"Come now, ma'am, I shan't let you go to the ball if you don't take these. What, not a bit of fire—and you asleep here in the cold? What was that addle-pated Susan thinking about, I wonder? I'll take the tray upstairs. There's a lovely fire in your room, and everything ready for you to dress. I want to be able to tell Mr. Martin that his young wife was the belle of the ball."
The Baynhams' dinner-party was a function to be anticipated with horror, and undergone with resignation. For the first week after the acceptance of the invitation the ceremony had seemed so far off that it could be talked about[Pg 170] lightly, and even made an occasion for mirth—Allegra giving her own little sketch of what a dinner at Myrtle Lodge would be like—the drawing-room with its wealth of chair-backs and photograph albums, and the water-colour landscapes which Mrs. Baynham had painted while she was at a finishing school at Plymouth, never having touched brush or pencil since—and Mrs. Baynham's rosy-cheeked nieces from Truro, who always appeared on the scene of any festivity. Yes, one could tell beforehand what the entertainment would be like."You will have room enough to stretch your legs at the Mount," said Disney.
"She must have gone mad! A lodging-house must be harder work than anything she had to do here."
"You can ask Gwendolen as many questions as you like," answered Isola, with an offended air, "and you will see if she denies that I was with her in the December you were away."
"I was getting tired and old, sir; and I had saved enough money to furnish a small house; and my sister, Mrs. David, being a widow without chick or child, wanted me to join her in a lodging-house at the seaside. She's a beautiful cook, is my sister, much better than ever I was. So perhaps I was over-persuaded: and here I am. What's done cannot be undone, Captain Martin; but if ever Mrs. Disney should be ill or in grief or trouble, and she should want me, I'll go to her without an hour's loss of time. I can never forget that she is your wife, and that she was a kind mistress to me."[Pg 116]
"Yes, I remember; but that is all foolishness—idle romance. Allegra knows that you love her. I don't think she could know it any better after another half-year's devotion on your part.""I'm afraid Major Disney won't care much about the old place. He is a native of these parts, and must have been here often in my father's time. I shall hope to receive you both, if I am here next October for the shooting—but there is no need to postpone your inspection of the house to the remote future. Come on the first fine morning that you have nothing better to do. Mrs. Mayne is always at home; and I am almost always out of doors in the morning. You can have the house to yourselves, and talk about ghosts to your hearts' content."
"Mayne. Both Mrs. Mayne and I are delighted to be of use to you. Order the station brougham, Dalton, immediately," to the man who answered his bell. "The carriage can hardly be ready in less than twenty minutes, so pray try to do justice to Mrs. Mayne's tea."
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He watched her closely as she spoke, watched her with his hand upon hers, which was cold as ice. He had heard such words before from the early doomed, but they had been accompanied by religious exaltation; they had been the outpouring of a faith that saw the gates of heaven opened and the Son of man sitting in glory—of a love that longed to be with God. Here there was no sign of hope or exaltation. There were only the tokens of despair."Next carriage, Mrs. Brune Prideaux," roared the constable. "Mrs. Prideaux' carriage stops all the way."
"Which is yours?" she asked.The stars were shining when Isola went along the gravel path to the gate where Masters' fly was waiting, with blazing lamps, which seemed to put those luminous worlds yonder to shame. There was no carriage-drive to the hall door of the Angler's Nest. The house retained all its ancient simplicity, and ignored the necessities of carriage people. Tabitha wrapped her mistress's fur-lined cloak close round her, before she stepped into the fly, which was provided with those elaborate steps that seem peculiar to the hired brougham."Is it haunted?"详情
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