“They are the most wonderful nation,” Lady Tilchester said, as she linked her arm in mine. “Here is a girl looking as well bred as any of us—more so than most of us—probably beautifully educated, and accomplished, too, and whose father began as a common navvy or miner out in the West. The mother is dead—she took in washing, Cordelia says—and yet she was the sister of Miss Martina B. Cadwallader! How on earth do they manage to look like this?”
“It is wonderful, certainly. It must be the climate,” I hazarded.
“We cannot do it in England. Think of the terrible creature a girl with such parentage would be here. Picture her ankles and hands! And the self-consciousness, or the swagger, this situation would display!”
I thought of Mrs. Dodd and the Gurrage commercial relations generally.
“Yes, indeed,” I said.
“They are so adaptable,” she continued. “It does not seem to matter into what nation they marry, they seem to assimilate and fit into their places. When this little thing is a duchess, you will see she will fulfil the position to a tee. Berty will be very lucky if he secures her.”
“I think Lord Luffton will be a much greater stumbling-block than I shall,” I laughed. “Perhaps he likes the idea of fifty thousand a year, too.”
“Oh, Cordelia will see about that. Babykins, who knows everything, tells me she has fallen wildly in love with Luffy. He has only arrived back from the war about a week. And she will not let any other woman interfere with her. I had heard another story about her in Scotland. They told me she was having an affair with some”—she stopped suddenly, no doubt remembering to whom she was talking—“foreigner.” She ended the sentence with perfect tact.
The little sitting-room is in a turret and is octagon-shaped, a dainty, charming, old-world room that grandmamma might have lived in.
We drew two chairs up to the fire and sat down cosily.
How kind and gracious and altogether charming this woman can be! Again I can only compare her to the sun’s rays, so warm and comfortable she makes one feel. There is a nobleness and a loftiness about her which causes even ordinary things she says to sound like fine sentiments. No wonder Mr. Budge adores her.
We spoke very little of people. She told me of her interests and all the schemes to benefit mankind she has in hand. At last she said:
“You have not been to Dane Mount yet, have you?”
“No. We are going there on Monday, after we leave here.”
“It will interest you deeply, I am sure.” And she looked into the fire. “Antony stayed with you, did he not?”
“Yes,” I said, and my voice sounded strained, remembering that terrible visit.
She was silent for a few moments.
“I want you to be friends with me, dear,” she said, so gently. “You are, perhaps, not always quite happy, and if ever I can do anything for you I want you to know I will.”