“After all,” he said to himself as he waited, “these houses aren’t even semi-detached! They’re just houses in a row, and I bet every one of ’em can hear the piano next door!”
The butler whom he had previously caught sight of opened the great portal.
“I want to see Lady Woldo.”
“Her ladyship—” began the formidable official.
“Now, look here, my man,” said Edward Henry, rather in desperation, “I must see Lady Woldo instantly. It’s about the baby—”
“About his lordship?”
“Yes. And look lively, please.”
He stepped into the sombre and sumptuous hall.
“Well,” he reflected, “I am going it—no mistake!”
He was in a large back drawing-room, of which the window, looking north, was in rich stained glass. “No doubt because they’re ashamed of the view,” he said to himself. The size of the chimneypiece impressed him, and also its rich carving. “But what an old-fashioned grate!” he said to himself. “They need gilt radiators here.” The doorway was a marvel of ornate sculpture, and he liked it. He liked, too, the effect of the oil-paintings—mainly portraits—on the walls, and the immensity of the brass fender, and the rugs, and the leather-work of the chairs. But there could be no question that the room was too dark for the taste of any householder clever enough to know the difference between a house and a church.
There was a plunging noise at the door behind him.
“What’s amiss?” he heard a woman’s voice. And as he heard it he thrilled with sympathetic vibrations. It was not a North Staffordshire voice, but it was a South Yorkshire voice, which is almost the same thing. It seemed to him to be the first un-Kensingtonian voice to soothe his ear since he had left the Five Towns. Moreover, nobody born south of the Trent would have said, “What’s amiss?” A southerner would have said, “What’s the matter?” Or, more probably, “What’s the mattah?”
He turned and saw a breathless and very beautiful woman, of about twenty-nine or thirty, clothed in black, and she was in the act of removing from her lovely head what looked like a length of red flannel. He noticed, too, simultaneously, that she was suffering from a heavy cold. A majestic footman behind her closed the door and disappeared.
“Are you Lady Woldo?” Edward Henry asked.
“Yes,” she said. “What’s this about my baby?”
“I’ve just seen him in Hyde Park,” said Edward Henry. “And I observed that a rash had broken out all over his face.”
“I know that,” she replied. “It began this morning, all of a sudden like. But what of it? I was rather alarmed myself, as it’s the first rash he’s had and he’s the first baby I’ve had—and he’ll be the last too. But everybody said it was nothing. He’s never been out without me before, but I had such a cold. Now you don’t mean to tell me that you’ve come down specially from Hyde Park to inform me about that rash. I’m not such a simpleton as all that.” She spoke in one long breath.