Democracy An American Novel by Henry Adams
SYBIL TO CARRINGTON "May 1st, New York.
"My dear Mr. Carrington, "I promised to write you, and so, to keep my promise, and also because my sister wishes me to tell you about our plans, I send this letter. We have left Washington--for ever, I am afraid--and are going to Europe next month.
You must know that a fortnight ago, Lord Skye gave a great ball to the Grand-Duchess of something-or-other quite unspellable. I never can describe things, but it was all very fine. I wore a lovely new dress, and was a great success, I assure you. So was Madeleine, though she had to sit most of the evening by the Princess--such a dowdy! The Duke danced with me several times; he can't reverse, but that doesn't seem to matter in a Grand-Duke.
Well! things came to a crisis at the end of the evening. I followed your directions, and after we got home gave your letter to Madeleine. She says she has burned it. I don't know what happened afterwards--a tremendous scene, I suspect, but Victoria Dare writes me from Washington that every one is talking about M.'s refusal of Mr. R., and a dreadful thing that took place on our very doorstep between Mr. R. and Baron Jacobi, the day after the ball. She says there was a regular pitched battle, and the Baron struck him over the face with his cane. You know how afraid Madeleine was that they would do something of the sort in our parlour. I'm glad they waited till they were in the street. But isn't it shocking! They say the Baron is to be sent away, or recalled, or something. I like the old gentleman, and for his sake am glad duelling is gone out of fashion, though I don't much believe Mr. Silas P. Ratcliffe could hit anything. The Baron passed through here three days ago on his summer trip to Europe. He left his card on us, but we were out, and did not see him. We are going over in July with the Schneidekoupons, and Mr. Schneidekoupon has promised to send his yacht to the Mediterranean, so that we shall sail about there after finishing the Nile, and see Jerusalem and Gibraltar and Constantinople. I think it will be perfectly lovely. I hate ruins, but I fancy you can buy delicious things in Constantinople. Of course, after what has happened, we can never go back to Washington. I shall miss our rides dreadfully. I read Mr. Browning's 'Last Ride Together,' as you told me; I think it's beautiful and perfectly easy, all but a little. I never could understand a word of him before--so I never tried. Who do you think is engaged? Victoria Dare, to a coronet and a peat-bog, with Lord Dunbeg attached. Victoria says she is happier than she ever was before in any of her other engagements, and she is sure this is the real one. She says she has thirty thousand a year derived from the poor of America, which may just as well go to relieve one of the poor in Ireland.
You know her father was a claim agent, or some such thing, and is said to have made his money by cheating his clients out of their claims. She is perfectly wild to be a countess, and means to make Castle Dunbeg lovely by-and-by, and entertain us all there. Madeleine says she is just the kind to be a great success in London. Madeleine is very well, and sends her kind regards. I believe she is going to add a postscript. I have promised to let her read this, but I don't think a chaperoned letter is much fun to write or receive. Hoping to hear from you soon, "Sincerely yours, "Sybil Ross."
Enclosed was a thin strip of paper containing another message from Sybil, privately inserted at the last moment unknown to Mrs. Lee--
"If I were in your place I would try again after she comes home."
Mrs. Lee's P.S. was very short--
"The bitterest part of all this horrid story is that nine out of ten of our countrymen would say I had made a mistake."