We concealed the business very nicely. The garden party we gave last week was a kind of “farewell performance.” Did you suspect anything at all? We are people of the world and know how to play the game...!
If I am leaving to-night, it is not altogether because I want to be “over the hills” before the scandal leaks out, but because I have an indescribable longing for solitude.
Joergen Malthe has planned and built a little villa for me—without having the least idea I was to be the occupant.
The house is on an island, the name of which I will keep to myself for the present. The rooms are fourteen feet high, and the dining-room can hold thirty-six guests. There are only two reception-rooms. But what more could a divorced woman of my age require? The rest of the house—the upper storey—consists of smaller rooms, with bay-windows and balconies. My bedroom, isolated from all the others, has a glass roof, like a studio. Another of my queer notions is to be able to look up from my bed and see the sky above me. I think it is good for the nerves, and mine are in a terrible condition.
So in future, having no dear men, I can flirt with the little stars in God’s heaven.
Moreover, my villa is remarkable for its beautiful situation, its fortress-like architecture, and—please make a note of this—its splendid inhospitality. The garden hedge which encloses it is as high as the wall of the women’s penitentiary at Christianshafen. The gates are never open, and there is no lodge-keeper. The forest adjoins the garden, and the garden runs down to the water’s edge. The original owner of the estate was a crank who lived in a hut, which was so overgrown with moss and creepers that I did not pull it down. Never in my life has anything given me such delight as the anticipation of this hermit-like existence. At the same time, I have engaged a first-rate cook, called Torp, who seems to have the cookery of every country as pat as the Lord’s Prayer. I have no intention of living upon bread and water and virtue.
I shall manage without a footman, although I have rather a weakness for menservants. But my income will not permit of such luxuries; or rather I have no idea how far my money will go. I should not care to accept Richard’s generous offer to make me a yearly allowance.
I have also engaged a housemaid, whose name is Jeanne. She has the most wonderful amber-coloured eyes, flaming red hair, and long, pointed fingers, so well kept that I cannot help wondering where she got them from. Torp and Jeanne will make the sum-total of my society, so that I shall have every opportunity of living upon my own inner resources.
Dear Lillie, do all you can to put a stop to the worst and most disgusting gossip, now you know the true circumstances of the case. One more thing, in profound confidence, and on the understanding that you will not say a word about it to my husband: Joergen Malthe, dear fellow, formerly honoured me with his youthful affections—as you all knew, to your great amusement. Probably, like a true man, he will be quite frantic when he hears of my strange retirement. Be a little kind and friendly to the poor boy, and make him understand that there is no mystical reason for my departure.