But Tristram, after the first glance, when she came down, never looked at her—he dared not. So they said their farewells quietly; but there was an extra warmth and tenderness in Ethelrida’s kiss, as, indeed, there was every reason that there should be. If Zara had known! But the happy secret was still locked in the lovers’ breasts.
“Of course it must come all right, they look so beautiful!” Ethelrida exclaimed unconsciously, waving her last wave on the steps, as the motor glided away.
“Yes, it must indeed,” whispered Francis, who was beside her, and she turned and looked into his face.
“In twenty minutes, all the rest will be gone except the Crow, and Emily, and Mary, and Lady Anningford, who are staying on; and oh, Francis, how shall I get through the morning, knowing you are with Papa!”
“I will come to your sitting-room just before luncheon time, my dearest,” he whispered back reassuringly. “Do not distress yourself—it will be all right.”
And so they all went back into the house, and Lady Anningford, who now began to have grave suspicions, whispered to the Crow:
“I believe you are perfectly right, Crow. I am certain Ethelrida is in love with Mr. Markrute! But surely the Duke would never permit such a thing! A foreigner whom nobody knows anything of!”
“I never heard that there was any objection raised to Tristram marrying his niece. The Duke seemed to welcome it, and some foreigners are very good chaps,” the Crow answered sententiously, “especially Austrians and Russians; and he must be one of something of that sort. He has no apparent touch of the Latin race. It’s Latins I don’t like.”
“Well, I shall probably hear all about it from Ethelrida herself, now that we are alone. I am so glad I decided to stay with the dear girl until Wednesday, and you will have to wait till then, too, Crow.”
“As ever, I am at your orders,” he grunted, and lighting a cigar, he subsided into a great chair to read the papers, while Lady Anningford went on to the saloon. And presently, when all the departing guests were gone, Ethelrida linked her arm in that of her dear friend, and drew her with her up to her sitting-room.
“I have heaps to tell you, Anne!” she said, while she pushed her gently into a big low chair, and herself sank into the corner of her sofa. Ethelrida was not a person who curled up among pillows, or sat on rugs, or little stools. All her movements, even in her most intimate moments of affection with her friend, were dignified and reserved.
“Darling, I am thrilled,” Lady Anningford responded, “and I guess it is all about Mr. Markrute—and oh, Ethelrida, when did it begin?”
“He has been thinking of me for a long time, Anne—quite eighteen months—but I—” she looked down, while a tender light grew in her face, “I only began to be interested the night we dined with him—it is a little more than a fortnight ago—the dinner for Tristram’s engagement. He said a number of things not like any one else, then, and he made me think of him afterwards—and I saw him again at the wedding—and since he has been here—and do you know, Anne, I have never loved any one before in my life!”