‘But think of his reputation! If half the things they say about him are true—’

‘Probably three-quarters of them are. But what of it? You don’t want an archangel for a son-in-law.’

‘I don’t want Wratislav. My poor Elsa would be miserable with him.’

‘A little misery wouldn’t matter very much with her; it would go so well with the way she does her hair, and if she couldn’t get on with Wratislav she could always go and do good among the poor.’

The Baroness picked up a framed photograph from the table.

‘He certainly is very handsome,’ she said doubtfully; adding even more doubtfully, ‘I dare say dear Elsa might reform him.’

The Gräfin had the presence of mind to laugh in the right key.

Three weeks later the Gräfin bore down upon the Baroness Sophie in a foreign bookseller’s shop in the Graben, where she was, possibly, buying books of devotion, though it was the wrong counter for them.

‘I’ve just left the dear children at the Rodenstahls’,’ was the Gräfin’s greeting.

‘Were they looking very happy?’ asked the Baroness. ‘Wratislav was wearing some new English clothes, so, of course he was quite happy. I overheard him telling Toni a rather amusing story about a nun and a mousetrap, which won’t bear repetition. Elsa was telling every one else a witticism about the Triple Alliance being like a paper umbrella—which seems to bear repetition with Christian fortitude.’

‘Did they seem much wrapped up in each other?’

‘To be candid, Elsa looked as if she were wrapped up in a horse-rug. And why let her wear saffron colour?’

‘I always think it goes with her complexion.’

‘Unfortunately it doesn’t. It stays with it. Ugh. Don’t forget, you’re lunching with me on Thursday.’

The Baroness was late for her luncheon engagement the following Thursday.

‘Imagine what has happened!’ she screamed as she burst into the room.

‘Something remarkable, to make you late for a meal,’ said the Gräfin.

‘Elsa has run away with the Rodenstahls’ chauffeur!’


‘Such a thing as that no one in our family has ever done,’ gasped the Baroness.

‘Perhaps he didn’t appeal to them in the same way,’ suggested the Gräfin judicially.

The Baroness began to feel that she was not getting the astonishment and sympathy to which her catastrophe entitled her.

‘At any rate,’ she snapped, ‘now she can’t marry Wratislav.’

‘She couldn’t in any case,’ said the Gräfin; ‘he left suddenly for abroad last night.’

‘For abroad! Where?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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