Lady Durwent rushed from the room and clasped her eldest child in her arms. That young gentleman, not knowing what had caused his mother’s grief, sympathetically opened his throat and bellowed lustily, thereby shedding tears for positively the last time in his life.
When he returned for the holidays a few months later, he was an excellent example of that precocity, the English schoolboy, who cloaks a juvenile mind with the pose of sophistication, and by twelve years of age achieves a code of thought and conduct that usually lasts him for the rest of his life. In vain the mother strove for her place in the sun; the rule of the masculine at Roselawn became adamant.
Life in the Durwent menage developed into a thing of laws and customs dictated by the youthful despot, aided and abetted by his father. The sacred rites of ‘what isn’t done’ were established, and the mother gradually found herself in the position of an outsider—a privileged outsider, it is true, yet little more than the breeder of a thoroughbred, admitted to the paddock to watch his horse run by its new owner.
She vented her feelings in two or three tearful scenes, but she felt that they lacked spontaneity, and didn’t really put her heart into them.
During these struggles for her place in a Society that was probably more completely masculine in domination than any in the world (with the possible exception of that of the Turk), Lady Durwent was only dimly aware that her daughter was developing a personality which presented a much greater problem than that of the easily grooved Malcolm.
The girl’s hair was like burnished copper, and her cheeks were lit by two bits of scarlet that could be seen at a distance before her features were discernible. Her eyes were of a gray-blue that changed in shade with her swiftly varying moods. Her lower lip was full and red, the upper one firm and repressed with the dull crimson of a fading rose-petal. Her shapely arms and legs were restless, seemingly impatient to break into some quickly moving dance. She was extraordinarily alive. Vitality flashed from her with every gesture, and her mind, a thing of caprice and whim, knew no boundaries but those of imagination itself.
Puzzled and entirely unable to understand anything so instinctive, Lady Durwent engaged a governess who was personally recommended by Lady Chisworth, whose friend the Countess of Oxeter had told her that the three daughters of the Duchess of Dulworth had all been entrusted to her care.
In spite of this almost unexampled set of references, the governess was completely unable to cope with Elise Durwent. She taught her (among other things) decorum and French. Her pupil was openly irreverent about the first; and when the governess, after the time-honoured method, produced an endless vista of exceptions to the rule in French grammar, the girl balked. She was willing to compromise on Avoir, but mutinied outright at the ramifications of Etre.