“How glad Bessie must have been to have you!”
“I believe she was. She has too much good taste for much of what went on there.”
“I doubt,” said Mr. Clare, laughing, “if you could have been an agreeable acquisition.”
“I don’t know. Bessie fools one into thinking oneself always doing her a favour. Oh, Rachel, I am thankful you have never taken to being agreeable.”
THE HUNTSFORD CROQUET.
“Une femme egoiste, non seulement de coeur,
ne pent pas sortir d’elle-meme. Le moi est indelible chez elle.
Une veritable egoiste ne sait meme pas etre fausse.”
—Mme. E. De Girardin.
“I am come to prepare you,” said Lady Keith, putting her arm into her brother’s, and leading him into the peacock path. “Mrs. Huntsford is on her way to call and make a dead set to get you all to a garden party.”
“Then we are off to the Earlsworthy Woods.”
“Nay, listen, Alick. I have let you alone and defended you for a whole month, but if you persist in shutting up you wife, people won’t stand it.”
“Which of us is the Mahometan?”
“You are pitied! But you see it was a strong thing our appearing without our several incumbrances, and though an old married woman like me may do as she pleases, yet for a bridegroom of not three weeks’ standing to resort to bazaars solus argues some weighty cause.”
“And argues rightly.”
“Then you are content to be supposed to have an unproduceably eccentric melancholy bride?”
“Better they should think so than that she should be so. She has been victimized enough already to her mother’s desire to save appearances.”
“You do not half believe me, Alick, and this is really a very kind, thoughtful arrangement of Mrs. Huntsford’s. She consulted me, saying there were such odd stories about you two that she was most anxious that Rachel should appear and confute them; and she thought that an out-of-door party like this would suit best, because it would be early, and Rachel could get away if she found it too much for her.”
“After being walked out to satisfy a curious neighbourhood.”
“Now Alick, do consider it. This sort of thing could remind her of nothing painful; Uncle George would enjoy it.”
“And fall over the croquet traps.”
“No; if you wanted to attend to him, I could take care of Rachel.”
“I cannot tell, Bessie, I believe it is pure goodnature on Mrs. Huntsford’s part, but if we go, it must be from Rachel’s spontaneous movement. I will not press her on any account. I had rather the world said she was crazy at once than expose her to the risk of one of the dreadful nights that haunted us till we came here to perfect quiet.”
“But she is well now. She looks better and nicer than I ever saw her. Really, Alick, now her face is softer, and her eyes more veiled, and her chin not cocked up, I am quite proud of her. Every one will be struck with her good looks.”