November 9
Red Hair, or The Vicissitudes of Evangeline
Author:Elinor Glyn

TRYLAND COURT HEADINGTON, Wednesday, November 9th.

Goodness gracious! I have been here four whole days, and I continually ask myself how I shall be able to stand it for the rest of the fortnight. Before I left Branches, I began to have a sinking at the heart. There were horribly touching farewells with housekeepers and people I have known since a child, and one hates to have that choky feeling, especially as just at the end of it, while tears were still in my eyes, Mr. Carruthers came out into the hall and saw them; so did Lord Robert!

I blinked and blinked, but one would trickle down my nose. It was a horribly awkward moment.

Mr. Carruthers made profuse inquiries as to my comforts for the drive, in a tone colder than ever, and insisted upon my drinking some cherry brandy. Such fussing is quite unlike his usual manner, so I suppose he, too, felt it was a tiresome quart d'heure. Lord Robert did not hide his concern; he came up to me and took my hand while Christopher was speaking to the footman who was going with me.

"You are a dear," he said, "and a brick, and don't you forget I shall come and stay with Lady Katherine before you leave, so you won't feel you are all among strangers."

I thanked him, and he squeezed my hand so kindly. I do like Lord Robert.

Very soon I was gay again and insouciante, and the last they saw of me was smiling out of the brougham window as I drove off in the dusk. They both stood upon the steps and waved to me.

Tea was over at Tryland when I arrived--such a long, damp drive! And I explained to Lady Katherine how sorry I was to have had to come so late, and that I could not think of troubling her to have up fresh for me; but she insisted, and after a while a whole new lot came, made in a hurry with the water not boiling, and I had to gulp down a nasty cup--Ceylon tea, too! I hate Ceylon tea! Mr. Montgomerie warmed himself before the fire, quite shielding it from us, who shivered on a row of high-backed chairs beyond the radius of the hearth-rug.

He has a way of puffing out his cheeks and making a noise like "Burrrr," which sounds very bluff and hearty until you find he has said a mean thing about some one directly after. And while red hair looks very well on me, I do think a man with it is the ugliest thing in creation. His face is red, and his nose and cheeks almost purple, and fiery whiskers, fierce enough to frighten a cat in a dark lane.

He was a rich Scotch manufacturer, and poor Lady Katherine had to marry him, I suppose; though, as she is Scotch herself, I dare say she does not notice that he is rather coarse.

There are two sons and six daughters--one married, four grown-up, and one at school in Brussels--and all with red hair! But straight and coarse, and with freckles and white eyelashes. So, really, it is very kind of Lady Katherine to have asked me here.

They are all as good as gold on top, and one does poker-work, and another binds books, and a third embroiders altar-cloths, and the fourth knits ties--all for charities, and they ask every one to subscribe to them directly they come to the house. The tie and the altar-cloth ones were sitting working hard in the drawing-room--Kirstie and Jean are their names; Jessie and Maggie, the poker-worker and the bookbinder, have a sitting-room to themselves--their work-shop they call it. They were there still, I suppose, for I did not see them until dinner. We used to meet once a year at Mrs. Carruthers's Christmas parties ever since ages and ages, and I remember I hated their tartan sashes, and they generally had colds in their heads, and one year they gave every one mumps, so they were not asked the next. The altar-cloth one, Jean, is my age, the other three are older.

It was really very difficult to find something to say, and I can quite understand common people fidgeting when they feel worried like this. I have never fidgeted since eight years ago, the last time Mrs. Carruthers boxed my ears for it. Just before going up to dress for dinner Mr. Montgomerie asked blank out if it was true that Mr. Carruthers had arrived. Lady Katherine had been skirting round this subject for a quarter of an hour.

I only said yes, but that was not enough, and, once started, he asked a string of questions, with "Burrrr" several times in between. Was Mr. Carruthers going to shoot the pheasants in November? Had he decided to keep on the chef? Had he given up diplomacy? I said I really did not know any of these things, I had seen so little of him.

Lady Katherine nodded her head, while she measured a comforter she was knitting, to see if it was long enough.

"I am sure it must have been most awkward for you, his arriving at all; it was not very good taste on his part, I am afraid, but I suppose he wished to see his inheritance as soon as possible," she said.

I nearly laughed, thinking what she would say if she knew which part of his inheritance he had really come to see. I do wonder if she has ever heard that Mrs. Carruthers left me to him, more or less, in her will!

"I hope you had your old governess with you, at least," she continued, as we went up the stairs, "so that you could feel less uncomfortable--really a most shocking situation for a girl alone in the house with an unmarried man!"

I told her Mr. Barton was there, too, but I had not the courage to say anything about Lord Robert; only that Mr. Carruthers had a friend of his down who was a great judge of pictures, to see them.

"Oh, a valuer, I suppose. I hope he is not going to sell the Correggios," she exclaimed.

"No, I don't think so," I said, leaving the part about the valuer unanswered.

Mr. Carruthers's being unmarried seemed to worry her most; she went on about it again before we got to my bedroom door.

"I happened to hear a rumor at Miss Sheriton's" (the wool-shop in Headington, our town) "this morning," she said, "and so I wrote at once to you. I felt how terrible it would be for one of my own dear girls to be left alone with a bachelor like that. I almost wonder you did not stay up in your own rooms."

I thanked her for her kind thought, and she left me at last.

If she only knew! The unmarried ones who came down the passage to talk to mademoiselle were not half so saucy as the old fellows with wives somewhere. Lord Bentworth was married, and he wanted me to kiss him, whereas Colonel Grimston had no wife, and he never said Bo! to a goose. And I do wonder what she thought Mr. Carruthers was going to do to me, that it would have been wise for me to stay up in my rooms. Perhaps she thinks diplomats, having lived in foreign places, are sort of wild beasts.

My room is frightful after my pretty rosy chintzes at Branches. Nasty yellowish wood furniture, and nothing much matching; however, there are plenty of wardrobes, so Véronique is content.

They were all in the drawing-room when I got down, and Malcolm, the eldest son, who is in a Highland militia regiment, had arrived by a seven-o'clock train.

I had that dreadful feeling of being very late and Mr. Montgomerie wanting to swear at me, though it was only a minute past a quarter to eight.

He said "Burrrr" several times, and flew off to the dining-room with me tucked under his arm, murmuring it gave no cook a chance to keep the dinner waiting. So I expected something wonderful in the way of food, but it is not half so good as our chef sent up at Branches. And the footmen are not all the same height, and their liveries don't fit like Mrs. Carruthers always insisted that ours should do.

Malcolm is a ti**tsy pootsy man. Not as tall as I am, and thin as a rail, with a look of his knees being too near together. He must be awful in a kilt, and I am sure he shivers when the wind blows--he has that air. I don't like kilts--unless men are big, strong, bronzed creatures that don't seem ashamed of their bare bits. I saw some splendid specimens marching, once, in Edinburgh, and they swung their skirts just like the beautiful ladies in the Bois, when mademoiselle and I went out of the Allée Mrs. Carruthers told us to try always to walk in.

Lady Catherine talked a great deal at dinner about politics and her different charities, and the four girls were so respectful and interested, but Mr. Montgomerie contradicted her whenever he could. I was glad when we went into the drawing-room.

That first evening was the worst of all, because we were all so strange; one seems to get acclimatized to whatever it is after a while.

Lady Katherine asked me if I had not some fancy-work to do. Kirstie had begun her ties, and Jean the altar-cloth, again.

"Do let Maggie run to your room and fetch it for you," she said.

I was obliged to tell her I never did any. "But I--I can trim hats," I said; it really seemed awful not to be able to do anything like them, I felt I must say this as a kind of defence for myself.

However, she seemed to think that hardly a lady's employment.

"How clever of you!" Kirstie exclaimed. "I wish I could, but don't you find that intermittent? You can't trim them all the time. Don't you feel the want of a constant employment?"

I was obliged to say I had not felt like that yet, but I could not tell them I particularly loved sitting perfectly still, doing nothing.

Jessie and Maggie played Patience at two tables which folded up, and which they brought out and sat down to with a deliberate accustomed look which made me know at once they did this every night, and that I should see those tables planted exactly on those two spots of carpet every evening during my whole stay. I suppose it is because they cannot bring the poker-work and the bookbinding into the drawing-room.

"Won't you play us something?" Lady Katherine asked, plaintively. Evidently it was not permitted to do nothing, so I got up and went to the piano.

Fortunately I know heaps of things by heart, and I love them, and would have gone on and on, so as to fill up the time, but they all said "Thank you" in a chorus after each bit, and it rather put me off.

Mr. Montgomerie and Malcolm did not come in for ages, and I could see Lady Katherine getting uneasy. One or two things at dinner suggested to me that these two were not on the best terms, perhaps she feared they had come to blows in the dining-room. The Scotch, Mrs. Carruthers said, have all kinds of rough customs that other nations do not keep up any longer.

They did turn up at last, and Mr. Montgomerie was purple all over his face, and Malcolm a pale green, but there were no bruises on him; only one could see they had had a terrible quarrel.

There is something in breeding, after all, even if one is of a barbarous country. Lady Katherine behaved so well, and talked charities and politics faster than ever, and did not give them time for any further outburst, though I fancy I heard a few "damns" mixed with the "burrrrs," and not without the "n" on just for ornament, like Lord Robert's.

It was a frightful evening.

Wednesday, November 9th. (Continued.) Malcolm walked beside me going to church the next day. He looked a little less depressed, and I tried to cheer him up.

He did not tell me what his worries were, but Jean had said something about it when she came into my room as I was getting ready. It appears he has got into trouble over a horse called Angela Grey--Jean gathered this from Lady Katherine; she said her father was very angry about it, as he had spent so much money on it.

To me it does not sound like a horse's name, and I told Jean so, but she was perfectly horrified, and said it must be a horse, because they were not acquainted with any Angela Grey, and did not even know any Greys at all. So it must be a horse!

I think that a ridiculous reason, as Mrs. Carruthers said all young men knew people one wouldn't want to; and it was silly to make a fuss about it, and that they couldn't help it, and they would be very dull if they were as good as gold, like girls.

But I expect Lady Katherine thinks differently about things to Mrs. Carruthers, and the daughters the same.

I shall ask Lord Robert when I see him again if it is a horse or not.

Malcolm is not attractive, and I was glad the church was not far off.

No carriages are allowed out on Sunday, so we had to walk; and coming back it began to rain, and we could not go round the stables, which I understand is the custom here every Sunday.

Everything is done because it is the custom, not because you want to amuse yourself.

"When it rains and we can't go round the stables," Kirstie said, "we look at the old Illustrated London News, and go on our way from afternoon church."

I did not particularly want to do that, so stayed in my room as long as I could. The four girls were seated at a large table in the hall, each with a volume in front of her when I got down at last. They must know every picture by heart, if they do it every Sunday it rains--they stay in England all the winter.

Jean made room for me beside her.

"I am at the 'Sixties,'" she said. "I finished the 'Fifties' last Easter." So they evidently do even this with a method.

I asked her if there were not any new books they wanted to read, but she said Lady Katherine did not care for their looking at magazines or novels unless she had been through them first, and she had not time for many, so they kept the few they had to read between tea and dinner on Sunday.

By this time I felt I should do something wicked; and if the luncheon gong had not sounded, I do not know what would have happened.

Mr. Montgomerie said rather gallant things to me when the cheese and port came along, while the girls looked shocked, and Lady Katherine had a stony stare. I suppose he is like this because he is married. I wonder, though, if young married men are the same. I have never met any yet.

By Monday night I was beginning to feel the end of the world would come soon. It is ten times worse than ever having had to conceal all my feelings and abjectly obey Mrs. Carruthers. Because she did say cynical, entertaining things sometimes to me, and to her friends, that made one laugh. And one felt it was only she who made the people who were dependent upon her do her way, because she herself was so selfish, and that the rest of the world were free if once one got outside.

But Lady Katherine and the whole Montgomerie milieu give you the impression that everything and everybody must be ruled by rules; and no one could have a right to an individual opinion in any sphere of society.

You simply can't laugh--they asphyxiate you. I am looking forward to this afternoon and Mr. Carruthers coming over. I often think of the days at Branches, and how exciting it was, with those two, and I wish I were back again.

I have tried to be polite and nice to them all here, and yet they don't seem absolutely pleased.

Malcolm gazes at me with sheep's eyes. They are a washy blue, with the family white eyelashes (how different to Lord Robert's!). He has the most precise, regulated manner, and never says a word of slang; he ought to have been a young curate, and I can't imagine his spending money on any Angela Greys, even if she is a horse or not.

He speaks to me when he can, and asks me to go for walks round the golf course. The four girls play for an hour and three-quarters every morning. They never seem to enjoy anything--the whole of life is a solid duty. I am sitting up in my room, and Véronique has had the sense to have my fire lighted early. I suppose Mr. Carruthers won't come until about four--an hour more to be got through. I have said I must write letters, and so have escaped from them and not had to go for the usual drive.

I suppose he will have the sense to ask for me, even if Lady Katherine is not back when he comes.

This morning it was so fine and frosty a kind of devil seemed to creep into me. I have been so good since Saturday, so when Malcolm said, in his usual prim, priggish voice, "Miss Travers, may I have the pleasure of taking you for a little exercise," I jumped up without consulting Lady Katherine, and went and put my things on, and we started.

I had a feeling that they were all thinking I was doing something wrong, and so, of course, it made me worse. I said every kind of simple thing I could to Malcolm to make him jump, and looked at him now and then from under my eyelashes. So when we got to a stile, he did want to help me, and his eyes were quite wobblish. He has a giggle right up in the treble, and it comes out at such unexpected moments, when there is nothing to laugh at. I suppose it is being Scotch--he has just caught the meaning of some former joke. There would never be any use in saying things to him like to Lord Robert and Mr. Carruthers, because one would have left the place before he understood, if even then.

There was an old Sir Thomas Farquharson who came to Branches, and he grasped the deepest jokes of Mrs. Carruthers--so deep that even I did not understand them--and he was Scotch. It may be they are like that only when they have red hair.

When I was seated on top of a stile, Malcolm suddenly announced: "I hear you are going to London when you go. I hope you will let me come and see you; but I wish you lived here always."

"I don't," I said, and then I remembered that sounded rather rude, and they had been kind to me. "At least, you know, I think the country is dull; don't you--for always?"

"Yes," he replied, primly, "for men, but it is where I should always wish to see the woman I respected."

"Are towns so wicked?" I asked, in my little-angel voice. "Tell me of their pitfalls, so that I may avoid them."

"You must not believe everything people say to you, to begin with," he said, seriously. "For one so young as you, I am afraid you will find your path beset with temptations."

"Oh, do tell me what!" I implored. "I have always wanted to know what temptations were. Please tell me. If you come to see me--would you be a temptation, or is temptation a thing and not a person?" I looked at him so beseechingly he never for a second saw the twinkle in my eye.

He coughed pompously. "I expect I should be," he said modestly. "Temptations are--er--er--Oh, I say, you know, I say--I don't know what to say."

"Oh, what a pity!" I said, regretfully. "I was hoping to hear all about it from you, especially if you are one yourself; you must know."

He looked gratified, but still confused.

"You see, when you are quite alone in London, some man may to you."

"Oh, do you think so, really?" I asked, aghast. "That, I suppose, would be frightful, if I were by myself in the room. Would it do, do you think, if I left the sitting-room door open and kept Véronique on the other side?"

He looked at me hard, but he only saw the face of an unprotected angel, and, becoming reassured, he said, gravely: "Yes, it might be just as well."

"You do surprise me about love," I said. "I had no idea it was a violent kind of thing like that. I thought it began with grave reverence and respect, and after years of offering flowers and humble compliments, and bread-and-butter at tea-parties, the gentleman went down upon one knee and made a declaration--'Clara Maria, I adore you; be mine'--and then one put out a lily-white hand and, blushing, told him to rise; but that can't be your sort, and you have not yet explained what temptation means."

"It means more or less wanting to do what you ought not to."

"Oh, then," I said, "I am having temptation all the time; aren't you? For instance, I want to tear up Jean's altar-cloth, and rip Kirstie's ties, and tool bad words on Jessie's bindings, and burn Maggie's wood-boxes."

He looked horribly shocked and hurt, so I added at once: "Of course, it must be lovely to be able to do these things; they are perfect girls, and so clever, only it makes me feel like that because I suppose I am--different."

He looked at me critically. "Yes, you are different; I wish you would try and be more like my sisters, then I should not feel so nervous about your going to London."

"It is too good of you to worry," I said, demurely. "But I don't think you need, you know. I have rather a strong suspicion I am acquainted with the way to take care of myself," and I bent down and laughed right in his face, and jumped off the stile onto the other side.

He did look such a teeny shrimp climbing after me! But it does not matter what is their size, the vanity of men is just the same. I am sure he thought he had only to begin to me himself and I would drop like a ripe peach into his mouth.

I teased him all the way back, until when we got in to lunch he did not know whether he was on his head or his heels. Just as we came up to the door he said: "I thought your name was Evangeline; why did you say it was Clara Maria?"

"Because it is not!" I laughed over my shoulder, and ran into the house.

He stood on the steps, and if he had been one of the stable-boys he would have scratched his head.

Now I must stop and dress. I shall put on a black tea-frock I have. Mr. Carruthers shall see I have not caught frumpdom from my hosts.

Night.

I do think men are the most horrid creatures--you can't believe what they say or rely upon them for five minutes! Mrs. Carruthers was right; she said, "Evangeline, remember, it is quite difficult enough to trust one's self without trusting a man."

Such an afternoon I have had! That annoying feeling of waiting for something all the time and nothing happening. For Mr. Carruthers did not turn up, after all. How I wish I had not dressed and expected him!

He is probably saying to himself he is well out of the business, now I have gone. I don't suppose he meant a word of his protestations to me. Well, he need not worry. I had no intention of jumping down his throat; only I would have been glad to see him, because he is human, and not like any one here.

Of course, Lord Robert will be the same, and I shall probably never see either of them again. How can Lord Robert get here when he does not know Lady Katherine? No; it was just said to say something nice when I was leaving, and he will be as horrid as Mr. Carruthers.

I am thankful, at least, that I did not tell Lady Katherine; I should have felt such a goose. Oh! I do wonder what I shall do next. I don't know at all how much things cost; perhaps three hundred a year is very poor. I am sure my best frocks always were five or six hundred francs each, and I dare say hotels run away with money. But for the moment I am rich, as Mr. Barton kindly advanced some of my legacy to me; and, oh, I am going to see life! and it is absurd to be sad! I shall go to bed, and forget how cross I feel.

They are going to have a shoot here next week--pheasants. I wonder if they will have a lot of old men. I have not heard all who are coming.

Lady Katherine said to me after dinner this evening that she was sorry, as she was afraid it would be most awkward for me their having a party, on account of my deep mourning, and I, if I felt it dreadfully, I need not consider they would find me the least rude if I preferred to have dinner in my room.

I don't want to have dinner in my room. Think of the stuffiness of it! And perhaps hearing laughter going on down-stairs.

I can always amuse myself watching faces, however dull they are. I thanked her, and said it would not be at all necessary, as I must get accustomed to seeing people. I could not count upon always meeting hostesses with such kind thoughts as hers, and I might as well get used to it.

She said "Yes," but not cordially.

To-morrow Mrs. Mackintosh, the eldest daughter, is arriving with her four children. I remember her wedding five years ago. I have never seen her since.

She was very tall and thin, and stooped dreadfully, and Mrs. Carruthers said Providence had been very kind in giving her a husband at all. But when Mr. Mackintosh tittuped down the aisle with her, I did not think so.

A wee, sandy fellow about up to her shoulder!

Oh, I would hate to be tied to that! I think to be tied to anything could not be very nice. I wonder how I ever thought of marrying Mr. Carruthers offhand!

I feel now I shall never marry, for years. Of course one can't be an old maid, but for a long time I mean to see life first.