The Black Robe
IN an upper room of one of the palatial houses which are situated on the
north side of Hyde Park, two ladies sat at breakfast, and gossiped over their
The elder of the two was Lady Loring--still in the prime of life; possessed of
the golden hair and the clear blue eyes, the delicately-florid complexion, and
the freely developed figure, which are among the favorite attractions
popularly associated with the beauty of Englishwomen. Her younger
companion was the unknown lady admired by Major Hynd on the sea passage
from France to England. With hair and eyes of the darkest brown; with a pure
pallor of complexion, only changing to a faint rose tint in moments of
agitation; with a tall graceful figure, incompletely developed in substance
and strength--she presented an almost complete contrast to Lady Loring.
Two more opposite types of beauty it would have been hardly possible to
place at the same table.
The servant brought in the letters of the morning. Lady Loring ran through
her correspondence rapidly, pushed away the letters in a heap, and poured
herself out a second cup of tea.
"Nothing interesting this morning for me," she said. "Any news of your
The young lady handed an open letter to her hostess, with a faint smile. "See
for yourself, Adelaide," she answered, with the tender sweetness of tone
which made her voice irresistibly charming--"and tell me if there were ever
two women so utterly unlike each other as my mother and myself."
Lady Loring ran through the letter, as she had run through her own
correspondence. "Never, dearest Stella, have I enjoyed myself as I do in this
delightful country house--twenty-seven at dinner every day, without including
the neighbors--a little carpet dance every evening--we play billiards, and go
into the smoking room--the hounds meet three times a week--all sorts of
celebrities among the company, famous beauties included--such dresses!
such conversation!--and serious duties, my dear, not neglected--high church
and choral service in the town on Sundays--recitations in the evening from
Paradise Lost, by an amateur elocutionist--oh, you foolish, headstrong child!
why did you make excuses and stay in London, when you might have
accompanied me to this earthly Paradise?--are you really ill?--my love to Lady
Loring--and of course, if you are ill, you must have medical advice--they ask
after you so kindly here--the first dinner bell is ringing, before I have half
done my letter--what am I to wear?--why is my daughter not here to advise
me," etc., etc., etc.