Nothing so goes to the head of a woman of refined sensibilities as the intoxicating flattery of thought-out action in a man, when it is to lay homage at her feet, and the man is a grave and serious person, who is no worshiper of women.
Ethelrida trod on air, and looked unusually sweet and gracious.
And Francis Markrute watched her quietly, with great tenderness in his heart, and not the faintest misgiving. “Slow and sure” was his motto, and thus he drew always the current of success and contentment.
His only crumpled roseleaf was the face of his niece, which rather haunted him. There seemed no improvement in the relations of the pair, in spite of Zara having had ample cause to feel jealous about Lady Highford since their arrival. Elinka, too, had had strange and unreasonable turns in her nature, that is what had made her so attractive. What if Zara and this really fine young Englishman, with whom he had mated her, should never get on? Then he laughed, when he thought of the impossibility of his calculations finally miscarrying. It was, of course, only a question of time. However, he would tell her before she left for her “home-coming” at Wrayth on Monday, what he thought it was now safe and advisable that she should know, namely, that on her husband’s side the marriage had been one of headlong desire for herself, after having refused the bargain before he had seen her. That would give her some bad moments of humiliation, he admitted, which perhaps she had not deserved, though it would certainly bring her to her knees and so, to Tristram’s arms.
But for once, being really quite preoccupied with his own affairs and a little unbalanced by love as well, he miscalculated the force of a woman’s pride. Zara’s one idea now was to hide from Tristram the state of her feelings, believing, poor, bruised, wounded thing, that he no longer cared for her, believing that she herself had extinguished the torch of love.
There was an air of restrained excitement, importance and mystery among the ladies at luncheon. They had got back to the house in time to have their conclave before that meal, and everything was satisfactorily settled. Lady Anningford, who had not accompanied them out shooting, had thought out a whole scheme, and announced it upon their return amidst acclamations.
They would represent as many characters as they could from the “Idylls of the King,” because the style would be such loose, hanging kinds of garments, the maids could run up the long straight seams in no time. And it would be so much more delightful, all to carry out one idea, than the usual powdered heads and non-descript things people chose for such impromptu occasions. It only remained to finally decide the characters. She considered that Ethelrida should undoubtedly be Guinevere; but, above all, Zara must be Isolt!