I was under Major Egerton’s care. The crowd round the door was so great that it was with the greatest difficulty that he could pilot me to the carriage. Lesbia was following us with another officer, whose name I did not know. As we took our seats I distinctly saw Mr. Hamilton cross the road. He was walking quietly down Hyde Park. As we passed he turned and took off his hat. I thought it was a strange thing that he should be in the neighbourhood on Sara’s wedding-day, and that he should have deigned to play the part of a spectator after his severe strictures on gay weddings. I supposed his business in Edinburgh was finished, and he had an idle day or two on his hands. I half expected him to call the next day, for I had given him my address; but he did not come, and I heard from Mr. Tudor afterwards that he had gone on to Folkestone.
A FIERY ORDEAL
It is a hackneyed truism, and, like other axioms, profoundly true, that wedding-festivities are invariably followed by a sense of blank dulness.
It is like the early morning after a ball, when the last guests have left the house: the lights flicker in the dawn, the empty rooms want sweeping and furnishing to be fit for habitation. Yawns, weariness, satiety, drive the jaded entertainers to their resting-places. Every one knows how tawdry the ball-dress looks in the clear morning light. The diamonds cease to flash, the flowers are withered, the game is played out.
Something of this languor and vacuum is felt when the bride and bridegroom have driven away amid the typical shower of rice. The smiles seem quenched, somehow; mother and sisters shed tears; a sense of loss pervades the house; the bridal finery is heaped up in the empty room; one little glove is on the table, another has fallen to the floor. All sorts of girlish trinkets that have been forgotten lie unheeded in corners.
I know we all thought that evening would never end, and I quite understood why Jill hovered near her mother’s chair, listening to her conversation with Mrs. Fullerton. Every now and then Aunt Philippa broke down and shed a few quiet tears. I heard her mention Ralph’s name once. ‘Poor boy! how proud he would have been of his sister!’ Uncle Brian heard it too, for I saw him wince at the sound of his son’s name; but Jill stroked her mother’s hand, and said, quite naturally, ’Most likely Ralph knows all about it, mamma, and of course he is glad that Sara is so happy.’
Our pretty light-hearted Sara. I had no idea that I should miss her so much! Indeed, we all missed her: it seemed to me now that I had undervalued her. True, she had not been a congenial companion to me in my dark days; but even then I had wronged her. Why should I have expected her to grope among the shadows with me, instead of following her into the sunshine? Sara could not act contrary to her nature. Sad things depressed her. She wanted to cause every one to be happy.