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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLord Ormont And His Aminta - Book 2 - Chapter 10. A Short Passage In The Game Played By Two
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Lord Ormont And His Aminta - Book 2 - Chapter 10. A Short Passage In The Game Played By Two Post by :bcsbusters Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :1742

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Lord Ormont And His Aminta - Book 2 - Chapter 10. A Short Passage In The Game Played By Two


Politest of men in the domestic circle and everywhere among women, Lord Ormont was annoyed to find himself often gruffish behind the tie of his cravat. Indeed, the temper of our eminently serene will feel the strain of a doldrum-dulness that is goaded to activity by a nettle. The forbearance he carried farther than most could do was tempted to kick, under pressure of Mrs. Nargett Pagnell. Without much blaming Aminta, on whose behalf he submitted to it, and whose resolution to fix in England had brought it to this crisis, he magnanimously proposed to the Fair Enemy he forced her to be, and liked to picture her as being, a month in Paris.

Aminta declined it for herself; after six or more years of travelling, she wished to settle, and know her country, she said: a repetition remark, wide of the point, and indicatory to the game of Pull she was again playing beneath her smooth visage, unaware that she had the wariest of partners at the game.

'But go you--do, I beg,' she entreated. 'It will give you new impressions; and I cannot bear to tie you down here.'

'How you can consent to be tied down here, is the wonder to me!' said he. 'When we travelled through the year, just visited England and were off again, we were driving on our own road. Vienna in April and May--what do you say? You like the reviews there, and the dances, concerts, Zigeuner bands, military Bohemian bands. Or Egypt to-morrow, if you like--though you can't be permitted to swim in the Nile, as you wanted. Come, Xarifa, speak it. I go to exile without you. Say you come.'

She smiled firmly. The name of her honeymoon days was not a cajolery to her.

His name had been that of the Christian Romancero Knight Durandarte, and she gave it to him, to be on the proper level with him, while she still declined.

'Well, but just a month in Paris! There's nothing doing here. And we both like the French theatre.'

'London will soon be filling.'

'Well, but--' He stopped; for the filling of London did really concern her, in the game of Pull she was covertly playing with him. 'You seem to have caught the fever of this London;... no bands.... no reviews .... Low comedy acting.' He muttered his objections to London.

'The society of people speaking one's own tongue, add that,' she ventured to say.

'You know you are ten times more Spanish than English. Moorish, if you like.'

'The slave of the gallant Christian Knight, converted, baptized, and blissful. Oh, I know. But now we are settled in England, I have a wish to study English society.'

'Disappointing, I assure you;--dinners heavy, dancing boorish, intrigue a blind-man's-buff. We've been over it all before!'

'We have.'

'Admired, I dare say. You won't be understood.'

'I like my countrymen.'

'The women have good looks--of the ungarnished kind. The men are louts.'

'They are brave.'

'You're to see their fencing. You'll own a little goes a long way.'

'I think it will amuse me.'

'So I thought when I gave the nod to Isabella your friend.'

'You like her?'

'You, too.'

'One fancies she would make an encouraging second in a duel.'

'I will remember... when I call you out.'

'Oh, my dear lord, you have dozens to choose from leave me my one if we are to enter the lists.'

'We are, it seems; unless you consent to take the run to Paris. You are to say Tom or Rowsley.'

'The former, I can never feel at home in saying; Rowsley is Lady Charlotte's name for you.'

The name of Lady Charlotte was an invitation to the conflict between them. He passed it, and said 'Durandarte runs a mile on the mouth, and the Coriolanus of their newspapers helps a stage-player to make lantern jaws. Neither of them comes well from the lips of my girl. After seven years she should have hit on a nickname, of none of the Christian suit. I am not "at home" either with "my lord." However, you send me off to Paris alone; and you'll be alone and dull here in this London. Incomprehensible to me why!'

'We are both wondering?' said Aminta.

'You 're handsomer than when I met you first--by heaven you are!'

She flushed her dark brown-red late-sunset. 'Brunes are exceptional in England.'

'Thousands admiring you, of course! I know, my love, I have a jewel.'

She asked him: 'What are jewels for?' and he replied, 'To excite cupidity.'

'When they 're shut in a box?'

'Ware burglars! But this one is not shut up. She shuts herself up. And up go her shoulders! Decide to be out of it, and come to Paris for some life for a month. No? It's positive? When do you expect your little school friend?'

'After Easter. Aunt will be away.'

'Your little friend likes the country. I'll go to my house agents. If there 's a country house open on the upper Thames, you can have swimming, boating, botanizing...'

He saw her throat swallow. But as he was offering agreeable things he chose to not understand how he was to be compassionate.

'Steignton?' she said, and did her cause no good by saying it feebly.

His look of a bygone awake-in-sleep old look, drearily known to her, was like a strip of sunlight on a fortress wall. It signified, Is the poor soul pushing me back to that again?

She compelled herself to say: 'Your tenant there?'

'Matter of business... me and my tenant,' he remarked. 'The man pays punctually.'

'The lease has expired.'

'Not quite. You are misinformed.'

'At Easter.'

'Ah! Question of renewing.'

'You were fond of the place.'

'I was fond of the place? Thank Blazes, I'm not what I was!' He paced about. 'There's not a corner of the place that doesn't screw an eye at me, because I had a dream there. La gloire!'

The rest he muttered. 'These English!' was heard. Aminta said: 'Am I never to see Steignton?'

Lord Ormont invoked the Powers. He could not really give answer to this female talk of the eternities.

'Beaten I can never be,' he said, with instinctive indulgence to the greater creature. 'But down there at Steignton, I should be haunted by a young donkey swearing himself the fellow I grew up out of. No doubt of that. I don't like him the better for it. Steignton grimaces at a cavalry officer fool enough at his own risks and penalties to help save India for the English. Maunderers! You can't tell--they don't know themselves--what they mean. Except that they 're ready to take anything you hand 'em, and then pipe to your swinging. I served them well--and at my age, in full activity, they condemn me to sit and gape!'

He stopped his pacing and gazed on the glass of the window.

'Would you wish me not to be present at this fencing?' said Aminta.

'Dear me! by all means, go, my love,' he replied.

Any step his Fair Enemy won in the secret game Pull between them, she was undisputedly to keep.

She suggested: 'It might lead to unpleasantness.'

'Of what sort?'

'You ask?'

He emphasized: 'Have you forgotten? Something happened after that last ball at Challis's Rooms. Their women as well as their men must be careful not to cross me.'

Aminta had confused notions of her being planted in hostile territory, and torn and knitted, trumpeted to the world as mended, but not honourably mended in a way to stop corridor scandal. The ball at Challis's Rooms had been one of her steps won: it had necessitated a requirement for the lion in her lord to exhibit himself, and she had gained nothing with Society by the step, owing to her poor performance of the lion's mate. She had, in other words, shunned the countenance of some scattered people pityingly ready to support her against the deadly passive party known to be Lady Charlotte's.

She let her lord go; thinking that once more had she striven and gained nothing: which was true of all their direct engagements. And she had failed because of her being only a woman! Mr. Morsfield was foolishly wrong in declaring that she, as a woman, had reserves of strength. He was perhaps of Lady Charlotte's mind with regard to the existence of a Countess of Ormont, or he would know her to be incredibly cowardly. Cowardly under the boast of pride, too; well, then, say, if you like, a woman!

Yet this mere shallow woman would not hesitate to meet the terrible Lady Charlotte at any instant, on any terms: and what are we to think of a soldier, hero, lion, dreading to tell her to her face that the persecuted woman is his wife!

'Am I a woman they can be ashamed of?' she asked, and did not seek the answer at her mirror. She was in her bedroom, and she put out a hand to her jewel-box, fingered it, found it locked, and abandoned her idle project. A gentleman was 'dangerous.' She had not found him so. He had the reputation, perhaps, because he was earnest. Not so very many men are earnest. She called to recollection how ludicrously practical he was in the thick of his passion. His third letter (addressed to the Countess of Ormont--whom he manifestly did not or would not take to be the veritable Countess--and there was much to plead for his error), or was it his fourth?--the letters were a tropical hail-storm: third or fourth, he broke off a streaked thunderpeal, to capitulate his worldly possessions, give the names and degrees of kinship of his relatives, the exact amount of the rent-roll of his Yorkshire estates, of his funded property.

Silly man! but not contemptible. He proposed everything in honour, from his view of it.

Whether in his third, fourth, or fifth letter.... How many had come? She drew the key from her purse, and opened a drawer. The key of the jewel-box was applied to the lock.

Mr. Morsfield had sent her six flaming letters. He not only took no precautions, he boasted that he hailed the consequences of discovery. Six!

She lifted a pen: it had to be done.

He was briefly informed that he disturbed her peace. She begged he would abstain from any further writing to her.

The severity was in the brevity. The contrast of her style and his appeared harsh. But it belonged to the position.

Having with one dash of the pen scribbled her three lines, she slipped the letter into her pocket. That was done, and it had to be done; it ought to have been done before. How simple it was when one contemplated it as actually done! Aminta made the motion of a hand along the paper, just a flourish. Soon after, her head dropped back on the chair, and her eyes shut, she took in breath through parted lips. The brief lines of writing had cut away a lump of her vitality.

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