Opis

Previously, the situation is slightly different from today. Many ladies in search of a better life did not married out of love, but behind the material part of men. So in our history, the frivolous queen marries due to money and status and ultimately pays for it. The author, as always, makes us empathize with our main character.

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Contents

VOL. I

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

VOL. II

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

VOL. I

CHAPTER ONE

Poets of all ages and of all denominations are unanimous in assuring us that there was once a period on this grey earth known as the Golden Age. These irresponsible hards describe it in terms of the vaguest, most poetic splendour, and, apart from the fact, upon which they are all agreed, that the weather was always perfectly charming, we have to reconstruct its characteristics in the main for ourselves. Perhaps if the weather was uniformly delightful, even in this nineteenth century, the golden age might return again. We all know how perceptibly our physical, mental and spiritual level is raised by a few days of really charming weather; but until the weather determines to be always golden, we can hardly expect it of the age. Yet even now, even in England, and even in London, we have every year a few days which must surely be waifs and strays from the golden age, days which have fluttered down from under the hands of the recording angel, as he tied up his reports, and, after floating about for years in dim, interplanetary space, sometimes drop down upon us. They may last a week, they have been known to last a fortnight; again, they may curtail themselves into a few hours, but they are never wholly absent.

At the time at which this story opens, London was having its annual golden days; days to be associated with cool, early rides in the crumbly Row, with sitting on small, green chairs beneath the trees at the corner of the Park; with a general disinclination to exert oneself, or to stop smoking cigarettes; with a temper distinctly above its normal level, and a corresponding absence of moods. The crudeness of spring had disappeared, but not its freshness; the warmth of the summer had come, but not its sultriness; the winter was definitely over and past, and even in Hyde Park the voice of the singing bird was heard, and an old gentleman, who shall be nameless, had committed his annual perjury by asserting in the Morning Post that he had heard a nightingale in the elm-trees by the Ladies’ Mile, which was manifestly impossible.

The sky was blue; the trees, strange to say, were green, for the leaves were out, and even the powers of soot which hover round London had not yet had time to shed their blackening dew upon them. The season was in full swing, but nobody was tired of it yet, and “all London” evinced a tendency to modified rural habits, which expressed themselves in the way of driving down to Hurlingham, and giving water parties at Richmond.

To state this more shortly, it was a balmy, breezy day towards the middle of June. The shady walks that line the side of the Row were full of the usual crowds of leisurely, well-dressed people who constitute what is known as London. Anyone acquainted with that august and splendid body would have seen at once that something had happened; not a famine in China, nor a railway accident, nor a revolution, nor a war, but emphatically “something.” Conversation was a thing that made time pass, not a way of passing the time. Obviously the larger half of London was asking questions, and the smaller half was enjoying its superiority, in being able to give answers. These indications are as clear to the practised eye as the signs of the weather appear to be to the prophet Zadkiel. To the amateur one cloud looks much like another cloud: the prophet, on the other hand, lays a professional finger on one and says “Thunder,” while the lurid bastion, which seems fraught with fire and tempest to the amateur, is dismissed with the wave of a contemptuous hand.

A tall, young man was slowly making his way across the road from the arch. He was a fair specimen of “the exhausted seedlings of our effete aristocracy”–long-limbed, clean-shaven, about six feet two high, and altogether very pleasant to look upon. He wore an air of extreme leisure and freedom from the smallest touch of care or anxiety, and it was quite clear that such was his normal atmosphere. He waited with serene patience for a large number of well-appointed carriages to go past, and then found himself blocked by another stream going in the opposite direction. However, all things come to an end, even the impossibility of crossing from the arch at the entrance of the Park to the trees on a fine morning in June, and on this particular morning I have to record no exception to the rule. A horse bolting on to the Row narrowly missed knocking him down, and he looked up with mild reproach at its rider, as he disappeared in a shower of dust and soft earth.

This young gentleman, who has been making his slow and somewhat graceful entrance on to our stage, was emphatically “London,” and he too saw at once that something had happened. He looked about for an acquaintance, and then dropped in a leisurely manner into a chair by his side.

“Morning, Bertie,” he remarked; “what’s up?”

Bertie was not going to be hurried. He finished lighting a cigarette, and adjusted the tip neatly with his fingers.

“She’s going to be married,” he remarked.

Jack Broxton turned half round to him with a quicker movement than he had hitherto shown.

“Not Dodo?” he said.

“Yes.”

Jack gave a low whistle.

“It isn’t to you, I suppose?”

Bertie Arbuthnot leaned back in his chair with extreme languor. His enemies, who, to do him justice, were very few, said that if he hadn’t been the tallest man in London, he would never have been there at all.

“No, it isn’t to me.”

“Is she here?” said Jack, looking round.

“No I think not; at least I haven’t seen her.”

“Well, I’m–” Jack did not finish the sentence.

Then as an after-thought he inquired: “Whom to?”

“Chesterford,” returned the other.

Jack made a neat little hole with the ferrule of his stick in the gravel in front of him, and performed a small burial service for the end of his cigarette. The action was slightly allegorical.

“He’s my first cousin,” he said. “However, I may be excused for not feeling distinctly sympathetic with my first cousin. Must I congratulate him?”

“That’s as you like,” said the other. “I really don’t see why you shouldn’t. But it is rather overwhelming, isn’t it? You know Dodo is awfully charming, but she hasn’t got any of the domestic virtues. Besides, she ought to be an empress,” he added loyally.

“I suppose a marchioness is something,” said Jack. “But I didn’t expect it one little bit. Of course he is hopelessly in love. And so Dodo has decided to make him happy.”

“It seems so,” said Bertie, with a fine determination not to draw inferences.

“Ah, but don’t you see–” said Jack.

“Oh, it’s all right,” said Bertie. “He is devoted to her, and she is clever and stimulating. Personally I shouldn’t like a stimulating wife. I don’t like stimulating people, I don’t think they wear well. It would be like sipping brandy all day. Fancy having brandy at five o’clock tea. What a prospect, you know! Dodo’s too smart for my taste.”

“She never bores one,” said Jack.

“No, but she makes me feel as if I was sitting under a flaming gas-burner, which was beating on to what Nature designed to be my brain-cover.”

“Nonsense,” said Jack. “You don’t know her. There she is. Ah!”

A dog-cart had stopped close by them, and a girl got out, leaving a particularly diminutive groom at the pony’s head. If anything she was a shade more perfectly dressed than the rest of the crowd, and she seemed to know it. Behind her walked another girl, who was obviously intended to walk behind, while Dodo was equally obviously made to walk in front.

Just then Dodo turned round and said over her shoulder to her,–

“Maud, tell the boy he needn’t wait. You needn’t either unless you like.”

Maud turned round and went dutifully back to the dog-cart, where she stood irresolutely a few moments after giving her message.

Dodo caught sight of the two young men on the chairs, and advanced to them. The radiant vision was evidently not gifted with that dubious quality, shyness.

“Why, Jack,” she exclaimed in a loudish voice, “here I am, you see, and I have come to be congratulated! What are you and Bertie sitting here for like two Patiences on monuments? Really, Jack, you would make a good Patience on a monument.

“Was Patience a man? I never saw him yet. I would come and sketch you if you stood still enough. What are you so glum about? You look as if you were going to be executed. I ought to look like that much more than you. Jack, I’m going to be a married woman, and stop at home, and mend the socks, and look after the baby, and warm Chesterford’s slippers for him. Where’s Chesterford? Have you seen him? Oh, I told Maud to go away. Maud,” she called, “come back and take Bertie for a stroll: I want to talk to Jack. Go on, Bertie; you can come back in half an hour, and if I haven’t finished talking then, you can go away again–or go for a drive, if you like, with Maud round the Park. Take care of that pony, though; he’s got the devil of a temper.”

“I suppose I may congratulate you first?” asked Bertie.

“That’s so dear of you,” said Dodo graciously, as if she was used to saying it. “Good-bye; Maud’s waiting, and the pony will kick himself to bits if he stands much longer. Thanks for your congratulations. Good-bye.”

Bertie moved off, and Dodo sat down next Jack.

“Now, Jack, we’re going to have a talk. In the first place you haven’t congratulated me. Never mind, we’ll take that as done. Now tell me what you think of it. I don’t quite know why I ask you, but we are old friends.”

“I’m surprised,” said he candidly; “I think it’s very odd.”

Dodo frowned.

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