"Well, I shall be there this time," said the Crow; "she invited me last week." This piece of news comforted Lady Anningford greatly. She felt here would be some one to help matters if he could. "Morella will be perfectly furious when she gets there and finds she was not the reason of Hector's empressement for the invitation. And in her stolid way she can be just as spiteful as Lady Harrowfield."
Sir Patrick Fitzgerald occasionally departed from the strict limits of this set in the big parties especially lately, when money was becoming scarcer, several financial friends who could put him on to good things had been included, the result being that Lady Harrowfield had not always shed the light of her countenance upon the festivities.
There was not above two years' difference between her age and Lady Bracondale's; indeed, the latter had been one of her bridesmaids; but no one to look at them at a distance could have credited it for a minute. Lady Harrowfield had golden hair and pink cheeks, and her embonpoint retained in the most fashionable outline.
To her Lady Harrowfield seemed a poor, soured old woman very much painted and ridiculous, and she felt sorry for unlovely old age and ill-temper. Meanwhile, Lady Bracondale was being favorably impressed. She was a most presentable young person, this wife of the Australian millionaire, she decided. Anne took the greatest pains to be charming to Theodora.
To Theodora he appeared an ugly little man, who reminded her of the statue of a satyr she knew in the Louvre. That was all! At this juncture Lady Harrowfield, accompanied by Morella Winmarleigh, her lord, and one of her âmes damnées, a certain Captain Forester, appeared upon the scene.
It began to dawn upon her this might be Hector's reason in coming, not herself at all; and one of those slow, internal rages which she seldom indulged in began to creep in her veins. Thus it was that poor Theodora, all unconscious of any evil, was already surrounded by three bitter enemies Mildred, Lady Harrowfield, and Morella Winmarleigh.
Had it been winter and hunting-time, he would have taken any fences any risks. He returned and got to Ranelagh, and played a game of polo as hard as he could, and then he felt a little calmer. The idea came to him as it had done to Anne. Lady Harrowfield was Florence Devlyn's cousin; she would probably have squeezed an invitation for her protégées for the royal ball to-night.
It seemed as if all the women crowded to one end of the drawing-room round Lady Harrowfield, and talked and whispered to one another, not one making way for Theodora or showing any knowledge of her presence. Barbara had gone off up to her room.
But every incident was carried off with a high-handed, brazen daring, and an assumption of right and might and prerogative which paralyzed criticism. So it was that with the record of a demimondaine and not one kind action to her credit Lady Harrowfield still held her place among the spotless, and ruled as a queen.
If he and Lady Ada pinched and scraped when alone, keeping few servants on board wages, the parties, at all events, were done with all their wonted regal splendor. "I shall stay with you, Patrick, as long as you can afford this cook," Lady Harrowfield said once to him; "but when you begin to economize, don't trouble to ask me. I hate poor people, when it shows."