marriage, and anyhow Charles was intelligent, his career promised well, he had sufficient income, and, in fine, she loved him.
“The main thing, after all, Vicky,” papa inevitably said.
“No, papa; the
thing is that the Americanmerchant princesses are descending on the land like locusts, and that if I don’t secure Charles they will, even though he hasn’t a title—yet. He’s so obviously a distinguished person in embryo. American merchant princesses have brains.”
Vicky, having surrendered, put on a new tenderness, even an occasional gravity. It was as if you could catch glimpses here and there of the gay wife and mother that was to supersede the flighty girl. Beneath her chaff and bickerings with her Charles, her love swelled into that stream so necessary to carry her through the long and arduous business. She did her shopping for her new life with taste and gusto, tempering Morris picturesqueness with Chippendale elegance, chasing Queen Anne with unflagging energy from auction to auction, and from one Israelitish shop to another, tinkling the while with snakish bangles, swinging golden swine from her ears, as was the barbarous and yet graceful custom of our ancestresses in that year.
Maurice Starts Life
Maurice left Cambridge, armed with a distinguished first in his classical tripos.
“And what now?” inquired papa, indulgently.
“Wilbur has offered me a job on the
. That will do me, for a bit.”
was a weekly paper of the early eighties, started to defeat Whiggery by the spread of Radicalism. Its gods were Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, its objects to introduce a more democratic taxation, to reform the suffrage, to free Ireland, to curtail Empire, and so forth. As its willwas strong, it suffered but it did not suffer long, and is, in fact, now forgotten but by the seekers among the pathetic chronicles of wasted years. All the same, it was, in its brief day, not unfruitful of good; it was deeply, if not widely, respected, and many of our more intelligent forbears wrote for it for a space, particularly that generation which left the Universities round about the year 1880. It was hoped by some of them (including Maurice Garden) that it would make a good jumping-off ground for a political career. As it turned out, the first thing into which Maurice jumped off from it was love. At dinner at the Wilburs, he met Amy Wilbur, the young daughter of his editor. She was small and ivory-coloured, with long dark eyes under slanting brows, a large, round, shallow dimple in each smooth cheek, a small tilting red mouth (red even in those days, when lip salve was not used except in the half world) a smooth, childlike voice, and a laugh like silver bells. Maurice thought her like a geisha out of the new opera,
, and was enchanted with her lovely gaiety. Such is love and its blindness that Maurice, who detested both silliness and petty malice in male or female, did not see that his Amy was silly and malicious. He saw nothing but her enchanting exterior, and on that and his small salary he got married in haste. None of the Gardens except himself and papa much cared about Amy, and papa liked nearly every one, and certainly nearly all pretty girls. As to mamma’s feelings towards her daughter-in-law, who could divine them?
Vicky said to Rome, “They are both making a horrific mistake. Maurice is a prickly person, who won’t suffer fools. In a year he’ll be wanting to beat her. She hasn’t the wits or the personality to be the least help to him in his career, either. When he’s a rising politician and she ought to be holding salons,she won’t be able to. Her salons will be mere at homes.”
“When,” Rome speculated, “does an at home become a salon? I’ve often wondered.”
They decided that it was a salon when several distinguished people came to it, rather from habit than from accident. Also, the conversation must be reasonably intelligent (or,