LORD ALMERIC’S SUIT
When Julia awoke in the morning, without start or shock, to the dreary consciousness of all she had lost, she was still under the influence of the despair which had settled on her spirits overnight, and had run like a dark stain through her troubled dreams. Fatigue of body and lassitude of mind, the natural consequences of the passion and excitement of her adventure, combined to deaden her faculties. She rose aching in all her limbs—yet most at heart—and wearily dressed herself; but neither saw nor heeded the objects round her. The room to which poor puzzled Mrs. Olney had hastily consigned her looked over a sunny stretch of park, sprinkled with gnarled thorn-trees that poorly filled the places of the oaks and chestnuts which the gaming-table had consumed. Still, the outlook pleased the eye, nor was the chamber itself lacking in liveliness. The panels on the walls, wherein needlework cockatoos and flamingoes, wrought under Queen Anne, strutted in the care of needlework black-boys, were faded and dull; but the pleasant white dimity with which the bed was hung relieved and lightened them.
To Julia it was all one. Wrapped in bitter thoughts and reminiscences, her bosom heaving from time to time with ill-restrained grief, she gave no thought to such things, or even to her position, until Mrs. Olney appeared and informed her that breakfast awaited her in another room.
Then, ‘Can I not take it here?’ she asked, shrinking painfully from the prospect of meeting any one.
‘Here?’ Mrs. Olney repeated. The housekeeper never closed her mouth, except when she spoke; for which reason, perhaps, her face faithfully mirrored the weakness of her mind.
‘Yes,’ said Julia. ’Can I not take it here, if you please? I suppose—we shall have to start by-and-by?’ she added, shivering.
‘By-and-by, ma’am?’ Mrs. Olney answered. ‘Oh, yes.’
‘Then I can have it here.’
‘Oh, yes, if you please to follow me, ma’am.’ And she held the door open.
Julia shrugged her shoulders, and, contesting the matter no further, followed the good woman along a corridor and through a door which shut off a second and shorter passage. From this three doors opened, apparently into as many apartments. Mrs. Olney threw one wide and ushered her into a room damp-smelling, and hung with drab, but of good size and otherwise comfortable. The windows looked over a neglected Dutch garden, which was so rankly overgrown that the box hedges scarce rose above the wilderness of parterres. Beyond this, and divided from it by a deep-sunk fence, a pool fringed with sedges and marsh-weeds carried the eye to an alder thicket that closed the prospect.
Julia, in her relief on finding that the table was laid for one only, paid no heed to the outlook or to the bars that crossed the windows, but sank into a chair and mechanically ate and drank. Apprised after a while that Mrs. Olney had returned and was watching her with fatuous good-nature, she asked her if she knew at what hour she was to leave.