Opis

Daisy Ginny, a young aunt, returns from a year abroad and discovers that Daisy is hoping that Lord Lindfield will make an offer. This is a story about intricate love with an intriguing plot. We know that such a novel from such an author cannot have happy end. The novel is at least a little witty, but with genuine bets for those involved in the reading.

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Liczba stron: 293

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER I

Daisy Hanbury poked her parasol between the bars of the cage, with the amiable intention of scratching the tiger’s back. The tiger could not be expected to know this all by himself, and so he savagely bit the end of it off, with diabolical snarlings. Daisy turned to her cousin with a glow of sympathetic pleasure.

“What a darling!” she said. “He didn’t understand, you see, and was perfectly furious. And it cost pounds and pounds, and I’ve spent all my allowance, and so I can’t buy another, and my complexion will go to the dogs. Let’s go there, too; the dingoes are absolutely fascinating. We’ll come back to see these angels fed.”

Gladys laughed.

“Daisy, you have got the most admirable temper,” she said. “I should have called that brute any names except ‘darling’ and ‘angel.’”

“I know you would, because you don’t understand either it or me. I understand both perfectly. You see, you don’t love fierce wild things–things that are wicked and angry, and, above all, natural. I don’t mind good, sweet, gentle things, like–oh, like almost everybody, if only they are sweet and good naturally. But generally they are not. Their sweetness is the result of education or morality, or something tedious, not the result of their natures, of themselves. Oh, I know all about it! Gladys, this parasol is beyond hope. Let’s conceal it in the bushes like a corpse.”

Daisy looked round with a wild and suspicious eye.

“There’s a policeman,” she said. “I’m sure he’ll think that I have murdered my own parasol. Oh, kind Mr. Policeman–there, that softened him, and he’s looking the other way.”

Gladys gave a little shriek of dismay as Daisy thrust her parasol into a laurustinus.

“Oh! but the handle, and the ribs!” she cried. “It only wanted a new point, and–and to be recovered. Daisy, I never saw such extravagance. You mustn’t leave it. I’ll have it done up for you.”

“That’s angelic of you,” said Daisy; “but will you carry it for me in the meantime? It’s that that matters. I couldn’t be seen going about even at the Zoo with a parasol in that condition. I should have to explain to everybody exactly how it happened, which would take time.”

“But of course I’ll carry it for you,” said Gladys.

Daisy considered this noble offer.

“It’s quite too wonderful of you,” she said, “but I don’t think I could be seen with you if you were carrying it. No; come to the dogs. Oh, Gladys, you are sweet and good and gentle quite, quite naturally, and I adore you.”

The dingoes were rewarding, and Daisy instantly curried favour with their keeper, and learnt about their entrancing habits; afterwards the two went back to see the lions fed before leaving. The tiger which had ruined her parasol proved to have the most excellent appetite, which much relieved Daisy’s mind, as she feared that the point, which he seemed to have completely eaten, might have spoilt his dinner. She hurried breathlessly down the line as the huge chops of raw meat were passed in and snatched up by the animals, absorbed and radiant. Gladys, as always, followed where the other led, but was conscious of qualms. These she concealed as best she could.

“Oh, I want to say grace for them all,” said Daisy at the end. “I do hope they are pleased with their dinners. Are the keepers fair, do you think? There was a dreadful amount of bone in my parasol-tiger’s dinner, if you understand. Gladys, I don’t believe you loved it. How stupid of you! You don’t quite understand; you don’t know how nice it is to be greedy instead of gentle. Do try. Oh, no, let’s go out by this gate.”

“But we shall have to walk miles before we get a cab,” said Gladys.

“I know; that’s why. It will make us late for Aunt Alice’s tea-party. I hate tea-parties.”

“But mother asked me to be back by five,” said Gladys.

“Did she? Did she really?” asked Daisy.

“Indeed she did.”

“Oh, well, then of course we’ll drive back, though I did want to walk. But it can’t possibly be helped. We must drive. It is such a pity not to do as you are asked. I always do, except when Willie asks me to marry him.”

They got into their hansom and bowled silently down the dry grey road. All June was in flower in the pink pyramids of the chestnut-trees, and was already beginning to bleach the colour out of the long coarse grass in the open spaces of the Park. There swarms of girls and boys rioted ecstatically; here the more lucky, in possession of a battered bat and a ball begrimed with much honourable usage, had set up three crooked sticks to serve as wickets, and played with an enthusiasm that the conditions of the game might justly have rendered difficult of achievement. The one thing certain about the ball was that it would not come off the baked, uneven ground at the angle at which it might be expected. It might shoot, or on pitching might tower like a partridge, and any ball pitched off the wicket might easily take it; the only thing quite certain was that a straight ball (unless a full pitch) would not. Above, the thick dusky blue of a fine summer day in London formed a cloudless dome, where the sun still swung high on its westering course. In front of the distances that dusky pall was visible, and the houses at the edge of the Park were blurred in outline and made beautiful by the inimitable dinginess of the city.

But Gladys had no eye for all this; she was burning to know what was the latest development in the Willie affair, but her whole-hearted affection for her cousin was a little touched by timidity, and she did not quite like to question her. For Daisy, in spite of her charm, was a little formidable at times; at times she would have moods of entrancing tenderness; she could comfort or appeal, just as she could take the most sympathetic pleasure in the fact that a fierce tiger was annoyed at her amiable intentions, and had spoilt her best parasol. But at other times there was something of the tiger in her–that, no doubt, was why she understood this one so well–which made Gladys a little shy of her. She had often, so to speak, bitten off the end of her cousin’s parasol before now, and Gladys did not appreciate that as much as Daisy had just done. So in silence she looked a little sideways at that brilliant, vivid face, flushed with the swift blood of its twenty-two years, that looked so eagerly from its dark grey eyes on to the activity of the playing children. But silences were generally short when Daisy was present, and she proceeded to unfold herself with rapidity and all the naturalness of which she deplored the lack in the gentle, good people.

“Oh! how they are enjoying themselves,” she said, “with really no material at all. Gladys, think what a lot of material a person like me wants to make her enjoy herself! It really is shocking. My gracious, what an ugly child that is! Don’t look at it; you never should look at ugly things–it’s bad for the soul. Yes, I want such a lot to make me happy–all there is, in fact–and poor darling Willie hasn’t got all there is. He’s the sort of man I should like to marry when I am forty-three. Do you know what I mean? He would be quite charming if one were forty-three. He’s quite charming now, if it comes to that, and I’m dreadfully fond of him, but he thinks about me too much; he’s too devoted. I hear his devotion going on tick, tick, all the time, like the best clocks. That’s one reason for not marrying him.”

“I don’t think it’s a good one, though,” remarked Gladys.

“Yes, it is. Because a man always expects from his wife what he gives her. He would be absolutely happy living with me on a desert island; but–I know it’s true–he would tacitly require that I should be absolutely happy living with him on a desert island. Well, I shouldn’t–I shouldn’t–I shouldn’t. I should not! Is that clear?”

“Quite.”

“Very well, then, why did you say it wasn’t? Oh, yes, I know I am right. And he would always see that I was well wrapped up, and wonder whether I wasn’t a little pale. I can’t bear that sort of thing. No doubt it’s one way of love; but I must say I prefer another. I daresay the love that is founded on esteem and respect and affection is a very excellent thing, but it’s one of those excellent things which I am quite willing to let other people have and enjoy. It’s like–like Dresden china; I am sure it is quite beautiful, but I don’t want any myself. I wish you would marry Willie yourself, darling. Don’t mind me.”

They rattled out over the cobblestones of the gate into Baker Street, and plunged into the roaring traffic. Daisy had still a great deal to say, and she raised her voice to make it heard above the intolerable clatter of motor ‘buses and the clip-clop of horses’ hoofs.

“Besides, as I said, I want such a lot of things. I’m hard and worldly and disgusting; but so it is. I want to be right at the top of the tree, and if I married Willie I should just be Mrs. Carton, with that decaying old place in Somerset; very nice and intensely respectable, but that’s all. It’s quite a good thing to be nice and respectable, but it’s rather a vegetable thing to be, if you are nothing else. I must be an animal at least, and that’s why I’m playing ‘Animal Grab.’”

Gladys looked–as was indeed the case–as if she did not quite understand this surprising statement.

“I’m very slow, I know,” she said, “but–”

“Yes, darling, you are, but you do know what I mean, though you don’t know you know it. I’ve often seen you wondering about it. Oh, that motor ‘bus is going to run into us! It isn’t; how can you be so nervous? It cleared us by at least a quarter of an inch. Yes, ‘Animal Grab.’ Now ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ do you know what I mean, or don’t you?”

Gladys trembled under these direct assaults. But she thought “yes” was more likely to be favourably received than “no,” and so allowed herself to say “yes.”

But it proved to be a vain hope that Daisy would thereupon go on and explain. That was so like Daisy; she never did what you hoped or expected she might. Gladys on this occasion, with her pink, timorous face and general air of discouragement, prayed that Daisy might not trouble about her, but just go on talking. It is true that Daisy did talk next, but, instead of expounding, she rapped out a question.

“So you do know,” she said. “Then what is it?”

Gladys shut her eyes for a moment to encourage bravery.

“I suppose it means that you are thinking whether you will marry Lord Lindfield or not,” she said.

Daisy, however peremptory, was not a bully.

“How did you guess that, dear?” she asked.

“It wasn’t very difficult. It couldn’t have been, you see, or I shouldn’t have guessed it. But he has been–well, a good deal interested in you, hasn’t he, and you–”

“Do you mean I’ve encouraged him?” asked Daisy, with an inquisitorial air.

“No, I mean just the opposite. You’ve rather snubbed him.” Gladys made a huge demand on her courage. “But you’ve snubbed him in such a way that it comes to the same thing as if you had encouraged him,” she said.

Daisy considered this.

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