Page:ONCE A WEEK JUL TO DEC 1860.pdf/177

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EVAN HARRINGTON; or, HE WOULD BE A GENTLEMAN.

BY GEORGE MEREDITH.

Evan Harrington - Trying to Leave.png

CHAPTER XXXIII.THE HERO TAKES HIS RANK IN THE ORCHESTRA.

The Countess was not in her dressing-room when Evan presented himself. She was in attendance on Mrs. Bonner, Conning said; and the primness of Conning was a thing to have been noticed by anyone save a dreamy youth in love. Conning remained in the room, keeping distinctly aloof. Her duties absorbed her, but a presiding thought mechanically jerked back her head from time to time: being the mute form of, "Well, I never!" in Conning's rank of life and intellectual capacity. Evan remained quite still in a chair, and Conning was certainly a number of paces beyond suspicion, when the Countess appeared, and hurling at the maid one of those feminine looks which contain huge quartos of meaning, vented the cold query:

"Pray, why did you not come to me, as you were commanded?"

"I was not aware, my lady," Conning drew up to reply, and performed with her eyes a lofty rejection of the volume cast at her, and a threat of several for offensive operations, if need were.

The Countess spoke nearer to what she was implying: "You know I object to this: it is not the first time."

"Would your ladyship please to say what your ladyship means?"

In return for this insolent challenge to throw off the mask, the Countess felt justified in punishing her by being explicit. "Your irregularities are not of yesterday," she said, kindly making use of a word of double signification still.

"Thank you, my lady." Conning accepted the word in its blackest meaning. "I am obliged to you. If your ladyship is to be believed, my