He had no settled plan. He did not deliberately say to himself: “I will possess her at all costs. I will be her lover, and take her by force from the bonds of this world.” His whole mind was in a ferment and chaos. There was no time to think of the position in cold blood. His passion hurried him on from hour to hour.
This day after the opera, when the hideous impossibility of the situation had come upon him with full force, he felt as Lancelot—
“His mood was often like a fiend,
and rose and
drove him into wastes and solitudes for agony,
Who was yet a living soul.”
There are all sorts of loves in life, but when it is the real great passion, nor fear of hell nor hope of heaven can stem the tide—for long!
He had gone out in his automobile, and was racing ahead considerably above the speed limit. He felt he must do something. Had it been winter and hunting-time, he would have taken any fences—any risks. He returned and got to Ranelagh, and played a game of polo as hard as he could, and then he felt a little calmer. The idea came to him as it had done to Anne. Lady Harrowfield was Florence Devlyn’s cousin; she would probably have squeezed an invitation for her protegees for the royal ball to-night. He would go—he must see Theodora. He must hold her in his arms, if only in the mazes of the waltz.
And the thought of that sent the blood whirling madly once more in his veins.
Everything he had looked upon so lightly up to now had taken a new significance in reference to Theodora. Florence Devlyn, for instance, was no fit companion for her—Florence Devlyn, whom he met at every decent house and had never before disapproved of, except as a bore and a sycophant.
Harrowfield House, as every one knows, is one of the finest in London; and with the worst manners, and an inordinate insolence, Lady Harrowfield ruled her section of society with a rod of iron. Indeed, all sections coveted the invitations of this disagreeable lady.
Her path was strewn with lovers, and protected by a proud and complacent husband, who had realized early he never would be master of the situation, and had preferred peace to open scandal.
She was a woman of sixty now, and, report said, still had her lapses. But every incident was carried off with a high-handed, brazen daring, and an assumption of right and might and prerogative which paralyzed criticism.
So it was that with the record of a demimondaine—and not one kind action to her credit—Lady Harrowfield still held her place among the spotless, and ruled as a queen.
There was not above two years’ difference between her age and Lady Bracondale’s; indeed, the latter had been one of her bridesmaids; but no one to look at them at a distance could have credited it for a minute.
Lady Harrowfield had golden hair and pink cheeks, and her embonpoint retained in the most fashionable outline. And if towards two in the morning, or when she lost at bridge, her face did remind on-lookers of a hideous colored mask of death and old age—one can’t have everything in life; and Lady Harrowfield had already obtained more than the lion’s share.