“My Dear Mother:
“I am going to be married at last. The lady is a daughter of Maurice Grey (a brother of old Colonel Grey of Hentingdon who died last year), and the widow of a Pole named Shulski, Countess Shulski she is called.”
(He had paused here because he had suddenly remembered he did not know her Christian name!)
“She is also the niece of Francis Markrute whom you have such an objection to—or had, last season. She is most beautiful and I hope you will like her. Please go and call to-morrow. I will come and breakfast with you about ten.
“Your affectionate son, Tancred.”
And this proud English mother knew here was a serious letter, because he signed it “Tancred.” He usually finished his rare communications with just, “love from Tristram.”
She leaned back on her pillows and closed her eyes. She adored her son but she was, above all things, a woman of the world and given to making reasonable judgments. Tristram was past the age of a foolish entanglement; there must be some strong motive in this action. He could hardly be in love. She knew him so well, when he was in love! He had shown no signs of it lately—not, really, for several years—for that well conducted—friendship—with Laura Highford could not be called being in love. Then she thought of Francis Markrute. He was so immensely rich, she could not help a relieved sigh. There would be money at all events. But she knew that could not be the reason. She was aware of her son’s views about rich wives. She was aware, too, that with all his sporting tastes and modern irreverence of tradition, underneath he was of a proud, reserved nature, intensely proud of the honor of his ancient name. What then could be the reason for this engagement? Well, she would soon know. It was half-past eight in the morning, and Tristram’s “about ten” would not mean later than, half-past, or a quarter to eleven. She rang the bell for her maid, and told her to ask the young ladies to put on dressing-gowns and come to her.
Soon Lord Tancred’s two sisters entered the room.
They were nice, fresh English girls, and stood a good deal in awe of their mother. They kissed her and sat down on the bed. They felt it was a momentous moment, because Lady Tancred never saw any one until her hair was arranged—not even her own daughters.
“Your brother Tristram is going to be married,” she said and referred to the letter lying on the coverlet, “to a Countess Shulski, a niece of that Mr. Markrute whom one meets about.”