was a brilliant talker, a man to be listened to and
admired even by wandering London statesmen, professional
diners-out, or any great authors who might find themselves
visitors in a —–shire country-house.
What she would have had him share from the pride of
her heart, she should have warned him to avoid from
the temptations to sinful extravagance which it led
him into. He had begun to spend more than he
ought, not in intellectual—though that would
have been wrong—but in purely sensual things.
His wines, his table, should be such as no squire’s
purse or palate could command. His dinner-parties—small
in number, the viands rare and delicate in quality,
and sent up to table by an Italian cook—should
be such as even the London stars should notice with
admiration. He would have Lettice dressed in
the richest materials, the most delicate lace; jewellery,
he said, was beyond their means; glancing with proud
humility at the diamonds of the elder ladies, and the
alloyed gold of the younger. But he managed to
spend as much on his wife’s lace as would have
bought many a set of inferior jewellery. Lettice
well became it all. If as people said, her father
had been nothing but a French adventurer, she bore
traces of her nature in her grace, her delicacy, her
fascinating and elegant ways of doing all things.
She was made for society; and yet she hated it.
And one day she went out of it altogether and for
evermore. She had been well in the morning when
Edward went down to his office in Hamley. At
noon he was sent for by hurried trembling messengers.
When he got home breathless and uncomprehending,
she was past speech. One glance from her lovely
loving black eyes showed that she recognised him with
the passionate yearning that had been one of the characteristics
of her love through life. There was no word
passed between them. He could not speak, any
more than could she. He knelt down by her.
She was dying; she was dead; and he knelt on immovable.
They brought him his eldest child, Ellinor, in utter
despair what to do in order to rouse him. They
had no thought as to the effect on her, hitherto shut
up in the nursery during this busy day of confusion
and alarm. The child had no idea of death, and
her father, kneeling and tearless, was far less an
object of surprise or interest to her than her mother,
lying still and white, and not turning her head to
smile at her darling.
“Mamma! mamma!” cried the child, in shapeless
terror. But the mother never stirred; and the
father hid his face yet deeper in the bedclothes,
to stifle a cry as if a sharp knife had pierced his
heart. The child forced her impetuous way from
her attendants, and rushed to the bed. Undeterred
by deadly cold or stony immobility, she kissed the
lips and stroked the glossy raven hair, murmuring
sweet words of wild love, such as had passed between
the mother and child often and often when no witnesses
were by; and altogether seemed so nearly beside herself