Te Aroha News, Rōrahi VI, Putanga 369, 18 Haratua 1889, Page 3
GOOD SOCIETY. The London season was at its height. The thoroughfares were thronged and parks crammed, whilst from one sunrise to another carriages rolled aloner the busy streets. Mr Denver's princely mansion in Grosvenor Square is even more brilliantly illuminated than usual for to-night he has entertained at dinner a large and select circle -of titled acquaintances, whose names will duly appear in the columns of those society papers devoted to the movementsof the Upper Ten. The last guest has wished a smiling jjoodbye, the last be-diamonded dowager has been escorted to the outer hall and carefully muffled up in her wraps and now the present inmate 3 of the household, comprising Mr Denver, Dulcie, Marian and Ethel, find themselves left alone in the large sumptuously furnished drawingroom. They had still some little time to spare before going on to a grand evening party at Lady Pushington's, which that enterprising and ambitious lady had at last induced a royal prince and princess to honour with their' august presence. Invitations to -the soiree had been eagerly sought for, occasioning muchheart-burning, whilst Mr Denver felt very proud ab having, amongst the earliest recipients, received a card for himself and ladies. He had now beenlocatedtwoorthreemonthsintown, but since his departure from Brabazon his relations with his wife were unfortunately by no means improved. Of late, indeed, he had told himaelf repeatedly that he was disappointed in her. She was as gentle, as submissive, and as beautiful asever but. already her beauty. probably from., daily association had lost much of its power to fascinate, seeming in his eyes to lack the essential quality of vivacity, just as her conversation was deficient in point and brilliancy. In short, he was rapidly becoming more and more convinced that to succeed in London society i.e., to render yourself the ad-miration of the men, .the envy of the women, and the talked-of of the general public, to have your photograph in shop windows, and your frocks chronicled in the newspapers dash and piquancy, combined with a soicpgon of aristocratic fastness, were absolutely indispensable. The quiet ones went to the wall in tho great social competition peoule in spite of their frivolity, liked laughter and vapid chatter, preferring the trickling of a running stream to
the silent pool .whose depths they were incapable of fathoming. And, curiously enough, Ethel the faults of whose character Mr Denver had at one time gauged pretty aceui'ately now found increasing lavour in his eyes. He had invited Marian and herself up to spend the season, partly because he was fond of young ladies' society —like a sultan in his harem, liking to be surrounded by pretty,'.youthful faces, more especially when r thuir owners were willing to smile at his beck and call and partly on account of Dulcie. She had been far from strong lately, and Marian, he thought, would do nicely to keep her company, whilst Ethel aimused him. And these provisions tur.ne'd out remarkably correct for Ethel had not been above ten days in the house before she succeeded in ingratiating herself into the good graces of its master. Once having done this, she quickly began to assume the reigns of authority, ordering, arranging, and deciding, irrespectively of Dulcie, until the letter's position as mistress became almost a sinecure, and she was fast being reduced to a cipher in the establishment. Ethel's wonderful beauty soon brought her into favour. She wis essentially ot the world worldly, and had at last found a congenial sphere in which to shine. Mr Denver, directly he perceived she was an object of attraction, and procured invitations through the fashionable young men with whom she flirted, suddenly discovered he was a most fortunate individual in possessing so handsome and attractive a sister-in-law, and, in his turn, paid her such marked civility that his attentions were freely commented upon, and Ethel was frequently taken for his wife. Indeed, the supposition waa not an unnatural one, since Dulcie, owing to the delicacy of her health, was unable to appear much in public. Therefore Ethel daily rode in the Row the beautiful park hack that had been purchased for her sister, wearing" an exquisitely-fitting habit presented by her amiable relative. Now there are certain things in this world so artfully managed that although we may feel and recognise their results it is difficult to lay hold of any particular caase uf complaint. Dulcie found herself in this predicament. She knew that Ethel examined her letters, took stock of everyone who came to or went from the house, shoved her into the background as if she were a nobody, made sneering remarks and covert insinuations, incensed the servants, and invariably sided with Mr Denver, however wrong he might be and yet there was no individual act she could single out and say boldly, Ethel, you have done so andso. You are responsible for this, that, or the other. I wish you wouldn't make mischief between Dennis and me.' Her sister's influence was too sly and underhand to admit of any such plain-spokenness. And as the weeks went by, scarcely a day passed- without Dulcie's experiencing some insult or neglect. Mr Denver and Ethel were always together, riding, driving, walking,'and even during meals'aU his conversation was invariably addressed to her, just as if his wife and Marian were complete nonentities. Ib never entered Dulcie's head to feel jealous of her sister. Jealousy is a species of misplaced affection that seldom exists where love is wanting. Butatthesametime she could not help realising with inci'easing keenness that, as ostensible mistress of the houße, she was craftily, though surely, being ousted fr.om her true position. Pei'haps her delicate health was partly accountable for this extreme sensitiveness, making her doubly alive to the absence of those, petits soins— those nameless little acts of forethought which insensibly touch a woman's heart, filling it with gratitude and affecHon. Anyhow, for months past, she had struggled against a terrible fit of depression, an ever-increasing weariness and disgust of life that had overtaken her, rendering her sadly unfit for the onerous duties and festivities of a London season. To-night, having just entertained some five and twenty guests at dinner, nearly all of whom were comparative strangers, she looked as wnite as a lily, whilst the great dark eyes seeming lai'ger now than in the olden days, -vhen the cheeks were fresh and rounded 1 wore a pathetic, stag-like expression, touching to behold in one so young. Men who themselves had lived and suffered were wont to aver that a single glance from the beautiful Mrs Denver for she had already earned that distinction-r-wenb straight to their hearts. She don't seem quite like other women, you know,' they would. say, apologetically, and then turn away and pick out the friskiest matron they could find, probably as an antidote. But such distant homage was not pronounced enough to satisfy Mr Denver's i aspirations. When hit wife entered a room he would like to have seen every man in ib fluttering to her side, as a moth flutters towards a candle. He was standing now, staring dissatisn'erlly at his wife's drooping figure. 1 What's the matter, Dennis she asked ■nervously, guessing instinctively that some thing was amiss. Are you not pleased No,' he answered, I can't say that I am, particularly. Here are we going to one of the best houses in London, and instead of putting on a decent garment you wear thai' dowdy, black thing which any little counti'y solicitor's wife, up for a week's holiday, might appear in.' Don't jyou like it, Dennis Have i pot just said as much ?It makes you look perfectly ghostly more like a White turnip, with two black coals for eyes, than like a woman. 5 Ethel greeted this coarse remark with ostentatious mirth, whil&t Dulcie turned her head away in silence, so that neither should perceive the rising tears. Long a^o she had given up all attempts to bandy useless words as undignified, and by degrees was becoming accustomed to brutal observations having no better or higher object than that of unnecessarily inflicting pain. Dennis,' she said, appealingly, after a slight pause, won't you let me off going to Lady Pushineton's to-night? I feel so terribly tired.' Only to look at her was sufficient verification of the statement but Mr Denver had set his heart on his wife being present at this said party, and the mere idea of her staying at home filled him with annoyance. His desire that together they ,shxmld'meefc the Royalties overbore every kindlier or more prudential consideration. Before" his eyes floated vague bub delicious visions of these exalted personages, attracted by Dulcie's beauty, seeking'an introduction which might give birth to the very highest social opportunities in the future. •That's jusb like you,' he responded, irritably. All the very best people in London are invited to-night, the cremc dela creme of society, and y" e t> instead of rejoicing at such a' splendid chance of getting on 1 iri the world and making fresh acquaintances, you say you'd rather stay at' home. Upon my soul, Dulcie, I can't understandyou one bit. Nine wemen out of ten would give their eyes to go to such an entertainment.' I suppose I am the unappreciative tenth, then,' ehe said, with a weary sigh. I only wish that I did resemble the majority, and could find pleasure in the same things.' Nonsense, Dulcie,' put in Ethel, pertly j
♦I honestly believe nothing affords you* greater pleasure than posing as a victim.' Dulcie's pale face suddenly flamed intocolour. She had not yet succeeded in schooling herself so entirely as to be proof against her sister's sarcasm?. Mr Denver testified his approbation of the above sentiment by giving vent to an audible chuckle. 4By Jove he ejaculated, in tones of genuine admiration, you're a smart girl, Ethel, and just the very wife for a rich man like myself, who is fond of society She shrugged her creamy shoulders, with flippant playfulness. 'It strikes me, oh! brother-in-law of mine, that your discovery comes somewhat tardily. By-the-way, have you any idea what the time is He looked ab his watch, obedient to her slightest wish. Half-past eleven. We ought to start in about ten minutes from now, for etiquette, 1 believe, demands our arrival before Royalty appears. I say, Dtilcie,' turning to his .wife, 'for gracious- sake pop upstnirs, there's a good girl, and put on a decent gown. You'll have time it you look sharp, 'and it's quite out of .the question your going to Lady Pushington's as you are.' I She rose from her seat with dreary submission. Her plea of fatigue was evidently unsuccessful, and she was too proud to descend to further entreaty. If she could nob love she could at least obey. What shall I wear she asked indifferently. 'Have you any choice No, nothing particular. Put on some nice pretty frock, like the one Ethel has got on,' glancing approvingly ab the girl's dim figure, swan-like throat, and dusky tre&ses, that were admirably set off by a diaphanous cloud ot maize tulle. Surely you've got lots of smart clothee.' She made as much haste as possible, and shortly reappeared arrayed in an exquisite Parisian costume of white satin embroidered in silver, with a splendid coronet of diamonds on her head, and the same costly jewels flashing lound her neck and arms. 1 1 hope my toilette meets with your approval,' she said, marching straight up to the sofa, on which her husband was sitting close to Ethel, toying with a bouqiiet he had that afternoon purchased in Covenb Garden. 'Am I smart enough now to please your fastidious taste She was conscious, as she uttered the words, of looking her best, and that consciousness inspired ber as it does every woman with courage. She intended for this one evening to show that when she chose to exert herself, she could compare not unfavourably with Ethel. Mr Denver gazed at his wife for some time in critical silence. 'Yes,' he said at last, 'lean pass you, and shall feel proud of my two ladies. And now let's be off at once.' Dulcie kissed Marian, and wished her good-night.