Art of Steel
It is an August morning. It is an old English manor-house. There is a breakfast-room hung with old gilded leather of the times of the Stuarts; it has oak furniture of the same period; it has leaded lattices with stained glass in some of their frames, and the motto of the house in old French, "J'ay bon vouloir," emblazoned there with the crest of a heron resting in a crown. Thence, windows open on to a green, quaint, lovely garden, which was laid out by Monsieur Beaumont when he planned the gardens of Hampton Court. There are clipped yew-tree walks and arbors and fantastic forms; there are stone terraces and steps like those of Haddon, and there are peacocks which pace and perch upon them; there are beds full of all the flowers which blossomed in the England of the Stuarts, and birds dart and butterflies pass above them; there are huge old trees, cedars, lime, hornbeam; beyond the gardens there are the woods and grassy lawns of the home park. The place is called Surrenden Court, and is one of the houses of George, Earl of Usk, -his favorite house in what pastoral people call autumn, and what he calls the shooting season.
No! No! she was not going to gush!-Not even though there was nothing in the room at this moment to stand up afterward before her as dumb witness to a moment's possible weakness. Less than nothing in fact: space might have spoken and recalled that moment . . . infinite nothingness might at some future time have brought back the memory of it . . . but these dumb, impassive objects! . . . the fountain pen between her fingers! The dull, uninteresting hotel furniture covered in red velvet-an uninviting red that repelled dreaminess and peace! The ormolu clock which had ceased long ago to mark the passage of time, wearied-as it no doubt was, poor thing-by the monotonous burden of a bronze Psyche gazing on her shiny brown charms, in an utterly blank and unreflective bronze mirror, while obviously bemoaning the fracture of one of her smooth bronze thighs! Indeed Louisa might well have given way to that overmastering feeling of excitement before all these things. They would neither see nor hear. They would never deride, for they could never remember. But a wood fire crackled on the small hearth . . . and . . . and those citron-coloured carnations were favourite flowers of his . . . and his picture did stand on the top of that ugly little Louis Philippe bureau . . . No! No! it would never do to gush, for these things would see . . . and, though they might not remember, they would remind. And Louisa counted herself one of the strong ones of this earth. Just think of her name. Have you ever known a Louisa who gushed? who called herself the happiest woman on earth? who thought of a man-just an ordinary man, mind you-as the best, the handsomest, the truest, the most perfect hero of romance that ever threw a radiance over the entire prosy world of the twentieth century? Louisas, believe me, do no such things. The Mays and the Floras, the Lady Barbaras and Lady Edithas, look beatific and charming when, clasping their lily-white hands together and raising violet eyes to the patterned ceiling paper above them, they exclaim: "Oh, my hero and my king!" But Louisas would only look ridiculous if they behaved like that . . . Louisa Harris, too! . . . Louisa, the eldest of three sisters, the daughter of a wealthy English gentleman with a fine estate in Kent, an assured position, no troubles, no cares, nothing in her life to make it sad, or sordid or interesting . . . Louisa Harris and romance! . . . Why, she was not even pretty. She had neither violet eyes nor hair of ruddy gold. The latter was brown and the former were gray. . . . How could romance come in the way of gray eyes, and of a girl named Louisa? Can you conceive, for instance, one of those adorable detrimentals of low degree and empty pocket who have a way of arousing love in the hearts of the beautiful daughters of irascible millionaires, can you conceive such an interesting personage, I say, falling in love with Louisa Harris? I confess that I cannot. To begin with, dear, kind Squire Harris was not altogether a millionaire, and not at all irascible, and penniless owners of romantic personalities were not on his visiting list.
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