The Black Robe
The Question Of Marriage
As Stella answered Lady Loring, she was smartly tapped on the shoulder by
an eager guest with a fan.
The guest was a very little woman, with twinkling eyes and a perpetual smile.
Nature, corrected by powder and paint, was liber ally displayed in her arms,
her bosom, and the upper part of her back. Such clothes as she wore,
defective perhaps in quantity, were in quality absolutely perfect. More
adorable color, shape, and workmanship never appeared, even in a milliner's
picture-book. Her light hair was dressed with a fringe and ringlets, on the
pattern which the portraits of the time of Charles the Second have made
familiar to us. There was nothing exactly young or exactly old about her
except her voice, which betrayed a faint hoarseness, attributable possibly to
exhaustion produced by untold years of incessant talking. It might be added
that she was as active as a squirrel and as playful as a kitten. But the lady
must be treated with a certain forbearance of tone, for this good reason--she
was Stella's mother.
Stella turned quickly at the tap of the fan. "Mamma!" she exclaimed, "how
you startle me!"
"My dear child," said Mrs. Eyrecourt, "you are constitutionally indolent, and
you want startling. Go into the next room directly. Mr. Romayne is looking for
Stella drew back a step, and eyed her mother in blank surprise. "Is it possible
that you know him?" she asked.
"Mr. Romayne doesn't go into Society, or we should have met long since,"
Mrs. Eyrecourt replied. "He is a striking person--and I noticed him when he
shook hands with you. That was quite enough for me. I have just introduced
myself to him as your mother. He was a little stately and stiff, but most
charming when he knew who I was. I volunteered to find you. He was quite
astonished. I think he took me for your elder sister. Not the least like each
other--are we, Lady Loring? She takes after her poor dear father. He was
constitutionally indolent. My sweet child, rouse yourself. You have drawn a
prize in the great lottery at last. If ever a man was in love, Mr. Romayne is
that man. I am a physiognomist, Lady Loring, and I see the passions in the
face. Oh, Stella, what a property! Vange Abbey. I once drove that way when I
was visiting in the neighborhood. Superb! And another fortune (twelve
thousand a year and a villa at Highgate) since the death of his aunt. And my
daughter may be mistress of this if she only plays her cards properly. What a
compensation after all that we suffered through that monster, Winterfield!"
"Mamma! Pray don't-- !"