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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRed Hair (the Vicissitudes Of Evangeline) - Part 12
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Red Hair (the Vicissitudes Of Evangeline) - Part 12 Post by :punter Category :Long Stories Author :Elinor Glyn Date :May 2012 Read :537

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Red Hair (the Vicissitudes Of Evangeline) - Part 12

CLARIDGE'S
_Monday night.

I felt to carry out my plan I must steady my mind a little, so I wrote my journal, and that calmed me.

Of all the things I was sure of in the world, I was most sure that I loved Robert far too well to injure his prospects. On the other hand, to throw him away without a struggle was too cruel to both of us. If mamma's mother was nobody, all the rest of my family were fine old fighters and gentlemen, and I really prayed to their shades to help me now.

Then I rang and ordered some iced water, and when I had thought deeply for a few minutes while I sipped it, I sat down to my writing-table. My hand did not shake, though I felt at a deadly tension. I addressed the envelope first, to steady myself:


"To
"His Grace
"The Duke of Torquilstone,
"Vavasour House,
"St. James's, S.W."


Then I put that aside.

 

"I am Evangeline Travers who writes," I began, without any preface; "and I ask if you will see me--either here in my sitting-room this evening, or I will come to you at Vavasour House. I understand your brother, Lord Robert, has told you that he loves me and wishes to marry me, and that you have refused your consent, partly because of the history of my family, but chiefly because my type displeases you. I believe, in days gone by, the prerogative of a great noble like you was to dispense justice. In my case it is still your prerogative by courtesy, and I ask it of you. When we have talked for a little, if you then hold to your opinion of me, and _convince me that it is for your brother's happiness, I swear to you on my word of honor I will never see him again."

"Believe me,

"Yours faithfully,

"EVANGELINE TRAVERS."

 

I put it hastily in the envelope and fastened it up. Then I rang the bell, and had it sent by a messenger in a cab, who was to wait for an answer. Oh, I wonder if in life I shall ever have to go through another twenty-five minutes like those that passed before the waiter brought a note up to me in reply.

Even if the journal won't shut I must put it in:

 

"VAVASOUR HOUSE, ST. JAMES'S

"November 28th.

"DEAR MADAM,--

"I have received your letter, and request you to excuse my calling upon you at your hotel this evening, as I am unwell; but if you will do me the honor to come to Vavasour House on receipt of this, I will discuss the matter in question with you, and trust you will believe that you may rely upon my justice.

"I remain, madam,

"Yours truly,

"TORQUILSTONE."

 

"His grace's brougham is waiting below for you, madam," the waiter said, and I flew to Veronique.

I got her to dress me quickly. I wore the same things, exactly, as he had seen me in before--deep mourning they are, and extremely becoming.

In about ten minutes Veronique and I were seated in the brougham and rolling on our way. I did not speak.

I was evidently expected, for as the carriage stopped the great doors flew open and I could see into the dim and splendid hall.

A silver-haired, stately old servant led me along through a row of powdered footmen, down a passage all dimly lit with heavily shaded lights. (Veronique was left to their mercies.) Then the old man opened a door, and without announcing my name, merely, "The lady, your grace," he held the door, and then went out and closed it softly.

It was a huge room splendidly panelled with dark, carved _boiserie Louis XV., the most beautiful of its kind I had ever seen--only it was so dimly lit with the same shaded lamps one could hardly see into the corners.

The duke was crouching in a chair and looked fearfully pale and ill, and had an inscrutable expression on his face. Fancy a man so old-looking, and crippled, being even Robert's half-brother.

I came forward--he rose with difficulty, and this is the conversation we had.

"Please don't get up," I said. "If I may sit down opposite you."

"Excuse my want of politeness," he said, pointing to a chair; "but my back is causing me great pain to-day."

He looked such a poor, miserable, soured, unhappy creature, I could not help being touched.

"Oh, I am so sorry!" I said. "If I had known you were ill I would not have troubled you now."

"Justice had better not wait," he replied, with a whimsical, cynical, sour smile. "State your case."

Then he suddenly turned on an electric lamp near me, which made a blaze of light in my face. I did not jump, I am glad to say; I have pretty good nerves.

"My case is this: To begin with, I love your brother better than anything else in the world."

"Possibly--a number of women have done so," he interrupted. "Well?"

"And he loves me," I continued, not noticing the interruption.

"Agreed. It is a situation that happens every day among young fools. You have known each other about a month, I believe."

"Under four weeks," I corrected.

He laughed--bitterly.

"It cannot be of such vital importance to you, then, in that short time."

"It is of vital importance to me, and you know your brother's character; you will be able to judge as well as I if, or not, it is a matter of vital importance to him."

He frowned. "Well, your case?"

"First, to demand on what grounds you condemned me as a 'devilish beauty'? And why you assume that I should not be faithful to Robert for a year?"

"I am a rather good judge of character," he said.

"You cannot be, or you would see that whatever accident makes me have this objectionable outside, the me that lives within is an honest person who never breaks her word."

"I can only see red hair, and green eyes, and a general look of the devil."

"Would you wish people always to judge by appearances, then?" I said; "because, if so, I see before me a prejudiced, narrow-minded, cruel-tempered, cynical man--jealous of youth's joys. But _I would not be so unjust as to stamp you with these qualities because of that!"

He looked straight at me, startled. "I may be all these things," he said. "You are probably right."

"Then, oh, please don't be!" I went on quickly. "I want you to be kind to us. We--oh, we do, do so wish to be happy, and we are both so young, and life will be so utterly blank and worthless for all those years to the end if you part us now."

"I did not say I would part you," he said, coldly. "I merely said I refused to give Robert any allowance, and I shall leave everything in my power away from the title. If you like to get married on those terms you are welcome to."

Then I told him that I loved Robert far too much to like the thought of spoiling his future.

"We came into each other's lives," I said. "We did not ask it of fate, she pushed us there, and I tried not to speak to him because I had promised a friend of mine I would not, as she said she liked him herself, and it made us both dreadfully unhappy; and every day we mattered more to each other until yesterday, when I thought he had gone away for good and I was too miserable for words, we met in the park, and it was no use pretending any longer. Oh, you _can't want to crush out all joy and life for us, just because I have red hair! It is so horribly unjust."

"You beautiful siren!" he said. "You are coaxing me. How you know how to use your charms and your powers, and what _man could resist your tempting face!"

I rose in passionate scorn.

"How dare you say such things to me!" I said. "I would not stoop to coax you. I will not again ask you for any boon. I only wanted you to do me the justice of realizing you had made a mistake in my character--to do your brother the justice of conceding the point that he has some right to love whom he chooses. But keep your low thoughts to yourself--evil, cruel man! Robert and I have got something that is better than all your lands and money--a dear, great love, and I am glad--glad he will not in the future receive anything that is in your gift. I shall give him the gift of myself, and we shall do very well without you;" and I walked to the door, leaving him huddled in the chair.

Thus ended our talk on justice.

Never has my head been so up in the air. I am sure had Cleopatra been dragged to Rome in Augustus's triumph she would not have walked with more pride and contempt than I through the hall of Vavasour House.

The old servant was waiting for me, and Veronique, and the brougham.

"Call a hansom, if you please," I said, and stood there like a statue while one of the footmen had to run into St. James's Street for it.

Then we drove away, and I felt my teeth chatter while my cheeks burned. Oh, what an end to my scheme and my dreams of, perhaps, success!

But what a beast of a man! What a cruel, warped, miserable creature. I will not let him separate me from Robert--never, never! He is not worth it. I will wait for him--my darling--and if he really loves me, some day we can be happy, and if he does not--but, oh, I need not fear.

I am still shaking with passion, and shall go to bed. I do not want any dinner.

 

Tuesday morning,
_November 29th.

Veronique would not let me go to bed, she insisted upon my eating, and then after dinner I sat in an old but lovely wrap of white crepe, and she brushed out my hair for more than an hour--there is such a tremendous lot of it, it takes time.

I sat in front of the sitting-room fire and tried not to think. One does feel a wretch after a scene like that. At about half-past nine I heard noises in the passage of people, and with only a preliminary tap Robert and Lady Merrenden came into the room. I started up, and Veronique dropped the brush in her astonishment, and then left us alone.

Both their eyes were shining and excited, and Robert looked crazy with joy; he seized me in his arms, and kissed me, and kissed me, while Lady Merrenden said, "You darling Evangeline! you plucky, clever girl! Tell us all about it!"

"About what?" I said, as soon as I could speak.

"How you managed it."

"Oh, I must kiss her first, Aunt Sophia!" said Robert. "Did you ever see anything so divinely lovely as she looks with her hair all floating like this, and it is all mine, every bit of it!"

"Yes, it is," I said, sadly, "and that is about all of value you will get."

"Come and sit down," said Robert, "Evangeline, you darling--and look at this."

Upon which he drew from his pocket a note. I saw at once it was the duke's writing, and I shivered with excitement. He held it before my eyes.

"Dear Robert," it began. "I have seen her. I am conquered. She will make a magnificent duchess. Bring her to lunch to-morrow. Yours, TORQUILSTONE."

I really felt so intensely moved I could not speak.

"Oh, tell us, dear child, how did it happen, and what did you do, and where did you meet!" said Lady Merrenden.

Robert held my hand.

Then I tried to tell them as well as I could, and they listened breathlessly. "I was very rude, I fear," I ended with, "but I was so angry."

"It is glorious," said Robert. "But the best part is that you intended to give me yourself with no prospect of riches. Oh, darling, that is the best gift of all!"

"Was it disgustingly selfish of me?" I said. "But when I saw your poor brother so unhappy-looking, and soured, and unkind, with all his grandeur, I felt that to us, who know what love means, to be together was the thing that matters most in all the world."

Lady Merrenden then said she knew some people staying here who had an apartment on the first floor, and she would go down and see if they were visible. She would wait for Robert in the hall, she said, and she kissed us good-night and gave us her blessing.

What a dear she is! What a nice pet, to leave us alone!

Robert and I passed another hour of bliss, and I think we must have got to the sixth heaven by now--Robert says the seventh is for the end, when we are married. Well, that will be soon. Oh, I am too happy to write coherently!

I did not wake till late this morning, and Veronique came and said my sitting-room was again full of flowers. The darling Robert is!

I wrote to Christopher and Lady Ver in bed, as I sipped my chocolate. I just told Lady Ver the truth, that Robert and I had met by chance and discovered we loved each other, so I knew she would understand, and I promised I would not break his heart. Then I thanked her for all her kindness to me, but I felt sad when I read it over; poor, dear Lady Ver--how I hope it won't really hurt her, and that she will forgive me!

To Christopher I said I had found my "variation" worth while, and I hoped he would come to my wedding some day soon.

Then I sent Veronique to post them both.

To-day I am moving to Carlton House Terrace. What a delight that will be! and in a fortnight--or at best three weeks--Robert says we shall quietly go and get married, and Colonel Tom Carden can give me away after all.

Oh, the joy of the dear, beautiful world, and this sweet, dirty, entrancing, fog-bound London! I love it all--even the smuts!

 

CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE,
_Thursday night.

Robert came to see me at twelve, and he brought me the loveliest, splendid diamond and emerald ring, and I danced about like a child with delight over it. He has the most exquisite sentiment, Robert--every little trifle has some delicate meaning, and he makes me _feel and _feel_.

Each hour we spend together we seem to discover some new bit of us which is just what the other wants. And he is so deliciously jealous and masterful and--oh, I love him--so there it is!

I am learning a lot of things, and I am sure there are lots to learn still.

At half-past one Lady Merrenden came and fetched us in the barouche, and off we went to Vavasour House, with what different feelings to last evening!

The pompous servants received us in state, and we all three walked on to the duke's room.

There he was, still huddled in his chair, but he got up--he is better to-day.

Lady Merrenden went over and kissed him.

"Dear Torquilstone," she said.

"Morning, Robert," he mumbled, after he had greeted his aunt. "Introduce me to your fiancee."

And Robert did, with great ceremony.

"Now, I won't call you names any more," I said, and I laughed in his face. He bent down and kissed my forehead.

"You are a beautiful tiger-cat," he said; "but even a year of you would be well worth while."

Upon which Robert glared, and I laughed again, and we all went in to lunch.

He is not so bad, the duke, after all.

 

CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE,
_December 21st.

Oh, it is three weeks since I wrote, but I have been too busy and too happy for journals. I have been here ever since, getting my trousseau, and Veronique is becoming used to the fact that I can have no coronet on my lingerie.

It is the loveliest thing in the world being engaged to Robert.

He has ways! Well, even if I really were as bad as I suppose I look, I could never want any one else. He worships me, and lets me order him about, and then he orders me about, and that makes me have the loveliest thrills. And if any one even looks at me in the street--which of course they always do--he flashes blue fire at them, and I feel--oh, I feel, all the time!

Lady Merrenden continues her sweet kindness to us, and her tact is beyond words, and now I often do what I used to wish to--that is, touch Robert's eyelashes with the tips of my fingers.

It is perfectly lovely.

Oh, what in the world is the good of anything else in life but being frantically in love as we are!

It all seems, to look back upon, as if it were like having porridge for breakfast, and nothing else every day, before I met Robert.

Perhaps it is because he is going to be very grand in the future, but every one has discovered I am a beauty, and intelligent. It is much nicer to be thought that than just to be a red-haired adventuress.

Lady Katherine, even, has sent me a cairngorm brooch and a cordial letter. (I should now adorn her circle!)

But oh, what do they all matter--what does anything matter but Robert! All day long I know I am learning the meaning of "to dance and to sing and to laugh and _to live_."

The duke and I are great friends. He has ferreted out about mamma's mother, and it appears she was a Venetian music-mistress of the name of Tonquini, or something like that, who taught Lord de Brandreth's sisters--so perhaps Lady Ver was right after all, and far, far back in some other life I was the friend of a Doge.

Poor, dear Lady Ver! She has taken it very well after the first spiteful letter, and now I don't think there is even a tear at the corner of her eye.

Lady Merrenden says it is just the time of the year when she usually gets a new one, so perhaps she has now, and so that is all right.

The diamond serpent she has given me has emerald eyes--and such a pointed tongue.

"It is like you, snake-girl," she said; "so wear it at your wedding."

The three angels are to be my only bridesmaids.

Robert loads me with gifts, and the duke is going to let me wear all the Torquilstone jewels when I am married, besides the emeralds he has given me himself. I really love him.

Christopher sent me this characteristic note with the earrings which are his gift, great big emeralds set with diamonds:


"So sorry I shall not see you on the happy day,
but Paris, I am fortunate enough to discover,
still has joys for me.

"C. C.

"Wear them; they will match your eyes."


And to-morrow is my wedding-day, and I am going away on a honeymoon with Robert--away into the seventh heaven. And oh, and oh, I am certain, _sure_, neither of us will yawn!


(THE END)
Elinor Glyn's Novel: Red Hair (The Vicissitudes of Evangeline)

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