I heard no more until he had finished breakfast, and then, while drawing on his gloves for his morning walk, he said to the waiter, who was clearing the table,
“Tell your Manageress I am much obliged to her for the charming flowers with which she has decorated my room this morning.”
“But it wasn’t the manageress, my lord,” said the waiter.
“Then who was it?”
“It was her . . . her ladyship,” said the waiter.
“O-oh!” said my husband in a softer, if more insinuating tone, and a few minutes afterwards he went out whistling.
God knows that was small reward for the trouble I had taken, but I was so uplifted by the success of my experiment that I determined to go farther, and when towards evening of the same day a group of my husband’s friends came to tell him that they had booked a box at a well-known musical comedy theatre, I begged to be permitted to join them.
“Nonsense, my dear! Brompton Oratory would suit you better,” said my husband, chucking me under the chin.
But I persisted in my importunities, and at length Mr. Eastcliff said:
“Let her come. Why shouldn’t she?”
“Very well,” said my husband, pinching my cheek. “As you please. But if you don’t like it don’t blame me.”
It did not escape me that as a result of my change of front my husband had risen in his own esteem, and that he was behaving towards me as one who thought he had conquered my first repugnance, or perhaps triumphantly ridden over it. But in my simplicity I was so fixed in my determination to make my husband forget the loss of his mistress that I had no fear of his familiarities and no misgivings about his mistakes.
All that was to come later, with a fresh access of revulsion and disgust.
I had seen enough of London by this time to know that the dresses which had been made for me at home were by no means the mode; but after I had put on the best-fitting of my simple quaker-like costumes with a string of the family pearls about my neck and another about my head, not all the teaching of the good women of the convent could prevent me from thinking that my husband and his friends would have no reason to be ashamed of me.
We were a party of six in all, whereof I was the only woman, and we occupied a large box on the first tier near the stage, a position of prominence which caused me a certain embarrassment, when, as happened at one moment of indefinable misery, the opera glasses of the people in the dress-circle and stalls were turned in our direction.
I cannot say that the theatre impressed me. Certainly the building itself did not do so, although it was beautifully decorated in white and gold, for I had seen the churches of Rome, and in my eyes they were much more gorgeous.
Neither did the audience impress me, for though I had never before seen so many well-dressed people in one place, I thought too many of the men, when past middle life, seemed fat and overfed, and too many of the women, with their plump arms and bare shoulders, looked as if they thought of nothing but what to eat and what to put on.