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   Chapter 13 AT MRS. OGILVIE'S

The Twelfth Hour By Ada Leverson Characters: 12592

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"I know what's the matter with you, Vera," said Felicity decidedly, as she sat down in her friend's flat in Cadogan Place. "It's that you haven't got the personal note!"

"I?" said Vera indignantly.

Mrs. Ogilvie was a very pretty dark woman of about thirty, who minimised her good looks and added to her apparent age by dressing in the style which had always suited her. Her dainty drawing-rooms were curiously conventional-the natural result of carte-blanche to a fashionable upholsterer. She wore a blue-green Empire tea-gown, a long chain of uncut turquoises, a scarab ring, and a curious comb in her black, loose hair, and was always trying, and always trying in vain, to be unusual. Her name was Lucy (as any one who understood the subject of names must have seen at a glance), but she had changed it to Vera, on the ground that it was more Russian. There seemed no special object in this, as she had married a Scotchman. One really rare possession she certainly had-a husband who, notwithstanding that he felt a mild dislike for her merely, bullied her and interfered with her quite as much as if he were wildly in love. He was a rising barrister, and nearly every evening Vera had to undergo a very cross examination as to what she had done during the day, while being only too well aware that he neither listened to her answers, nor would have been interested if he had.

She sought compensation by being in a continual state of vague enthusiasm about some one or other, invariably choosing for the god of her idolatry some young man who, for one reason or another, could not possibly respond in any way. Yet she was always very much admired, except by the objects of her own Platonic admiration. This gave a certain interest to her life; and her other great pleasure was worshipping and confiding in her friend Felicity.

"Not the personal note!" repeated Mrs. Ogilvie, as if amazed. "I? I'm nothing if not original! Why, I actually copied that extraordinary gown we saw at the Gymnase when we were in Paris, and I wore it last night. It was a good deal noticed too--"

"Oh, yes, you wore it; but you'd copied it. That's just the point," said Felicity. "You can't become original by imitating some one else's peculiarities. The only way to be really unusual is to be oneself-which hardly anybody is. I can't see, though, why on earth you should wish it. It's much nicer to be like everybody else, I think."

"Oh, that you can know from hearsay only, dear," said Vera. "Your husband's come back, hasn't he?" she added irrelevantly.

"Yes. Now, there is an unusual man, if you like!" said Felicity. "He has no pose of any sort or kind, and he hasn't the ordinary standard about anything in any way, but likes people really and genuinely on their own merits-as he likes things-not because they're cheap or dear!"

"It seems to me so extraordinary that a racing man who is more or less of a sportsman should think little ornaments matter so much! I mean, should worry about china, and so on."

"It is hereditary, dear," said Felicity calmly. "One of his ancestors was a great collector, and the other wasn't-I forget what he was. I think a friend of James I, or something military of that sort."

"I'm afraid Chetwode's rather a gambler-that's the only thing that worries me for you, dear," said Vera.

"What do you mean by that?" said Felicity.

"Well ... I mean I shouldn't mind my husband attending sales and bringing home a lot of useless beautiful things.... At Christie's you know where you are to a certain extent ... but at Newmarket you don't."

"Chetwode," said Felicity, "isn't a gambler in the ordinary sense. He never plays cards. Little pictures on paste-board fidget him, he says; he loathes Monte Carlo because it's vulgar, and he dislikes roulette and bridge. He's only a gambler in the best sense of the word-and that's a very fine sense!"

"Oh dear, you are so clever, Felicity! What do you mean?"

"Isn't every one worth anything more or less of a gambler? Isn't going to a dinner-party a risk-that you may be bored? Isn't marriage a lottery-and all that sort of thing? Chetwode is prepared to take risks. That's what I admire about him!"

"He certainly stays away a great deal," said Vera.

"Now, you're only pretending to be disagreeable. You don't mean it. He has just been explaining to me that he hates the sort of things that amuse me,-dances and the opera, and social things. Why, then, should he go with me? He does sometimes, but I know it's an agonising sacrifice. What do you think he is going to do to-night? A really rather dreadful thing."

"I don't know."

"Dine with me at Aunt William's! A sort of family dinner. Aunt William has asked papa, Sylvia, Savile, and us, and I know just the sort of thing it will be. She has got some excellent match to take Sylvia to dinner, a boring married man for me, a suitable old widow or married man's wife for papa, Dolly Clive for Savile (although she isn't out-but then I suppose HE isn't out either, but she spoils Savile), and probably Chetwode will take HER in. Fairly horrible, isn't it? And you know the house. Wax flowers under glass, rep curtains. And the decorations on the table! A strip of looking-glass, surrounded by smilax! And the dinner! Twelve courses, port and sherry-all the fashions of 1860, or a little later, which is worse. Not mahogany and walnuts. Almonds and raisins."

"How is it that you're not ill, and unable to go?" said Vera, looking really concerned, and almost anxious.

"Because I happen to know that she has asked two or three people to come in in the evening. Bertie Wilton is one. He amuses her."

"Bertie Wilton?" exclaimed Vera.

"Yes. He's so clever and persevering! He's been making up steadily to Aunt William for several days, so that she might ask him to meet me. At last she has. As he says, everything comes to the man who won't wait."

"I wonder she approves of him."

"Well, she does in a sort of peculiar way, because he's of a good old family, and hasn't gone into anything-like stockbroking or business of any kind, and she thinks she can find him a nice suitable wife. She thinks Lucy Winter would be very suitable. Aunt William lives for suitability, you know. Isn't it funny of her?"

Vera laughed. "Lucy? Wh

y, I took him with Lucy and me to choose a hat, and there wasn't a thing she could wear. They don't get on at all. Lucy likes serious, intellectual men; she says Bertie's frothy and trivial. She wants to marry a great author, or a politician. However, thank goodness, she's left off bothering about Bobby Henderson." Here Vera sighed heavily.

"Has Bobby left off bothering about Agatha? That's the point."

"I don't know," said Vera. "I don't understand him; we've been having some very curious scenes together lately. I can't think what he means."

"He doesn't mean anything at all," said Felicity "and that's what you won't understand. What curious things, as you call them, has he been doing lately?"

"Well, he called yesterday by appointment."

"Your appointment, I suppose?" said Felicity.

"By telephone," said Vera evasively. "And stayed two hours. And at last I took a very strong line."

"Oh, good gracious! What were you wearing?"

"My yellow gown-and the amber beads; it was quite late and the lights-pink shades-were turned on-or else it would have been too glaring, you know, dear."

"What was your strong line?" said Felicity.

"I suddenly said to him, like some one in a play, 'Do you dislike me, Captain Henderson?'"

Felicity began to laugh. "What a fine speech! What did he say?"

"He answered, 'If I did, I shouldn't be here.' After that-not directly after-he said, 'You look all right in yellow, Mrs. Ogilvie.' Do you think that shows great admiration-or not?"

"I've heard more passionate declarations," said Felicity impartially. "It's the sort of thing Savile would say to me. What else did he talk about?"

"Oh, about horses and things, and the new play at the Gaiety, and then I said, 'It's rather a tragic thing for a woman to say, perhaps, but I'm sure you don't care a bit for me, so perhaps you'd better not call any more.'"

"What on earth did he say to that?" said Felicity.

"I'll tell you the exact truth, dear," Vera answered. "He got up and walked round the room, and then said, 'I say, would you think it too awful if I asked for a drink?' What do you think that showed?"

"It showed he was thirsty. I don't think he was going to faint away. Still, I suppose he had a drink; and-then-what happened?"

"I hardly like to tell you, dear."

"Go on!"

"I pressed him for his real opinion of me quite frankly, and he said: 'Frankly, I think you're a very pretty woman, and very jolly, but aren't you a bit dotty on some subjects?' Of course I was very much hurt, and said, 'Certainly not about you!' So then he said, 'For instance, you always write that you have something particular to say to me, but you never say it. I left several important appointments this afternoon to come round, and you don't seem to have any news.' I had said it, you see, but he didn't take it in. I was very much offended at his calling me dotty, but he explained afterwards he only meant that I was 'artistic'!"

Felicity went into fits of laughter. "Well, how did it end?"

"I asked him to dinner for next Wednesday, and he said he was going out of town, and didn't know when he would be back. Now tell me, darling Felicity, do you think he is going away to-try and conquer his feelings-or anything of that sort? That is what I should like to think," said Vera.

"No," answered Felicity. "Either it was a lie, because your husband bores him and he didn't want to come to dinner, or else he's really going to Newmarket, and doesn't know when he'll be back."

"Tell me, Felicity. I can bear it.... Then-he does not care about me, and I ought to cut him out of my life?"

"I think he likes you all right, but I really shouldn't worry about him," said Felicity.

"Then I certainly shan't. I am far too proud! How different Bertie Wilton is," she went on. "So amusing, and lively and nice to every one! But he is devoted to you."

"Oh, you can have him if you like," said Felicity, "and if you can. You wouldn't get on, really. You see, he isn't romantic, like you, and he likes people best who don't run after him."

"Yes, I have often noticed that in people," said Vera thoughtfully. "I'll tell you some one, though, who really interests me; that is your friend, Arthur Mervyn, the actor. He has such a wonderful profile."

"Yes-in fact, two. Oh, that reminds me, I came to ask you to come to Madame Tussaud's to-morrow afternoon. We're making up a party to go to the Chamber of Horrors. I'm taking Sylvia and Bertie. But I can't manage Arthur Mervyn and Bertie too,-at least, not at the Waxworks,-so I'm going some other day with him-I mean Arthur."

"Oh, what fun! I should love to come! Thanks, dearest."

"All right. Meet us there at four, and if you ever meet Arthur Mervyn again, don't talk about the stage. He hates it."

"What does he like?"

"He's interested in murders, and things of that kind," said Felicity; "or anything cheery, you know, but not the theatre."

"Do you think he would come to see me if I asked him?" asked Vera.

"He hates paying visits," said Felicity, and she glanced round the room judicially, "but if you can make him believe that some horrible crime has been acted here,-I must say it doesn't look like it, all pink and white!-then I think he would call. Or, if you suggested-just hinted-that you believed the liftman had once been mixed up in some horrible case-I think he likes poisoning or strangling best-then he'd come like a shot!"

Felicity got up laughing.

"I say," she continued as she fastened her white furs, "have you heard the very latest thing about the Valettas and Guy Scott? Bertie's going to tell me all about it to-night; he is the only really brilliant gossip I know. He's raised it to such an art that it's no longer gossip: it's modern history and psychology! First he gets his facts right; then he takes a sort of vivid analytical interest in every one-always a humorously sympathetic view, of course-and has so much imagination that he makes you see the whole thing!"

"Good gracious! I think I don't care for gossip about other people," said Vera; "I'm sure I shouldn't like that at all. I am really only interested in my own life."

"Then no wonder you find it so difficult to be amused, darling."

They parted, kissing affectionately.

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