He stayed talking to her, however, a little while, seeing that Constance Bledlow had gone indoors; and then he departed. Alice ran upstairs, locked her door, and stood looking at herself in the glass. She hated her dress, her hat, the way she had done her hair. The image of Constance in her white silk hat with its drooping feathers, her delicately embroidered dress and the necklace on her shapely throat, tormented her. She was sick with envy—and with fear. For months she had clung to the belief that Herbert Pryce would ask her to marry him. And now all expectation of the magic words was beginning to fade from her mind. In one short week, as it seemed to her, she had been utterly eclipsed and thrown aside. Bob Vernon too, whose fancy for her, as shown in various winter dances, had made her immensely proud, he being then in that momentary limelight which flashes on the Blue, as he passes over the Oxford scene—Vernon had scarcely had a word for her. She never knew that he cared about pictures! And there was Connie—knowing everything about pictures!—able to talk about everything! As she had listened to Connie’s talk, she had felt fairly bewildered. Of course it was no credit to Connie to be able to rattle off all those names and things. It was because she had lived in Italy. And no doubt a great deal of it was showing off.
All the same, poor miserable Alice felt a bitter envy of Connie’s opportunities.
“My brother will be here directly. He wants to show you his special books,” said Miss Wenlock shyly.
The Master’s sister was a small and withered lady, who had been something of a beauty, and was now the pink of gentle and middle-aged decorum. She was one of those women it is so easy to ignore till you live with them. Then you perceive that in their relations to their own world, the world they make and govern, they are of the stuff which holds a country together, without which a country can not exist. She might have come out of a Dutch picture—a Terburg or a Metsu—so exquisite was she in every detail—her small, white head, her regular features, the lace coif tied under her chin, the ruffles at her wrist, the black brocade gown, which never altered in its fashion and which she herself cut out, year after year, for her maid to make,—the chatelaine of old Normandy silver, given her by her brother years before, which hung at her waist.
Opposite her sat a very different person, yet of a type no less profitable to this mixed life of ours. Mrs. Mulholland was the widow of a former scientific professor, of great fame in Oxford for his wit and Liberalism. Whenever there was a contest on between science and clericalism in the good old fighting days, Mulholland’s ample figure might have been seen swaying along the road from the Parks to Convocation, his short-sighted eyes blinking at every one he passed, his fair hair and beard streaming in the wind, a flag