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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 4
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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 4 Post by :punter Category :Long Stories Author :Elinor Glyn Date :May 2012 Read :1454

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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 4


The last evening at Harley is one of the things I shall not want to recall. Augustus got drunk--yes, it is almost too dreadful to write even. I had not realized up to this that gentlemen (of course I do not mean that word literally, as applied to Augustus, but I mean people with money and a respectable position)--I never realized that they got drunk. I thought it was only common men in the street.

It struck me he was making a great noise at dinner, but as he was sitting on the same side of the table as I was I could not see. When the men joined us afterwards it came upon me as a thunder-clap. His face was a deep heliotrope, and he walked unsteadily--not really lurching about, but rather as if the furniture was in the way.

One or two of the men seemed very much amused, especially when he went and pushed himself into the sofa where Lady Grenellen was sitting and threw his arm along the back behind her head. I felt frozen. I could not have risen from my chair for a few moments. She, however, did not seem to mind at all; she merely laughed continuously behind her fan, the men helping her to ridicule Augustus.

For me it was an hour of deep humiliation. It required all my self-control to go on talking to Babykins as if nothing had happened.

The Duke came over and joined us. He drew a low chair and sat down so that I could not see the hilarious sofa-party.

I have not the least idea what he said or what any of us said. The guffaws of laughter in Augustus's thick voice was all I was conscious of.

Sir Antony Thornhirst, who had stopped to speak to Lady Tilchester by the billiard-room door, now came over to us. He stood by me for a moment, then crossed to Lady Grenellen.

"They are wanting you to play bridge in the blue drawing-room," he said.

She rose quite reluctantly, still overcome with mirth. Augustus tried to get up, too, but stumbled back into the sofa.

Then, with infinite tact, my kinsman attracted his attention, said some thrilling thing about the war, and, as Lady Grenellen moved off and Augustus made another ineffectual attempt to rise and follow her, Sir Antony sat down in her vacant place and for half an hour conversed with my husband. Oh, I force myself to write the words "my husband." It is to keep the hideous fact in remembrance, otherwise I might let myself express aloud the loathing and contempt I feel for him.

Sir Antony had never before taken the least notice of him beyond the most casual politeness, and now, from the scraps of conversation that my preternaturally sharpened ears could catch, he seemed to be trying his best to interest and retain Augustus beside him. Gradually the whole company dispersed into the different drawing-rooms as usual, and I followed the rest to look at the bridge.

As I was passing the sofa, where the two men were sitting, Augustus seized hold of my dress.

"Don't look so damned haughty, little woman," he hiccoughed. "Er--I'm all right--give me a kiss--"

"As I was going to tell you," interrupted Sir Antony, "I heard for a fact that the rest of the Tilchester Yeomanry that have escaped so long are going to volunteer to go out, after all."

Augustus dropped my dress. His face got paler. This information seemed to sober him for an instant, and in that blessed interval I got away and into the blue drawing-room. Lady Tilchester was not playing bridge, and she sat down in the window-seat beside me. It was a lovely night, and the windows were wide open.

She is the most delightful companion. I am beginning to know her a little and to realize how much there is to know.

To-night she was more than usually fascinating. It seemed as if she wished to make me forget everything but the pleasure in our conversation. She has a vast knowledge of books, and has even read all the French classics that grandmamma loved. We talked of many things, and, among them, gardens. She told me that I must make a new garden at Ledstone, and I would find it an immense interest; and she spoke so kindly of Mrs. Gurrage, and said how charitable she was and good-hearted, and then delicately, and as if it had no bearing upon the Gurrage case, hinted that in these days money was the only thing needed to make an agreeable society for one's self, and that in the future I must have plenty of amusement.

Insensibly my heart became lightened.

She talked to me of grandmamma, too, and drew me into telling her things about our past. She was interested in grandmamma's strange bringing-up of me, so different, she said, to the English girls of the present day.

"And is it that, I wonder, which has turned you into almost as great a cynic as Antony Thornhirst? He is the greatest I know."

"But can one be a cynic if one has so kind a heart?" I asked.

She looked at me quickly with a strange look.

"How have you discovered that so soon? Most people would not credit him with having any heart at all," she said. "You know with all his immense prestige and popularity people are a little afraid of him. I think one would sum up the impression of Antony as a man who never in all his life has been, or will be, called 'Tony.'"

Her voice was retrospecting.

"You have known him very long?" I questioned.

"Ever since I married, fourteen years ago. I remember I saw him first at my wedding. He and Tilchester had, of course, been old friends, always living so near each other. We are exactly the same age--thirty-four, both of us. Growing old, you see!" She laughed softly, then she continued:

"Antony was never like other men exactly. He is original, and extraordinarily well read--only casually one would never guess it. He wastes his life rather, though. I wish he would go into Parliament. He has a habit of rushing off on long travels. Some years ago he went off suddenly and was away for ages and ages--about five years, I think. Then he stayed at Dane Mount for a while, and then, when the war first began, he went out there, and has only been home a year."

"He never speaks of himself nor what he does, I notice."

"No; that is just his charm. I should like you to see Dane Mount. It is far nicer than this, and he has wonderful taste. It is the most comfortable house I know. He has delightful parties there when the shooting begins."

"It would interest me to see it, because grandpapa came from there," I said.

"Of course, you are cousins, in a way. You don't know how interested Antony was in you that night after the Tilchester Yeomanry ball. He came and sat in my sitting-room and talked to me about you, and then it was he put two and two together and discovered you were related. I had heard that evening about your grandmother and you living at the cottage, and was able to give him some information. I don't think he realized when you met that you were connected, did he?"

"No, not at all."

"A friend of mine and I were sitting by the fire, having said good-night to the rest of the party--do you remember what a cold May night it was? Antony came in and joined us. We all had admired you so. I recollect this is one of the things he said: 'I met an eighteenth-century marquise to-night.'"

"Yes, he called me that."

"He is so very hard to please. The ordinary women, like Babykins and Cordelia Grenellen, don't understand his subtle wit. They are generally in love with him, though. Cordelia was madly _eprise last autumn; but he is as indifferent as possible, and does not trouble himself about any of them. He is reported to have said once that it had taken him five years to degrade himself sufficiently to be able to enjoy the society of modern women. He is a wonderful cynic!"

"The Duke gave me to understand that no man of the world was ever without some affair," I said.

"Well, I suppose it is true more or less, but Antony is always the person who holds the cheek, hardly even complacently--generally with perfect indifference. I have never known him, for years, put himself out an inch for any woman."

I don't know why, but this conversation interested me deeply.

Just then some one came and joined us at the window, and Lady Tilchester had to rise and talk with her other guests; but before she moved off she put her hand on my arm and said, as if she had only then remembered it:

"Oh, the housekeeper let me know just now that some soot had fallen in your chimney. I do hope you won't mind sleeping in a tiny bedroom off mine, just for to-night. We were so afraid the smell would keep you awake. Your maid has moved your things."

Dear and kind lady! I will never forget your goodness to me nor cease to love you.

* * * * *

It was pouring rain as we drove home next day.

Augustus and I only met as we were ready to get into the carriage. I had breakfasted in my room.

His face was the color of putty, and he had that look in his eyes which, I remember, long ago I used to say appeared as if he had not had enough sleep. His expression was sulky and morose, and I was thankful when at last we started.

The guests were catching all sorts of trains. There were casual good-byes. Lady Tilchester was not down, and no one occupied themselves much with any one.

Lady Grenellen left just before us. She did not take the least notice of me, but she talked in a caressing way to Augustus, and I heard him say:

"Now, you won't forget! It is a bargain!" in the most _empresse voice, as he pulled his head out of the carriage-window.

For the first mile or two of our journey neither of us spoke. Augustus lit a cigarette and smoked in a nervous way, and kept opening and shutting the window.

Then he swore at me. I will not say the words he used, but the sentence ended with a demand why I sat there looking like a "stuck pig."

I told him quietly that if he spoke to me like that I would not reply at all.

He got very angry and said he would have none of that nonsense; that I seemed to forget that I was his wife, and that he could do as he pleased with me.

"No, you cannot," I said. "I will not be spoken to like that."

"You'll be spoken to just as I jolly well please," was his refined reply. "Sitting there like a white wax doll, and giving yourself the airs of a duchess!"

I did not answer.

"A deaf and dumb doll, too," he said, with an oath.

He then asked where I had been all night, and what I had meant by daring to stay away from him.

I remained perfectly silent, which, I fear, was infinitely provoking, but I could not stoop to bandy words with him.

He began to bluster, and loaded me with every coarse abuse and a tremendous justification of himself and his behavior of the night before. I had not mentioned the subject or accused him of anything, but he assured me he had not been the least drunk and that my haughtiness was enough to drive any man mad.

When at least ten minutes of this torrent had spent itself a little, I said the whole subject was so disagreeable to me and discreditable to him that he had better not talk of it and I would try and forget it.

Grandmamma often told me how her grandfather, the husband of Ambrosine Eustasie, had refused to fight with a man of low birth who had insulted him, but had sent one of his valets to throw the creature into the street, because in those days a gentleman only crossed swords with his equals. I now understood his feelings. I could not quarrel with Augustus, the whole situation was so impossible.

I tried to tell myself that it did not in the least matter what he said and did. Then, as he continued abusing me, I repeated a bit of Beranger to myself, and so grew unconscious, at last, of the words he was saying.

Silence came eventually, and then, after a while, in quite a humble voice, Augustus said:

"I say, little woman--er--you won't tell the mater--er--will you?"

Something touched me in his face--his common, unpleasant face. The bluster was gone and there was a piteousness in it. I felt a slight lump in my throat.

"Oh no; do not fear," I said.

Then he called me an angel and kissed me many times, and that was the worst of all.

Oh! When the year is up, will the "monotonous complacency" have set in?

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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 8 The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 8

The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 8
BOOK II CHAPTER VIIIOn the morrow it had cleared up and flashes of blue sky were appearing. Augustus and Mr. McCormack had both had too much to drink the night before, at dinner, and were looking, and no doubt feeling, mixed and ill-tempered. The morning was long after the shooters had gone. It seemed as if one o'clock, when we were to start for the lunch, would never come. Miss Springle had some passages-at-arms with Mrs. Dodd. They had all been down to breakfast but Lady Wakely and another woman, who were accustomed to the ways of the world. I had

The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 3 The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 3

The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 3
BOOK II CHAPTER IIINext day, Sunday, some of us went to church. Augustus insisted upon my going. He thought it would be a good opportunity of showing I was in Lady Tilchester's company, although what it could have mattered to the Harley villagers I do not know. He himself stayed behind with Lady Grenellen, he said, to take her for a walk in the woods. After lunch every one seemed to play bridge but Lady Tilchester and I and her politician and the weak-eyed Duke. We climbed the hill to the ruins of the old castle and there sat until tea-time.