3. God Made The Woman For The Man
"Oh, do stop and take me to tea in that lovely confectioner's shop!" cries a pleading voice, while an eager hand flourishes a parasol which pokes the driver in the back. "Oh, I wish I could speak the horrid language."
"But, my dear," replies the man at her side, "you have only just had your coffee and unlimited bon-bons. I want to show you Brussels thoroughly. It is a most interesting town."
Eleanor Roche sighs. To her uncultivated mind the magnificent Hotel de Ville, the Roman Catholic Churches, galleries, picturesque towers, gables, and doorways of ancient buildings, hold but little charm.
She is madly excited about the bonnet and boot shops, the lace fans and collars, chocolates, and ice creams.
Philip is bent on enlarging his wife's mind, and hopes to awake in her his fervent love for art. Surely in time she will learn to appreciate it. At present she is decidedly slow of comprehension. Though looking lovelier than ever in her new Parisian toilettes, Eleanor disappoints him. She talks perpetually of her appearance, dresses three or four times a day, revels in admiring glances from male tourists, and displays strange apathy when sight-seeing.
"How ugly the foreign women are!" exclaims Eleanor, "so short, plump, and round. Why, even our miller's daughters could lick them into fits."
Her slang jars on him; but Eleanor is so sublimely unconscious of offence and childishly contented with herself, that he has not the heart to murmur.
Besides, even the touch of her small hand thrills him with the old pleasure.
She surveys her feet admiringly.
"Did you ever see such lovely shoes? The points are like needles. It would be wicked to walk in them. Oh, dear, where are we stopping now?"
"At the Church of St. Gudule. You must see it before we go. The pulpit is wonderful."
Eleanor gathers up her silken skirts and steps lightly to the pavement.
She thinks this part of the honeymoon very dry, when there are cafés, music, and shops at hand.
"Isn't the carving beautiful?" murmurs her husband, examining the pulpit with fresh interest, from the fact that Eleanor is visiting his favourite places.
"You see, dear," taking her arm, "it is supported on the Tree of Knowledge and of Life. Adam and Eve are being driven out of Paradise on one side by the Angel, while Death is gliding round with his dart."
"Ugh!" says Eleanor, shivering slightly, "what a nasty subject to choose. If you had been Adam at Copthorne, and thought you would gain anything by eating our apples, wouldn't you have devoured the lot?--that is to say, if I, as Eve, had been unselfish enough to leave any!"
She laughs at her own humour.
"It is scarcely a subject to jest upon," whispers Philip.
Eleanor's bright eyes sadden instinctively.
How has she displeased him?
"It is a marvellous piece of workmanship," he murmurs, as they move away.
He wonders if Eleanor, who has never even heard of "Rubens," feels her ignorance; but his thought is unconsciously answered by her careless, yet happy, air when he imparts his wisdom. Her great, expressive eyes seem to say: "I have no doubt it is very interesting to you, but I have so much else to think of."
Having escaped from the bewildering pulpit out into the fresh air, her spirits rise, while her fancy turns to the tempting pastry in the shop windows.
She catches sight of her face and form in a mirror as they pass to one of the small round tables, ordering coffee and cakes. Her heart kindles with love for her own beautiful being. It is not actual conceit, but genuine unbiassed admiration for Mother Nature's handiwork.
A young Englishman of insipid appearance is seated opposite, enjoying the mild pleasure of an ice à la panache
. He puts up his eyeglass and stares at Eleanor. She returns the look frankly, taking in his narrow forehead, ginger hair, and elongated neck.
"Newly married," thinks the man, noting the fresh lustre of her jewellery.
"English," mentally ejaculates Eleanor, eyeing his scrupulously clean linen.
"A woman to be loved and hated in the same breath," so runs his masculine meditation. "Tantalising open eyes, without a blush in them, and a face like the bust of Clytie."
"What is engrossing your attention, dearest?" whispers Philip, seeing her pre-occupied.
"I am wondering if that young man's mother ever thought him handsome. The nose might have been promising once, before the last half inch grew, and his hair was gold when she first cut his ringlets."
Philip looks at the stranger's dissipated eyes, and despite the apparent innocence which the hallowing presence of a guileless ice-cream will temporarily shed over Lothario himself, sees the general demoralisation that has set in.
"He is young to be blunted and coarsened," thinks Philip. Annoyed by the impudent stare which possibly amuses rather than displeases his wife, he tells Eleanor she has had enough, and rises to signify departure. Lothario is still covering Clytie with his gaze. She pauses to caress a lean black cat with hungry eyes, that has crept in unobserved from the street. Hurriedly emptying a jug of cream in her saucer, Eleanor is about to present it to the plaintiff stranger. Tom, however, scents the cream, springs on his hind legs, and upsets the liquid over her Parisian skirt.
The insipid young man starts forward, for Philip is paying at the counter, and kneels at her feet to repair the damage with his handkerchief.
Mrs. Roche stands watching helplessly, her lips curving into smiles.
"You are very kind," she murmurs, as his eyeglass falls amongst her chiffons. "The cat was hungry, and now he won't get anything. Philip will not stay and----"
She breaks off shortly, for her husband has turned and discovered the youth on his knees before Eleanor, who, as he rises, slips his card into her hand.
"I will see the cat is fed," he whispers.
She gives him a grateful glance, and explaining the incident to Philip, hurries away, with the stranger's card hidden in her pale kid glove.
When she is back in the hotel, Eleanor looks at the name.
HERBERT DALLISON. Junior Conservative Club.
"I don't suppose we shall ever meet again," she says to herself reflectively. "But he must so kindhearted, or he wouldn't have troubled about my dress or the cat."
Though Eleanor Roche is so in love with her own lustrous eyes, she does not yet realise how much goodwill they can win her. She has yet to learn that the dangerous gift of a subtle charm may make or mar its owner's life.
"We have only one more day here," says Philip, who had mapped out their tour, "and I want you to see 'Waterloo,' dearest."
"Is it amusing?" asks Eleanor.
"Well, interesting is more the word,"
"Then I probably shall not care for it. The places you call interesting are so dull!"
However, Philip carries out his plan, and takes her to the little straggling village of Brane l'Alleud. The churchyard full of English graves and monuments quite distresses Eleanor.
"To think of all these brave men dying nobly for their country, and then being buried in this out-of-the-way place!" she exclaims.
"I suppose it is all the same to them," replies Philip.
"But I don't like the idea, nor am I fond of the sight of graves, and the thought of death. Oh, Philip! what is that fat old man saying to you?"
"He wants to show us a grave over the Marquis of Anglesea's leg, and is the proud possessor of the house where it was amputated. It was buried in a polished coffin, and has a monument erected to its memory. But who are you eyeing so intently, Eleanor?" turning as he speaks. "Why! If it isn't that impudent young puppy again, who mopped up the milk!"
"Cream, Philip, cream."
"Well! don't look at him, darling," putting his arm through hers to draw her gently away. "We will escape from the voluble Belgian with the leg story. He wants to show us the boot that once cased the foot. Such a fuss about nothing!"
Eleanor returns to the carriage, but, as they drive to the huge mound with the Belgic Lion on the summit, she is conscious that Herbert Dallison is following.
For the rest of the day he always seems only a yard from her, as they examine the red walls pitted by bullets, and wander round the Museum. He has a party of friends with him--Eleanor can hear them chaffing the guide, and ridiculing everything. Their absurd remarks amuse her, from time to time she laughs for no apparent reason.
At last she owns to fatigue, and Philip leaves her, while he goes in search of their carriage.
"Would you like some relics?" says a voice at her elbow.
Eleanor knows who is speaking before she looks round. Herbert Dallison stands besides her, holding out a French forage cap, a bullet, and a rusty sword broken off in the middle.
She seizes them delightedly.
"Thank you, thank you, but please go away," as Philip's figure looms in sight.
She does not need to ask twice. Herbert Dallison seems to vanish into thin air.
"You silly child!" cries Philip laughingly, "to spend your money on those so-called 'relics' manufactured at Birmingham or Brussels to beguile innocent tourists. A fresh crop of bullets and swords, I'm told, is sown every year, that you may have the pleasure of seeing them turned up yourself."
Eleanor smiles a little nervously. She is beginning to wish she had not taken the presents. What would Philip say if he knew?
He helps her into the carriage with her spoil, the giver following with his party in the rear.
Eleanor becomes momentarily more conscience-stricken; the sight of the "relics" are hateful to her.
"I want to throw all this rubbish away," she cries at last. "It will only be a worry to me."
"Very true," replies her husband.
"I know," a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "Let me shy them out on the road, and someone will think they have discovered real curiosities."
She stands up in childish glee, casting back a mocking smile at Herbert Dallison. One by one she flings his gifts from her, with an expressive look signifying second thoughts are best. He has taken his friends into his confidence, and is horrified at the hilarious laughter which breaks from them at Eleanor's act.
"Hang it all," he mutters, "it's beastly ungrateful; can't buy that sort of rot for nothing."
But he is too proud to stop and recover his property; so a bullet, a cap, and a sword are left by the wayside like the seed that was not good, to pass into strange hands.
"Moral," cries Bertie's pal, slapping him on the back, "don't interfere with honeymoon couples, they're abominably slow. Stick to widows, old man, for the future."
At the word "widow" Bertie actually blushes. There is more sting in this light chaff than his comrades suppose, for the vision of a villa at Richmond with its dark-haired divinity rises between the dust of the two carriages, soothing his ruffled feelings and drowning Eleanor's fair form in the seas of forgetfulness.
The honeymoon slips by pleasantly.
Mrs. Roche enjoys the long railway journeys above everything, which astonishes Philip, who thinks them the worst part of the trip.
"You see I so seldom go in trains," Eleanor says when he expresses surprise. "I love to listen to the whizz of the engine, and see the rushing, panting people on the stations worrying the grand officials in their smart uniforms. Then it is so nice to be first-class, and lean back on the cushions and cock up your feet if you wish. Besides, it is awfully jolly just now to look out of the window and think."
"What do you think of?" asks her husband.
"All the beautiful presents you have given me, and the lovely house on the terrace at Richmond where I am to live."
The pleasure she takes in little things is a daily marvel to Philip. In the train, for instance, every moment she opens her dressing-bag, to shake scent from a silver bottle over her hands or peep in a dainty glass at her complexion. Each time they stop something fresh must be bought--a bunch of grapes, a bag of red plums, flowers, and unwholesome-looking tarts.
She actually purchases a tumbler of lager beer, drinking it with relish, declaring it quite home-like and jolly.
Eleanor never worries about anything. Should the train be missed or the luggage stray, it is all the same to her. An hour's wait on a dull little platform is never grumbled at. "We'll just have to sit and whistle," she declares, and amuses herself mimicking the porters, which she succeeds in doing wonderfully well, while Philip, in spite of numerous eccentricities, forgives her everything, and worships her devotedly.
"Alas! that we have to return," he sighs, as they glide in a small boat on the Lake of Geneva. "I must be back in the city this week."
"And you will make me lots
of money?" expanding her eyes and showing her beautiful teeth.
"Won't you be contented with a little?"
"Oh, no. I want to entertain. You must bring your friends from London, and the house you have so long neglected shall be packed with guests."
"We'll see about that," says Philip, not liking to damp her ardour. "YOU must remember, though, that I am not a walking gold mine, little wife."
"Can the boatman understand what we say?"
"He only knows a smattering of English. What a strong, steady stroke he pulls!"
Eleanor leans over the side, gazing down the clear depths. "I never saw such wonderful water," she says, "you can see ever so far below. How amusing it would be to drop pebbles in and watch them sink."
"Here is a stray one on the seat," said Philip, throwing it overboard. Eleanor watches the descent with sparkling eyes.
"It is still in sight," she cries, "whirling through the water! My word! how clear the lake is. I must see it again."
She glances round, but there are no more stones.
Before Philip has time to stop her she opens her purse and drops a coin over the side of the boat.
"Look! there it goes," laughing lightly. "Isn't it fascinating?"
"Look! there it goes."
The rower has stopped, and with eager, covetous eyes watches the wilful waste. Those coins would mean bread to him and his children, while she throws them to feed the deep! Another and yet another fall from her slim hands.
Philip has turned quite pale with auger.
"Stop! Eleanor," he says, sternly, "you do not realise what you are doing. It is wicked."
But she shrugs her shoulders and drops another.
"Do you hear what I say?" he mutters, grasping her wrist. "I'll have no more of this. Look at that poor fellow's eyes; why, he would like to murder you. It is enough to call down the judgment of Heaven upon us."
"Just one more, only five centimes, Philip, and the man shall have all that is left in my purse."
"No," he replies, still retaining her arm in an iron grip.
"Don't; you hurt me."
He removes his hand, and with a defiant look Eleanor flings the coin into the lake, watching it whirl below with redoubled interest.
"Gott!" mutters the boatman under his breath, "what tevilry."
Then, without a sign of shame, Eleanor passes a handful of money to the sunburnt fellow, casting a smile of ineffable sweetness upon him.
"For the little ones," she says.
But Philip's brow is still black.
"It was wicked," he repeats.
Eleanor only laughs.
"You deserve to want in the future."
"The future," she replies lightly, "who thinks of the future? It may be dark enough to frighten the very life out of you--a thing to make you scream----"
Philip shudders. Storm clouds are gathering overhead. This is the last day of his honeymoon.