE OF MR. VANDERPOEL'S LETTERS XXIII. INTRODUCING G. SELDEN XXIV. THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF STORNHAM XXV. "WE BEGAN TO MARRY THEM, MY GOOD FELLOW!" XXVI. "WHAT IT MUST BE TO BE YOU—JUST YOU!" XXVII. LIFE XXVIII. SETTING THEM THINKING XXIX. THE THREAD OF G. SELDEN XXX. A RETURN XXXI. NO, SHE WOULD NOT XXXII. A GREAT BALL XXXIII. FOR LADY JANE XXXIV. RED GODWYN XXXV. THE TIDAL WAVE XXXVI. BY THE ROADSIDE EVERYWHERE XXXVII. CLOSED CORRIDORS XXXVIII. AT SHANDY'S XXXIX. ON THE MARSHES XL. "DON'T GO ON WITH THIS" XLI. SHE WOULD DO SOMETHING XLII. IN THE BALLROOM XLIII. HIS CHANCE XLIV. A FOOTSTEP XLV. THE PASSING BELL XLVI. LISTENING XLVII. "I HAVE NO WORD OR LOOK TO REMEMBER" XLVIII. THE MOMENT XLIX. AT STORNHAM AND AT BROADMORLANDS L. THE PRIMEVAL THING
THE WEAVING OF THE SHUTTLE
No man knew when the Shuttle began its slow and heavy weaving from shore to shore, that it was held and guided by the great hand of Fate. Fate alone saw the meaning of the web it wove, the might of it, and its place in the making of a world's history. Men thought but little of either web or weaving, calling them by other names and lighter ones, for the time unconscious of the strength of the thread thrown across thousands of miles of leaping, heaving, grey or blue ocean.
Fate and Life planned the weaving, and it seemed mere circumstance which guided the Shuttle to and fro between two worlds divided by a gulf broader and deeper than the thousands of miles of salt, fierce sea—the gulf of a bitter quarrel deepened by hatred and the shedding of brothers' blood. Between the two worlds of East and West there was no will to draw nearer. Each held apart. Those who had rebelled against that which their souls called tyranny, having struggled madly and shed blood in tearing themselves free, turned stern backs upon their unconquered enemies, broke all cords that bound them to the past, flinging off ties of name, kinship and rank, beginning with fierce disdain a new life.
Those who, being rebelled against, found the rebels too passionate in their determination and too desperate in their defence of their strongholds to be less than unconquerable, sailed back haughtily to the world which seemed so far the greater power. Plunging into new battles, they added new conquests and splendour to their land, looking back with something of contempt to the half-savage West left to build its own civilisation without other aid than the strength of its own strong right hand and strong uncultured brain.
But while the two worlds held apart, the Shuttle, weaving slowly in the great hand of Fate, drew them closer and held them firm, each of them all unknowing for many a year, that what had at first been mere threads of gossamer, was forming a web whose strength in time none could compute, whose severance could be accomplished but by tragedy and convulsion.
The weaving was but in its early and slow-moving years when this story opens. Steamers crossed and recrossed the Atlantic, but they accomplished the journey at leisure and with heavy rollings and all such discomforts as small craft can afford. Their staterooms and decks were not crowded with people to whom the voyage was a mere incident—in many cases a yearly one. "A crossing" in those days was an event. It was planned seriously, long thought of, discussed and re-discussed, with and among the various members of the family to which the voyager belonged. A certain boldness, bordering on recklessness, was almost to be presupposed in the individual who, turning his back upon New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and like cities, turned his face towards "Europe." In those days when the Shuttle wove at leisure, a man did not lightly run over to London, or Paris, or Berlin, he gravely went to "Europe."
The journey being likely to be made once in a lifetime, the traveller's intention was to see as much as possible, to visit as many cities cathedrals, ruins, galleries, as his time and purse would allow. People who could speak with any degree of familiarity of Hyde Park, the Champs Elysees, the Pincio, had gained a certain dignity. The ability to touch with an intimate bearing upon such localities was a raison de plus for being asked out to tea or to dinner. To possess photographs and relics was to be of interest, to have seen European celebrities even at a distance, to have wandered about the outside of poets' gardens and philosophers' houses, was to be entitled to respect. The period was a far cry from the time when the Shuttle, having shot to and fro, faster and faster, week by week, month by month, weaving new threads into its web each year, has woven warp and woof until they bind far shore to shore.
It was in comparatively early days that the first thread we follow was woven into the web. Many such have been woven since and have added greater strength than any others, twining the cord of sex and home-building and race-founding. But this was a slight and weak one, being only the thread of the life of one of Reuben Vanderpoel's daughters—the pretty little simple one whose name was Rosalie.
They were—the Vanderpoels—of the Americans whose fortunes were a portion of the history of their country. The building of these fortunes had been a part of, or had created epochs and crises. Their millions could scarcely be regarded as private property. Newspapers bandied them about, so to speak, employing them as factors in argument, using them as figures of speech, incorporating them into methods of calculation. Literature touched upon them, moral systems considered them, stories for the young treated them gravely as illustrative.
The first Reuben Vanderpoel, who in early days of danger had traded with savages for the pelts of wild animals, was the lauded hero of stories of thrift and enterprise. Throughout his hard-working life he had been irresistibly impelled to action by an absolute genius of commerce, expressing itself at the outset by the exhibition of courage in mere exchange and barter. An alert power to perceive the potential value of things and the possible malleability of men and circumstances, had stood him in marvellous good stead. He had bought at low prices things which in the eyes of the less discerning were worthless, but, having obtained possession of such things, the less discerning had almost invariably awakened to the fact that, in his hands, values increased, and methods of remunerative disposition, being sought, were found. Nothing remained unutilisable. The practical, sordid, uneducated little man developed the power to create demand for his own supplies. If he was betrayed into an error, he quickly retrieved it. He could live upon nothing and consequently could travel anywhere in search of such things as he desired. He could barely read and write, and could not spell, but he was daring and astute. His untaught brain was that of a financier, his blood burned with the fever of but one desire—the desire to accumulate. Money expressed to his nature, not expenditure, but investment in such small or large properties as could be resold at profit in the near or far future. The future held fascinations for him. He bought nothing for his own pleasure or comfort, nothing which could not be sold or bartered again. He married a woman who was a trader's daughter and shared his passion for gain. She was of North of England blood, her father having been a hard-fisted small tradesman in an unimportant town, who had been daring enough to emigrate when emigration meant the facing of unknown dangers in a half-savage land. She had excited Reuben Vanderpoel's admiration by taking off her petticoat one bitter winter's day to sell it to a squaw in exchange for an ornament for which she chanced to know another squaw would pay with a skin of value. The first Mrs. Vanderpoel was as wonderful as her husband. They were both wonderful. They were the founders of the fortune which a century and a half later was the delight—in fact the piece de resistance—of New York society reporters, its enormity being restated in round figures when a blank space must be filled up. The method of statement lent itself to infinite variety and was always interesting to a particular class, some elements of which felt it encouraging to be assured that so much money could be a personal possession, some elements feeling the fact an additional argument to be used against the infamy of monopoly.
The first Reuben Vanderpoel transmitted to his son his accumulations and his fever for gain. He had but one child. The second Reuben built upon the foundations this afforded him, a fortune as much larger than the first as the rapid growth and increasing capabilities of the country gave him enlarging opportunities to acquire. It was no longer necessary to deal with savages: his powers were called upon to cope with those of white men who came to a new country to struggle for livelihood and fortune. Some were shrewd, some were desperate, some were dishonest. But shrewdness never outwitted, desperation never overcame, dishonesty never deceived the second Reuben Vanderpoel. Each characteristic ended by adapting itself to his own purposes and qualities, and as a result of each it was he who in any business transaction was the gainer. It was the common saying that the Vanderpoels were possessed of a money-making spell. Their spell lay in their entire mental and physical absorption in one idea. Their peculiarity was not so much that they wished to be rich as that Nature itself impelled them to collect wealth as the load-stone draws towards it iron. Having possessed nothing, they became rich, having become rich they became richer, having founded their fortunes on small schemes, they increased them by enormous ones. In time they attained that omnipotence of wealth which it would seem no circumstance can control or limit. The first Reuben Vanderpoel could not spell, the second could, the third was as well educated as a man could be whose sole profession is money-making. His children were taught all that expensive teachers and expensive opportunities could teach them. After the second generation the meagre and mercantile physical type of the Vanderpoels improved upon itself. Feminine good looks appeared and were made the most of. The Vanderpoel element invested even good looks to an advantage. The fourth Reuben Vanderpoel had no son and two daughters. They were brought up in a brown-stone mansion built upon a fashionable New York thoroughfare roaring with traffic. To the farthest point of the Rocky Mountains the number of dollars this "mansion" (it was always called so) had cost, was known. There may have existed Pueblo Indians who had heard rumours of the price of it. All the shop-keepers and farmers in the United States had read newspaper descriptions of its furnishings and knew the value of the brocade which hung in the bedrooms and boudoirs of the Misses Vanderpoel. It was a fact much cherished that Miss Rosalie's bath was of Carrara marble, and to good souls actively engaged in doing their own washing in small New England or Western towns, it was a distinct luxury to be aware that the water in the Carrara marble bath was perfumed with Florentine Iris. Circumstances such as these seemed to become personal possessions and even to lighten somewhat the burden of toil.
Rosalie Vanderpoel married an Englishman of title, and part of the story of her married life forms my prologue. Hers was of the early international marriages, and the republican mind had not yet adjusted itself to all that such alliances might imply. It was yet ingenuous, imaginative and confiding in such matters. A baronetcy and a manor house reigning over an old English village and over villagers in possible smock frocks, presented elements of picturesque dignity to people whose intimacy with such allurements had been limited by the novels of Mrs. Oliphant and other writers. The most ordinary little anecdotes in which vicarages, gamekeepers, and dowagers figured, were exciting in these early days. "Sir Nigel Anstruthers," when engraved upon a visiting card, wore an air of distinction almost startling. Sir Nigel himself was not as picturesque as his name, though he was not entirely without attraction, when for reasons of his own he chose to aim at agreeableness of bearing. He was a man with a good figure and a good voice, and but for a heaviness of feature the result of objectionable living, might have given the impression of being better looking than he really was. New York laid amused and at the same time, charmed stress upon the fact that he spoke with an "English accent." His enunciation was in fact clear cut and treated its vowels well. He was a man who observed with an air of accustomed punctiliousness such social rules and courtesies as he deemed it expedient to consider. An astute worldling had remarked that he was at once more ceremonious and more casual in his manner than men bred in America.
"If you invite him to dinner," the wording said, "or if you die, or marry, or meet with an accident, his notes of condolence or congratulation are prompt and civil, but the actual truth is that he cares nothing whatever about you or your relations, and if you don't please him he does not hesitate to sulk or be astonishingly rude, which last an American does not allow himself to be, as a rule."
By many people Sir Nigel was not analysed, but accepted. He was of the early English who came to New York, and was a novelty of interest, with his background of Manor House and village and old family name. He was very much talked of at vivacious ladies' luncheon parties, he was very much talked to at equally vivacious afternoon teas. At dinner parties he was furtively watched a good deal, but after dinner when he sat with the men over their wine, he was not popular. He was not perhaps exactly disliked, but men whose chief interest at that period lay in stocks and railroads, did not find conversation easy with a man whose sole occupation had been the shooting of birds and the hunting of foxes, when he was not absolutely loitering about London, with his time on his hands. The stories he told—and they were few—were chiefly anecdotes whose points gained their humour by the fact that a man was a comically bad shot or bad rider and either peppered a gamekeeper or was thrown into a ditch when his horse went over a hedge, and such relations did not increase in the poignancy of their interest by being filtered through brains accustomed to applying their powers to problems of speculation and commerce. He was not so dull but that he perceived this at an early stage of his visit to New York, which was probably the reason of the infrequency of his stories.
He on his side was naturally not quick to rise to the humour of a "big deal" or a big blunder made on Wall Street—or to the wit of jokes concerning them. Upon the whole he would have been glad to have understood such matters more clearly. His circumstances were such as had at last forced him to contemplate the world of money-makers with something of an annoyed respect. "These fellows" who had neither titles nor estates to keep up could make money. He, as he acknowledged disgustedly to himself, was much worse than a beggar. There was Stornham Court in a state of ruin—the estate going to the dogs, the farmhouses tumbling to pieces and he, so to speak, without a sixpence to bless himself with, and head over heels in debt. Englishmen of the rank which in bygone times had not associated itself with trade had begun at least to trifle with it—to consider its potentialities as factors possibly to be made useful by the aristocracy. Countesses had not yet spiritedly opened milliners' shops, nor belted Earls adorned the stage, but certain noblemen had dallied with beer and coquetted with stocks. One of the first commercial developments had been the discovery of America—particularly of New York—as a place where if one could make up one's mind to the plunge, one might marry one's sons profitably. At the outset it presented a field so promising as to lead to rashness and indiscretion on the part of persons not given to analysis of character and in consequence relying too serenely upon an ingenuousness which rather speedily revealed that it had its limits. Ingenuousness combining itself with remarkable alertness of perception on occasion, is rather American than English, and is, therefore, to the English mind, misleading.
At first younger sons, who "gave trouble" to their families, were sent out. Their names, their backgrounds of castles or manors, relatives of distinction, London seasons, fox hunting, Buckingham Palace and Goodwood Races, formed a picturesque allurement. That the castles and manors would belong to their elder brothers, that the relatives of distinction did not encourage intimacy with swarms of the younger branches of their families; that London seasons, hunting, and racing were for their elders and betters, were facts not realised in all their importance by the republican mind. In the course of time they were realised to the full, but in Rosalie Vanderpoel's nineteenth year they covered what was at that time almost unknown territory. One may rest assured Sir Nigel Anstruthers said nothing whatsoever in New York of an interview he had had before sailing with an intensely disagreeable great-aunt, who was the wife of a Bishop. She was a horrible old woman with a broad face, blunt features and a raucous voice, whose tones added acridity to her observations when she was indulging in her favourite pastime of interfering with the business of her acquaintances and relations.
"I do not know what you are going chasing off to America for, Nigel," she commented. "You can't afford it and it is perfectly ridiculous of you to take it upon yourself to travel for pleasure as if you were a man of means instead of being in such a state of pocket that Maria tells me you cannot pay your tailor. Neither the Bishop nor I can do anything for you and I hope you don't expect it. All I can hope is that you know yourself what you are going to America in search of, and that it is something more practical than buffaloes. You had better stop in New York. Those big shopkeepers' daughters are enormously rich, they say, and they are immensely pleased by attentions from men of your class. They say they'll marry anything if it has an aunt or a grandmother with a title. You can mention the Marchioness, you know. You need not refer to the fact that she thought your father a blackguard and your mother an interloper, and that you have never been invited to Broadmere since you were born. You can refer casually to me and to the Bishop and to the Palace, too. A Palace—even a Bishop's—ought to go a long way with Americans. They will think it is something royal." She ended her remarks with one of her most insulting snorts of laughter, and Sir Nigel became dark red and looked as if he would like to knock her down.
It was not, however, her sentiments which were particularly revolting to him. If she had expressed them in a manner more flattering to himself he would have felt that there was a good deal to be said for them. In fact, he had put the same thing to himself some time previously, and, in summing up the American matter, had reached certain thrifty decisions. The impulse to knock her down surged within him solely because he had a brutally bad temper when his vanity was insulted, and he was furious at her impudence in speaking to him as if he were a villager out of work whom she was at liberty to bully and lecture.
"For a woman who is supposed to have been born of gentle people," he said to his mother afterwards, "Aunt Marian is the most vulgar old beast I have ever beheld. She has the taste of a female costermonger." Which was entirely true, but it might be added that his own was no better and his points of view and morals wholly coincided with his taste.
Naturally Rosalie Vanderpoel knew nothing of this side of the matter. She had been a petted, butterfly child, who had been pretty and admired and indulged from her infancy; she had grown up into a petted, butterfly girl, pretty and admired and surrounded by inordinate luxury. Her world had been made up of good-natured, lavish friends and relations, who enjoyed themselves and felt a delight in her girlish toilettes and triumphs. She had spent her one season of belledom in being whirled from festivity to festivity, in dancing in rooms festooned with thousands of dollars' worth of flowers, in lunching or dining at tables loaded with roses and violets and orchids, from which ballrooms or feasts she had borne away wonderful "favours" and gifts, whose prices, being recorded in the newspapers, caused a thrill of delight or envy to pass over the land. She was a slim little creature, with quantities of light feathery hair like a French doll's. She had small hands and small feet and a small waist—a small brain also, it must be admitted, but she was an innocent, sweet-tempered girl with a childlike simpleness of mind. In fine, she was exactly the girl to find Sir Nigel's domineering temperament at once imposing and attractive, so long as it was cloaked by the ceremonies of external good breeding.
Her sister Bettina, who was still a child, was of a stronger and less susceptible nature. Betty—at eight—had long legs and a square but delicate small face. Her well-opened steel-blue eyes were noticeable for rather extravagant ink-black lashes and a straight young stare which seemed to accuse if not to condemn. She was being educated at a ruinously expensive school with a number of other inordinately rich little girls, who were all too wonderfully dressed and too lavishly supplied with pocket money. The school considered itself especially refined and select, but was in fact interestingly vulgar.
The inordinately rich little girls, who had most of them pretty and spiritual or pretty and piquant faces, ate a great many bon bons and chattered a great deal in high unmodulated voices about the parties their sisters and other relatives went to and the dresses they wore. Some of them were nice little souls, who in the future would emerge from their chrysalis state enchanting women, but they used colloquialisms freely, and had an ingenuous habit of referring to the prices of things. Bettina Vanderpoel, who was the richest and cleverest and most promisingly handsome among them, was colloquial to slanginess, but she had a deep, mellow, child voice and an amazing carriage.
She could not endure Sir Nigel Anstruthers, and, being an American child, did not hesitate to express herself with force, if with some crudeness. "He's a hateful thing," she said, "I loathe him. He's stuck up and he thinks you are afraid of him and he likes it."
Sir Nigel had known only English children, little girls who lived in that discreet corner of their parents' town or country houses known as "the schoolroom," apparently emerging only for daily walks with governesses; girls with long hair and boys in little high hats and with faces which seemed curiously made to match them. Both boys and girls were decently kept out of the way and not in the least dwelt on except when brought out for inspection during the holidays and taken to the pantomime.
Sir Nigel had not realised that an American child was an absolute factor to be counted with, and a "youngster" who entered the drawing-room when she chose and joined fearlessly in adult conversation was an element he considered annoying. It was quite true that Bettina talked too much and too readily at times, but it had not been explained to her that the opinions of eight years are not always of absorbing interest to the mature. It was also true that Sir Nigel was a great fool for interfering with what was clearly no affair of his in such a manner as would have made him an enemy even had not the child's instinct arrayed her against him at the outset.
"You American youngsters are too cheeky," he said on one of the occasions when Betty had talked too much. "If you were my sister and lived at Stornham Court, you would be learning lessons in the schoolroom and wearing a pinafore. Nobody ever saw my sister Emily when she was your age."
"Well, I'm not your sister Emily," retorted Betty, "and I guess I'm glad of it."
It was rather impudent of her, but it must be confessed that she was not infrequently rather impudent in a rude little-girl way, but she was serenely unconscious of the fact.
Sir Nigel flushed darkly and laughed a short, unpleasant laugh. If she had been his sister Emily she would have fared ill at the moment, for his villainous temper would have got the better of him.
"I 'guess' that I may be congratulated too," he sneered.
"If I was going to be anybody's sister Emily," said Betty, excited a little by the sense of the fray, "I shouldn't want to be yours."
"Now Betty, don't be hateful," interposed Rosalie, laughing, and her laugh was nervous. "There's Mina Thalberg coming up the front steps. Go and meet her."
Rosalie, poor girl, always found herself nervous when Sir Nigel and Betty were in the room together. She instinctively recognised their antagonism and was afraid Betty would do something an English baronet would think vulgar. Her simple brain could not have explained to her why it was that she knew Sir Nigel often thought New Yorkers vulgar. She was, however, quite aware of this but imperfectly concealed fact, and felt a timid desire to be explanatory.
When Bettina marched out of the room with her extraordinary carriage finely manifest, Rosy's little laugh was propitiatory.
"You mustn't mind her," she said. "She's a real splendid little thing, but she's got a quick temper. It's all over in a minute."
"They wouldn't stand that sort of thing in England," said Sir Nigel. "She's deucedly spoiled, you know."
He detested the child. He disliked all children, but this one awakened in him more than mere dislike. The fact was that though Betty herself was wholly unconscious of the subtle truth, the as yet undeveloped intellect which later made her a brilliant and captivating personality, vaguely saw him as he was, an unscrupulous, sordid brute, as remorseless an adventurer and swindler in his special line, as if he had been engaged in drawing false cheques and arranging huge jewel robberies, instead of planning to entrap into a disadvantageous marriage a girl whose gentleness and fortune could be used by a blackguard of reputable name. The man was cold-blooded enough to see that her gentle weakness was of value because it could be bullied, her money was to be counted on because it could be spent on himself and his degenerate vices and on his racked and ruined name and estate, which must be rebuilt and restocked at an early date by someone or other, lest they tumbled into ignominious collapse which could not be concealed. Bettina of the accusing eyes did not know that in the depth of her yet crude young being, instinct was summing up for her the potentialities of an unusually fine specimen of the British blackguard, but this was nevertheless the interesting truth. When later she was told that her sister had become engaged to Sir Nigel Anstruthers, a flame of colour flashed over her face, she stared silently a moment, then bit her lip and burst into tears.
"Well, Bett," exclaimed Rosalie, "you are the queerest thing I ever saw."
Bettina's tears were an outburst, not a flow. She swept them away passionately with her small handkerchief.
"He'll do something awful to you," she said. "He'll nearly kill you. I know he will. I'd rather be dead myself."
She dashed out of the room, and could never be induced to say a word further about the matter. She would indeed have found it impossible to express her intense antipathy and sense of impending calamity. She had not the phrases to make herself clear even to herself, and after all what controlling effort can one produce when one is only eight years old?
A LACK OF PERCEPTION
Mercantile as Americans were proclaimed to be, the opinion of Sir Nigel Anstruthers was that they were, on some points, singularly unbusinesslike. In the perfectly obvious and simple matter of the settlement of his daughter's fortune, he had felt that Reuben Vanderpoel was obtuse to the point of idiocy. He seemed to have none of the ordinary points of view. Naturally there was to Anstruthers' mind but one point of view to take. A man of birth and rank, he argued, does not career across the Atlantic to marry a New York millionaire's daughter unless he anticipates deriving some advantage from the alliance. Such a man—being of Anstruthers' type—would not have married a rich woman even in his own country with out making sure that advantages were to accrue to himself as a result of the union. "In England," to use his own words, "there was no nonsense about it." Women's fortunes as well as themselves belonged to their husbands, and a man who was master in his own house could make his wife do as he chose. He had seen girls with money managed very satisfactorily by fellows who held a tight rein, and were not moved by tears, and did not allow talking to relations. If he had been desirous of marrying and could have afforded to take a penniless wife, there were hundreds of portionless girls ready to thank God for a decent chance to settle themselves for life, and one need not stir out of one's native land to find them.
But Sir Nigel had not in the least desired to saddle himself with a domestic encumbrance, in fact nothing would have induced him to consider the step if he had not been driven hard by circumstances. His fortunes had reached a stage where money must be forthcoming somehow—from somewhere. He and his mother had been living from hand to mouth, so to speak, for years, and they had also been obliged to keep up appearances, which is sometimes embittering even to persons of amiable tempers. Lady Anstruthers, it is true, had lived in the country in as niggardly a manner as possible. She had narrowed her existence to absolute privation, presenting at the same time a stern, bold front to the persons who saw her, to the insufficient staff of servants, to the village to the vicar and his wife, and the few far-distant neighbours who perhaps once a year drove miles to call or leave a card. She was an old woman sufficiently unattractive to find no difficulty in the way of limiting her acquaintances. The unprepossessing wardrobe she had gathered in the passing years was remade again and again by the village dressmaker. She wore dingy old silk gowns and appalling bonnets, and mantles dripping with rusty fringes and bugle beads, but these mitigated not in the least the unflinching arrogance of her bearing, or the simple, intolerant rudeness which she considered proper and becoming in persons like herself. She did not of course allow that there existed many persons like herself.
That society rejoiced in this fact was but the stamp of its inferiority and folly. While she pinched herself and harried her few hirelings at Stornham it was necessary for Sir Nigel to show himself in town and present as decent an appearance as possible. His vanity was far too arrogant to allow of his permitting himself to drop out of the world to which he could not afford to belong. That he should have been forgotten or ignored would have been intolerable to him. For a few years he was invited to dine at good houses, and got shooting and hunting as part of the hospitality of his acquaintances. But a man who cannot afford to return hospitalities will find that he need not expect to avail himself of those of his acquaintances to the end of his career unless he is an extremely engaging person. Sir Nigel Anstruthers was not an engaging person. He never gave a thought to the comfort or interest of any other human being than himself. He was also dominated by the kind of nasty temper which so reveals itself when let loose that its owner cannot control it even when it would be distinctly to his advantage to do so.
Finding that he had nothing to give in return for what he took as if it were his right, society gradually began to cease to retain any lively recollection of his existence. The tradespeople he had borne himself loftily towards awakened to the fact that he was the kind of man it was at once safe and wise to dun, and therefore proceeded to make his life a burden to him. At his clubs he had never been a member surrounded and rejoiced over when he made his appearance. The time came when he began to fancy that he was rather edged away from, and he endeavoured to sustain his dignity by being sulky and making caustic speeches when he was approached. Driven occasionally down to Stornham by actual pressure of circumstances, he found the outlook there more embittering still.
Lady Anstruthers laid the bareness of the land before him without any effort to palliate unpleasantness. If he chose to stalk about and look glum, she could sit still and call his attention to revolting truths which he could not deny. She could point out to him that he had no money, and that tenants would not stay in houses which were tumbling to pieces, and work land which had been starved. She could tell him just how long a time had elapsed since wages had been paid and accounts cleared off. And she had an engaging, unbiassed way of seeming to drive these maddening details home by the mere manner of her statement.
"You make the whole thing as damned disagreeable as you can," Nigel would snarl.
"I merely state facts," she would reply with acrid serenity.
A man who cannot keep up his estate, pay his tailor or the rent of his lodgings in town, is in a strait which may drive him to desperation. Sir Nigel Anstruthers borrowed some money, went to New York and made his suit to nice little silly Rosalie Vanderpoel.
But the whole thing was unexpectedly disappointing and surrounded by irritating circumstances. He found himself face to face with a state of affairs such as he had not contemplated. In England when a man married, certain practical matters could be inquired into and arranged by solicitors, the amount of the prospective bride's fortune, the allowances and settlements to be made, the position of the bridegroom with regard to pecuniary matters. To put it simply, a man found out where he stood and what he was to gain. But, at first to his sardonic entertainment and later to his disgusted annoyance, Sir Nigel gradually discovered that in the matter of marriage, Americans had an ingenuous tendency to believe in the sentimental feelings of the parties concerned. The general impression seemed to be that a man married purely for love, and that delicacy would make it impossible for him to ask questions as to what his bride's parents were in a position to hand over to him as a sort of indemnity for the loss of his bachelor freedom. Anstruthers began to discover this fact before he had been many weeks in New York. He reached the realisation of its existence by processes of exclusion and inclusion, by hearing casual remarks people let drop, by asking roundabout and careful questions, by leading both men and women to the innocent expounding of certain points of view. Millionaires, it appeared, did not expect to make allowances to men who married their daughters; young women, it transpired, did not in the least realise that a man should be liberally endowed in payment for assuming the duties of a husband. If rich fathers made allowances, they made them to their daughters themselves, who disposed of them as they pleased. In this case, of course, Sir Nigel privately argued with fine acumen, it became the husband's business to see that what his wife pleased should be what most agreeably coincided with his own views and conveniences.
His most illuminating experience had been the hearing of some men, hard-headed, rich stockbrokers with a vulgar sense of humour, enjoying themselves quite uproariously one night at a club, over a story one of them was relating of an unsatisfactory German son-in-law who had demanded an income. He was a man of small title, who had married the narrator's daughter, and after some months spent in his father-in-law's house, had felt it but proper that his financial position should be put on a practical footing.
"He brought her back after the bridal tour to make us a visit," said the storyteller, a sharp-featured man with a quaint wry mouth, which seemed to express a perpetual, repressed appreciation of passing events. "I had nothing to say against that, because we were all glad to see her home and her mother had been missing her. But weeks passed and months passed and there was no mention made of them going over to settle in the Slosh we'd heard so much of, and in time it came out that the Slosh thing"—Anstruthers realised with gall in his soul that the "brute," as he called him, meant "Schloss," and that his mispronunciation was at once a matter of humour and derision—"wasn't his at all. It was his elder brother's. The whole lot of them were counts and not one of them seemed to own a dime. The Slosh count hadn't more than twenty-five cents and he wasn't the kind to deal any of it out to his family. So Lily's count would have to go clerking in a dry goods store, if he promised to support himself. But he didn't propose to do it. He thought he'd got on to a soft thing. Of course we're an easy-going lot and we should have stood him if he'd been a nice fellow. But he wasn't. Lily's mother used to find her crying in her bedroom and it came out by degrees that it was because Adolf had been quarrelling with her and saying sneering things about her family. When her mother talked to him he was insulting. Then bills began to come in and Lily was expected to get me to pay them. And they were not the kind of bills a decent fellow calls on another man to pay. But I did it five or six times to make it easy for her. I didn't tell her that they gave an older chap than himself sidelights on the situation. But that didn't work well. He thought I did it because I had to, and he began to feel free and easy about it, and didn't try to cover up his tracks so much when he sent in a new lot. He was always working Lily. He began to consider himself master of the house. He intimated that a private carriage ought to be kept for them. He said it was beggarly that he should have to consider the rest of the family when he wanted to go out. When I got on to the situation, I began to enjoy it. I let him spread himself for a while just to see what he would do. Good Lord! I couldn't have believed that any fellow could have thought any other fellow could be such a fool as he thought I was. He went perfectly crazy after a month or so and ordered me about and patronised me as if I was a bootblack he meant to teach something to. So at last I had a talk with Lily and told her I was going to put an end to it. Of course she cried and was half frightened to death, but by that time he had ill-used her so that she only wanted to get rid of him. So I sent for him and had a talk with him in my office. I led him on to saying all he had on his mind. He explained to me what a condescension it was for a man like himself to marry a girl like Lily. He made a dignified, touching picture of all the disadvantages of such an alliance and all the advantages they ought to bring in exchange to the man who bore up under them. I rubbed my head and looked worried every now and then and cleared my throat apologetically just to warm him up. I can tell you that fellow felt happy, downright happy when he saw how humbly I listened to him. He positively swelled up with hope and comfort. He thought I was going to turn out well, real well. I was going to pay up just as a vulgar New York father-in-law ought to do, and thank God for the blessed privilege. Why, he was real eloquent about his blood and his ancestors and the hoary-headed Slosh. So when he'd finished, I cleared my throat in a nervous, ingratiating kind of way again and I asked him kind of anxiously what he thought would be the proper thing for a base-born New York millionaire to do under the circumstances—what he would approve of himself."
Sir Nigel was disgusted to see the narrator twist his mouth into a sweet, shrewd, repressed grin even as he expectorated into the nearest receptacle. The grin was greeted by a shout of laughter from his companions.
"What did he say, Stebbins?" someone cried.
"He said," explained Mr. Stebbins deliberately, "he said that an allowance was the proper thing. He said that a man of his rank must have resources, and that it wasn't dignified for him to have to ask his wife or his wife's father for money when he wanted it. He said an allowance was what he felt he had a right to expect. And then he twisted his moustache and said, 'what proposition' did I make—what would I allow him?"
The storyteller's hearers evidently knew him well. Their laughter was louder than before.
"Let's hear the rest, Joe! Let's hear it!"
"Well," replied Mr. Stebbins almost thoughtfully, "I just got up and said, 'Well, it won't take long for me to answer that. I've always been fond of my children, and Lily is rather my pet. She's always had everything she wanted, and she always shall. She's a good girl and she deserves it. I'll allow you——" The significant deliberation of his drawl could scarcely be described. "I'll allow you just five minutes to get out of this room, before I kick you out, and if I kick you out of the room, I'll kick you down the stairs, and if I kick you down the stairs, I shall have got my blood comfortably warmed up and I'll kick you down the street and round the block and down to Hoboken, because you're going to take the steamer there and go back to the place you came from, to the Slosh thing or whatever you call it. We haven't a damned bit of use for you here.' And believe it or not, gentlemen——" looking round with the wry-mouthed smile, "he took that passage and back he went. And Lily's living with her mother and I mean to hold on to her."
Sir Nigel got up and left the club when the story was finished. He took a long walk down Broadway, gnawing his lip and holding his head in the air. He used blasphemous language at intervals in a low voice. Some of it was addressed to his fate and some of it to the vulgar mercantile coarseness and obtuseness of other people.
"They don't know what they are talking of," he said. "It is unheard of. What do they expect? I never thought of this. Damn it! I'm like a rat in a trap."
It was plain enough that he could not arrange his fortune as he had anticipated when he decided to begin to make love to little pink and white, doll-faced Rosy Vanderpoel. If he began to demand monetary advantages in his dealing with his future wife's people in their settlement of her fortune, he might arouse suspicion and inquiry. He did not want inquiry either in connection with his own means or his past manner of living. People who hated him would be sure to crop up with stories of things better left alone. There were always meddling fools ready to interfere.
His walk was long and full of savage thinking. Once or twice as he realised what the disinterestedness of his sentiments was supposed to be, a short laugh broke from him which was rather like the snort of the Bishopess.
"I am supposed to be moonstruck over a simpering American chit—moonstruck! Damn!" But when he returned to his hotel he had made up his mind and was beginning to look over the situation in evil cold blood. Matters must be settled without delay and he was shrewd enough to realise that with his temper and its varied resources a timid girl would not be difficult to manage. He had seen at an early stage of their acquaintance that Rosy was greatly impressed by the superiority of his bearing, that he could make her blush with embarrassment when he conveyed to her that she had made a mistake, that he could chill her miserably when he chose to assume a lofty stiffness. A man's domestic armoury was filled with weapons if he could make a woman feel gauche, inexperienced, in the wrong. When he was safely married, he could pave the way to what he felt was the only practical and feasible end.
If he had been marrying a woman with more brains, she would be more difficult to subdue, but with Rosalie Vanderpoel, processes were not necessary. If you shocked, bewildered or frightened her with accusations, sulks, or sneers, her light, innocent head was set in such a whirl that the rest was easy. It was possible, upon the whole, that the thing might not turn out so infernally ill after all. Supposing that it had been Bettina who had been the marriageable one! Appreciating to the full the many reasons for rejoicing that she had not been, he walked in gloomy reflection home.
YOUNG LADY ANSTRUTHERS
When the marriage took place the event was accompanied by an ingenuously elate flourish of trumpets. Miss Vanderpoel's frocks were multitudinous and wonderful, as also her jewels purchased at Tiffany's. She carried a thousand trunks—more or less—across the Atlantic. When the ship steamed away from the dock, the wharf was like a flower garden in the blaze of brilliant and delicate attire worn by the bevy of relatives and intimates who stood waving their handkerchiefs and laughingly calling out farewell good wishes.
Sir Nigel's mental attitude was not a sympathetic or admiring one as he stood by his bride's side looking back. If Rosy's half happy, half tearful excitement had left her the leisure to reflect on his expression, she would not have felt it encouraging.
"What a deuce of a row Americans make," he said even before they were out of hearing of the voices. "It will be a positive rest to be in a country where the women do not cackle and shriek with laughter."
He said it with that simple rudeness which at times professed to be almost impersonal, and which Rosalie had usually tried to believe was the outcome of a kind of cool British humour. But this time she started a little at his words.
"I suppose we do make more noise than English people," she admitted a second or so later. "I wonder why?" And without waiting for an answer—somewhat as if she had not expected or quite wanted one—she leaned a little farther over the side to look back, waving her small, fluttering handkerchief to the many still in tumult on the wharf. She was not perceptive or quick enough to take offence, to realise that the remark was significant and that Sir Nigel had already begun as he meant to go on. It was far from being his intention to play the part of an American husband, who was plainly a creature in whom no authority vested itself. Americans let their women say and do anything, and were capable of fetching and carrying for them. He had seen a man run upstairs for his wife's wrap, cheerfully, without the least apparent sense that the service was the part of a footman if there was one in the house, a parlour maid if there was not. Sir Nigel had been brought up in the good Early Victorian days when "a nice little woman to fetch your slippers for you" figured in certain circles as domestic bliss. Girls were educated to fetch slippers as retrievers were trained to go into the water after sticks, and terriers to bring back balls thrown for them.
The new Lady Anstruthers had, it supervened, several opportunities to obtain a new view of her bridegroom's character before their voyage across the Atlantic was over. At this period of the slower and more cumbrous weaving of the Shuttle, the world had not yet awakened even to the possibilities of the ocean greyhound. An Atlantic voyage at times was capable of offering to a bride and bridegroom days enough to begin to glance into their future with a premonition of the waning of the honeymoon, at least, and especially if they were not sea-proof, to wish wearily that the first half of it were over. Rosalie was not weary, but she began to be bewildered. As she had never been a clever girl or quick to perceive, and had spent her life among women-indulging American men, she was not prepared with any precedent which made her situation clear. The first time Sir Nigel showed his temper to her she simply stared at him, her eyes looking like those of a puzzled, questioning child. Then she broke into her nervous little laugh, because she did not know what else to do. At his second outbreak her stare was rather startled and she did not laugh.
Her first awakening was to an anxious wonderment concerning certain moods of gloom, or what seemed to be gloom, to which he seemed prone. As she lay in her steamer chair he would at times march stiffly up and down the deck, apparently aware of no other existence than his own, his features expressing a certain clouded resentment of whose very unexplainableness she secretly stood in awe. She was not astute enough, poor girl, to leave him alone, and when with innocent questionings she endeavoured to discover his trouble, the greatest mystification she encountered was that he had the power to make her feel that she was in some way taking a liberty, and showing her lack of tact and perspicuity.
"Is anything the matter, Nigel?" she asked at first, wondering if she were guilty of silliness in trying to slip her hand into his. She was sure she had been when he answered her.
"No," he said chillingly.
"I don't believe you are happy," she returned. "Somehow you seem so—so different."
"I have reasons for being depressed," he replied, and it was with a stiff finality which struck a note of warning to her, signifying that it would be better taste in her to put an end to her simple efforts.
She vaguely felt herself put in the wrong, and he preferred that it should be so. It was the best form of preparation for any mood he might see that it might pay him to show her in the future. He was, in fact, confronting disdainfully his position. He had her on his hands and he was returning to his relations with no definite advantage to exhibit as the result of having married her. She had been supplied with an income but he had no control over it. It would not have been so if he had not been in such straits that he had been afraid to risk his chance by making a stand. To have a wife with money, a silly, sweet temper and no will of her own, was of course better than to be penniless, head over heels in debt and hemmed in by difficulties on every side. He had seen women trained to give in to anything rather than be bullied in public, to accede in the end to any demand rather than endure the shame of a certain kind of scene made before servants, and a certain kind of insolence used to relatives and guests. The quality he found most maddeningly irritating in Rosalie was her obviously absolute unconsciousness of the fact that it was entirely natural and proper that her resources should be in her husband's hands. He had, indeed, even in these early days, made a tentative effort or so in the form of a suggestive speech; he had given her openings to give him an opening to put things on a practical basis, but she had never had the intelligence to see what he was aiming at, and he had found himself almost floundering ungracefully in his remarks, while she had looked at him without a sign of comprehension in her simple, anxious blue eyes. The creature was actually trying to understand him and could not. That was the worst of it, the blank wall of her unconsciousness, her childlike belief that he was far too grand a personage to require anything. These were the things he was thinking over when he walked up and down the deck in unamiable solitariness. Rosy awakened to the amazed consciousness of the fact that, instead of being pleased with the luxury and prettiness of her wardrobe and appointments, he seemed to dislike and disdain them.
"You American women change your clothes too much and think too much of them," was one of his first amiable criticisms. "You spend more than well-bred women should spend on mere dresses and bonnets. In New York it always strikes an Englishman that the women look endimanche at whatever time of day you come across them."
"Oh, Nigel!" cried Rosy woefully. She could not think of anything more to say than, "Oh, Nigel!"
"I am sorry to say it is true," he replied loftily. That she was an American and a New Yorker was being impressed upon poor little Lady Anstruthers in a new way—somehow as if the mere cold statement of the fact put a fine edge of sarcasm to any remark. She was of too innocent a loyalty to wish that she was neither the one nor the other, but she did wish that Nigel was not so prejudiced against the places and people she cared for so much.
She was sitting in her stateroom enfolded in a dressing gown covered with cascades of lace, tied with knots of embroidered ribbon, and her maid, Hannah, who admired her greatly, was brushing her fair long hair with a gold-backed brush, ornamented with a monogram of jewels.
If she had been a French duchess of a piquant type, or an English one with an aquiline nose, she would have been beyond criticism; if she had been a plump, over-fed woman, or an ugly, ill-natured, gross one, she would have looked vulgar, but she was a little, thin, fair New Yorker, and though she was not beyond criticism—if one demanded high distinction—she was pretty and nice to look at. But Nigel Anstruthers would not allow this to her. His own tailors' bills being far in arrears and his pocket disgustingly empty, the sight of her ingenuous sumptuousness and the gay, accustomed simpleness of outlook with which she accepted it as her natural right, irritated him and roused his venom. Bills would remain unpaid if she was permitted to spend her money on this sort of thing without any consideration for the requirements of other people.
He inhaled the air and made a gesture of distaste.
"This sachet business is rather overpowering," he said. "It is the sort of thing a woman should be particularly discreet about."
"Oh, Nigel!" cried the poor girl agitatedly. "Hannah, do go and call the steward to open the windows. Is it really strong?" she implored as Hannah went out. "How dreadful. It's only orris and I didn't know Hannah had put it in the trunks."
"My dear Rosalie," with a wave of the hand taking in both herself and her dressing case, "it is all too strong."
"The whole thing. All that lace and love knot arrangement, the gold-backed brushes and scent bottles with diamonds and rubies sticking in them."
"They—they were wedding presents. They came from Tiffany's. Everyone thought them lovely."
"They look as if they belonged to the dressing table of a French woman of the demi-monde. I feel as if I had actually walked into the apartment of some notorious Parisian soubrette."
Rosalie Vanderpoel was a clean-minded little person, her people were of the clean-minded type, therefore she did not understand all that this ironic speech implied, but she gathered enough of its significance to cause her to turn first red and then pale and then to burst into tears. She was crying and trying to conceal the fact when Hannah returned. She bent her head and touched her eyes furtively while her toilette was completed.
Sir Nigel had retired from the scene, but he had done so feeling that he had planted a seed and bestowed a practical lesson. He had, it is true, bestowed one, but again she had not understood its significance and was only left bewildered and unhappy. She began to be nervous and uncertain about herself and about his moods and points of view. She had never been made to feel so at home. Everyone had been kind to her and lenient to her lack of brilliancy. No one had expected her to be brilliant, and she had been quite sweet-temperedly resigned to the fact that she was not the kind of girl who shone either in society or elsewhere. She did not resent the fact that she knew people said of her, "She isn't in the least bit bright, Rosy Vanderpoel, but she's a nice, sweet little thing." She had tried to be nice and sweet and had aspired to nothing higher.
But now that seemed so much less than enough. Perhaps Nigel ought to have married one of the clever ones, someone who would have known how to understand him and who would have been more entertaining than she could be. Perhaps she was beginning to bore him, perhaps he was finding her out and beginning to get tired. At this point the always too ready tears would rise to her eyes and she would be overwhelmed by a sense of homesickness. Often she cried herself silently to sleep, longing for her mother—her nice, comfortable, ordinary mother, whom she had several times felt Nigel had some difficulty in being unreservedly polite to—though he had been polite on the surface.
By the time they landed she had been living under so much strain in her effort to seem quite unchanged, that she had lost her nerve. She did not feel well and was sometimes afraid that she might do something silly and hysterical in spite of herself, begin to cry for instance when there was really no explanation for her doing it. But when she reached London the novelty of everything so excited her that she thought she was going to be better, and then she said to herself it would be proved to her that all her fears had been nonsense. This return of hope made her quite light-spirited, and she was almost gay in her little outbursts of delight and admiration as she drove about the streets with her husband. She did not know that her ingenuous ignorance of things he had known all his life, her rapture over common monuments of history, led him to say to himself that he felt rather as if he were taking a housemaid to see a Lord Mayor's Show.
Before going to Stornham Court they spent a few days in town. There had been no intention of proclaiming their presence to the world, and they did not do so, but unluckily certain tradesmen discovered the fact that Sir Nigel Anstruthers had returned to England with the bride he had secured in New York. The conclusion to be deduced from this circumstance was that the particular moment was a good one at which to send in bills for "acct. rendered." The tradesmen quite shared Anstruthers' point of view. Their reasoning was delightfully simple and they were wholly unaware that it might have been called gross. A man over his head and ears in debt naturally expected his creditors would be paid by the young woman who had married him. America had in these days been so little explored by the thrifty impecunious well-born that its ingenuous sentimentality in certain matters was by no means comprehended.
By each post Sir Nigel received numerous bills. Sometimes letters accompanied them, and once or twice respectful but firm male persons brought them by hand and demanded interviews which irritated Sir Nigel extremely. Given time to arrange matters with Rosalie, to train her to some sense of her duty, he believed that the "acct. rendered" could be wiped off, but he saw he must have time. She was such a little fool. Again and again he was furious at the fate which had forced him to take her.
The truth was that Rosalie knew nothing whatever about unpaid bills. Reuben Vanderpoel's daughters had never encountered an indignant tradesman in their lives. When they went into "stores" they were received with unfeigned rapture. Everything was dragged forth to be displayed to them, attendants waited to leap forth to supply their smallest behest. They knew no other phase of existence than the one in which one could buy anything one wanted and pay any price demanded for it.
Consequently Rosalie did not recognise signs which would have been obviously recognisable by the initiated. If Sir Nigel Anstruthers had been a nice young fellow who had loved her, and he had been honest enough to make a clean breast of his difficulties, she would have thrown herself into his arms and implored him effusively to make use of all her available funds, and if the supply had been insufficient, would have immediately written to her father for further donations, knowing that her appeal would be responded to at once. But Sir Nigel Anstruthers cherished no sentiment for any other individual than himself, and he had no intention of explaining that his mere vanity had caused him to mislead her, that his rank and estate counted for nothing and that he was in fact a pauper loaded with dishonest debts. He wanted money, but he wanted it to be given to him as if he conferred a favour by receiving it. It must be transferred to him as though it were his by right. What did a man marry for? Therefore his wife's unconsciousness that she was inflicting outrage upon him by her mere mental attitude filled his being with slowly rising gall.
Poor Rosalie went joyfully forth shopping after the manner of all newly arrived Americans. She bought new toilettes and gewgaws and presents for her friends and relations in New York, and each package which was delivered at the hotel added to Sir Nigel's rage.
That the little blockhead should be allowed to do what she liked with her money and that he should not be able to forbid her! This he said to himself at intervals of five minutes through the day—which led to another small episode.
"You are spending a great deal of money," he said one morning in his condemnatory manner. Rosalie looked up from the lace flounce which had just been delivered and gave the little nervous laugh, which was becoming entirely uncertain of propitiating.
"Am I?" she answered. "They say all Americans spend a good deal."
"Your money ought to be in proper hands and properly managed," he went on with cold precision. "If you were an English woman, your husband would control it."
"Would he?" The simple, sweet-tempered obtuseness of her tone was an infuriating thing to him. There was the usual shade of troubled surprise in her eyes as they met his. "I don't think men in America ever do that. I don't believe the nice ones want to. You see they have such a pride about always giving things to women, and taking care of them. I believe a nice American man would break stones in the street rather than take money from a woman—even his wife. I mean while he could work. Of course if he was ill or had ill luck or anything like that, he wouldn't be so proud as not to take it from the person who loved him most and wanted to help him. You do sometimes hear of a man who won't work and lets his wife support him, but it's very seldom, and they are always the low kind that other men look down on."
"Wanted to help him." Sir Nigel selected the phrase and quoted it between puffs of the cigar he held in his fine, rather cruel-looking hands, and his voice expressed a not too subtle sneer. "A woman is not 'helping' her husband when she gives him control of her fortune. She is only doing her duty and accepting her proper position with regard to him. The law used to settle the thing definitely."
"Did-did it?" Rosy faltered weakly. She knew he was offended again and that she was once more somehow in the wrong. So many things about her seemed to displease him, and when he was displeased he always reminded her that she was stupidly, objectionably guilty of not being an English woman.
Whatsoever it happened to be, the fault she had committed out of her depth of ignorance, he did not forget it. It was no habit of his to endeavour to dismiss offences. He preferred to hold them in possession as if they were treasures and to turn them over and over, in the mental seclusion which nourishes the growth of injuries, since within its barriers there is no chance of their being palliated by the apologies or explanations of the offender.
During their journey to Stornham Court the next day he was in one of his black moods. Once in the railway carriage he paid small attention to his wife, but sat rigidly reading his Times, until about midway to their destination he descended at a station and paid a visit to the buffet in the small refreshment room, after which he settled himself to doze in an exceedingly unbecoming attitude, his travelling cap pulled down, his rather heavy face congested with the dark flush Rosalie had not yet learned was due to the fact that he had hastily tossed off two or three whiskies and sodas. Though he was never either thick of utterance or unsteady on his feet, whisky and soda formed an important factor in his existence. When he was annoyed or dull he at once took the necessary precautions against being overcome by these feelings, and the effect upon a constitutionally evil temper was to transform it into an infernal one. The night had been a bad one for Rosy. Such floods of homesick longing had overpowered her that she had not been able to sleep. She had risen feeling shaky and hysterical and her nervousness had been added to by her fear that Nigel might observe her and make comment. Of course she told herself it was natural that he should not wish her to appear at Stornham Court looking a pale, pink-nosed little fright. Her efforts to be cheerful had indeed been somewhat touching, but they had met with small encouragement.
She thought the green-clothed country lovely as the train sped through it, and a lump rose in her small throat because she knew she might have been so happy if she had not been so frightened and miserable. The thing which had been dawning upon her took clearer, more awful form. Incidents she had tried to explain and excuse to herself, upon all sorts of futile, simple grounds, began to loom up before her in something like their actual proportions. She had heard of men who had changed their manner towards girls after they had married them, but she did not know they had begun to change so soon. This was so early in the honeymoon to be sitting in a railway carriage, in a corner remote from that occupied by a bridegroom, who read his paper in what was obviously intentional, resentful solitude. Emily Soame's father, she remembered it against her will, had been obliged to get a divorce for Emily after her two years of wretched married life. But Alfred Soames had been quite nice for six months at least. It seemed as if all this must be a dream, one of those nightmare things, in which you suddenly find yourself married to someone you cannot bear, and you don't know how it happened, because you yourself have had nothing to do with the matter. She felt that presently she must waken with a start and find herself breathing fast, and panting out, half laughing, half crying, "Oh, I am so glad it's not true! I am so glad it's not true!"
But this was true, and there was Nigel. And she was in a new, unexplored world. Her little trembling hands clutched each other. The happy, light girlish days full of ease and friendliness and decency seemed gone forever. It was not Rosalie Vanderpoel who pressed her colourless face against the glass of the window, looking out at the flying trees; it was the wife of Nigel Anstruthers, and suddenly, by some hideous magic, she had been snatched from the world to which she belonged and was being dragged by a gaoler to a prison from which she did not know how to escape. Already Nigel had managed to convey to her that in England a woman who was married could do nothing to defend herself against her husband, and that to endeavour to do anything was the last impossible touch of vulgar ignominy.
The vivid realisation of the situation seized upon her like a possession as she glanced sideways at her bridegroom and hurriedly glanced away again with a little hysterical shudder. New York, good-tempered, lenient, free New York, was millions of miles away and Nigel was so loathly near and—and so ugly. She had never known before that he was so ugly, that his face was so heavy, his skin so thick and coarse and his expression so evilly ill-tempered. She was not sufficiently analytical to be conscious that she had with one bound leaped to the appalling point of feeling uncontrollable physical abhorrence of the creature to whom she was chained for life. She was terrified at finding herself forced to combat the realisation that there were certain expressions of his countenance which made her feel sick with repulsion. Her self-reproach also was as great as her terror. He was her husband—her husband—and she was a wicked girl. She repeated the words to herself again and again, but remotely she knew that when she said, "He is my husband," that was the worst thing of all.
This inward struggle was a bad preparation for any added misery, and when their railroad journey terminated at Stornham Station she was met by new bewilderment.
The station itself was a rustic place where wild roses climbed down a bank to meet the very train itself. The station master's cottage had roses and clusters of lilies waving in its tiny garden. The station master, a good-natured, red-faced man, came forward, baring his head, to open the railroad carriage door with his own hand. Rosy thought him delightful and bowed and smiled sweet-temperedly to him and to his wife and little girls, who were curtseying at the garden gate. She was sufficiently homesick to be actually grateful to them for their air of welcoming her. But as she smiled she glanced furtively at Nigel to see if she was doing exactly the right thing.
He himself was not smiling and did not unbend even when the station master, who had known him from his boyhood, felt at liberty to offer a deferential welcome.
"Happy to see you home with her ladyship, Sir Nigel," he said; "very happy, if I may say so."
Sir Nigel responded to the respectful amiability with a half-military lifting of his right hand, accompanied by a grunt.
"D'ye do, Wells," he said, and strode past him to speak to the footman who had come from Stornham Court with the carriage.
The new and nervous little Lady Anstruthers, who was left to trot after her husband, smiled again at the ruddy, kind-looking fellow, this time in conscious deprecation. In the simplicity of her republican sympathy with a well-meaning fellow creature who might feel himself snubbed, she could have shaken him by the hand. She had even parted her lips to venture a word of civility when she was startled by hearing Sir Nigel's voice raised in angry rating.
"Damned bad management not to bring something else," she heard. "Kind of thing you fellows are always doing."
She made her way to the carriage, flurried again by not knowing whether she was doing right or wrong. Sir Nigel had given her no instructions and she had not yet learned that when he was in a certain humour there was equal fault in obeying or disobeying such orders as he gave.
The carriage from the Court—not in the least a new or smart equipage—was drawn up before the entrance of the station and Sir Nigel was in a rage because the vehicle brought for the luggage was too small to carry it all.
"Very sorry, Sir Nigel," said the coachman, touching his hat two or three times in his agitation. "Very sorry. The omnibus was a little out of order—the springs, Sir Nigel—and I thought——"
"You thought!" was the heated interruption. "What right had you to think, damn it! You are not paid to think, you are paid to do your work properly. Here are a lot of damned boxes which ought to go with us and—where's your maid?" wheeling round upon his wife.
Rosalie turned towards the woman, who was approaching from the waiting room.
"Hannah," she said timorously.
"Drop those confounded bundles," ordered Sir Nigel, "and show James the boxes her ladyship is obliged to have this evening. Be quick about it and don't pick out half a dozen. The cart can't take them."
Hannah looked frightened. This sort of thing was new to her, too. She shuffled her packages on to a seat and followed the footman to the luggage. Sir Nigel continued rating the coachman. Any form of violent self-assertion was welcome to him at any time, and when he was irritated he found it a distinct luxury to kick a dog or throw a boot at a cat. The springs of the omnibus, he argued, had no right to be broken when it was known that he was coming home. His anger was only added to by the coachman's halting endeavours in his excuses to veil a fact he knew his master was aware of, that everything at Stornham was more or less out of order, and that dilapidations were the inevitable result of there being no money to pay for repairs. The man leaned forward on his box and spoke at last in a low tone.
"The bus has been broken some time," he said. "It's—it's an expensive job, Sir Nigel. Her ladyship thought it better to——" Sir Nigel turned white about the mouth.
"Hold your tongue," he commanded, and the coachman got red in the face, saluted, biting his lips, and sat very stiff and upright on his box.
The station master edged away uneasily and tried to look as if he were not listening. But Rosalie could see that he could not help hearing, nor could the country people who had been passengers by the train and who were collecting their belongings and getting into their traps.
Lady Anstruthers was ignored and remained standing while the scene went on. She could not help recalling the manner in which she had been invariably received in New York on her return from any journey, how she was met by comfortable, merry people and taken care of at once. This was so strange, it was so queer, so different.
"Oh, never mind, Nigel dear," she said at last, with innocent indiscretion. "It doesn't really matter, you know."
Sir Nigel turned upon her a blaze of haughty indignation.
"If you'll pardon my saying so, it does matter," he said. "It matters confoundedly. Be good enough to take your place in the carriage."
He moved to the carriage door, and not too civilly put her in. She gasped a little for breath as she sat down. He had spoken to her as if she had been an impertinent servant who had taken a liberty. The poor girl was bewildered to the verge of panic. When he had ended his tirade and took his place beside her he wore his most haughtily intolerant air.
"May I request that in future you will be good enough not to interfere when I am reproving my servants," he remarked.
"I didn't mean to interfere," she apologised tremulously.
"I don't know what you meant. I only know what you did," was his response. "You American women are too fond of cutting in. An Englishman can think for himself without his wife's assistance."
The tears rose to her eyes. The introduction of the international question overpowered her as always.
"Don't begin to be hysterical," was the ameliorating tenderness with which he observed the two hot salt drops which fell despite her. "I should scarcely wish to present you to my mother bathed in tears."
She wiped the salt drops hastily away and sat for a moment silent in the corner of the carriage. Being wholly primitive and unanalytical, she was ashamed and began to blame herself. He was right. She must not be silly because she was unused to things. She ought not to be disturbed by trifles. She must try to be nice and look cheerful. She made an effort and did no speak for a few minutes. When she had recovered herself she tried again.
"English country is so pretty," she said, when she thought she was quite sure that her voice would not tremble. "I do so like the hedges and the darling little red-roofed cottages."
It was an innocent tentative at saying something agreeable which might propitiate him. She was beginning to realise that she was continually making efforts to propitiate him. But one of the forms of unpleasantness most enjoyable to him was the snubbing of any gentle effort at palliating his mood. He condescended in this case no response whatever, but merely continued staring contemptuously before him.
"It is so picturesque, and so unlike America," was the pathetic little commonplace she ventured next. "Ain't it, Nigel?"
He turned his head slowly towards her, as if she had taken a new liberty in disturbing his meditations.
"Wha—at?" he drawled.
It was almost too much for her to sustain herself under. Her courage collapsed.
"I was only saying how pretty the cottages were," she faltered. "And that there's nothing like this in America."
"You ended your remark by adding, 'ain't it,'" her husband condescended. "There is nothing like that in England. I shall ask you to do me the favour of leaving Americanisms out of your conversation when you are in the society of English ladies and gentlemen. It won't do."
"I didn't know I said it," Rosy answered feebly.
"That is the difficulty," was his response. "You never know, but educated people do."
There was nothing more to be said, at least for a girl who had never known what it was to be bullied. This one felt like a beggar or a scullery maid, who, being rated by her master, had not the refuge of being able to "give warning." She could never give warning. The Atlantic Ocean was between her and those who had loved and protected her all her short life, and the carriage was bearing her onwards to the home in which she was to live alone as this man's companion to the end of her existence.
She made no further propitiatory efforts, but sat and stared in simple blankness at the country, which seemed to increase in loveliness at each new point of view. Sometimes she saw sweet wooded, rolling lands made lovelier by the homely farmhouses and cottages enclosed and sheltered by thick hedges and trees; once or twice they drove past a park enfolding a great house guarded by its huge sentinel oaks and beeches; once the carriage passed through an adorable little village, where children played on the green and a square-towered grey church seemed to watch over the steep-roofed cottages and creeper-covered vicarage. If she had been a happy American tourist travelling in company with impressionable friends, she would have broken into ecstatic little exclamations of admiration every five minutes, but it had been driven home to her that to her present companion, to whom nothing was new, her rapture would merely represent the crudeness which had existed in contentment in a brown-stone house on a noisy thoroughfare, through a life which had been passed tramping up and down numbered streets and avenues.
They approached at last a second village with a green, a grass-grown street and the irregular red-tiled cottages, which to the unaccustomed eye seemed rather to represent studies for sketches than absolute realities. The bells in the church tower broke forth into a chime and people appeared at the doors of the cottages. The men touched their foreheads as the carriage passed, and the children made bobbing curtsies. Sir Nigel condescended to straighten himself a trifle in his seat, and recognised the greetings with the stiff, half-military salute. The poor girl at his side felt that he put as little feeling as possible into the movement, and that if she herself had been a bowing villager she would almost have preferred to be wholly ignored. She looked at him questioningly.
"Are they—must I?" she began.
"Make some civil recognition," answered Sir Nigel, as if he were instructing an ignorant child. "It is customary."
So she bowed and tried to smile, and the joyous clamour of the bells brought the awful lump into her throat again. It reminded her of the ringing of the chimes at the New York church on that day of her marriage, which had been so full of gay, luxurious bustle, so crowded with wedding presents, and flowers, and warm-hearted, affectionate congratulations, and good wishes uttered in merry American voices.
The park at Stornham Court was large and beautiful and old. The trees were magnificent, and the broad sweep of sward and rich dip of ferny dell all that the imagination could desire. The Court itself was old, and many-gabled and mellow-red and fine. Rosalie had learned from no precedent as yet that houses of its kind may represent the apotheosis of discomfort and dilapidation within, and only become more beautiful without. Tumbled-down chimneys and broken tiles, being clambered over by tossing ivy, are pictures to delight the soul.
As she descended from the carriage the girl was tremulous and uncertain of herself and much overpowered by the unbending air of the man-servant who received her as if she were a parcel in which it was no part of his duty to take the smallest interest. As she mounted the stone steps she caught a glimpse of broad gloom within the threshold, a big, square, dingy hall where some other servants were drawn up in a row. She had read of something of the sort in English novels, and she was suddenly embarrassed afresh by her realisation of the fact that she did not know what to do and that if she made a mistake Nigel would never forgive her.
An elderly woman came out of a room opening into the hall. She was an ugly woman of a rigid carriage, which, with the obvious intention of being severely majestic, was only antagonistic. She had a flaccid chin, and was curiously like Nigel. She had also his expression when he intended to be disagreeable. She was the Dowager Lady Anstruthers, and being an entirely revolting old person at her best, she objected extremely to the transatlantic bride who had made her a dowager, though she was determinedly prepared to profit by any practical benefit likely to accrue.
"Well, Nigel," she said in a deep voice. "Here you are at last."
This was of course a statement not to be refuted. She held out a leathern cheek, and as Sir Nigel also presented his, their caress of greeting was a singular and not effusive one.
"Is this your wife?" she asked, giving Rosalie a bony hand. And as he did not indignantly deny this to be the fact, she added, "How do you do?"
Rosalie murmured a reply and tried to control herself by making another effort to swallow the lump in her throat. But she could not swallow it. She had been keeping a desperate hold on herself too long. The bewildered misery of her awakening, the awkwardness of the public row at the station, the sulks which had filled the carriage to repletion through all the long drive, and finally the jangling bells which had so recalled that last joyous day at home—at home—had brought her to a point where this meeting between mother and son—these two stony, unpleasant creatures exchanging a reluctant rub of uninviting cheeks—as two savages might have rubbed noses—proved the finishing impetus to hysteria. They were so hideous, these two, and so ghastly comic and fantastic in their unresponsive glumness, that the poor girl lost all hold upon herself and broke into a trembling shriek of laughter.
"Oh!" she gasped in terror at what she felt to be her indecent madness. "Oh! how—how——" And then seeing Nigel's furious start, his mother's glare and all the servants' alarmed stare at her, she rushed staggering to the only creature she felt she knew—her maid Hannah, clutched her and broke down into wild sobbing.
"Oh, take me away!" she cried. "Oh, do! Oh, do! Oh, Hannah! Oh, mother—mother!"
"Take your mistress to her room," commanded Sir Nigel. "Go downstairs," he called out to the servants. "Take her upstairs at once and throw water in her face," to the excited Hannah.
And as the new Lady Anstruthers was half led, half dragged, in humiliated hysteric disorder up the staircase, he took his mother by the elbow, marched her into the nearest room and shut the door. There they stood and stared at each other, breathing quick, enraged breaths and looking particularly alike with their heavy-featured, thick-skinned, infuriated faces.
It was the Dowager who spoke first, and her whole voice and manner expressed all she intended that they should, all the derision, dislike and scathing resignment to a grotesque fate.
"Well," said her ladyship. "So THIS is what you have brought home from America!"
A MISTAKE OF THE POSTBOY'S
As the weeks passed at Stornham Court the Atlantic Ocean seemed to Rosalie Anstruthers to widen endlessly, and gay, happy, noisy New York to recede until it was as far away as some memory of heaven. The girl had been born in the midst of the rattling, rumbling bustle, and it had never struck her as assuming the character of noise; she had only thought of it as being the cheerful confusion inseparable from town. She had been secretly offended and hurt when strangers said that New York was noisy and dirty; when they called it vulgar, she never wholly forgave them. She was of the New Yorkers who adore their New York as Parisians adore Paris and who feel that only within its beloved boundaries can the breath of life be breathed. People were often too hot or too cold there, but there was usually plenty of bright glaring sun, and the extremes of the weather had at least something rather dramatic about them. There were dramatic incidents connected with them, at any rate. People fell dead of sunstroke or were frozen to death, and the newspapers were full of anecdotes during a "cold snap" or a "torrid wave," which all made for excitement and conversation.
But at Stornham the rain seemed to young Lady Anstruthers to descend ceaselessly. The season was a wet one, and when she rose in the morning and looked out over the huge stretch of trees and sward she thought she always saw the rain falling either in hopeless sheets or more hopeless drizzle. The occasions upon which this was a dreary truth blotted out or blurred the exceptions, when in liquid ultramarine deeps of sky, floated islands and mountains of snow-white fleece, of a beauty of which she had before had no conception.
In the English novels she had read, places such as Stornham Court were always filled with "house parties," made up of wonderful town wits and beauties, who provided endless entertainment for each other, who played games, who hunted and shot pheasants and shone in dazzling amateur theatricals. There were, however, no visitors at Stornham, and there were in fact, no accommodations for any. There were numberless bedrooms, but none really fit for guests to occupy. Carpets and curtains were ancient and ragged, furniture was dilapidated, chimneys would not draw, beds were falling to pieces. The Dowager Lady Anstruthers had never either attracted desired, or been able to afford company. Her son's wife suffered from the resulting boredom and unpopularity without being able to comprehend the significance of the situation.
As the weeks dragged by a few heavy carriages deposited at the Court a few callers. Some of the visitors bore imposing titles, which made Rosalie very nervous and caused her hastily to array herself to receive them in toilettes much too pretty and delicate for the occasion. Her innocent idea was that she must do her husband credit by appearing as "stylish" as possible.
As a result she was stared at, either with open disfavour, or with well-bred, furtive criticism, and was described afterwards as being either "very American" or "very over-dressed." When she had lived in huge rooms in Fifth Avenue, Rosalie had changed her attire as many times a day as she had changed her fancy; every hour had been filled with engagements and amusements; the Vanderpoel carriages had driven up to the door and driven away again and again through the mornings and afternoons and until midnight and later. Someone was always going out or coming in. There had been in the big handsome house not much more of an air of repose than one might expect to find at a railway station; but the flurry, the coming and going, the calling and chatting had all been cheery, amiable. At Stornham, Rosalie sat at breakfast before unchanging boiled eggs, unfailing toast and unalterable broiled bacon, morning after morning. Sir Nigel sat and munched over the newspapers, his mother, with an air of relentless disapproval from a lofty height of both her food and companions, disposed of her eggs and her rasher at Rosalie's right hand. She had transferred to her daughter-in-law her previously occupied seat at the head of the table. This had been done with a carefully prepared scene of intense though correct disagreeableness, in which she had managed to convey all the rancour of her dethroned spirit and her disapproval and disdain of international alliances.
"It is of course proper that you should sit at the head of your husband's table," she had said, among other agreeable things. "A woman having devoted her life to her son must relinquish her position to the person he chooses to marry. If you should have a son you will give up your position to his wife. Since Nigel has married you, he has, of course, a right to expect that you will at least make an effort to learn something of what is required of women of your position."
"Sit down, Rosalie," said Nigel. "Of course you take the head of the table, and naturally you must learn what is expected of my wife, but don't talk confounded rubbish, mother, about devoting your life to your son. We have seen about as little of each other as we could help. We never agreed." They were both bullies and each made occasional efforts at bullying the other without any particular result. But each could at least bully the other into intensified unpleasantness.
The vicar's wife having made her call of ceremony upon the new Lady Anstruthers, followed up the acquaintance, and found her quite exotically unlike her mother-in-law, whose charities one may be sure had neither been lavish nor dispensed by any hand less impressive than her own. The younger woman was of wholly malleable material. Her sympathies were easily awakened and her purse was well filled and readily opened. Small families or large ones, newly born infants or newly buried ones, old women with "bad legs" and old men who needed comforts, equally touched her heart. She innocently bestowed sovereigns where an Englishwoman would have known that half-crowns would have been sufficient. As the vicaress was her almoner that lady felt her importance rapidly on the increase. When she left a cottage saying, "I'll speak to young Lady Anstruthers about you," the good woman of the house curtsied low and her husband touched his forehead respectfully.
But this did not advance the fortunes of Sir Nigel, who personally required of her very different things. Two weeks after her arrival at Stornham, Rosalie began to see that somehow she was regarded as a person almost impudently in the wrong. It appeared that if she had been an English girl she would have been quite different, that she would have been an advantage instead of a detriment. As an American she was a detriment. That seemed to go without saying. She tried to do everything she was told, and learn something from each cold insinuation. She did not know that her very amenability and timidity were her undoing. Sir Nigel and his mother thoroughly enjoyed themselves at her expense. They knew they could say anything they chose, and that at the most she would only break down into crying and afterwards apologise for being so badly behaved. If some practical, strong-minded person had been near to defend her she might have been rescued promptly and her tyrants routed. But she was a young girl, tender of heart and weak of nature. She used to cry a great deal when she was alone, and when she wrote to her mother she was too frightened to tell the truth concerning her unhappiness.
"Oh, if I could just see some of them!" she would wail to herself. "If I could just see mother or father or anybody from New York! Oh, I know I shall never see New York again, or Broadway or Fifth Avenue or Central Park—I never—never—never shall!" And she would grovel among her pillows, burying her face and half stifling herself lest her sobs should be heard. Her feeling for her husband had become one of terror and repulsion. She was almost more afraid of his patronising, affectionate moments than she was of his temper.
His conjugal condescensions made her feel vaguely—without knowing why—as if she were some lower order of little animal.
American women, he said, had no conception of wifely duties and affection. He had a great deal to say on the subject of wifely duty. It was part of her duty as a wife to be entirely satisfied with his society, and to be completely happy in the pleasure it afforded her. It was her wifely duty not to talk about her own family and palpitatingly expect letters by every American mail. He objected intensely to this letter writing and receiving, and his mother shared his prejudices.
"You have married an Englishman," her ladyship said. "You have put it out of his power to marry an Englishwoman, and the least consideration you can show is to let New York and Nine-hundredth street remain upon the other side of the Atlantic and not insist on dragging them into Stornham Court."
The Dowager Lady Anstruthers was very fine in her picture of her mental condition, when she realised, as she seemed periodically to do, that it was no longer possible for her son to make a respectable marriage with a woman of his own nation. The unadorned fact was that both she and Sir Nigel were infuriated by the simplicity which made Rosalie slow in comprehending that it was proper that the money her father allowed her should be placed in her husband's hands, and left there with no indelicate questioning. If she had been an English girl matters would have been made plain to her from the first and arranged satisfactorily before her marriage. Sir Nigel's mother considered that he had played the fool, and would not believe that New York fathers were such touchy, sentimental idiots as not to know what was expected of them.
They wasted no time, however, in coming to the point, and in a measure it was the vicaress who aided them. Not she entirely, however.
Since her mother-in-law's first mention of a possible son whose wife would eventually thrust her from her seat at the head of the table, Rosalie had several times heard this son referred to. It struck her that in England such things seemed discussed with more freedom than in America. She had never heard a young woman's possible family arranged for and made the subject of conversation in the more crude atmosphere of New York. It made her feel rather awkward at first. Then she began to realise that the son was part of her wifely duty also; that she was expected to provide one, and that he was in some way expected to provide for the estate—to rehabilitate it—and that this was because her father, being a rich man, would provide for him. It had also struck her that in England there was a tendency to expectation that someone would "provide" for someone else, that relatives even by marriage were supposed to "make allowances" on which it was quite proper for other persons to live. Rosalie had been accustomed to a community in which even rich men worked, and in which young and able-bodied men would have felt rather indignant if aunts or uncles had thought it necessary to pension them off as if they had been impotent paupers. It was Rosalie's son who was to be "provided for" in this case, and who was to "provide for" his father.
"When you have a son," her mother-in-law had remarked severely, "I suppose something will be done for Nigel and the estate."
This had been said before she had been ten days in the house, and had set her not-too-quick brain working. She had already begun to see that life at Stornham Court was not the luxurious affair it was in the house in Fifth Avenue. Things were shabby and queer and not at all comfortable. Fires were not lighted because a day was chilly and gloomy. She had once asked for one in her bedroom and her mother-in-law had reproved her for indecent extravagance in a manner which took her breath away.
"I suppose in America you have your house at furnace heat in July," she said. "Mere wastefulness and self-indulgence! That is why Americans are old women at twenty. They are shrivelled and withered by the unhealthy lives they lead. Stuffing themselves with sweets and hot bread and never breathing the fresh air."
Rosalie could not at the moment recall any withered and shrivelled old women of twenty, but she blushed and stammered as usual.
"It is never cold enough for fires in July," she answered, "but we—we never think fires extravagant when we are not comfortable without them."
"Coal must be cheaper than it is in England," said her ladyship. "When you have a daughter, I hope you do not expect to bring her up as girls are brought up in New York."
This was the first time Rosalie had heard of her daughter, and she was not ready enough to reply. She naturally went into her room and cried again, wondering what her father and mother would say if they knew that bedroom fires were considered vulgarly extravagant by an impressive member of the British aristocracy.