The Hand of Ethelberta
22. Ethelberta's House
Ethelberta came indoors one day from the University boat-
race, and sat down, without speaking, beside Picotee, as if
lost in thought.
'Did you enjoy the sight?' said Picotee.
'I scarcely know. We couldn't see at all from Mrs. Belmaine's
carriage, so two of us--very rashly--agreed to get out and be
rowed across to the other side where the people were quite
few. But when the boatman had us in the middle of the river
he declared he couldn't land us on the other side because of
the barges, so there we were in a dreadful state--tossed up
and down like corks upon great waves made by steamers till
I made up my mind for a drowning. Well, at last we got back
again, but couldn't reach the carriage for the crowd; and I
don't know what we should have done if a gentleman hadn't
come--sent by Mrs. Belmaine, who was in a great fright
about us; then he was introduced to me, and--I wonder how
it will end!'
'Was there anything so wonderful in the beginning, then?'
'Yes. One of the coolest and most practised men in London
was ill- mannered towards me from sheer absence of mind--
and could there be higher flattery? When a man of that sort
does not give you the politeness you deserve, it means that
in his heart he is rebelling against another feeling which his
pride suggests that you do not deserve. O, I forgot to say
that he is a Mr. Neigh, a nephew of Mr. Doncastle's, who
lives at ease about Piccadilly and Pall Mall, and has a few
acres somewhere--but I don't know much of him. The worst
of my position now is that I excite this superficial interest in
many people and a deep friendship in nobody. If what all my
supporters feel could be collected into the hearts of two or
three they would love me better than they love themselves;
but now it pervades all and operates in none.'