November 25
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

300 PARK STREET, Friday morning, November 25th.

I know just the meaning of dust and ashes, for that is what I felt I had had for breakfast this morning, the day after "Carmen."

Lady Ver had given orders she was not to be disturbed, so I did not go near her, and crept down to the dining-room, quite forgetting the master of the house had arrived. There he was, a strange, tall, lean man with fair hair, and sad, cross, brown eyes, and a nose inclined to pink at the tip--a look of indigestion about him, I feel sure. He was sitting in front of a Daily Telegraph propped up on the teapot, and some cold, untasted sole on his plate.

I came forward. He looked very surprised.

"I--I'm Evangeline Travers," I announced.

He said "How d'you do?" awkwardly. One could see without a notion what that meant.

"I'm staying here," I continued. "Did you not know?"

"Then won't you have some breakfast? Beastly cold, I fear," politeness forced him to utter. "No, Ianthe never writes to me. I had not heard any news for a fortnight, and I have not seen her yet."

Manners have been drummed into me from early youth, so I said, politely, "You only arrived from Paris late last night, did you not?"

"I got in about seven o'clock, I think," he replied.

"We had to leave so early--we were going to the opera," I said.

"A Wagner that begins at unearthly hours, I suppose?" he murmured, absently.

"No, it was 'Carmen,' but we dined first with my--my--guardian, Mr. Carruthers."

"Oh!"

We both ate for a little. The tea was greenish black--and lukewarm. No wonder he has dyspepsia.

"Are the children in, I wonder?" he hazarded, presently.

"Yes," I said. "I went to the nursery and saw them as I came down."

At that moment the three angels burst into the room, but came forward decorously and embraced their parent. They do not seem to adore him as they do Lady Ver.

"Good-morning, papa," said the eldest, and the other two repeated it in chorus. "We hope you have slept well and had a nice passage across the sea."

They evidently had been drilled outside.

Then, nature getting uppermost, they patted him patronizingly.

"Daddie, darling, have you brought us any new dolls from Paris?"

"And I want one with red hair, like Evangeline," said Yseult, the youngest.

Sir Charles seemed bored and uncomfortable; he kissed his three exquisite bits of Dresden china, so like and yet unlike himself--they have Lady Ver's complexion, but brown eyes and golden hair like his.

"Yes; ask Harbottle for the packages," he said. "I have no time to talk to you. Tell your mother I will be in for lunch," and making excuses to me for leaving so abruptly--an appointment in the City--he shuffled out of the room.

I wonder how Lady Ver makes his heart beat! I don't wonder she prefers--Lord Robert.

"Why is papa's nose so red?" said Yseult.

"Hush!" implored Mildred. "Poor papa has come off the sea."

"I don't love papa," said Corisande, the middle one. "He's cross, and sometimes he makes darling mummie cry."

"We must always love papa," chanted Mildred, in a lesson voice. "We must always love our parents, and grandmamma, and grandpapa, and aunts and cousins--amen." The "amen" slipped out unawares, and she looked confused, and corrected herself when she had said it.

"Let's find Harbottle. Harbottle is papa's valet," Corisande said, "and he is much thoughtfuller than papa. Last time he brought me a Highland boy doll, though papa had forgotten I asked for it."

They all three went out of the room, first kissing me, and courtesying sweetly when they got to the door. They are never rude or boisterous, the three angels--I love them.

Left alone, I did feel like a dead fish. The column "London Day by Day" caught my eye in the Daily Telegraph, and I idly glanced down it, not taking in the sense of the words, until "The Duke of Torquilstone has arrived at Vavasour House, St. James's, from abroad," I read.

Well, what did it matter to me--what did anything matter to me?--Lord Robert had met us in the hall again, as we were coming out of the opera; he looked very pale, and he apologized to Lady Ver for his abrupt departure. He had got a chill, he said, and had gone to have a glass of brandy, and was all right now, and would we not come to supper, and various other empressé things, looking at her with the greatest devotion. I might not have existed.

She was capricious, as she sometimes is. "No, Robert, I am going home to bed. I have got a chill, too," she said.

And the footman announcing the electric at that moment, we flew off and left them, Christopher having fastened my sable collar with an air of possession which would have irritated me beyond words at another time, but I felt cold and dead, and utterly numb.

Lady Ver did not speak a word on the way back, and kissed me frigidly as she went into her room; then she called out: "I am tired, snake-girl; don't think I am cross. Good-night." And so I crept up to bed.

To-morrow is Saturday and my visit ends. After my lunch with Lady Merrenden, I am a wanderer on the face of the earth.

Where shall I wander to? I feel I want to go away by myself, away where I shall not see a human being who is English. I want to forget what they look like; I want to shut out of my sight their well-groomed heads; I want--oh, I do not know what I do want.

Shall I marry Mr. Carruthers? He would eat me up, and then go back to Paris to the lady he loves. But I should have the life I like--and the Carruthers's emeralds are beautiful--and I love Branches--and--and---"Her ladyship would like to see you, miss," said a footman.

So I went up the stairs.

Lady Ver was in a darkened room, soft pink blinds right down beyond the half-drawn blue silk curtains.

"I have a fearful head, Evangeline," she said.

"Then I will smooth your hair," and I climbed up behind her and began to run over her forehead with the tips of my fingers.

"You are really a pet, snake-girl," she said, "and you can't help it."

"I can't help what?"

"Being a witch. I knew you would hurt me when I first saw you, and I tried to protect myself by being kind to you."

"Oh, dear Lady Ver!" I said, deeply moved. "I would not hurt you for the world, and indeed you misjudge me. I have kept the bargain to the very letter--and spirit."

"Yes, I know you have to the letter, at least, but why did Robert go out of the box last night?" she demanded, wearily.

"He said he had got a chill, did not he?" I replied, lamely. She clasped her hands passionately.

"A chill! You don't know Robert. He never had a chill in his life," she said. "Oh, he is the dearest, dearest being in the world. He makes me believe in good and all things honest. He isn't vicious, and isn't a prig, and he knows the world, and he lives in its ways like the rest of us, and yet he doesn't begin by thinking every woman is fair game and undermining what little self-respect she may have left to her."

"Yes," I said. I found nothing else to say.

"If I had had a husband like that I would never have yawned," she went on; "and besides, Robert is too masterful and would be too jealous to let one divert one's self with another."

"Yes," I said again, and continued to smooth her forehead.

"He has sentiment, too--he is not matter-of-fact and brutal--and oh, you should see him on a horse!--he is too, too beautiful." She stretched out her arms in a movement of weariness that was pathetic and touched me.

"You have known him a long, long time?" I said, gently.

"Perhaps five years, but only casually until this season. I was busy with some one else before. I have played with so many." Then she roused herself up. "But Robert is the only one who has never to me. Always dear and sweet, and treating me like a queen, as if I were too high for that, and having his own way, and not caring a pin for any one's opinion. And I have wanted him to to me often. But now I realize it is no use. Only, you sha'n't have him, snake-girl! I told him as we were going to the opera you were as cold as ice, and were playing with Christopher, and I am going to take him down to Northumberland with me to-morrow out of your way. He shall be my devoted friend, at any rate. You would break his heart, and I shall still hold you to your promise."

I said nothing.

"Do you hear? I say: You would break his heart. He would be only capable of loving straight to the end. The kind of love any other woman would die for--but--you--You are Carmen."

At all events, not she, nor any other woman, shall ever see what I am or am not. My heart is not for them to peck at. So I said, calmly: "Carmen was stabbed!"

"And serve her right! Fascinating, fiendish demon!" Then she laughed, her mood changing.

"Did you see Charlie?" she said.

"We breakfasted together."

"Cheerful person, isn't he?"

"No," I said. "He looked cross and ill."

"Ill!" she said, with a shade of anxiety. "Oh, you only mean dyspeptic."

"Perhaps."

"Well, he always does when he comes from Paris. If you could go into his room and see the row of photographs on his mantelpiece, you might guess why."

"Pictures of 'Sole Dieppoise' and 'Poulet à la Victoria aux Truffes,' no doubt," I hazarded.

She doubled up with laughter. "Yes, just that," she said. "Well, he adores me in his way, and will bring me a new Cartier ring to make up for it--you will see at luncheon."

"He is a perfect husband, then."

"About the same as you will find Christopher. Only Christopher will start by being an exquisite lover. There is nothing he does not know, and Charlie has not an idea of that part. Heavens!--the dulness of my honeymoon!"

"Mrs. Carruthers said all honeymoons were only another parallel to going to the dentist or being photographed. Necessary evils to be got through for the sake of the results."

"The results!"

"Yes, the nice house and the jewels and the other things."

"Oh! Yes, I suppose she was right, but if one had married Robert one would have had both." She did not say both what--but oh, I knew!

"You think Mr. Carruthers will make a fair husband, then?" I asked.

"You will never really know Christopher. I have been acquainted with him for years. You will never feel he would tell you the whole truth about anything. He is an epicure, and an analyst of sensations. I don't know if he has any gods--he does not believe in them if he has; he believes in no one, and nothing, but perhaps himself. He is violently in love with you for the moment, and he wants to marry you, because he cannot obtain you on any other terms."

"You are flattering," I said, rather hurt.

"I am truthful. You will probably have a delightful time with him, and keep him devoted to you for years, because you are not in love with him; and he will take good care you do not look at any one else. I can imagine if one were in love with Christopher he would break one's heart, as he has broken poor Alicia Verney's."

"Oh, but how silly! People don't have broken hearts now; you are talking like out of a book, dear Lady Ver."

"There are a few cases of broken hearts, but they are not for book reasons--of death and tragedy, etc.--they are because we cannot have what we want, or keep what we have--" and she sighed.

We did not speak for a few minutes, then she said, quite gayly: "You have made my head better; your touch is extraordinary; in spite of all, I like you, snake-girl. You are not found on every gooseberry-bush."

We kissed lightly, and I left her and went to my room.

Yes, the best thing I can do is to marry Christopher. I care for him so little that the lady in Paris won't matter to me, even if she is like Sir Charles's "Poulet à la Victoria aux Truffes." He is such a gentleman, he will at least be kind to me and refined and considerate--and the Carruthers emeralds are divine, and just my stones. I shall have them reset by Cartier. The lace, too, will suit me, and the sables, and I shall have the suite that Mrs. Carruthers used at Branches done up with pale, pale green, and burn all the early Victorians! And no doubt existence will be full of triumphs and pleasure.

But oh--I wish--I wish it were possible to obtain--"both!"

300 PARK STREET, Friday night.

Luncheon passed off very well. Sir Charles returned from the City improved in temper, and, as Lady Ver had predicted, presented her with a Cartier jewel. It was a brooch, not a ring, but she was delighted, and purred to him.

He was a little late, and we were seated, a party of eight, when he came in. They all chaffed him about Paris, and he took it quite good-humoredly--he even seemed pleased. He has no wit, but he looks like a gentleman, and I dare say as husbands go he is suitable.

I am getting quite at home in the world, and can speak to any one. I listen, and I do not talk much, only when I want to say something that makes them think.

A very nice man sat next me to-day; he reminded me of the old generals at Branches. We had quite a war of wits, and it stimulated me.

He told me, among other things, when he discovered who I was, that he had known papa--papa was in the same Guards with him--and that he was the best-looking man of his day. Numbers of women were in love with him, he said, but he was a faithless being, and rode away.

"He probably enjoyed himself--don't you think so?--and he had the good luck to die in his zenith," I said.

"He was once engaged to Lady Merrenden, you know. She was Lady Sophia Vavasour then, and absolutely devoted to him, but Mrs. Carruthers came between them and carried him off--she was years older than he was, too, and as clever as paint."

"Poor papa seems to have been a weak creature, I fear."

"All men are weak," he said.

"And then he married and left Mrs. Carruthers, I suppose?" I asked. I wanted to hear as much as I could.

"Ye-e-s," said my old colonel. "I was best man at the wedding."

"And what was she like, my mamma?"

"She was the loveliest creature I ever saw," he said--"as lovely as you, only you are the image of your father, all but the hair--his was fair."

"No one has ever said I was lovely before. Oh, I am so glad if you think so," I said. It did please me. I have often been told I am attractive and extraordinary, and wonderful and divine, but never just lovely. He would not say any more about my parents, except that they hadn't a sou to live on, and were not very happy--Mrs. Carruthers took care of that.

Then, as every one was going, he said: "I am awfully glad to have met you. We must be pals, for the sake of old times," and he gave me his card for me to keep his address, and told me if ever I wanted a friend to send him a line--Colonel Tom Carden, The Albany.

I promised I would.

"You might give me away at my wedding," I said, gayly. "I am thinking of getting married, some day!"

"That I will," he promised; "and, by Jove! the man will be a fortunate fellow."

Lady Ver and I drove after luncheon--me paid some calls, and went in to tea with the Montgomeries, who had just arrived at Brown's Hotel for a week's shopping.

"Aunt Katherine brings those poor girls up always at this time, and takes them to some impossible old dressmaker of her own in the daytime, and to Shakespeare or a concert at night, and returns with them equipped in more hideous garments each year. It is positively cruel," said Lady Ver, as we went up the stairs to their appartement.

There they were, sitting round the tea-table just as at Tryland--Kirstie and Jean embroidering and knitting, and the other two reading new catalogues of books for their work.

Lady Ver began to tease them. She asked them all sorts of questions about their new frocks, and suggested they had better go to Paris once in a way. Lady Katherine was like ice. She strongly disapproved of my being with her niece, one could see.

The connection with the family she hoped would be ended with my visit to Tryland. Malcolm was arriving in town, too, we gathered, and Lady Ver left a message to ask him to dine to-night.

Then we got away.

"If one of those lumps of suet had a spark of spirit they would go straight to the devil," Lady Ver said as we went down the stairs. "Think of it--ties and altar-cloths in London! Mercifully they could not dine to-night. I had to ask them, and they generally come once while they are up--the four girls and Aunt Katherine--and it is with the greatest difficulty I can collect four young men for them if they get the least hint whom they are to meet. I generally secure a couple of socially budding Jews, because I feel the subscriptions for their charities which they will pester whoever they do sit next for are better filched from the Hebrew than from some pretty, needy Guardsman. Oh, what a life!"

She was so kind to me on the way back; she said she hated leaving me alone on the morrow, and that I must settle now what I was going to do or she would not go. I said I would go to Claridge's, where Mrs. Carruthers and I had always stayed, and remain quietly alone with Véronique. I could afford it for a week. So we drove there and made the arrangement.

"It is absolutely impossible for you to go on like this, dear child," she said. "You must have a chaperone; you are far too pretty to stay alone in a hotel. What can I do for you?"

I felt so horribly uncomfortable I was really at my wits' end. Oh, it is no fun being an adventuress, after all, if you want to keep your friends of the world as well.

"Perhaps it won't matter if I don't see any one for a few days," I said. "I will write to Paris. My old mademoiselle is married there to a flourishing poet, I believe--perhaps she would take me as a paying guest for a little."

"That is very visionary--a French poet! Horrible, long-haired, frowsy creature! Impossible! Surely you see how necessary it is for you to marry Christopher as soon as you can, Evangeline, don't you?" she said, and I was obliged to admit there were reasons.

"The truth is, you can't be the least eccentric or unconventional if you are good-looking and unmarried," she continued. "You may snap your fingers at society, but if you do you won't have a good time, and all the men will either foolishly champion you or be impertinent to you."

"Oh, I realize it," I said, and there was a lump in my throat.

"I shall write to Christopher to-morrow," she went on, "and thank him for our outing last night, and I shall say something nice about you and your loneliness, and that he, as a kind of relation, may go and see you on Sunday, as long as he doesn't to you, and he can take you to the Zoo--don't see him in your sitting-room. That will give him just the extra fillip, and he will go, and you will be demure, and then by those stimulating lions' and tigers' cages you can plight your troth. It will be quite respectable. Wire to me at once on Monday to Sedgwick, and you must come back to Park Street directly I return on Thursday, if it is all settled."

I thanked her as well as I could. She was quite ingenuous and quite sincere. I should be a welcome guest as Christopher's fiancée, and there was no use my feeling bitter about it--she was quite right.

As I put my hand on Malcolm's skinny arm going down to the dining-room, the only consolation was my fate had not got to be him. I would rather be anything in the world than married to that!

I tried to be agreeable to Sir Charles. We were only a party of six. An old Miss Harpenden, who goes everywhere to play bridge, and Malcolm, and one of Lady Ver's young men, and I. Sir Charles is absent, and brings himself back. He fiddles with the knives and forks, and sprawls on the table rather, too. He looks at Lady Ver with admiration in his eyes. It is true, then, in the intervals of Paris, I suppose, she can make his heart beat.

Malcolm to me after dinner. We were left to talk when the others sat down to bridge in the little drawing-room.

"I missed you so terribly, Miss Travers," he said, priggishly, "when you left us that I realized I was extremely attracted by you."

"No, you don't say so!" I said, innocently. "Could one believe a thing like that?"

"Yes," he said, earnestly. "You may, indeed, believe it."

"Do not say it so suddenly, then," I said, turning my head away so that he could not see how I was laughing. "You see, to a red-haired person like me these compliments go to my head."

"Oh, I do not want to flurry you," he said, affably. "I know I have been a good deal sought after--perhaps on account of my possessions"--this with arrogant modesty--"but I am willing to lay everything at your feet if you will marry me."

"Everything?" I asked.

"Yes, everything."

"You are too good, Mr. Montgomerie--but what would your mother say?"

He looked uneasy and slightly unnerved.

"My mother, I fear, has old-fashioned notions, but I am sure if you went to her dressmaker--you--you would look different."

"Should you like me to look different, then? You wouldn't recognize me, you know, if I went to her dressmaker."

"I like you just as you are," he said, with an air of great condescension.

"I am overcome," I said, humbly. "But--but--what is this story I hear about Miss Angela Grey? A lady, I see in the papers, who dances at the Gaiety, is it not? Are you sure she will permit you to make this declaration without her knowledge?"

He became petrified.

"Who has told you about her?" he asked.

"No one," I said. "Jean said your father was angry with you on account of a horse of that name, but I chanced to see it in the list of attractions at the Gaiety, so I conclude it is not a horse; and if you are engaged to her, I don't think it is quite right of you to try and break my heart."

"Oh, Evangeline--Miss Travers!" he spluttered. "I am greatly attached to you--the other was only a pastime--a--a--Oh, we men, you know--young and--and--run after--have our temptations, you know. You must think nothing about it. I will never see her again, except just to finally say good-bye. I promise you."

"Oh, I could not do a mean thing like that, Mr. Montgomerie," I said. "You must not think of behaving so on my account. I am not altogether heartbroken, you know; in fact, I rather think of getting married, myself."

He bounded up.

"Oh, you have deceived me, then!" he said, in self-righteous wrath. "After all I said to you that evening at Tryland, and what you promised then! Yes, you have grossly deceived me."

I could not say I had not listened to a word he had said that night and was utterly unconscious of what I had promised. Even his self-appreciation did not deserve such a blow as that, so I softened my voice and natural anger at his words, and said, quite gently: "Do not be angry. If I have unconsciously given you a wrong impression I am sorry, but if one came to talking of deceiving, you have deceived me about Miss Grey, so do not let us speak further upon the matter. We are quits. Now, won't you be friends as you have always been?" and I put out my hand and smiled frankly in his face. The mean little lines in it relaxed, he pulled himself together, and took my hand and pressed it warmly. From which I knew there was more in the affair of Angela Grey than met the eye.

"Evangeline," he said. "I shall always love you; but Miss Grey is an estimable young woman--there is not a word to be said against her moral character--and I have promised her my hand in marriage, so perhaps we had better say good-bye."

"Good-bye," I said; "but I consider I have every reason to feel insulted by your offer, which was not, judging from your subsequent remarks, worth a moment's thought."

"Oh, but I love you!" he said, and by his face, for the time, this was probably true. So I did not say any more, and we rose and joined the bridge players. And I contrived that he should not speak to me again alone before he said good-night.

"Did Malcolm propose to you?" Lady Ver asked as we came up to bed. "I thought I saw a look in his eye at dinner."

I told her he had done it in a kind of a way, with a reservation in favor of Miss Angela Grey.

"That is too dreadful!" she said. "There is a regular epidemic in some of the Guards regiments just now to marry these poor, common things with high moral characters and indifferent feet. But I should have thought the cuteness of the Scot would have protected Malcolm from their designs. Poor Aunt Katherine!"