Castalia’s sallow face was paler than ever. Her nostrils were dilated as if she had been running fast. “You never told me a word of this before,” she said.
“My dear creature,” said Rose, looking full at Castalia for the first time, “why, what was there 佛山桑拿按摩网论坛 to tell? The subject was led to by chance now, and I had not the least idea that you did not know all Algy’s old love-stories. Everybody here—except, I suppose, poor dear Mrs. Errington—knew of the boy-and-girl nonsense between him and that little thing. But of course it never was serious. That was out of the question.”
“I don’t believe it!” said Castalia, suddenly.
“Well, I daresay the thing was exaggerated, as so often happens. For my part, I never could see what there was in the girl to make so many people
admire her. A certain freshness, perhaps; and some men do think a great deal of that pink-and-white sort of insipidity.”
“At all events, Ancram does not care about her now,” said Castalia, speaking in broken sentences, and twisting her watch-chain nervously backwards and forwards in her fingers.
“Oh, of course not! 佛山桑拿网2019论坛 I daresay he never did care about her in earnest. But that sort of philandering is a little dangerous, isn’t it?”
“He does not like me to ask her to the house even.”
“No; he has said so more or less plainly several times. He said so this very evening.”
“Did he, indeed? Well, I really am glad to hear it. I scarcely gave Algy—Mr. Errington—credit for so much—prudence!”
“Mrs. Errington and Miss Maxfield,” announced Lydia at the door of the drawing-room.
Mrs. Errington advanced towards her daughter-in-law with her habitual serene stateliness, and Rhoda followed her, modestly, looking very pretty in a new dress, the delicate hue of which set off her fair complexion to great advantage. Castalia received them much as usual; that is to say, without displaying any emotion whatever. But when Mrs. Errington 佛山桑拿交流群 took her daughter-in-law’s hand, she exclaimed, “Good gracious, Castalia, how cold you are! A perfect frog! And yet this little room of yours is very warm; oppressively warm to one coming from without.”
“We find the temperature so comfortable here!” said Violet. “Dear Castalia always has her rooms deliciously warm, we think.”
“Perhaps, Violet, you are chilly by nature. Some constitutions are so. For myself, I have a wonderful circulation. But it is hereditary. All my branch of the Ancrams were renowned for it. I don’t know, my dear Castalia, whether my cousin, Lady Seely, has the same peculiarity?”
“I don’t know, I’m sure.”
“With us it was a well-known thing among the Faculty for miles around Ancram Park. Our extremities were never cold, nor had we ever red noses. I believe a red nose was absolutely unknown in our family. 佛山桑拿天堂网 No doubt that was part of the same thing; perfect circulation of the blood.”
With that Mrs. Errington sat down tolerably near the fire and made herself comfortable. “Where is my dear boy?” she asked after a little while. “Not at that dreadful office I hope and trust!”
“He is at home,” replied Castalia, slowly. “I asked him to come into the drawing-room, and he said he would by-and-by.”
“Oh, I daresay he will come now, dear,” said Rose McDougall, without raising her eyes from her sewing.
“Well, my dear,” said Mrs. Errington to her daughter-in-law, “and if he does come ‘now’ you must not be jealous.”
The two sisters glanced at the good lady in quick surprise, and then at Rhoda. Rhoda was looking, for the hundredth time, at a book of prints. It was her usual evening’s occupation at Ivy Lodge. Mrs. Errington proceeded, placid, 佛山夜生活最热闹的地方 smiling, and condescending as ever: “You must not be jealous, Castalia, if he does come directly he learns that his mother is here. To be sure a wife ranks first. I have always acknowledged that; and, indeed, insisted on it. I am sure it was my own case with poor dear Dr. Errington, who would never have dreamed of putting any human being into competition with me. Still, allowances must be made for the very peculiar and devoted attachment Algy has always felt for me. He is, and ever was, an Ancram to the core. And this kind of—one may say romantic—affection for their mothers has always distinguished the scions of our house from time immemorial. Good evening, my dear Algy. I find our dear Castalia looking a little worn and ill, and I tell her she keeps her rooms too hot. What do you say?”
Algernon had sauntered into the room during his mother’s harangue, delivered in the full mellow voice that belonged to her, and now bent to kiss the worthy lady’s cheek as he greeted her. It was a cool, firm, rosy cheek. Indeed, Mrs. Errington’s freshness and bloom were in singular opposition to Castalia’s sallow haggardness, and made the elder lady look doubly buxom and buoyant by the force of contrast.
“You’re flourishing, at all events, chère madame,” said Algernon, looking at his mother with unfeigned satisfaction. It was a relief to him to see a contented, smiling, comfortable countenance. Nevertheless, although agreeable to look upon, Mrs. Errington was apt to become a little wearisome in point of conversation, and her dutiful son cast his eyes round the circle in search of a pleasant seat wherein to bestow himself. But his glance met no response. Rose McDougall had drawn near his wife, and after very stiffly returning his bow, had ceased to take any notice of him, markedly avoiding his eye, and keeping silence after he had spoken. Violet was divided between listening to the elder Mrs. Errington and watching her sister. Castalia was more lazy, more silent, more indifferent than usual. Algernon was as unaccustomed as a spoiled child to be taken no notice of. He to stand among those women as a person of secondary importance, not greeted, not flattered, not smiled upon!
He looked across the group round the fire to Rhoda, who happened to raise her eyes at that moment, and being taken by surprise at meeting his, dropped them hastily, with a vivid blush. Rhoda’s blushes were as unmeaning as the smiles of an infant. The most trivial cause made her change colour, as Algernon very well knew. But at least the soft bright pink hue on pretty Rhoda’s cheek showed some emotion, however slight or transient, at the sight of him. And, moved partly by a boyish, pettish resentment against the others, partly by the desire to hear a pleasant voice and pleasant words, and look upon a pretty woman’s face with its delicate contour and fine subtle changes of tint, he walked across the room and seated himself beside Rhoda Maxfield.
Castalia pushed her chair back out of the lamplight. “You can’t see to do your purse in that dark corner, Castalia,” exclaimed Mrs. Errington.
“I don’t want to do my purse. I’m sick of it.”
“Naughty, fickle girl!” This was said playfully. Then in a loud whisper, addressed to the McDougalls as well as to her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Errington exclaimed, “Doesn’t Rhoda look charming to-night? That pale lilac is the very colour for her. Trying to skins that have the least tinge of yellow in them, but she is so wonderfully fair! Dear me, it reminds one of old times to see those two side by side. As children they were always together.”
No one responded. Violet McDougall fidgeted nervously on her chair and cast an appealing look at her sister. She would have tried to lead Mrs. Errington to talk of something else had she dared, but in Rose’s presence Violet never ventured to take the initiative; and, besides, she was afraid of doing more harm than good, Mrs. Errington not being one of those persons who take a hint easily. The silence of her three listeners was no check to the worthy lady’s eloquence. She continued to descant on Rhoda’s attractions, and graces, and good manners; she dropped hints of the excellent opportunities Rhoda now had of “settling in life,” only that she was a little fastidious from long association with such refined persons as the Erringtons, and had turned the cold shoulder to several well-to-do wooers in her own rank of life; she related anecdotes of Rhoda’s early devotion to herself and her son, until Violet McDougall muttered under her breath, in a paroxysm of nervous impatience, “One would think the woman was doing it on purpose!”
Meanwhile Algernon was talking to Rhoda more freely and confidentially than he had spoken to her for a long, long time. He was indulging in the luxury of playing victim before a spectator whose pity would certainly be admiring, not contemptuous. And, as he spoke, the old habit of appealing to Rhoda, and confiding in Rhoda, and taking Rhoda’s sympathy for granted, resumed its power over him. There was no strain of tenderness in his words. He said not a syllable that his wife and all the world might not freely have listened to. He talked as a petted boy might talk to an idolising sister—with a mixture of boastfulness and repining, which he would have been ashamed to display to a man.
Rhoda listened with sorrowful interest. How could it be that Algernon should have to endure all these troubles and mortifications? He was so clever, so accomplished, so highly connected, had such great and powerful relations! It appeared natural enough that folks like Mrs. Thimbleby, and the Gladwishes, and even her brother Seth, should sometimes be pressed for money. She herself, although she had never known privation in her father’s house, had, until within the last year or so, been accustomed to the most rigid economy—not to say parsimony—and it had never cost her a care. But that Algernon Errington should desire money for various purposes, and not be able to get it, seemed to her a very hard case.
But Algernon’s note was not all of complaint. There were occasional intervals in which he spoke of the brightness of his prospects ultimately, when once he should have tided over his present difficulties and had got out of Whitford. And there were a few flourishes about his social successes in town last year. In the indulgence of his all-absorbing egotism, he seemed to forget that the girl beside him had ever been—or had ever had either expectation or right to be—anything more to him than the patient, admiring, sisterly, humble confidante on whom he had relied for praise and sympathy from the time of his earliest recollections, and who supplied him with the most delicious food for his vanity, because unmingled with any doubt of its genuineness. No thought of her feelings (save that they were kindly and admiring towards himself) crossed his mind whilst he talked to her, bending down his head and gesticulating slightly with his white, handsome hands.
But when his mother called to her, “Come, Rhoda, I think, we must be going; I heard the carriage at the gate, child. You and Algy have been having a famous long chat! Reminded you of old times, didn’t it?”
When I say Algernon heard these words, a spark of manhood made his cheeks tingle and his tongue stammer as he said, “I—I’m afraid I must have been—boring you dreadfully, Rhoda?”
In truth he was surprised to find that he had spent the whole evening in talking to Rhoda about himself. He glanced quickly at his wife, but she was occupied with the Misses McDougall. So occupied was she that she hardly returned Mrs. Errington’s “Good night,” which negligence, however, little ruffled that lady’s equanimity. But when Rhoda approached to take leave of Castalia, the latter moved aside so suddenly that the movement might almost be called a start, and facing round, came opposite to her own image in the mirror above the chimney-piece, with Rhoda’s fair image looking over its shoulder.
For one second, perhaps—it could scarcely have been more—the smooth surface of the glass gave back the two women’s faces: one youthful, lily-hued, innocently surprised, with chestnut eyebrows and shining chestnut curls, and tender rosy lips parted like 佛山桑拿按摩888 those of a child; the other yellow, worn full of fretful creases, with glittering eager eyes, and a thin mouth set into a straight line, and yet over all the undefinable pathos of a suffering spirit; behind the two, Algernon looking into his wife’s dark eyes and recognising something there that he had never seen in them before.
In no longer time than it would take for a breath to dim the mirror all these images were gone, and the cold shiny glass indifferently showed a confusion of cloaks and shoulders and the back of a huge bonnet crowning Mrs. Errington’s majestic figure.
From that day forth Castalia gave herself up to a devouring jealousy of Rhoda. She spied her goings and comings; she watched her husband’s face when the girl was spoken of; she opened the letters that she found in the pockets of his clothes; she lay in 佛山桑拿论坛网 wait to surprise some proof, no matter what, of a tender feeling on his part for his old love. In a word, she pursued her own misery with more eagerness, vigilance, and unflagging singleness of purpose than most people devote to the attainment of any object whatsoever.
The discovery of Minnie Bodkin’s note in Algernon’s secretaire at the office had incited Castalia to make some other attempts to pry into that depository of her husband’s papers. She made excuses to step into the post-office whenever she had any reason for thinking Algernon was absent. Sometimes it was with the pretence of wishing to see him, sometimes on the plea of wanting to rest. She had learned that her husband frequently went into the “Blue Bell,” to have luncheon, in the middle of the day; and that, from one cause or another, the Whitford 南海大沥桑拿 Post-office was not really honoured with so much of his personal superintendence as she had been led to suppose. And this again was a fertile source of self-tormenting. Where was he, when he was not at the office?
It whetted her suspicious curiosity to find the secretaire always carefully locked, ever since her discovery of Miss Bodkin’s note there. She now wished that she had searched it thoroughly when she had the opportunity, instead of hastening off to Dr. Bodkin’s house, after having read the first letter she came upon. But her feelings at that time had been very different from what they now were. She had been nettled, truly, and jealous of any private consultation between Minnie Bodkin and her husband; hating to think that he could trust, and be confidential with, another woman than herself, but not distinctly suspecting 佛山桑拿网 either Minnie or Algernon of any intent to wrong her. Miss Bodkin loved power, and influence, and admiration, and Castalia wished no woman to influence Algernon, or to be admired by him for any qualities whatsoever, except herself; but all her little envious resentments against Minnie had been mere pinpricks compared with the cruel pangs of jealousy that now pierced her heart when she thought of Rhoda Maxfield.
That secretaire! It seemed to have an irresistible attraction for her thoughts. She even dreamt sometimes of trying to open it, and finding fresh fastenings arise more and more complicated, as she succeeded in undoing one lock after the other. It was not Algernon’s habit to lock up anything belonging to him. There must be some special reason for his doing so in this case! And to Castalia’s jaundiced mind it seemed that 佛山桑拿qq群2013 the special reason could only be a desire to keep his letters secret from her. She grew day by day more restless. The servants at Ivy Lodge remarked with wonder their mistress’s frequent absences from home. She, who had so dreaded and disliked walking, was now constantly to be seen on the road to the town, or on the meadow-path by the river. This kind of exercise, however, merely fatigued without refreshing her, and she became so lean and haggard, and her eyes had such a feverish glitter, that her looks might have alarmed anyone who loved her, and witnessed the change in her.