Dinner began by being rather strained, but gradually got quite gay. Mr. Doran would have up three different brands of champagne for every one to try, and the men seemed to like them very much. By dessert everything was lively again, and dinner ended by Mr. Doran singing “The hounds of the Meynell,” with one foot on the table as gay as a lark. But wasn’t it tiresome, Mamma? when we got into the drawing-room, Lady Theodosia said we had had a long day, and must be tired, and she packed the two Everleighs and me off to bed before the men came in, and so here I am writing to you, because it is ridiculous to suppose I am going to sleep at this hour. Agnes and I leave by the early train on Saturday morning, so good-bye till then, dear Mamma; love from your affectionate daughter, Elizabeth.
[Sidenote: Carriston Towers]
Dearest Mamma,—I shall never again arrive at a place at three o’clock in the afternoon; it is perfectly ghastly! As we drove up to the door—it was pouring with rain—I felt that I should not like anything here. It does look such a large grey pile: and how cold and draughty that immense stone hall must be in winter! There were no nice big sofas about, or palms, or lots of papers and books; nothing but suits of armour and great marble tables, looking like monuments. I was taken down endless passages to the library, and there left such a long time that I had got down an old Punch and was looking at it, and trying to warm my feet, when Lady Carriston came in with Adeline. I remember how I hated playing with her years ago; she always patronised me, being three years older, and she is just the same now, only both their backs have got longer and their noses more arched, and they are the image of each other. Adeline seems very suppressed; Lady Carriston does not—her face is carved out of stone. They look very well bred and respectable, and badly dressed; nothing rustled nicely when they walked, and they had not their nails polished, or scent on, or anything like that; but Lady Carriston had a splendid row of pearls round her throat, on the top of her rough tweed dress and linen collar.
They pronounce their words very distinctly, in an elevated kind of way, and you feel as if icicles were trickling down your back, and you can’t think of a thing to say. When we had got to the end of your neuralgia and my journey, there was such a pause! and I suppose they thought I was an idiot, and were only too glad to get me off to my room, where Adeline took me, and left me, hoping I had everything I wanted, and saying tea was at five in the blue drawing-room. And there I had to stay while Agnes unpacked. It was dull! It is a big room, and the fire had only just been lit. The furniture is colourless and ugly, and, although it is all comfortable and correct, there are no books about, except “Romola” and “Middlemarch” and some Carlyle and John Stuart Mill, and I did not feel that I could do with any of that just then. So there I sat twiddling my thumbs for more than an hour, and Agnes did make such a noise, opening and shutting drawers, but at last I remembered a box of caramels in my dressing-bag, and it was better after that.