Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

Her Ladyship's Conscience, an electronic edition

by Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler [Fowler, Ellen Thorneycroft, 1860-1929]

date: 1913
source publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
collection: Genre Fiction

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A YEAR after the events narrated in the last chapter, the Duchess of Mershire sat at tea with her mother at the Dower House of Wyvern's End.

"Of course it will be a very quiet wedding," said Lady Westerham; "Esther wishes this, and I am sure she is right in so doing."

The Duchess nodded. "Yes; I suppose that Esther has got beyond the white-satin-and-orange-blossom age, and entered the period of travelling dress and hat to match. But I cannot help regretting it. I always feel that white satin and orange-blossom are things that leave their satisfactory mark upon one for the rest of one's life—like vaccination, don't you know?"

"It was not Esther's age that I was thinking of, my dear, but poor Beryl."

The Duchess laughed. "Well, Mamma, if Beryl hadn't died I certainly should never have suggested white satin and orange-blossom for Esther: I should have thought them even more unsuitable than I do now!"

"You know what I mean, my love," Lady Westerham was gently reproving.

"Perfectly: it is only what you say that is so funny."

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"I'm sure I did not mean to be funny, Eleanor."

The Duchess laughed again. "Of course you didn't: and that's why you were."

Lady Westerham smiled indulgently at her daughter's high spirits. When Eleanor's jokes were in question, she did not understand—she loved. Then she said: "I hope that dear Esther will be very happy. At any rate, she deserves to be."

"I'm sure she will, Mamma; but I don't at all agree with you that she deserves to be. As a matter of fact, I know no one who deserves it less. Why on earth couldn't she marry Westerham when first he asked her, and so save all that tiresome Beryl episode?"

Once more Lady Westerham gently reproved her firstborn. "My love, I think you forget that poor dear Beryl is dead."

"No, Mamma, I don't, or I shouldn't refer to her as an episode. But I must say that I blame Esther now, as I have done all along."

"My dear, you have no right to do so. Esther did what she thought her duty to Wilfred in refusing him when he was so young and inexperienced."

"Then more fool she! I only wish I'd had the chance of refusing Tammy when he was young and inexperienced! Of course I shouldn't have availed myself of it, but it would have made married life much easier for me."

"Still, it was beautifully unselfish of dear Esther," persisted the devoted mother.

"It's a great mistake to be unselfish when you are dealing with a man: you might just as well be sympathetic when you are dealing with a thunderstorm. It's the right virtue in the wrong place. Now what | | 310 should you have thought of me if I'd been as unselfish as Esther, and begged Tammy to go further and fare worse in the clutches of some idiotic woman who was four times as good-looking as I, and not a quarter as clever? It would have made life dreadfully dull for him: and it would have been most unfair to the boys, too, to give them a fool for a mother, instead of brilliant, sensible me. Think how stupid they might have been, with Tammy's solid stodge, and none of my wit to lighten it! "

"Ah, there you have it, my love!" said Lady Westerham: "you have put your finger on the core of the matter, when you talk of the boys. Think of Win."

"Yes, of course, there's the child," admitted the Duchess grudgingly.

"Perhaps dear Esther did make a mistake," continued her mother; "but if so, she did it from the best motives, and she is certainly among those loving ones for whom it is written that all things work together for good. We may tangle the threads of life through our ignorance and clumsiness; but if we only err through ignorance and clumsiness, and not by evil intention, there is One Who will take the tangled threads out of our tired hands and weave them into a perfect pattern of palm-leaves and cherubim and open flowers. It makes me very happy to think that Esther and Wilfred are to be married at last: but it makes me still happier to think that the name and the family will not die out, but that dear little Win will carry them on and be as good a man, please God, as his father and your father have been before him."

The Duchess shrugged her shoulders. "Mamma, | | 311 I do believe that you think the whole universe centres in Win."

"So it does, my dear; just as it centres in Jocko and Archie. It always centres in the children, and the children's children, and always will."

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