November 24
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

300 PARK STREET, Thursday evening, November 24th.

Lady Merrenden is so nice--one of those kind faces that even a tight fringe in a net does not spoil. She is tall and graceful, past fifty perhaps, and has an expression of Lord Robert about the eyes. At luncheon she was sweet to me at once, and did not look as if she thought I must be bad just because I have red hair, like elderly ladies do generally.

I felt I wanted to be good and nice directly. She did not allude to my desolate position or say anything without tact, but she asked me to lunch as if I had been a queen and would honor her by accepting. For some reason I could see Lady Ver did not wish me to go--she made all sorts of excuses about wanting me herself--but also, for some reason, Lady Merrenden was determined I should, and finally settled it should be on Saturday, when Lady Ver is going down to Northumberland to her father's, and I am going--where? Alas! as yet I know not.

When she had gone Lady Ver said old people without dyed hair or bridge proclivities were tiresome, and she smoked three cigarettes, one after the other as fast as she could. (Welby is going to the theatre again to-night!) I said I thought Lady Merrenden was charming. She snapped my head off for the first time, and then there was silence, but presently she began to talk, and fix herself in a most becoming way on the sofa--we were in her own sitting-room, a lovely place, all blue silk and French furniture and attractive things. She said she had a cold and must stay in-doors. She had changed immediately into a tea-gown, but I could not hear any cough.

"Charlie has just wired he comes back to-night," she announced, at length.

"How nice for you!" I sympathized; "you will be able to make his heart beat!"

"As a matter of fact, it is extremely inconvenient, and I want you to be nice to him, and amuse him, and take his attention off me, like a pet, Evangeline," she cooed; and then: "What a lovely afternoon for November! I wish I could go for a walk in the park," she said.

I felt it would be cruel to tease her further, and so announced my intention of taking exercise in that way with the angels.

"Yes, it will do you good, dear child," she said, brightly, "and I will rest here and take care of my cold."

"They have asked me to tea in the nursery," I said, "and I have accepted."

"Jewel of a snake-girl!" she laughed--she is not thick.

"Do you know the Torquilstone history?" she said, just as I was going out of the door.

I came back--why, I can't imagine, but it interested me.

"Robert's brother--half-brother, I mean--the duke, is a cripple, you know, and he is toqué on one point too--their blue blood. He will never marry, but he can cut Robert off with almost the bare title if he displeases him."

"Yes," I said.

"Torquilstone's mother was one of the housemaids. The old duke married her before he was twenty-one, and she, fortunately, joined her beery ancestors a year or so afterwards; and then much later he married Robert's mother, Lady Etheldrida Fitz Walter. There is sixteen years between them--Robert and Torquilstone, I mean."

"Then what is he toqué about blue blood for, with a tache like that?" I asked.

"That is just it. He thinks it is such a disgrace that even if he were not a humpback he says he would never marry to transmit this stain to the future Torquilstones--and if Robert ever marries any one without a pedigree enough to satisfy an Austrian prince, he will disown him and leave every sou to charity."

"Poor Lord Robert!" I said, but I felt my cheeks burn.

"Yes, is it not tiresome for him? So, of course, he cannot marry until his brother's death, there is almost no one in England suitable."

"It is not so bad, after all," I said; "there is always the delicious rôle of the 'married woman's pet,' open to him, isn't there?" and I laughed.

"Little cat!" but she wasn't angry.

"I told you I only scratched when I was scratched first," I said, as I went out of the room.

The angels had started for their walk, and Véronique had to come with me at first to find them. We were walking fast down the path beyond Stanhope Gate, seeing their blue velvet pelisses in the distance, when we met Mr. Carruthers.

He stopped and turned with me.

"Evangeline, I was so angry with you yesterday," he said. "I very nearly left London and abandoned you to your fate, but now that I have seen you again--" He paused.

"You think Paris is a long way off!" I said, innocently.

"What have they been telling you?" he said, sternly, but he was not quite comfortable.

"They have been saying it is a fine November, and the Stock Exchange is no place to play in, and if it weren't for bridge they would all commit suicide. That is what we talk of at Park Street."

"You know very well what I mean. What have they been telling you about me?"

"Nothing, except that there is a charming French lady who adores you, and whom you are devoted to--and I am so sympathetic. I like Frenchwomen, they put on their hats so nicely."

"What ridiculous gossip! I don't think Park Street is the place for you to stay. I thought you had more mind than to chatter like this."

"I suit myself to my company." I laughed, and waited for Véronique, who had stopped respectfully behind. She came up reluctantly. She disapproves of all English unconventionality, but she feels it her duty to encourage Mr. Carruthers.

"Should she run on and stop the young ladies," she suggested, pointing to the angels in front.

"Yes, do," said Mr. Carruthers, and before I could prevent her she was off.

Traitress! She was thinking of her own comfortable quarters at Branches, I know.

The sharp, fresh air got into my head. I felt gay, and without care. I said heaps of things to Mr. Carruthers, just as I had once before to Malcolm, only this was much more fun, because Mr. Carruthers isn't a red-haired Scotchman and can see things.

It seemed a day of meetings, for when we got down to the end we encountered Lord Robert walking leisurely in our direction. He looked as black as night when he caught sight of us.

"Hello, Bob!" said Mr. Carruthers, cheerfully. "Ages since I saw you. Will you come and dine to-night? I have a box for this winter opera that is on, and I am trying to persuade Miss Travers to come. She says Lady Verningham is not engaged to-night, she knows, and we might dine quietly and all go; don't you think so?"

Lord Robert said he would, but he added, "Miss Travers would never come out before--she said she was in too deep mourning." He seemed aggrieved.

"I am going to sit in the back of the box and no one will see me," I said. "And I do love music so."

"We had better let Lady Verningham know at once then," said Mr. Carruthers.

Lord Robert announced he was going there now, and would tell her.

I knew that. The blue tea-gown with the pink roses, and the lace cap, and the bad cold were not for nothing. (I wish I had not written this; it is spiteful of me, and I am not spiteful, as a rule. It must be the east wind.) Thursday night, November 24th.

"Now that you have embarked upon this--" Lady Ver said, when I ventured into her sitting-room, hearing no voices, about six o'clock. (Mr. Carruthers had left me at the door at the end of our walk, and I had been with the angels at tea ever since.) "Now that you have embarked upon this opera, I say, you will have to dine at Willis's with us. I won't be in when Charlie arrives from Paris. A blowy day like to-day his temper is sure to be impossible."

"Very well," I said.

Of what use, after all, for an adventuress like me to have sensitive feelings.

"And I am leaving this house at a quarter to seven, I wish you to know, Evangeline, pet," she called after me, as I flew off to dress. As a rule Lady Ver takes a good hour to make herself into the attractive darling she is in the evening. She has not to do much, because she is lovely by nature, but she potters and squabbles with Welby, to divert herself, I suppose.

However, to-night, with the terror upon her of a husband fresh from a rough Channel passage going to arrive at seven o'clock, she was actually dressed and down in the hall when I got there punctually at 6.45, and in the twinkle of an eye we were rolling in the electric to Willis's. I have only been there once before, and that to lunch in Mrs. Carruthers's days with some of the ambassadors; and it does feel gay going to a restaurant at night. I felt more excited than ever in my life, and such a situation, too!

Lord Robert--fruit défendu!--and Mr. Carruthers--empressé--and to be kept in bounds!

More than enough to fill the hands of a maiden of sixteen fresh from a convent, as old Count Someroff used to say when he wanted to express a really difficult piece of work.

They were waiting for us just inside the door, and again I noticed that they were both lovely creatures, and both exceptionally distinguished looking.

Lady Ver nodded to a lot of people before we took our seats in a nice little corner. She must have an agreeable time with so many friends. She said something which sounds so true in one of our talks, and I thought of it then.

"It is wiser to marry the life you like, because after a little the man doesn't matter." She has evidently done that, but I wish it could be possible to have both--the man and the life. Well! Well!

One has to sit rather close on those sofas, and as Lord Robert was not the host, he was put by me. The other two at a right-angle to us.

I felt exquisitely gay--in spite of having an almost high black dress on and not even any violets.

It was dreadfully difficult not to speak nicely to my neighbor, his directness and simplicity are so engaging, but I did try hard to concentrate myself on Christopher and leave him alone, only--I don't know why--the sense of his being so near me made me feel, I don't quite know what. However, I hardly spoke to him--Lady Ver shall never say I did not play fair--though, insensibly, even she herself drew me into a friendly conversation, and then Lord Robert looked like a happy school-boy.

We had a delightful time.

Mr. Carruthers is a perfect host. He has all the smooth and exquisite manners of the old diplomats, without their false teeth and things. I wish I were in love with him, or even I wish something inside me would only let me feel it was my duty to marry him; but it jumps up at me every time I want to talk to myself about it, and says, "Absolutely impossible."

When it came to starting for the opera, "Mr. Carruthers will take you in his brougham, Evangeline," Lady Ver said, "and I will be protected by Robert. Come along, Robert," as he hesitated.

"Oh, I say, Lady Ver!" he said, "I would love to come with you, but won't it look rather odd for Miss Evangeline to arrive alone with Christopher? Consider his character!"

Lady Ver darted a glance of flame at him and got into the electric, while Christopher, without hesitation, handed me into his brougham. Lord Robert and I were two puppets, a part I do not like playing.

I was angry altogether. She would not have dared to have left me go like this if I had been any one who mattered. Mr. Carruthers got in, and tucked his sable rug round me. I never spoke a word for a long time, and Covent Garden is not far off, I told myself. I can't say why I had a sense of malaise.

There was a strange look in his face as a great lamp threw a light on it. "Evangeline," he said, in a voice I have not yet heard, "when are you going to finish playing with me? I am growing to love you, you know."

"I am very sorry to hear it," I said, gently. "I don't want you to. Oh, please don't!" as he took my hand. "I--I--if you only knew how I hate being touched!"

He leaned back and looked at me. There is something which goes to the head a little about being in a brougham with nice fur rugs alone with some one at night. The lights flashing in at the windows, and that faint scent of a very good cigar. I felt fearfully excited. If it had been Lord Robert, I believe--well---He leaned over very close to me. It seemed in another moment he would kiss me, and what could I do then? I couldn't scream, or jump out in Leicester Square, could I?

"Why do you call me Evangeline?" I said, by way of putting him off. "I never said you might."

"Foolish child!--I shall call you what I please. You drive me mad. I don't know what you were born for. Do you always have this effect on people?"

"What effect?" I said, to gain time; we had got nearly into Long Acre.

"An effect that causes one to lose all discretion. I feel I would give my soul to hold you in my arms."

I told him I did not think it was at all nice or respectful of him to talk so--that I found such love revolting.

"You tell me in your sane moments I am most unsuitable to you--you try to keep away from me--and then when you get close you begin to talk this stuff! I think it is an insult!" I said, angry and disdainful. "When I arouse devotion and tenderness in some one, then I shall listen, but to you and to this--never!"

"Go on," he said. "Even in the dim light you look beautiful when cross."

"I am not cross," I answered. "Only absolutely disgusted."

By that time, thank goodness, we had got into the stream of carriages close to the opera-house. Mr. Carruthers, however, seemed hardly to notice this.

"Darling," he said, "I will try not to annoy you; but you are so fearfully provoking. I--tell you truly, no man would find it easy to keep cool with you."

"Oh, I don't know what it is, being cool, or not cool," I said, wearily. "I am tired of every one. Even as tiny a thing as Malcolm Montgomerie gets odd like this!"

He leaned back and laughed, and then said, angrily: "Impertinence! I will wring his neck!"

"Thank Heaven we have arrived!" I exclaimed, as we drove under the portico. I gave a great sigh of relief.

Really, men are very trying and tiresome, and if I shall always have to put up with these scenes through having red hair, I almost wish it were mouse-colored, like Cicely Parker's. Mrs. Carruthers often said, "You need not suppose, Evangeline, that you are going to have a quiet life with your coloring; the only thing one can hope for is that you will screw on your head."

Lady Ver and Lord Robert were already in the hall waiting for us, but the second I saw them I knew she had been saying something to Lord Robert. His face, so gay and debonnaire all through dinner, now looked set and stern, and he took not the slightest notice of me as we walked to the box--the big one next the stage on the pit tier.

Lady Ver appeared triumphant--her eyes were shining with big blacks in the middle, and such bright spots of pink in her cheeks--she looked lovely; and I can't think why, but I suddenly felt I hated her. It was horrid of me, for she was so kind, and settled me in the corner behind the curtain where I could see and not be seen, rather far back, while she and Lord Robert were quite in the front. It was "Carmen"--the opera. I had never seen it before.

Music has such an effect--every note seems to touch some emotion in me. I feel wicked, or good, or exalted, or--or--oh, some queer feeling that I don't know what it is--a kind of electric current down my back, and as if--as if I would like to love some one and have them to kiss me. Oh, it sounds perfectly dreadful what I have written, but I can't help it--that is what some music does to me, and I said always I should tell the truth here.

From the very beginning note to the end I was feeling--feeling--Oh, how I understand her--Carmen!--fruit défendu attracted her so--the beautiful, wicked, fascinating snake. I also wanted to dance, and to move like that, and I unconsciously quivered perhaps. I was cold as ice, and fearfully excited. The back of Lord Robert's beautifully set head impeded my view at times. How exquisitely groomed he is! And one could see at a glance his mother had not been a housemaid! I never have seen anything look so well bred as he does.

Lady Ver was talking to him in a cooing, low voice after the first act, and the second act, and indeed even when the third act had begun. He seemed much more empressé with her than he generally does. It--it hurt me, that and the music and the dancing, and Mr. Carruthers whispering passionate little words at intervals, even though I paid no attention to them; but altogether I, too, felt a kind of madness.

Suddenly Lord Robert turned round, and for five seconds looked at me, his lovely, expressive blue eyes swimming with wrath and reproach and--oh, how it hurt me!--contempt. Christopher was leaning over the back of my chair, quite close, in a devoted attitude.

Lord Robert did not speak, but if a look could wither I must have turned into a dead oak-leaf. It awoke some devil in me. What had I done to be annihilated so! I was playing perfectly fair--keeping my word to Lady Ver, and--oh, I felt as if it were breaking my heart.

But that look of Lord Robert's! It drove me to distraction, and every instinct to be wicked and attractive that I possess came up in me. I leaned over to Lady Ver, so that I must be close to him, and I said little things to her, never one word to him; but I moved my seat, making it certain the corner of his eye must catch sight of me, and I allowed my shoulders to undulate the faintest bit to that Spanish music. Oh, I can dance as Carmen, too! Mrs. Carruthers had me taught every time we went to Paris. She loved to see it herself.

I could hear Christopher breathing very quickly. "My God!" he whispered, "a man would go to hell for you."

Lord Robert got up abruptly and went out of the box.

Then it was as if Don José's dagger plunged into my heart, not Carmen's. That sounds high-flown, but I mean it--a sudden, sick, cold sensation, as if everything was numb. Lady Ver turned round pettishly to Christopher. "What on earth is the matter with Robert?" she said.

"There is a Persian proverb which as**serts a devil slips in between two winds," said Christopher. "Perhaps that is what has happened in this box to-night."

Lady Ver laughed harshly, and I sat there still as death. And all the time the music and the movement on the stage went on. I am glad she is murdered in the end--glad! Only I would like to have seen the blood gush out. I am fierce--fierce--sometimes.