The great hall was a survival of the time of Henry IV with its dais to eat above the salt, and a magnificent stone fireplace, and an oak screen and gallery of a couple of centuries later. The tables were laid down each side, as in the olden time, and across the dais; and here, in the carved oak “Lord” and “Lady” chairs, the bride and bridegroom sat with a principal tenant and his wife on either side of them, while the powdered footmen served them with lunch.
And all the time, when one or two comic incidents happened, she longed to look at Tristram and laugh; but he maintained his attitude of cold reserve, only making some genial stereotyped remark, when it was necessary for the public effect.
And presently the speeches began, and this was the most trying moment of all. For the land-steward, who proposed their healths, said such nice things; and Zara realized how they all loved her lord, and her anger at herself grew and grew. In each speech from different tenants there was some intimate friendly allusion about herself, too, linking her always with Tristram; and these parts hurt her particularly.
Then Tristram rose to answer them in his name and hers. He made a splendid speech, telling them that he had come back to live among them and had brought them a beautiful new Lady—and here he turned to her a moment and took and kissed her hand—and how he would always think of all their interests in every way; and that he looked upon them as his dear old friends; and that he and Lady Tancred would always endeavor to promote their welfare, as long as the radicals—here he laughed, for they were all true blue to a man—would let them! And when voices shouted, “We want none of them rats here,” he was gay and chaffed them; and finally sat down amidst yells of applause.
Then an old apple-cheeked farmer got up from far down the table and made a long rambling harangue, about having been there, man and boy, and his forbears before him, for a matter of two hundred years; but he’d take his oath they had none of them ever seen such a beautiful bride brought to Wrayth as they were welcoming now; and he drank to her ladyship’s health, and hoped it would not be long before they would have another and as great a feast for the rejoicings over the son and heir!
At this deplorable bit of bucolic wit and hearty taste, Tristram’s face went stern as death; and he bit his lips, while his bride became the color of the red roses on the table in front of her.
Thus the luncheon passed. And amidst countless hand-shakes of affection, accelerated by port wine and champagne, the bride and bridegroom, followed by the land-steward and a chosen few, went to receive and return the same sort of speeches among the lesser people in the tent. Here the allusions to marital felicity were even more glaring, and Zara saw that each time Tristram heard them, an instantaneous gleam of bitter sarcasm would steal into his eyes. So, worn out at last with the heat in the tent and the emotions of the day, at about five, the bridegroom was allowed to conduct his bride to tea in the boudoir of the state rooms. Thus they were alone, and now was Zara’s time to make her confession, if it ever should come.