“Pretty!” Sir Everard exclaimed; “she is beautiful as an angel! I never saw such eyes or such a smile in the whole course of my life.”
“Indeed!” his mother said, coldly—“indeed! Not even excepting Lady Louise’s?”
“Oh, Lady Louise is altogether different! I didn’t mean any comparison. But you will see her to-night at Lady Carteret’s ball, and can judge for yourself. She is a mere child—sixteen or seventeen, I believe.”
“And Lady Louise is five-and-twenty,” said Mildred, with awful accuracy.
“She does not look twenty!” exclaimed my lady, sharply. “There are few young ladies nowadays half so elegant and graceful as Lady Louise.”
Miss Silver’s large black eyes glided from one to the other with a sinister smile in their shining depths. Her soft voice broke in at this jarring juncture and sweetly turned the disturbed current of conversation, and Sir Everard understood, and gave her a grateful glance.
The young baronet had gone to many balls in his lifetime, but never had he been so painfully particular before. He drove Edward, his valet, to the verge of madness with his whims, and left off at last in sheer desperation and altogether dissatisfied with the result.
“I look like a guy, I know,” he muttered, angrily, “and that pert little Hunsden is just the sort of girl to make satirical comments on a man if his neck-tie is awry or his hair unbecoming. Not that I care what she says; but one hates to feel he is a laughing-stock.”
The ball-room was brilliant with lights, and music, and flowers, and diamonds, and beautiful faces, and magnificent toilets when the Kingsland party entered.
Lady Carteret, in velvet robes, stood receiving her guests. Lady Louise, with white azaleas in her hair and dress, stood stately and graceful, looking from tip to toe what she was the descendant of a race of “highly-wed, highly-fed, highly-bred” aristocrats.
But at neither of them Sir Everard glanced twice. His eyes wandered around and lighted at last on a divinity in a cloud of misty white, crowned with dark-green ivy leaves aglitter with diamond drops.
While he gazed, Lord Ernest Strathmore came up, said something, and whirled her off in the waltz. Away they flew. Lord Ernest waltzed to perfection, and she—a French woman or a fairy only could float like that.
A fierce, jealous pang griped his heart; a second, and they were out of sight. Sir Everard roused himself from his trance and went up to his hostess to pay his respects.
“Ah!” Lady Carteret said, a little spitefully, “the spell is broken at last! There was no mistaking that look, Sir Everard! My dear Lady Kingsland”—laughing, but malicious still—“take care of your son. I’m afraid he’s going to fall in love.”
“FOR LOVE WILL STILL BE LORD OF ALL.”