18. Chapter XVIII.
What are you two plotting together, aunt Medora?"
Madame Olenska cried as she came into the room.
She was dressed as if for a ball. Everything about her
shimmered and glimmered softly, as if her dress had
been woven out of candle-beams; and she carried her
head high, like a pretty woman challenging a roomful
"We were saying, my dear, that here was something
beautiful to surprise you with," Mrs. Manson rejoined,
rising to her feet and pointing archly to the flowers.
Madame Olenska stopped short and looked at the
bouquet. Her colour did not change, but a sort of
white radiance of anger ran over her like summer lightning.
"Ah," she exclaimed, in a shrill voice that the
young man had never heard, "who is ridiculous enough
to send me a bouquet? Why a bouquet? And why
tonight of all nights? I am not going to a ball; I am not
a girl engaged to be married. But some people are
She turned back to the door, opened it, and called
The ubiquitous handmaiden promptly appeared, and
Archer heard Madame Olenska say, in an Italian that
she seemed to pronounce with intentional deliberateness
in order that he might follow it: "Here--throw
this into the dustbin!" and then, as Nastasia stared
protestingly: "But no--it's not the fault of the poor
flowers. Tell the boy to carry them to the house three
doors away, the house of Mr. Winsett, the dark gentleman
who dined here. His wife is ill--they may give her
pleasure . . . The boy is out, you say? Then, my dear
one, run yourself; here, put my cloak over you and fly.
I want the thing out of the house immediately! And, as
you live, don't say they come from me!"
She flung her velvet opera cloak over the maid's
shoulders and turned back into the drawing-room, shutting
the door sharply. Her bosom was rising high under
its lace, and for a moment Archer thought she was
about to cry; but she burst into a laugh instead, and
looking from the Marchioness to Archer, asked abruptly:
"And you two--have you made friends!"