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The day after the wonderful rejoicing which the homecoming of Amaryllis
had been the occasion of at Ardayre, she was sitting waiting for her
husband in that exquisite cedar parlour which led from her room.
They would breakfast cosily there, she had arranged, and nothing was
wanting in the setting of a love scene. The bride wore the most alluring
cap and daintiest Paris n�glig�, and her fair and pure skin gleamed
through the diaphanous stuff.
How she longed for John to notice it all, and make love to her! She had
apprehended a number of delightful possibilities in Paris, none of which
had materialised, alas! in her case.
John was the same as ever--quiet, dignified, polite and unmoved. She had
taken to turning out the light before he came to her at night, to hide
the disappointment and chagrin which she felt might show in her eyes. It
would be so humiliating if he should see this. There would soon be
nothing left for her to do but pretend that she was as cold as he was, if
this last effort of _froufrous_ left him as stolid as usual.
She smoothed out the pale chiffon draperies with a tender hand. She got
up and looked at herself in the mirror. It was fortunate that the
reflection of snowy nose and throat and chin, and the pink velvet cheeks,
required no art to perfect them; it was all natural and quite nice, she
felt. What a bore it must be to have to touch up like Madame Boleski!
But what was the meaning of all the imputations she had read of in those
interesting French novels in Paris?--the languors and lassitudes and
tremors of breakfasting love! There was just such a scene as this in one
she had devoured on the boat. A _d�jeuner_ of _amants--_certainly they
had not been married, there was that want of resemblance, but surely this
could not matter? For a fortnight, three weeks, a month, surely even a
husband could be as a lover--especially to a mistress who took such pains
to please his eye!
Would Elsie Goldmore spend such dull breakfasts when she espoused Harry
Kahn? Elsie Goldmore was a Jewess, perhaps that made the difference,
perhaps Jews were more expansive--But the people in the novels were not
Jews. Of course, though, they were French, that must be it! Could it be
that all Englishmen, to their wives, were like John? This she must
presently find out.
Meanwhile she would try--oh, try so hard to entice him to be lovely to
her! He was her own husband; there was absolutely no harm in doing this.
And how glorious it would be to turn him into a lover! Here in this
perfectly divine old house! John was so good-looking, too, and had the
most attractive deep voice, but heavens! the matter-of-factness of
everything about him!
How long would it all go on?
John came in presently with _The Times_ under his arm. He was
immaculately dressed in a blue serge suit. Amaryllis had hoped to see
him in that subduedly gorgeous dressing gown she had persuaded him to
order at Charvets during their first days. It would have been so
suitable and intimate and lover-like. But no! there was the blue serge
suit--and _The Times_.
A shadow fell upon her mood. Her own pink chiffons almost seemed
out of place!
John glanced at them, and at the glowing, living, delicious bit of young
womanhood which they adorned. He saw the rebellious ripe cherry of a
mouth, and the warm, soft tenderness in the grey eyes, and then he
quickly looked out of the window--his own blue ones expressionless, but
the hand which held the newspaper clenched rather hard.
"Amn't I a pet!" cooed Amaryllis, deliberately subduing the chill of her
first disappointment. "Dearest, see I have kept this last and loveliest
set of garments for the morning of our home-coming--and for you!" and she
crept close to him and laid her cheek against his cheek.
He encircled her with his arm and kissed her calmly.
"You look most beautiful, darling," he said. "But then, you always do,
and your frills are perfection. Now I think we ought to have breakfast;
it is most awfully late."
She sat down in her place and she felt stupid tears rise in her eyes.
She poured out the tea and buttered herself some toast, while John was
apparently busy at a side table where dwelt the hot dishes.
He selected the daintiest piece of sole for her, and handed her
"I am not hungry," she protested, "keep it for yourself."
He did not press the matter, but took his place and began to talk quietly
upon the news of the day--in a composed fashion between glances at _The
Times_ and mouthfuls of sole.
Amaryllis controlled herself. She was too proud and too just to make a
foolish scene. If this was John's way and her little effort at enticement
was a failure, she must put up with it. Marriage was a lottery she had
always heard, and it might be her luck to have drawn a blank. So she
choked down the rising emotion and answered brightly, showing interest in
her husband's remarks--and she even managed to eat some omelette, and
when the business of breakfast was quite over she went to the window and
John followed her there.
The view which met their eyes was exquisite.
Beyond the perfect stately garden, with its quaint clipped yews and
masses of spring flowers and velvet lawns, there stretched the vast park
with its splendid oaks and browsing deer. It was a possession which any
man could feel proud to own.
John slipped his arm round her waist and drew her to him.
"Amaryllis," he said, and his voice vibrated, "to-day I am going to show
you everything I love here at Ardayre--because I want you to love it
all, too. You are of the family, so it must mean something to you, dear."
Amaryllis kindled with re-awakening hope.
"Indeed, it will mean everything to me, John."
He kissed her forehead and murmured something about her dressing quickly,
and that he would wait for her there in the cedar room. And when she
returned in about a quarter of an hour in the neatest country clothes, he
placed her hand on his arm and led her down the great stairs and on
through the hall into the picture gallery.
It was a wonderful place of green silk and chestnut wainscoting, and all
the walls of its hundred feet of length were hung with canvases of
value--portraits principally of those Ardayres who had gone on. Face
after face looked down on Amaryllis of the same type as John's and her
own--the brown hair and eyes of grey or blue. Some were a little fairer,
some a little darker, but all unmistakably stamped "Ardayre."
John pointed out each individual to her, while she hung fondly on his
arm, from some doubtful crude fourteenth century wooden panels of Johns
and Denzils, on to Benedict in a furred Henry VII. gown. Then came Henrys
and Denzils in Elizabethan armour and puffed white satin, and through
Stuart and Commonwealth to Stuart again, and so to William and Mary
numbers of Benedicts, and lastly to powdered Georgian James' and Regency
Denzils and Johns. And the name Amaryllis recurred more than once in
stately dame or damsel, called after that fair Amaryllis of Elizabeth's
days who had been maid of honour to the virgin Queen, and had sonnets
written to her nut brown locks by the gallants of her time.
"How little the women they married seem to have altered the type!" the
young living Amaryllis exclaimed, when they came nearly to the end. "It
goes on Ardayre, Ardayre, Ardayre, ever since the very first one. Oh!
John, if we ever have a son he ought to be even more so--you and I being
of the same blood--" and then she hesitated and blushed crimson. This was
the first time she had ever spoken of such a thing.
John held her arm very tightly to his side for a second, and his voice
was uncertain as he answered:
"Amaryllis, that is the profound desire of my heart, that we should
have a son."
A strange feeling of exaltation came over Amaryllis, half-innocent,
wholly ignorant as she was.
She had been stupid--French novels were all nonsense. Marriages in real
life were always like this--of course they must be--since John said
plainly and with such deep feeling that his profoundest desire was that
they should have a son! That meant that she would surely have one. This
was perfectly glorious, and it must simply be those silly books and Elsie
Goldmore's too uxorious imagination which had given her some ridiculously
romantic exaggerated ideas of what love hours would be. She would now be
contented and never worry again. She nestled closer to her husband and
looked up at him with eyes sweet and fond, the brown, curly lashes wet
with tender dew.
"Oh!--darling, when, when do you think we shall have a son?"
Then, for the first time in their lives, John Ardayre clasped her in his
arms passionately and held her to his heart.
"Ah, God," he whispered hoarsely, as he kissed her fresh young lips.
"Pray for that, Amaryllis--pray for that, my own."
Then he restrained himself and drew her on to the four last pictures at
the end of the room. They were of his grandfather and grandmother, and
his father and mother. And then there was a blank space, and the brighter
colour of the damask showed that a canvas had been removed.
"Who hung there, John?"
"The accursed snake charmer woman whom my father disgraced the family
with by bringing home. She was his wife by the law, and a Frenchman
painted her. It was a fine picture with the bastard Ferdinand in her
arms--the proof of our shame. I had it taken down and burnt the day the
place was mine."
Amaryllis was receiving surprises to-day--John's face was full of
emotion, his eyes were sparkling with hate as he spoke. How he must love
everything connected with his home, and its honour, and its name--he
could not be so very cold after all!
She thought of the Russian's words about a family--the uselessness of its
going on for generations, piling up possessions and narrowing its
interests. What had the aims been of all these handsome men? She knew the
earlier history a little, for even though she was of a distant branch
they had been proud of the connection, and treasured the traditions
belonging to it. But these were just dry facts of history which she knew,
so now she asked:
"John, what did any of them do? Did they accomplish great deeds?"
He took her back to the beginning again and began to tell her of the
achievements of each one. There would be three perhaps, one after
another, who had filled high posts in the State, and indeed had been
worthy of the name. Then would come one or two quiet plodding ones, who
seemed to have done little but sit still and hold on.
Then Denzil Ardayre, knight of Elizabeth's time, pleased Amaryllis most
of all--though there had been greater soldiers, and more able politicians
than he later on, culminating in Sir John Ardayre of George IV. days,
who had hammered against pocket boroughs and corruption until he died an
old man, the hour the Reform Bill swept aside abuses and the road to
freedom was won.
"How strange it seems that different ages produce more accentuated stamps
of breeding than others," Amaryllis said, "even in the same families
where the blood is all blue. Look, John! that Denzil and the rest of the
Elizabethans are the most refined, aristocratic creatures you could
imagine, in their little ruffs. Absolutely intellectual and cultivated
faces and of old race--and then comes a James period, less intelligent,
more round featured. And a Cavalier one, gay and gallant, aristocratic
and chiselled also, but not nearly so clever looking as the Elizabethan.
Then we get cadaverous William and Mary ones, they might be lawyers or
business men, not that look of great gentlemen, and the Anne's and the
first George's are really bucolic! And then that wonderfully refined,
cultivated, intellectual finish seems to crop up in the later eighteenth
century again. Have you noticed this, John? You can see it in every
collection of miniatures and portraits even in the museums."
John responded interestedly:
"The Elizabethans were supremely cultivated gentlemen--no wonder that
they look as they do--and their lives were always in their hands which
gives them that air of insouciance."
When the history of the family achievements had been told her down to
John's father, she paused, still clinging to his arm, and said:
"I am so glad that they did splendid things, aren't you? And we shall not
drift either. You must teach me to be the most perfect mistress of
Ardayre, and the most perfect wife for the greatest of them all--because
your achievement is the finest, John, to have won it all back and
redeemed it by the work of your own brain."
He pressed the hand on his arm.
"It was hard work--and the home times were ugly in those days, Amaryllis,
though the goal was worth it, and now we must carry on...." And then his
reserve seemed to fall upon him again, and he took her through the other
rooms, and kept to solid facts, and historic descriptions, and his bride
had continuously the impression that he was mastering some emotion in
himself, and that this stolidity was a mask.
When lunch time came the usual relations of obvious and commonplace
goodfellowship had been fully restored between them, and that atmosphere
of aloofness which seemed impossible to banish enveloped John once more.
Amaryllis sighed--but it was too soon to despair she thought, after the
hope of John's words, and with her serene temperament she decided to
leave things as they were for the present and trust to time.
But as her maid brushed out the soft brown hair that night, an unrest and
longing for something came over her again--what she knew not, nor could
have put into words. She let herself re-live that one moment when John
had pressed herewith passion to his heart. Perhaps, perhaps that was the
beginning of a change in him--perhaps--presently--
But the clock in the long gallery had chimed two, and there was yet no
sound of John in the dressing-room beyond.
Amaryllis lay in the great splendid gilt bed in the warm darkness, and at
last tears trickled down her cheeks.
What could keep him so long away from her? Why did he not come?
The large Queen Anne windows were wide open, and soft noises of the night
floated in with the zephyrs. The whole air seemed filled with waiting
expectancy for something tender and passionate to be.
What was that? Steps upon the terrace--measured steps--and then silence,
and then a deep sigh. It must be John--out there alone!--when she would
have loved to have stayed with him, to have woven sweet fancies in the
luminous darkness, to have taken and given long kisses, to have buried
her face in the honeysuckle which grew there, steeped in dew. But he had
said to her after their stately dinner in the great dining-hall:
"Play to me a little, Amaryllis, and then go to bed, child--you must be
And after that he had not spoken more, but pushed her gently towards the
door with a solemn kiss on the forehead, and just a murmur of
"Good-night." And she had deceived herself and thought that it meant that
he would come quickly, and so she had run up the stairs.
But now it was after two in the morning, and would soon be growing
towards dawn--and John was out there sighing alone!
She crept to the window and leaned upon the sill. She thought that she
could distinguish his tall figure there by the carved stone bench.
"John!" she called softly, "I am, so lonely--John, dearest--won't
Then she felt that her ears must be deceiving her, for there was the
sound of a faint suppressed sob, and then, a second afterwards, her
husband's voice answering cheerily, with its usual casual note:
"You naughty little night bird! Go back to bed--and to sleep--yes--I am
coming immediately now!"
But when he did steal in silently from the dressing-room an hour later in
a grey dawn, Amaryllis, worn out with speculation and disappointment, had
He looked down upon her charming face--the long, curly brown lashes
sweeping the flushed cheek, and at the rounded, beautiful girlish
form--all his very own to clasp and to kiss and to hold in his arms--and
two scalding tears gathered in his blue eyes, and he took his place
beside her without making a sound.
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