November 14
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

TRYLAND COURT, Monday, November 14th.

I have not felt like writing; these last days have been so stodgy--sticky, I was going to say. Endless infant talk. The methods of head nurses, teething, the knavish tricks of nursemaids, patent foods, bottles, bibs--everything. Enough to put one off forever from wishing to get married. And Mary Mackintosh sitting there all out of shape, expounding theories that can have no results in practice, as there could not be worse-behaved children than hers.

They even try Lady Katherine, I can see, when the two eldest, who come in while we are at breakfast each day, take the jam-spoon, or something equally horrid, and dab it all over the cloth. Yesterday they put their hands in the honey-dish which Mr. Montgomerie was helping himself to, and then after smearing him (the "burrrs" were awful), they went round the table to escape being caught, and fingered the backs of every one's chair and the door-handle, so that one could not touch a thing without getting sticky.

"Alexander, dearie," Mary said. "Alec must have his mouth wiped."

Poor Mr. Mackintosh had to get up and leave his breakfast, catch these imps, and employ his table-napkin in vain.

"Take 'em up-stairs, do--burrrr," roared their fond grandfather.

"Oh, father, the poor darlings are not really naughty," Mary said, offended. "I like them to be with us all as much as possible. I thought they would be such a pleasure to you."

Upon which, hearing the altercation, both infants set up a yell of fear and rage, and Alec, the cherub of four and a half, lay on the floor and kicked and screamed until he was black in the face.

Mr. Mackintosh is too small to manage two, so one of the footmen had to come and help him to carry them up to their nursery. Oh, I would not be in his place for the world!

Malcolm is becoming so funny. I suppose he is attracted by me. He makes kind of love in a priggish way whenever he gets the chance, which is not often, as Lady Katherine contrives to send one of the girls with us on all our walks; or if we are in the drawing-room, she comes and sits down beside us herself. I am glad, as it would be a great bore to listen to a quantity of it.

How silly of her, though! She can't know as much about men as even I do; of course, it only makes him all the more eager.

It is quite an object-lesson for me. I shall be impossibly difficult myself if I meet Mr. Carruthers again, as he has no mother to play these tricks for him.

Lord Robert's answer came on Saturday afternoon. It was all done through Lady Merrenden.

He will be delighted to come and shoot on Tuesday, to-morrow. Oh, I am so glad, but I do wonder if I shall be able to make him understand not to say anything about having been at Branches while I was there. Such a simple thing, but Lady Katherine is so odd and particular.

The party is to be a large one--nine guns. I hope some will be amusing, though I rather fear.

Tuesday night.

It is quite late, nearly twelve o'clock, but I feel so wide awake I must write.

I shall begin from the beginning, when every one arrived.

They came by two trains early in the afternoon, and just at tea-time, and Lord Robert was among the last lot.

They are mostly the same sort as Lady Katherine, looking as good as gold; but one woman, Lady Verningham, Lady Katherine's niece, is different, and I liked her at once.

She has lovely clothes, and an exquisite figure, and her hat on the right way. She has charming manners, too, but one can see she is on a duty visit.

Even all this company did not altogether stop Mary Mackintosh laying down the law upon domestic--infant domestic--affairs. We all sat in the big drawing-room, and I caught Lady Verningham's eye, and we laughed together. The first eye with a meaning in it I have seen since I left Branches.

Everybody talked so agreeably, with pauses, not enjoying themselves at all, when Jean and Kirstie began about their work, and explained it, and tried to get orders, and Jessie and Maggie too, and specimens of it all had to be shown, and prices fixed. I should hate to have to beg, even for a charity.

I felt quite uncomfortable for them, but they did not mind a bit, and their victims were noble over it.

Our parson at Branches always got so red and nervous when he had to ask for anything, one could see he was quite a gentleman; but women are different, I suppose.

I longed for tea.

While they are all very kind here, there is that asphyxiating atmosphere of stiffness and decorum which affects every one who comes to Tryland. A sort of "the gold must be tried by fire and the heart must be wrung by pain" kind of suggestion about everything.

They are extraordinarily cheerful, because it is a Christian virtue, cheerfulness; not because they are brimming over with joy, or that lovely feeling of being alive and not minding much what happens, you feel so splendid, like I get on fine days.

Everything they do has a reason, or a moral, in it. This party is because pheasants have to be killed in November, and certain people have to be entertained, and their charities can be as**sisted through them. Oh, if I had a big house, and were rich, I would have lovely parties, with all sorts of nice people, because I wanted to give them a good time and laugh myself. Lady Verningham was talking to me just before tea, when the second train-load arrived.

I tried to be quite indifferent, but I did feel dreadfully excited when Lord Robert walked in. Oh, he looked such a beautiful creature, so smart, and straight, and lithe!

Lady Katherine was frightfully stiff with him; it would have discouraged most people, but that is the lovely part about Lord Robert, he is always absolutely sans gêne!

He saw me at once, of course, and came over as straight as a die the moment he could.

"How do, Robert?" said Lady Verningham, giving him her fingers in such an attractive way. "Why are you here, and why is our Campie not? Thereby hangs some tale, I feel sure."

"Why, yes," said Lord Robert, and he held her hand. Then he looked at me with his eyebrow up. "But won't you introduce me to Miss Travers? To my great surprise she seems to have forgotten me."

I laughed, and Lady Verningham introduced us, and he sat down beside us, and every one began tea.

Lady Verningham had such a look in her eye!

"Robert, tell me about it," she said.

"I hear they have five thousand pheasants to slay," Lord Robert said, looking at her with his innocent smile.

"Robert, you are lying," she said, and she laughed. She is so pretty when she laughs; not very young, over thirty I should think, but such a charm--as different as different can be from the whole Montgomerie family.

I hardly spoke; they continued to tease one another, and Lord Robert ate most of a plate of bread-and-butter that was near.

"I am damed hungry, Lady Ver!" he said. She smiled at him; she evidently likes him very much.

"Robert! You must not use such language here!" she said.

"Oh, doesn't he say them often?--those dams!" I burst out, not thinking for a moment; then I stopped, remembering. She did seem surprised.

"So you have heard them before. I thought you had only just met casually," she said, with such a comic look of understanding, but not absolutely pleased. I stupidly got crimson. It did annoy me, because it shows so dreadfully on my skin. She leaned back in her chair and laughed.

"It is delightful to shoot five thousand pheasants, Robert," she said.

"Now, isn't it?" replied Lord Robert. He had finished the bread-and-butter.

Then he told her she was a dear, and he was glad something had suggested to Mr. Campion that he would have other views of living for this week.

"You are a joy, Robert," she said. "But you will have to behave here. None of the tricks you played at Fotherington in October, my child. Aunt Katherine would put you in a corner. Miss Travers has been here a week, and can tell you I am truthful about it."

"Indeed, yes," I said.

"But I must know how you got here!" she commanded.

Just then, fortunately, Malcolm, who had been hovering near, came up and joined us, and would talk too; but if he had been a table or a chair he could not have mattered less to Lord Robert. He is quite wonderful. He is not the least rude, only perfectly simple and direct, always getting just what he wants, with rather an appealing expression in his blue eyes. In a minute or two he and I were talking together, and Malcolm and Lady Verningham a few yards off. I felt so happy. He makes one like that, I don't know for what reason.

"Why did you look so stonily indifferent when I came up?" he asked. "I was afraid you were annoyed with me for coming."

Then I told him about Lady Katherine, and my stupidly not having mentioned meeting him at Branches.

"Oh, then I stayed with Christopher after you left, I see," he said. "Had I met you in London?"

"We won't tell any stories about it. They can think what they please."

"Very well," he laughed. "I can see I shall have to manoeuvre a good deal to talk quietly to you here, but you will stand with me, won't you, out shooting to-morrow?"

I told him I did not suppose we should be allowed to go out, except perhaps for lunch, but he said he refused to believe in such cruelty.

Then he asked me a lot of things about how I had been getting on, and what I intended to do next. He has the most charming way of making one feel that one knows him very well, he looks at one every now and then straight in the eyes, with astonishing frankness. I have never seen any person so quite without airs. I don't suppose he is ever thinking a bit the effect he is producing. Nothing has two meanings with him, like with Mr. Carruthers. If he had said I was to stay and marry him, I am sure he would have meant it, and I really believe I should have stayed.

"Do you remember our morning packing?" he said, presently, in such a caressing voice. "I was so happy; weren't you?"

I said I was.

"And Christopher was mad with us. He was like a bear with a sore head after you left, and insisted upon going up to town on Monday, just for the day. He came over here on Tuesday, didn't he?"

"No, he did not," I was obliged to say, and I felt cross about it still, I don't know why.

"He is a queer creature," said Lord Robert, "and I am glad you have not seen him. I don't want him in the way. I am a selfish brute, you know."

I said Mrs. Carruthers had always brought me up to know men were that, so such a thing would not prejudice me against him.

He laughed. "You must help me to come and sit and talk again after dinner," he said. "I can see the red-haired son means you for himself, but of course I shall not allow that."

I became uppish.

"Malcolm and I are great friends," I said, demurely. "He walks me round the golf-course in the park, and gives me advice."

"Confounded impertinence!" said Lord Robert.

"He thinks I ought not to go to Claridge's alone when I leave here, in case some one to me. He feels if I looked more like his sisters it would be safer. I have promised that Véronique shall stay at the other side of the door if I have visitors."

"Oh, he is afraid of that, is he? Well, I think it is very probable his fears will be realized, as I shall be in London," said Lord Robert.

"But how do you know," I began, with a questioning, serious air--"how do you know I should listen? You can't go on to deaf people, can you?"

"Are you deaf?" he asked. "I don't think so; anyway, I would try to cure your deafness." He bent close over to me, pretending to pick up a book.

Oh, I was having such a nice time!

All of a sudden I felt I was really living, the blood was jumping in my veins, and a number of provoking, agreeable things came to the tip of my tongue to say, and I said them. We were so happy.

Lord Robert is such a beautiful shape, that pleased me too; the perfect lines of things always give me a nice emotion. The other men look thick and clumsy beside him, and he does have such lovely clothes and ties.

We talked on and on. He began to show me he was deeply interested in me. His eyes, so blue and expressive, said even more than his words. I like to see him looking down; his eyelashes are absurdly long and curly, not jet black like mine and Mr. Carruthers's, but dark brown and soft and shaded, and, oh! I don't know how to say quite why they are so attractive. When one sees them half resting on his cheek it makes one feel it would be nice to put out the tip of one's finger and touch them. I never spent such a delightful afternoon. Only, alas! it was all too short.

"We will arrange to sit together after dinner," he whispered, as even before the dressing-gong had rung, Lady Katherine came and fussed about, and collected every one, and more or less drove them off to dress, saying, on the way up-stairs, to me, that I need not come down if I had rather not.

I thanked her again, but remained firm in my intention of accustoming myself to company.

Stay in my room, indeed, with Lord Robert at dinner--never!

However, when I did come down he was surrounded by Montgomeries, and pranced into the dining-room with Lady Verningham.

I had such a bore! A young Mackintosh, cousin of Mary's husband, and on the other side the parson. The one talked about botany in a hoarse whisper, with a Scotch accent, and the other gobbled his food, and made kind of pious jokes in between the mouthfuls.

I said, when I had borne it bravely up to the ices, I hated knowing what flowers were composed of, I only liked to pick them. The youth stared, and did not speak much more. For the parson, "Yes" now and then did, and like that we got through dinner.

Malcolm was opposite me, and he gaped most of the time. Even he might have been better than the botanist, but I suppose Lady Katherine felt these two would be a kind of half mourning for me. No one could have felt gay with them.

After dinner Lady Verningham took me over to a sofa with her, in a corner. The sofas here don't have pillows, as at Branches, but fortunately this one is a little apart, though not comfortable, and we could talk.

"You poor child!" she said; "you had a dull time. I was watching you. What did that Mactavish creature find to say to you?"

I told her, and that his name was Mackintosh, not Mactavish.

"Yes, I know," she said. "But I call the whole clan Mactavish; it is near enough, and it does worry Mary so, she corrects me every time. Now don't you want to get married, and be just like Mary?" There was a twinkle in her eye.

I said I had not felt wild about it yet. I wanted to go and see life first.

But she told me one couldn't see life unless one were married.

"Not even if one is an adventuress, like me?" I asked.

"A what?"

"An adventuress," I said. "People do seem so astonished when I say that. I have got to be one, you know, because Mrs. Carruthers never left me the money after all, and in the book I read about it, it said you were that if you had nice clothes, and--and--red hair--and things--and no home."

She rippled all over with laughter.

"You duck!" she said. "Now you and I will be friends. Only you must not play with Robert Vavasour. He belongs to me. He is one of my special and particular own pets. Is it a bargain?"

I do wish now I had the pluck then to say straight out that I rather liked Lord Robert, and would not make any bargain, but one is foolish sometimes when taken suddenly. It is then when I suppose it shows if one's head is screwed on, and mine wasn't to-night. But she looked so charming, and I felt a little proud, and perhaps ashamed to show that I am very much interested in Lord Robert, especially if he belongs to her, whatever that means; and so I said it was a bargain, and of course I had never thought of playing with him; but when I came to reflect afterwards, that is a promise, I suppose, and I sha'n't be able to look at him any more under my eyelashes. And I don't know why I feel very wide awake and tired, and rather silly, and as if I wanted to cry to-night.

However, she was awfully kind to me, and lovely, and has asked me to go and stay with her, and lots of nice things, so it is all for the best, no doubt. But when Lord Robert came in, and came over to us, it did feel hard having to get up at once and go and pretend I wanted to talk to Malcolm.

I did not dare to look up often, but sometimes, and I found Lord Robert's eyes were fixed on me with an air of reproach and entreaty, and the last time there was wrath as well.

Lady Verningham kept him with her until every one started to go to bed.

There had been music and bridge, and other boring diversions happening, but I sat still. And I don't know what Malcolm had been talking about; I had not been listening, though I kept murmuring "Yes" and "No."

He got more and more empressé, until suddenly I realized he was saying, as we rose: "You have promised! Now remember, and I shall ask you to keep it--to-morrow."

And there was such a loving, mawkish, wobbly look in his eyes, it made me feel quite sick. The horrible part is I don't know what I have promised any more than the man in the moon. It may be something perfectly dreadful, for all I know. Well, if it is a fearful thing, like kissing him, I shall have to break my word, which I never do for any consideration whatever.

Oh, dear, oh, dear! It is not always so easy to laugh at life as I once thought. I almost wish I were settled down, and had not to be an adventuress. Some situations are so difficult. I think now I shall go to bed.

I wonder if Lord Robert---- No, what is the good of wondering; he is no longer my affair.

I shall blow out the light.