The Black Moth (Chapter 6, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 6

The autumn and the winter passed smoothly, and April found the Carstares installed at Bath, whither Lady Lavinia had teased her husband into going, despite his desire to return to Wyncham and John. She herself did not care to be with the child, and was perfectly content that Richard should journey occasionally to Wyncham to see that all was well with him.

On the whole, she had enjoyed the winter, for she had induced Richard to open Wyncham House, Mayfair, the Earl's town residence, where she had been able to hold several entirely successful routs, and many select little card-parties. Admirers she had a-many, and nothing so pleased her vain little heart as masculine adulation. Carstares never entered his home without stumbling against some fresh flame of hers, but as they mostly consisted of what he rudely termed the lap-dog type, he was conscious of no jealous qualms, and patiently submitted to their inundation of his house. He was satisfied that Lavinia was happy, and, as he assured himself at times when he was most tried, nothing else signified.

The only flaw to Lavinia's content was the need of money. Not that she was stinted, or ever refused anything that he could in reason give her; but her wants were never reasonable. She would demand a new town chariot, upholstered in pale blue, not because her own was worn or shabby, but because she was tired of its crimson cushions. Or she would suddenly take a fancy to some new, and usually fabulously expensive toy, and having acquired it, weary of it in a week.

Without a murmur, Richard gave her lap-dogs (of the real kind), black pages, jewels, and innumerable kickshaws, for which she rewarded him with her brightest smiles and tenderest caresses. But when she required him to refurnish Wyncham House in the style of the French Court, throwing away all the present Queen Anne furniture, the tapestries, and the countless old trappings that were one and all so beautiful and so valuable, he put his foot down with a firmness that surprised her. Not for any whim of hers was Jack's house to be spoiled. Neither her coaxing nor her tears had any effect upon Richard, and when she reverted to sulks, he scolded her so harshly that she was frightened, and in consequence silenced.

For a week she thought and dreamt of nothing but gilded French chairs, and then abruptly, as all else, the fancy left her, and she forgot all about it. Her mantua-maker's bills were enormous, and caused Richard many a sleepless night, but she was always so charmingly penitent that he could not find it in his heart to be angry; and, after all, he reflected, he would rather have his money squandered on her adornment than on that of her brothers. She was by turns passionate and cold to him: one day enrapturing him by some pretty blandishment, the next snapping peevishly when he spoke to her.

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