As the days went on, Doris, for all her sturdy self-reliance, began to feel a little nervous inwardly. She had been quite well-educated, first at a good High School, and then in the class-rooms of a provincial University; and, as the clever daughter of a clever doctor in large practice, she had always been in touch with the intellectual world, especially on its scientific side. And for nearly two years before her marriage she had been a student at the Slade School. But since her imprudent love-match with a literary man had plunged her into the practical work of a small household, run on a scanty and precarious income, she had been obliged, one after another, to let the old interests go. Except the drawing. That was good enough to bring her a little money, as an illustrator, designer of Christmas cards, etc.; and she filled most of her spare time with it.
But now she feverishly looked out some of her old books—Pater’s “Studies,” a volume of Huxley’s Essays, “Shelley” and “Keats” in the “Men of Letters” series. She borrowed two or three of the political biographies with which Arthur’s shelves were crowded, having all the while, however, the dispiriting conviction that Lady Dunstable had been dandled on the knees of every English Prime Minister since her birth, and had been the blood relation of all of them, except perhaps Mr. G., whose blood no doubt had not been blue enough to entitle him to the privilege.
However, she must do her best. She kept these feelings and preparations entirely secret from Arthur, and she saw the day of the visit dawn in a mood of mingled expectation and revolt.
It was a perfect June evening: Doris was seated on one of the spreading lawns of Crosby Ledgers,—a low Georgian house, much added to at various times, and now a pleasant medley of pillared verandahs, tiled roofs, cupolas, and dormer windows, apparently unpretending, but, as many people knew, one of the most luxurious of English country houses.
Lady Dunstable, in a flowing dress of lilac crepe and a large black hat, had just given Mrs. Meadows a second cup of tea, and was clearly doing her duty—and showing it—to a guest whose entertainment could not be trusted to go of itself. The only other persons at the tea-table—the Meadowses having arrived late—were an elderly man with long Dundreary whiskers, in a Panama hat and a white waistcoat, and a lady of uncertain age, plump, kind-eyed, and merry-mouthed, in whom Doris had at once divined a possible harbour of refuge from the terrors of the situation. Arthur was strolling up and down the lawn with the Home Secretary, smoking and chatting—talking indeed nineteen to the dozen, and entirely at his ease. A few other groups were scattered over the grass; while girls in white dresses and young men in flannels were playing tennis in the distance. A lake at the bottom of the sloping garden made light and space in a landscape