Thus, while he was ashamed of her physical imperfections, he admired her cleverness. Often he said to Popova: “I tell you, she might make some man a sprightly and entertaining companion, even if she is slender.”
Whereupon the crafty Popova would reply: “Be patient, your Excellency. We shall yet have her as round as a dumpling.”
And all the time he was keeping her trained as fine as the proverbial fiddle.
THE GARDEN PARTY
Said the Governor-General to himself in that prime hour for wide-awake meditation—the one just before arising for breakfast: “She is not all that she should be, and yet, millions of women have been less than perfect and most of them have married.”
He looked hard at the ceiling for a full minute and then murmured, “Even men have their shortcomings.”
This declaration struck him as being sinful and almost infidel in its radicalism, and yet it seemed to open the way to a logical reason why some titled bachelor of damaged reputation and tottering finances might balance his poor assets against a dowry and a social position, even though he would be compelled to figure Kalora into the bargain.
It must be known that the Governor-General was now simply looking for a husband for Kalora. He did not hope to top the market or bring down any notable catch. He favored any alliance that would result in no discredit to his noble lineage.
“At present they do not even nibble,” he soliloquized, still looking at the ceiling. “They have taken fright for some reason. They may have an inkling of the awful truth. She is nineteen. Next year she will be twenty—the year after that twenty-one. Then it would be too late. A desperate experiment is better than inaction. I have much to gain and nothing to lose. I must exhibit Kalora. I shall bring the young men to her. Some of them may take a fancy to her. I have seen people eat sugar on tomatoes and pepper on ice-cream. There may be in Morovenia one—one would be sufficient—one bachelor who is no stickler for full-blown loveliness. I may find a man who has become inoculated with western heresies and believes that a woman with intellect is desirable, even though under weight. I may find a fool, or an aristocrat who has gambled. I may stumble upon good fortune if I put her out among the young men. Yes, I must exhibit her, but how—how?”
He began reaching into thin air for a pretext and found one. The inspiration was simple and satisfying.
He would give a garden-party in honor of Mr. Rawley Plumston, the British Consul. Of course he would have to invite Mrs. Plumston and then, out of deference to European custom, he would have his two daughters present. It was only by the use of imported etiquette that he could open the way to direct courtship.