The Hand of Ethelberta
10. Lady Petherwin's House
The next day old Lady Petherwin, who had not accompanied
Ethelberta the night before, came into the morning-room,
with a newspaper in her hand.
'What does this mean, Ethelberta?' she inquired in tones
from which every shade of human expressiveness was
extracted by some awful and imminent mood that lay behind.
She was pointing to a paragraph under the heading of
'Literary Notes,' which contained in a few words the
announcement of Ethelberta's authorship that had more
circumstantially appeared in the Wessex Reflector.
'It means what it says,' said Ethelberta quietly.
'Then it is true?'
'Yes. I must apologize for having kept it such a secret from
you. It was not done in the spirit that you may imagine: it was
merely to avoid disturbing your mind that I did it so privately.'
'But surely you have not written every one of those ribald
Ethelberta looked inclined to exclaim most vehemently
against this; but what she actually did say was, '"Ribald"--
what do you mean by that? I don't think that you are aware
what "ribald" means.'
'I am not sure that I am. As regards some words as well as
some persons, the less you are acquainted with them the
more it is to your credit.'
'I don't quite deserve this, Lady Petherwin.'
'Really, one would imagine that women wrote their books
during those dreams in which people have no moral sense,
to see how improper some, even virtuous, ladies become
when they get into print.'
'I might have done a much more unnatural thing than write
those poems. And perhaps I might have done a much better