"’He who bears this message is a Prussian dog, police trained, a spy. Let his death be a dog’s, cruel and swift.—Number One.’"
Reviewing the day, as she undressed and prepared for bed, Sofia told herself she had never yet lived through one so wearing, and thought the history of its irksome hours all too legible in the lack-lustre face that looked back from the mirror when Chou Nu uncoifed her hair and brushed its burnished tresses.
Though she had slept late, in fact till noon and something after, her sleep had been queerly haunted and unhappy, she could not remember how or why, and she had awakened already ennuye, with a mind incoherently oppressed, without relish for the promise of the day—in a mood altogether as drear as the daylight that waited upon her unclosing eyes.
Main strength of will had not availed to dispel these vapours, neither did their melancholy yield to the distraction provided by first acquaintance with ways of a world unique alike in Sofia’s esteem and her experience.
She who had theretofore known only in day-dreams the life of light frivolity and fashion which found feverish and trumpery reflection at Frampton Court, was neither equipped nor disposed to be hypercritical in the first hours of her debut there; and at any other time, in any other temper, she knew, she must have been swept off her feet by its exciting appeal to her innate love of luxury and sensation. But the sad truth was, it all seemed to her unillusioned vision an elaborate sham built up of tinsel, paste, and paint; and the warmth of her welcome at the hands, indeed in the very arms, of Lady Randolph West, and the success her youth and beauty scored for her—commanding in all envy, admiration, cupidity, or jealousy, according to age, sex, and temporal state of servitude—did nothing to mitigate the harshness of those first impressions.
If anything her depression grew more perversely morbid the more she was catered to, courted, flattered, and cajoled. Something had happened, she could never guess what, perhaps some mysterious reaction effected through the chemistry of last night’s slumber, to turn her vivid zest in life to ashes in her mouth, so that nothing seemed to matter any more.
Thoughts of Karslake as her lover, recollection of her first deep joy in his avowal and her subsequent passion of shame and regret, re-perusal of his note, that last night had seemed so sweet a thing, precious beyond compare—found her indifferent to-day, and left her so. Try as she would, she failed to recapture any sense of the reality of those first raptures. And yet, somehow, she didn’t doubt he loved her or that, buried deep beneath this inexplicable apathy, love for Karslake burned on in her heart; but she knew no sort of comfort in such confidence, their love seemed as remote and immaterial an issue as the menu for day after to-morrow’s dinner. Nothing mattered!