“Our Lewis Elliot inherited Laverlaw rather unexpectedly some years ago. Before that he was quite poor. Perhaps that is what makes him so understanding. He is a sort of distant cousin of ours. Great-aunt Alison was his aunt too—at least, he called her aunt. It will be fun if he turns out to be the man you used to know.”
“Yes,” said Pamela. “Here is the book, Jean. It’s been so nice having you this afternoon. No, dear, I won’t go back with you to tea. I’m going to write letters. Good-bye. My love to the boys.”
But Pamela wrote no letters that evening. She sat with a book on her knee and looked into the fire; sometimes she sighed.
“I have, as you know,
a general prejudice against all persons who do
not succeed in the world.”—JOWETT OF BALLIOL.
Mrs. Duff-Whalley was giving a dinner-party. This was no uncommon occurrence, for she loved to entertain. It gave her real pleasure to provide a good meal and to see her guests enjoy it. “Besides,” as she often said, “what’s the use of having everything solid for the table, and a fine house and a cook at sixty pounds a year, if nobody’s any the wiser?”
It will be seen from this remark that Mrs. Duff-Whalley had not always been in a position to give dinner-parties; indeed, Mrs. Hope, that terror to the newly risen, who traced everyone back to their first rude beginnings (generally “a wee shop"), had it that the late Mr. Duff-Whalley had begun life as a “Johnnie-a’-things” in Leith, and that his wife had been his landlady’s daughter.
But the “wee shop” was in the dim past, if, indeed, it had ever existed except in Mrs. Hope’s wicked, wise old head, and for many years Mrs. Duff-Whalley had ruffled it in a world that asked no questions about the origin of money so obviously there.
Most people are weak when they come in contact with a really strong-willed woman. No one liked Mrs. Duff-Whalley, but few, if any, withstood her advances. It was easier to give in and be on calling and dining terms than to repulse a woman who never noticed a snub, and who would never admit the possibility that she might not be wanted. So Mrs. Duff-Whalley could boast with some degree of truth that she knew “everybody,” and entertained at The Towers “very nearly the highest in the land.”
The dinner-party I write of was not one of her more ambitious efforts. It was a small and (with the exception of one guest) what she called “a purely local affair.” That is to say, the people who were to grace the feast were culled from the big villas on the Hill, and were not “county.”