“Don’t say a word to any one, to-day, of the news—let it come out in the Morning Post, to-morrow. I ask it—please?”
“Not even to Cyril? You have forgotten that he is coming up from Uncle Charles’ to go back to Eton,” his mother said, “and the girls already know.”
“Oh! Cyril. By Jove! I had forgotten! Yes, tell him; he is a first class chap, he’ll understand, and, I say”—and he pulled some sovereigns from his pocket—“do give him these from me for this term.”
Then with a smile he went.
And a few minutes afterwards a small, slender boy of fourteen, with only Eton’s own inimitable self-confidence and delicious swagger printed upon his every line, drove up to the door, and, paying for the taxi in a lordly way, came into his mother’s morning-room. There had been a gap in the family after Tristram’s appearance, caused by the death, from diphtheria, of two other boys; then came the two girls of twenty and nineteen respectively and, lastly, Cyril.
His big, blue eyes rounded with astonishment and interest when he heard the important news. All he said was:
“Well, she must be a corker, if Tristram thinks her good enough. But what a beastly nuisance! He won’t go to Canada now, I suppose, and we shan’t have that ranch.”
Francis Markrute also saw his niece at breakfast—or rather—just after it. She was finishing hers in the little upstairs sitting-room which he had allotted to her for her personal use, when he tapped at the door and asked if he might come in.
She said “yes,” and then rose, with the ceremonious politeness she always used in her dealings with him—contemptuous, resentful politeness for the most part.
“I have come to settle the details of your marriage,” he said, while he waved her to be seated again and took a chair himself. At the word “marriage” her nostrils quivered, but she said nothing. She was always extremely difficult to deal with, on account of these silences of hers. She helped no one out. Francis Markrute knew the method himself and admired it; it always made the other person state his case.
“You saw Lord Tancred last night. You can have no objection to him on the ground of his person, and he is a very great gentleman, my niece, as you will find.”
“I have arranged with him for you to be married in October—about the 25th, I suppose. So now comes the question of your trousseau. You must have clothes to fit you for so great a position. You had better get them in Paris.” Then he paused, struck by the fact which he had only just noticed, that the garments she had been wearing and those she now wore were shabby enough. He realized the reason he had not before remarked this—her splendid carriage and air of breeding—and it gave him a thrill of pride in her. After all, she was his own niece.