Read CHAPTER XIX of Muslin, free online book, by George Moore, on


’MY DEAREST ALICE, ’I was so delighted to hear from you; it was very good of you to write to me.  I was deeply interested in your description of the Dublin festivities, and must try and tell you all the news.

’Everybody here is talking of Olive and Lord Kilcarney.  It is said that he proposed to her at the Drawing-Room.  Is this true?  I hope so, for she seems to have set her heart on the match.  But she is a great deal too nice for him.  They say that when he is in London he does nothing but go about from bar-room to bar-room drinking brandies and sodas.  It is also said that he used to spend much of his time with actresses.  I hope these stories are false, but I cannot help thinking. . . .  Well, we have often talked over these things, and you know what my opinions of men are.  I hope I am not doing wrong in speaking like this; but a piece of news has reached me that forces my thoughts back into the old ways ­ways that I know you have often reproved me for letting my mind wander in.  In a word, darling Alice, I hear that you are very much taken up with a Mr. Harding, a writer, or painter, or something of that sort.  Now, will you promise to write and tell me if this be true?  I would sooner know the worst at once ­hear that you love him madly, passionately, as I believe some women love men.  But you, who are so nice, so good, so beautiful, you could not love a man thus.  I cannot think you could ­I will not think you do.  I have been crying all the morning, crying bitterly; horrible thoughts have forced themselves on my mind.  I have seen (but it was not true though it seemed so clear; visions are not always true) this man kissing you!  Oh!  Alice, let me warn you, let me beg of you to think well before you abandon yourself to a man’s power, to a man’s love.

’But you, Alice; you who are so noble, so pure, so lofty-minded, you would not soil yourself by giving way to such a sentiment.  Write! you will write, and tell me that what I saw in vision was a lie, an abominable lie!  Nay, you do not love Mr. Harding.  You will not marry him; surely you will not.  Oh! to be left here alone, never to see you again ­I could not bear it, I should die.  You will not leave me to die, Alice dear, you will not; write and tell me you will not.  And what grieves me doubly is that it must seem to you, dear, that I am only thinking of myself.  I am not; I think of you, I wish to save you from what must be a life of misery and, worse still, of degradation; for every man is a degradation when he approaches a woman.  I know you couldn’t bear up against this; you are too refined, too pure ­I can sympathize with you.  I know, poor little cripple though I be, the horrors of married life.  I know what men are ­you smile your own kind, sweet smile; I see it as I write; but you are wrong:  I know nothing of men in particular, but I know what the sex is ­I know nothing of individuals, but I know what life is.  The very fact of being forced to live apart has helped me to realize how horrible life is, and how the passions of men make it vile and abominable.  All their tender little words and attentions are but lust in disguise.  I hate them!  I could whip, I could beat, I would torture them; and when I had done my worst I should not have done enough to punish them for the wrongs they have done to my sex.

’I know, Alice dear, I am writing violently, that I am letting my temper get the better of me, and this is very wrong; you have often told me it is very wrong; but I cannot help it, my darling, when I think of the danger you are in.  I cannot tell you how, but I do know you are in danger; something, some instinct has put me in communication with you:  there are moments when I see you, yes, see you sitting by that man ­I see you now: ­the scene is a long blue drawing-room all aglow with gold mirrors and wax candles ­he is sitting by you, I see you smiling upon him ­my blood boils, Alice ­I fear I am going mad; my head drops on the table, and I strive to shut out the odious sight, but I cannot, I cannot, I cannot. . . .

’I am calmer now:  you will forgive me, Alice dear?  I know I am wrong to write to you in this way, but there are moments when I realize things with such horrible vividness that I am, as it were, maddened with pain.  Sometimes I awake in the night, and then I see life in all its hideous nakedness, revealed, as it were, by a sudden flash of lightning.  Oh, it is terrible to think we are thus.  Good-bye, dear, I know you will forgive me, and I hope you will write at once, and will not leave me in suspense:  that is the worst torture.  With love to our friends Olive, May, and Violet, believe me, darling Alice,
’Yours affectionately,

She read steadily, word by word, and then let the letter fall.

Her vision was not precise, but there were flashes of sun in it, and her thoughts loomed and floated away.  She thought of herself, of Harding, of their first meeting.  The first time she had seen him he was sitting in the same place and in the same chair as she was sitting in now.  She remembered the first words that had been spoken:  the scene was as clear to her as if it were etched upon her brain; and as she mused she thought of the importance of that event.  Harding was to her what a mountain is to the level plain.  From him she now looked forward and back.  ’So people say that I am in love with him! well, supposing I were, I do not know that I should feel ashamed of myself.’

The reflection was an agreeable one, and in it her thoughts floated away like red-sailed barges into the white mists that veil with dreamy enchantment the wharves and the walls of an ancient town.  What did she know of him?  Nothing!  He was to her as much, but no more, than the author of a book in which she was deeply interested:  with this difference: ­she could hear him reply to her questions; but his answers were only like other books, and revealed nothing of his personality.  She would have liked to have known the individual man surrounded with his individual hopes and sufferings, but of these she knew nothing.  They had talked of all things, but it seemed to her that of the real man she had never had a glimpse.  Never did he unbend, never did he lift the mask he wore.  He was interesting, but very unhuman, and he paraded his ideas and his sneers as the lay figures did the mail-armour on the castle stairway.  She did not know if he were a good or a bad man; she fancied he was not very good, and then she grew angry with herself for suspecting him.  But honest or dishonest, she was sure he could love no one; and she strove to recall his face.  She could remember nothing but the cold merciless eyes ­eyes that were like the palest blue porcelain:  ‘But how ungrateful I am,’ thought the girl, and she checked the bitter flow of reproaches that rose in her mind.

Two old ladies sat on the sofa under the window, their white hair and white caps coming out very white upon the grey Irish day; and around the ottoman the young ladies, Gladys and Zoe Brennan, one of the Miss Duffys, and the girl in red, yawned over circulating novels, longing that a man might come in ­not with hope that he would interest them, but because they were accustomed to think of all time as wasted that was not spent in talking to a man.

Nor were they awakened from their languid hopes until Olive came rushing into the room with a large envelope in her hand.

‘Oh, I see,’ she said, ’you have got a letter from Cecilia.  What does she say?  I got one this morning from Barnes;’ and, bending her head, Olive whispered in Alice’s ear:  ’She says that everyone is talking in Galway of when I shall be a marchioness!’

‘Is that the letter?’ asked Alice innocently.

‘No, you silly, this is a Castle invitation.’

The Brennans and the girl in red looked up.

‘Ah, is it for to-night or to-morrow?’ said the latter.

‘For to-morrow.’

’Now, I wonder if there will be one for me.  Is it to dinner or to the dance?’

‘To dinner.’

‘Ah, really . . . yes, very lucky.’  Her eyes fell, and her look was expressive of her deep disappointment.  A dance ­yes, but a dinner and a dance!  Then she continued:  ’Ah, the Castle treats us all very badly.  I am glad sometimes when I hear the Land League abusing it.  We come up here, and spend all our money on dresses, and we get nothing for it except two State balls, and it is no compliment to ask us to them ­they are obliged to.  But what do you think of my little coat?  It is this that keeps me warm,’ and Miss O’Reilly held out her sealskin for the company to feel the texture.  For the last three weeks she had not failed, on all occasions, to call attention to this garment ­’Signor Parisina had said it was lovely.’  Here she sighed ­Signor Parisina had left the hotel.  ’And I have a new dress coming home ­it is all red ­a cardinal silk ­you know nothing but red suits me!’

‘Is the hall-porter distributing the invitations?’ asked Gladys Brennan.  ‘Did he give you yours?’

‘No, ours was, of course, directed to mamma; I found it in her room.’

‘Then perhaps ­’ Zoe did not finish the sentence, and both sisters rolled up their worsted-work preparatory to going upstairs.

In Dublin, during six weeks of the year, the arrival of these large official envelopes is watched with eagerness.  These envelopes are the balm of Gilead; and the Land League and the hopelessness of matchmaking are merged and lost for a moment in an exquisite thrill of triumph or despair.  An invitation to the Castle means much.  The greyheaded official who takes you down to dinner may bore you, and, at the dance, you may find yourself without a partner; but the delight of asking your friends if you may expect to meet them on such a night, of telling them afterwards of your successes, are the joys of Dublin.  And, armed with their invitation, the Bartons scored heavily over the Scullys and the Goulds, who were only asked to the dance.

‘And what will the dinner be like, mamma?’ asked Olive.

’It will be very grand.  Lord Cowper does things in very good style indeed; and our names will be given in the papers.  But I don’t think it will amuse you, dear.  All the officials have to be asked ­judges, police-officers, etc.  You will probably go down with some old fellow of sixty:  but that can’t be helped.  At the dance, after, we’ll see the Marquis.’

’I told you, mamma, didn’t I, that Barnes wrote that everybody in Galway said he was in love with me, and had proposed?’

’You did, dear; and it does no harm for the report to have got about, for if a thing gets very much spoken of, it forces a man to come to the point.  You will wear your red tulle.  I don’t know that you look better in anything else.’

Whatever Mrs. Barton’s faults may have been, she did her duty, as she conceived it, by her daughter; and during the long dinner, through the leaves of the flowering-plants, she watched her Olive anxiously.  A hundred and twenty people were present.  Mothers and eligible daughters, judges, lords, police-officers, earls, poor-law inspectors, countesses, and Castle officials.  Around the great white-painted, gold-listed walls the table, in the form of a horseshoe, was spread.  In the soothing light of the shaded lamps the white glitter of the piled-up silver danced over the talking faces, and descended in silvery waves into the bosoms of the women.  Salmon and purple-coloured liveries passed quickly; and in the fragrance of soup and the flavours of sherry, in the lascivious pleasing of the waltz tunes that Liddell’s band poured from a top gallery, the goodly company of time-servers, panders, and others forgot their fears of the Land League and the doom that was now waxing to fulness.

To the girls the dinner seemed interminable, but at the ‘private dance’ afterwards those who were known in official circles, or were fortunate enough to meet their friends, amused themselves.  It took place in the Throne-Room.  As the guests arrived they scanned each other narrowly.  People who had known each other from childhood upwards, as they met on the landing, affected a look of surprise:  ’Oh, so you are here?  I wonder how you got your invitation?  Well, I suppose you are better than I took you to be!’ Acquaintances saluted each other more cordially than was their wont:  he or she who had dined at the Castle took his or her place at once among the elite; he or she who had come to dance was henceforth considered worthy of a bow in Grafton Street.  For Dublin is a city without a conviction, without an opinion.  Things are right and wrong according to the dictum of the nearest official.  If it be not absolutely ill-bred to say you think this, or are inclined to take such or such a view, it is certainly more advisable to say that the Attorney-General thinks so, or that on one occasion you heard the State Steward, the Chamberlain, or any other equally distinguished underling, express this or that opinion.  Castle tape is worn in time of mourning and in the time of feasting.  Every gig-man in the Kildare Street wears it in his buttonhole, and the ladies of Merrion Square are found to be gartered with it.

Mrs. Barton’s first thought was to get Olive partners.  Milord and Lord Rosshill were sent hither and thither, and with such good result that the whole evening the beauty was beset with A.D.C.’s.  But the Marquis had danced three times with Violet Scully, and Mrs. Barton vented her anger on poor Alice.  The girl knew no one, nor was there time to introduce her to men.  She was consequently sent off with Milord to see where the Marquis was hiding; and she was commissioned to tell her sister to answer thus when Lord Kilcarney asked for another dance:  ’I am engaged, cher marquis, but for you, of course, I shall have to throw some poor fellow over.’  Mrs. Barton did not know how to play a waiting game.  Her tactics were always to grapple with the enemy.  She was a Hannibal:  she risked all to gain all.  Mrs. Scully, on the contrary, watched the combat from afar ­as Moltke did the German lines when they advanced upon Paris.

The Bartons were not invited to the next private dance, which was annoying, and after long conjecturing as to the enemy that had served them this trick, they resigned themselves to the inevitable, and began to look forward to the State ball given on the following Monday.

As they mounted the stairway Mrs. Barton said: 

’You know we turn to the left this time and enter Patrick’s Hall by this end; the other entrance is blocked up by the dais ­only the three and four season girls stand about the pillars.  There they are drawn up in battle array.’

‘I declare Olive Barton is here!’ whispered the redoubtable Bertha; ’this doesn’t look as if the beaux were coming forward in their hundreds.  It is said that Lord Kilcarney has given her up for Violet Scully.’

‘I’m not a bit surprised,’ said the girl in red; ’and, now I think of it, all the beauties come to the same end.  I’ll just give her a couple more Castle seasons.  It is that that will pull the fine feathers out of her.’

St. Patrick’s Hall was now a huge democratic crush.  All the little sharp glances of the ‘private dances,’ ‘What, you here!’ were dispensed with as useless, for all were within their rights in being at the ball.  They pushed, laughed, danced.  They met as they would have met in Rotten Row, and they took their amusement with the impartiality of pleasure-seekers jigging and drinking in a marketplace on fair-day.  On either side of the Hall there were ascending benches; these were filled with chaperons and debutantes, and over their heads the white-painted, gold-listed walls were hung with garlands of evergreen oak interwoven with the celebrated silver shields, the property of the Cowper family, and in front of the curtains hanging about the dais, the maroon legs of His Excellency, and the teeth and diamonds of Her Excellency, were seen passing to and fro, and up and down to the music of oblivion that Liddell dispensed with a flowing arm.

‘Now aren’t the Castle balls very nice?’ said Bertha; ’and how are you amusing yourself?’

‘Oh, very much indeed,’ replied the poor debutante who had not even a brother to take her for a walk down the room or to the buffet for an ice.

‘And is it true, Bertha,’ asks the fierce aunt ­’you know all the news ­that Mr. Jones has been transferred to another ship and has gone off to the Cape?’

‘Yes, yes,’ replied the girl; ’a nice end to her beau; and after dinnering him up the whole summer, too.’

Alice shuddered.  What were they but snowflakes born to shine for a moment and then to fade, to die, to disappear, to become part of the black, the foul-smelling slough of mud below?  The drama in muslin was again unfolded, and she could read each act; and there was a ‘curtain’ at the end of each.  The first was made of young, hopeful faces, the second of arid solicitation, the third of the bitter, malignant tongues of Bertha Duffy and her friend.  She had begun to experience the worst horrors of a Castle ball.  She was sick of pity for those around her, and her lofty spirit resented the insult that was being offered to her sex.

‘Have you been long here, Miss Barton?’ She looked up.  Harding was by her!  ’I have been looking out for you, but the crowd is so great that it is hard to find anyone.’

‘I think we arrived about a quarter to eleven,’ Alice answered.

Then, after a pause, Harding said:  ‘Will you give me this waltz?’ She assented, and, as they made their way through the dancers, he added:  ’But I believe you do not care about dancing.  If you’d prefer it, we might go for a walk down the room.  Perhaps you’d like an ice?  This is the way to the buffet.’

But Alice and Harding did not stop long there; they were glad to leave the heat of gas, the odour of sauces, the effervescence of the wine, the détonations of champagne, the tumult of laughter, the racing of plates, the heaving of bosoms, the glittering of bodices, for the peace and the pale blue refinement of the long blue drawing-room.  How much of our sentiments and thoughts do we gather from our surroundings; and the shining blue of the turquoise-coloured curtains, the pale dead-blue of the Louis XV. furniture, and the exquisite fragility of the glass chandeliers, the gold mirrors rutilant with the light of some hundreds of tall wax candles, were illustrative of the light dreams and delicate lassitude that filled the souls of the women as they lay back whispering to their partners, the crinolettes lifting the skirts over the edges of the sofas.  Here the conversation seems serious, there it is smiling, and broken by the passing and repassing of a fan.

‘Only four days more of Dublin,’ said Harding; ’I have settled, or rather the fates have settled, that I am to leave next Saturday.’

‘And where are you going? to London?’

’Yes, to London.  I am sorry I am leaving so soon; but it can’t be helped.  I have met many nice people here ­some of whom I shall not be able to forget.’

’You speak as if it were necessary to forget them ­it is surely always better to remember.’

‘I shall remember you.’

‘Do you think you will?’

At this moment only one thing in the world seemed to be of much real importance ­that the man now sitting by her side should not be taken away from her.  To know that he existed, though far from her, would be almost enough ­a sort of beacon-light ­a light she might never reach to, but which would guide her . . . whither?

In no century have men been loved so implicitly by women as in the nineteenth; nor could this be otherwise, for putting aside the fact that the natural wants of love have become a nervous erethism in the struggle that a surplus population of more than two million women has created, there are psychological reasons that to-day more than ever impel women to shrink from the intellectual monotony of their sex, and to view with increasing admiration the male mind; for as the gates of the harem are being broken down, and the gloom of the female mind clears, it becomes certain that woman brings a loftier reverence to the shrine of man than she has done in any past age, seeing, as she now does, in him the incarnation of the freedom of which she is vaguely conscious and which she is perceptibly acquiring.  So sets the main current that is bearing civilization along; but beneath the great feminine tide there is an undercurrent of hatred and revolt.  This is particularly observable in the leaders of the movement; women who in the tumult of their aspirations, and their passionate yearnings towards the new ideal, and the memory of the abasement their sex have been in the past, and are still being in the present, subjected to, forget the laws of life, and with virulent virtue and protest condemn love ­that is to say, love in the sense of sexual intercourse ­and proclaim a higher mission for woman than to be the mother of men:  and an adjuvant, unless corrected by sanative qualities of a high order, is, of course, found in any physical defect.  But as the corporeal and incorporeal hereditaments of Alice Barton and Lady Cecilia Cullen were examined fully in the beginning of this chapter, it is only necessary to here indicate the order of ideas ­the moral atmosphere of the time ­to understand the efflorescence of the two minds, and to realize how curiously representative they are of this last quarter of the nineteenth century.

And it was necessary to make that survey of psychical cause and effect to appreciate the sentiments that actuated Alice in her relationship with Harding.  She loved him, but more through the imagination than the heart.  She knew he was deceiving her, but to her he meant so much that she had not the force of will to cast him off, and abandoned herself to the intellectual sensualism of his society.  It was this, and nothing more.  What her love might have been it is not necessary to analyze; in the present circumstances, it was completely merged in the knowledge that he was to her, light, freedom, and instruction, and that when he left, darkness and ignorance would again close in upon her.  They had not spoken for some moments.  With a cruelty that was peculiar to him, he waited for her to break the silence.

‘I am sorry you are going away; I am afraid we shall never meet again.’

‘Oh yes, we shall,’ he replied:  ’you’ll get married one of these days and come to live in London.’

‘Why should I go to live in London?’

’There are Frenchmen born in England, Englishmen born in France.  Heine was a Frenchman born in Germany ­and you are a Kensingtonian.  I see nothing Irish in you.  Oh, you are very Kensington, and therefore you will ­I do not know when or how, but assuredly as a stream goes to the river and the river to the sea, you will drift to your native place ­Kensington.  But do you know that I have left the hotel?  There were too many people about to do much work, so I took rooms in Molesworth Street ­there I can write and read undisturbed.  You might come and see me.’

’I should like to very much, but I don’t think I could ask mother to come with me; she is so very busy just now.’

’Well, don’t ask your mother to come; you won’t be afraid to come alone?’

‘I am afraid I could not do that.’

‘Why not?  No one will ever know anything about it.’

’Very possibly, but I don’t think it would be a proper thing to do ­I don’t think it would be a right thing to do.’

‘Right!  I thought we had ceased to believe in heaven and hell.’

’Yes; but does that change anything?  There are surely duties that we owe to our people, to our families.  The present ordering of things may be unjust, but, as long as it exists, had we not better live in accordance with it?’

‘A very sensible answer, and I suppose you are right.’

Alice looked at him in astonishment, but she was shaken too intensely in all her feelings to see that he was perfectly sincere, that his answer was that of a man who saw and felt through his intelligence, and not his conscience.

The conversation had come to a pause, and the silence was broken suddenly by whispered words, and the abundant laughter that was seemingly used to hide the emotions that oppressed the speakers.  Finally they sat down quite close to, but hidden from, Alice and Harding by a screen, and through the paper even their breathing was audible.  All the dancers were gone; there was scarcely a white skirt or black coat in the pale blueness of the room.  Evidently the lovers thought they were well out of reach of eavesdroppers.  Alice felt this, but before she could rise to go Fred Scully had said ­

’Now, May, I hope you won’t refuse to let me come and see you in your room to-night.  It would be too cruel if you did.  I’ll steal along the passage; no one will hear, no one will ever know, and I’ll be so very good.  I promise you I will.’

‘Oh, Fred, I’m afraid I can’t trust you; it would be so very wicked.’

’Nothing is wicked when we really love; besides, I only want to talk to you.’

‘You can talk to me here.’

’Yes, but it isn’t the same thing; anyone can talk to you here.  I want to show you a little poem I cut out of a newspaper to-day for you.  I’ll steal along the passage ­no one will ever know.’

’You’ll promise to be very good, and you won’t stop more than five minutes.’

The words were spoken in low, soft tones, exquisitely expressive of the overthrow of reason and the merging of all the senses in the sweet abandonment of passion.

Alice sat unable to move, till at last, awakening with a pained look in her grey eyes, she touched Harding’s hand with hers, and, laying her finger on her lips, she arose.  Their footfalls made no sound on the deep, soft carpet.

‘This is very terrible,’ she murmured, half to herself.

Harding had too much tact to answer; and, taking advantage of the appearance of Violet Scully, who came walking gaily down the room on the Marquis’s arm, he said: 

‘Your friend Miss Scully seems to be in high spirits.’

Violet exchanged smiles with Alice as she passed.  The smile was one of triumph.  She had waltzed three times with the Marquis, and was now going to sit out a set of quadrilles.

‘What a beautiful waltz the Blue Danube is!’ she said, leading her admirer to where the blue fans were numerous.  Upon the glistening piano stood a pot filled with white azaleas; and, in the pauses of the conversation, one heard the glass of the chandeliers tinkling gently to the vibration of the music.

‘It is a beautiful waltz when I am dancing it with you.’

‘I am sure you say that to every girl you dance with.’

‘No, I shouldn’t know how to say so to anyone but you,’ said the little man humbly; and so instinct were the words with truth that the girl, in the violence of her emotion, fancied her heart had ceased to beat.

‘But you haven’t known me a fortnight,’ she answered involuntarily.

’But that doesn’t matter; the moment I saw you, I ­I ­liked you.  It is so easy to know the people we ­like; we know it at once ­at least I do.’

She was more self-possessed than he, but the words ’Am I ­am I going to be a marchioness?’ throbbed like a burning bullet sunk into the very centre of her forehead.  And to maintain her mental equipoise she was forced, though by doing so she felt she was jeopardizing her chances, to coquette with him.  After a long silence she said: 

’Oh, do you think we know at first sight the people we like?  Do you believe in first impressions?’

’My first and last impressions of you are always the same.  All I know is that when you are present all things are bright, beautiful, and cheering, and when you are away I don’t much care what happens.  Now, these Castle balls used to bore me to death last year; I used to go into a back room and fall asleep.  But this year I am as lively as a kitten ­I think I could go on for ever, and the Castle seems to me the most glorious place on earth.  I used to hate it; I was as bad as Parnell, but not for the same reasons, of course.  Now I am only afraid he will have his way, and they’ll shut the whole place up.  Anyhow, even if they do, I shall always look back upon this season as a very happy time.’

’But you do not really think that Parnell will be allowed to have his way?’ said Violet inadvertently.

’I don’t know; I don’t take much interest in politics, but I believe things are going to the bad.  Dublin, they say, is undermined with secret societies, and the murder that was committed the other day in Sackville Street was the punishment they inflict on those whom they suspect of being informers, even remotely.’

’But don’t you think the Government will soon be obliged to step in and put an end to all this kind of thing?’

’I don’t know; I’m afraid they’ll do nothing until we landlords are all ruined.’

Violet’s thin face contracted.  She had introduced a subject that might prevent him from ever proposing to her.  She knew how heavily the Kilcarney estates were mortgaged; and, even now, as she rightly conjectured, the poor little man was inwardly trembling at the folly it had been on his lips to speak.  Three of his immediate ancestors had married penniless girls, and it was well known that another love-match would precipitate the property over that precipice known to every Irish landowner ­the Encumbered Estates Court.  But those dainty temples, so finely shaded with light brown tresses, that delicately moulded head ­delicate as an Indian carven ivory, dispelled all thoughts of his property, and he forgot his duty to marry an heiress.  Violet meanwhile, prompted by her instinct, said the right words: 

‘But things never turn out as well or as badly as we expect them to.’

This facile philosophy went like wine to the little Marquis’s head, and he longed to throw himself at the feet of his goddess and thank her for the balm she had poured upon him.  The gloom of approaching ruin disappeared, and he saw nothing in the world but a white tulle skirt, a thin foot, a thin bosom, and a pair of bright grey eyes.  Vaguely he sought for equivalent words, but loud-talking dancers passed into the room, and, abashed by their stares, the Marquis broke off a flowering branch and said, stammering the while incoherently: 

‘Will you keep this in memory of this evening?’

Violet thrust the flowers into her bosom, and was about to thank him, when an A.D.C. came up and claimed her for the dance.  She told him he was mistaken, that she was engaged; and, taking Lord Kilcarney’s arm, they made their way in silence back to the ball-room.  Violet was satisfied; she felt now very sure of her Marquis, and, as they approached Mrs. Scully, a quick glance said that things were going as satisfactorily as could be desired.  Not daring to trust herself to the gossip of the chaperons, this excellent lady sat apart, maintaining the solitary dignity to which the Galway counter had accustomed her.  She received the Marquis with the same smile as she used to bestow on her best customers, and they talked for a few minutes of the different aspects of the ball-room, of their friends, of things that did not interest them.  Then Violet said winsomely, affecting an accent of command that enchanted him: 

’Now I want you to go and dance with someone else; let me see ­what do you say to Olive Barton?  If you don’t, I shall be in her mother’s black books for the rest of my life.  Now go.  We shall be at home to-morrow; you might come in for tea;’ and, suffocated with secret joy, Lord Kilcarney made his way across the room to Mrs. Barton, who foolishly cancelled a couple of Olive’s engagements, and sent her off to dance with him, whereas wise Violet sat by her mother, refusing all her partners; but, when God Save the Queen was played, she accepted Lord Kilcarney’s arm, and they pressed forward to see the Lord-Lieutenant and Her Excellency pass down the room.

Violet’s eyes feasted on the bowing black coats and light toilettes, and, leaning on her escutcheon, she dreamed vividly of the following year when she would take her place amid all these noble people, and, as high as they, stand a peeress on the dais.