What ensued? Is it necessary to tell? The costume in which she stood forth was no more startling or immodest than the simple gown which the American high-school girl wears on her Commencement Day, and it was decidedly more ample than the sum of all the garments worn at polite social gatherings in communities somewhat to the west. Nevertheless, the company stood aghast. They were doubly horrified—first, at the effrontery of the girl, and second, at the revelation of her real person, for they saw that she was doomed, helpless, bereft of hope, slim beyond all curing.
Kalora was alone.
After putting the company to consternation she had flung herself defiantly back into the chair and directed a most contemptuous gaze at all the desirable young men of her native land.
The Governor-General made a choking attempt to apologize and explain, and then, groping for an excuse to send the people away, suggested that the company view the new stables. The acrobats were dismissed. The guests went rapidly to an inspection of the carriages and horses. They were glad to escape. Jeneka, crushed in spirit and shamed at the brazen performance of her sister, began a plaintive conjecture as to “what people would say,” when Kalora turned upon her such a tigerish glance that she fairly ran for her apartment, although she was too corpulent for actual sprinting. Mrs. Plumston remained behind as the only comforter.
“It was a most contemptible proceeding, my child. When they lifted us and carried us to the other side of the tree I thought it was rather nice of them; something on the order of the old Walter Raleigh days of chivalry, and all that. And just think! The beasts did it to find out whether or not you were really plump and heavy. It’s a most extraordinary incident.”
“I wouldn’t marry one of them now, not if he begged and my father commanded!” said Kalora bitterly. “And poor Jeneka! This takes away her last chance. Until I am married she can not marry, and after to-day not even a blind man would choose me.”
“For goodness’ sake, don’t worry! You tell me you are nineteen. No woman need feel discouraged until she is about thirty-five. You have sixteen years ahead of you.”
“Not in Morovenia.”
“Why remain in Morovenia?”
“We are not permitted to travel.”
“Perhaps, after what happened to-day, your father will be glad to let you travel,” said Mrs. Plumston with a significant little nod and a wise squint. “Don’t you generally succeed in having your own way with him?”
“Oh, to travel—to travel!” exclaimed Kalora, clasping her hands. “If I am to remain single and a burden for ever, perhaps it would lighten father’s grief if I resided far away. My presence certainly would remind him of the wreck of all his ambitions, but if I should settle down in Vienna or Paris, or—” she paused and gave a little gasp—“or if anything should happen to me, if I should—should disappear, that is, really disappear, Jeneka would be free to marry and—”