So once more the pair dressed to go down to the ducal dinner, with deeper estrangement in their hearts. And when Tristram was ready to-night, he went out into the corridor and pretended to look at the pictures. He would have no more servants’ messages!—and there he was, with a bitter smile on his face, when Lady Anningford, coming from her room beyond, stopped to talk. She wondered at his being there—a very different state of things to her own with her dear old man, she remembered, who, after the wedding day, for weeks and weeks would hardly let her out of his sight!
Then Henriette peeped out of the door and saw that the message she was being sent upon was in vain, and went back; and immediately Zara appeared.
Her dress was pale gray to-night—with her uncle’s pearls—and both Lady Anningford and Tristram noticed that her eyes were slumberous and had in them that smoldering fierceness of pain. And remembering the Crow’s appeal Lady Anningford slipped her hand within her arm, and was very gentle and friendly as they went down to the saloon.
Now if the evening passed with pain and unrest for the bride and bridegroom, it had quite another aspect for Francis Markrute and Lady Ethelrida! He was not placed by his hostess to-night at dinner, but when the power of manipulating circumstances with skill is in a man, and the desire to make things easy to be manipulated is in a woman, they can spend agreeable and numerous moments together.
So it fell about that without any apparent or pointed detachment from her other guests Lady Ethelrida was able to sit in one of the embrasures of the windows in, the picture gallery, whither the party had migrated to-night, and talk to her interesting new friend—for that he was growing into a friend she felt. He seemed so wonderfully understanding, and was so quiet and subtle and undemonstrative, and, underneath, you could feel his power and strength.
It had been his insidious suggestion, spread among the company, which had caused them to be in the picture gallery to-night, instead of in one of the great drawing-rooms. For in a very long narrow room it was much easier to separate people, he felt.
“Of course this was not built at the time the house was, in about 1670,” Lady Ethelrida said. “It was added by the second Duke, who was Ambassador to Versailles in the time of Louis XV, and who thought he would like a ‘galerie des glaces’ in imitation of the one there. And then, when the walls were up, he died, and it was not decorated until thirty-five years later, in the Regent’s time, and it was turned into a picture gallery then.”
“People’s brands of individuality in their houses are so interesting,” Francis Markrute said. “I believe Wrayth is a series of human fancies, from the Norman Castle upwards, is it not? I have never been there.”