It was certainly a wonderful imitation of a truculent-looking toy Pomeranian, and the apparatus that gave forth a wheezy bark when you pressed it had materially helped the imposition that Lena, and Lena’s maid, had foisted on the household. For a woman who disliked animals, but liked getting her own way under a halo of unselfishness, Mrs. Strudwarden had managed rather well.
“Louis is dead,” was the curt information that greeted Lena on her return from her luncheon party.
“Louis dead!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, he flew at the butcher-boy and bit him, and he bit me, too, when I tried to get him off, so I had to have him destroyed. You warned me that he snapped, but you didn’t tell me that he was downright dangerous. I shall have to pay the boy something heavy by way of compensation, so you will have to go without those buckles that you wanted to have for Easter; also I shall have to go to Vienna to consult Dr. Schroeder, who is a specialist on dog-bites, and you will have to come too. I have sent what remains of Louis to Rowland Ward to be stuffed; that will be my Easter gift to you instead of the buckles. For Heaven’s sake, Lena, weep, if you really feel it so much; anything would be better than standing there staring as if you thought I had lost my reason.”
Lena Strudwarden did not weep, but her attempt at laughing was an unmistakable failure.
“The landscape seen from our windows is certainly charming,” said Annabel; “those cherry orchards and green meadows, and the river winding along the valley, and the church tower peeping out among the elms, they all make a most effective picture. There’s something dreadfully sleepy and languorous about it, though; stagnation seems to be the dominant note. Nothing ever happens here; seedtime and harvest, an occasional outbreak of measles or a mildly destructive thunderstorm, and a little election excitement about once in five years, that is all that we have to modify the monotony of our existence. Rather dreadful, isn’t it?”
“On the contrary,” said Matilda, “I find it soothing and restful; but then, you see, I’ve lived in countries where things do happen, ever so many at a time, when you’re not ready for them happening all at once.”
“That, of course, makes a difference,” said Annabel.
“I have never forgotten,” said Matilda, “the occasion when the Bishop of Bequar paid us an unexpected visit; he was on his way to lay the foundation-stone of a mission-house or something of the sort.”
“I thought that out there you were always prepared for emergency guests turning up,” said Annabel.
“I was quite prepared for half a dozen Bishops,” said Matilda, “but it was rather disconcerting to find out after a little conversation that this particular one was a distant cousin of mine, belonging to a branch of the family that had quarrelled bitterly and offensively with our branch about a Crown Derby dessert service; they got it, and we ought to have got it, in some legacy, or else we got it and they thought they ought to have it, I forget which; anyhow, I know they behaved disgracefully. Now here was one of them turning up in the odour of sanctity, so to speak, and claiming the traditional hospitality of the East.”