It was very enormous and stately, she found when they reached it, and, she walking with her empress air and Tristram following her, they at last came to the picture gallery where the rest of the party, who had arrived earlier, were all assembled in the center, by one of the big fireplaces, with their host and hostess having tea.
The Duke and Lady Ethelrida came forward, down the very long, narrow room (they had quite sixty feet to walk before they met them), and then, when they did, they both kissed Zara—their beautiful new relation!—and Lady Ethelrida taking her arm drew her towards the party, while she whispered,
“You dear, lovely thing! Ever so many welcomes to the family and Montfitchet!”
And Zara suddenly felt a lump in her throat. How she had misjudged them all in her hurt ignorance! And determining to repair her injustice she advanced with a smile and was presented to the group.
There was a good deal of running into each other’s rooms before dressing for dinner among the ladies at Montfitchet, that night. They had, they felt, to exchange views about the new bride! And the opinions were favorable, on the whole; unanimous, as to her beauty and magnetic attraction; divided, as to her character; but fiercely and venomously antagonistic in one mean, little heart.
Emily and Mary and Lady Betty Burns clustered together in the latter’s room. “We think she is perfectly lovely, Betty,” Emily said, “but we don’t know her as yet. She is rather stiff, and frightens us just a little. Perhaps she is shy. What do you think?”
“She looks just like the heroines in some of the books that Mamma does not let me read and I am obliged to take up to bed with me. Don’t you know, Mary—especially the one I lent you—deeply, mysteriously tragic. You remember the one who killed her husband and then went off with the Italian Count; and then with some one else. It was frightfully exciting.”
“Good gracious! Betty,” exclaimed Emily. “How dreadful! You don’t think our sister-in-law looks like that?”
“I really don’t know,” said Lady Betty, who was nineteen and wrote lurid melodramas—to the waste of much paper and the despair of her mother. “I don’t know. I made one of my heroines in my last play have just those passionate eyes—and she stabbed the villain in the second act!”
“Yes, but,” said Mary, who felt she must defend Tristram’s wife, “Zara isn’t in a play and there is no villain, and—why, Betty, no one has tragedies in real life!”
Lady Betty tossed her flaxen head, while she announced a prophecy, with an air of deep wisdom which positively frightened the other two girls.
“You mark my words, both of you, Emily and Mary—they will have some tragedy before the year is out! And I shall put it all in my next play.”
And with this fearful threat ringing in their ears Tristram’s two sisters walked in a scared fashion to their room.