Next day, Sunday, some of us went to church. Augustus insisted upon my going. He thought it would be a good opportunity of showing I was in Lady Tilchester’s company, although what it could have mattered to the Harley villagers I do not know.
He himself stayed behind with Lady Grenellen, he said, to take her for a walk in the woods.
After lunch every one seemed to play bridge but Lady Tilchester and I and her politician and the weak-eyed Duke. We climbed the hill to the ruins of the old castle and there sat until tea-time.
“Isn’t it a bore for me I shall have to marry an heiress?” the Duke said, pathetically. “Marriage is the most tiresome ennui at any time, but to be forced through sheer beggary to take some ugly woman you don’t like and don’t want is cruel hard luck, is it not?”
“Yes,” I said, feelingly.
He was melted by the sympathy in my voice.
“You are a delicious woman; you seem to understand one directly. People have got into the way of thinking it is no hardship to have to do these things for the sake of one’s title, but I can see you are sympathetic.”
“Yes, indeed!” I said.
“Cordelia Grenellen is arranging it for me. I have not seen her yet—I mean the heiress.”
“If I were a man I think I should keep my freedom and—and—work,” I faltered.
He looked at me, perfectly astonished.
“But what can I do?” he asked. “Only go into the city, and that is quite played out now. I have no head for business, and it would seem to me to be rather mean just to trade upon my name to get unsuspecting people to take shares in concerns; whereas if I marry an heiress it is a square game—I at least give her some return for her money.”
“There is a great deal in what you say,” I agreed.
“I told Cordelia—she is a cousin of mine, you know—I told her I would not have a very ugly one, and I should prefer that she should be a good, healthy brewer’s daughter. Our family is over-well bred. You see, if you are going to sacrifice yourself to keep up your name, you may as well choose some one that will be of some ultimate use to it. Now we want a strain of thick red blood in our veins; ours is a great deal too blue. We are becoming reedy shaped, and more or less idiotic.”
He said all this quite gravely. He had evidently studied the subject, and as I looked at him I felt he was perfectly right. If he represented the type of his race, it had certainly grown effete.
“I won’t have an American,” he continued. “They are intellectual companions before marriage, and they are generally so agreeable you don’t notice how nervous and restless they are really, but I would not contemplate one as a wife. I must have a solid English cow-woman.”
He stretched himself by my side and began pulling a bit of grass to pieces. His hands look transparent, and he has the most beautifully shaped filbert nails; his ears, on the contrary, are not perfect, but stick out like a monkey’s.