“Oh, dear Lady Tilchester,” I said, “you have been so kind and good to me already I shall never forget it. And I am a stranger, too, and yet you have troubled about me.”
“I liked you from the first moment we met, at the Tilchester ball. And Antony is so interested in you, and we are such dear old friends I should always be prejudiced in favor of any one he thought worth liking.”
There were numbers of things I wished to ask her, but somehow my tongue felt tied. It was almost a relief when she turned the conversation.
Soon the daylight faded and the servants brought lamps.
“It is almost five,” she said, at last “What a happy afternoon we have had! I know you ever so much better now, dear. Well, I suppose the time has come to put on tea-gowns and descend to see how affairs are progressing.”
“I am going to call you Ambrosine,” she said, and she kissed me. “I am not given to sudden friendships, but there is something about your eyes that touches me. Oh, dear, I hope fate will not force you to commit some mid-summer madness, as I did, to regret to the end of your days!”
All the way to my room her words puzzled me. What could she mean?
The scene was picturesque and pretty as I looked at it from the gallery that crosses the hall.
Tea was laid out on a large, low table, with plates and jam and cakes and muffins—a nice, comfortable, substantial meal. A fire of whole logs burned in the colossal, open chimney. The huge, heavily shaded lamps concentrated all the light beneath them, viewed from above.
And like a group of summer-flowers the women, in their light and fluffy tea-gowns, added the touch of grace to the heavy darkness of the old stone walls. I paused a while and watched them.
Lady Grenellen, gorgeous as a sultana, seemed to have collected all the cushions to enhance her comfort as she lay back in a low, deep sofa. Augustus sat beside her. From here one could not see his ugliness, and the dark claret color of his smoking-suit rather set off her gown. She had the most alluring expression upon her face, which just caught the light. His attitude was humble. The storm, for the present, was over between them.
Two other women, the heiress, Babykins, and Lord Tilchester, and several young men sat round the table like children eating their bread-and-jam.
The Duke and Miss Martina B. Cadwallader were examining the armor. Some one was playing the piano softly. Merry laughter floated upward. I doubt if any other country could produce such a scene. It would have pleased grandmamma.
“Why, by the stars and stripes, there is a ghost in the gallery!” exclaimed Miss Corrisande K. Trumpet, pointing to me. The faint glimmer of my white velvet tea-gown must have caught her eyes as I moved away.
“No, I am not a ghost,” I called, “and I am coming down to eat hot muffins.” So I crossed and descended the turret stairs.