The American Senator HTML version

II.9. Mistletoe
When Arabella Trefoil started from London for Mistletoe, with no companion but her
own maid, she had given more serious consideration to her visit than she had probably
ever paid to any matter up to that time. She had often been much in earnest but never so
much in earnest as now. Those other men had perhaps been worthy, worthy as far as her
ideas went of worth, but none of them so worthy as this man. Everything was there if she
could only get it;--money, rank, fashion, and an appetite for pleasure. And he was
handsome too, and good-humoured, though these qualities told less with her than the
others. And now she was to meet him in the house of her great relations,--in a position in
which her rank and her fashion would seem to be equal to his own. And she would meet
him with the remembrance fresh in his mind as in her own of those passages of love at
Rufford. It would be impossible that he should even seem to forget them. The most that
she could expect would be four or five days of his company, and she knew that she must
be upon her mettle. She must do more now than she had ever attempted before. She must
scruple at nothing that might bind him. She would be in the house of her uncle and that
uncle a duke, and she thought that those facts might help to quell him. And she would be
there without her mother, who was so often a heavy incubus on her shoulders. She
thought of it all, and made her plans carefully and even painfully. She would be at any
rate two days in the house before his arrival. During that time she would curry favour
with her uncle by all her arts, and would if possible reconcile herself to her aunt. She
thought once of taking her aunt into her full confidence and balanced the matter much in
her mind. The Duchess, she knew, was afraid of her,--or rather afraid of the relationship,
and would of course be pleased to have all fears set at rest by such an alliance. But her
aunt was a woman who had never suffered hardships, whose own marriage had been
easily arranged, and whose two daughters had been pleasantly married before they were
twenty years old. She had had no experience of feminine difficulties, and would have no
mercy for such labours as those to which her less fortunate niece was driven. It would
have been a great thing to have the cordial co-operation of her aunt; but she could not
venture to ask for it.
She had stretched her means and her credit to the utmost in regard to her wardrobe, and
was aware that she had never been so well equipped since those early days of her career
in which her father and mother had thought that her beauty, assisted by a generous
expenditure, would serve to dispose of her without delay. A generous expenditure may be
incurred once even by poor people, but cannot possibly be maintained over a dozen years.
Now she had taken the matter into her own hands and had done that which would be
ruinous if not successful. She was venturing her all upon the die,--with the prospect of
drowning herself on the way out to Patagonia should the chances of the game go against
her. She forgot nothing. She could hardly hope for more than one day's hunting and yet
that had been provided for as though she were going to ride with the hounds through all
the remainder of the season.