Grace regarded Jean with growing annoyance. She had been offered a chance to explain herself and she had refused it. True, Grace could also refuse to allow her to remain a member of Harlowe House, but this she did not wish to do. Her pride whispered to her that among the girls who were enrolled as members of the household, made possible by Mrs. Gray's generosity, there had been no failures.
But the familiar household devil, whose name is Curiosity, and whose opportunities are innumerable, prompted her next words when she had taken the letter out of the envelope: "Shall I read it to you, ma'am?" "No. Put it down on the table, please. I'll ring when I want you." The mother was alone alone, with her death-warrant waiting for her on the table.
Since the death of his wife and sister, the latter taking place shortly after the return of his niece, Manuela, the latter had been the head of the household and its retinue of servants. The Señorita had been told the agreement between Major Starland and Miss Rowland, which was that during their visit to this part of the world, they were to be known as brother and sister.
The interior of the room was ornamented with the most costly paintings and furniture, and was enriched with a profusion of silver and gold. The little king had his range of apartments too, with a whole household of officers and attendants as little as himself.
Now she has brought her boy, the young marquis, to England for a year or two, for she has a very warm heart, and longed to see you all. Also, she thought she had better go away a while, for her son's sake. As for me, now that Morella is dead, I am head of the household secretary, general purveyor of intelligence, and anything else you like at a good salary."
As for the rest of the household, they could not have made up a single tear amongst them. They thought, whatever it might be for the princess, it was, for every one else, the best thing that could have happened; and as to what had become of her, if their heads were puzzled, their hearts took no interest in the question.
The dinner, four hours behind time, to which the husband, wife, and child sat down, betrayed the financial straits in which the household found itself, for the table is the surest thermometer for gauging the income of a Parisian family.
The woman had sought a ground of quarrel against him, and had driven him on till he had forgotten himself in his present after-dinner humour. When a man is maintaining a whole household on his own shoulders, and working hard to maintain it well, it is not right that he should be brought to book because he keeps the servants up half an hour later than usual to wash the tea-things.
But when they see that there are women among the riders who are galloping towards them, they relax their line and restore their rifles to their shoulders. They know there will be no battle, for woman's presence means peace. Woman is the guardian of our race. In the household she is saving; in the family she is protecting, and everywhere her influence is that which keeps.