“So, my lady,” she said, “you walk into the trap with your eyes open, too—you who are old enough to know better? My handsome face and black eyes and smooth tongue stand me in their usual good stead. And I saved Sir Everard Kingsland’s life! Poor fools! A thousand times better for you all if I had let that midnight assassin shoot him down like a dog!”
A SHAFT FROM CUPID’S QUIVER.
It was fully ten o’clock, and the hunting-party were ready to start, when Sir Everard Kingsland joined them, looking handsome and happy as a young prince in his very becoming hunting costume.
Of course the young baronet’s first look was for Lady Louise—he scarcely glanced at the rest. She was just being assisted into the saddle by the devoted George Grosvenor, but she turned to Sir Everard and graciously held out her gauntleted hand.
“Once more,” she said, “almost late. Laggard! I shall quarrel with you one of these days if you do not learn to be more punctual.”
“You will never have to reproach me again,” he said. “Had I known you would have honored my absence by a thought, you should not have had to reproach me now.”
“Very pretty, indeed, Sir Everard. But don’t waste your time paying compliments this morning. Thanks, Mr. Grosvenor; that will do. For whom are you looking, Sir Everard? Lady Carteret? Oh, she is going to see as much of the fun as she can from the carriage, with some other ladies. Miss Hunsden and myself are the only ones who intend to ride. By the way, I hope Sir Galahad will uphold his master’s reputation to-day. He must do his very best, or Whirlwind will beat him.”
At that instant a red-coated young gentleman joined them, in an evident state of excitement.
“I say, Kingsland, who’s that girl on the splendid roan? She sits superbly, and is stunningly handsome besides. I beg your pardon, Lady Louise—perhaps you know.”
“Lord Ernest Strathmore is excited on the subject. That young lady is Miss Harriet Hunsden. Don’t lose your head, my lord. One gentleman possesses that heart, and all the rest of you may sigh in vain.”
“Indeed! And who is the fortunate possessor?”
“Captain Hunsden, her father.”
At the first mention of her name Sir Everard Kingsland had turned sharply around and beheld—his fate. But he did not know it. He only saw a handsome, spirited-looking girl, sitting a magnificent roan horse as easily as if it had been an arm-chair, and talking animatedly to a stalwart soldierly man with white hair and mustache.
As he glanced away from his prolonged stare he met the piercing gaze of Lady Louise’s turquoise-blue eyes.
“Et tu, Brute?” she cried gayly. “Oh, my prophetic soul! Did I not warn you, Sir Everard? Did I not foretell that the dashing damsel in the scarlet habit would play the mischief with your fox-hunting hearts? No, no! never deny the soft impeachment! But I tell you, as I told Lord Ernest, it is of no use. She is but seventeen, and ’ower young to marry yet.’”