’Then you must wear it, dear. Father and mother wanted to give you something nice, because you were so good to Jocelyn, and I knew you had a fancy for a velvet gown. Is not that yellowish lace charming, Ursula? and the bonnet harmonises so well! Your bouquet is to be cream-coloured, too, with just a tea-rose or so. You will look quite pretty in it, Ursula dear. Do you know Donald liked the look of you so yesterday? he said you looked so strong and sensible; he called you an interesting woman.’
I hastened to change the subject, for it recalled certain words that I vainly tried to forget. It was a relief when visitors were announced and Sara left me to go down to the drawing-room. I was glad to be alone for a few minutes. Aunt Philippa came up soon afterwards with a bevy of friends, and I escaped to my own room until luncheon-time.
I grew a little weary of the bustle by and by, and yet I was pleased and interested too; the excitement was infectious; one smiled to see so many happy faces; and then there was so much to do, every one was pressed into the service. Jill shut up her books with a bang; her piano remained closed. She and Miss Gillespie were answering notes, unpacking presents, running to and fro with messages; people came all day long; they talked in corners on the balcony, in Uncle Brian’s study; no room was held sacred.
A cargo of flowers arrived presently; the hall and drawing-room were to be transformed into bowers. It must rain roses as well as sunshine on the young princess. Sara’s bright face appeared every now and then among the workers; a little court surrounded her; sometimes Colonel Ferguson’s bronzed face looked over her shoulders.
’That is very pretty, Ursula. I see you have caught the right idea. Jocelyn dear, you are overfilling that basket, and some of the stalks are showing. Miss Gillespie will put it right for you. Come, Grace, shall we go upstairs?’
Sara nodded and smiled at us as she led the way to the upper regions. Pandora was for ever opening her box in those days: she was never weary of fingering her silks and satins.
‘Now she has gone, let us rest a little,’ Jill exclaimed, letting her arms fall to her side. ’Are you not tired of it all, Ursie dear? I get so giddy that I keep rubbing my eyes. I never knew weddings meant all this fuss. Why cannot people do things more quietly? If I ever get married I shall just put on my bonnet and walk to the nearest church with father. What is the use of all this nonsense? It is like decking the victim for the sacrifice, to see all these roses and green leaves. Supposing we have a band of music to drown her groans while she is dressing,’ finished Jill rebelliously, as she contemplated her flower-basket with dissatisfied eyes.
Jill’s speech recalled Mr. Hamilton’s words most vividly: ’Because two people elect to join hands for the journey of life, is there any adequate reason why all their idle acquaintances should accompany them with cymbals and prancings, and all sorts of fooleries, just at the most solemn moment of life?’ and again, ’"Till death us do part,”—can any one, man or woman, say those words lightly and not bring down a doom upon himself?’