And the Duke, accustomed to debate and the watching of methods in men, could not help admiring the masterly reserve and force of this man.
And, finally, when the financier had finished speaking, the Duke rose and stood before the fire, while he fixed his eyeglass in his eye.
“You have stated the case admirably, my dear Markrute,” he said, in his distinguished old voice. “You leave me without argument and with merely my prejudices, which I dare say are unjust, but I confess they are strongly in favor of my own countrymen and strongly against this union—though, on the other hand, my daughter and her happiness are my first consideration in this world. Ethelrida was twenty-six yesterday, and she is a young woman of strong and steady character, unlikely to be influenced by any foolish emotion. Therefore, if you have been fortunate enough to find favor in her eyes—if the girl loves you, in short, my dear fellow, then I have nothing to say.—Let us ring and have a glass of port!”
And presently the two men, now with the warmest friendship in their hearts for one another, mounted the staircase to Lady Ethelrida’s room, and there found her still talking to Anne.
Her sweet eyes widened with a question as the two appeared at the door, and then she rushed into her father’s arms and buried her face in his coat; and with his eyeglass very moist, the old Duke kissed her fondly—as he muttered.
“Why, Ethelrida, my little one. This is news! If you are happy, darling, that is all I want!”
So the whole dreaded moment passed off with rejoicing, and presently Lady Anningford and the fond father made their exit, and left the lovers alone.
“Oh, Francis, isn’t the world lovely!” murmured Ethelrida from the shelter of his arms. “Papa and I have always been so happy together, and now we shall be three, because you understand him, too, and you won’t make me stay away from him for very long times, will you, dear?”
“Never, my sweet. I thought of asking the Duke, if you would wish it, to let me take the place from him in this county, which eventually comes to you, and I will keep on Thorpmoor, my house in Lincolnshire, merely for the shooting. Then you would feel you were always in your own home, and perhaps the Duke would spend much time with us, and we could come to him here, in an hour; but all this is merely a suggestion—everything shall be as you wish.”
“Francis, you are good to me,” she said.
“Darling,” he whispered, as he kissed her hair, “it took me forty-six years to find my pearl of price.”
Then they settled all kinds of other details: how he would give Zara, for her own, the house in Park Lane, which would not be big enough now for them; and he would purchase one of those historic mansions, looking on The Green Park, which he knew was soon to be in the market. Ethelrida, if she left the ducal roof for the sake of his love, should find a palace worthy of her acceptance waiting for her.