Next day Lady Tilchester wrote and asked me to go to Harley. She had heard I was alone, and would be so delighted to have me for a week, she said.
I started two days afterwards. To see her would give me pleasure.
“How very white and thin you are looking, dear!” she said, as we sat together in her sitting-room the first afternoon I arrived. “You are not the same person as the very young girl who danced at the Yeomanry ball in May. How old are you, Ambrosine?”
“I was twenty in October.”
“Twenty years old! Only twenty years old, and with that sad face! Nothing in life ought to make one sad at twenty. You look like a piteous child. I could imagine Muriel, with a dead bird, or a set of kittens to be drowned, looking as pathetic as you do.”
“I know, I am ashamed of myself,” I said, “Grandmamma would be so angry with me if she were here.”
“Well, now we are going to cheer you up. The Duke is coming on Saturday. He is not married yet, you see.”
“Oh, tell me how the affair went,” I said, smiling. “It—it’s—a month ago we were at Myrlton.”
“The silly girl preferred Luffy, but for the last weeks they both were hanging on. Miss Trumpet and her aunt were staying at Claridge’s, and they tell me it was too ridiculous! Luffy lunched with them every day, and Berty dined in the evening.”
“You did not tell her about the Coronation, then?”
“Yes, I did! But just for once in a way she had fallen in love—Luffy is beautiful, you know!—and, my dear child, any girl or woman in love is the most unreasonable, absurd creature on the face of the earth.”
“Yes, I know. But the Americans don’t get in love like other nations. She assured me they knew how to keep men in their places on the other side of the Atlantic.”
“But the ‘place’ of a man is doing exactly what the particular woman in the case wants him to do, don’t forget that! And Miss Trumpet finally decided, last week, that she wanted him to be her husband.”
“Poor Duke!” I said.
“Oh, I don’t think Berty minds very much. Anyway, you will be able to console him.”
“You have quite a mistaken idea there. He likes to talk about himself, and explain to me his views on morals as manners, but he is not the least interested in me. I am a very good listener, you know. Grandmamma never let me interrupt people.”
“Poor old Berty!” she said. “He has the best heart underneath all his silly mannerisms. I have known him since he was a child. He is much older than he looks, almost my age, in fact.”
“How has Lady Grenellen taken the engagement?” I asked.
“Cordelia? Oh, she is simply furious. It is the first time any other woman has ever had a chance with her. An English girl would have a rather blank prospect in front of her for the afterwards. But these Americans are so wonderfully clever and sensible, probably Luffy will remain Miss Trumpet’s devoted slave for years.”