“No, you cannot,” I said. “I will not be spoken to like that.”
“You’ll be spoken to just as I jolly well please,” was his refined reply. “Sitting there like a white wax doll, and giving yourself the airs of a duchess!”
I did not answer.
“A deaf and dumb doll, too,” he said, with an oath.
He then asked where I had been all night, and what I had meant by daring to stay away from him.
I remained perfectly silent, which, I fear, was infinitely provoking, but I could not stoop to bandy words with him.
He began to bluster, and loaded me with every coarse abuse and a tremendous justification of himself and his behavior of the night before. I had not mentioned the subject or accused him of anything, but he assured me he had not been the least drunk and that my haughtiness was enough to drive any man mad.
When at least ten minutes of this torrent had spent itself a little, I said the whole subject was so disagreeable to me and discreditable to him that he had better not talk of it and I would try and forget it.
Grandmamma often told me how her grandfather, the husband of Ambrosine Eustasie, had refused to fight with a man of low birth who had insulted him, but had sent one of his valets to throw the creature into the street, because in those days a gentleman only crossed swords with his equals. I now understood his feelings. I could not quarrel with Augustus, the whole situation was so impossible.
I tried to tell myself that it did not in the least matter what he said and did. Then, as he continued abusing me, I repeated a bit of Beranger to myself, and so grew unconscious, at last, of the words he was saying.
Silence came eventually, and then, after a while, in quite a humble voice, Augustus said:
“I say, little woman—er—you won’t tell the mater—er—will you?”
Something touched me in his face—his common, unpleasant face. The bluster was gone and there was a piteousness in it. I felt a slight lump in my throat.
“Oh no; do not fear,” I said.
Then he called me an angel and kissed me many times, and that was the worst of all.
Oh! When the year is up, will the “monotonous complacency” have set in?
The days are flying by. October has almost come, and the damp and the falling leaves. It will soon be time for Mrs. Gurrage to depart for Bournemouth.
Augustus is in a continual ferment, as the report that the rest of the Tilchester Yeomanry are going to volunteer for active service has cropped up frequently, and, while he likes the uniform and what he considers the prestige of belonging to such a corps, he has no ardor for using his weapons against the Boers.
I have tried very hard to take an interest in the matter, but the numbness has returned. The oppression of the surroundings at Ledstone cramps my spirit.