When Augustus finally got into the room his face was purple. He had hardly self-control enough to greet Lady Tilchester with his usual obsequiousness. She talked charmingly to him for a few moments, and then got up to go.
Meanwhile Sir Antony had been conversing with me quite as if no fiance had entered the room.
“You know we are cousins,” he said.
“Very distant ones.”
“Why on earth did you not let me know when first you came to this place?”
“Grandmamma has never told me why she left you uninformed of our arrival,” I laughed. “How could we have known it would interest you?’”
“But you—don’t you ever do anything of your own accord?”
“I would like to sometimes.”
“It is monstrous to have kept you shut up here and then to—”
Augustus crossed the room.
“Ambrosine,” he interrupted, rudely, “I shall come and fetch you this evening for dinner, as you are too busy now to speak to me.”
“Very well,” I said.
Sir Antony rose, and we made a general good-bye.
There was something disturbed in his face—as if he had not said what he meant to. A sickening anger and disgust with fate made my hand cold. Oh!—if—Alas!
To-morrow is my wedding-day—the 10th of June. There is my dress spread over the sofa, looking like a ghost in the dim light—I have only one candle on the dressing-table. It is pouring rain and there are rumbles of thunder in the distance. Well, let it pour and hail and rage, and do what it pleases—I don’t care! Just now a flash came nearer and seemed to catch the huge diamonds in my engagement-ring, which hangs loose on my finger now. I flung it into the little china tray, where strings of pearls and a fender tiara are already reposing ready for to-morrow. I shall blaze with jewels, and Augustus will be able to tell the guests how much they all cost.
This month of my fiancailles has been nothing agreeable to recall. Indeed, I should not have been able to go through with it only the blue mark has so often appeared round grandmamma’s mouth, especially when Augustus and I have had trifling differences of opinion.
Long years ago, one summer we spent at Versailles when I was a child, I remember an incident.
I was sitting reading aloud to grandmamma in the garden when from the trees above there fell upon my neck, which was bare, a fat, hairy caterpillar. I recollect I gave a gurgling, nasty scream, and dropped the book.
Grandmamma was very angry. She explained to me that such noises were extremely vulgar, and that if my flesh was so little under control that this should turn me sick, the sooner I got over such fancies the better.
She made me pick the creature up and let it crawl over my arm. At first I nearly felt mad with horror, but gradually custom deadened the sensation, and although it remained disagreeable, I could contemplate it without emotion.