“I saw her this morning and had a talk”—the financier said, as he placed some caviare on his toast. “You must not overlook the fact, which I have already stated to you, that she is a most difficult problem. You will have an interesting time taming her. For a man of nerve, I cannot imagine a more thrilling task. She is a woman who has restricted all her emotion for men, and could lavish it all upon the man, I imagine. In any case that is ‘up to you,’ as our friends, the Americans, say—”
Lord Tancred thrilled as he answered:
“Yes, it shall be ‘up to me.’ But I want to find out all about her for myself. I just want to know when I may see her, and what is the programme?”
“The programme is that she will receive you this afternoon, about tea-time, I should say; that you must explain to her you realize you are engaged. You need not ask her to marry you; she will not care for details like that—she knows it is already settled. Be as businesslike as you can—and come away. She has made it a condition that she sees you as little as possible until the wedding. The English idea of engaged couples shocks her, for, remember, it is, on her side, not a love-match. If you wish to have the slightest success with her afterwards be careful now. She is going to Paris, immediately, for her trousseau. She will return about a week before the wedding, when you can present her to your family.”
Tristram smiled grimly and then the two men’s eyes met and they both laughed.
“Jove! Francis!” Lord Tancred exclaimed, “isn’t it a wonderful affair! A real dramatic romance, here in the twentieth century. Would not every one think I was mad, if they knew!”
“It is that sort of madmen who are often the sanest,” Francis Markrute answered. “The world is full of apparently sane fools.” Then he passed on to a further subject. “You will re-open Wrayth, of course,” he said. “I wish my niece to be a Queen of Society, and to have her whole life arranged with due state. I wish your family to understand that I appreciate the honor of the connection with them, and consider it a privilege, and a perfectly natural thing—since we are foreigners of whom you know nothing—that we should provide the necessary money for what we wish.”
Lord Tancred listened; he thought of his mother’s similar argument at breakfast.
“You see,” the financier went on reflectively, “in life, the wise man always pays willingly for what he really wants, as you are doing, for instance, in your blind taking of my niece. Your old nobility in England is the only one of any consequence left in the world. The other countries’ system of the titles descending to all the younger sons, ad infinitum, makes the whole thing a farce after a while. A Prince in the Caucasus is as common as a Colonel in Kentucky, and in Austria and Germany there are poor Barons in the streets. There was