Then, when the tumult had subsided a little, Brangaine gave a pretended shriek.
“Mercy me! I am undone!” she cried. “They have quaffed of the wrong cup! That gold goblet contained a love-potion distilled from rare plants by the Queen, and destined for the wedding wine of Isolt and King Mark! And now the Lord Tristram and she have drunk it together, by misadventure, and can never be parted more! Oh, misery me! What have I done!”
And amidst shouts of delighted laughter led by the Crow—in frozen silence, Tristram held his wife’s hand.
But after a second, the breeding in them both, as on their wedding evening before the waiters, again enabled them to continue the comedy; and they, too, laughed, and, with the Duke’s assistance, got through the rest of dinner, until they all rose and went out, two and two, the men leading their ladies by the hand, as they had come in.
And if the cup had indeed contained a potion distilled by the Irish sorceress Queen, the two victims could not have felt more passionately in love.
But Tristram’s pride won the day for him, for this one time, and not by a glance or a turn of his head did he let his bride see how wildly her superlative attraction had kindled the fire in his blood. And when the dancing began, he danced with every other lady first, and then went off into the smoking-room, and only just returned in time to be made to lead out his “Isolt” in a final quadrille—not a valse. No powers would have made him endure the temptation of a valse!
And even this much, the taking of her hand, her nearness, the sight of the exquisite curves of her slender figure, and her floating hair, caused him an anguish unspeakable, so that when the rest of the company had gone, and good nights were said, he went up to his room, changed his coat, and strode away alone, out into the night.
Every one was so sleepy and tired on Sunday morning, after their night at Arthur’s Court, that only Lady Ethelrida and Laura Highford, who had a pose of extreme piety always ready at hand, started with the Duke and Young Billy for church. Francis Markrute watched them go from his window, which looked upon the entrance, and he thought how stately and noble his fair lady looked; and he admired her disciplined attitude, no carousal being allowed to interfere with her duties. She was a rare and perfect specimen of her class.
His lady fair! For he had determined, if fate plainly gave him the indication, to risk asking her to-day to be his fair lady indeed. A man must know when to strike, if the iron is hot.