The Way We Live Now HTML version

Lady Pomona's Dinner Party
Roger Carbury's half-formed plan of keeping Henrietta at home while Lady Carbury and
Sir Felix went to dine at Caversham fell to the ground. It was to be carried out only in the
event of Hetta's yielding to his prayer. But he had in fact not made a prayer, and Hetta
had certainly yielded nothing. When the evening came, Lady Carbury started with her
son and daughter, and Roger was left alone. In the ordinary course of his life he was used
to solitude. During the greater part of the year he would eat and drink and live without
companionship; so that there was to him nothing peculiarly sad in this desertion. But on
the present occasion he could not prevent himself from dwelling on the loneliness of his
lot in life. These cousins of his who were his guests cared nothing for him. Lady Carbury
had come to his house simply that it might be useful to her; Sir Felix did not pretend to
treat him with even ordinary courtesy; and Hetta herself, though she was soft to him and
gracious, was soft and gracious through pity rather than love. On this day he had, in truth,
asked her for nothing; but he had almost brought himself to think that she might give all
that he wanted without asking. And yet, when he told her of the greatness of his love, and
of its endurance, she was simply silent. When the carriage taking them to dinner went
away down the road, he sat on the parapet of the bridge in front of the house listening to
the sound of the horses' feet, and telling himself that there was nothing left for him in life.
If ever one man had been good to another, he had been good to Paul Montague, and now
Paul Montague was robbing him of everything he valued in the world. His thoughts were
not logical, nor was his mind exact. The more he considered it, the stronger was his
inward condemnation of his friend. He had never mentioned to any one the services he
had rendered to Montague. In speaking of him to Hetta he had alluded only to the
affection which had existed between them. But he felt that because of those services his
friend Montague had owed it to him not to fall in love with the girl he loved; and he
thought that if, unfortunately, this had happened unawares, Montague should have retired
as soon as he learned the truth. He could not bring himself to forgive his friend, even
though Hetta had assured him that his friend had never spoken to her of love. He was sore
all over, and it was Paul Montague who made him sore. Had there been no such man at
Carbury when Hetta came there, Hetta might now have been mistress of the house. He sat
there till the servant came to tell him that his dinner was on the table. Then he crept in
and ate so that the man might not see his sorrow; and, after dinner, he sat with a book in
his hand seeming to read. 'But he read not a word, for his mind was, fixed altogether on
his cousin Hetta. 'What a poor creature a man is,' he said to himself, 'who is not
sufficiently his own master to get over a feeling like this.'
At Caversham there was a very grand party as, grand almost as a dinner party can be in
the country. There were the Earl and Countess of Loddon and Lady Jane Pewet from
Loddon Park, and the bishop and his wife, and the Hepworths. These, with the Carburys
and the parson's family, and the people staying in the house, made twenty-four at the
dinner table. As there were fourteen ladies and only ten men, the banquet can hardly be
said to have been very well arranged. But those things cannot be done in the country with
the exactness which the appliances of London make easy; and then the Longestaffes,