SHOWING HOW SIR CHARLES VERITY WAS JUSTIFIED OF HIS LABOURS
Which homely programme being duly executed, worked restorative wonders. Matter, in the sublimated form of egg-flip, acted upon mind beneficially through the functions of a healthy, if weary, young body. Our maiden slept, to dream not of ghostly ponies or other uncomfortably discarnate creatures; but of Darcy Faircloth in his pretty piece of Quixotism, rescuing a minister of the Church of England “as by law established” from heretical baptismal rites of total immersion. The picture had a rough side to it, and also a merry one; but, beyond these, generous dealing wholly delightful to her feeling. She awoke soothed and restored, ready to confront the oncoming of events—whatever their character—in a spirit of high confidence as well as of resolution.
With the purpose of advertising this brave humour she dressed herself in her best. I do not deny a love of fine clothes in Damaris. Yet in her own home, and for delectation of the men belonging to her, a woman is surely free to deck herself as handsomely as her purse allows. “Beauty unadorned” ceased to be practicable, in self-respecting circles, with the expulsion of our first parents from the paradisaic state; while beauty merely dowdy, is a pouring of contempt on one of God’s best gifts to the human race. Therefore I find no fault with Damaris, upon this rather fateful evening, in that she clothed herself in a maize-coloured silk gown flowered in faint amber and faint pink. Cut in the piece from shoulder to hem, according to a then prevailing fashion, it moulded bosom, waist and haunches, spreading away into a demi-train behind. The high Medici collar of old lace, at the back of the square decolletage, conferred dignity; the hanging lace of the elbow sleeves a lightness. Her hair, in two wide plaits, bound her head smoothly, save where soft disobedient little curls, refusing restriction, shaded her forehead and the nape of her neck.
After a few seconds of silent debate she clasped Carteret’s pearls about her throat again; and so fared away, a creature of radiant aspect, amid sombre setting of low ceilings and dark carpeted floors, to await the advent of the travellers.
These arrived some little while before their time, so that the girl, in her gleaming dress, had gone but half-way down the staircase when they came side by side into the hall.—Two very proper gentlemen, the moist freshness of the night attending them, a certain nobility in their bearing which moved her to enthusiasm, momentarily even bringing a mist before her eyes. For they were safe and well both of them, so she joyously registered, serene of countenance, moreover, as bearers of glad tidings are. Whatever the ghostly ponies foretold could be no evil shadowing them—for which she gave God thanks.
Meanwhile, there without, the light of the carriage lamps pierced the enclosing gloom, played on the silver plating of harness, on the shining coats of the horses, whose nostrils sent out jets of pale steam. Played over the faces of the servants, too, Mary and Laura just within the open door, Hordle and Conyers outside loading down the baggage from the back of the mail-phaeton, and on Patch, exalted high above them on the driving-seat.