November 4
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

BRANCHES, Friday night, November 4th.

This morning Mr. Carruthers had his coffee alone. Mr. Barton and I breakfasted quite early, before nine o'clock, and just as I was calling the dogs in the hall for a run, with my out-door things already on, Mr. Carruthers came down the great stairs with a frown on his face.

"Up so early!" he said. "Are you not going to pour out my tea for me, then?"

"I thought you said coffee! No, I am going out," and I went on down the corridor, the wolf-hounds following me.

"You are not a kind hostess!" he called after me.

"I am not a hostess at all," I answered back--"only a guest."

He followed me. "Then you are a very casual guest, not consulting the pleasure of your host."

I said nothing. I only looked at him over my shoulder as I went down the marble steps--looked at him and laughed, as on the night before.

He turned back into the house without a word, and I did not see him again until just before luncheon.

There is something unpleasant about saying good-bye to a place, and I found I had all sorts of sensations rising in my throat at various points in my walk. However, all that is ridiculous and must be forgotten. As I was coming round the corner of the terrace, a great gust of wind nearly blew me into Mr. Carruthers's arms. Odious weather we are having this autumn!

"Where have you been all the morning?" he said, when we had recovered ourselves a little. "I have searched for you all over the place."

"You do not know it all yet, or you would have found me," I said, pretending to walk on.

"No, you shall not go now!" he exclaimed, pacing beside me. "Why won't you be amiable, and make me feel at home?"

"I do apologize if I have been unamiable," I said, with great frankness. "Mrs. Carruthers always brought me up to have such good manners."

After that he talked to me for half an hour about the place.

He seemed to have forgotten his vehemence of the night before. He asked all sorts of questions, and showed a sentiment and a delicacy I should not have expected from his hard face. I was quite sorry when the gong sounded for luncheon and we went in.

I have no settled plan in my head. I seem to be drifting--tasting for the first time some power over another human being. It gave me delicious thrills to see his eagerness when contrasted with the dry refusal of my hand only the day before.

At lunch I addressed myself to Mr. Barton; he was too flattered at my attention, and continued to chatter garrulously.

The rain came on and poured and beat against the window-panes with a sudden, angry thud. No chance of further walks abroad. I escaped up-stairs while the butler was speaking to Mr. Carruthers, and began helping Véronique to pack. Chaos and desolation it all seemed in my cosey rooms.

While I was on my knees in front of a great wooden box, hopelessly trying to stow away books, a crisp tap came to the door, and without more ado my host--yes, he is that now--entered the room.

"Good Lord! what is all this?" he exclaimed. "What are you doing?"

"Packing," I said, not getting up.

He made an impatient gesture.

"Nonsense!" he said. "There is no need to pack. I tell you I will not let you go. I am going to marry you and keep you here always."

I sat down on the floor and began to laugh.

"You think so, do you?"

"Yes."

"You can't force me to marry you, you know--can you? I want to see the world. I don't want any tiresome man bothering after me. If I ever do marry, it will be because--oh, because--" and I stopped and began fiddling with the cover of a book.

"What?"

"Mrs. Carruthers said it was so foolish--but I believe I should prefer to marry some one I liked. Oh, I know you think that silly--" and I stopped him as he was about to speak--"but of course, as it does not last, anyway, it might be good for a little to begin like that--don't you think so?"

He looked round the room, and on through the wide-open double doors into my dainty bedroom, where Véronique was still packing.

"You are very cosey here; it is absurd of you to leave it," he said.

I got up off the floor and went to the window and back. I don't know why I felt moved--a sudden sense of the cosiness came over me. The world looked wet and bleak outside.

"Why do you say you want me to marry you, Mr. Carruthers?" I said. "You are joking, of course."

"I am not joking. I am perfectly serious. I am ready to carry out my aunt's wishes. It can be no new idea to you, and you must have worldly sense enough to realize it would be the best possible solution of your future. I can show you the world, you know."

He appeared to be extraordinarily good-looking as he stood there, his face to the dying light. Supposing I took him at his word, after all!

"But what has suddenly changed your ideas since yesterday? You told me you had come down to make it clear to me that you could not possibly obey her orders."

"That was yesterday," he said. "I had not really seen you--to-day I think differently."

"It is just because you are sorry for me; I suppose I seem so lonely," I whispered, demurely.

"It is perfectly impossible, what you propose to do--to go and live by yourself at a London hotel--the idea drives me mad."

"It will be delightful--no one to order me about from day to night!"

"Listen," he said, and he flung himself into an arm-chair. "You can marry me, and I will take you to Paris, or where you want, and I won't order you about--only I shall keep the other beasts of men from looking at you."

But I told him at once that I thought that would be very dull. "I have never had the chance of any one looking at me," I said, "and I want to feel what it is like. Mrs. Carruthers always as**sured me I was very pretty, you know, only she said that I was certain to come to a bad end, because of my type, unless I got married at once, and then if my head was screwed on it would not matter; but I don't agree with her."

He walked up and down the room impatiently.

"That is just it," he said. "I would rather be the first--I would rather you began by me. I am strong enough to ward off the rest."

"What does 'beginning by you' mean?" I asked, with great candor. "Old Lord Bentworth said I should begin with him, when he was here to shoot pheasants last autumn; he said it could not matter, he was so old; but I didn't----"

Mr. Carruthers bounded up from his chair.

"You didn't what! Good Lord! what did he want you to do?" he asked, aghast.

"Well," I said, and I looked down for a moment; I felt stupidly shy. "He wanted me to kiss him."

Mr. Carruthers looked almost relieved. It was strange.

"The old wretch! Nice company my aunt seems to have kept!" he exclaimed. "Could she not take better care of you than that--to let you be insulted by her guests?"

"I don't think Lord Bentworth meant to insult me. He only said he had never seen such a red, curly mouth as mine; and as I was bound to go to the devil some day with that, and such hair, I might begin by kissing him--he explained it all."

"And were you not very angry?" his voice wrathful.

"No, not very; I could not be, I was shaking so with laughter. If you could have seen the silly old thing, like a wizened monkey, with dyed hair and an eye-glass--it was too comic! I only told you because you said the sentence 'begin with you,' and I wanted to know if it was the same thing----"

Mr. Carruthers's eyes had such a strange expression--puzzle and amusement, and something else. He came over close to me.

"Because," I went on, "if so--I believe if that is always the beginning, I don't want any beginnings. I haven't the slightest desire to kiss any one. I should simply hate it."

Mr. Carruthers laughed. "Oh, you are only a baby child, after all!" he said.

This annoyed me. I got up with great dignity. "Tea will be ready in the white drawing-room," I said, stiffly, and walked towards my bedroom door.

He came after me.

"Send your maid away, and let us have it up here," he said. "I like this room."

But I was not to be appeased thus easily, and deliberately called Véronique and gave her fresh directions.

"Poor old Mr. Barton will be feeling so lonely," I said, as I went out into the passage. "I am going to see that he has a nice tea," and I looked back at Mr. Carruthers over my shoulder. Of course, he followed me, and we went together down the stairs.

In the hall a footman with a telegram met us. He tore it open impatiently. Then he looked quite annoyed.

"I hope you won't mind," he said, "but a friend of mine, Lord Robert Vavasour, is arriving this afternoon. He is a--er--great judge of pictures. I forgot I asked him to come down and look at them; it clean went out of my head."

I told him he was host, and why should I object to what guests he had.

"Besides, I am going myself to-morrow," I said, "if Véronique can get the packing done."

"Nonsense! How can I make you understand that I do not mean to let you go at all?"

I did not answer--only looked at him defiantly.

Mr. Barton was waiting patiently for us in the white drawing-room, and we had not been munching muffins for five minutes when the sound of wheels crunching the gravel of the great sweep--the windows of this room look out that way--interrupted our made conversation.

"This must be Bob arriving," Mr. Carruthers said, and went reluctantly into the hall to meet his guest.

They came back together presently, and he introduced Lord Robert to me.

I felt at once he was rather a pet. Such a shape! Just like the Apollo Belvedere! I do love that look, with a tiny waist and nice shoulders, and looking as if he were as lithe as a snake, and yet could break pokers in half like Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.

He has great, big, sleepy eyes of blue, and rather a plaintive expression, and a little fairish mustache turned up at the corners, and the nicest mouth one ever saw; and when you see him moving, and the back of his head, it makes you think all the time of a beautifully groomed thorough-bred horse. I don't know why. At once--in a minute--when we looked at each other, I felt I should like "Bob." He has none of Mr. Carruthers's cynical, hard expression, and I am sure he can't be nearly as old--not more than twenty-seven or so.

He seemed perfectly at home--sat down and had tea, and talked in the most casual, friendly way. Mr. Carruthers appeared to freeze up, Mr. Barton got more banal, and the whole thing entertained me immensely.

I often used to long for adventures in the old days with Mrs. Carruthers, and here I am really having them!

Such a situation! I am sure people would think it most improper! I alone in the house with these three men! I felt I really would have to go--but where?

Meanwhile I have every intention of amusing myself.

Lord Robert and I seemed to have a hundred things to say to each other. I do like his voice--and he is so perfectly sans gêne it makes no difficulties. By the end of tea we were as old friends. Mr. Carruthers got more and more polite and stiff, and finally jumped up and hurried his guest off to the smoking-room.

I put on such a duck of a frock for dinner--one of the sweetest, chastened simplicity, in black, showing peeps of skin through the thin part at the top. Nothing could be more demure or becoming, and my hair would not behave, and stuck out in rebellious waves and curls everywhere.

I thought it would be advisable not to be in too good time, so sauntered down after I knew dinner was announced.

They were both standing on the hearth-rug. I always forget to count Mr. Barton; he was in some chair, I suppose, but I did not notice him.

Mr. Carruthers is the taller--about one inch. He must be a good deal over six feet, because the other one is very tall, too; but now that one saw them together, Mr. Carruthers's figure appeared stiff and set besides Lord Robert's, and he hasn't got nearly such a little waist. But they really are lovely creatures, both of them, and I don't yet know which I like best.

We had such an engaging time at dinner! I was as provoking as I could be in the time, sympathetically, absorbingly interested in Mr. Barton's long stories, and only looking at the other two now and then from under my eyelashes; while I talked in the best demure fashion that I am sure even Lady Katherine Montgomerie--a neighbor of ours--would have approved of.

They should not be able to say I could not chaperone myself in any situation.

"Dam good port this, Christopher," Lord Robert said, when the '47 was handed round. "Is this what you asked me down to sample?"

"I thought it was to give your opinion about the pictures?" I exclaimed, surprised. "Mr. Carruthers said you were a great judge."

They looked at each other.

"Oh--ah--yes," said Lord Robert, lying transparently. "Pictures are awfully interesting. Will you show me them after dinner?"

"The light is too dim for a connoisseur to investigate them properly," I said.

"I shall have it all lit by electricity as soon as possible; I wrote about it to-day," Mr. Carruthers announced, sententiously. "But I will show you the pictures myself, to-morrow, Bob."

This at once decided me to take Lord Robert round to-night, and I told him so in a velvet voice while Mr. Barton was engaging Christopher's attention.

They stayed such a long time in the dining-room after I left that I was on my way to bed when they came out into the hall, and could with difficulty be persuaded to remain--for a few moments.

"I am too awfully sorry," Lord Robert said. "I could not get away. I do not know what possessed Christopher; he would sample ports, and talked the hind-leg off a donkey, till at last I said to him straight out I wanted to come to you. So here I am. Now you won't go to bed, will you?--please, please."

He has such pleading blue eyes, imploring pathetically, like a baby in distress, it is quite impossible to resist him--and we started down the gallery.

Of course, he did not know the difference between a Canaletto and a Turner, and hardly made a pretence of being interested; in fact, when we got to the end where the early Italians hang, and I was explaining the wonderful texture of a Madonna, he said: "They all look sea-sick and out of shape. Don't you think we might sit in that comfy window-seat and talk of something else?" Then he told me he loved pictures, but not this sort.

"I like people to look human, you know, even on canvas," he said. "All these ladies appear as if they were getting enteric, like people used in Africa; and I don't like their halos and things; and all the men are old and bald. But you must not think me a Goth. You will teach me their points, won't you?--and then I shall love them."

I said I did not care a great deal for them myself, except the color.

"Oh, I am so glad!" he said. "I should like to find we admired the same things; but no picture could interest me as much as your hair. It is the loveliest thing I have ever seen, and you do it so beautifully."

That did please me. He has the most engaging ways--Lord Robert--and he is very well informed, not stupid a bit, or thick, only absolutely simple and direct. We talked softly together, quite happy for a while.

Then Mr. Carruthers got rid of Mr. Barton and came towards us. I settled myself more comfortably on the velvet cushions. Purple velvet cushions and curtains in this gallery, good old relics of early Victorian taste. Lots of the house is awful, but these curtains always please me.

Mr. Carruthers's face was as stern as a stone bust of Augustus Cæsar. I am sure the monks in the Inquisition looked like that. I do wonder what he was going to say, but Lord Robert did not give him time.

"Do go away, Christopher," he said. "Miss Travers is going to teach me things about Italian Madonnas, and I can't keep my attention if there is a third person about."

I suppose if Mr. Carruthers had not been a diplomat he would have sworn, but I believe that kind of education makes you able to put your face how you like, so he smiled sweetly and took a chair near.

"I shall not leave you, Bob," he said. "I do not consider you are a good companion for Miss Evangeline. I am responsible for her, and I am going to take care of her."

"Then you should not have asked him here if he is not a respectable person," I said, innocently. "But Italian Madonnas ought to chasten and elevate his thoughts. Anyway, your responsibility towards me is self-constituted. I am the only person whom I mean to obey," and I settled myself deliberately in the velvet pillows.

"Not a good companion!" exclaimed Lord Robert. "What dam cheek, Christopher! I have not my equal in the whole Household Cavalry, as you know."

They both laughed, and we continued to talk in a sparring way--Mr. Carruthers sharp and subtle, and fine as a sword-blade; Lord Robert downright and simple, with an air of a puzzled baby.

When I thought they were both wanting me very much to stay, I got up and said good-night.

They both came down the gallery with me, and insisted upon each lighting a candle from the row of burnished silver candlesticks in the hall, which they presented to me with great mock-homage. It annoyed me--I don't know why--and I suddenly froze up and declined them both, while I said good-night again stiffly, and walked in my most stately manner up the stairs.

I could see Lord Robert's eyebrows puckered into a more plaintive expression than ever while he let the beautiful silver candlestick hang, dropping the grease onto the polished oak floor.

Mr. Carruthers stood quite still, and put his light back on the table. His face was cynical and rather amused. I can't say what irritation I felt, and immediately decided to leave on the morrow--but where to, fate or the devil could only know.

When I got to my room a lump came in my throat. Véronique had gone to bed, tired out with her day's packing.

I suddenly felt utterly alone--all the exaltation gone. For the moment I hated the two down-stairs. I felt the situation equivocal and untenable, and it had amused me so much an hour ago.

It is stupid and silly, and makes one's nose red, but I felt like crying a little before I got into bed.