So saying, I lay down the hand-glass, and walk sedately down-stairs, holding my head stiffly erect, and looking over my shoulder, like a child, at the effect of my blue train sweeping down the steps after me.
Arrived in my boudoir, I go and stand by the window, though there are yet ten minutes before he is due. Once I open the casement to listen, but hastily close it again, afraid lest the wintry wind should ruffle the satin smoothness of my hair, or push the mob-cap awry. Then I sit carefully down, and, harshly repulsing an overture on the part of Vick to jump into my lap, fix my eyes upon the dark bare boughs of the tall and distant elms, from between which I shall see him steal into sight. The time ticks slowly on. He is due now. Five more lame, crawling minutes—ten!—no sign of him. Again I rise, unclose the casement, and push my matronly head a little way out to listen. Yes! yes! there is the distant but not doubtful sound of a horse’s four hoofs smartly trotting and splashing along the muddy road. Three minutes more, and the sun catches and brightly gleams on one of the quickly-turning wheels of the dog-cart as it rolls toward me, between the wintry trees.
At first I cannot see the occupants; the boughs and twigs interpose to hide them; but presently the dog-cart emerges into the open. There is only one person in it!
At first I decline to believe my own eyes. I rub them. I stretch my head farther out. Alas! self-deception is no longer possible: the groom returns as he went—alone. Roger has not come!
The dog-cart turns toward the stables, and I run to the bell and pull it violently. I can hardly wait till it is answered. At last, after an interval, which seems to me like twenty minutes, but which that false, cold-blooded clock proclaims to be two, the footman enters.
“Sir Roger has not come,” I say more affirmatively than interrogatively, for I have no doubt on the subject. “Why did not the groom wait for the next train?”
“If you please, my lady, Sir Roger has come.”
“Has come!” repeat I, in astonishment, opening my eyes; “then where is he?”
“He is walking up, my lady.”
“What! all the way from Bishopsthorpe?” cry I, incredulously, thinking of the five miry miles that intervene between us and that station. “Impossible!”
“No, my lady, not all the way; only from Mrs. Huntley’s.”
I feel the color rushing away from my cheeks, and turn quickly aside, that my change of countenance may not be perceived.
“Did he get out there?” I ask, faintly.
“Mrs. Huntley was at the gate, my lady, and Sir Roger got down to speak to her, and bid James drive on and tell your ladyship he would be here directly.”
“Very well,” say I, unsteadily, still averting my face, “that will do.”
He is gone, and I need no longer mind what color my face is, nor what shape of woeful jealousy my late so complacent features assume.