Lady Ongar, when she left Count Pateroff at the little fort on the cliff and entered by herself the gardens belonging to the hotel, had long since made up her mind that there should at last be a positive severance between herself and her devoted Sophie. For half an hour she had been walking in silence by the count’s side; and though, of course, she had heard all that he had spoken, she had been able in that time to consider much. It must have been through Sophie that the count had heard of her journey to the Isle of Wight; and, worse than that, Sophie must, as she thought, have instigated this pursuit. In that she wronged her poor friend. Sophie had been simply paid by her brother for giving such information as enabled him to arrange this meeting. She had not even counselled him to follow Lady Ongar. But now Lady Ongar, in blind wrath, determined that Sophie should be expelled from her bosom. Lady Ongar would find this task of expulsion the less difficult in that she had come to loathe her devoted friend, and to feel it to be incumbent on her to rid herself of such devotion. Now had arrived the moment in which it might be done.
And yet there were difficulties. Two ladies living together in an inn cannot, without much that is disagreeable, send down to the landlord saying that they want separate rooms, because they have taken it into their minds to hate each other. And there would, moreover, be something awkward in saying to Sophie that, though she was discarded, her bill should be paid — for this last and only time. No; Lady Ongar had already perceived that would not do. She would not quarrel with Sophie after that fashion. She would leave the Isle of Wight on the following morning early, informing Sophie why she did so, and would offer money to the little Franco-Pole, presuming that it might not be agreeable to the Franco-Pole to be hurried away from her marine or rural happiness so quickly. But in doing this she would be careful to make Sophie understand that Bolton Street was to be closed against her for ever afterward. With neither Count Pateroff nor his sister would she ever again willingly place herself in contact.
It was dark as she entered the house — the walk out, her delay there, and her return having together occupied her three hours. She had hardly felt the dusk growing on her as she progressed steadily on her way, with that odious man beside her. She had been thinking of other things, and her eyes had accustomed themselves gradually to the fading twilight, But now, when she saw the glimmer of the lamps from the inn-windows, she knew that the night had come upon her, and she began to fear that she had been imprudent in allowing herself to be out so late — imprudent, even had she succeeded in being alone. She went direct to her own room, that, woman-like, she might consult her own face as to the effects of the insult she had received, and then having, as it were, steadied herself, and prepared herself for the scene that was to follow, she descended to the sitting-room and encountered her friend. The friend was the first to speak; and the reader will kindly remember that the friend had ample reason for knowing what companion Lady Ongar had been likely to meet upon the downs.
“Julie, dear, how late you are,” said Sophie, as though she were rather irritated in having been kept so long waiting for her tea.
“I am late,” said Lady Ongar.
“And don’t you think you are imprudent — all alone, you know, dear; just a leetle imprudent.”
“Very imprudent, indeed. I have been thinking of that now as I crossed the lawn, and found how dark it was. I have been very imprudent; but I have escaped without much injury.”
“Escaped! escaped what? Have you escaped a cold, or a drunken man?”
“Both, as I think.” Then she sat down, and, having rung the bell, she ordered tea.
“There seems to be something very odd with you,” said Sophie. “I do not quite understand you.”
“When did you see your brother last?” Lady Ongar asked.
“Yes, Count Pateroff. When did you see him last?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Well, it does not signify, as of course you will not tell me. But will you say when you will see him next?”
“How can I tell?”
“Will it be to-night?”
“Julia, what do you mean?”
“Only this, that I wish you would make him understand that if he has anything to do concerning me, he might as well do it out of hand. For the last hour —”
“Then you have seen him?”
“Yes; is not that wonderful? I have seen him.”
“And why could you not tell him yourself what you had to say? He and I do not agree about certain things, and I do not like to carry messages to him. And you have seen him here on this sacré sea-coast?”
“Exactly so; on this sacré sea-coast. Is it not odd that he should have known that I was here — know the very inn we were at-and know, too, whither I was going to-night?”
“He would learn that from the servants, my dear.”
“No doubt. He has been good enough to amuse me with mysterious threats as to what he would do to punish me if I would not —”
“Become his wife?” suggested Sophie.
“Exactly. It was very flattering on his part. I certainly do not intend to become his wife.”
“Ah, you like better that young Clavering who has the other sweetheart. He is younger. That is true.”
“Upon my word, yes. I like my cousin, Harry Clavering, much better than I like your brother; but, as I take it, that has not much to do with it. I was speaking of your brother’s threats. I do not understand them; but I wish he could be made to understand that if he has anything to do, he had better go and do it. As for marriage, I would sooner marry the first ploughboy I could find in the fields.”
“Julie — you need not insult him.”
“I will have no more of your Julie; and I will have no more of you.” As she said this she rose from her chair, and she walked about the room. “You have betrayed me, and there shall be an end of it.”
“Betrayed you! what nonsense you talk. In what have I betrayed you?”
“You set him upon my track here, though you knew I desired to avoid him.”
“And is that all? I was coming here to this detestable island, and I told my brother. That is my offence — and then you talk of betraying! Julie, you sometimes are a goose.”
“Very often, no doubt; but, Madam Gordeloup, if you please we will be geese apart for the future.”
“Oh, certainly; if you wish it.”
“I do wish it.”
“It cannot hurt me. I can choose my friends anywhere. The world is open to me to go where I please into society. I am not at a loss.”
All this Lady Ongar well understood, but she could bear it without injury to her temper. Such revenge was to be expected from such a woman “I do not want you to be at a loss,” she said. “I only want you to understand that after what has this evening occurred between your brother and me, our acquaintance had better cease.”
“And I am to be punished for my brother?”
“You said just now that it would be no punishment, and I was glad to hear it. Society is, as you say, open to you, and you will lose nothing.”
“Of course society is open to me. Have I committed myself? I am not talked about for my lovers by all the town. Why should I be at a loss? No.”
“I shall return to London to-morrow by the earliest opportunity. I have already told them so, and have ordered a carriage to go to Yarmouth at eight.”
“And you leave me here, alone!”
“Your brother is here, Madam Gordeloup.”
“My brother is nothing to me. You know well that. He has come and can go when he please. I come here to follow you — to be companion to you, to oblige you — and now you say you go and leave me in this detestable barrack. If I am here alone, I will be revenged.”
“You shall go back with me if you wish it.”
“At eight o’clock in the morning — and see, it is now eleven; while you have been wandering about alone with my brother in the dark! No; I will not go so early morning as that. To-morrow is Saturday — you was to remain till Tuesday.”
“You may do as you please. I will go at eight to-morrow.”
“Very well. You go at eight, very well. And who will pay for the ‘beels’ when you are gone, Lady Ongar?”
“I have already ordered the bill up to-morrow morning. If you will allow me to offer you twenty pounds, that will bring you to London when you please to follow.”
“Twenty pounds! What is twenty pounds? No; I will not have your twenty pounds. And she pushed away from her the two notes which Lady Ongar had already put upon the table. “Who is to pay me for the loss of all my time? Tell me that. I have devoted myself to you. Who will pay me for that?”
“Not I, certainly, Madam Gordeloup.”
“Not you! You will not pay me for my time — for a whole year I have been devoted to you! You will not pay me, and you send me away in this way? By Gar, you will be made to pay — through the nose.”
As the interview was becoming unpleasant, Lady Ongar took her candle and went away to bed, leaving the twenty pounds on the table. As she left the room she knew that the money was there, but she could not bring herself to pick it up and restore it to her pocket. It was improbable, she thought, that Madam Gordeloup would leave it to the mercy of the waiters; and the chances were that the notes would go into the pocket for which they were intended.
And such was the result. Sophie, when she was left alone, got up from her seat, and stood for some moments on the rug, making her calculations. That Lady Ongar should be very angry about Count Pateroff’s presence Sophie had expected; but she had not expected that her friend’s anger would be carried to such extremity that she would pronounce a sentence of banishment for life. But, perhaps, after all, it might be well for Sophie herself that such sentence should be carried out. This fool of a woman with her income, her park, and her rank, was going to give herself — so said Sophie to herself — to a young, handsome, proud, pig of a fellow — so Sophie called him — who had already shown himself to be Sophie’s enemy, and who would certainly find no place for Sophie Gordeloup within his house. Might it not be well that the quarrel should be consummated now — such compensation being obtained as might possibly be extracted. Sophie certainly knew a good deal, which it might be for the convenience of the future husband to keep dark — or convenient for the future wife that the future husband should not know. Terms might be yet had, although Lady Ongar had refused to pay anything beyond that trumpery twenty pounds. Terms might be had; or, indeed, it might be that Lady Ongar herself, when her anger was over, might sue for a reconciliation. Or Sophie — and this idea occurred as Sophie herself became a little despondent after long calculation — Sophie herself might acknowledge herself to be wrong, begging pardon, and weeping on her friend’s neck. Perhaps it might be worth while to make some further calculation in bed. Then Sophie, softly drawing the notes toward her as a cat might have done, and hiding them somewhere about her person, also went to her room.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55