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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 1
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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 1 Post by :punter Category :Long Stories Author :Elinor Glyn Date :May 2012 Read :2458

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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 1

BOOK II CHAPTER I

No one can possibly imagine the unpleasantness of a honey-moon until they have tried it. It is no wonder one is told nothing at all about it. Even to keep my word and obey grandmamma I could never have undertaken it if I had had an idea what it would be like. Really, girls' dreams are the silliest things in the world. I can't help staring at all the married people I see about. "You--poor wretches!--have gone through this," I say to myself; and then I wonder and wonder that they can smile and look gay. I long to ask them when the calmness and indifference set in; how long I shall have to wait before I can really profit by grandmamma's lesson of the caterpillar. It was useful for the _fiancailles_, but it has not comforted me much since my wedding.

In old-fashioned books, when the heroine comes to anything exciting, or when the situation is too difficult for the author to describe, there is always a row of stars. It seems to mean a jump, a break to be filled up as each person pleases. I feel I must leave this part of my life marked with this row of stars.

It is two weeks now since I wrote my name Ambrosine de Calincourt Athelstan for the last time, two weeks since I walked down the rose-strewn guillotine steps on Augustus's arm, two weeks since he--Ah, no! I will never look back at that. Let these hideous two weeks sink into the abyss of oblivion!

It hardly seems possible that in fifteen days one could so completely alter one's views and notions of life. I cannot look at anything with the same eyes. It is all very well for people to talk philosophy, but it is difficult to be philosophical when one's every sense is being continually _froisse_. I feel sometimes that I could commit murder, and I do not know when I shall be able to take the Marquis's advice to remain placid and shut my eyes and try to get what good out of life I can.

Augustus as a husband is extremely unpleasant. I hate the way his hair is brushed--there always seems to be a lock sticking up in the back; I hate the way he ties his ties; I hate everything he says and does. I keep saying to myself when I hear him coming, "remember the caterpillar, caterpillar, caterpillar." And once in the beginning, when I was screwing up my eyes not to see, he got quite close before I knew and he heard me saying it aloud.

He bounced away, thinking I meant there was one crawling on him, and then he got quite cross.

"There are no caterpillars here, Ambrosine. How silly you are!" he said.

He revels in being at once recognized as a bridegroom. He has dreadfully familiar ways and catches hold of my arm in public, making us both perfectly ridiculous. He has insisted upon buying me numbers of gorgeous garments for my outer covering, but when I ventured to order some very fine other things he grumbled at the cost.

"I don't mind your getting clothes that will show the money I've put into them," he explained, "but I'm bothered if I'll encourage useless extravagance in this way."

At the play he never understands more than a few words, but is always asking me to explain what it means when there is anything interesting, so I miss most of it myself from having to talk, and some of the French plays are really very funny, I find, and have opened my eyes a great deal, and I--even I--could laugh if I were left in peace to listen a little.

Augustus is furiously angry, too, when the Frenchmen look at me. I never thought I could even notice the gaze of strangers, but I am ashamed to say that last night it quite pleased me.

We were dining at Paillard's, and two really nice-looking Frenchmen had the next table. They looked at me, and Augustus glared at them and fussed the waiters more than usual, and wanted to hurry me as much as possible to get away; so I asked for other dishes and peaches and nectarines and things out of season. At last, when I had dawdled quite an extra half-hour, it came to an end, and the usual sums on the margin of the bill began--Augustus adds up every item to see no sou has been overcharged. At this point I looked up and caught one of the Frenchmen's eye. Of course I glanced away at once, but there was such a gleam of fun in his that I nearly smiled. Then, suddenly the recollection came upon me that this creature, this thing sitting opposite me, belonged to me. I have his name, he is my husband. I must not laugh with others at his odious ways. After that I was glad to creep away.

I am worried about grandmamma. She has not written; there only came a small note from the Marquis. I am sure she must be very ill, if not already dead. I cannot grieve; I almost feel as if I wished it so. Augustus as a grandson-in-law would sting her fine senses unbearably. He blusters continually, and his airs of proprietorship _envers moi would irritate her; besides, she would always have the idea that she is cheating me by remaining alive, that, after all, my marriage was not a necessity if she is still there to keep me. Oh, dear grandmamma! if I could save you a moment's sorrow you know I would. When I said good-bye to her she held me close and kissed me. "Ambrosine," she said, "I shall have started upon my journey before you come back; you must not grieve or be sad. My last advice to you, my child, is to remember life is full of compensations, as you will find. Try to see the bright and gay side of things, and, above all, do not be dramatic."

She was always cheerful, grandmamma, but if I could just see her again to tell her I will, indeed I will, try to follow her advice! Hush! here is Augustus; I hear his clumsy footsteps. He has a telegram.

Alas! alas! My fears are true--grandmamma died this morning. Oh! I cannot write, the tears make everything a mist.

* * * * *

It is late July and I am at Ledstone as its nominal mistress--I say nominal, for Augustus's mother reigns, as she always did.

The sorrow of grandmamma's death, the feeling that nothing can matter in the world now, has kept me from caring or asserting myself in any way. I feel numb. I seem to be a person listening from some gallery when they all speak around me, and that the Ambrosine who answers placidly is an automaton who moves by clockwork.

Shall I ever wake again? I sit night after night in my mother-in-law's "budwar," the crimson-satin chairs staring at me, the wedding-cake ornament with its silver leaves glittering in the electric light; I sit there listening vaguely to her admonitions and endless prattle of Augustus's perfections. I have now heard every incident of his childhood: what ailments he had, what medicines suited him best, when he cut all those superfluous teeth of his.

One little trait appears to have been considered a sign of great astuteness and infantine perception. His fond parents--the late Mr. Gurrage was alive then--gave him a new threepenny bit each week to give to a barrel-organ man who played before the house at Bournemouth. Augustus at the age of two invariably changed it on the stairs with the butler for two pennies and two halfpennies, keeping one penny halfpenny for himself.

"Me dear"--my mother-in-law always completes this story with this sentence--"Mr. Gurrage said to me, 'Mark my word, Mary Jane, the boy will get on!'"

In the class of my _belle famille_, mourning is fortunately a matter of such importance that the wearing of crepe for grandmamma has been allowed to be sufficient reason for abandoning the wedding rejoicings.

Dear grandmamma! it would please you to know your death had done me even this service. I am encouraged to grieve, especially in public. Mrs. Gurrage herself put on black, and her face beamed all over with enjoyable tears the first Sunday we rustled into the family pew stiff with crepe and hangings of woe. They gave grandmamma what Miss Hoad--I mean Amelia--called a "proper funeral."

And so all is done--even the Marquis has gone back to France, and only Roy is left.

There is something in his brown eyes of sympathy which I cannot bear; the lump keeps coming in my throat. Kind dog, you are my friend.

Next week Lady Tilchester will have returned to Harley, and soon Augustus and I are to go and pay a three days' visit there.

Once what joy this thought would have caused me--I was going to say when I was young!--I shall be twenty next October, but I feel as if I must be at least fifty years old.

Augustus is not a gay companion. He has a sulky temper; he is often offended with me for no reason, and then a day or so afterwards will be horribly affectionate, and give me a present to make up for it. I can never get accustomed to his calling me Ambrosine--it always jars, as if one suddenly heard a shopman taking this liberty. It is equally unpleasant as "little woman" or "dearie," both of which besprinkle all his sentences. He has not a mind that makes it possible to have any conversation with him. He told me to-day that I was the stupidest cold statue of a woman he had ever met, and then he shook me until I felt giddy, and kissed me until I could not see. After a scene of this kind I feel too limp to move. I creep out into the garden and hide with Roy in a clump of laurel bushes, where there is a neglected sun-dial that was once the centre of the old garden, and left there when the new shrubbery was planted; there is about six feet bare space around it, and no one ever comes there, so I am safe.

Sometimes from my hiding-place I hear Augustus calling me, but I never answer, and yesterday I caught sight of him through the bushes biting his nails with annoyance; he could not think where I had disappeared to. It comforted me to sit there and make faces at him like a gutter-child.

I have never had the courage to go back to the cottage. It is just as it was, with all grandmamma's dear old things in it, waiting for me to decide where I will have them put. Hephzibah has married her grocer's man, and lives there as caretaker.

I suppose some day I shall have to go down and settle things, but I feel as if it would be desecration to bring the Sevres and miniatures and the Louis XV. _bergere here to hobnob with the new productions from Tottenham Court Road.

Augustus is having some rooms arranged for me, so that I, too, shall have a "budwar" for myself. He has not consulted my taste; it is all to be a surprise. And an army of workmen are still in the house, and I have caught glimpses of brilliant, new, gilt chairs and terra-cotta and buffish brocade (I loathe those colors) being carried up.

"Then I'll be able to have you more to myself in the evening," said Augustus. "The drawing-rooms are too big and the mater's budwar is too small, and you hate my den, so I hope this will please you."

I said "Thank you," without enthusiasm. I would prefer the company of my mother-in-law or Amelia to being more alone with Augustus. The crimson-satin chairs are so uncomfortable that now he leaves us almost directly after dinner to lounge in his "den," and I have to go there and say good-night to him. The place smells of stale smoke, some particularly strong, common tobacco he will have in a pipe. He gets into a soiled, old, blue smoking-coat, and sits there reading the comic papers, huddled in a deep arm-chair, a whiskey-and-soda mixed ready by his side. He is generally half-asleep when I get there. I do not stay five minutes if I can help it; it is not agreeable, the smell of whiskey.

There are so few books in the house. The first instalment of my handsome "allowance" will soon be paid me, and then I will have books of my own. I shall feel like a servant receiving the first month's wages in a new place--a miserable beginner of a servant who has never been "out" before. I feel I have earned them, though--earned them with hard work.

Just this last month numbers of people have been to call on me. They left only cards at first, because of my "sad loss," but we often are at home now when they come.

My mother-in-law's visiting-list is a large one, and comprises the whole of the "villa" people from Tilchester as well as the county families. With the former she is deliciously patronizingly friendly; they are all "me dears," and they talk about their servants and ailments and babies, mixed with the doings of Lady Tilchester--they always speak of her as the "Marchioness of Tilchester." They are at home when we return the visits sometimes, too, and this kind of thing happens: our gorgeous prune-and-scarlet footman condescendingly walks up their paths and thumps loudly at their well-cleaned brass knocker, and presses their electric bell. A jaunty lump of a parlor-maid in a fluster at the sight of so much grandeur says "At home" (some of them have "days"), and we are ushered into a narrow hall and so to a drawing-room. They seem always to be papered with buff-and-mustard papers and to have "pongee" sofa-cushions with frills. There is often tennis going on on the neat lawn beyond, and we see visions of large, pink-faced girls and callow youths taking exercise. The hostess gushes at us: "Dear Mrs. Gurrage, so good of you to come--and this is Mrs. Gussie?" (Yes, I am called Mrs. Gussie, Oh! grandmamma, do you hear?) We sit down.

I have no intention of freezing people, but they are hideously ill at ease with me, and say all kinds of foolishnesses from sheer nervousness.

The worst happened last week, when one particularly motherly, blooming solicitor's wife, after recounting to us in full detail the arrival of her first grandchild, hoped Mrs. Gurrage would soon be in her happy position!

Merciful Providence, I pray--that--never!

The county people are not so often at home, but when they are it is hardly more interesting. There do not seem to be many attractive people among them. They are stiff, and it is my mother-in-law who is sometimes ill at ease, though she gushes and blusters as usual. The conversation here is of societies, the Girls' Friendly Society, the Cottage Hospital, the movements of the Church, the continuance of the war, the fear the rest of the Tilchester Yeomanry will volunteer; and now and then the hostess warms up, if there is a question of a subscription, to her own pet hobby. Their houses are for the most part tasteless, too; they seem to live in a respectable _borne world of daily duties and sleep. Of the three really big houses within driving distance, one is shut up, one is inhabited for a month or two in the autumn, and the third is let to a successful oil merchant to whom Augustus and my mother-in-law have a great objection, but I can see no difference between oil and carpets. I have seen the man, and he is a weazly looking little rat who drives good horses.

I wonder what has become of my kinsman, Antony Thornhirst. He came with Lady Tilchester to the wedding. I saw his strange eyes looking at me as I walked down the aisle on Augustus's arm. His face was the only one I realized in the crowd. We did not speak; indeed, he never was near me afterwards until I got into the carriage. I wonder if he will be at Harley--I wonder!

Augustus wishes me to be "very smart" for this visit; he tells me I am to take all my best clothes and "cut the others out." It really grieves him that my garments should be black. He suggested to his mother that she had better lend me some of the "family jewels" to augment my own large store, but fortunately Mrs. Gurrage is of a tenacious disposition and likes to keep her own belongings to herself, so I shall be spared the experience of the park-paling tiara sitting upon my brow. Such things being unsuitable to be worn at dinner I fear would have little influence upon Augustus; I am trembling even now at what I may be forced to glitter in.

We are to drive over to Harley late in the afternoon.

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BOOK II CHAPTER IIIn spite of Augustus--in spite of everything--I suddenly feel as if I had become alive again here at Harley! The whole place pleases me. It is an old Georgian house, with long wings stretching right and left, and from a large salon in the centre the other reception-rooms open. Lady Tilchester is so kind, and makes one feel perfectly at home. A number of people were assembled upon the croquet lawn and in the great tent playing bridge when we arrived, and as no one seems to introduce any one it has taken me two whole days to
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BOOK I CHAPTER VITo-morrow is my wedding-day--the 10th of June. There is my dress spread over the sofa, looking like a ghost in the dim light--I have only one candle on the dressing-table. It is pouring rain and there are rumbles of thunder in the distance. Well, let it pour and hail and rage, and do what it pleases--I don't care! Just now a flash came nearer and seemed to catch the huge diamonds in my engagement-ring, which hangs loose on my finger now. I flung it into the little china tray strings of pearls and a fender tiara are
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