“Do you really want to hear the family history?” I asked.
I told him an outline of things and how grandmamma and I had lived at the cottage, and of all her wise sayings, and about the Marquis and Roy and Hephzibah, and the simple things of my long-ago past. It seemed as if I was speaking of some other person, so changed has all my outlook on life and things become since I went to Paris with Augustus.
“And now we come to the day we met in the lane,” he said. “You were not even engaged then, were you?”
“Oh no! Grandmamma had never had a fainting-fit; she would have found the idea too dreadful at that time.” I stopped suddenly, realizing what I had said. I could not tell him how and why I had married Augustus; he must think what he pleased.
He evidently thought a good deal, by the look in his eyes. I wish—I wish when he looks it did not make my heart beat so; it is foolish and uncomfortable.
“What a fool I was not to come with the automobile the night before your wedding and carry you off to Gretna Green,” he said, in a voice that might have been mocking or serious, I could not tell which.
“Tell me, Comtesse, if I had tapped at your window, would you have looked out and come with me?”
“There was a bad thunder-storm, if I recollect. We should have got wet,” I laughed, in a hollow way. He could not know how he was hurting me; he should not see, at all events.
“You would have been very dear to take to Gretna Green,” he continued. “I should have loved to watch your wise, sweet eyes changing all expressions as morning dawned and you found yourself away from them all—away from Augustus.”
I did not answer. I drew hieroglyphics with the point of the mauve parasol in the soft moss beneath our feet.
“Why don’t you speak, Comtesse?”
“There is nothing to say—I am married—and you did not tap at the window—and let us go back to the house.”
The last evening at Harley is one of the things I shall not want to recall. Augustus got drunk—yes, it is almost too dreadful to write even. I had not realized up to this that gentlemen (of course I do not mean that word literally, as applied to Augustus, but I mean people with money and a respectable position)—I never realized that they got drunk. I thought it was only common men in the street.
It struck me he was making a great noise at dinner, but as he was sitting on the same side of the table as I was I could not see. When the men joined us afterwards it came upon me as a thunder-clap. His face was a deep heliotrope, and he walked unsteadily—not really lurching about, but rather as if the furniture was in the way.
One or two of the men seemed very much amused, especially when he went and pushed himself into the sofa where Lady Grenellen was sitting and threw his arm along the back behind her head. I felt frozen. I could not have risen from my chair for a few moments. She, however, did not seem to mind at all; she merely laughed continuously behind her fan, the men helping her to ridicule Augustus.