The drama of little things.
“Gypsies! How very delightful! I really must have my fortune told. The dear things know all about the future.”
As Mrs. Belgrove spoke she peered through her lorgnette to see if anyone at the breakfast-table was smiling. The scrutiny was necessary, since she was the oldest person present, and there did not appear to be any future for her, save that very certain one connected with a funeral. But a society lady of sixty, made up to look like one of forty (her maid could do no more), with an excellent digestion and a constant desire, like the Athenians of old, for “Something New!” can scarcely be expected to dwell upon such a disagreeable subject as death. Nevertheless, Mrs. Belgrove could not disguise from herself that her demise could not be postponed for many more years, and examined the faces of the other guests to see if they thought so too. If anyone did, he and she politely suppressed a doubtful look and applauded the suggestion of a fortune-telling expedition.
“Let us make up a party and go,” said the hostess, only too thankful to find something to amuse the house-party for a few hours. “Where did you say the gypsies were, Garvington?”
“In the Abbot’s Wood,” replied her husband, a fat, small round-faced man, who was methodically devouring a large breakfast.
“That’s only three miles away. We can drive or ride.”
“Or motor, or bicycle, or use Shanks’ mare,” remarked Miss Greeby rather vulgarly. Not that any one minded such a speech from her, as her vulgarity was merely regarded as eccentricity, because she had money and brains, an exceedingly long tongue, and a memory of other people’s failings to match.
Lord Garvington made no reply, as breakfast, in his opinion, was much too serious a business to be interrupted. He reached for the marmalade, and requested that a bowl of Devonshire cream should be passed along. His wife, who was lean and anxious-looking even for an August hostess, looked at him wrathfully. He never gave her any assistance in entertaining their numerous guests, yet always insisted that the house should be full for the shooting season. And being poor for a titled pair, they could not afford to entertain even a shoeblack, much less a crowd of hungry sportsmen and a horde of frivolous women, who required to be amused expensively. It was really too bad of Garvington.
At this point the reflections of the hostess were interrupted by Miss Greeby, who always had a great deal to say, and who always tried, as an American would observe, “to run the circus.” “I suppose you men will go out shooting as usual?” she said in her sharp, clear voice.
The men present collectively declared that such was their intention, and that they had come to “The Manor” for that especial purpose, so it was useless to ask them, or any one of them, to go on a fortune-telling expedition when they could find anything of that sort in Bond Street. “And it’s all a lot of rot, anyhow,” declared one sporting youth with obviously more muscle and money than brains; “no one can tell my fortune.”