"My dear Mrs. Disney, it is your duty to fight against these melancholy moods. Can you be indifferent to your husband's feelings? Have you not the mother's natural desire to watch over your child's early years, to see him reach manhood?"
"Oh, Captain Hulbert, I want you to be serious."
The invitation from Mrs. Baynham was delivered by post next morning, as ceremonious a card as if the place were Mayfair, and the inviter and invitees had not met since last season. A copper-plate card, with name and address filled in by the lady's pen, a detail which distinguished her modest invitation from the Glenaveril cards, of which there were a variety, for at homes, tennis, dinner, luncheon, to accept, and to decline. A fortnight's notice marked the dignity of the occasion—the hour the orthodox quarter to eight.
"Then I'll write to her to-day, Martin, and beg her to come at once—as soon as ever she can pack her boxes."
"You are giving yourself a great deal too much trouble about me, Martin," she said. "There is nothing wrong. I am only a little weak and tired sometimes.""Was that he who went up towards the Point just now?""No, it isn't on that account. Mrs. Baynham offered to take me in her party. But I really would much rather not be there. It would seem horrid to me to be dancing in a great, dazzling room, among happy people, while Martin is in Burmah, perhaps in peril of his life on that very night. One can never tell. I often shudder at the thought of what may be happening to him while I am sitting quietly by the fire. And what should I feel at a ball?"
Mrs. Baynham was at heart a matchmaker, like most motherly women whom fate has left childless. She was very fond of Allegra, who was so much more companionable than Isola, so much more responsive to kindness and affection. As she sat on deck in the westering sunlight, somewhat comatose after a copious luncheon, Mrs. Baynham's[Pg 162] idea of helping Allegra took the form of a dinner-party which she had long been meditating, her modest return for numerous dinners which she had eaten at Glenaveril and at the Angler's Nest. She considered that three or four times a year it behoved her to make a serious effort in the way of hospitality—a substantial and elaborate dinner, in which no good things in season should be spared, and which should be served with all due ceremony. The time was at hand when such a dinner would in a manner fall due; and she determined to hasten the date with a view to Allegra's interests.
"I remember him when he and his brother were at Eton together—nice boys—capital boys, both of them—but I liked Jack Hulbert better than Lostwithiel. He was franker, more spontaneous and impulsive. Yes, Jack was my favourite, and everybody else's favourite, I think, when the two were boys. I saw very little of them after they grew up. I was away with my regiment, and Jack was away with his ship, and Lostwithiel was wandering up and down the earth, like Satan. I left a card for Captain Hulbert at the club, asking him to dinner this evening. You don't mind, do you, Isola?"
Isola looked at the speaker as if he had struck her. Great God, how pale she was! Or was it the reflection of the apple-green shade upon the candle in front of her which gave her that ghastly look?详情
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