The American Senator
II.12. The Day At Peltry
The Duchess did tell the Duke the whole story about Lord Rufford and Arabella that
night,--as to which it may be said that she also was false. But according to her conscience
there were two ways of telling such a secret. As a matter of course she told her husband
everything. That idle placid dinner-loving man was in truth consulted about each detail of
the house and family; but the secret was told to him with injunctions that he was to say
nothing about it to any one for twenty-four hours. After that the Duchess was of opinion
that he should speak to Lord Rufford. "What could I say to him?" asked the Duke. "I'm
not her father."
"But your brother is so indifferent"
"No doubt. But that gives me no authority. If he does mean to marry the girl he must go
to her father; or it is possible that he might come to me. But if he does not mean it, what
can I do?" He promised, however, that he would think of it.
It was still dark night, or the morning was dark as night, when Arabella got out of bed
and opened her window. The coming of a frost now might ruin her. The absence of it
might give her everything in life that she wanted. Lord Rufford had promised her a
tedious communication through servants as to the state of the weather. She was far too
energetic, far too much in earnest, to wait for that. She opened the window and putting
out her hand she felt a drizzle of rain. And the air, though the damp from it seemed to
chill her all through, was not a frosty air. She stood there a minute so as to be sure and
then retreated to her bed.
Fortune was again favouring her;--but then how would it be if it should turn to hard rain?
In that case Lady Chiltern and the other ladies certainly would not go, and how in such
case should she get herself conveyed to the meet? She would at any rate go down in her
hat and habit and trust that somebody would provide for her. There might be much that
would be disagreeable and difficult, but hardly anything could be worse than the
necessity of telling such lies as those which she had fabricated on the previous afternoon.
She had been much in doubt whether her aunt had or had not believed her. That the belief
was not a thorough belief she was almost certain. But then there was the great fact that
after the story had been told she had been sent out to dinner leaning on Lord Rufford's
arm. Unless her aunt had believed something that would not have taken place. And then
so much of it was true. Surely it would be impossible that he should not propose after
what had occurred! Her aunt was evidently alive to the advantage of the marriage, to the
advantage which would accrue not to her, Arabella, individually, but to the Trefoils
generally. She almost thought that her aunt would not put spokes in her wheel for this
day. She wished now that she had told her aunt that she intended to hunt, so that there
need not be any surprise.