November 26
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

CLARIDGE'S, Saturday, November 26th.

Lady Ver went off early to the station to catch her train to Northumberland this morning, and I hardly saw her to say good-bye. She seemed out of temper, too, on getting a note--she did not tell me who it was from or what it was about, only she said immediately after that I was not to be stupid. "Do not play with Christopher further," she said, "or you will lose him. He will certainly come and see you to-morrow. He wrote to me this morning in answer to mine of last night, but he says he won't go to the Zoo, so you will have to see him in your sitting-room, after all. He will come about four."

I did not speak.

"Evangeline," she said, "promise me you won't be a fool."

"I--won't be a fool," I said.

Then she kissed me and was off, and a few moments after I also started for Claridge's.

I have a very nice little suite right up at the top, and if only it were respectable for me, and I could afford it, I could live here very comfortably by myself for a long time.

At a quarter to two I was ringing the bell at 200 Carlton House Terrace--Lady Merrenden's house--with a strange feeling of excitement and interest. Of course, it must have been because once she had been engaged to papa. In the second thoughts take to flash, I remembered Lord Robert's words when I talked of coming to London alone at Branches--how he would bring me here, and how she would be kind to me until I could "hunt round."

Oh, it came to me with a sudden stab. He was leaning over Lady Ver in the northern train by now.

Such a stately, beautiful hall it is when the doors open, with a fine staircase going each way, and full of splendid pictures, and the whole atmosphere pervaded with an air of refinement and calm.

The footmen are tall, and not too young, and even at this time of the year have powdered hair.

Lady Merrenden was up-stairs in the small drawing-room, and she rose to meet me, a book in her hand, when I was announced.

Her manners are so beautiful in her own home--gracious, and not the least patronizing.

"I am so glad to see you," she said. "I hope you won't be bored, but I have not asked any one to meet you, only my nephew Torquilstone is coming. He is a great sufferer, poor fellow, and numbers of faces worry him at times----"

I said I was delighted to see her alone. No look more kind could be expressed in a human countenance than is expressed in hers. She has the same exceptional appearance of breeding that Lord Robert has--tiny ears and wrists and head; even dressed as a char-woman Lady Merrenden would look like a great lady.

Very soon we were talking without the least restraint. She did not speak of people or of very deep things, but it gave one the impression of an elevated mind and a knowledge of books, and wide thoughts. Oh, I could love her so easily.

We had been talking for nearly a quarter of an hour. She had incidentally asked me where I was staying now, and had not seemed surprised or shocked when I said Claridge's, and by myself.

All she said was: "What a lonely little girl! But I dare say it is very restful sometimes to be by one's self, only you must let your friends come and see you, won't you?"

"I don't think I have any friends," I said. "You see, I have been out so little, but if you would come and see me--oh, I should be so grateful."

"Then you must count me as one of your rare friends!" she said.

Nothing could be so rare or so sweet as her smile. Fancy papa throwing over this angel for Mrs. Carruthers! Men are certainly unaccountable creatures.

I said I would be too honored to have her for a friend, and she took my hand.

"You bring back the long ago," she said. "My name is Evangeline, too--Sophia Evangeline--and I sometimes think you may have been called so in remembrance of me."

What a strange, powerful factor love must be! Here were these two women, Mrs. Carruthers and Lady Merrenden--the very opposites of each other--and they had evidently both adored papa, and both, according to their natures, had taken an interest in me in consequence, the child of a third woman who had superseded them both! Papa must have been extraordinarily fascinating, for to the day of her death Mrs. Carruthers had his miniature on her table, with a fresh rose beside it--his memory the only soft spot, it seemed, in her hard heart.

And this sweet lady's eyes melted in tenderness when she spoke of the long ago, although she does not know me well enough yet to say anything further. To me papa's picture is nothing so very wonderful--just a good-looking young Guardsman, with eyes shaped like mine, only gray, and light, curly hair. He must have had "a way with him," as the servants say.

At that moment the Duke of Torquilstone came in. Oh, such a sad sight!

A poor, humpbacked man, with a strong face and head and a soured, suspicious, cynical expression. He would evidently have been very tall but for his deformity--a hump stands out on his back almost like Mr. Punch. He can't be much over forty, but he looks far older; his hair is quite gray.

Not a line or an expression in him reminded me of Lord Robert, I am glad to say.

Lady Merrenden introduced us, and Lord Merrenden came in then, too, and we all went down to luncheon.

It was a rather small table, so we were all near one another and could talk.

The dining-room is immense.

"I always have this little table when we are such a small party," Lady Merrenden said. "It is more cosey, and one does not feel so isolated."

How I agreed with her!

The duke looked at me searchingly, often, with his shrewd little eyes. One could not say if it was with approval or disapproval.

Lord Merrenden talked about politics and the questions of the day. He has a courteous manner, and all their voices are soft and refined. And nothing could have been more smooth and silent than the service.

The luncheon was very simple and very good, but not half the number of rich dishes like at Branches, or Lady Ver's. There was only one bowl of violets on the table, but the bowl was gold, and a beautiful shape, and the violets nearly as big as pansies. My eyes wandered to the pictures--Gainsborough's and Reynolds's and Romney's--of stately men and women.

"You met my other nephew, Lord Robert, did you not?" Lady Merrenden said, presently. "He told me he had gone to Branches, where I believe you lived."

"Yes," I said, and--oh, it is too humiliating to write!--I felt my cheeks get crimson at the mention of Lord Robert's name. What could she have thought? Can anything be so young-ladylike and ridiculous!

"He came to the opera with us the night before last," I continued. "Mr. Carruthers had a box, and Lady Verningham and I went with them." Then, recollecting how odd this must sound in my deep mourning, I added, "I am so fond of music."

"So is Robert," she said. "I am sure he must have been pleased to meet a kindred spirit there."

Sweet, charming, kind lady! If she only knew what emotions were really agitating us in that box that night! I fear the actual love of music was the least of them.

The duke, during this conversation and from the beginning mention of Lord Robert's name, never took his eyes off my face--it was very disconcerting; his look was clearer now, and it was certainly disapproving.

We had coffee up-stairs, out of such exquisite Dresden cups, and then Lord Merrenden showed me some miniatures. Finally it happened that the duke and I were left alone for a minute looking out of a window onto the Mall.

His eyes pierced me through and through. Well, at all events, my nose and my ears and my wrists are as fine as Lady Merrenden's--poor mamma's odd mother does not show in me on the outside, thank goodness! He did not say much, only commonplaces about the view. I felt afraid of him, and rather depressed. I am sure he dislikes me.

"May I not drive you somewhere?" my kind hostess said. "Or, if you have nowhere in particular to go, will you come with me?"

I said I should be delighted. An ache of loneliness was creeping over me. I wanted to put off as long as possible getting back to the hotel. I wanted to distract my thoughts from dwelling upon to-morrow and what I was going to say to Christopher. To-morrow--that seems the end of the world!

She has beautiful horses, Lady Merrenden, and the whole turn-out, except she herself, is as smart as can be. She really looks a little frumpish out-of-doors, and perhaps that is why papa went on to Mrs. Carruthers. Goodness and dearness like this do not suit male creatures as well as caprice, it seems.

She was so good to me, and talked in the nicest way. I quite forgot I was a homeless wanderer, and arrived at Claridge's about half-past four in almost good spirits.

"You won't forget I am to be one of your friends," Lady Merrenden said, as I bid her good-bye.

"Indeed I won't," I replied, and she drove off, smiling at me.

I do wonder what she will think of my marriage with Christopher.

Now it is night. I have had a miserable, lonely dinner in my sitting-room. Véronique has been most gracious and coddling--she feels Mr. Carruthers in the air, I suppose--and so I must go to bed.

Oh, why am I not happy, and why don't I think this is a delightful and unusual situation, as I once would have done? I only feel depressed and miserable, and as if I wished Christopher at the bottom of the sea. I have told myself how good-looking he is, and how he attracted me at Branches, but that was before--Yes, I may as well write what I was going to--before Lord Robert arrived. Well, he and Lady Ver are talking together on a nice sofa by now, I suppose, in a big, well-lit drawing-room, and--Oh, I wish, I wish I had never made any bargain with her--perhaps, now, in that case--Ah, well---Sunday afternoon.

No, I can't bear it. All the morning I have been in a fever, first hot and then cold. What will it be like? Oh, I shall faint when he kisses me. And I know he will be dreadful like that; I have seen it in his eye. He will eat me up. Oh, I am sure I shall hate it. No man has ever kissed me in my life, and I can't judge, but I am sure it is frightful--unless--I feel as if I shall go crazy if I stay here any longer. I can't--I can't stop and wait and face it. I must have some air first. There is a misty fog. I would like to go out and get lost in it, and I will, too! Not get lost, perhaps, but go out in it, and alone. I won't have even Véronique. I shall go by myself into the park. It is growing nearly dark, though only three o'clock. I have got an hour. It looks mysterious, and will soothe me, and suit my mood, and then, when I come in again, I shall perhaps be able to bear it bravely, kisses and all.