The Complete Provincial Lady Collection
The Complete Provincial Lady Collection
April 10th.-Entire parish now seething with the affaire Blenkinsop. Old Mrs. B. falls ill, and retires to bed. Barbara bicycles madly up and down between her mother and the garden of theCross and Keys, where C. C. spends much time reading copies of The Times of India and smoking small cigars. We are all asked by Barbara What she Ought to Do, and all give different advice. Deadlock appears to have been reached, when C. C. suddenly announces that he is summoned to London and must have an answer One Way or the Other immediately.
Old Mrs. B.-who has been getting better and taking Port-instantly gets worse again and says that she will not long stand in the way of dear Barbara's happiness.
Period of fearful stress sets in, and Barbara and C. C. say Good-bye in the front sitting-room of the Cross and Keys. They have, says Barbara in tears, parted For Ever, and Life is Over, and will I take the Guides' Meeting for her to-night-which I agree to do.
April 12th.-Return of Robin for the holidays. He has a cold, and, as usual, is short of handkerchiefs. I write to the Matron about this, but have no slightest hope of receiving either handkerchiefs or rational explanation of their disappearance. Robin mentions that he has invited "a boy" to come and stay for a week. I ask, Is he very nice and a great friend of yours? Oh no, says Robin, he is one of the most unpopular boys in the school. And after a moment he adds, That's why. Am touched, and think that this denotes a generous spirit, but am also undeniably rather apprehensive as to possible characteristics of future guest. I repeat the story to Mademoiselle, who-as usual, when I praise Robin-at once remarks: "Madame, notre petite Vicky n'a pas de défauts"-which is neither true nor relevant.
Receive a letter from Mary K. with postscript: Is it true that Barbara Blenkinsop is engaged to be married? and am also asked the same question by Lady B., who looks in on her way to some ducal function on the other side of the county. Have no time in which to enjoy being in the superior position of bestowing information, as Lady B. at once adds that she always advises girls to marry, no matter what the man is like, as any husband is better than none, and there are not nearly enough to go round.
I immediately refer to Rose's collection of distinguished Feminists, giving her to understand that I know them all well and intimately, and have frequently discussed the subject with them. Lady B. waves her hand-(in elegant white kid, new, not cleaned)-and declares That may be all very well, but if they could have got husbands they wouldn't be Feminists. I instantly assert that all have had husbands, and some two or three. This may or may not be true, but have seldom known stronger homicidal impulse. Final straw is added when Lady B. amiably observes that I, at least, have nothing to complain of, as she always thinks Robert such a safe, respectable husband for any woman. Give her briefly to understand that Robert is in reality a compound of Don Juan, the Marquis de Sade, and Dr. Crippen, but that we do not care to let it be known locally. Cannot say whether she is or is not impressed by this, as she declares herself obliged to go, because ducal function "cannot begin without her". All I can think of is to retort that Duchesses-(of whom, in actual fact, I do not know any)-always remind me of Alice in Wonderland, as do white kid gloves of the White Rabbit. Lady B. replies that I am always so well-read, and car moves off leaving her with, as usual, the last word.
Evolve in my own mind merry fantasy in which members of the Royal Family visit the neighbourhood and honour Robert and myself by becoming our guests at luncheon. (Cannot quite fit Howard Fitzs. into this scheme, but gloss over that aspect of the case.) Robert has just been raised to the peerage, and I am, with a slight and gracious inclination of the head, taking precedence of Lady B. at large dinner party,