A HOUSE-PARTY AT ROSELAWN.
As is the habit of the year, June followed May, and in its turn gave way to the yellow hours of July. Lady Durwent, wearying of London and its triumphs, returned to Roselawn to share the solitary, rural reign of her husband.
As she drove in a sumptuous car through the village and into the wide confines of the estate she purred with contentment. Men doffed their caps, women curtsied, and the country-side mingled its smile with theirs. It was not unlike the return of a conqueror from a campaign abroad, and after the incognito forced by London on all but the most journalised duchesses, it was distinctly pleasant to be acknowledged by every one she passed.
In this most amiable of moods she dined with her husband, and was so vivacious that, looking at her over his glass of port, he thought how little she had changed since, years before, she had first affected his subnormal pulse. Together they wandered over the lawns, and he showed the improvements wrought since her last visit. She gave the head-gardener the benefit of her unrestricted smile, and shed among all the retainers a bountiful largesse of good-humour.
Still noting the beauties of Roselawn, they discussed their children. She learned that Malcolm was on leave from the —th Hussars, and was golfing in, and yachting off, Scotland with scions of the Scottish nobility. The mention of Dick brought a pang to her heart, and a cloud that marred the serenity of her husband’s brow. Lord Durwent regretted the necessity of his actions, but the boy had proved himself a ‘waster’ and a ‘rotter.’ He had been given every chance, and had persistently disgraced the family name. If he would go to Canada or Australia, he could have money for the passage; otherwise——
After that imperialistic pronouncement, Lord Durwent turned to more congenial topics, and spoke of additions to the stables and improvements to the church. His wife answered mechanically, and it was many minutes before the heart-hunger for the blue-eyed Dick was lulled. She said nothing, for the development of her sons’ lives had long since passed from her to a system, but in the seclusion of their country home the domestic tragedy made a deeper inroad on her feelings than it had done in London.
It was perhaps not unnatural that they barely spoke of Elise at all. She was visiting a county family in the north, and would be home in a couple of days. As there was no immediate suitor on the horizon, what more was there to be said of the daughter of the house?
Next morning Lady Durwent was still amiable, but rather dull. The following day she was frankly bored. On Sunday, during the sermon, she planned a house-party; and so, in due course, invitations were issued, and accepted or regretfully declined. She possessed sufficient sense of the fitness of things to refrain from transplanting any of her unusual varieties from their native soil, but asked only those persons whose family connections ensured a proper tone to the affair.