“I know it is wrong to grumble. Yet sometimes—as one grows older—one gets a dreadful sense that the delights of life are past; and that perhaps one has been overscrupulous, over-timid and so missed the best.—That is one reason why I find it so infinitely pleasing to have you with me—yet pathetic too perhaps.—Why? Well, I don’t know that I am quite at liberty to explain exactly why.”
Henrietta smiled at her long, wistfully and oh! so sagely.
“And, indirectly, that reminds me I am most anxious you should not exaggerate, or run off with any mistaken ideas about my dealings with poor Marshall Wace. I don’t deny I did find his constantly being with us a trial at first. But I am reconciled to it. A trifle of discipline, though screamingly disagreeable, is no doubt sometimes useful—good for one’s character, I mean. And I really have grown quite attached to him. He has charming qualities. His want of self-confidence is really his worst fault—and what a trivial one if you’ve had experience of the horrid things men can do, gamble, for example, and drink.”
Henrietta paused, sighed. The yellow facade of the Grand Hotel came into sight, a pale spot amid dark trees in the distance.
“And Marshall, poor fellow,” she continued, “is more grateful to me, that I know, than words can say. So do like him and encourage him a little—it would be such a help and happiness to me as well as to him, dearest Damaris.”
IN WHICH HENRIETTA PULLS THE STRINGS
Mrs. Frayling’s afternoon party passed off to admiration. But this by no means exhausted her social activities. Rather did it stimulate them; so that, with Damaris’ amusement as their ostensible object and excuse, they multiplied exceedingly. Henrietta was in her native element. Not for years had she enjoyed herself so much. This chaperonage, this vicarious motherhood, was rich in opportunity. She flung wide her nets, even to the enmeshing of recruits from other larger centres, Cannes, Antibes and Nice. This more ambitious phase developed later. Immediately our chronicle may address itself to the initial Thursday, which, for our nymph-like maiden, saw the birth of certain illusions destined to all too lengthy a span of life.
Luncheon at the villa—or as Henrietta preferred it called, The Pavilion—set in the grounds of the Hotel de la Plage and dependent for service upon that house—was served at mid-day. This left a considerable interval before the advent of the expected guests. Mrs. Frayling refused to dedicate it to continuous conversation, as unduly tiring both for Damaris and for herself. They must reserve their energies, must keep fresh. Marshall Wace was, therefore, bidden to provide peaceful entertainment, read aloud—presently, perhaps, sing to them at such time as digestion—bad for the voice when in process—might be supposed complete. The young man obeyed, armed with Tennyson’s Maud and a volume of selected lyrics.