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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 10
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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 10 Post by :MarkoJevtic Category :Long Stories Author :Elinor Glyn Date :May 2012 Read :3414

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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 10

BOOK II CHAPTER X

When I got into my bedroom the door was open into Augustus's room beyond. He had not come up to dress. Indeed, when I was quite ready to go down to dinner he had not yet appeared.

Half-past eight sounded.

I descended the stairs quickly and went along the passage towards his "den." There I met his valet.

"Mr. Gurrage is asleep, ma'am," he said, "and does not seem inclined to wake, ma'am," and he held the door open for me to pass into the room.

Augustus was lying in his big chair, before the fire, his face crimson, his mouth wide open, and snoring and breathing very heavily. He was still in his shooting-things.

An indescribable smell of scorching tweed and spirit pervaded the room.

By his side was an almost finished glass of whiskey. The bottle stood on the tray and another bottle lay, broken, on the floor.

Atkinson began clearing up this _debris_.

"Augustus!" I called, but he did not awake. "Augustus, it is time for dinner!"

"If you please, ma'am," said the valet, coughing respectfully, "if I might say so, you had better let Mr. Gurrage sleep, ma'am. I'll see after him. He is--very angry when he is like this and woke suddenly, ma'am."

I looked at the whiskey bottles and the flushed face. A sickening disgust overwhelmed me. And there would be no Lady Tilchester to save me to-night!

"Open the window," I said to Atkinson, "and persuade Mr. Gurrage to go to bed when he wakes." And I left the room.

All my guests were assembled when I got into the first drawing-room. Indeed, it was twenty minutes to nine.

Mrs. Dodd had the air of an aggrieved turkey-gobbler. I felt she would fly at some one.

"We thought we should not get any dinner, Mrs. Gussie," she said, huffily. "Folks are generally down in their own houses!"

I took no notice of this remark.

"I am so sorry to be late, Lady Wakely," I said, addressing her and the other women, "but my husband is not well, and, I fear, will not be able to come in to dinner. He must have caught a chill out shooting."

"Have you sent for the doctor? Because, if not, I know all about chills with Wullie, who never changes his socks," interrupted Mrs. Dodd. "Let me go to him, Mrs. Gussie."

"No, thank you. Do not trouble," I said. "His servant and I have done all that is necessary, and he wishes to sleep. Let us go in to dinner."

I told them each whom they were to take in, and put my own hand on Antony's arm. It seemed as if he held it closely to his side, but he said nothing, and we walked into the dining-room.

I do not know at all what we talked about. Certainly for three courses everything was a blank to me. But I heard myself laughing, and Mr. Dodd, who sat on my other hand, seemed mightily amused at my conversation.

"Why, the open air and a little walking has done you all the good in the world, Mrs. Gussie!" I was conscious, at last, that he was saying. "Your cheeks are quite rosy and your eyes as bright as stars."

"Yes, it was a delightful day," I said.

"Talk about chills, Mr. McCormack"--Mrs. Dodd's voice carried across the table-"I know Gussie Gurrage, and I don't believe he ever had a chill in his life!"

Antony now began to talk to me quietly. He said very little. His voice was particularly cool and collected. He never once looked at me. I was grateful for that. I felt as if I could not bear to see sympathy in his eyes. He also talked to Lady Wakely, on his other hand, and chaffed beyond to Miss Springle.

And so the dinner passed, and the ladies rose to leave the dining-room, Mr. McCormack holding the door for us.

As it was wide open, and all could see into the hall, an apparition appeared upon the scene, coming from the passage that leads to the "den"--Augustus, being supported by Atkinson and one of the footmen, and singing snatches of some low music-hall song.

In an instant Antony had sprung forward and closed the door, Mr. McCormack and the others standing open-mouthed and inert.

"There, I knew it was no chill!" exclaimed Mrs. Dodd.

"Hush, madam!" said Antony, sternly, his eyes flashing green-blue fire. "We were very comfortable at the table. Shall we not all sit down again?"

Lady Wakely at once returned to her chair. The meek Mrs. Broun put her hand on my arm in sympathy, but I annihilated her with a look as I swept back to my seat, and soon my guests were once more in their places.

Then it was that Antony exerted himself to amuse this company. With the most admirable tact and self-composure, he kept the whole party entertained for half an hour. And when we again left the room it was _en bande_, without ceremony, the men accompanying us.

Lady Wakely kindly said good-night in quite a few minutes, and the other women followed her example. I spoke no word of thanks to Antony. I did not even look into his face.

When I got to my boudoir I could hear Augustus's drunken snores from the room beyond. He had mercifully fallen asleep.

I did not ring for McGreggor. I would stay in my sitting-room all night. Roy came up to me and licked my hand. Then suddenly something seemed to give way in my will, and I dropped on the rug beside my dog and cried as I have never cried in my life, my head buried in his soft, black coat.

Oh, grandmamma, forgive me for such weakness! But surely, if we had known of this horror, even the Calincourts need not have kept their word to a drunken man!

I did not hear the door open, but suddenly was conscious of Antony's voice.

"Ambrosine, for God's sake don't cry so!" he whispered, hoarsely.

I did not look up.

"Oh, I want to thank you for your kindness," I sobbed, "but if you would continue it you will leave me now."

He knelt on the rug beside me, but he did not even touch my hair.

"I cannot leave you--miserable like this," he said, brokenly, as if the words were dragged from him. "Ambrosine, my dearest! Little Comtesse, please, please do not cry!"

Joy ran through me at his words. My sobs ceased.

The drunken voice of Augustus began the song again from the next room.

I started up in terror. Oh, if he should burst into this room!

"Antony," I implored, "if you want to serve me, go!" And I opened the passage door.

He drew me into the corridor with him.

"I tell you, you shall not stay here alone with that brute!" he said, fiercely. "Promise me you will go to your maid's room and not come into this part of the house to-night. I will see his valet and arrange things safely for him."

"Very well," I said, and then I ran. If I had stayed another moment--ah, well!

* * * * *

Augustus was too ill to get up next morning. It was raining again, and, by common consent, our guests left by mid-day trains.

Sir Samuel Wakely said, with gruff kind-heartedness, when I appeared at breakfast:

"I have seen Wilks, and he says there is very little chance of its clearing for us to shoot to-day, so I think Lady Wakely and I will be starting home before luncheon-time. With your husband ill, I am sure you would be glad to be relieved of visitors."

Lady Wakely also expressed her regret at leaving, and said a number of kind things with perfect tact.

The good taste of some of the rest of the party was not so apparent. Mrs. Broun gushed open sympathy and had to be snubbed; Miss Springle giggled, while Mrs. Dodd muttered a number of disagreeable things, and the other women remained in shocked silence.

The men were awkward and uncomfortable, too. Altogether it was a morning that is unpleasant to remember. Antony was the only person unmoved and exactly the same as usual. It steadied my nerves to look at him.

I had not seen Augustus, as I had come straight from a room near McGreggor's, where I had spent the night. As I was leaving the dining-room I went towards the staircase, but Antony stopped me.

"Do not go up," he said. "Leave him to himself. The doctor is with him, and when he has completely recovered he will probably be penitent. He has only just escaped delirium tremens, and will most likely be in bed for a day or two. Promise me that you will not go near his room or I will stay and look after you myself."

Oh, the kindness in his voice!

"Yes, I promise," I said, meekly.

"Then I will say good-bye, Comtesse, until we meet at Dane Mount on the 4th of November."

"Good-bye," I faltered, and we shook hands calmly before the rest of the company standing about the hall.

But when the tuff-tuff-tuff of his automobile subsided in the distance, I felt as if all things were dead.

The evening post brought an invitation from the Duke of Myrlshire, asking us to go and stay with him for a small shoot on the 30th of October.

Augustus sent for me.

As I had promised, I had not been near him until this moment.

He was still in bed, and looked ill and unshaven. He was reading his letters, and glanced up at me with heavy, bloodshot eyes.

"Just got a line from Myrlshire," he said, pompously, without a trace of shame or regret in his voice.

"He says he has written to you, too; he wants me to shoot on the 30th."

I remained silent. I did not mean to irritate him, but the whole scene made me numb with disgust.

"Why the devil don't you answer?" Augustus raged, his face flushing darkly. "Write at once and say we shall be delighted to accept."

"You are engaged to shoot with Mr. Dodd for that date," I informed him.

Mr. Dodd was sent to perdition, and Mrs. Dodd, too, and then he said, more quietly:

"Sit down now and write to the Duke. I would not miss this for anything."

I did not stir from where I stood.

"Listen, Augustus," I said. "I will not visit with you anywhere, and I will let every one know the reason, unless you swear, by whatever you hold sacred, that you will never utterly disgrace yourself again as you did last night. When you have decided to make this oath you can let me know." And I left the room, leaving the air behind me thick with curses.

I had one of the most distant spare rooms prepared for myself, and when I was going to bed a note came to me.

"I swear," it ran. "Only come back to me. I want to kiss you good-night."

"Tell Mr. Gurrage I will see him in the morning," I said to Atkinson, and I locked my door.

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BOOK II CHAPTER XIAugustus was not able to leave his room for four or five days after this. I left him almost entirely to himself, only going to see him once a day, to hear if he required anything. At the end of the time his penitence was complete, and he promised me to change his ways for the future. He was horribly affectionate to me, but peace was restored. I cannot say that I felt any happier, but it seemed a lull and calm after a storm. I tried to be more gentle and sympathetic to him and to take
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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 9 The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 9

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BOOK II CHAPTER IXIt poured rain again before the sportsmen returned, and they were more or less wet and cross. Antony went straight to his room to change, and so did the two other decent men. But the commercial friends stayed as they were, muddy boots and all, and were grouped round the fire, smelling of wet, hot tweed, when Mrs. Dodd sailed into the room. "Wullie," she said, sternly, "you've no more sense than a child, and if it was not for me you'd have been in your coffin these five years. Go up-stairs this minute and change your boots."
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