From Pretence to Reality.
“Berengaria, what do you generally do with your old court trains? How do you use them up?”
The fire had died down to a dull red glow; only one tiny flame remained, which, flickering to and fro, showed a wide expanse of floor, and two easy-chairs drawn up before the fender, on which reclined vague, feminine figures. The voice which had asked the question was slow and languid, and breathed a wearied indifference to the world in general, which was more than equalled in the tone of the reply—
“Really, don’t you know, I can’t say! I put them away, meaning to use them for cloaks or evening-dresses; but I forget, or they get mislaid, or the maid confiscates them for her own purposes. I expect, as a matter of fact, she makes them up into Sunday blouses.”
“You spoil that woman, dear! You are so absurdly easy-going that she robs you right and left. Do take my advice, and give her notice at once!”
“I couldn’t, darling, even to please you! It bores me so to deal with strangers, and no one else could do my hair like Elsie. If it pleases her to use up a few of my garments, why shouldn’t the poor soul have her pleasure like the rest? That reminds me, Lucille—are you going to the duchess’s ball to-night? I suppose it is superfluous to ask, since no entertainment is complete without you nowadays.”
“Oh, I suppose so! If I am not too fagged, that is to say. But I have a dinner first, and two At-homes, and people make such a fuss if you don’t put in an appearance. One hardly feels up to dancing after struggling through two of the asphyxiating mobs dignified by the name of entertainments; still, I promised Arthur the cotillion, and he will be desolated if I play him false; and I have a new frock for the occasion which is really rather a dream. Silver tissue over satin, and shoulder-straps of diamonds. I had them reset on purpose. I spend quite a fortune on resetting jewels nowadays; but one must be original, or die!”
“My dear, you will be too bewitching! Lord Arthur will be more desperate than ever. My poor little self will be nowhere beside you! I’m going to be sweet and simple in chiffon and pearls. Paquin made the gown. Don’t ask what it cost! I tore up the bill and threw it in the fire. Really, don’t you know, it made me quite depressed! So perishable, too! I expect I shall be in rags before the evening is over. But it’s quite sweet at present—all frilly-willys from top to toe. I do love to be fluffy and feminine, and my pearls really are unique! The princess examined them quite carefully when I met her last winter, and said she had rarely seen finer specimens. I wouldn’t wear them at all unless they were good. I cannot endure inferior jewels!”
The speaker lolled still more luxuriously in her chair, then started forward, as the door opened with a bang, and a harsh voice accosted her by name—
“Miss Mollie, your mother wants to know if you have finished darning the socks? She is putting away the clean clothes, and wants to sort them with the rest.”
The Lady Lucille—otherwise Mollie Farrell, the penniless daughter of an impoverished house—jumped up from her chair, and clasped her hands in dismay....