And she did not. She had gathered enough from this rather incoherent recital to make her see that some very deep and unusual current must have touched her cousin’s life. She knew the Tancred character, so she said all sorts of nice things to him, asked interested but not indiscreet questions. And soon that irritated and baffled sense left him, and he became calm.
“I want Uncle Glastonbury to ask Francis Markrute to the shoot on the 2nd of November, Ethelrida,” he said, “and you will let me bring Zara—she will be my wife by then—although I was asked only as a bachelor?”
“It is my party, not Papa’s, you dear old goose, you know that,” Lady Ethelrida said. “Of course you shall bring your Zara and I myself will write and ask Mr. Markrute. In spite of Aunt Jane’s saying that he is a cynical foreigner I like him!”
Society was absolutely flabbergasted when it read in the Morning Post the announcement of Lord Tancred’s engagement! No one had heard a word about it. There had been talk of his going to Canada, and much chaff upon that subject—so ridiculous, Tancred emigrating! But of a prospective bride the most gossip-loving busybody at White’s had never heard! It fell like a bombshell. And Lady Highford, as she read the news, clenched her pointed teeth, and gave a little squeal like a stoat.
So he had drifted beyond her, after all! He had often warned her he would, at the finish of one of those scenes she was so fond of creating. It was true then, when he had told her before Cowes that everything must be over. She had thought his silence since had only been sulking! But who was the creature? “Countess Shulski.” Was it a Polish or Hungarian name? “Daughter of the late Maurice Grey.” Which Grey was that? “Niece of Francis Markrute, Esquire, of Park Lane.” Here was the reason—money! How disgusting men were! They would sell their souls for money. But the woman should suffer for this, and Tristram, too, if she could manage it!
Then she wept some tears of rage. He was so adorably good looking and had been such a feather in her cap, although she had never been really sure of him. It was a mercy her conduct had always been of such an immaculate character—in public—no one could say a word. And now she must act the dear, generous, congratulating friend.
So she had a dose of sal volatile and dressed, with extra care, to lunch at Glastonbury House. There she might hear all the details; only Ethelrida was so superior, and uninterested in news or gossip.
There was a party of only five assembled, when she arrived—she was always a little late. The Duke and Lady Ethelrida, Constance Radcliffe, and two men: an elderly politician, and another cousin of the family. She could certainly chatter about Tristram, and hear all she could.
They were no sooner seated than she began: