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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 8
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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 8 Post by :MarkoJevtic Category :Long Stories Author :Elinor Glyn Date :May 2012 Read :957

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

BOOK II CHAPTER VIII

On 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 never seen any shooting before. The whole thing was new to me. Augustus had insisted upon selecting what he considered a suitable costume for me. We had been up to London several times together to try it on, and, on the whole, though a little _outre in its checks, it is not unbecoming.

"Do you shoot, yourself, Mrs. Gussie?" Mrs. Dodd asked, when we assembled in the hall, ready to start.

"No; do you?" I replied.

"Of course not! The idea! But, seeing your skirt so very short, I should have guessed you were a sportswoman and killed the birds yourself!" and she sniffed ominously.

"Do birds get killed with a skirt?" Miss Springle asked, pertly. She hates Mrs. Dodd. They were neighbors In Liverpool, originally. "I thought you had to shoot at them?"

Mrs. Dodd snorted.

"You will get awfully muddy, Mrs. Dodd, in your long cashmere," Miss Springle continued. "And Mr. Dodd told me, when I met him coming from the bath this morning, to be sure not to wear any colors--they frighten the birds. I am certain he will object to that yellow paradise-plume in your hat."

Mrs. Dodd looked ready to fight.

"Mr. Dodd had better talk to me about my hat!" she said, growing purple in the face. "I call all these modern sporting-costumes indecent, and when I was a girl I should have been whipped for coming out shooting in the things you have got on, Miss Springle!"

"Really! you don't say so!" said Miss Springle, innocently, "Why, I never heard they shot birds in Liverpool, Mrs. Dodd."

I interfered. The expression of my elder guest's face was becoming apoplectic.

"Let us get into the brake," I said.

Lady Wakely sat next me.

"Very unpleasant person, Mrs. Dodd," she whispered, wheezily, as we drove off, "She is here every year. My dear, you are good-natured to put up with her."

Lunch was laid out in the barn of one of the farm-houses. Augustus had given orders that it should be of the most sumptuous description, and the chef had done marvels.

The table looked like a wedding-breakfast when we got there, with flowers and printed menus.

The sportsmen were not long in making their appearance. It was a rather warm day, and Mr. McCormack and Mr. Dodd, who were not accustomed to much exercise, I suppose, without ceremony mopped their heads.

Antony, who was walking behind, with Sir Samuel Wakely, appeared such an astonishingly cool contrast to them. His coat did not look new, but as if it had seen service. Only everything fitted and hung right, and he walks with an ease and grace that would have pleased grandmamma.

Augustus had a thunderous expression on his face. So had Wilks, the head keeper. Later, I gathered there had been a great quantity of birds, but the commercial friends had not been very successful in their destruction. In fact, Mr. Dodd had only secured two brace, besides one of the beaters in the shoulder, and a dog.

Antony sat by me.

"Dangerous work, shooting," he said, smiling, as he looked at the menu. "What is your average list of killed in a pheasant battue?"

"What--what kind of killed?" I asked, laughing.

"Guests or beaters or dogs--anything but the birds."

"Cutlets ha la ravigotte or 'ommard ha lamerican, Sir Antony?" the voice of the first footman sounded in our ears.

"Oh--er--get me a little Irish stew or some cold beef," said Antony, plaintively, still with the menu in his hand.

"We've no--Irish stew--except what is prepared for the beaters, Sir Antony," said James, apologetically. He had come from a ducal house and knew the world. "Shall I get you some of that, Sir Antony?"

"No, don't mind." Then, turning to me, "What are you eating, Comtesse?" he asked. "I will have some of that."

"It is truffled partridge in aspic," I said, disagreeably. "You can pick out the truffles if you are afraid of them."

"Truffled partridge, then," he said to James, resignedly, and when it came he deliberately ate the truffles first.

"Hock, claret, Burgundy, or champagne, Sir Antony?" demanded the butler.

"Oh--er--I will have the whole four!"

His face had the most comical expression of chastened resignation as he glanced at me.

Griggson poured out bumpers in the four glasses.

"I shall now shoot like your friend from Liverpool," said Antony, "and if I kill your husband and most of the guests I cannot be blamed for it," and he drank down the hock.

"Don't be so foolish," I said, laughing, in spite of having pretended to be annoyed with him.

"I would drink anything rather than incur your displeasure," he said, with great humility, as he took up the claret. "Must I eat everything on the menu, too?"

I appeared not to hear, and turned to Mr. Dodd, who was on my other side, his usually pale face still crimson with walking so fast and this feast of Lucullus he was partaking of.

"I had bad luck this morning, Mrs. Gussie," he said, in a humble voice. "I am sorry about that man and dog, and I am afraid the gentleman on your right must have got a pellet also--eh, sir?" and he addressed Antony.

"A mere trifle," said my neighbor "on the right," with his most suave air and a twinkle in his eye as he finished the claret. "Just a shot or two in the left arm--a mere nothing, when one considers the dangers the whole line were incurring."

"You were shot in the arm, Sir Antony?" I exclaimed, suddenly, feeling a great dislike to Mr. Dodd. "Oh, but people should not shoot if they are so careless, surely!"

"I beg your pardon, ma'am," said Mr. Dodd, huffily. "I am not careless. I have been shooting now for a matter of five years and only twice before have hit any one."

"You have had the devil's own luck!" said Antony, beginning the Burgundy.

"You may call it luck, sir," said Mr. Dodd, "but I think a man wants a bit of judgment, too, to shoot, and I always try to remember where my neighbors stand. But, I must admit, with pheasant shooting in a wood it is more difficult. It was getting a little excited with a rabbit which caused the last accident I had."

Antony finished the Burgundy.

"Are you going to walk with us afterwards, Comtesse?" he asked me, presently, in a low voice, his eyes still twinkling; "because, if so, I advise you to fortify your nerve with a little orange brandy I see they are handing now," and he began the champagne.

"Oh, I am so sorry about the whole thing. I think it is perfectly dreadful," I said, "and--and I do hope you are not really hurt."

He showed me his wrist. His silk shirt-sleeve was wet with blood, and his arm also had streaks on it, and just under the skin were two or three small, black lumps.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am," I said, and my voice trembled. I felt I wanted to take his arm and wash the blood off, and caress it, and tell him how it grieved me that he should be wounded--and by these people, too. I would like to have shot them all.

"Don't look so distressed, Comtesse," he said. "It does not hurt a bit, and the whole thing amuses me. A very original character, Mr. Dodd," and he finished the champagne.

Augustus walked with me after lunch for a little when we started. He was in a furious temper at the non-slaughter of the partridges.

"By Jove! next year," he said, "I'll clear out the whole boiling, whether the mater likes it or no, and have some of the people we met at Harley. Thornhirst is the only man who has killed anything great, though Wakely and Bush did a fair share."

I told him how dreadful I thought the accident had been.

"Good thing it was not me he shot," said Augustus. "I'd have fired back. But the part I mind the most is the miserable bag. Wilks is mad. We both wanted the record to go to the field; and what can we do? Only thirty-two brace up to luncheon!"

I soothed him as well as I could.

Mrs. Dodd was puffing behind us. She had insisted upon following with the guns, although Lady Wakely and the two other elderly women had driven back to Ledstone.

The yellow paradise plume and bright-blue dress made a glowing spot of color on the brown, ploughed field.

Miss Springle tripped gayly along in front with Mr. Dodd, coquettishly tapping him on the arm and looking up in his face.

Giggles of laughter were wafted back to us. Miss Springle is a rather pretty girl, with thick black hair.

Antony strode forward and joined us. Augustus dropped behind to speak to Wilks.

"You must stand with me," Antony said, "I will protect you as well as I can, and the chances are against the shot coming my way twice in one day."

He was so gay. Never have I had so delightful a walk. I cannot write down what he said. If I try to remember his words, I cannot. It is the general impression they leave behind, rather than any actual sentence I can recall, which makes me feel his wit is like grandmamma's, and it reveals all the time his great knowledge of books, and people, and the world. And there is a lightness which makes one feel how strong and deep must be the under-current.

My spirits always rise when I am with him.

Soon we arrived at the hedge we were to stand behind.

It was all new to me, the whole scene. Out of nowhere Antony's servant seemed to spring with two guns and a stick-seat, which he arranged for me.

Mrs. Dodd had panted after her husband and Miss Springle, who were in the most open place; but Wilks was unable to contain himself with annoyance at this.

"Not a bird will face the line if the lady's dress is seen," he said, in despair, as he passed us, and we saw him unceremoniously insist upon Mrs. Dodd joining Sir Samuel Wakely, who was at the thickest corner, next us.

"The air must be black with the language Wakely is using, I will bet," said Antony.

And then the partridges began to come.

"There's a burrd! There's a burrd!" shouted Mr. Dodd, excitedly, pointing with his gun straight at Sir Samuel's head.

"Damn you, sir!" yelled Sir Samuel back to him. "It is pure murder the way you hold your gun."

"I'll trouble you not to swear at my husband!" roared Mrs. Dodd.

A huge covey came over at the moment, but the voices and the bright-blue dress attracted their attention, and they all wheeled off to the right, so that, but for two stray birds killed by Antony, this end of the line found the drive a blank.

Augustus's rage knew no bounds.

He came up to me as if it was my fault.

"Take that old woman home this moment, Ambrosine," he said, furiously. "Do you hear?--this minute!" and I was obliged to go up to Mrs. Dodd and suggest our returning. I was tired, I said.

"I'll not leave Wullie with that minx," she replied, firmly. "You can go without me, Mrs. Gussie. I'll not take it rude of you at all." I tried to explain that I thought we were all a little in the way and had better return to the house; but Miss Springle, who joined us, would not hear of such a thing.

"Mr. Dodd says he can't get on without me," she said, coyly, whereupon Mrs. Dodd gurgled with rage.

"I am afraid you will all be shot if you delay here," said Antony, coming to my rescue. "We are going to take the next beat at right angles, and you are all in the full line."

"Goodness, gracious me!" screamed Mrs. Dodd. "Oh, gentlemen, save me!"

And she rushed wildly towards Augustus, who was coming up, her dress held high, showing a pair of opulent ankles and wide, flat feet covered in thin, kid boots, while a white cotton stocking appeared upon the stove-pipe calf that was visible above.

The yellow paradise plume floated in the wind, the hat having become a little deranged by her rapid flight.

"Gussie Gurrage!" she yelled. "Oh, do you hear that? The gentleman says I'll be shot!"

And she precipitated herself into the unwilling arms of Augustus.

He has not manners enough to stand such an assault. His face flushed with annoyance, and the savage look grew round his mouth. I waited for the explosion.

"Confound it, Mrs. Dodd!" he said. "Women have no business out shooting, and you had better clear out and go home."

"I've never been so insulted in my life!" she snorted, as we walked back to the farm, after a confused scene, in which Mr. Dodd and Sir Samuel and Augustus, Miss Springle, and Mrs. Dodd herself had all talked at once.

"Never so insulted in my life! Sent away as if I wasn't wanted. If I hadn't known Gussie Gurrage since he was a baby I'd have boxed his ears, that I would!"

I remained in haughty silence. I feared I should burst into screams of laughter if I attempted speech.

Miss Springle had evaded us at the last minute, and could be seen once more by Mr. Dodd's side as we drove past the shooters again on the road.

A meek woman, sister of Mr. McCormack, a Mrs. Broun by name, who had quietly stood by her husband and had not been in any one's way, now caught Mrs. Dodd's wrath.

"You've had a good deal to do with Jessie Springle's bringing up, I've heard, Mrs. Broun, since her mother died, and a disgrace she is to you, I can testify."

"Oh, dear Mrs. Dodd, how can you say such a thing?" said Mrs. Broun, almost crying. "Jessie is a dear girl, so full of fun."

"Fun, you call it, Mrs. Broun! Looking after other women's husbands! How would you like her to be flirting with your Tom?"

(This is the spirit my mother-in-law would approve of.)

"Oh, it is quite immodest, talking so, Mrs. Dodd!" replied the meek lady, flushing scarlet. "Why, no one would ever think of such things--a girl to flirt with a married man!"

"That's all you know about it, Mrs. Broun. I tell you that girl will upset your home yet! Mark my words; but I'll not have her running after Wullie, anyway."

The situation was becoming very strained. I felt bound to interfere by some _banal remarks about the scenery, and finally we arrived back at Ledstone and I got rid of them by conducting them to their rooms.

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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 9 The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 9

The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 9
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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The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 4 The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 4

The Reflections Of Ambrosine: A Novel - Book 2 - Chapter 4
BOOK II CHAPTER IVThe 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
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