Sir Charles reddened at his wife’s bad taste, and Trefusis replied gravely: “We have been admiring the orchids, and talking about them. Miss Wylie takes an interest in them.”
One morning Gertrude got a letter from her father:
“My Dear Gerty: I have just received a bill for L110 from Madame Smith for your dresses. May I ask you how long this sort of thing is to go on? I need not tell you that I have not the means to support you in such extravagance. I am, as you know, always anxious that you should go about in a style worthy of your position, but unless you can manage without calling on me to pay away hundreds of pounds every season to Madame Smith, you had better give up society and stay at home. I positively cannot afford it. As far as I can see, going into society has not done you much good. I had to raise L500 last month on Franklands; and it is too bad if I must raise more to pay your dressmaker. You might at least employ some civil person, or one whose charges are moderate. Madame Smith tells me that she will not wait any longer, and charges L50 for a single dress. I hope you fully understand that there must be an end to this.
“I hear from your mother that young Erskine is with you at Brandon’s. I do not think much of him. He is not well off, nor likely to get on, as he has taken to poetry and so forth. I am told also that a man named Trefusis visits at the Beeches a good deal now. He must be a fool, for he contested the last Birmingham election, and came out at the foot of the poll with thirty-two votes through calling himself a Social Democrat or some such foreign rubbish, instead of saying out like a man that he was a Radical. I suppose the name stuck in his throat, for his mother was one of the Howards of Breconcastle; so he has good blood in him, though his father was nobody. I wish he had your bills to pay; he could buy and sell me ten times over, after all my twenty-five years’ service.
“As I am thinking of getting something done to the house, I had rather you did not come back this month, if you can possibly hold on at Brandon’s. Remember me to him, and give our kind regards to his wife. I should be obliged if you would gather some hemlock leaves and send them to me. I want them for my ointment; the stuff the chemists sell is no good. Your mother’s eyes are bad again; and your brother Berkeley has been gambling, and seems to think I ought to pay his debts for him. I am greatly worried over it all, and I hope that, until you have settled yourself, you will be more reasonable, and not run these everlasting bills upon me. You are enjoying yourself out of reach of all the unpleasantness; but it bears hardly upon
“Your affectionate father,
A faint sketch of the lines Time intended to engrave on Gertrude’s brow appeared there as she read the letter; but she hastened to give the admiral’s kind regards to her host and hostess, and discussed her mother’s health feelingly with them. After breakfast she went to the library, and wrote her reply: