Author: Mrs. Humphry Ward
Release Date: August 1, 2004 [EBook #13071]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** Start of this project gutenberg EBOOK Helena ***
Produced by Andrew Templeton, Juliet Sutherland, Mary
Meehan and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
By Mrs. Humphry ward
Author of lady rose’s daughter, missing, ELIZABETH’S Campaign, etc.
“I don’t care a hang about the Middle Classes!” said Lord Buntingford, resting his head on his hand, and slowly drawing a pen over a printed sheet that lay before him. The sheet was headed “Middle Class Defence League,” and was an appeal to whom it might concern to join the founders of the League in an attempt to curb the growing rapacity of the working-classes. “Why should we be snuffed out without a struggle?” said the circular. “We are fewer, no doubt, but we are better educated. Our home traditions are infinitely superior. It is on the Middle Classes that the greatness of England depends.”
“Does it?” thought Lord Buntingford irritably. “I wonder.”
He rose and began to pace his library, a shabby comfortable room which he loved. The room however had distinction like its master. The distinction came, perhaps, from its few pictures, of no great value, but witnessing to a certain taste and knowledge on the part of the persons, long since dead, who hung them there; from one or two cases of old Nankin; from its old books; and from a faded but enchanting piece of tapestry behind the cases of china, which seemed to represent a forest. The tapestry, which covered the whole of the end wall of the room, was faded and out of repair, but Lord Buntingford, who was a person of artistic sensibilities, was very fond of it, and had never been able to make up his mind to spare it long enough to have it sent to the School of Art Needlework for mending. His cousin, Lady Cynthia Welwyn, scolded him periodically for his negligence in the matter. But after all it was he, and not Cynthia, who had to live in the room. She had something to do with the School, and of course wanted jobs for her workers.
“I hope that good woman’s train will be punctual,” he thought to himself, presently, as he went to a window and drew up a blind. “Otherwise I shall have no time to look at her before Helena arrives.”
He stood awhile absently surveying the prospect outside. There was first of all a garden with some pleasant terraces, and flights of stone steps, planned originally in the grand style, but now rather dilapidated and ill-kept, suggesting either a general shortage of pelf on the part of the owner—or perhaps mere neglect and indifference.