Connie laughed, but without irritation. During the week she had been staying in the Langmoors’ house, she had resigned herself to the fact that her Aunt Langmoor—as it seemed to her—was a very odd and hardly responsible creature, the motives of whose existence she did not even begin to understand. But both her aunt and Lord Langmoor had been very kind to their new-found niece. They had given a dinner-party and a tea-party in her honour; they had taken her to several crushes a night, and introduced her to a number of their own friends. And they would have moved Heaven and earth to procure her an invitation to the Court ball they themselves attended, on the day after Connie’s arrival, if only, as Lady Langmoor plaintively said—“Your poor mother had done the right thing at the right time.” By which she meant to express—without harshness towards the memory of Lady Risborough—how lamentable it was that, in addition to being christened, vaccinated and confirmed, Constance had not also been “presented” at the proper moment. However Constance probably enjoyed the evening of the Court ball more than any other in the week, since she went to the Italian Embassy after dinner to help her girl friend, the daughter of Italy’s new Prime Minister, Elisa Bardinelli, to dress for the function; and the two girls were so enchanted to see each other, and had so much Roman gossip to get through, that Donna Elisa was scandalously late, and the Ambassador almost missed the Royal Procession.
But that had been the only spot of pleasure in Connie’s fortnight. Lady Langmoor was puzzled by her pale looks and her evident lack of zest for the amusements offered her. She could only suppose that her niece was tired out with the balls of Commem., and Connie accepted the excuse gratefully. In reality she cared for nothing day after day but the little notes she got from Sorell night and morning giving her news of Radowitz. Till now he had been too ill to see her. But at last the doctor had given leave for a visit, and as soon as Lady Langmoor had gone off on her usual afternoon round of concerts and teas, Connie moved to the window, and waited for Sorell.
How long was it since she had first set foot in England and Oxford? Barely two months! And to Constance it seemed as if these months had been merely an unconscious preparation for this state of oppression and distress in which she found herself. Radowitz in his misery and pain—Falloden on the Cherwell path, defending himself by those passionate retorts upon her of which she could not but admit the partial justice—by these images she was perpetually haunted. Certainly she had no reason to look back with pleasure or self-approval on her Oxford experiences. In all her dealings with Falloden she had behaved with a reckless folly of which she was now quite conscious; courting risks; in love with excitement rather than with the man; and careless whither the affair might lead, so long as it gratified her own romantic curiosities as to the power of woman over the masculine mind.