And suddenly Zara thought of her last picnic, with Mimo and Mirko in the Neville Street attic, when the poor little one had worn the paper cap, and had taken such pleasure in the new rosy cups. And the Crow who was watching her closely, wondered why this gay scene should make the lovely bride look so pitifully sad. “How Maman would have loved all this!” she was thinking, “with her gay, tender soul, and her delight in make-believe and joyous picnics.” And her father—he had known all these sorts of people; they were his own class, and yet he had come to live in the great, gloomy castle, out of his own land, and expected his exquisite, young wife to stay there alone, most of the time. The hideous cruelty of men!
And there was her Uncle Francis, in quite a new character!—helping Lady Ethelrida to lay the table, as happily as a boy. Would she herself ever be happy, she wondered, ever have a time free from some agonizing strain or care? And then, from sorrow her expression changed to one of strange slumberous resentment at fate.
“Queen Anne,” said the Crow, as they sat down to luncheon, “there is some tragedy hanging over that young woman. She has been suffering like the devil for at least ten minutes, and forgot I was even beside her and pretending to talk. You and Lady Ethelrida have two not altogether unkind hearts. Can’t you find out what it is, and comfort her?”
After luncheon, which had been carried through with all the proper ceremonies of the olden time according to Jimmy Danvers and Young Billy’s interpretation of them, it came on to pour with rain; so these masters of the revels said that now the medieval dances should begin, and accordingly they turned on the gramophone that stood in the corner to amuse the children at the school treats. And Mary and her admirer, Lord Henry Burns, and Emily and a Captain Hume, and Lady Betty and Jimmy Danvers, gayly took the floor, while Young Billy offered himself to the bride, as he said he as the representative of the Lord of the Castle had a right to the loveliest lady; and, with his young, stolid self-confidence, he pushed Lord Elterton aside.
Zara had not danced for a very long time—four years at least—and she had not an idea of the two-steps and barn-dances and other sorts of whirling capers that they invented; but she did her best, and gradually something of the excitement of the gay young spirits spread to her, and she forgot her sorrows and began to enjoy herself.
“You don’t ever dance, I suppose, Mr. Markrute?” Lady Ethelrida asked, as she stopped, with the gallant old Crow, flushed and smiling by the dais, where the financier and Lady Anningford sat. “If you ever do, I, as the Lady of the Castle, ask you to ‘tread a measure’ with me!”
“No one could resist such, an invitation,” he answered, and put his arm around her for a valse.