November 3
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

BRANCHES PARK November 3.

I wonder so much if it is amusing to be an adventuress, because that is evidently what I shall become now. I read in a book all about it; it is being nice looking and having nothing to live on, and getting a pleasant time out of life--and I intend to do that! I have certainly nothing to live on, for one cannot count £300 a year; and I am extremely pretty, and I know it quite well, and how to do my hair, and put on my hats, and those things--so, of course, I am an adventuress! I was not intended for this rôle--in fact, Mrs. Carruthers adopted me on purpose to leave me her fortune, as at that time she had quarrelled with her heir, who was bound to get the place. Then she was so inconsequent as not to make a proper will--thus it is that this creature gets everything, and I nothing!

I am twenty, and up to the week before last, when Mrs. Carruthers got ill and died in one day, I had had a fairly decent time at odd moments when she was in a good temper.

There is no use pretending even when people are dead, if one is writing down one's real thoughts. I detested Mrs. Carruthers most of the time. A person whom it was impossible to please. She had no idea of justice, or of anything but her own comfort, and what amount of pleasure other people could contribute to her day.

How she came to do anything for me at all was because she had been in love with papa, and when he married poor mamma--a person of no family--and then died, she offered to take me, and bring me up, just to spite mamma, she has often told me. As I was only four I had no say in the matter, and if mamma liked to give me up that was her affair. Mamma's father was a lord, and her mother I don't know who, and they had not worried to get married, so that is how it is poor mamma came to have no relations. After papa was dead, she married an Indian officer and went off to India, and died, too, and I never saw her any more--so there it is; there is not a soul in the world who matters to me, or I to them, so I can't help being an adventuress, and thinking only of myself, can I?

Mrs. Carruthers periodically quarrelled with all the neighbors, so beyond frigid calls now and then in a friendly interval, we never saw them much. Several old, worldly ladies used to come and stay, but I liked none of them, and I have no young friends. When it is getting dark, and I am up here alone, I often wonder what it would be like if I had--but I believe I am the kind of cat that would not have got on with them too nicely--so perhaps it is just as well. Only, to have had a pretty--aunt, say--to love one--that might have been nice.

Mrs. Carruthers had no feelings like this; "stuff and nonsense," "sentimental rubbish," she would have called them. To get a suitable husband is what she brought me up for, she said, and for the last years had arranged that I should marry her detested heir, Christopher Carruthers, as I should have the money and he the place.

He is a diplomat, and lives in Paris, and Russia, and amusing places like that, so he does not often come to England. I have never seen him. He is quite old--over thirty--and has hair turning gray.

Now he is master here, and I must leave--unless he proposes to marry me at our meeting this afternoon, which he probably won't do.

However, there can be no harm in my making myself look as attractive as possible under the circumstances. As I am to be an adventuress, I must do the best I can for myself. Nice feelings are for people who have money to live as they please. If I had ten thousand a year, or even five, I would snap my fingers at all men, and say, "No, I make my life as I choose, and shall cultivate knowledge and books, and indulge in beautiful ideas of honor and exalted sentiments, and perhaps one day succumb to a noble passion." (What grand words the thought, even, is making me write!) But as it is, if Mr. Carruthers asks me to marry him, as he has been told to do by his aunt, I shall certainly say yes, and so stay on here, and have a comfortable home. Until I have had this interview it is hardly worth while packing anything.

What a mercy black suits me! My skin is ridiculously white. I shall stick a bunch of violets in my frock--that could not look heartless, I suppose. But if he asks me if I am sad about Mrs. Carruthers's death, I shall not be able to tell a lie.

I am sad, of course, because death is a terrible thing, and to die like that, saying spiteful things to every one, must be horrid--but I can't, I can't regret her. Not a day ever passed that she did not sting some part of me; when I was little, it was not only with her tongue--she used to pinch me, and box my ears until Dr. Garrison said it might make me deaf, and then she stopped, because she said deaf people were a bore, and she could not put up with them.

I shall not go on looking back. There are numbers of things that even now make me raging to remember.

I have only been out for a year. Mrs. Carruthers got an attack of bronchitis when I was eighteen, just as we were going up to town for the season, and said she did not feel well enough for the fatigues, and off we went to Switzerland. And in the autumn we travelled all over the place, and in the winter she coughed and groaned, and the next season would not go up until the last court, so I have only had a month of London. The bronchitis got perfectly well--it was heart-failure that killed her, brought on by an attack of temper because Thomas broke the Carruthers vase. I shall not write of her death, or the finding of the will, or the surprise that I was left nothing but a thousand pounds and a diamond ring.

Now that I am an adventuress, instead of an heiress, of what good to chronicle all that! Sufficient to say if Mr. Carruthers does not obey his orders and offer me his hand this afternoon, I shall have to pack my trunks and depart by Saturday, but where to is yet in the lap of the gods.

He is coming by the 3.20 train, and will be in the house before four, an ugly, dull time; one can't offer him tea, and it will be altogether trying and exciting.

He is coming ostensibly to take over his place, I suppose, but in reality it is to look at me, and see if in any way he will be able to persuade himself to carry out his aunt's wishes. I wonder what it will be like to be married to some one you don't know and don't like? I am not greatly acquainted yet with the ways of men. We have not had any that you could call that here, much--only a lot of old wicked sort of things, in the autumn, to shoot the pheasants, and play bridge with Mrs. Carruthers. The marvel to me was how they ever killed anything, such antiques they were! Some politicians and ambassadors, and creatures of that sort; and mostly as wicked as could be. They used to come trotting down the passage to the school-room, and have tea with mademoiselle and me on the slightest provocation, and say such things! I am sure lots of what they said meant something else, mademoiselle used to giggle so. She was rather a good-looking one I had the last four years, but I hated her. There was never any one young and human who counted.

I did look forward to coming out in London, but being so late, every one was preoccupied when we got there, and no one got in love with me much. Indeed, we went out very little; a part of the time I had a swollen nose from a tennis-ball at Ranelagh, and people don't look at girls with swollen noses.

I wonder where I shall go and live! Perhaps in Paris--unless, of course, I marry Mr. Carruthers. I don't suppose it is dull being married. In London all the married ones seemed to have a lovely time, and had not to bother with their husbands much.

Mrs. Carruthers always as**sured me love was a thing of absolutely no consequence in marriage. You were bound to love some one some time, but the very fact of being chained to him would dispel the feeling. It was a thing to be looked upon like measles, or any other disease, and was better to get it over and then turn to the solid affairs of life. But how she expected me to get it over when she never arranged for me to see any one, I don't know.

I asked her one day what I should do if I got to like some one after I am married to Mr. Carruthers, and she laughed one of her horrid laughs, and said I should probably do as the rest of the world. And what do they do, I wonder? Well, I suppose I shall find out some day.

Of course there is the possibility that Christopher (do I like the name of Christopher, I wonder?)--well, that Christopher may not want to follow her will.

He has known about it for years, I suppose, just as I have, but I believe men are queer creatures, and he may take a dislike to me. I am not a type that would please every one. My hair is too red--brilliant, dark, fiery red, like a chestnut when it tumbles out of its shell, only burnished like metal. If I had the usual white eyelashes I should be downright ugly, but, thank goodness! by some freak of nature mine are black and thick, and stick out when you look at me sideways, and I often think when I catch sight of myself in the glass that I am really very pretty--all put together--but, as I said before, not a type to please every one.

A combination I am that Mrs. Carruthers as**sured me would cause anxieties. "With that mixture, Evangeline," she often said, "you would do well to settle yourself in life as soon as possible. Good girls don't have your coloring." So you see, as I am branded as bad from the beginning, it does not much matter what I do. My eyes are as green as pale emeralds, and long, and not going down at the corners with the Madonna expression of Cicely Parker, the vicar's daughter. I do not know yet what is being good, or being bad; perhaps I shall find out when I am an adventuress, or married to Mr. Carruthers.

All I know is that I want to live, and feel the blood rushing through my veins. I want to do as I please, and not have to be polite when I am burning with rage. I want to be late in the morning if I happen to fancy sleeping, and I want to sit up at night if I don't want to go to bed! So, as you can do what you like when you are married, I really hope Mr. Carruthers will take a fancy to me, and then all will be well! I shall stay up-stairs until I hear the carriage wheels, and leave Mr. Barton--the lawyer--to receive him. Then I shall saunter down nonchalantly while they are in the hall. It will be an effective entrance. My trailing black garments, and the great broad stairs--this is a splendid house--and if he has an eye in his head he must see my foot on each step! Even Mrs. Carruthers said I have the best foot she had ever seen. I am getting quite excited--I shall ring for Véronique and begin to dress!... I shall write more presently.

Thursday evening.

It is evening, and the fire is burning brightly in my sitting-room, where I am writing. My sitting-room!--did I say? Mr. Carruthers's sitting-room, I meant--for it is mine no longer, and on Saturday, the day after to-morrow, I shall have to bid good-bye to it forever.

For--yes, I may as well say it at once--the affair did not walk; Mr. Carruthers quietly, but firmly, refused to obey his aunt's will, and thus I am left an old maid!

I must go back to this afternoon to make it clear, and I must say my ears tingle as I think of it.

I rang for Véronique, and put on my new black afternoon frock, which had just been unpacked. I tucked in the violets in a careless way, saw that my hair was curling as vigorously as usual, and not too rebelliously for a demure appearance, and so, at exactly the right moment, began to descend the stairs.

There was Mr. Carruthers in the hall. A horribly nice-looking, tall man, with a clean-shaven face and features cut out of stone, a square chin, and a nasty twinkle in the corner of his eye. He has a very distinguished look, and that air of never having had to worry for his things to fit; they appear as if they had grown on him. He has a cold, reserved manner, and something commanding and arrogant in it that makes one want to contradict him at once; but his voice is charming--one of that cultivated, refined kind, which sounds as if he spoke a number of languages, and so does not slur his words. I believe this is diplomatic, for some of the old ambassador people had this sort of voice.

He was standing with his back to the fire, and the light of the big window with the sun getting low was full on his face, so I had a good look at him. I said in the beginning that there was no use pretending when one is writing one's own thoughts for one's own self to read when one is old, and keeping them in a locked-up journal, so I shall always tell the truth here--quite different things to what I should say if I were talking to some one and describing to them this scene. Then I should say I found him utterly unattractive, and, in fact, I hardly noticed him! As it was, I noticed him very much, and I have a tiresome inward conviction that he could be very attractive indeed, if he liked.

He looked up, and I came forward with my best demure air as Mr. Barton nervously introduced us, and we shook hands. I left him to speak first.

"Abominably cold day," he said, carelessly. That was English and promising!

"Yes, indeed," I said. "You have just arrived?"

And so we continued in this banal way, with Mr. Barton twirling his thumbs, and hoping, one could see, that we should soon come to the business of the day; interposing a remark here and there which added to the gêne of the situation.

At last Mr. Carruthers said to Mr. Barton that he would go round and see the house, and I said tea would be ready when they got back. And so they started.

My cheeks would burn, and my hands were so cold, it was awkward and annoying--not half the simple affair I had thought it would be up-stairs.

When it was quite dark and the lamps were brought, they came back to the hall, and Mr. Barton, saying he did not want any tea, left us to find papers in the library.

I gave Mr. Carruthers some tea, and asked the usual things about sugar and cream. His eye had almost a look of contempt as he glanced at me, and I felt an angry throb in my throat. When he had finished he got up and stood before the fire again. Then, deliberately, as a man who has determined to do his duty at any cost, he began to speak.

"You know the wish, or, rather, I should say, the command, my aunt left me," he said. "In fact, she states that she had always brought you up to the idea. It is rather a tiresome thing to discuss with a stranger, but perhaps we had better get it over as soon as possible, as that is what I came down here to-day for. The command was I should marry you." He paused a moment. I remained perfectly still, with my hands idly clasped in my lap, and made myself keep my eyes on his face.

He continued, finding I did not answer, just a faint tone of resentment creeping into his voice--because I would not help him out, I suppose. I should think not! I loved annoying him!

"It is a preposterous idea in these days for any one to dispose of people's destinies in this way, and I am sure you will agree with me that such a marriage would be impossible."

"Of course I agree," I replied, lying with a tone of careless sincerity. I had to control all my real feelings of either anger or pleasure for so long in Mrs. Carruthers's presence that I am now an adept.

"I am so glad you put it so plainly," I went on, sweetly. "I was wondering how I should write it to you, but now you are here it is quite easy for us to finish the matter at once. Whatever Mrs. Carruthers may have intended me to do, I had no intention of obeying her; but it would have been useless for me to say so to her, and so I waited until the time for speech should come. Won't you have some more tea?"

He looked at me very straightly, almost angrily, for an instant; presently, with a sigh of relief, he said, half laughing: "Then we are agreed; we need say no more about it!"

"No more," I answered; and I smiled, too, although a rage of anger was clutching my throat. I do not know who I was angry with--Mrs. Carruthers for procuring this situation, Christopher for being insensible to my charms, or myself for ever having contemplated for a second the possibility of his doing otherwise. Why, when one thinks of it calmly, should he want to marry me, a penniless adventuress with green eyes and red hair that he had never seen before in his life? I hoped he thought I was a person of naturally high color, because my cheeks from the moment I began to dress had been burning and burning. It might have given him the idea the scene was causing me some emotion, and that he should never know!

He took some more tea, but he did not drink it, and by this I guessed that he also was not as calm as he looked!

"There is something else," he said--and now there was almost an awkwardness in his voice--"something else which I want to say, though perhaps Mr. Barton could say it for me, but which I would rather say straight to you, and that is, you must let me settle such a sum of money on you as you had every right to expect from my aunt, after the promises I understand she always made to you----"

This time I did not wait for him to finish. I bounded up from my seat, some uncontrollable sensation of wounded pride throbbing and thrilling through me.

"Money! Money from you!" I exclaimed. "Not if I were starving." Then I sat down again, ashamed of this vehemence. How would he interpret it! But it galled me so--and yet I had been ready an hour ago to have accepted him as my husband! Why, then, this revolt at the idea of receiving a fair substitute in gold? Really, one is a goose, and I had time to realize, even in this tumult of emotion, that there can be nothing so inconsistent as the feelings of a girl.

"You must not be foolish!" he said, coldly. "I intend to settle the money whether you will or no, so do not make any further trouble about it!"

There was something in his voice so commanding and arrogant, just as I noticed at first, that every obstinate quality in my nature rose to answer him.

"I do not know anything about the law in the matter; you may settle what you choose, but I shall never touch any of it," I said, as calmly as I could. "So it seems ridiculous to waste the money, does it not? You may not, perhaps, be aware I have enough of my own, and do not in any way require yours."

He became colder and more exasperated.

"As you please, then," he said, snappishly, and Mr. Barton fortunately entering at that moment, the conversation was cut short, and I left them.

They are not going back to London until to-morrow morning, and dinner has yet to be got through. Oh, I do feel in a temper! and I can never tell of the emotions that were throbbing through me as I came up the great stairs just now. A sudden awakening to the humiliation of the situation! How had I ever been able to contemplate marrying a man I did not know, just to secure myself a comfortable home! It seems preposterous now. I suppose it was because I have always been brought up to the idea, and, until I came face to face with the man, it did not strike me as odd. Fortunately he can never guess that I had been willing to accept him; my dissimulation has stood me in good stead. Now I am animated by only one idea--to appear as agreeable and charming to Mr. Carruthers as possible. The aim and object of my life shall be to make him regret his decision. When I hear him imploring me to marry him, I shall regain a little of my self-respect! And as for marriage, I shall have nothing to do with the horrid affair! Oh, dear, no! I shall go away free and be a happy adventuress. I have read the Trois Mousquetaires and Vingt Ans Après--mademoiselle had them--and I remember milady had only three days to get round her jailer, starting with his hating her; whereas Mr. Carruthers does not hate me, so that counts against my only having one evening. I shall do my best!

Thursday night.

I was down in the library, innocently reading a book, when Mr. Carruthers came in. He looked even better in evening dress, but he appeared ill-tempered, and no doubt found the situation unpleasant.

"Is not this a beautiful house?" I said, in a velvet voice, to break the awkward silence, and show him I did not share his unease. "You had not seen it before, for ages, had you?"

"Not since I was a boy," he answered, trying to be polite. "My aunt quarrelled with my father--she was the direct heiress of all this--and married her cousin, my father's younger brother--but you know the family history, of course----"

"Yes."

"They hated each other, she and my father."

"Mrs. Carruthers hated all her relations," I said, demurely.

"Myself among them?"

"Yes," I said, slowly, and bent forward so that the lamplight should fall upon my hair. "She said you were too much like herself in character for you ever to be friends."

"Is that a compliment?" he asked, and there was a twinkle in his eye.

"We must speak no ill of the dead," I said, evasively.

He looked slightly annoyed--as much as these diplomats ever let themselves look anything.

"You are right," he said. "Let her rest in peace."

There was silence for a moment.

"What are you going to do with your life now?" he asked, presently. It was a bald question.

"I shall become an adventuress," I answered, deliberately.

"A what?" he exclaimed, his black eyebrows contracting.

"An adventuress. Is not that what it is called? A person who sees life, and has to do the best she can for herself."

He laughed. "You strange little lady!" he said, his irritation with me melting. And when he laughs you can see how even his teeth are; but the two side ones are sharp and pointed, like a wolf's.

"Perhaps, after all, you had better have married me!"

"No, that would clip my wings," I said, frankly, looking at him straight in the face.

"Mr. Barton tells me you propose leaving here on Saturday. I beg you will not do so. Please consider it your home for so long as you wish--until you can make some arrangements for yourself. You look so very young to be going about the world alone!"

He bent down and gazed at me closer--there was an odd tone in his voice.

"I am twenty, and I have been often snubbed," I said, calmly. "That prepares one for a good deal. I shall enjoy doing what I please."

"And what are you going to please?"

"I shall go to Claridge's until I can look about me."

He moved uneasily.

"But have you no relations--no one who will take care of you?"

"I believe none. My mother was nobody particular, you know--a Miss Tonkins by name."

"But your father?" He sat down now on the sofa beside me; there was a puzzled, amused look in his face; perhaps I was amazing him.

"Papa? Oh, papa was the last of his family. They were decent people, but there are no more of them."

He pushed one of the cushions aside.

"It is an impossible position for a girl--completely alone. I cannot allow it. I feel responsible for you. After all, it would do very well if you married me. I am not particularly domestic by nature, and should be very little at home, so you could live here and have a certain position, and I would come back now and then and see you were getting on all right."

One could not say if he was mocking or no.

"It is too good of you," I said, without any irony. "But I like freedom, and when you were at home it might be such a bore----"

He leaned back and laughed merrily.

"You are candid, at any rate!" he said.

Mr. Barton came into the room at that moment, full of apologies at being late. Immediately after, with the usual ceremony, the butler entered and pompously announced, "Dinner is served, sir." How quickly they recognize the new master!

Mr. Carruthers gave me his arm, and we walked slowly down the picture-gallery to the banqueting-hall, and there sat down at the small, round table in the middle, that always looks like an island in a lake.

I talked nicely at dinner. I was dignified and grave, and quite frank. Mr. Carruthers was not bored. The chef had outdone himself, hoping to be kept on. I never felt so excited in my life.

I was apparently asleep under a big lamp, after dinner, in the library, a book of silly poetry in my lap, when the door opened and he--Mr. Carruthers--came in alone, and walked up the room. I did not open my eyes. He looked for just a minute--how accurate I am! Then he said, "You are very pretty when asleep!"

His voice was not caressing or complimentary--merely as if the fact had forced this utterance.

I allowed myself to wake without a start.

"Was the '47 port as good as you hoped?" I asked, sympathetically.

He sat down. I had arranged my chair so that there was none other in its immediate neighborhood. Thus he was some way off, and could realize my whole silhouette.

"The '47 port? Oh yes; but I am not going to talk of port. I want you to tell me a lot more about yourself, and your plans----"

"I have no plans--except to see the world."

He picked up a book and put it down again; he was not perfectly calm.

"I don't think I shall let you. I am more than ever convinced you ought to have some one to take care of you--you are not of the type that makes it altogether safe to roam about alone."

"Oh! as for my type," I said, languidly, "I know all about that. Mrs. Carruthers said no one with this combination of color could be good, so I am not going to try. It will be quite simple."

He rose quickly from his chair and stood in front of the great log fire, such a comical expression on his face.

"You are the quaintest child I have ever met," he said.

"I am not a child, and I mean to know everything I can."

He went over towards the sofa again and arranged the cushions--great, splendid, fat pillows of old Italian brocade, stiff with gold and silver.

"Come!" he pleaded. "Sit here beside me, and let us talk; you are miles away there, and I want to--make you see reason."

I rose at once and came slowly to where he pointed. I settled myself deliberately. There was one cushion of purple and silver right under the light, and there I rested my head.

"Now talk!" I said, and half closed my eyes.

Oh, I was enjoying myself! The first time I have ever been alone with a real man! They--the old ambassadors and politicians and generals--used always to tell me I should grow into an attractive woman--now I meant to try what I could do.

Mr. Carruthers remained silent, but he sat down beside me, and looked and looked right into my eyes.

"Now talk, then," I said again.

"Do you know, you are a very disturbing person," he said, at last, by way of a beginning.

"What is that?" I asked.

"It is a woman who confuses one's thoughts when one looks at her. I do not now seem to have anything to say, or too much----"

"You called me a child."

"I should have called you an enigma."

I as**sured him I was not the least complex, and that I only wanted everything simple, and to be left in peace, without having to get married or worry to obey people.

We had a nice talk.

"You won't leave here on Saturday," he said, presently, apropos of nothing. "I do not think I shall go myself to-morrow. I want you to show me all over the gardens, and your favorite haunts."

"To-morrow I shall be busy packing," I said, gravely, "and I do not think I want to show you the gardens; there are some corners I rather loved; I believe it will hurt a little to say good-bye."

Just then Mr. Barton came into the room, fussy and ill at ease. Mr. Carruthers's face hardened again, and I rose to say good-night.

As he opened the door for me--"Promise you will come down to give me my coffee in the morning," he said.

"Qui vivra verra," I answered, and sauntered out into the hall. He followed me, and watched as I went up the staircase.

"Good-night!" I called, softly, as I got to the top, and laughed a little--I don't know why.

He bounded up the stairs, three steps at a time, and before I could turn the handle of my door he stood beside me.

"I do not know what there is about you," he said, "but you drive me mad. I shall insist upon carrying out my aunt's wish, after all! I shall marry you, and never let you out of my sight--do you hear?"

Oh, such a strange sense of exaltation crept over me--it is with me still! Of course, he probably will not mean all that to-morrow, but to have made such a stiff block of stone rush up-stairs and say this much now is perfectly delightful!

I looked at him up from under my eyelashes. "No, you will not marry me," I said, calmly, "or do anything else I don't like; and now, really, good-night," and I slipped into my room and closed the door. I could hear he did not stir for some seconds. Then he went off down the stairs again, and I am alone with my thoughts!

My thoughts! I wonder what they mean! What did I do that had this effect upon him? I intended to do something, and I did it, but I am not quite sure what it was. However, that is of no consequence. Sufficient for me to know that my self-respect is restored and I can now go out and see the world with a clear conscience.

He has asked me to marry him--and I have said I won't!

BRANCHES PARK,[1] Thursday night, November 3.

DEAR BOB,-A quaint thing has happened to me! Came down here to take over the place, and to say decidedly I would not marry Miss Travers, and I find her with red hair and a skin like milk, and a pair of green eyes that look at you from a forest of black eyelashes with a thousand unsaid challenges. I should not wonder if I commit some folly. One has read of women like this in the cinque-cento time in Italy, but up to now I had never met one. She is not in the room ten minutes before one feels a sense of unrest, and desire for one hardly knows what--principally to touch her, I fancy. Good Lord! what a skin! pure milk and rare roses--and the reddest Cupid's bow of a mouth! You had better come down at once (these things are probably in your line) to save me from some sheer idiocy. The situation is exceptional--she and I practically alone in the house, for old Barton does not count. She had nowhere to go, and as far as I can make out has not a friend in the world. I suppose I ought to leave. I will try to on Monday; but come down to-morrow by the 4.00 train.

Yours, CHRISTOPHER.

P. S.--'47 port A1, and two or three brands of the old aunt's champagne exceptional, Barton says--we can sample them. Shall send this up by express; you will get it in time for the 4.00 train.

[Footnote 1: A letter from Mr. Carruthers which came into Evangeline's possession later, and which she put into her journal at this place.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]