A pale and most unhappy bride awaited her bridegroom in the boudoir at a few minutes to eight o’clock. She felt perfectly lifeless, as though she had hardly enough will left even to act her part. The white satin of her dress was not whiter than her face. The head gardener had sent up some splendid gardenias for her to wear and the sight of them pained her, for were not these the flowers that Tristram had brought her that evening of her wedding day, not a fortnight ago, and that she had then thrown into the grate. She pinned some in mechanically, and then let the maid clasp the diamonds round her throat and a band of them in her hair. They were so very beautiful, and she had not seen them before; she could not thank him for them even—all conversation except before people was now at an end. Then, for her further unhappiness, she remembered he had said: “When the mockery of the rejoicings is over then we can discuss our future plans.” What did that mean? That he wished to separate from her, she supposed. How could circumstance be so cruel to her! What had she done? Then she sat down for a moment while she waited, and clenched her hands. And all the passionate resentment her deep nature was capable of surged up against fate, so that she looked more like the black panther than ever, and her mood had only dwindled into a sullen smoldering rage—while she still sat in the peculiar, concentrated attitude of an animal waiting to spring—when Tristram opened the door, and came in.
The sight of her thus, looking so unEnglish, so barbaric, suddenly filled him with the wild excitement of the lion hunt again. Could anything be more diabolically attractive? he thought, and for a second, the idea flashed across him that he would seize her to-night and treat her as if she were the panther she looked, conquer her by force, beat her if necessary, and then kiss her to death! Which plan, if he had carried it out, in this case, would have been very sensible, but the training of hundreds of years of chivalry toward women and things weaker than himself was still in his blood. For Tristram, twenty-fourth Baron Tancred, was no brute or sensualist, but a very fine specimen of his fine, old race.
So, his heart beating with some uncontrollable excitement, and her heart filled with smoldering rage, they descended the staircase, arm in arm, to the admiration of peeping housemaids and the pride of her own maid. And the female servants all rushed to the balustrade to get a better view of the delightful scene which, they had heard whispered among them, was a custom of generations in the family—that when the Lord of Wrayth first led his lady into the state dining-room for their first dinner alone he should kiss her before whoever was there, and bid her welcome to her new home. And to see his lordship, whom they all thought the handsomest young gentleman they had ever seen, kiss her ladyship, would be a thrill of the most agreeable kind!