November 19
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

300 PARK STREET, Saturday night, November 19th.

I do not much care to look back to the rest of my stay at Tryland. It is an unpleasant memory.

That next day after I last wrote, it poured with rain, and every one came down cross to breakfast. The whole party appeared, except Lady Verningham, and breakfast was just as stiff and boring as dinner. I happened to be seated when Lord Robert came in, and Malcolm was in the place beside me. Lord Robert hardly spoke, and looked at me once or twice with his eyebrows right up.

I did long to say it was because I had promised Lady Ver I would not play with him that I was not talking to him now like the afternoon before. I wonder if he ever guessed it. Oh, I wished then, and I have wished a hundred times since, that I had never promised at all. It seemed as if it would be wisest to avoid him, as how could I explain the change in myself? I hated the food, and Malcolm had such an air of proprietorship it annoyed me as much as I could see it annoyed Lady Katherine. I sniffed at him, and was as disagreeable as could be.

The breakfasts there don't shine, and porridge is pressed upon people by Mr. Montgomerie. "Capital stuff to begin the day--burrrr," he says.

Lord Robert could not find anything he wanted, it seemed. Every one was peevish. Lady Katherine has a way of marshalling people on every occasion; she reminds me of a hen with chickens, putting her wings down and clucking and chasing till they are all in a corner. And she is rather that shape, too, very much rounded in front. The female brood soon found themselves in the morning-room, with the door shut, and no doubt the male things fared the same with their host--anyway, we saw no more of them till we caught sight of them passing the windows in scutums and mackintoshes, a depressed company of sportsmen.

The only fortunate part was that Malcolm had found no opportunity to remind me of my promise, whatever it was, and I felt safer.

Oh, that terrible morning! Much worse than when we were alone; nearly all of them, about seven women beyond the family, began fancy-work.

One, a Lady Letitia Smith, was doing a crewel silk blotting-book that made me quite bilious to look at, and she was very short-sighted, and had such an irritating habit of asking every one to match her threads for her. They knitted ties and stockings, and crocheted waistcoats and comforters and hoods for the North Sea fishermen, and one even tatted. Just like housemaids do in their spare hours to trim Heaven knows what garment of unbleached calico.

I asked her what it was for, and she said for the children's pinafores in her "guild" work. If one doesn't call that waste of time, I wonder what is.

Mrs. Carruthers said it was much more useful to learn to sit still and not fidget than to fill the world with rubbish like this.

Mary Mackintosh dominated the conversation. She and Lady Letitia Smith, who have both small babies, revelled in nursery details, and then whispered bits for us, the young girls not to hear. We caught scraps though, and it sounded grewsome, whatever it was about. Oh, I do wonder when I get married if I shall grow like them!

I hope not.

It is no wonder married men are obliged to say gallant things to other people, if, when they get home, their wives are like that.

I tried to be agreeable to a lady who was next me. She was a Christian Scientist, and wore glasses. She endeavored to convert me, but I was abnormally thick-headed that day, and had to have things explained over and over, so she gave it up at last.

Finally, when I felt I should do something desperate, a footman came to say Lady Verningham wished to see me in her room, and I bounded up, but as I got to the door I saw them beginning to shake their heads over her.

"Sad that dear Ianthe has such irregular habits of breakfasting in her room; so bad for her," etc., etc. But, thank Heaven, I was soon outside in the hall, where her maid was waiting for me.

One would hardly have recognized that it was a Montgomerie apartment, the big room overlooking the porch, where she was located, so changed did its aspect seem. She had numbers of photographs about, and the loveliest gold toilet things, and lots of frilled garments, and flowers, and scent-bottles; and her own pillows propping her up, all blue silk, and lovely muslin embroideries; and she did look such a sweet, cosey thing among it all, her dark hair in fluffs round her face, and an angelic lace cap over it. She was smoking a cigarette, and writing numbers of letters with a gold stylograph pen. The blue silk quilt was strewn with correspondence, and newspapers, and telegraph forms. And her garment was low-necked, of course, and thin like mine. I wondered what Alexander would have thought if he could have seen her in contrast to Mary. I know which I would choose if I were a man.

"Oh, there you are!" she exclaimed, looking up, and puffing smoke clouds. "Sit on the bye-bye, snake-girl. I felt I must rescue you from the hoard of holies below, and I wanted to look at you in the daylight. Yes, you have extraordinary hair, and real eyelashes and complexion, too. You are a witch thing, I can see, and we shall all have to beware of you."

I smiled. She did not say it rudely, or I should have been uppish at once. She has a wonderful charm.

"You don't speak much, either," she continued. "I feel you are dangerous. That is why I am being so civil to you; I think it wisest. I can't stand girls as a rule." And she went into one of her ripples of laughter. "Now say you will not hurt me."

"I should not hurt any one," I said. "Unless they hurt me first, and I like you, you are so pretty."

"That is all right," she said. "Then we are comrades. I was frightened about Robert last evening, because I am so attached to him; but you were a darling after dinner, and it will be all right now. I told him you would probably marry Malcolm Montgomerie, and he was not to interfere."

"I shall do nothing of the kind!" I exclaimed, moving off the bed. "I would as soon die as spend the rest of my life here at Tryland."

"He will be fabulously rich one day, you know, and you could get round père Montgomerie in a trice, and revolutionize the whole place. You had better think of it."

"I won't," I said, and I felt my eyes sparkle. She put up her hands as if to ward off an evil spirit, and she laughed again. "Well, you sha'n't then. Only don't flash those emeralds at me; they give me quivers all over."

"Would you like to marry Malcolm?" I asked and I sat down again. "Fancy being owned by that! Fancy seeing it every day! Fancy living with a person who never sees a joke from week's end to week's end! Oh!"

"As for that--" and she puffed smoke. "Husbands are a race apart--there are men, women, and husbands; and if they pay bills, and shoot big game in Africa, it is all one ought to ask of them; to be able to see jokes is superfluous. Mine is most inconvenient, because he generally adores me, and at best only leaves me for a three weeks' cure at Homburg, and now and then a week at Paris; but Malcolm could be sent to the Rocky Mountains, and places like that, continuously; he is quite a sportsman."

"That is not my idea of a husband," I said.

"Well, what is your idea, snake-girl?"

"Why do you call me 'snake-girl'?" I asked. "I hate snakes."

She took her cigarette out of her mouth, and looked at me for some seconds.

"Because you are so sinuous; there is not a stiff line about your movements, you are utterly wicked-looking and attractive, too, and un-English, and what in the world Aunt Katherine asked you here for with those hideous girls I can't imagine. I would not have, if my three angels were grown up, and like them--" Then she showed me the photographs of her three angels--they are pets.

But my looks seemed to bother her, for she went back to them.

"Where do you get them from? Was your mother some other nation?"

I told her how poor mamma had been rather an accident, and was nobody much. "One could not tell, you see; she might have had any quaint creature beyond the grand-parents--perhaps I am mixed with Red Indian or nigger."

She looked at me searchingly.

"No, you are not; you are Venetian. That is it--some wicked, beautiful friend of a Doge, come to life again."

"I know I am wicked," I said. "I am always told it; but I have not done anything yet, or had any fun out of it, and I do want to."

She laughed again.

"Well, you must come to London with me when I leave here on Saturday, and we will see what we can do."

This sounded so nice, and yet I had a feeling that I wanted to refuse; if there had been a tone of patronage in her voice, I would have in a minute. We sat and talked a long time, and she did tell me some interesting things. The world, she as**sured me, was a delightful place if one could escape bores, and had a good cook and a few friends. After a while I left her, as she suddenly thought she would come down to luncheon.

"I don't think it would be safe, at the present stage, to leave you alone with Robert," she said.

I was angry.

"I have promised not to play with him; is that not enough?" I exclaimed.

"Do you know, I believe it is, snake-girl," she said, and there was something wistful in her eyes; "but you are twenty, and I am past thirty, and--he is a man. So one can't be too careful." Then she laughed, and I left her putting a toe into a blue satin slipper and ringing for her maid.

I don't think age can matter much; she is far more attractive than any girl, and she need not pretend she is afraid of me. But the thing that struck me then, and has always struck me since, is that to have to hold a man by one's own manoeuvres could not be agreeable to one's self-respect. I would never do that under any circumstances; if he would not stay because it was the thing he wanted to do most in the world, he might go. I should say, "Je m'en fiche!"

At luncheon, for which the guns came in--no nice picnic in a lodge as at Branches--I purposely sat between two old gentlemen, and did my best to be respectful and intelligent. One was quite a nice old thing, and at the end began paying me compliments. He laughed and laughed at everything I said. Opposite me were Malcolm and Lord Robert, with Lady Ver between them. They both looked sulky. It was quite a while before she could get them gay and pleasant. I did not enjoy myself.

After it was over, Lord Robert deliberately walked up to me.

"Why are you so capricious?" he asked. "I won't be treated like this. You know very well I have only come here to see you. We are such friends--or were. Why?"

Oh, I did want to say I was friends still, and would love to talk to him. He seemed so adorably good-looking, and such a shape! And his blue eyes had the nicest flash of anger in them.

I could have kept my promise to the letter, and yet broken it in the spirit, easily enough, by letting him understand by inference; but of course one could not be so mean as that when one was going to eat her salt, so I looked out of the window and answered coldly that I was quite friendly and did not understand him, and I immediately turned to my old gentleman and walked with him into the library. In fact, I was as cool as I could be without being actually rude, but all the time there was a flat, heavy feeling round my heart. He looked so cross and reproachful, and I did not like him to think me capricious.

We did not see them again until tea--the sportsmen, I mean. But tea at Tryland is not a friendly time; it is just as stiff as other meals. Lady Ver never let Lord Robert leave her side, and immediately after tea everybody who stayed in the drawing-room played bridge, where they were planted until the dressing-bell rang.

One would have thought Lady Katherine would have disapproved of cards, but I suppose every one must have one contradiction about them, for she loves bridge, and played for the lowest stakes with the air of a "needy adventurer" as the books say.

I can't write the whole details of the rest of the visit. I was miserable, and that is the truth. Fate seemed to be against Lord Robert speaking to me, even when he tried, and I felt I must be extra cool and nasty because I--oh, well, I may as well say it--he attracts me very much. I never once looked at him from under my eyelashes, and after the next day he did not even try to have an explanation.

He glanced with wrath sometimes, especially when Malcolm hung over me, and Lady Ver said his temper was dreadful.

She was so sweet to me, it almost seemed as if she wanted to make up to me for not letting me play with Lord Robert.

(Of course, I would not allow her to see I minded that.) And finally Friday came, and the last night.

I sat in my room from tea until dinner. I could not stand Malcolm any longer. I had fenced with him rather well up to then, but that promise of mine hung over me. I nipped him every time he attempted to explain what it was, and to this moment I don't know, but it did not prevent him from saying tiresome, loving things, mixed with priggish advice. I don't know what would have happened, only when he got really horribly affectionate, just after tea, I was so exasperated I launched this bomb.

"I don't believe a word you are saying--your real interest is Angela Grey."

He nearly had a fit, and shut up at once. So, of course, it is not a horse. I felt sure of it. Probably one of those people Mrs. Carruthers said all young men knew--their adolescent measles and chicken-pox, she called them.

All the old men talked a great deal to me, and even the other two young ones; but these last days I did not seem to have any of my usual spirits. Just as we were going to bed on Friday night Lord Robert came up to Lady Ver; she had her hand through my arm.

"I can come to the play with you on Saturday night, after all," he said. "I have wired to Campion to make a fourth, and you will get some other woman, won't you?"

"I will try," said Lady Ver, and she looked right into his eyes; then she turned to me. "I shall feel so cruel leaving you alone, Evangeline" (at once, almost, she called me Evangeline; I should never do that with strangers), "but I suppose you ought not to be seen at a play just yet."

"I like being alone," I said. "I shall go to sleep early."

Then they settled to dine all together at her house, and go on; so, knowing I should see him again, I did not even say good-bye to Lord Robert, and he left by the early train.

A number of the guests came up to London with us.

My leave-taking with Lady Katherine had been coldly cordial. I thanked her deeply for her kindness in asking me there. She did not renew the invitation; I expect she felt a person like me, who would have to look after themselves, was not a suitable companion to her altar-cloth and poker workers.

Up to now, she told Lady Ver, of course I had been most carefully brought up and taken care of by Mrs. Carruthers, although she had not approved of her views. And having done her best for me at this juncture, saving me from staying alone with Mr. Carruthers, she felt it was all she was called upon to do. She thought my position would become too unconventional for their circle in future! Lady Ver told me all this with great glee. She was sure it would amuse me, it so amused her, but it made me a teeny bit remember the story of the boys and the frogs!

Lady Ver now and then puts out a claw which scratches, while she ripples with laughter. Perhaps she does not mean it.

This house is nice, and full of pretty things, as far as I have seen. We arrived just in time to fly into our clothes for dinner. I am in a wee room four stories up, by the three angels. I was down first, and Lord Robert and Mr. Campion were in the drawing-room. Sir Charles Verningham is in Paris, by-the-way, so I have not seen him yet.

Lord Robert was stroking the hair of the eldest angel, who had not gone to bed. The loveliest thing she is, and so polite, and different to Mary Mackintosh's infants.

He introduced Mr. Campion stiffly, and returned to Mildred--the angel.

Suddenly mischief came into me, the reaction from the last dull days; so I looked straight at Mr. Campion from under my eyelashes, and it had the effect it always has on people--he became interested at once. I don't know why this does something funny to them. I remember I first noticed it in the school-room at Branches. I was doing a horrible exercise upon the participe passé, and feeling very égarée, when one of the old ambassadors came in to see mademoiselle. I looked up quickly, with my head a little down, and he said to mademoiselle, in a low voice, in German, that I had the strangest eyes he had ever seen, and that uplook under the eyelashes was the affair of the devil!

Now I knew even then the affair of the devil is something attractive, so I have never forgotten it, although I was only about fifteen at the time. I always determined I would try it when I grew up and wanted to create emotions. Except Mr. Carruthers and Lord Robert, I have never had much chance, though.

Mr. Campion sat down beside me on a sofa, and began to say at once that I ought to be going to the play with them. I spoke in my velvet voice, and said I was in too deep mourning, and he apologized so nicely, rather confused.

He is quite a decent-looking person, smart and well groomed, like Lord Robert, but not that lovely shape. We talked on for about ten minutes. I said very little, but he never took his eyes off my face. All the time I was conscious that Lord Robert was fidgeting and playing with a china cow that was on a table near, and just before the butler announced Mrs. Fairfax he dropped it on the floor and broke its tail off.

Mrs. Fairfax is not pretty; she has reddish-gold hair, with brown roots, and a very dark skin, but it is nicely done--the hair, I mean, and perhaps the skin too, as sideways you can see the pink sticking up on it. It must be rather a nuisance to have to do all that, but it is certainly better than looking like Mary Mackintosh. She doesn't balance nicely--bits of her are too long or too short. I do like to see everything in the right place--like Lord Robert's figure. Lady Ver came in just then, and we all went down to dinner. Mrs. Fairfax gushed at her a good deal. Lady Ver does not like her much--she told me in the train--but she was obliged to wire to her to come, as she could not get any one else Mr. Campion liked on so short a notice.

"The kind of woman every one knows, and who has no sort of pride," she said.

Well, even when I am really an adventuress I sha'n't be like that.

Dinner was very gay.

Lady Ver, away from her decorous relations, is most amusing. She says anything that comes into her head. Mrs. Fairfax got cross because Mr. Campion would speak to me; but as I did not particularly take to her, I did not mind, and just amused myself. As the party was so small, Lord Robert and I were obliged to talk a little, and once or twice I forgot and let myself be natural and smile at him. His eyebrows went up in that questioning, pathetic way he has, and he looked so attractive--that made me remember again, and instantly turn away. When we were coming into the hall, while Lady Ver and Mrs. Fairfax were up putting on their cloaks, Lord Robert came up close to me and whispered: "I can't understand you. There is some reason for your treating me like this, and I will find it out. Why are you so cruel, little, wicked tiger cat?" and he pinched one of my fingers until I could have cried out.

That made me so angry.

"How dare you touch me!" I said. "It is because you know I have no one to take care of me that you presume like this."

I felt my eyes blaze at him, but there was a lump in my throat. I would not have been hurt if it had been any one else, only angry; but he had been so respectful and gentle with me at Branches, and I had liked him so much. It seemed more cruel for him to be impertinent now.

His face fell; indeed, all the fierceness went out of it, and he looked intensely miserable.

"Oh, don't say that!" he said, in a choked voice. "I--oh, that is the one thing you know is not true."

Mr. Campion, with his fur coat fastened, came up at that moment, saying gallant things, and insinuating that we must meet again, but I said good-night quietly, and came up the stairs without a word more to Lord Robert.

"Good-night, Evangeline, pet," Lady Ver said, when I met her on the drawing-room landing, coming down. "I do feel a wretch, leaving you, but to-morrow I will really try and amuse you. You look very pale, child; the journey has tried you, probably."

"Yes, I am tired," I tried to say in a natural voice, but the end word shook a little, and Lord Robert was just behind, having run up the stairs after me, so I fear he must have heard.

"Miss Travers--please--" he implored, but I walked on up the next flight, and Lady Ver put her hand on his arm and drew him down with her, and as I got up to the fourth floor I heard the front door shut.

And now they are gone and I am alone. My tiny room is comfortable, and the fire is burning brightly. I have a big arm-chair and books, and this, my journal, and all is cosey--only I feel so miserable.

I won't cry and be a silly coward.

Why, of course it is amusing to be free. And I am not grieving over Mrs. Carruthers's death--only perhaps I am lonely, and I wish I were at the theatre. No, I don't--I--Oh, the thing I do wish is that--that--no, I won't write it even.

Good-night, journal!