I have no intention of freezing people, but they are hideously ill at ease with me, and say all kinds of foolishnesses from sheer nervousness.
The worst happened last week, when one particularly motherly, blooming solicitor’s wife, after recounting to us in full detail the arrival of her first grandchild, hoped Mrs. Gurrage would soon be in her happy position!
Merciful Providence, I pray—that—never!
The county people are not so often at home, but when they are it is hardly more interesting. There do not seem to be many attractive people among them. They are stiff, and it is my mother-in-law who is sometimes ill at ease, though she gushes and blusters as usual. The conversation here is of societies, the Girls’ Friendly Society, the Cottage Hospital, the movements of the Church, the continuance of the war, the fear the rest of the Tilchester Yeomanry will volunteer; and now and then the hostess warms up, if there is a question of a subscription, to her own pet hobby. Their houses are for the most part tasteless, too; they seem to live in a respectable borne world of daily duties and sleep. Of the three really big houses within driving distance, one is shut up, one is inhabited for a month or two in the autumn, and the third is let to a successful oil merchant to whom Augustus and my mother-in-law have a great objection, but I can see no difference between oil and carpets. I have seen the man, and he is a weazly looking little rat who drives good horses.
I wonder what has become of my kinsman, Antony Thornhirst. He came with Lady Tilchester to the wedding. I saw his strange eyes looking at me as I walked down the aisle on Augustus’s arm. His face was the only one I realized in the crowd. We did not speak; indeed, he never was near me afterwards until I got into the carriage. I wonder if he will be at Harley—I wonder!
Augustus wishes me to be “very smart” for this visit; he tells me I am to take all my best clothes and “cut the others out.” It really grieves him that my garments should be black. He suggested to his mother that she had better lend me some of the “family jewels” to augment my own large store, but fortunately Mrs. Gurrage is of a tenacious disposition and likes to keep her own belongings to herself, so I shall be spared the experience of the park-paling tiara sitting upon my brow. Such things being unsuitable to be worn at dinner I fear would have little influence upon Augustus; I am trembling even now at what I may be forced to glitter in.
We are to drive over to Harley late in the afternoon.
In spite of Augustus—in spite of everything—I suddenly feel as if I had become alive again here at Harley!
The whole place pleases me. It is an old Georgian house, with long wings stretching right and left, and from a large salon in the centre the other reception-rooms open.