She spoke not a word as they went down to dinner, but he was no raw youth to be snubbed thus into silence. His easy, polished manner soon started a conversation upon the usual everyday things. He received “Yes” and “No” for answers. The railway magnate on her other side was hardly more fortunate, until the entrees were in full swing, then she unfroze a little; the elderly gentleman had said something which interested her.
The part which particularly irritated Lord Tancred was that he felt sure she was not really stupid—who could be stupid with such a face? And he was quite unaccustomed to being ignored by women. A like experience had not occurred to him in the whole of his life.
He watched her narrowly. He had never seen so white a skin; the admirably formed bones of her short, small face caused, even in a side light, no disfiguring shadows to fall beside the mouth and nose, nor on the cheeks; all was velvety smooth and rounded. The remote Jewish touch was invisible—save in the splendor of the eyes and lashes. She filled him with the desire to touch her, to clasp her tightly in his arms, to pull down that glorious hair and bury his face in it. And Lord Tancred was no sensualist, given to instantly appraising the outward charm of women.
When the grouse was being handed, he did get a whole sentence from her; it was in answer to his question whether she liked England.
“How can one say—when one does not know?” she said. “I have only been here once before, when I was quite a child. It seems cold and dark.”
“We must persuade you to like it better,” he answered, trying to look into her eyes which she had instantly averted. The expression of resentment still smoldered there, he had noticed, during their brief glance.
“Of what consequence whether I like it or no,” she said, looking across the table, and this was difficult to answer! It seemed to set him upon his beam-ends. He could not very well say because he had suddenly begun to admire her very much! At this stage he had not decided what he meant to do.
An unusual excitement was permeating his being; he could not account for how or why. He had felt no sensation like it, except on one of his lion hunts in Africa when the news had come into camp that an exceptionally fine beast had been discovered near and might be stalked on the morrow. His sporting instincts seemed to be thoroughly awakened.
Meanwhile Countess Shulski had turned once more to Sir Philip Armstrong, the railway magnate. He was telling her about Canada and she listened with awakening interest: how there were openings for every one and great fortunes could be made there by the industrious and persevering.
“It has not come to a point, then, when artists could have a chance, I suppose?” she asked. Lord Tancred wondered at the keenness in her voice.
“Modern artists?” Sir Philip queried. “Perhaps not, though the rich men are beginning to buy pictures and beautiful things, too; but in a new country it is the man of sinew and determination, not the dreamer, who succeeds.”