1839-1908 Ouida.

The Massarenes : a novel online

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B L i; >< P L E Y





a movci


By OUIDA^ ^,,^J,



Sampson Low, Marston and Company


5t. ©ujistan's l^ousf, jFrtter ?Lane, E.C




C/JJ l^ Md'<a^^

f^ 37

I en





In case it may be supposed that the Africau episode

in this book was suggested by recent events in the

Transvaal, I desire to state that it was written four

years before the Jameson raid occurred.




"Mouse," said lier husband to Lady Kenilworth, one
morning at Homburg, " do you see that large pale woman
over there, with a face like a crumpled whitey-brown paper

Lady Kenilworth looked.

"Yes," she said, impatiently. "Yes. Well? — what?
—why ? "

" Well, she rolls— she absolutely rolls — wallows — biggest
pile ever made out West."

His wife looked again with a little more attention at the
large figure of a lady, superbly clothed, who sat alone under
a tree, and had that desolate air of "not being in it"
which betrays the unelect.

" Nobody discovered her ? Nobody taken her up ? " she
asked, still looking through her eye-glass.

" Well, old Khris a little ; but Khi'is can't get anybody
on now. He does 'em more harm than good. He's dead

His wife smiled.

" They must be new indeed if they don't know that.
Would they be rich enough to buy Vale Eoyal of Gerald ? "

" Lord, yes ; rich enough to buy a hundred Gerrys and
Vales Eoyal. I know it for a fact from men in the City :
they are astonishing — biggest income in the United States,
after Vanderbilt and Pullman,"

" American, then ? "


"No; made their * stiff' there, and come home to
spend it."

" Name ? "

*' Massarene. Cotton to her if you can. There's money
to be made."

*' Hush ! somebody will hear."

Her lord chuckled.

" Does anybody know these dear souls and their kind for
any other reason than the flimsy ? She's looking your way.
You'll have to introduce yourself, for she don't know any-
l)ody here. Make Boo i'all down and break her nose in
front of her."

Boo was a four-year-old angel with lovely black eyes and
bright yellow hair, the second child of the Kenilworth
family. Accompanied by one of her nurses, she was playing
near them, with a big rosy bladder tied to a string.

" I don't think the matter so difficult that Boo's nose
need be sacrificed. At what hotel is this person staying ? "

'' At ours."

*' Oh ! Then the thing's very easy."

She nodded and dismissed him. She was on fairly good
terms with her husband, and would make common cause
with him when it suited her ; but she could not stand much
of his society. She took another prolonged stare through
her eye-glass at the large pale woman, so splendidly attired,
sitting in solitude under the tree, then rose and walked
away in her graceful and nonchalant fashion, with her knot
of young men around her. She was followed'by the dreary,
envious gazo of the lonely lady whose countenance had
been likened to a lirge whitey -brown paper bag.

"If one could but get to know her all the rest would
come easy," thought that solitary and unhappy outsider,
looking longingly after that pliant and perfect figure with
its incomparable air of youth, of sovereignty, and of in-
difference. What was the use of having an income second
only to Yanderbilt's and Pullman's?

There are things which cannot be purchased. Manner is
chief amongst them.

l^Iargaret JMassarene was very lonely indeed, as she sat
under the big tree watching the gay, many-coloured,
animated crowd amongst which there was not a creature


with wliom she had even a bowing acquaintance. Her lord
and master, of whom she stood in much awe, was away on
business in Frankfort ; her daughter, her only living child,
was in India ; she was here because it was the proper place
for an aspirant to society to be in at that season ; but of all
this multitude of royal people, titled people, pretty people,
idle people, who thronged the alleys and crowded the
hotels, she did not know a single creature. She envied her
own maid, who had many acquaintances with other maids
and couriers and smart German sergeants and corporals of

On the previous day she had made also a fatal mistake.
As she had crossed the hall of her own hotel, she had seen a
fair small woman, insignificantly dressed, in a deerstalker's
hat and a grey ulster, who was arguing with the cashier
about an item in her bill which she refused to pay : so
many kreutzer for ice; ice was always given gratis, she
averred ; and she occupied the whole window of the cashier's
bureau as she spoke, having laid down an umbrella, a
packet of newspapers, and a mackintosh on the shelf.
Indignant at being made to wait by such a shabby little
person, Mrs. Massarene pushed her aside. "Folks as has
to count pence shouldn't come to grand hotels," she
muttered, with more reason than politeness, elbowing away
the shabby fair woman.

The shabby fair woman turned round and stared, then
laughed : the cashier and the clerk were confounded, and
lost their presence of mind. To the shabby fair woman a
man in plain clothes, obviously her servant, approached,
and bowing low said, " If you please, madam, his Imperial
Majesty is at the door." And the lady who quarrelled with
a clerk for half a kreutzer went out of the hall, and
mounted beside a gentleman who was driving himself; one
of those gentlemen to whom all the world doff their hats,
yet who, by a singular contradiction, are always guarded by

The Massarene courier, who was always hovering near his
mistress in the vain effort to preserve her from wrong-
doing, took her aside.

" It's Mrs. Cecil Courcy, madam," he murmured. " There's
nobody so chic as Mrs. Cecil Courcy. She's hand and


glove with all them royalties. Pinching and screwing — oh,
yes, that she do— hut then you see, madam, she can do it."

" You won't tell your master, Gregson ? " said Mrs.
]\Iassarene in an agony of penitence.

Gregson winced at the word " master," but he answered
sincerely, " No, madam ; I won't tell Mr. Massarene. But
if you think that because they're high they're large, you're
very much mistaken. Lord, ma'am, they'll pocket the
marrons glacis at the table d'hote and take the matches away
from their bedrooms, but then, you see, ma'am, them as are
swagger can do them things. Mrs. Cecil Courcy might
steal the spoons if she'd a mind to do it ! "

Mrs. Massarene gasped. A great name covering a multi-
tude of small thefts appalled her simple mind.

" You can't mean it, Gregson ? " she said with breathless

*• Indeed, madam, I do," said the courier, " and that's
M'liy, madam, I w^on't ever go into service with gentlefolks.
They've got such a lot to keep up, and so precious little to
do it with, that they're obliged to pinch and to screw and
get three sixpences out of a shilling, as I tell you, madam."

Tilrs. Massarene was sad and silent. It was painful to
liciir one's own courier say that he would never take service
w ith " gentlefolk." One never likes to see oneself as others
see us.

The poignant horror of that moment as she had seen the
imperial w^heels flash and rotate through the flying dust was
still fresh in her mind, and should have prevented her from
ever trusting to her own judgment or forming that judg-
ment from mere appearances. She could still hear the
echo of the mocking voice of that prince whom Kenilworth
had described as " dead broke " saying to her, as he had
said more than once in England, " Not often do you make
a mistake; ah, no, not often, my very dear madam, not
often ; but when you do make one — eh Men, vous la faites
helle ! "

Mrs. IMassarene sighed heavily as she sat alone under her
tree, her large hands folded on her lap ; the lessons of
society seemed to her of an overwhelming difficulty and
intricacy. How could she possibly have guessed that the
great Mrs. Cecil Courcy, who gave tea and bread-and-butter


to kino's and sang duets with their consorts, was a little,
shabby, pale-faced being in a deerstalker's hat and a worn
^rey ulster who had disputed in propria persona at the
cashier's office the charge of half a kreutzer on her bill
for some iced water ?

As she was thinking these melancholy thoughts and
meditating on the isolation of her greatness, a big rose-
coloured bladder struck her a sharp blow on the cheek ; and
at her involuntary cry of pain and surprise a little child's
voice said pleadingly, " Oh ! begs 'oo pardon — vewy muss ! "

The rosebud face of Lady Kenilworth's little daughter
was at her knee, and its prettiness and penitence touched
to the quick her warm maternal heart.

" My little dear, 'tis nothing at all," she said, stooping to
kiss the child under its white lace coalscuttle bonnet.
Jjoo submitted to the caress, though she longed to rub the
place kissed by the stranger.

" It didn't hurt 'oo, did it ? " she asked solicitously, and
then she added in a whisper, " Has 'oo dot any sweeties ? "

For she saw that the lady was kind, and thought her
pretty, and in her four-year-old mind decided to utilise the
situation. As it chanced, Mrs. Massarene, being fond of
"sweeties" herself, had some caramels in a gold bonbon-
box, and she pressed them, box and all, into the little hands
in their tiny tan gloves.

Boo's beautiful sleepy black eyes grew wide awake with

" Dat's a real dold box," she said, with the line instincts
proper to one who will have her womanhood in the twentieth
century. And slipping it into her little bosom she ran off
with it to regain her nurse.

Her mother was walking past at the moment with the
King of Greece on one side of her, and the Due d'Orleans
on the other. Wise little Boo kept aloof with her prize,
but she knew not, or forgot, that her mother's eyes were
as the optic organs of the fly which can see all round at
ohce, and possess twelve thousand facets.

Ten minutes later, when the king had gone to drink his
glasses of water and Prince Gamelle had gone to breakfast,
Lady Kenilworth, leading her sulky and unwilling Boo by
the hand, approached the tree where the lone lady sat.


" You have been too kind to my naughty little girl," sne
said with her sweetest smile. "She must not keep this
honhonniere ; the contents are more than enough for a care-
less little trot who knocks people about with her balloon."

Mrs. Massarene, agitated almost out of speech and sense
at the sight of this radiant apparition which spoke with
such condescension to her, stammered thanks, excuses, pro-
testations in an unintelligible hotchpotch of confused
phrases, and let the gold box fall neglected to the ground.

" The dear, pretty baby," she said entreatingly. " Oh,
pray, ma'am, oh, pray, my lady, do let her have it, such a
trifle as it is ! "

" JSTo, indeed I cannot," said Lady Kenilworth firmly, but
still with her most winning smile, and she added with that
graceful abruptness natural to her, "■ Do tell me, I am not
quite sure, but wasn't it you who snubbed Phyllis Courcy
so delightfully at the hotel bureau yesterday morniDg ? "

Mrs. Massarene's pallid face became purple.

" Oh, my lady," she said faintly, " I shall never get over
it, such a mistake as I made ! When Mr. Massarene comes
to hear of it he'll be ready to kill me "

"It was quite delightful," said Lady Kenilworth with
decision. " Nobody ever dares pull her up for her cheese-
paring ways. We were all enchanted. She is a detestable
cat, and if she hadn't that mezzo-soprano voice she wouldn't
be petted and cossetted at Balmoral, and Berlin, and
Bernsdorff as she is. She is my aunt by marriage, but I
hate her."

" Dear me, my lady," murmured Mrs. Massarene, doubtful
if her ears could hear aright. " I was ready to sink into
my shoes," she added, "when I saw her drive away with
tlie Emperor."

Lady Kenilworth laughed, a genuine laugh which meant
a great number of things, unexplained to her auditor.
Then she nodded ; a little pleasant familiar nod of farewell.

"We shall meet again. We are at the same hotel.
Thanks so much for your kindness to my naughty pet."

And with the enchanting smile she used when she
wanted to turn people's heads she nodded again, and went
on her way, dragging the reluctant Boo away from the tree
and the golden box.


When she consigned her little daughter to the nurse,
Boo's big black eyes looked up at her in eloquent reproach.
The big black eyes said what the baby lips did not dare
to say : " I did what you told me ; I hit the lady very
cleverly as if it was accident, and then you wouldn't let me
have the pretty box, and you called me naughty ! "

Later, in the nursery, Boo poured out her sorrows to her
brother Jack, who exactly resembled herself with his yellow
hair, his big dark eyes, and his rosebud of a mouth.

" She telled me to hit the old 'ooman, and then she said
I was naughty 'cos I did it, and she tooked away my
dold box ! "

" Never mind. Boo. Mammy always lets one in for it.
What'd you tell her of the box for? Don't never tell
mammy nothin'," said Jack in the superior wisdom of the
masculine sex and twelve months greater age.

Boo sobbed afresh.

" I didn't tell her. She seed it through my frock."

Jack kissed her.

"Let's find old woman, Boo, if we can get out all by
'selves, and we'll ask her for the box."

Boo's face cleared.

" And we'll tell her mammy telled me to hit her ! "

Jack's cherub face grew grave.

" N-n-no. We won't do that. Boo. Mammy's a bad un
to split on."

Jack had once overheard this said on the staircase by
Lord Kenilworth, and his own experiences had convinced
him of the truth of it. " Mammy can be cruel nasty," he
added, with great solemnity of aspect and many painful
personal recollections.

Mrs. Massarene had remained under the tree digest-
ing the water she had drunk, and the memory of the
blunder she had made with regard to Mrs. Courcy. She
ought to have known that there is nothing more perilous
than to judge by appearances, for this is a fact to be learned
in kitchens as well as palaces. But she had not known it,
and by not knowing it had offended a person who went en
intime to Balmoral, and Berlin, and Bernsdorff !

Half-an-hour later, when she slowly and sorrowfully
■walked back through the gardens of her hotel, to go in to


luncheon, two bright cherubic apparitions came towards her
over the grass.

Walking demurely hand-in-hand, looking the pictures of
innocent infancy, Jack and Boo, having had their twelve
o'clock dinner, dedicated their united genius to the finding
and besieging of the old fat woman.

" How's 'oo do ? " said Boo very affably, whilst her
brother, leaving her the initiative, pulled his sky-blue
Tarn o' Shanter cap off his golden curls with his best
possible manner.

Their victim was enchanted by their overtures, and
forgot that she was hungry, as these radiant little Gains-
borough figures blocked her path. They were welcome to
her as children, but as living portions of the peerage they
were divinities.

" What's your name, my pretty dears ? " she said, much
flattered and embarrassed. " You're Lord Kersterholme,
aren't you, sir ? "

" I'm Kers'ham, 'ess. But I'm Jack," said the boy with
the big black eyes and the yellow locks, cut short over his
forehead and falling long on his shoulders.

" And your dear little sister, she's Lady Beatrix Orme ? "
said Mrs. Massarene, who had read their names and dates of
birth a score of times in her * Burke.'

" She's Boo," said Jack.

Boo herself stood with her little nose and chin in the
air, and her mouth pursed contemptuously. She was ready
to discharge herself of scathing ironies on the personal
appearance of the questioner, but she resisted the impulse,
because to indulge it might endanger the restoration of the
gold box.

" I am sure you are very fond of your pretty mamma,
my dears ? " said Mrs. Massarene, wondering why they thus
honoured her by standing in her path.

Boo shut up her rosy mouth and her big eyes till they
were three straight lines of cruel scorn, and was silent.

Jack hesitated.

** We're very fond of Harry," he said, by way of com-
promise, and as in allusion to a substitute.

'* Who is Harry ? " asked Mrs. Massarene, surprised.

The children were puzzled. Who was Harry ?


They were used to seeing him perpetually, to playing
with him, to teasing him, to getting everything they
wanted out of him ; but, as to who he was, of that they had
never thought.

*' He's in the Guards," said Jack at last. " The Guards
that have the white tails on their heads, you know, and
ride down Portland Place of a morning."

" He belongs to mammy," said Boo, by way of additional
identification; she was a lovely little fresh dewdrop of
childhood only just four years old, but she had a sparkle of
malice and meaning in her tone and her eyes, of which her
brother was innocent.

" Oh, indeed," murmured Mrs. Massarene, more and more
embarrassed ; for aught she knew, it might be the habit for
ladies in the great world to have an officer of the Guards
attached to their service.

Jack looked critically at the strange lady. " Don't 'oo
know people ? " he asked ; this poor old fat woman seemed
to bim very forlorn and friendless.

" I don't know many people as yet, my lord," murmured
their victim humbly.

" Is 'oo a cook or a nurse ? " said Jack, with his head on
one side, surveying her with puzzled compassion.

" My dear little sir ! " cried Mrs. Massarene, horrified.
" Why, gracious me ! Pm a lady."

Jack burst out laughing. " Oh, no, 'oo isn't," he said
decidedly. " Ladies don't say they's ladies."

Boo twitched his hand to remind him of the ultimate
obiect of their mission.

Mrs. Massarene had never more cruelly felt how utterly
she was " nobody at her first Drawing Eoom, than she felt
it now under the merciless eyes of these chicks.

Boo pulled Jack's sleeve. " She won't give us nothin'
else if 'oo tease her," she whispered in his rosy ear.

Jack shook her off. " P'r'aps we're rude," he said re-
morsefully to his victim. " We's sorry if we've vexed 'oo."

" And does 'oo want the little box mammy gived back
to 'oo ? " said Boo desperately, perceiving that her brother
would never attack this main question.

Over the plain broad flat face of the poor plebeian there
passed a gleam of intelligence and a shadow of disappoint-


ment. It was only for sake of the golden box that these
little angels had smilingly blocked her road !

She brought out the honhonniere at once from her pocket.
" Pray take it and keep it, my little lady," she said to Boo,
who required no second bidding; and after a moment's
hesitation Mrs. Massarene took out of her purse a new
Napoleon. " Would you please, my lord," she murmured,
pushing the bright coin into Jack's fingers.

Jack coloured. He was tempted to take the coin; he
had spent his last money two days before, and the Napoleon
would buy a little cannon for which his heart pined ; a real
cannon which would load with real little shells. But some-
thing indefinite in his mind shrank from taking a stranger's
gift. He put his hands behind his back. "Thanks,
very much," he said resolutely, " but please, no ; I'd
rather not."

She pressed it on him warmly, but he was obstinate.
" No, thanks," he said twice. " 'Oo's very kind," he added
courteously. " But I don't know 'oo, and I'd rather not."
And he adhered to his refusal. He could not have put
his sentiment into words, but he had a temper which his
sister had not.

" 'Oo's very kind," he said again, to soften his refusal.
^ "'Oo's very kind," repeated Boo sarcastically, with a
little grin and a mocking curtsey, " and Jack's a great big
goose. Tata ! "

She pulled her brother away, being afraid of the arrival
of governess, nurse, or somebody who might yet again
snatch the gold box away from her.

" Why didn't 'oo take the money, Jack ? " she said, as
they ran hand-in-hand down the path.

" I don't know," said Jack truthfully. " Somethin' inside
me told me not."

Their forsaken admirer looked after them wistfully.
" Fine feathers don't make a fine bird o' me," she thought
sorrowfully. "Even those babies see I ain't a lady. I
always told William as how it wouldn't be no use. I
daresay in time they'll oome to us for sake of what they'll
get, but they won't never think iis auo'ht except the rinsins

Lord Kenilworth had been looking idly out of a window


of the hotel across the evergreens after his breakfast of
brandy and seltzer, and had seen the little scene in the
garden and chuckled as he saw.

" Shrewd little beggars, gettin' things out of the fat old
woman," he thought with approval. " How like they look
to their mother ; and what a blessing it is there's never
any doubts as to the maternity of anybody ! "

He, although not a student of * Burke ' like Mrs. Massa-
rene, had opened that majestic volume once on a rainy day
in the library of a country house, and had looked at his
own family record in it, and had seen, underneath his own
title and his father's, the names of four little children : —


(1) John Cecil Victor, Lord Kersterholme.

(2) Gerald George.

(3) Francis Lionel Desmond Edward.

Daughter :

Beatrix Cicely.

" Dear little duckies ! " he had murmured, biting a
cigarette. " Sweet little babes ! Precious little poppets !
Damn 'em, the whole blooming lot ! "

But he had been quite alone when he had said this : for
a man who drank so much as he did he was always remark-
ably discreet. What he drank did not make him garrulous ;
it made him suspicious and mute. No one had ever known
him allow a word to escape his lips which he would, being
sober, have regretted to have said. How many abstemious
persons amongst us can boast as much ?



It was four o'clock on a misty and dark afternoon of the
month of March in London.

The reception-rooms of a fine house facing Grosvenor
Gate were all lighted by the last modern perfection of
rose-shaded electricity. They were rooms of unusually
admirable proportions and size for the city in which they
were situated, and were decorated and filled with all that
modern resources, both in art and in wealth, can obtain.

Harrenden House, as it was called, had been designed for
a rich and eccentric duke of that name, and occupied by
him for a few years, at the end of which time he had tired
of it, had carried all its treasures elsewhere, and put it up
for sale ; it had remained unsold and unlet for a very long
period, the price asked being too large even for millionaires.
At last, in the autumn of the previous year, it had been
taken by a person who was much more than a millionaire,
though he had been born in a workhouse and had begun
life as a cow-boy.

The great mansion had nothing whatever of the parvenu
about it except its new owner. Its interior had been
arranged in perfect taste by an unerring master's hand.
The square hall had ancient Italian tapestries, Italian
marbles, Italian mosaics, all of genuine age and extreme
beauty, whilst from its domed cupola a mellowed light
streamed down through painted glass of the fifteenth
century, taken from the private chapel of a Flemish castle.

The two-winged staircase, broad and massive, had balus-
trades of oak which had once been the choir railings of a
cathedral in Karinthia, the silver lamps which hung above
these stairs had once illumined religious services in the
Kremlin, and above the central balustrade leaned, lovely as


adolescence, a nude youth with a hawk on his wrist — the
work of Clodion.

The rest of the mansion was in the same proportions and
perfection. No false note jarred on its harmonies, no
doubtful thing intruded a coarse or common chord. The
household were not pushed away into dark cell-h" 'ie corners,
but had comfortable and airy sleeping-chambers. It was
a palace fit for a Queen of Loves ; it was a home made for
a young Caesar in the first flush of his dreams of Cleopatra.
And it belonged actually to William Massarene, late of
Kerosene City, North Dakota, U.S.A., miner, miller, meat
salesman, cattle exporter, railway contractor, owner of

Online Library1839-1908 OuidaThe Massarenes : a novel → online text (page 1 of 47)