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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Head of the House of Coombe » CHAPTER XXVI
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 As a result of this, her grace saw Mademoiselle Vallé alone a few mornings later and talked to her long and quietly. Their comprehension of each other was complete. Before their interview was at an end the Duchess’ interest in the adventure she was about to enter into had become profound.
“The sooner she is surrounded by a new atmosphere, the better,” was one of the things the Frenchwoman had said. “The prospect1 of an arrangement so perfect and so secure fills me with the profoundest gratitude2. It is absolutely necessary that I return to my parents in Belgium. They are old and failing in health and need me greatly. I have been sad and anxious for months because I felt that it would be wickedness to desert this poor child. I have been torn in two. Now I can be at peace—thank the good God.”
“Bring her to me tomorrow if possible,” the Duchess said when they parted. “I foresee that I may have something to overcome in the fact that I am Lord Coombe’s old friend, but I hope to be able to overcome it.”
“She is a baby—she is of great beauty—she has a passionate3 little soul of which she knows nothing.” Mademoiselle Vallé said it with an anxious reflectiveness. “I have been afraid. If I were her mother——” her eyes sought those of the older woman.
“But she has no mother,” her grace answered. Her own eyes were serious. She knew something of girls, of young things, of the rush and tumult4 of young life in them and of the outlet5 it demanded. A baby who was of great beauty and of a passionate soul was no trivial undertaking6 for a rheumatic old duchess, but—“Bring her to me,” she said.
So was Robin7 brought to the tall Early Victorian mansion8 in the belatedly stately square. And the chief thought in her mind was that though mere9 good manners demanded under the circumstances that she should come to see the Dowager Duchess of Darte and be seen by her, if she found that she was like Lord Coombe, she would not be able to endure the prospect of a future spent in her service howsoever desirable such service might outwardly appear. This desirableness Mademoiselle Vallé had made clear to her. She was to be the companion of a personage of great and mature charm and grace who desired not mere attendance, but something more, which something included the warmth and fresh brightness of happy youth and bloom. She would do for her employer the things a young relative might do. She would have a suite10 of rooms of her own and a freedom as to hours and actions which greater experience on her part would have taught was not the customary portion meted11 out to a paid companion. But she knew nothing of paid service and a preliminary talk of Coombe’s with Mademoiselle Vallé had warned her against allowing any suspicion that this “earning a living” had been too obviously ameliorated.
“Her life is unusual. She herself is unusual in a most dignified12 and beautiful way. You will, it might almost be said, hold the position of a young lady in waiting,” was Mademoiselle’s gracefully13 put explanation.
When, after they had been ushered14 into the room where her grace sat in her beautiful and mellow15 corner by the fire, Robin advanced towards the highbacked chair, what the old woman was chiefly conscious of was the eyes which seemed all lustrous16 iris17. There was uncommon18 appeal and fear in them. The blackness of their setting of up-curled lashes19 made them look babyishly wide.
“Mademoiselle Vallé has told me of your wish to take a position as companion,” the Duchess said after they were seated.
“I want very much,” said Robin, “to support myself and Mademoiselle thinks that I might fill such a place if I am not considered too young.”
“You are not too young—for me. I want something young to come and befriend me. Am I too old for you?” Her smile had been celebrated20 fifty years earlier and it had not changed. A smile does not. She was not like Lord Coombe in any degree however remote. She did not belong to his world, Robin thought.
“If I can do well enough the things you require done,” she answered blushing her Jacqueminot rose blush, “I shall be grateful if you will let me try to do them. Mademoiselle will tell you that I have no experience, but that I am one who tries well.”
“Mademoiselle has answered all my questions concerning your qualifications so satisfactorily that I need ask you very few.”
Such questions as she asked were not of the order Robin had expected. She led her into talk and drew Mademoiselle Vallé into the conversation. It was talk which included personal views of books, old gardens and old houses, people, pictures and even—lightly—politics. Robin found herself quite incidentally, as it were, reading aloud to her an Italian poem. She ceased to be afraid and was at ease. She forgot Lord Coombe. The Duchess listening and watching her warmed to her task of delicate investigation21 and saw reason for anticipating agreeably stimulating22 things. She was not taking upon herself a merely benevolent23 duty which might assume weight and become a fatigue24. In fact she might trust Coombe for that. After all it was he who had virtually educated the child—little as she was aware of the singular fact. It was he who had dragged her forth25 from her dog kennel26 of a top floor nursery and quaintly27 incongruous as it seemed, had found her a respectable woman for a nurse and an intelligent person for a governess and companion as if he had been a domesticated28 middle class widower29 with a little girl to play mother to. She saw in the situation more than others would have seen in it, but she saw also the ironic30 humour of it. Coombe—with the renowned31 cut of his overcoat—the perfection of his line and scarcely to be divined suggestions of hue—Coombe!
She did not avoid all mention of his name during the interview, but she spoke32 of him only casually33, and though the salary she offered was an excellent one, it was not inordinate34. Robin could not feel that she was not being accepted as of the class of young persons who support themselves self-respectingly, though even the most modest earned income would have represented wealth to her ignorance.
Before they parted she had obtained the position so pleasantly described by Mademoiselle Vallé as being something like that of a young lady in waiting. “But I am really a companion and I will do everything—everything I can so that I shall be worth keeping,” she thought seriously. She felt that she should want to be kept. If Lord Coombe was a friend of her employer’s it was because the Duchess did not know what others knew. And her house was not his house—and the hideous35 thing she had secretly loathed36 would be at an end. She would be supporting herself as decently and honestly as Mademoiselle or Dowie had supported themselves all their lives.
With an air of incidentally recalling a fact, the Duchess said after they had risen to leave her:
“Mademoiselle Vallé tells me you have an elderly nurse you are very fond of. She seems to belong to a class of servants almost extinct.”
“I love her,” Robin faltered37—because the sudden reminder38 brought back a pang39 to her. There was a look in her eyes which faltered also. “She loves me. I don’t know how——” but there she stopped.
“Such women are very valuable to those who know the meaning of their type. I myself am always in search of it. My dear Miss Brent was of it, though of a different class.”
“But most people do not know,” said Robin. “It seems old-fashioned to them—and it’s beautiful! Dowie is an angel.”
“I should like to secure your Dowie for my housekeeper40 and myself,”—one of the greatest powers of the celebrated smile was its power to convince. “A competent person is needed to take charge of the linen41. If we can secure an angel we shall be fortunate.”
A day or so later she said to Coombe in describing the visit.
“The child’s face is wonderful. If you could but have seen her eyes when I said it. It is not the mere beauty of size and shape and colour which affect one. It is something else. She is a little flame of feeling.”
The “something else” was in the sound of her voice as she answered.
“She will be in the same house with me! Sometimes perhaps I may see her and talk to her! Oh! how grateful I am!” She might even see and talk to her as often as she wished, it revealed itself and when she and Mademoiselle got into their hansom cab to drive away, she caught at the Frenchwoman’s hand and clung to it, her eyelashes wet,
“It is as if there must be Goodness which takes care of one,” she said. “I used to believe in it so—until I was afraid of all the world. Dowie means most of all. I did not know how I could bear to let her go away. And since her husband and her daughter died, she has no one but me. I should have had no one but her if you had gone back to Belgium, Mademoiselle. And now she will be safe in the same house with me. Perhaps the Duchess will keep her until she dies. I hope she will keep me until I die. I will be as good and faithful as Dowie and perhaps the Duchess will live until I am quite old—and not pretty any more. And I will make economies as you have made them, Mademoiselle, and save all my salary—and I might be able to end my days in a little cottage in the country.”
Mademoiselle was conscious of an actual physical drag at her heartstrings. The pulsating42 glow of her young loveliness had never been more moving and oh! the sublime43 certainty of her unconsciousness that Life lay between this hour and that day when she was “quite old and not pretty any more” and having made economies could die in a little cottage in the country! She believed in her vision as she had believed that Donal would come to her in the garden.
Upon Feather the revelation that her daughter had elected to join the ranks of girls who were mysteriously determined44 to be responsible for themselves produced a curious combination of effects. It was presented to her by Lord Coombe in the form of a simple impersonal45 statement which had its air of needing no explanation. She heard it with eyes widening a little and a smile slowly growing. Having heard, she broke into a laugh, a rather high-pitched treble laugh.
“Really?” she said. “She is really going to do it? To take a situation! She wants to be independent and ‘live her own life!’ What a joke—for a girl of mine!” She was either really amused or chose to seem so.
“What do you think of it?” she asked when she stopped laughing. Her eyes had curiosity in them.
“I like it,” he answered.
“Of course. I ought to have remembered that you helped her to an Early Victorian duchess. She’s one without a flaw—the Dowager Duchess of Darte. The most conscientiously46 careful mother couldn’t object. It’s almost like entering into the kingdom of heaven—in a dull way.” She began to laugh again as if amusing images rose suddenly before her. “And what does the Duchess think of it?” she said after her laughter had ceased again. “How does she reconcile herself to the idea of a companion whose mother she wouldn’t have in her house?”
“We need not enter into that view of the case. You decided47 some years ago that it did not matter to you whether Early Victorian duchesses included you in their visiting lists or did not. More modern ones do I believe—quite beautiful and amusing ones.”
“But for that reason I want this one and those like her. They would bore me, but I want them. I want them to come to my house and be polite to me in their stuffy48 way. I want to be invited to their hideous dinner parties and see them sitting round their tables in their awful family jewels ‘talking of the sad deaths of kings.’ That’s Shakespeare, you know. I heard it last night at the theatre.”
“Why do you want it?” Coombe inquired.
“When I ask you why you show your morbid49 interest in Robin, you say you don’t know. I don’t know—but I do want it.”
She suddenly flushed, she even showed her small teeth. For an extraordinary moment she looked like a little cat.
“Robin will hare it,” she cried, grinding a delicate fist into the palm on her knee. “She’s not eighteen and she’s a beauty and she’s taken up by a perfectly50 decent old duchess. She’ll have everything! The Dowager will marry her to someone important. You’ll help,” she turned on him in a flame of temper. “You are capable of marrying her yourself!” There was a a brief but entire silence. It was broken by his saying,
“She is not capable of marrying me.”
There was brief but entire silence again, and it was he who again broke it, his manner at once cool and reasonable.
“It is better not to exhibit this kind of feeling. Let us be quite frank. There are few things you feel more strongly than that you do not want your daughter in the house. When she was a child you told me that you detested51 the prospect of having her on your hands. She is being disposed of in the most easily explained and enviable manner.”
“It’s true—it’s true,” Feather murmured. She began to see advantages and the look of a little cat died out, or at least modified itself into that of a little cat upon whom dawned prospects52 of cream. No mood ever held her very long. “She won’t come back to stay,” she said. “The Duchess won’t let her. I can use her rooms and I shall be very glad to have them. There’s at least some advantage in figuring as a sort of Dame53 Aux Camelias.”


1 prospect P01zn     
  • This state of things holds out a cheerful prospect.事态呈现出可喜的前景。
  • The prospect became more evident.前景变得更加明朗了。
2 gratitude p6wyS     
  • I have expressed the depth of my gratitude to him.我向他表示了深切的谢意。
  • She could not help her tears of gratitude rolling down her face.她感激的泪珠禁不住沿着面颊流了下来。
3 passionate rLDxd     
  • He is said to be the most passionate man.据说他是最有激情的人。
  • He is very passionate about the project.他对那个项目非常热心。
4 tumult LKrzm     
  • The tumult in the streets awakened everyone in the house.街上的喧哗吵醒了屋子里的每一个人。
  • His voice disappeared under growing tumult.他的声音消失在越来越响的喧哗声中。
5 outlet ZJFxG     
  • The outlet of a water pipe was blocked.水管的出水口堵住了。
  • Running is a good outlet for his energy.跑步是他发泄过剩精力的好方法。
6 undertaking Mfkz7S     
  • He gave her an undertaking that he would pay the money back with in a year.他向她做了一年内还钱的保证。
  • He is too timid to venture upon an undertaking.他太胆小,不敢从事任何事业。
7 robin Oj7zme     
  • The robin is the messenger of spring.知更鸟是报春的使者。
  • We knew spring was coming as we had seen a robin.我们看见了一只知更鸟,知道春天要到了。
8 mansion 8BYxn     
  • The old mansion was built in 1850.这座古宅建于1850年。
  • The mansion has extensive grounds.这大厦四周的庭园广阔。
9 mere rC1xE     
  • That is a mere repetition of what you said before.那不过是重复了你以前讲的话。
  • It's a mere waste of time waiting any longer.再等下去纯粹是浪费时间。
10 suite MsMwB     
  • She has a suite of rooms in the hotel.她在那家旅馆有一套房间。
  • That is a nice suite of furniture.那套家具很不错。
11 meted 9eadd1a2304ecfb724677a9aeb1ee2ab     
v.(对某人)施以,给予(处罚等)( mete的过去式和过去分词 )
  • The severe punishment was meted out to the unruly hooligan. 对那个嚣张的流氓已给予严厉惩处。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
  • The money was meted out only after it had been carefully counted. 钱只有仔细点过之后才分发。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
12 dignified NuZzfb     
  • Throughout his trial he maintained a dignified silence. 在整个审讯过程中,他始终沉默以保持尊严。
  • He always strikes such a dignified pose before his girlfriend. 他总是在女友面前摆出这种庄严的姿态。
13 gracefully KfYxd     
  • She sank gracefully down onto a cushion at his feet. 她优雅地坐到他脚旁的垫子上。
  • The new coats blouse gracefully above the hip line. 新外套在臀围线上优美地打着褶皱。
14 ushered d337b3442ea0cc4312a5950ae8911282     
v.引,领,陪同( usher的过去式和过去分词 )
  • The secretary ushered me into his office. 秘书把我领进他的办公室。
  • A round of parties ushered in the New Year. 一系列的晚会迎来了新年。 来自《简明英汉词典》
15 mellow F2iyP     
  • These apples are mellow at this time of year.每年这时节,苹果就熟透了。
  • The colours become mellow as the sun went down.当太阳落山时,色彩变得柔和了。
16 lustrous JAbxg     
  • Mary has a head of thick,lustrous,wavy brown hair.玛丽有一头浓密、富有光泽的褐色鬈发。
  • This mask definitely makes the skin fair and lustrous.这款面膜可以异常有用的使肌肤变亮和有光泽。
17 iris Ekly8     
  • The opening of the iris is called the pupil.虹膜的开口处叫做瞳孔。
  • This incredible human eye,complete with retina and iris,can be found in the Maldives.又是在马尔代夫,有这样一只难以置信的眼睛,连视网膜和虹膜都刻画齐全了。
18 uncommon AlPwO     
  • Such attitudes were not at all uncommon thirty years ago.这些看法在30年前很常见。
  • Phil has uncommon intelligence.菲尔智力超群。
19 lashes e2e13f8d3a7c0021226bb2f94d6a15ec     
n.鞭挞( lash的名词复数 );鞭子;突然猛烈的一击;急速挥动v.鞭打( lash的第三人称单数 );煽动;紧系;怒斥
  • Mother always lashes out food for the children's party. 孩子们聚会时,母亲总是给他们许多吃的。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Never walk behind a horse in case it lashes out. 绝对不要跟在马后面,以防它突然猛踢。 来自《简明英汉词典》
20 celebrated iwLzpz     
  • He was soon one of the most celebrated young painters in England.不久他就成了英格兰最负盛名的年轻画家之一。
  • The celebrated violinist was mobbed by the audience.观众团团围住了这位著名的小提琴演奏家。
21 investigation MRKzq     
  • In an investigation,a new fact became known, which told against him.在调查中新发现了一件对他不利的事实。
  • He drew the conclusion by building on his own investigation.他根据自己的调查研究作出结论。
22 stimulating ShBz7A     
  • shower gel containing plant extracts that have a stimulating effect on the skin 含有对皮肤有益的植物精华的沐浴凝胶
  • This is a drug for stimulating nerves. 这是一种兴奋剂。
23 benevolent Wtfzx     
  • His benevolent nature prevented him from refusing any beggar who accosted him.他乐善好施的本性使他不会拒绝走上前向他行乞的任何一个乞丐。
  • He was a benevolent old man and he wouldn't hurt a fly.他是一个仁慈的老人,连只苍蝇都不愿伤害。
24 fatigue PhVzV     
  • The old lady can't bear the fatigue of a long journey.这位老妇人不能忍受长途旅行的疲劳。
  • I have got over my weakness and fatigue.我已从虚弱和疲劳中恢复过来了。
25 forth Hzdz2     
  • The wind moved the trees gently back and forth.风吹得树轻轻地来回摇晃。
  • He gave forth a series of works in rapid succession.他很快连续发表了一系列的作品。
26 kennel axay6     
  • Sporting dogs should be kept out of doors in a kennel.猎狗应该养在户外的狗窝中。
  • Rescued dogs are housed in a standard kennel block.获救的狗被装在一个标准的犬舍里。
27 quaintly 7kzz9p     
  • "I don't see what that's got to do with it,'said the drummer quaintly. “我看不出这和你的事有什么联系,"杜洛埃说道,他感到莫名其妙。 来自英汉文学 - 嘉莉妹妹
  • He is quaintly dressed, what a strange one he is. 他一身的奇装异服,真是另类!
28 domesticated Lu2zBm     
adj.喜欢家庭生活的;(指动物)被驯养了的v.驯化( domesticate的过去式和过去分词 )
  • He is thoroughly domesticated and cooks a delicious chicken casserole. 他精于家务,烹制的砂锅炖小鸡非常可口。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The donkey is a domesticated form of the African wild ass. 驴是非洲野驴的一种已驯化的品种。 来自《简明英汉词典》
29 widower fe4z2a     
  • George was a widower with six young children.乔治是个带著六个小孩子的鳏夫。
  • Having been a widower for many years,he finally decided to marry again.丧偶多年后,他终于决定二婚了。
30 ironic 1atzm     
  • That is a summary and ironic end.那是一个具有概括性和讽刺意味的结局。
  • People used to call me Mr Popularity at high school,but they were being ironic.人们中学时常把我称作“万人迷先生”,但他们是在挖苦我。
31 renowned okSzVe     
  • He is one of the world's renowned writers.他是世界上知名的作家之一。
  • She is renowned for her advocacy of human rights.她以提倡人权而闻名。
32 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
33 casually UwBzvw     
  • She remarked casually that she was changing her job.她当时漫不经心地说要换工作。
  • I casually mentioned that I might be interested in working abroad.我不经意地提到我可能会对出国工作感兴趣。
34 inordinate c6txn     
  • The idea of this gave me inordinate pleasure.我想到这一点感到非常高兴。
  • James hints that his heroine's demands on life are inordinate.詹姆斯暗示他的女主人公对于人生过于苛求。
35 hideous 65KyC     
  • The whole experience had been like some hideous nightmare.整个经历就像一场可怕的噩梦。
  • They're not like dogs,they're hideous brutes.它们不像狗,是丑陋的畜牲。
36 loathed dbdbbc9cf5c853a4f358a2cd10c12ff2     
v.憎恨,厌恶( loathe的过去式和过去分词 );极不喜欢
  • Baker loathed going to this red-haired young pup for supplies. 面包师傅不喜欢去这个红头发的自负的傻小子那里拿原料。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Therefore, above all things else, he loathed his miserable self! 因此,他厌恶不幸的自我尤胜其它! 来自英汉文学 - 红字
37 faltered d034d50ce5a8004ff403ab402f79ec8d     
(嗓音)颤抖( falter的过去式和过去分词 ); 支吾其词; 蹒跚; 摇晃
  • He faltered out a few words. 他支吾地说出了几句。
  • "Er - but he has such a longhead!" the man faltered. 他不好意思似的嚅嗫着:“这孩子脑袋真长。”
38 reminder WkzzTb     
  • I have had another reminder from the library.我又收到图书馆的催还单。
  • It always took a final reminder to get her to pay her share of the rent.总是得发给她一份最后催缴通知,她才付应该交的房租。
39 pang OKixL     
  • She experienced a sharp pang of disappointment.她经历了失望的巨大痛苦。
  • She was beginning to know the pang of disappointed love.她开始尝到了失恋的痛苦。
40 housekeeper 6q2zxl     
  • A spotless stove told us that his mother is a diligent housekeeper.炉子清洁无瑕就表明他母亲是个勤劳的主妇。
  • She is an economical housekeeper and feeds her family cheaply.她节约持家,一家人吃得很省。
41 linen W3LyK     
  • The worker is starching the linen.这名工人正在给亚麻布上浆。
  • Fine linen and cotton fabrics were known as well as wool.精细的亚麻织品和棉织品像羊毛一样闻名遐迩。
42 pulsating d9276d5eaa70da7d97b300b971f0d74b     
adj.搏动的,脉冲的v.有节奏地舒张及收缩( pulsate的现在分词 );跳动;脉动;受(激情)震动
  • Lights were pulsating in the sky. 天空有闪烁的光。
  • Spindles and fingers moved so quickly that the workshop seemed to be one great nervously-pulsating machine. 工作很紧张,全车间是一个飞快的转轮。 来自子夜部分
43 sublime xhVyW     
  • We should take some time to enjoy the sublime beauty of nature.我们应该花些时间去欣赏大自然的壮丽景象。
  • Olympic games play as an important arena to exhibit the sublime idea.奥运会,就是展示此崇高理念的重要舞台。
44 determined duszmP     
  • 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。
45 impersonal Ck6yp     
  • Even his children found him strangely distant and impersonal.他的孩子们也认为他跟其他人很疏远,没有人情味。
  • His manner seemed rather stiff and impersonal.他的态度似乎很生硬冷淡。
46 conscientiously 3vBzrQ     
  • He kept silent,eating just as conscientiously but as though everything tasted alike. 他一声不吭,闷头吃着,仿佛桌上的饭菜都一个味儿。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • She discharged all the responsibilities of a minister conscientiously. 她自觉地履行部长的一切职责。 来自《简明英汉词典》
47 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
48 stuffy BtZw0     
  • It's really hot and stuffy in here.这里实在太热太闷了。
  • It was so stuffy in the tent that we could sense the air was heavy with moisture.帐篷里很闷热,我们感到空气都是潮的。
49 morbid u6qz3     
  • Some people have a morbid fascination with crime.一些人对犯罪有一种病态的痴迷。
  • It's morbid to dwell on cemeteries and such like.不厌其烦地谈论墓地以及诸如此类的事是一种病态。
50 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
51 detested e34cc9ea05a83243e2c1ed4bd90db391     
v.憎恶,嫌恶,痛恨( detest的过去式和过去分词 )
  • 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
52 prospects fkVzpY     
  • There is a mood of pessimism in the company about future job prospects. 公司中有一种对工作前景悲观的情绪。
  • They are less sanguine about the company's long-term prospects. 他们对公司的远景不那么乐观。
53 dame dvGzR0     
  • The dame tell of her experience as a wife and mother.这位年长妇女讲了她作妻子和母亲的经验。
  • If you stick around,you'll have to marry that dame.如果再逗留多一会,你就要跟那个夫人结婚。


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