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CHAPTER XXI
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While Aunt Penelope talked my heart beat very hard. From time to time I could not help glancing at Vernon. Was he guessing my thoughts—was he understanding?
 
He stood with his back to us, looking out of the window. Once or twice he whistled a little, he whistled a bar of a popular melody; then he thrust his hands into his pockets, turned swiftly round, took up a newspaper, flung himself into a chair, and pretended to read. I might have felt vexed2 with him, I might even have accused him of want of sympathy, if I had not suddenly noticed that he was holding the paper upside down—he was not reading at all. He was in reality as excited and troubled as I was myself. My heart warmed to him with a great glow when I observed this. I felt what good, what splendid friends we would be in the future, how like nobody else in all the world he was, and what a lucky, very lucky, girl I was to have won him. But no—even at the risk of losing my own happiness I would not leave my father to the mercies of Lady Helen. Unless that matter could be put right, I would not marry my darling Vernon. The thought brought a great soreness into my heart, and I felt the tears pricking3 my eyes from behind, and I was glad when our time of suspense4 was over, for the same flunkey who had opened the door for us now appeared, standing1 on the threshold of the little room where we had taken refuge, and said:
 
"Lady Helen's compliments, and she will be pleased to give you an audience, Miss Dalrymple."
 
"I am coming, too. Does her ladyship know?" inquired Aunt Penelope.
 
"She said Miss Dalrymple," replied the man.
 
"Nonsense!" said Aunt Penelope. "We'll all come, my good man. Will you have the kindness to show the way? Now march, please; although you're wearing such a smart livery, you're not nearly such a good servant as my boy Jonas."
 
The man's name was Robert, and he was one of the most superior servants of the house, and I really felt annoyed with Aunt Penelope for attacking him in this fashion. He got very red, but then his eyes met mine, and something in my eyes must have begged of him to be patient, for he certainly was patient, and then, without another word, he went before us, and we three followed, and a minute or two later we were in Lady Helen's presence.
 
I was at once relieved and surprised to find that my father was not there. It happened to be a very hot day; it was now July, and London was suffering from a spell of intensely hot weather. Lady Helen's sitting-room5 looked very cool and inviting6. There were soft, bluey-green blinds draped across the windows—the effect was a sort of bluey-grey mist, at once refreshing7 and becoming. There were quantities of flowers in the room, so much so that Aunt Penelope began to sniff8 at once. She sniffed9 audibly, and said in a loud aside to Vernon:
 
"No wonder the poor woman looks ill; such a strong smell of flowers is bad for anyone."
 
Lady Helen herself was in a most wonderful make-up that morning. She had a very elegant figure, notwithstanding her years. She was dressed in the extreme height of the prevailing10 mode, and looked—that is, until the full light of day shone upon her—like a woman who was between forty and fifty, at most. She must have been wearing a completely new arrangement on her head; I cannot call it her own hair, for I happened to know that it was only hers in the sense that she had honestly paid for it. It was of a pale golden shade; when last I saw her she was wearing chestnut11 curls. This coiffure was arranged in the most becoming manner on the top of her head, and fell in soft little ringlets round her ears and about her neck. Her dress was of the "coat and skirt" style, cut in tailor fashion, and extremely smart. On the back of her golden head she wore an enormous black crinoline hat, trimmed with great ostrich12 tips; altogether her appearance was too wonderful for Aunt Penelope to bear long with patience. She was standing up as we entered the room, and now she came quickly towards us.
 
"How do you do, Heather?" she said to me. "I am quite willing to see you again, but this lady and this gentleman!"
 
"You know me very well, Lady Helen," said Vernon. "I am that Captain Carbury who stood by your brother's death-bed—who hold his written confession13, and who is about to marry Heather Grayson."
 
"All nonsense, all nonsense!" said Lady Helen.
 
"But I thought——" I began.
 
Lady Helen looked at Aunt Penelope.
 
"It does not matter what you think, Heather; you are only a child. May I be informed who this lady is—the lady who has dared to come into my presence uninvited?"
 
"My name, madam, is Miss Despard, and I am real own aunt to Heather Grayson. Heather Grayson's mother, the first wife of Major Grayson, happened to be my sister. I presume therefore, madam, that I have a right over this young girl, more particularly as she lived with me, and I trained her, and educated her from the time she was eight years old until she was eighteen."
 
"Ah, yes," said Lady Helen in a soft voice; "that dreadful time, those ten terrible years!"
 
"We all know the story of those years; you are, of course, aware of that," said Captain Carbury at that moment.
 
Lady Helen gave him a quick glance.
 
"Yes," she said suddenly. "You observe my dress. I am in mourning for my dear one."
 
Her voice trembled for a minute. I looked at her and saw that she was really sorry for the man who was dead.
 
"He is in his grave," she continued, "poor, dear Gideon! We did what we could for him, your father and I. Now our one desire is to let his poor bones rest in peace."
 
"Perhaps it is, madam," said Vernon just then, "but there are other people who have a say in the matter. Now, Heather, it is time for you to speak."
 
I looked at Lady Helen and took my courage in my hands.
 
"Stepmother——"
 
"Oh! You acknowledge that I am your stepmother? Well, what have you to say for yourself? You have been a nice stepdaughter to me!"
 
"I could not help it," I said. "I never intended to be nasty to you."
 
"Well, I don't wish to complain. But who gave you all the good things you enjoyed, your dress, your home, your fun, your pleasure, your good time all round? Answer me that question—who gave you those things?"
 
"You did."
 
"Ah! I'm glad you acknowledge it."
 
"Of course I acknowledge it."
 
"And do you think you have behaved well to me in return? Because I did the very best possible for you and because a needy14, poor man, almost a pauper15, for he has practically no private means, came and demanded your hand, and your father and I considered it an improper16 and unsuitable request, you took the bit between your teeth, and, without a word, without a hint, ran away. Never shall I forget our return from Brighton and the agony that your poor father, whom you profess17 to love, was in. You ran away. Why did you run away?"
 
"Because I couldn't do what you wanted."
 
"And you did even worse," continued Lady Helen, "for I have discovered everything. You had the audacity18, the impropriety—you, a young girl—to go to Lord Hawtrey's, and to try to interview him. Oh, yes; I have heard that story, and I know what it means; and a nice meaning it has for you, miss—a very nice meaning, indeed!"
 
"You broke my heart and went away to the country and took father with you," I said. "I could think of no one else. I went to him because I knew he was a gentleman, and would act as such."
 
"Suppose we come to the matter in hand," interrupted Vernon, who was getting impatient at all this dallying19.
 
"Yes, that's right, Vernon; that's right. Keep her to the point," exclaimed Aunt Penelope.
 
I looked back at them both. Aunt Penelope's bright eyes were like little pin points in her head; they were fixed20 on Lady Helen's got-up face. She had really never before, in the whole course of her life, met such a woman. She was studying her from every point of view.
 
"I have come here, stepmother," I said, "to tell you that I—I—know all the story with regard to my—my darling father. Vernon has told me, and Vernon and I have made up our minds to marry, and father has given his consent, and we mean to be married, if all comes right, in about——"
 
"Best say a week, Heather," interrupted Vernon.
 
"In about a fortnight from now," I continued.
 
"Well, if you must put it off so long," he remarked, leaning back in his chair.
 
"But the question I have come here to-day to ask is this," I continued. "What is to become of my father?"
 
"The more proper thing for you to say, Heather Dalrymple, is this: What is to become of the man who has had the good fortune to marry Lady Helen Dalrymple?"
 
"But I don't think it a good fortune at all," I said. "Oh, Lady Helen, I must speak the truth; I can't beat about the bush any longer. My dear, my darling father is not a bit happy, not a bit! He did what he did—oh! it was so noble of him!—to—save your brother—I know the whole story. Oh, he was a hero! But must all his life be sacrificed because he is a hero? Your brother is in his grave; give my own dad back his freedom; let him come and live with Vernon and me!"
 
"Upon my word, I never heard of such a request in all my life!"
 
"But you will do it," I said. "There need be no scandal; you can go abroad or anywhere you like, and I am sure father will visit you sometimes, and no one need think anything about that, and—and you know you're not really fond of father, because if you were you would not make him so terribly unhappy. Oh, do let him come and live with us!"
 
"You take my breath away! You are the most audacious, dreadful girl I ever came across. What do you take me for?"
 
"Lady Helen, I know you have a heart somewhere."
 
She looked at me. The rims21 round her eyes were blackened, her eyebrows22 were artificially darkened, her face was powdered—could I get at any soul behind that much bedecked exterior23? Bedecked, do I call it? Disfigured is the word I ought to use.
 
"Lady Helen," I said suddenly, "give my father his happiness! Don't, oh, don't be cruel to him any longer, I beg of you, I beseech24 of you!"
 
"Child, don't make a fool of yourself." Lady Helen rose.
 
"Listen, you good people," she said. "This little Heather Dalrymple, my stepdaughter, would never have thought of such an absurd and ridiculous scheme but for you; you, Miss Despard, and you, Captain Carbury, thought this thing out. You wanted to drag me before the world as a woman separated from her husband; you thought to disgrace me before the eyes of the world, and you imagined that I would obey the whim25 of a child. I know better. Heather, I distinctly and once for all refuse your request."
 
"Then, madam, it is my turn to say something," cried Vernon.
 
"You must say it pretty quickly, sir, for my motor-car will be round in a few minutes."
 
"I fear your car must wait. You have an important matter to listen to. It is this. You love your brother, and we all, even the most hardened of us, have a feeling of respect towards the dead. But I can at least assure you that there is such a thing as even greater respect for the living who have been wronged, and the entire story of Major Grayson's conduct shall be published before the world unless you agree to what this young lady proposes. He will come out very much a hero, I fancy; but your conduct in the matter will not be quite so gratifying to you and your friends."
 
"I echo every single word that Captain Carbury says!" exclaimed Aunt Penelope. "I am very outspoken26, and from first to last I have always detested27 everything I have heard about you, Lady Helen; and now that I see you I hate you more than ever. It would give me sincere pleasure to drag your crime into the light. What right had you to work on the feelings of the most tender-hearted of men in order to save your brother from the shame and the punishment his sin deserved? My poor noble brother-in-law volunteered to take your wicked brother's place. Why, Lady Helen, it was a Christ-like deed! The least he can get for the rest of his days, poor fellow, is peace and happiness. Oh, yes, you can refuse, but the moment you do so the whole of this affair shall be placed in the hands of my solicitors28, for I am determined29 that my brother-in-law and my niece's father shall no longer be considered unworthy to be a true soldier of our late Queen."
 
"You can leave me," said Lady Helen. "Go at once, all three of you; don't attempt to stay another moment in my presence. You drive me mad! Go—go—go! Oh, I shall have hysterics! I—Heather, ring the bell; my maid must come to me; I feel the attack coming on. Oh, you awful people! Heather, you can stay if you like; you don't mean to be cruel, I know you don't. I who have suffered so sorely—I who am broken-hearted! But leave me, you two others; leave me at once—at once!"
 
"Not until my niece goes with me do I stir one step out of this room," said Aunt Penelope.
 
"Well, Heather child, if you must go you must. Oh, try to turn their wicked, cruel hearts! but I—yes I——"
 
"What do you mean to do?" said Vernon. "You haven't told us that yet."
 
"Nothing, I tell you—nothing. You can't be so cruel—so monstrous30!"
 
"Miss Despard's address is 90a, Torrington Square, W.C.," said Vernon, in his calmest voice; "that address will find her and Heather and me any time between now and noon to-morrow. If at noon to-morrow we have not heard from you, we shall be forced to draw our own conclusions—namely, that you have refused to consider Heather's most natural petition, that she should be allowed to make her father happy. It will then be our duty to put the matter absolutely into the hands of Messrs. Fenchurch and Grace, Miss Despard's solicitors."
 
Lady Helen sank back again in her chair, her eyes shone with feverish31 hate.
 
"Leave me, you terrible people!" she said. "Go, all of you!"
 
We went.

点击收听单词发音收听单词发音  

1 standing 2hCzgo     
n.持续,地位;adj.永久的,不动的,直立的,不流动的
参考例句:
  • After the earthquake only a few houses were left standing.地震过后只有几幢房屋还立着。
  • They're standing out against any change in the law.他们坚决反对对法律做任何修改。
2 vexed fd1a5654154eed3c0a0820ab54fb90a7     
adj.争论不休的;(指问题等)棘手的;争论不休的问题;烦恼的v.使烦恼( vex的过去式和过去分词 );使苦恼;使生气;详细讨论
参考例句:
  • The conference spent days discussing the vexed question of border controls. 会议花了几天的时间讨论边境关卡这个难题。
  • He was vexed at his failure. 他因失败而懊恼。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
3 pricking b0668ae926d80960b702acc7a89c84d6     
刺,刺痕,刺痛感
参考例句:
  • She felt a pricking on her scalp. 她感到头皮上被扎了一下。
  • Intercostal neuralgia causes paroxysmal burning pain or pricking pain. 肋间神经痛呈阵发性的灼痛或刺痛。
4 suspense 9rJw3     
n.(对可能发生的事)紧张感,担心,挂虑
参考例句:
  • The suspense was unbearable.这样提心吊胆的状况实在叫人受不了。
  • The director used ingenious devices to keep the audience in suspense.导演用巧妙手法引起观众的悬念。
5 sitting-room sitting-room     
n.(BrE)客厅,起居室
参考例句:
  • The sitting-room is clean.起居室很清洁。
  • Each villa has a separate sitting-room.每栋别墅都有一间独立的起居室。
6 inviting CqIzNp     
adj.诱人的,引人注目的
参考例句:
  • An inviting smell of coffee wafted into the room.一股诱人的咖啡香味飘进了房间。
  • The kitchen smelled warm and inviting and blessedly familiar.这间厨房的味道温暖诱人,使人感到亲切温馨。
7 refreshing HkozPQ     
adj.使精神振作的,使人清爽的,使人喜欢的
参考例句:
  • I find it'so refreshing to work with young people in this department.我发现和这一部门的青年一起工作令人精神振奋。
  • The water was cold and wonderfully refreshing.水很涼,特别解乏提神。
8 sniff PF7zs     
vi.嗅…味道;抽鼻涕;对嗤之以鼻,蔑视
参考例句:
  • The police used dogs to sniff out the criminals in their hiding - place.警察使用警犬查出了罪犯的藏身地点。
  • When Munchie meets a dog on the beach, they sniff each other for a while.当麦奇在海滩上碰到另一条狗的时候,他们会彼此嗅一会儿。
9 sniffed ccb6bd83c4e9592715e6230a90f76b72     
v.以鼻吸气,嗅,闻( sniff的过去式和过去分词 );抽鼻子(尤指哭泣、患感冒等时出声地用鼻子吸气);抱怨,不以为然地说
参考例句:
  • When Jenney had stopped crying she sniffed and dried her eyes. 珍妮停止了哭泣,吸了吸鼻子,擦干了眼泪。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The dog sniffed suspiciously at the stranger. 狗疑惑地嗅着那个陌生人。 来自《简明英汉词典》
10 prevailing E1ozF     
adj.盛行的;占优势的;主要的
参考例句:
  • She wears a fashionable hair style prevailing in the city.她的发型是这个城市流行的款式。
  • This reflects attitudes and values prevailing in society.这反映了社会上盛行的态度和价值观。
11 chestnut XnJy8     
n.栗树,栗子
参考例句:
  • We have a chestnut tree in the bottom of our garden.我们的花园尽头有一棵栗树。
  • In summer we had tea outdoors,under the chestnut tree.夏天我们在室外栗树下喝茶。
12 ostrich T4vzg     
n.鸵鸟
参考例句:
  • Ostrich is the fastest animal on two legs.驼鸟是双腿跑得最快的动物。
  • The ostrich indeed inhabits continents.鸵鸟确实是生活在大陆上的。
13 confession 8Ygye     
n.自白,供认,承认
参考例句:
  • Her confession was simply tantamount to a casual explanation.她的自白简直等于一篇即席说明。
  • The police used torture to extort a confession from him.警察对他用刑逼供。
14 needy wG7xh     
adj.贫穷的,贫困的,生活艰苦的
参考例句:
  • Although he was poor,he was quite generous to his needy friends.他虽穷,但对贫苦的朋友很慷慨。
  • They awarded scholarships to needy students.他们给贫苦学生颁发奖学金。
15 pauper iLwxF     
n.贫民,被救济者,穷人
参考例句:
  • You lived like a pauper when you had plenty of money.你有大把钱的时候,也活得像个乞丐。
  • If you work conscientiously you'll only die a pauper.你按部就班地干,做到老也是穷死。
16 improper b9txi     
adj.不适当的,不合适的,不正确的,不合礼仪的
参考例句:
  • Short trousers are improper at a dance.舞会上穿短裤不成体统。
  • Laughing and joking are improper at a funeral.葬礼时大笑和开玩笑是不合适的。
17 profess iQHxU     
v.声称,冒称,以...为业,正式接受入教,表明信仰
参考例句:
  • I profess that I was surprised at the news.我承认这消息使我惊讶。
  • What religion does he profess?他信仰哪种宗教?
18 audacity LepyV     
n.大胆,卤莽,无礼
参考例句:
  • He had the audacity to ask for an increase in salary.他竟然厚着脸皮要求增加薪水。
  • He had the audacity to pick pockets in broad daylight.他竟敢在光天化日之下掏包。
19 dallying 6e603e2269df0010fd18b1f60a97bb74     
v.随随便便地对待( dally的现在分词 );不很认真地考虑;浪费时间;调情
参考例句:
  • They've been dallying with the idea for years. 他们多年来一直有这个想法,但从没有认真考虑过。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • This kind of dallying is, in a sense, optimal. 从某种意义上来说,这种延迟是最理想的。 来自互联网
20 fixed JsKzzj     
adj.固定的,不变的,准备好的;(计算机)固定的
参考例句:
  • Have you two fixed on a date for the wedding yet?你们俩选定婚期了吗?
  • Once the aim is fixed,we should not change it arbitrarily.目标一旦确定,我们就不应该随意改变。
21 rims e66f75a2103361e6e0762d187cf7c084     
n.(圆形物体的)边( rim的名词复数 );缘;轮辋;轮圈
参考例句:
  • As she spoke, the rims of her eyes reddened a little. 说时,眼圈微红。 来自汉英文学 - 围城
  • Her eyes were a little hollow, and reddish about the rims. 她的眼睛微微凹陷,眼眶有些发红。 来自辞典例句
22 eyebrows a0e6fb1330e9cfecfd1c7a4d00030ed5     
眉毛( eyebrow的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • Eyebrows stop sweat from coming down into the eyes. 眉毛挡住汗水使其不能流进眼睛。
  • His eyebrows project noticeably. 他的眉毛特别突出。
23 exterior LlYyr     
adj.外部的,外在的;表面的
参考例句:
  • The seed has a hard exterior covering.这种子外壳很硬。
  • We are painting the exterior wall of the house.我们正在给房子的外墙涂漆。
24 beseech aQzyF     
v.祈求,恳求
参考例句:
  • I beseech you to do this before it is too late.我恳求你做做这件事吧,趁现在还来得及。
  • I beseech your favor.我恳求您帮忙。
25 whim 2gywE     
n.一时的兴致,突然的念头;奇想,幻想
参考例句:
  • I bought the encyclopedia on a whim.我凭一时的兴致买了这本百科全书。
  • He had a sudden whim to go sailing today.今天他突然想要去航海。
26 outspoken 3mIz7v     
adj.直言无讳的,坦率的,坦白无隐的
参考例句:
  • He was outspoken in his criticism.他在批评中直言不讳。
  • She is an outspoken critic of the school system in this city.她是这座城市里学校制度的坦率的批评者。
27 detested e34cc9ea05a83243e2c1ed4bd90db391     
v.憎恶,嫌恶,痛恨( detest的过去式和过去分词 )
参考例句:
  • They detested each other on sight. 他们互相看着就不顺眼。
  • The freethinker hated the formalist; the lover of liberty detested the disciplinarian. 自由思想者总是不喜欢拘泥形式者,爱好自由者总是憎恶清规戒律者。 来自辞典例句
28 solicitors 53ed50f93b0d64a6b74a2e21c5841f88     
初级律师( solicitor的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • Most solicitors in England and Wales are in private practice . 英格兰和威尔士的大多数律师都是私人执业者。
  • The family has instructed solicitors to sue Thomson for compensation. 那家人已经指示律师起诉汤姆森,要求赔偿。
29 determined duszmP     
adj.坚定的;有决心的
参考例句:
  • I have determined on going to Tibet after graduation.我已决定毕业后去西藏。
  • He determined to view the rooms behind the office.他决定查看一下办公室后面的房间。
30 monstrous vwFyM     
adj.巨大的;恐怖的;可耻的,丢脸的
参考例句:
  • The smoke began to whirl and grew into a monstrous column.浓烟开始盘旋上升,形成了一个巨大的烟柱。
  • Your behaviour in class is monstrous!你在课堂上的行为真是丢人!
31 feverish gzsye     
adj.发烧的,狂热的,兴奋的
参考例句:
  • He is too feverish to rest.他兴奋得安静不下来。
  • They worked with feverish haste to finish the job.为了完成此事他们以狂热的速度工作着。


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