This observation he made to himself several times during the evening, catching the words of one and the other whatever part of the room he was in, almost as distinctly as they did themselves; but he only looked once at Dorothea, when something made him feel or think that she had drawn her glove off. His eyes wandered then to her hand. Yes, it was so—there was the wedding ring.
With what difficulty, with what disgrace he had contrived to escape from marrying this young woman! His eyes ’wandered round the room. Just so she would have looked, and every one else would have looked, if this wedding dinner had been made for his bride, but he would not have been sitting up in the corner with three girls about him, laughing and making laugh. No, and he would not have stood rather remote from her, as Giles did. He thought he would have been proudly at her side. Oh, how could he have been such a fool? how could he? how could he?
“She would have loved me just as well, just so she would have lifted up her face, as she does now, and turned towards me.”—No! The bride and her husband looked at one another for an instant, and in one beat of the heart he knew not only that no such look had ever been in her eyes for him, but he felt before he had time to reason his conviction down, that in all likelihood there never would have been. Then, when he found that Dorothea seemed scarcely aware of his presence, he determined to return the compliment, got excited, and was the life and soul of the younger part of the company. So that when the guests dispersed, many were the remarks they made about it.
“Well, young Mortimer need not have been quite so determined to show his brother how delighted he was not to be standing in his shoes.” “Do you think Brandon married her out of pity?” “She is a sweet young creature. I never saw newly-married people take so little notice of one another. It must have been a trial to her to meet young Mortimer again, for no doubt she was attached to him.”
A quarter of an hour after the bride had taken her leave, and when all the other guests were gone, Valentine went into the hall, feeling very angry with himself for having forgotten that, as he was now a member of her host’s family, he might with propriety have seen Dorothea into the carriage. “This,” he thought, “shall not occur again.”
The hall doors were open, servants stood about as if waiting still. He saw a man’s figure. Some one, beyond the stream of lamplight which came from the house, stood on the gravel, where through a window he could command a view of the staircase.
It was little past eleven, the moon was up, and as the longest day was at hand, twilight was hardly over, and only one star here and there hung out of the heavens.
“Why, that is Giles,” thought Valentine. “Strange! he cannot have sent Dorothea home alone, surely.”
Giles approached the steps, and Valentine, following the direction of his eyes, saw a slender figure descending the stairs.