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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRed Hair (the Vicissitudes Of Evangeline) - Part 11
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Red Hair (the Vicissitudes Of Evangeline) - Part 11 Post by :punter Category :Long Stories Author :Elinor Glyn Date :May 2012 Read :1213

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Red Hair (the Vicissitudes Of Evangeline) - Part 11

CLARIDGE'S,
Sunday night, _November 27th.

Late this evening, about eight o'clock, when I had relocked my journal, I got a note from Robert. I was just going to begin my dinner.

I tore it open, inside was another; I did not wait to look who from, I was too eager to read his. I paste it in:

 

"CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE.

"MY DARLING,--

"I have had a long talk with Aunt Sophia, and she is everything that is sweet and kind, but she fears Torquilstone will be a little difficult (_I don't care_, _nothing shall separate us now). She asks me not to go and see you again to-night as she thinks it would be better for you that I should not go to the hotel so late. Darling, read her note, and you will see how nice she is. I shall come round to-morrow, the moment the beastly stables are finished, about twelve o'clock. Oh, take care of yourself! What a difference to-night and last night! I was feeling horribly miserable and reckless, and to-night! Well, you can guess. I am not half good enough for you, darling beautiful queen, but I think I shall know how to make you happy. I love you.

"Good-night my own.

"ROBERT."

"Do please send me a tiny line by my servant. I have told him to wait."

 

I have never had a love-letter before. What lovely things they are. I felt thrills of delight over bits of it. Of course I see now that I must have been dreadfully in love with Robert all along, only I did not know it quite. I fell into a kind of blissful dream, and then I roused myself up to read Lady Merrenden's. I sha'n't put hers in, too; it fills up too much, and I can't shut the clasp of my journal. It is a perfectly sweet little letter, just saying Robert had told her the news, and that she was prepared to welcome me as her dearest niece, and to do all she could for us. She hoped I would not think her very tiresome and old-fashioned suggesting Robert had better not see me again to-night, and, if it would not inconvenience me, she would herself come round to-morrow morning and discuss what was best to be done.

Veronique said Lord Robert's valet was waiting outside the door, so I flew to my table and began to write. My hand trembled so I made a blot, and had to tear that sheet up; then I wrote another. Just a little word. I was frightened; I couldn't say loving things in a letter; I had not even spoken many to him--yet.

 

"I loved your note," I began; "and I think Lady Merrenden is quite right. I will be here at twelve, and very pleased to see you." I wanted to say I loved him, and thought twelve o'clock a long way off, but of course one could not write such things as that, so I ended with just,

"Love from

"EVANGELINE."

 

Then I read it over, and it did sound "missish" and silly. However, with the man waiting there in the passage, and Veronique fussing in and out of my bedroom, besides the waiters bringing up my dinner, I could not go tearing up sheets and writing others, it looked so flurried, so it was put into an envelope. Then, in one of the seconds I was alone, I nipped off a violet from a bunch on the table and pushed it in, too. I wonder if he will think it sentimental of me! When I had written the name, I had not an idea where to address it. His was written from Carlton House Terrace, but he was evidently not there now, as his servant had brought it. I felt so nervous and excited, it was too ridiculous--I am very calm as a rule. I called the man, and asked him where was his lordship now? I did not like to say I was ignorant of where he lived.

"His Lordship is at Vavasour House, madam," he said, respectfully, but with the faintest shade of surprise that I should not know. "His lordship dines at home this evening with his grace."

I scribbled a note to Lady Merrenden. I would be delighted to see her in the morning at whatever time suited her. I would not go out at all, and I thanked her. It was much easier to write sweet things to her than to Robert.

When I was alone I could not eat. Veronique came in to try and persuade me. I looked so very pale, she said, she feared I had taken cold. She was in one of her "old-mother" moods, when she drops the third person sometimes, and calls me "_mon enfant_."

"Oh, Veronique, I have not got a cold; I am only wildly happy," I said.

"Mademoiselle is doubtless fiancee to Mr. Carruthers. _Oh, mon enfant adoree_," she cried, "_que je suis contente!_"

"Gracious, no!" I exclaimed. This brought me back to Christopher with a start. What would he say when he heard?

"No, Veronique, to some one much nicer--Lord Robert Vavasour."

Veronique was frightfully interested. Mr. Carruthers she would have preferred, to me, she admitted, as being more solid, more "_range_," "_plus a la fin de ses betises_," but, no doubt, "milor" was charming too, and for certain one day mademoiselle would be duchess. In the meanwhile what kind of coronet would mademoiselle have on her trousseau?

I was obliged to explain that I should not have any, or any trousseau, for an indefinite time, as nothing was settled yet. This damped her a little.

"_Un frere de duc, et pas de couronne!_" After seven years in England she was yet unable to understand these strange habitudes, she said.

She insisted upon putting me to bed directly after dinner, "to be prettier for _milor demain_!" and then when she had tucked me up, and was turning out the light in the centre of the room, she looked back. "Mademoiselle is too beautiful like that," she said, as if it slipped from her. "_Mon Dieu! il ne s'embeterai pas, le monsieur!_"

 

CLARIDGE'S,
_Monday morning.

I wonder how I lived before I met Robert. I wonder what use were the days. Oh, and I wonder, I wonder, if the duke continues to be obdurate about me, if I shall ever have the strength of mind to part from him so as not to spoil his future.

Such a short time ago--not yet four weeks--since I was still at Branches, and wondering what made the clock go round, the great, big clock of life.

Oh, now I know. It is being in love--frightfully in love, as we are. I must try and keep my head, though, and remember all the remarks of Lady Ver about things and men. Fighters all of them, and they must never feel quite sure. It will be dreadfully difficult to tease Robert, because he is so direct and simple, but I must try, I suppose. Perhaps being so very pretty as I am, and having all the male creatures looking at me with interest, will do, and be enough to keep him worried, and I won't have to be tiresome myself. I hope so, because I really do love him so extremely, I would like to let myself go, and be as sweet as I want to.

I am doing all the things I thought perfectly silly to hear of before. I kissed his letter, and slept with it on the pillow beside me, and this morning woke at six, and turned on the electric light to read it again. The part where the "darlings" come is quite blurry, I see, in daylight--that is where I kissed most, I know.

I seem to be numb to everything else. Whether Lady Ver is angry or not does not bother me. I did play fair. She could not expect me to go on pretending when Robert had said straight out he loved me. But I am sure she will be angry, though, and probably rather spiteful about it.

I will write her the simple truth in a day or two, when we see how things go. She will guess by Robert not going to Sedgwick.

 

CLARIDGE'S
_Monday afternoon.

At half-past eleven this morning Lady Merrenden came, and the room was all full of flowers that Robert had sent, bunches and bunches of violets and gardenias. She kissed me, and held me tight for a moment, and we did not speak. Then she said, in a voice that trembled a little:

"Robert is so very dear to me--almost my own child--that I want him to be happy; and you, too, Evangeline--I may call you that, may not I?"

I squeezed her hand.

"You are the echo of my youth, when I, too, knew the wild spring-time of love. So, dear, I need not tell you that you may count upon my doing what I can for you both."

Then we talked and talked.

"I must admit," she said at last, "that I was prejudiced in your favor for your dear father's sake, but in any case my opinion of Robert's judgment is so high, I would have been prepared to find you charming, even without that. He has the rarest qualities, he is the truest, most untarnished soul in this world.

"I don't say," she went on, "that he is not just as the other young men of his age and class; he is no Galahad, as no one can be with truth who is human and lives in the world. And I dare say kind friends will tell you stories of actresses and other diversions, but I who know him tell you, you have won the best and greatest darling in London."

"Oh, I am sure of it," I said. "I don't know why he loves me so much, he has seen me so little; but it began from the very first minute, I think, with both of us. He is such a nice shape."

She laughed. Then she asked me if she was right in supposing all these _contretemps we had had were the doing of Lady Ver. "You need not answer, dear," she said. "I know Ianthe. She is in love with Robert herself; she can't help it; she means no harm, but she often gets these attacks, and they pass off. I think she is devoted to Sir Charles, really."

"Yes," I said.

"It is a queer world we live in, child," she continued, "and true love and suitability of character are such a rare combination, but from what I can judge, you and Robert possess them."

"Oh, how dear of you to say so!" I exclaimed.

"You don't think I _must be bad, then, because of my coloring?"

"What a ridiculous idea, you sweet child!" she laughed. "Who has told you that!"

"Oh, Mrs. Carruthers always said so--and--and the old gentlemen, and--even Mr. Carruthers hinted I probably had some odd qualities. But you do think I shall be able to be fairly good--don't you?"

She was amused, I could see, but I was serious.

"I think you probably might have been a little wicked if you had married a man like Mr. Carruthers," she said, smiling, "but with Robert I am sure you will be good. He will never leave you a moment, and he will love you so much you won't have time for anything else."

"Oh, that is what I shall like--being loved," I said.

"I think all women like that," she sighed. "We could all of us be good if the person we love went on being demonstrative. It is the cold, matter-of-fact devotion that kills love, and makes one want to look elsewhere to find it again."

Then we talked of possibilities about the duke. I told her I knew his _toquade_, and she, of course, was fully acquainted with mamma's history.

"I must tell you, dear, I fear he will be difficult," she said. "He is a strangely prejudiced person, and obstinate to a degree, and he worships Robert, as we all do."

I would not ask her if the duke had taken a dislike to me, because I _knew he had.

"I asked you to meet him on Saturday on purpose," she continued. "I felt sure your charm would impress him, as it had done me, and as it did my husband, but I wonder now if it would have been better to wait. He said after you were gone that you were much too beautiful for the peace of any family, and he pitied Mr. Carruthers if he married you. I don't mean to hurt you, child; I am only telling you everything, so that we may consult how best to act."

"Yes, I know," I said, and I squeezed her hand again; she does not put out claws like Lady Ver.

"How did he know anything about Mr. Carruthers"--I asked--"or me, or anything?" She looked ashamed.

"One can never tell how he hears things. He was intensely interested to meet you, and seemed to be acquainted with more of the affair than I am. I almost fear he must obtain his information from the servants."

"Oh, does not that show the housemaid in him? Poor fellow!" I said. "He can't help it, then, any more than I could help crying yesterday before Robert in the park. Of course we would neither of us have done these things if it were not for the _tache in our backgrounds, only, fortunately for me, mine wasn't a housemaid, and was one generation farther back, so I would not be likely to have any of those tricks."

She leaned back in her chair and laughed. "You quaint, quaint child, Evangeline," she said.

Just then it was twelve o'clock, and Robert came in.

Oh, talk of hearts beating! If mine is going to go on jumping like this every time Robert enters a room, I shall get a disease in it in less than a year.

He looked too intensely attractive. He was not in London clothes; just serge things, and a guard's tie, and his face was beaming, and his eyes shining like blue stars.

We behaved nicely--he only kissed my hand, and Lady Merrenden looked away at the clock even for that. She has tact.

"Isn't my Evangeline a darling, Aunt Sophia?" he said. "And don't you love her red hair?"

"It is beautiful," said Lady Merrenden.

"When you leave us alone I am going to pull it all down"; and he whispered, "Darling, I love you," so close that his lips touched my ear, while he pretended he was not doing anything. I say, again, Robert has ways that would charm a stone image.

"How was Torquilstone last night?" Lady Merrenden asked, "and did you tell him anything?"

"Not a word," said Robert. "I wanted to wait and consult you both which would be best. Shall I go to him at once, or shall he be made to meet my Evangeline again, and let her fascinate him, as she is bound to do, and then tell him?"

"Oh, tell him straight!" I exclaimed, remembering his proclivities about the servants and that Veronique knows. "Then he cannot ever say we have deceived him."

"That is how I feel," said Robert.

"You take Evangeline to lunch, Aunt Sophia, and I will go back and feed with him, and tell him, and then come to you after."

"Yes, that will be best," she said, and it was settled that she should come in again and fetch me in an hour, when Robert should leave to go to Vavasour House. He went with her to the lift, and then he came back.

No--even in this locked book I am not going to write of that hour--it was too divine. If I had thought just sitting in the park was heaven, I now know there are degrees of heaven, and that Robert is teaching me up towards the seventh.

 

Monday afternoon.
(Continued.)

I forgot to say a note came from Christopher by this morning's post--it made me laugh when I read it, then it went out of my head; but when Lady Merrenden returned for me, and we were more or less sane again--Robert and I--I thought of it; so apparently did he. "Did you by chance hear from Christopher, whether he got your note last night or no?" he said.

I went and fetched it from my bedroom when I put on my hat. Robert read it aloud:


"TRAVELLER'S CLUB
"Sunday night.

"'Souvent femme varie--fol qui se fie!'
Hope you found your variation worth while!

C. C."


"What dam cheek!" he said, in his old way. He hasn't used any "ornaments to conversation" since we have been--oh, I want to say it--engaged!

Then his eyes flashed. "Christopher had better be careful of himself! He will have to be answerable to me now."

"Do be prudent, Evangeline dear," Lady Merrenden said, gayly, "or you will have Robert breaking the head of every man in the street who even glances at you. He is frantically jealous."

"Yes, I know I am," said Robert, rearranging the tie on my blouse with that air of _sans gene and possession that pleases me so.

I belong to him now, and if my tie isn't as he likes he has a perfect right to retie it, no matter who is there. That is his attitude--not the _least ceremony or stuff, everything perfectly simple and natural.

It does make things agreeable. When I was, "Miss Travers" and he "Lord Robert," he was always respectful and unfamiliar--except that one night when rage made him pinch my finger. But now that I am _his Evangeline and he is _my Robert (thus he explained it to me in our paradise hour), I am his queen and his darling, but at the same time his possession and belonging, just the same as his watch or his coat--I adore it--and it does not make me the least "uppish," as one might have thought.

"Come, come, children," Lady Merrenden said at last, "we shall all be late."

So we started, dropping Robert at Vavasour House on our way. It is a splendid place, down one of those side streets looking on the Green Park, and has a small garden that side. I had never been down to the little square where it is before, but, of course, every one can see its splendid frontage from St. James's Park, though I had never realized it was Vavasour House.

"Good luck!" whispered Lady Merrenden as Robert got out, and then we drove on.

Several people were lunching at Carlton House Terrace: cabinet ministers, and a clever novelist, and the great portrait painter, besides two or three charming women--one as pretty and smart as Lady Ver, but the others more ordinary looking, only so well mannered. No real frumps like the Montgomeries. We had a delightful lunch, and I tried to talk nicely and do my best to please my dear hostess. When they had all left I think we both began to feel excited, and long apprehensively for the arrival of Robert. So we talked of the late guests.

"It amuses my husband to see a number of different kinds of people," she said; "but we had nothing very exciting to-day, I must confess, though sometimes the authors and authoresses bore me, and they are often very disappointing--one does not any longer care to read their books after seeing them."

I said I could quite believe that.

"I do not go in for budding geniuses," she continued. "I prefer to wait until they have arrived, no matter their origin; then they have acquired a certain outside behavior on the way up, and it does not _froisse one so. Merrenden is a great judge of human nature, and variety entertains him. Left to myself, I fear I should be quite contented with less gifted people who were simply of one's own world."

In all her talk one can see her thought and consideration for Lord Merrenden and his wishes and tastes.

"I always feel it is so cruel for him, our having no children," she said. "The earldom becomes extinct, so I must make him as happy as I can."

What a dear and just woman!

At last we spoke of Robert, and she told me stories of his boyhood, amusing Eton scrapes, and later feats. And how brave and splendid he had been in the war; and how the people all adored him at Torquilstone; and of his popularity and influence with them. "You must make him go into Parliament," she said.

Then Robert came into the room. Oh, his darling face spoke, there was no need for words. The duke, one could see, had been obdurate.

"Well," said Lady Merrenden.

Robert came straight over to me and took my face in his two hands. "Darling," he said, "before everything I want you to know I love you better than anything else in the world, and nothing will make any difference," and he kissed me deliberately before his aunt. His voice was so moved, and we all felt a slight lump in our throats I know; then he stood in front of us, but he held my hand.

"Torquilstone was horrid, I can see," said Lady Merrenden. "What did he say, Robert? Tell us everything. Evangeline would wish it too, I am sure, as well as I."

Robert looked very pale and stern; one can see how firm his jaw is in reality, and how steady his dear, blue eyes.

"I told him I loved Evangeline, whom I understood he had met yesterday, and that I intended to marry her."

"And he said?" asked Lady Merrenden, breathless.

I only held tighter Robert's hand.

"He swore like a trooper, he thumped his glass down on the table and smashed it--a disgusting exhibition of temper--I was ashamed of him. Then he said never, as long as he lived and could prevent it; that he had heard something of my infatuation, so as I am not given that way he had made inquiries, and found the family was most unsatisfactory. Then he had come here yesterday on purpose to see you--darling," turning to me, "and that he had judged for himself. The girl was a 'devilish beauty' (his words, not mine), with the naughtiest, provoking eyes, and a mouth--No, I can't say the rest, it makes me too mad," and Robert's eyes flashed.

Lady Merrenden rose from her seat and came and took my other hand. I felt as if I could not stand too tall and straight.

"The long and short of it is, he has absolutely refused to have anything to do with the matter, says I need expect nothing further from him, and we have parted for good and all."

"Oh, Robert!" It was almost a cry from Lady Merrenden.

Robert put his arms round me, and his face changed to radiance.

"Well, I don't care; what does it matter? A few places and thousands in the dim future--the loss of them is nothing to me if I only have my Evangeline now."

"But, Robert dearest," Lady Merrenden said, "you can't possibly live without what he allows you--what have you of your own? About eighteen hundred a year, I suppose, and you know, darling boy, you are often in debt. Why, he paid five thousand for you as lately as last Easter. Oh, what is to be done?" and she clasped her hands.

I felt as if turned to stone. Was all this divine happiness going to slip from my grasp? Yes, it looked like it, for I could never drag Robert into poverty and spoil his great future.

"He can't leave away Torquilstone, and those thousands of profitless acres," Lady Merrenden went on; "but, unfortunately, all the London property is at his disposition. Oh, I must go and talk to him!"

"No," said Robert. "It would not be the least use, and would look as if we were pleading." His face had fallen to intense sadness as Lady Merrenden spoke of his money.

"Darling," he said, in a broken voice. "No, it is true it would not be fair to make you a beggar. I should be a cad to ask you. We must think of some way of softening my brother after all."

Then I spoke.

"Robert," I said, "if you were only John Smith I would say I would willingly go and live with you in a cottage, or even in a slum; but you are not, and I would not for _anything in the world drag you down out of what is your position in life. That would be a poor sort of love. Oh, my dear," and I clasped tight his hand, "if everything fails, then we must part and you must forget me."

He folded me in his arms, and we heard the door shut. Lady Merrenden had left us alone. Oh, it was anguish and divine bliss at the same time the next half-hour.

"I will never forget you, and never in this world will I take another woman, I swear to God!" he said, at the end of it. "If we must part, then life is finished for me of all joy."

"And for me, too, Robert!"

We said the most passionate vows of love to each other, but I will not write them here; there is another locked book where I keep them--the book of my soul.

"Would it be any good if Colonel Tom Carden went and spoke to him?" I asked, presently. "He was best man at papa's wedding, and knows all there is to be known of poor mamma; and do you think that as mamma's father was Lord de Brandreth--a very old barony I believe it is--oh, can it make any difference to the children's actual breeding, their parents not having been through the marriage ceremony? I--I--don't know much of that sort of things."

"My sweet," said Robert, and through all our sorrow he smiled and kissed me--"my sweet, sweet Evangeline."

"But does the duke know all the details of the history?" I asked, when I could speak; one can't when one is being kissed.

"Every little bit, it seems. He says he will not discuss the matter of that--I must know it is quite enough, as I have always known his views; but if it was not sufficient, your wild, wicked beauty is. You would not be faithful to me for a year, he said. I could hardly keep from killing him when he hurled that at my head."

I felt my temper rising. How frightfully unjust--how cruel! I went over and looked in the glass--a big mirror between the windows--drawing Robert with me.

"Oh, tell me, tell me, what is it? Am I so very bad looking? It is a curse, surely, that is upon me."

"Of course you are not bad looking, my darling!" exclaimed Robert. "You are perfectly beautiful--a slender, stately, exquisite tiger-lily--only--only--you don't look cold--and it is just your red hair, and those fascinating green eyes, and your white, lovely skin and black eyelashes that, that--Oh, you know, you sweetheart! You don't look like bread-and-butter, you are utterly desirable, and you would make any one's heart beat."

I thought of the night at "Carmen."

"Yes, I am wicked," I said; "but I never will be again--only just enough to make you always love me, because Lady Ver says security makes yawns. But even wicked people can love with a great, great love, and that can keep them good. Oh, if he only knew how utterly I love you, Robert, I am sure, sure, he would be kind to us!"

"Well, how shall we tell him?"

Then a thought came to me, and I felt all over a desperate thrill of excitement.

"Will you do nothing until to-morrow?" I said. "I have an idea which I will tell to no one. Let us go back to Claridge's now, and do not come and see me again until to-morrow at twelve. Then, if this has failed we will say good-bye. It is a desperate chance."

"And you won't tell me what it is?"

"No. Please trust me; it is my life as well as yours, remember."

"My queen!" he said. "Yes, I will do that, or anything else you wish, only _never, never good-bye. I am a man, after all, and have numbers of influential relations. I can do something else in life just be a Guardsman, and we shall get enough money to live quite happily on, though we might not be very grand people. I will never say good-bye--do you hear? Promise me you will never say it, either."

I was silent.

"Evangeline, darling!" he cried in anguish, his eyebrows right up in the old way, while two big tears welled up in his beautiful eyes. "My God! won't you answer me?"

"Yes, I will," I said, and I threw all my reserve to the winds, and flung my arms round his neck, passionately.

"I love you with my, heart and soul, and pray to God we shall never say good-bye."

When I got back to Claridge's, for the first time in my life I felt a little faint. Lady Merrenden had driven me back herself, and left me with every assurance of her devotion and affection for us. I had said good-bye to Robert for the day at Carlton House Terrace.

They do not yet know me, either of them, quite; or what I can and will do.

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