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Chapter 30

  • What did occur was not at all complicated. It would not have been possible fo_ woman to have spent her girlhood with the cleverest mother of her day an_ave emerged from her training either obstinate or illogical. Lady Lothwel_istened to as much of the history of Robin as her mother chose to tell he_nd plainly felt an amiable interest in it. She knew much more detail an_ossip concerning Mrs. Gareth-Lawless than the Duchess herself did. She ha_eard of the child who was kept out of sight, and she had been somewha_isgusted by a vague story of Lord Coombe's abnormal interest in it and th_gly hint that he had an object in view. It was too unpleasantly morbid to b_rue of a man her mother had known for years.
  • "Of course you were not thinking of anything large or formal?" she said afte_ moment of smiling hesitation.
  • "No. I am not launching a girl into society. I only want to help her to know _ew nice young people who are good-natured and well-mannered. She is not th_rdinary old lady's companion and if she were not so strict with herself an_ith me, I confess I should behave towards her very much as I should behave t_athryn if you could spare her to live with me. She is a heart-warming youn_hing. Because I am known to have one of my eccentric fancies for her an_ecause after all her father WAS well connected, her present position will no_e the obstacle. She is not the first modern girl who has chosen to suppor_erself."
  • "But isn't she much too pretty?"
  • "Much. But she doesn't flaunt it."
  • "But heart-warming—and too pretty! Dearest mamma!" Lady Lothwell laughe_gain. "She can do no harm to Kathryn, but I own that if George were not a_resent quite madly in love with a darling being at least fifteen years olde_han himself I should pause to reflect. Mrs. Stacy will keep him steady—Mrs.
  • Alan Stacy, you know—the one with the magnificent henna hair, and the eye_hat droop. No boy of twenty-two can resist her. They call her adorers 'Th_nfant School'."
  • "A small dinner and a small dance—and George and Kathryn may be the beginnin_f an interesting experiment. It would be pretty and kind of you to drop i_uring the course of the evening."
  • "Are you hoping to—perhaps—make a marriage for her?" Lady Lothwell asked th_uestion a shade disturbedly. "You are so amazing, mamma darling, that I kno_ou will do it, if you believe in it. You seem to be able to cause the thing_ou really want, to evolve from the universe."
  • "She is the kind of girl whose place in the universe is in the home of som_oung man whose own place in the universe is in the heart and soul and life o_er kind of girl. They ought to carry out the will of God by fallin_assionately in love with each other. They ought to marry each other and hav_ large number of children as beautiful and rapturously happy as themselves.
  • They would assist in the evolution of the race."
  • "Oh! Mamma! how delightful you always are! For a really brilliant woman yo_re the most adorable dreamer in the world."
  • "Dreams are the only things which are true. The rest are nothing but visions."
  • "Angel!" her daughter laughed a little adoringly as she kissed her. "I will d_hatever you want me to do. I always did, didn't I? It's your way of makin_ne see what you see when you are talking that does it."
  • It was understood before they parted that Kathryn and George would be presen_t the small dinner and the small dance, and that a few other agreeable youn_ersons might be trusted to join them, and that Lady Lothwell and perhaps he_usband would drop in.
  • "It's your being almost Early Victorian, mamma, which makes it easy for you t_nitiate things. You will initiate little Miss Lawless. It was rather neat o_er to prefer to drop the 'Gareth.' There has been less talk in late years o_he different classes 'keeping their places'—'upper' and 'lower' classe_eally strikes one as vulgar."
  • "We may 'keep our places'," the Duchess said. "We may hold on to them a_irmly as we please. It is the places themselves which are moving, my dear. I_s not unlike the beginning of a landslide."
  • Robin went to Dowie's room the next evening and stood a moment in silenc_atching her sewing before she spoke. She looked anxious and even pale.
  • "Her grace is going to give a party to some young people, Dowie," she said.
  • "She wishes me to be present. I—I don't know what to do."
  • "What you must do, my dear, is to put on your best evening frock and g_ownstairs and enjoy yourself as the other young people will. Her grace want_ou to see someone your own age," was Dowie's answer.
  • "But I am not like the others. I am only a girl earning her living as _ompanion. How do I know—"
  • "Her grace knows," Dowie said. "And what she asks you to do it is your duty t_o—and do it prettily."
  • Robin lost even a shade more colour.
  • "Do you realize that I have never been to a party in my life—not even to _hildren's party, Dowie? I shall not know how to behave myself."
  • "You know how to talk nicely to people, and you know how to sit down and ris_rom your chair and move about a room like a quiet young lady. You dance lik_ fairy. You won't be asked to do anything more."
  • "The Duchess," reflected Robin aloud slowly, "would not let me come downstair_f she did not know that people would—be kind."
  • "Lady Kathryn and Lord Halwyn are coming. They are her own grandchildren,"
  • Dowie said.
  • "How did you know that?" Robin inquired.
  • Robin's colour began to come back.
  • "It's not what usually happens to girls in situations," she said.
  • "Her grace herself isn't what usually happens," said Dowie. "There is no on_ike her for high wisdom and kindness."
  • Having herself awakened to the truth of this confidence-inspiring fact, Robi_elt herself supported by it. One knew what far-sighted perception and clarit_f experienced vision this one woman had gained during her many years of life.
  • If she had elected to do this thing she had seen her path clear before her an_as not offering a gift which awkward chance might spoil or snatch away fro_he hand held out to receive it. A curious slow warmth began to creep abou_obin's heart and in its mounting gradually fill her being. It was true sh_ad been taught to dance, to move about and speak prettily. She had bee_aught a great many things which seemed to be very carefully instilled int_er mind and body without any special reason. She had not been aware that Lor_oombe and Mademoiselle Valle had directed and discussed her training as if i_ad been that of a young royal person whose equipment must be a flawles_hing. If the Dowager Duchess of Darte had wished to present her at Court som_air morning she would have known the length of the train she must wear, wher_he must make her curtseys and to whom and to what depth, how to kiss th_oyal hand, and how to manage her train when she retired from the presence.
  • When she had been taught this she had asked Mademoiselle Valle if the trainin_as part of every girl's education and Mademoiselle had answered,
  • "It is best to know everything—even ceremonials which may or may not prove o_se. It all forms part of a background and prevents one from feelin_nfamiliar with customs."
  • When she had passed the young pairs in the streets she had found an adde_nterest in them because of this background. She could imagine them dancin_ogether in fairy ball rooms whose lights and colours her imagination wa_bliged to construct for her out of its own fabric; she knew what the girl_ould look like if they went to a Drawing Room and she often wondered if the_ould feel shy when the page spread out their lovely peacock tails for the_nd left them to their own devices. It was mere Nature that she should hav_ondered and pondered and sometimes unconsciously longed to feel herself par_f the flood of being sweeping past her as she stood apart on the brink of th_iver.
  • The warmth about her heart made it beat a little faster. She opened the doo_f her wardrobe when she found herself in her bedroom. The dress hung modestl_n its corner shrouded from the penetration of London fogs by clean sheeting.
  • It was only white and as simple as she knew how to order it, but Mademoisell_ad taken her to a young French person who knew exactly what she was doing i_ll cases, and because the girl had the supple lines of a wood nymph and th_yes of young antelope she had evolved that which expressed her as a peta_xpresses its rose. Robin locked her door and took the dress down and foun_he silk stockings and slippers which belonged to it. She put them all o_tanding before her long mirror and having left no ungiven last touch she fel_ few steps backward and looked at herself, turning and balancing herself as _ird might have done. She turned lightly round and round.
  • "Yes. I AM—" she said. "I am—very!"
  • The next instant she laughed at herself outright.
  • "How silly! How silly!" she said. "Almost EVERYBODY is—more or less! I wonde_f I remember the new steps." For she had been taught the new steps—the ne_alking and swayings and pauses and sudden swirls and swoops. And her ne_ress was as short as other fashionable girls' dresses were, but in her cas_evealed a haunting delicacy of contour and line.
  • So before her mirror she danced alone and as she danced her lips parted an_er breast rose and fell charmingly, and her eyes lighted and glowed as an_irl's might have done or as a joyous girl nymph's might have lighted as sh_anced by a pool in her forest seeing her loveliness mirrored there.
  • Something was awakening as something had awakened when Donal had kissed _hild under the soot sprinkled London trees.