During her journeying and during her sojourn at Rome Ayala did enjoy much; but even these joys did not come to her without causing some trouble of spirit. At Glenbogie everybody had known that she was a dependent niece, and that as such she was in truth nobody. On that morning when she had ordered Augusta to go upstairs the two visitors had stared with amazement — who would not have stared at all had they heard Ayala ordered in the same way. But it came about that in Rome Ayala was almost of more importance than the Tringles. It was absolutely true that Lady Tringle and Augusta and Gertrude were asked here and there because of Ayala; and the worst of it was that the fact was at last suspected by the Tringles themselves. Sometimes they would not always be asked. One of the Tringle girls would only be named. But Ayala was never forgotten. Once or twice an effort was made by some grand lady, whose taste was perhaps more conspicuous than her good nature, to get Ayala without burdening herself with any of the Tringles. When this became clear to the mind of Augusta — of Augusta, engaged as she was to the Honourable Septimus Traffick, Member of Parliament — Augusta’s feelings were — such as may better be understood than described! “Don’t let her go, mamma,” she said to Lady Tringle one morning.
“But the Marchesa has made such a point of it.”
“Bother the Marchesa! Who is the Marchesa? I believe it is all Ayala’s doing because she expects to meet that Mr Hamel. It is dreadful to see the way she goes on.”
“Mr Hamel was a very intimate friend of her father’s.”
“I don’t believe a bit of it.”
“He certainly used to be at his house. I remember seeing him.”
“I daresay; but that doesn’t justify Ayala in running after him as she does. I believe that all this about the Marchesa is because of Mr Hamel.” This was better than believing that Ayala was to be asked to sing, and that Ayala was to be fêted and admired and danced with, simply because Ayala was Ayala, and that they, the Tringles, in spite of Glenbogie, Merle Park, and Queen’s Gate, were not wanted at all. But when Aunt Emmeline signified to Ayala that on that particular morning she had better not go to the Marchesa’s picnic, Ayala simply said that she had promised — and Ayala went.
At this time no gentleman of the family was with them. Sir Thomas had gone, and Tom Tringle had not come. Then, just at Christmas, the Honourable Septimus Traffick came for a short visit — a very short visit, no more than four or five days, because Supply and Demand were requiring all his services in preparation for the coming Session of Parliament. But for five halcyon days he was prepared to devote himself to the glories of Rome under the guidance of Augusta. He did not of course sleep at the Palazzo Ruperti, where it delighted Lady Tringle to inform her friends in Rome that she had a suite of apartments au première, but he ate there and drank there and almost lived there; so that it became absolutely necessary to inform the world of Rome that it was Augusta’s destiny to become in course of time the Honourable Mrs Traffick, otherwise the close intimacy would hardly have been discreet — unless it had been thought, as the ill-natured Marchesa had hinted, that Mr Traffick was Lady Tringle’s elder brother. Augusta, however, was by no means ashamed of her lover. Perhaps she felt that when it was known that she was about to be the bride of so great a man then doors would be open for her at any rate as wide as for her cousin. At this moment she was very important to herself. She was about to convey no less a sum than £120,000 to Mr Traffick, who in truth, as younger son of Lord Boardotrade, was himself not well endowed. Considering her own position and her future husband’s rank and standing, she did not know how a young woman could well be more important. She was very important at any rate to Mr Traffick. She was sure of that. When, therefore, she learned that Ayala had been asked to a grand ball at the Marchesa’s, that Mr Traffick was also to be among the guests, and that none of the Tringles had been invited — then her anger became hot.
She must have been very stupid when she took it into her head to be jealous of Mr Traffick’s attention to her cousin; stupid, at any rate, when she thought that her cousin was laying out feminine lures for Mr Traffick. Poor Ayala! We shall see much of her in these pages, and it may be well to declare of her at once that her ideas at this moment about men — or rather about a possible man — were confined altogether to the abstract. She had floating in her young mind some fancies as to the beauty of love. That there should be a hero must of course be necessary. But in her day-dreams this hero was almost celestial — or, at least, athereal. It was a concentration of poetic perfection to which there was not as yet any appanage of apparel, of features, or of wealth. It was a something out of heaven which should think it well to spend his whole time in adoring her and making her more blessed than had ever yet been a woman upon the earth. Then her first approach to a mundane feeling had been her acknowledgment to herself that Isadore Hamel would do as a lover for Lucy. Isadore Hamel was certainly very handsome — was possessed of infinite good gifts; but even he would by no means have come up to her requirements for her own hero. That hero must have wings tinged with azure, whereas Hamel had a not much more aetherealised than ordinary coat and waistcoat. She knew that heroes with azure wings were not existent save in the imagination, and, as she desired a real lover for Lucy, Hamel would do. But for herself her imagination was too valuable then to allow her to put her foot upon earth. Such as she was, must not Augusta have been very stupid to have thought that Ayala should become fond of her Mr Traffick!
Her cousin Tom had come to her, and had been to her as a Newfoundland dog is when he jumps all over you just when he has come out of a horse-pond. She would have liked Tom had he kept his dog-like gambols at a proper distance. But when he would cover her with muddy water he was abominable. But this Augusta had not understood. With Mr Traffick there would be no dog-like gambols; and, as he was not harsh to her, Ayala liked him. She had liked her uncle. Such men were, to her thinking, more like dogs than lovers. She sang when Mr Traffick asked her, and made a picture for him, and went with him to the Coliseum, and laughed at him about Supply and Demand. She was very pretty, and perhaps Mr Traffick did like to look at her.
“I really think you were too free with Mr Traffick last night,” Augusta said to her one morning.
“Free! How free?”
“You were — laughing at him.”
“Oh, he likes that,” said Ayala. All that time we were up at the top of St Peter’s I was quizzing him about his speeches. He lets me say just what I please.”
This was wormwood. In the first place there had been a word or two between the lovers about that going up of St Peter’s, and Augusta had refused to join them. She had wished Septimus to remain down with her — which would have been tantamount to preventing any of the party from going up; but Septimus had persisted on ascending. Then Augusta had been left for a long hour alone with her mother. Gertrude had no doubt gone up, but Gertrude had lagged during the ascent. Ayala had skipped up the interminable stairs and Mr Traffick had trotted after her with admiring breathless industry. This itself, with the thoughts of the good time which Septimus might be having at the top, was very bad. But now to be told that she, Ayala, should laugh at him; and that he, Septimus, should like it! “I suppose he takes you to be a child,” said Augusta; “but if you are a child you ought to conduct yourself.”
“I suppose he does perceive the difference,” said Ayala.
She had not in the least known what the words might convey — had probably meant nothing. But to Augusta it was apparent that Ayala had declared that her lover, her Septimus, had preferred her extreme youth to the more mature charms of his own true love — or had, perhaps, preferred Ayala’s raillery to Augusta’s serious demeanour. “You are the most impertinent person I ever knew in my life,” said Augusta, rising from her chair and walking slowly out of the room. Ayala stared after her, not above half comprehending the cause of the anger.
Then came the very serious affair of the ball. The Marchesa had asked that her dear little friend Ayala Dormer might be allowed to come over to a little dance which her own girls were going to have. Her own girls were so fond of Ayala! There would be no trouble. There was a carriage which would be going somewhere else, and she would be fetched and taken home. Ayala at once declared that she intended to go, and her Aunt Emmeline did not refuse her sanction. Augusta was shocked, declaring that the little dance was to be one of the great balls of the season, and pronouncing the whole to be a falsehood; but the affair was arranged before she could stop it.
But Mr Traffick’s affair in the matter came more within her range. “Septimus,” she said, I would rather you would not go to that woman’s party.” Septimus had been asked only on the day before the party — as soon, indeed, as his arrival had become known to the Marchesa.
“Why, my own one?”
“She has not treated mamma well — nor yet me.”
“Ayala is going.” He had no right to call her Ayala. So Augusta thought.
“My cousin is behaving badly in the matter, and mamma ought not to allow her to go. Who knows anything about the Marchesa Baldoni?”
“Both he and she are of the very best families in Rome,” said Mr Traffick, who knew everything about it.
“At any rate they are behaving very badly to us, and I will take it as a favour that you do not go. Asking Ayala, and then asking you, as good as from the same house, is too marked. You ought not to go.”
Perhaps Mr Traffick had on some former occasion felt some little interference with his freedom of action. Perhaps he liked the acquaintance of the Marchesa. Perhaps he liked Ayala Dormer. Be that as it might, he would not yield. “Dear Augusta, it is right that I should go there, if it be only for half an hour.” This he said in a tone of voice with which Augusta was already acquainted, which she did not love, and which, when she heard it, would make her think of her £120,000. When he had spoken he left her, and she began to think of her £120,000.
They both went, Ayala and Mr Traffick — and Mr Traffick, instead of staying half an hour, brought Ayala back at three o’clock in the morning. Though Mr Traffick was nearly as old as Uncle Tringle, yet he could dance. Ayala had been astonished to find how well he could dance, and thought that she might please her cousin Augusta by praising the juvenility of her lover at luncheon the next day. She had not appeared at breakfast, but had been full of the ball at lunch. “Oh, dear, yes, I dare say there were two hundred people there.”
“That is what she calls a little dance,” said Augusta, with scorn.
“I suppose that is the Italian way of talking about it,” said Ayala.
“Italian way! I hate Italian ways.”
“Mr Traffick liked it very much. I’m sure he’ll tell you so. I had no idea he would care to dance.”
Augusta only shook herself and turned up her nose. Lady Tringle thought it necessary to say something in defence of her daughter’s choice. “Why should not Mr Traffick dance like any other gentleman?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I thought that a man who makes so many speeches in Parliament would think of something else. I was very glad he did, for he danced three times with me. He can waltz as lightly as — “ As though he were young, she was going to say, but then she stopped herself.
“He is the best dancer I ever danced with,” said Augusta.
“But you almost never do dance,” said Ayala.
“I suppose I may know about it as well as another,” said Augusta, angrily.
The next day was the last of Mr Traffick’s sojourn in Rome, and on that day he and Augusta so quarrelled that, for a certain number of hours, it was almost supposed in the family that the match would be broken off. On the afternoon of the day after the dance, Mr Traffick was walking with Ayala on the Pincian, while Augusta was absolutely remaining behind with her mother. For a quarter of an hour — the whole day, as it seemed to Augusta — there was a full two hundred yards between them. It was not that the engaged girl could not bear the severance, but that she could not endure the attention paid to Ayala. On the next morning “she had it out”, as some people say, with her lover. “If I am to be treated in this way you had better tell me so at once,” she said.
“I know no better way of treating you,” said Mr Traffick.
“Dancing with that chit all night, turning her head, and then walking with her all the next day! I will not put up with such conduct.”
Mr Traffick valued £120,000 very highly, as do most men, and would have done much to keep it; but he believed that the best way of making sure of it would be by showing himself to be the master. “My own one,” he said, you are really making an ass of yourself.”
“Very well! Then I will write to papa, and let him know that it must be all over.”
For three hours there was terrible trouble in the apartments in the Palazzo Ruperti, during which Mr Traffick was enjoying himself by walking up and down the Forum, and calculating how many Romans could have congregated themselves in the space which is supposed to have seen so much of the world’s doings. During this time Augusta was very frequently in hysterics; but, whether in hysterics or out of them, she would not allow Ayala to come near her. She gave it to be understood that Ayala had interfered fatally, foully, damnably, with all her happiness. She demanded, from fit to fit, that telegrams should be sent over to bring her father to Italy for her protection. She would rave about Septimus, and then swear that, under no consideration whatever, would she ever see him again. At the end of three hours she was told that Septimus was in the drawing-room. Lady Tringle had sent half a dozen messengers after him, and at last he was found looking up at the Arch of Titus. “Bid him go,” said Augusta. I never want to behold him again.” But within two minutes she was in his arms, and before dinner she was able to take a stroll with him on the Pincian.
He left, like a thriving lover, high in the good graces of his beloved; but the anger which had fallen on Ayala had not been removed. Then came a rumour that the Marchesa, who was half English, had called Ayala Cinderella, and the name had added fuel to the fire of Augusta’s wrath. There was much said about it between Lady Tringle and her daughter, the aunt really feeling that more blame was being attributed to Ayala than she deserved. “Perhaps she gives herself airs,” said Lady Tringle, “but really it is no more.”
“She is a viper,” said Augusta.
Gertrude rather took Ayala’s part, telling her mother, in private, that the accusation about Mr Traffick was absurd. “The truth is”, said Gertrude, “that Ayala thinks herself very clever and very beautiful, and Augusta will not stand it.” Gertrude acknowledged that Ayala was upsetting and ungrateful. Poor Lady Tringle, in her husband’s absence, did not know what to do about her niece.
Altogether, they were uncomfortable after Mr Traffick went and before Tom Tringle had come. On no consideration whatsoever would Augusta speak to her cousin. She declared that Ayala was a viper, and would give no other reason. In all such quarrelings the matter most distressing is that the evil cannot be hidden. Everybody at Rome who knew the Tringles, or who knew Ayala, was aware that Augusta Tringle would not speak to her cousin. When Ayala was asked she would shake her locks, and open her eyes, and declare that she knew nothing about it. In truth she knew very little about it. She remembered that passage-at-arms about the going upstairs at Glenbogie, but she could hardly understand that for so small an affront, and one so distant, Augusta would now refuse to speak to her. That Augusta had always been angry with her, and since Mr Traffick’s arrival more angry than ever, she had felt; but that Augusta was jealous in respect to her lover had never yet at all come home to Ayala. That she should have wanted to captivate Mr Traffick — she with her high ideas of some transcendental, more than human, hero!
But she had to put up with it, and to think of it. She had sense enough to know that she was no more than a stranger in her aunt’s family, and that she must go if she made herself unpleasant to them. She was aware that hitherto she had not succeeded with her residence among them. Perhaps she might have to go. Some things she would bear, and in them she would endeavour to amend her conduct. In other matters she would hold her own, and go, if necessary. Though her young imagination was still full of her unsubstantial hero — though she still had her castles in the air altogether incapable of terrestrial foundation — still there was a common sense about her which told her that she must give and take. She would endeavour to submit herself to her aunt. She would be kind — as she had always been kind — to Gertrude. She would in all matters obey her uncle. Her misfortune with the Newfoundland dog had almost dwindled out of her mind. To Augusta she could not submit herself. But then Augusta, as soon as the next session of Parliament should be over, would be married out of the way. And, on her own part, she did think that her aunt was inclined to take her part in the quarrel with Augusta.
Thus matters were going on in Rome when there came up another and a worse cause for trouble.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55