I could not say, as I felt, “But that is the one thing I should like you to do,” so I said nothing, and, as soon as I could get near the bell unperceived, rang for McGreggor again, and put an end to the scene.
Next morning at breakfast Augustus said: “As Farrington has refused for the 15th, you had better write and ask that fellow Thornhirst—your cousin. They tell me he is a capital shot, and I want my birds killed this year.”
The year before, apparently, the party had been composed of indifferent marksmen, and the head keeper had spoken rather sarcastically upon the subject.
Augustus, when not bullying them, stands in great awe of his servants.
“I am afraid, with only this short notice, there is little chance of Sir Antony being disengaged,” I remarked.
I somehow felt as if I did not want him to come to Ledstone. He would be so ridiculously out of place here.
“A keen shot would throw over any invitation he had had previously for such a chance as my two best days,” Augustus replied, pompously, helping himself to a second kidney and smearing it with mustard. “You just write this morning, and ask him to wire reply.”
“Very well,” I said, reluctantly. He would certainly be engaged though I need not fear, “I had a note from yesterday, saying he had returned from Scotland, and asking us to go over soon and pay our promised visit to dine and sleep.”
“There! I’ll bet he was fishing for an invitation to this shoot,” said Augustus, triumphantly. And, not content with the mustard he had already plastered the kidney with, he shook pepper over it, heaping it up upon his knife first and agitating that implement with his fork to make the pepper fall evenly. I do not know why these details of the way he eats should irritate me so.
“Now, mind you catch the early post,” he continued, “and tell him who the party are.”
At fifteen minutes to eleven I found myself still staring irresolutely at the sheet of note-paper lying before me on the writing-table in my boudoir. It had the date written, and “Dear Sir Antony.” The rest was a blank.
The little, brand-new Dresden clock on the mantel-piece chimed the three-quarters. The post leaves at eleven. I took up the pen and dashed at it.
“Eight guns are going to shoot partridges here on the 15th of October, and Augustus will be very pleased if you will make the ninth,” I wrote. Could anything be more bete? “Please wire reply, and believe me, yours sincerely—” I hesitated again. Must I sign myself “Ambrosine de Calincourt Gurrage”? The strangest reluctance came over me.
It has always been a disagreeable moment when I have had to write “Gurrage,” but never so disagreeable as now.
“A. de C.G.,” I began. No, initials would not do—“urrage,” I added, and the distance between the “G” and the “u” showed, I am afraid, that there was something unnatural about my signature.