It was a tree falling in the park.
There was a moment of constrained silence, and then the banker’s wife spoke.
“It is the intense cold that is splitting the trees. It is also the cold that has brought the wolves out in such numbers. It is many years since we have had such a cold winter.”
The Baroness eagerly agreed that the cold was responsible for these things. It was the cold of the open window, too, which caused the heart failure that made the doctor’s ministrations unnecessary for the old Fraulein. But the notice in the newspapers looked very well—
“On December 29th, at Schloss
Cernogratz, Amalie von Cernogratz, for
many years the valued friend of Baron and Baroness Gruebel.”
“It would be jolly to spend Easter in Vienna this year,” said Strudwarden, “and look up some of my old friends there. It’s about the jolliest place I know of to be at for Easter—”
“I thought we had made up our minds to spend Easter at Brighton,” interrupted Lena Strudwarden, with an air of aggrieved surprise.
“You mean that you had made up your mind that we should spend Easter there,” said her husband; “we spent last Easter there, and Whitsuntide as well, and the year before that we were at Worthing, and Brighton again before that. I think it would be just as well to have a real change of scene while we are about it.”
“The journey to Vienna would be very expensive,” said Lena.
“You are not often concerned about economy,” said Strudwarden, “and in any case the trip of Vienna won’t cost a bit more than the rather meaningless luncheon parties we usually give to quite meaningless acquaintances at Brighton. To escape from all that set would be a holiday in itself.”
Strudwarden spoke feelingly; Lena Strudwarden maintained an equally feeling silence on that particular subject. The set that she gathered round her at Brighton and other South Coast resorts was composed of individuals who might be dull and meaningless in themselves, but who understood the art of flattering Mrs. Strudwarden. She had no intention of foregoing their society and their homage and flinging herself among unappreciative strangers in a foreign capital.
“You must go to Vienna alone if you are bent on going,” she said; “I couldn’t leave Louis behind, and a dog is always a fearful nuisance in a foreign hotel, besides all the fuss and separation of the quarantine restrictions when one comes back. Louis would die if he was parted from me for even a week. You don’t know what that would mean to me.”
Lena stooped down and kissed the nose of the diminutive brown Pomeranian that lay, snug and irresponsive, beneath a shawl on her lap.
“Look here,” said Strudwarden, “this eternal Louis business is getting to be a ridiculous nuisance. Nothing can be done, no plans can be made, without some veto connected with that animal’s whims or convenience being imposed. If you were a priest in attendance on some African fetish you couldn’t set up a more elaborate code of restrictions. I believe you’d ask the Government to put off a General Election if you thought it would interfere with Louis’s comfort in any way.”