Nazeby Hall





It was perhaps a fortunate thing for Elizabeth that her ancestors went
back to the Conquest, and that she numbered at least two Countesses and
a Duchess among her relatives. Her father had died some years ago, and,
her mother being an invalid, she had lived a good deal abroad. But, at
about seventeen, Elizabeth began to pay visits among her kinsfolk. It
was after arriving at Nazeby Hall, for a Cricket Week, that she first
wrote home.


Nazeby Hall, _26th July_.

Dearest Mamma,--I got here all right, without even a smut on my face,
for Agn�s tidied me up in the brougham before we arrived at the gate.
The dust in the train was horrid. It is a nice house. They were at tea
when I was ushered in; it was in the hall--I suppose it was because it
was so windy outside. There seemed to be a lot of people there; and
they all stopped talking suddenly, and stared at me as if I were a new
thing in the Zoo, and then, after a minute, went on with their
conversations at the point they had left off.

[Sidenote: _Afternoon Tea_]

Lady Cecilia pecked my cheek, and gave me two fingers; and asked me, in
a voice right up at the top, how were you. I said you were better,
and--you know what you told me to say. She murmured something while she
was listening to what a woman with a sweet frock and green eyes was
saying at the other end of the table. There was heaps of tea. She waved
vaguely for me to sit down, which I did; but there was a footstool
near, and it was half dark, so I fell over that, but not very badly,
and got safely to my seat.

Lady Cecilia--continuing her conversation across the room all the
time--poured out a cup of tea, with lumps and _lumps_ of sugar in it,
and lots of cream, just what you would give to a child for a treat! and
she handed it to me, but I said, "Oh! please, Lady Cecilia, I don't
take sugar!" She has such bulgy eyes, and she opened them wide at me,
perfectly astonished, and said, "Oh! then please ring the bell; I don't
believe there is another clean cup." Everybody stopped talking again,
and looked at me, and the green-eyed lady giggled--and I rang the bell,
and this time didn't fall over anything, and so presently I got some
tea. Just as I was enjoying such a nice cake, and watching all the
people, quite a decent man came up and sat down behind me. Lady Cecilia
had not introduced me to anybody, and he said, "Have you come a long
way?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "It must have been dusty in the
train," and I said it was--and he was beginning to say something more,
when the woman with the green eyes said, "Harry, do hand me the
cucumber sandwiches," and so he had to get up, and just then Sir Trevor
came in, and he was glad to see me. He is a jolly soul, and he said I
was eight when he last saw me, and seemed quite surprised I had grown
any taller since! Just as though people could stay at eight! Then he
patted my cheek, and said, "You're a beauty, Elizabeth," and Lady
Cecilia's eyes bulged at him a good deal, and she said to me, "Wouldn't
you like to see your room?" and I said I wasn't a bit in a hurry, but
she took me off, and here I am; and I am going to wear my pink silk for
dinner, and will finish this by-and-by.

12.30.--Well, I have had dinner, and I found out a good many of their
names--they mostly arrived yesterday. The woman with the green eyes is
Mrs. de Yorburgh-Smith. I am sure she is a _pig_. The quite decent man,
"Harry," is a Marquis--the Marquis of Valmond--because he took Lady
Cecilia in to dinner. He is playing in the Nazeby Eleven.

There is a woman I like, with stick-out teeth; her name is Mrs.
Vavaseur. She knows you, and she is awfully nice, though so plain, and
she never looks either over your head, or all up and down, or talks to
you when she is thinking of something else. There are heaps more women,
and the eleven men, so we are a party of about twenty-five; but you
will see their names in the paper.

Such a bore took me in! He began about the dust again, but I could not
stand that, so I said that every one had already asked me about it. So
he said "Oh!" and went on with his soup.

[Sidenote: _The Cricket Talk_]

At the other side was another of the Eleven, and he said, Did I like
cricket? And I said, No, I hated always having to field (which was what
I did, you know, when I played with the Byrne boys at Biarritz); and I
asked him if he was a good player, and he said "No," so I said I
supposed he always had to field too, then; and he said, No, that
sometimes they allowed him a bat, and so I said I was sure that wasn't
the same game I played; and he laughed as if I had said something
funny--his name is Lord George Lane--and the other one laughed too, and
they both looked idiots, and so I did not say any more about that. But
we talked on all the time, and every one else seemed to be having such
fun, and they all call each other by pet names, and shorten up all
their adjectives (it _is_ adjectives I mean, not adverbs). I am sure
you made a mistake in what you told me, that all well-bred people
behave nicely at dinner, and sit up, because they don't a bit; lots of
them put their elbows on the table, and nearly all sat anyhow in their
chairs. Only Lady Cecilia and Mrs. Vavaseur behaved like you; but then
they are both quite old--over forty.

They all talk about things that no stranger could understand, but I
dare say I shall pick it up presently. And after dinner, in the
drawing-room, Lady Cecilia did introduce me to two girls--the Roose
girls--you know. Well, Lady Jane is the best of the two; Lady Violet is
a lump. They both poke their heads, and Jane turns in her toes. They
have rather the look in their eyes of people with tight boots. Violet
said, "Do you bicycle?" and I said, "Yes, sometimes;" and she said,
with a big gasp: "Jane and I adore it. We have been ten miles since tea
with Captain Winchester and Mr. Wertz."

[Sidenote: _An African Millionaire_]

I did not think that interesting, but still we talked. They asked me
stacks of questions, but did not wait for the answers much. Mr. Wertz
is the African millionaire. He does not play cricket, and, when the men
came in afterwards, he crossed over to us, and Jane introduced him to
me when he had talked a little. He is quite a sort of gentleman, and is
very much at home with every one. He laughed at everything I said. Mrs.
Smith (such bosh putting "de Yorburgh" on!) sat on a big sofa with Lord
Valmond, and she opened and shut her eyes at him, and Jane Roose says
she takes every one's friend away; and Lord George Lane came up, and we
talked, and he wasn't such an idiot as at dinner, and he has nice
teeth. All the rest, except the Rooses and me, are married--the women,
I mean--except Miss La Touche, but she is just the same, because she
sits with the married lot, and they all chat together, and Violet Roose
says she is a cat, but I think she looks nice; she is so pretty, and
her hair is done at the right angle, because it is like Agn�s does
mine, and she has nice scent on; and I hope it won't rain to-morrow,
and good-night, dear Mamma.--Your affectionate daughter, Elizabeth.

_P.S._--Jane Roose says Miss La Touche will never get married; she is
too smart, and all the married women's men talk to her, and that the
best tone is to look rather dowdy; but I don't believe it, and I would
rather be like Miss La Touche. E.


Elizabeth received an immediate reply to her letter, and the next one
began:

Nazeby Hall, _28th July_.

Dearest Mamma,--I _am_ sorry you find I use bad grammar and write
incoherently, and you don't quite approve of my style; but you see it
is just because I am in a hurry. I don't speak it; but if I must stop
to think of grammar and that, I should never get on to tell you what I
am doing here, so do, dear Mamma, try and bear it bravely. Well,
everybody came down to breakfast yesterday in a hat, and every one was
late--that is, every one who came down at all, the rest had theirs
upstairs.

[Sidenote: _The Cricket Match_]

The cricket began, and it was really a bore. We sat in a tent, and all
the nice men were fielding (it is always like that), and the married
lot sat together, and talked about their clothes, and Lady Doraine read
a book. She is pretty too, but has big ears. Her husband is somewhere
else, but she does not seem to miss him; and the Rooses told me her
hair used to be black, and that they have not a penny in the world, so
I think she must be clever and nice to be able to manage her clothes so
well. They are perfectly lovely, and I heard her say her maid makes
them.

Miss La Touche happened to be next me, so she spoke to me, and said my
hat was "too devey for words" (the blue one you got at Caroline's); and
by-and-by we had lunch, and at lunch Lord Valmond came and sat by me,
and so Mrs. Smith did too, and she gushed at me. He seemed rather put
out about something--I suppose it was having to field all the
time.--and she talked to him across me, and she called him "Harry"
lots of times, and she always says things that have another meaning.
But they all do that--repeat each other's Christian names in a
sentence, I mean--just like you said that middle-class people did when
you were young, so I am sure everything must have changed now.

Well, after lunch, all the people in the county seemed to come; some of
them had driven endless miles, and we sat apart, I suppose to let them
see how ordinary we thought them; and Lady Cecilia was hardly polite,
and the others were more or less rude; but presently something
happened--I don't know what--and the nice men had not to field any
more. Perhaps they could not stand it any longer, and so every one who
had been yawning woke up, and Mr. Wertz, who had been writing letters
all this time, appeared, and Lady Doraine made room for him beside her,
and they talked; and when our Eleven had drunk something they came and
lay on the grass near us, and we had such a nice time. There is a
beautiful man here, and his name is Sir Dennis Desmond, and his
grandfather was an Irish King, and he talks to me all the time, and
his mother looks at him and frowns; and I think it silly of her, don't
you? And if I were a man I wouldn't visit with my mother if she frowned
at me. Do you know her? She dresses as if she were as young as I am.
She had a blue muslin on this morning, and her hair is red with green
stripes in it, and she is all white with thick pink cheeks, and across
the room she doesn't look at all bad; but close! Goodness gracious she
looks a hundred! And I would much sooner have nice white hair and a cap
than look like that, wouldn't you? I'll finish this when I come to bed.

[Sidenote: _Sir Dennis Desmond_]

12.30.--What _do_ you think has happened? Sir Dennis sat beside me on
the sofa just as he did last night--but I forget, I have not yet told
you of yesterday and last night; but never mind now, I must get on.
Well, he said I was a perfect _darling_, but that he never could get a
chance to say a word to me alone, but that if I would only drop my
glove outside my door it would be all right; and I thought that such a
_ridiculous_ thing to say, that I couldn't help laughing, and Lady
Cecilia happened to be passing, and so she asked me what I was laughing
at, and so I told her what he had said, and asked why? There happened
to be a pause just then and, as one has to speak rather loud to Lady
Cecilia to attract her attention, every one heard, and they all looked
_flabergasted;_ and then all shrieked with laughter, and Sir Dennis
said so crossly, "Little fool!" and Lady Desmond simply glared at me,
and Lady Cecilia said, "Really, Elizabeth!" and Sir Dennis got purple
in the face, and Jane Roose whispered, "How could you dare with his
wife listening!" and every one talked and chaffed. It was too stupid
about nothing; but the astonishing part is, that funny old thing I
thought was the mother turns out to be _his wife!_

Imagine! years and years older than him! Jane Roose said he had to
marry her because her husband died; but I think that the most absurd
reason I ever heard, don't you? Lots of people's husbands die, and they
don't have to get married off again at once--so why should that ugly
old thing, specially when there are such heaps of nice girls about?

[Sidenote: _A Man of Honour_]

Jane Roose said it was so honourable of him, but I call it
crazy--unless, perhaps, he was a great friend of the husband's, who
made him promise when he was dying, and he did not like to break his
word. How he must have hated it! I wonder if he had ever met her
before, or if the husband made him take her, a pig in a poke. I expect
that was it, because he never could have done it if he had ever seen
her.

I can't think why he is so cross with me, but I am sorry, as he is such
a nice man. Now I am sleepy, and it is frightfully late, so I suppose I
had better get into bed. Agn�s came up, and has been fussing about for
the last hour. Best love from your affectionate daughter,

Elizabeth.


Nazeby Hall, _30th July_.

Dearest Mamma,--Yesterday was the best day we have had yet; the nice
men had not to field at all, and the stupid cricket was over at four
o'clock, and so we went into the gardens and lay in hammocks, and Miss
La Touche had such nice shoes on, but her ankles are thick.

[Sidenote: _Ghosts in the Corridor_]

The Rooses told me it wasn't "quite nice" for girls to loll in hammocks
(and they sat on chairs)--that you could only do it when you are
married; but I believe it is because they don't have pretty enough
petticoats. Anyway, Lady Doraine and that horrid Smith creature made a
place for me in the empty hammock between them, and, as I knew my
"frillies" were all right, I hammocked too, and it was _lovely_. Lord
Valmond and Mr. Wertz were lying near, and they said agreeable things,
at least I suppose so, because both of them--Lady Doraine and Mrs.
Smith--looked purry-purry-puss-puss. They asked me why I was so sleepy,
and I said because I had not slept well the last night--that I was
sure the house was haunted. And so they all screamed at me, "Why?" and
so I told them, what was really true, that in the night I heard a noise
of stealthy footsteps, and as I was not frightened I determined to see
what it was, so I got up--Agn�s sleeps in the dressing-room, but, of
course, _she_ never wakes--I opened the door and peeped out into the
corridor. There are only two rooms beyond mine towards the end, round
the corner, and it is dimly lit all night. Well, I distinctly saw a
very tall grey figure disappear round the bend of the hall! When I got
thus far every one dropped their books and listened with rapt
attention, and I could see them exchanging looks, so I am sure they
know it is haunted, and were trying to keep it from me. I asked Mrs.
Smith if she had seen or heard anything, because she sleeps in one of
the rooms. She looked perfectly green, but she said she had not heard a
sound, and had slept like a top, and that I must have dreamt it.

Then Lady Doraine and every one talked at once, and Lord Valmond asked
did any one know if the London evening papers had come. But I was not
going to be put off like that, so I just said, "I know you all know it
is haunted and are putting me off because you think I'll be frightened;
but I assure you I am not, and if I hear the noise again I am going to
rush out and see the ghost close."

Then every one looked simply _ahuri_. So I mean to get the ghost story
out of Sir Trevor to-night after dinner--I had not a chance
yesterday--as I am sure it is interesting. Mrs. Smith looked at me as
if she wanted to poison me, and I can't think why specially, can you?

_Twelve p.m._--I asked Sir Trevor if the house is haunted, and he said,
"God bless my soul, no!" and so I told him, and he nearly had a fit; so
I _know_ it is, but I am not a bit frightened.--Your affectionate
daughter, Elizabeth.


Nazeby Hall, _Sunday._

Dearest Mamma,--Agn�s and I go to Aunt Mary's by the 10:30 train
to-morrow, and I am not a bit sorry, although I have enjoyed myself,
and now I begin to feel quite at home with every one--at least, some of
them; but such a tiresome thing happened last night. It was like this:
After dinner it was so hot that we all went out on the terrace, and, as
soon as we got there, Mrs. Smith and Lady Doraine and the rest said it
was too cold, and went in again; but the moon was pretty, so I stayed
alone, and presently Lord Valmond came out, and stood beside me. There
is such a nice view, you remember, from there, and I didn't a bit want
to talk.

[Sidenote: _A Kiss and a Blow_]

He said something, but I wasn't listening, when suddenly I did hear him
say this: "You adorable _enfant terrible_, come out and watch for
ghosts to-night; and I will come and play the ghost, and console you if
you are frightened!" And he put his horrid arm right round my waist,
and kissed me--somewhere about my right ear--before I could realise
what he was at!

I _was_ in a rage, as you can fancy, Mamma, so I just turned round and
gave him the hardest slap I could, right on the cheek! He was furious,
and called me a "little devil," and we both walked straight into the
drawing-room.

I suppose I looked _savage_, and in the light I could see he had great
red finger marks on his face. Anyway, Mrs. Smith, who was sitting on
the big sofa near the window alone, looked up, and said in an odious
voice, that made every one listen, "I am afraid, Harry, you have not
enjoyed cooing in the moonlight; it looks as if our sweet Elizabeth had
been difficult, and had boxed your ears!"

That made me _wild_, the impudence! That _parvenue_ calling me by my
Christian name! So I just lost my temper right out, and said to her,
"It is perfectly true what you say, and I will box yours if you call me
'Elizabeth' again!"

_Tableau!_ She almost fainted with astonishment and fury, and when she
could get her voice decent enough to speak, she laughed and said--

"What a charming savage! How ingenuous!"

[Sidenote: _Lord Valmond in Disgrace_]

And then Lady Cecilia did a really nice thing, which shows that she is
a brick, in spite of having bulgy eyes, and being absent and tiresome.
She came up to me as if nothing had happened, and said, "Come,
Elizabeth, they are waiting for you to begin a round game," and she put
her arm through mine and drew me into the billiard-room, and on the way
she squeezed my arm, and said, in a voice quite low down for her, "She
deserved it," and I was so touched I nearly cried. From where I sat at
the card-table I could see Mrs. Smith and Lord Valmond, and they were
quarrelling. She looked like green rhubarb juice, and he had the
expression of "Damn!" all over him.

Of course I did not say good-night to him, and I hope I shall never see
him again.--Your affectionate daughter, Elizabeth.




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