“There is nothing like a really beautiful English girl in all the world,” she said, with a smile and another glance in the bride’s direction.
Young Turner grunted, and she gave his arm a slight shake.
“You don’t deceive me,” she said. “You admire her as much as I do. Now, be honest.”
He looked at her for a moment moodily. Then——
“Yes,” he said abruptly, “I do admire her. But, as for the major, I think he’s the biggest fool on this side of the Indian Ocean, and that’s saying a good deal.”
Mrs. Raleigh shook her head as if she desired to disagree.
“Time alone will prove,” she said.
“It’s been lovely,” said the bride. She leant back in the open carriage, gazing with wide, charmed eyes into the vivid Indian night. “And I’m not a bit tired,” she added. “Are you?”
The man beside her did not instantly reply. He was a man of medium height, dark and lithe and amazingly strong. It was not his habit to speak much, but what little he said was usually very much to the point. It was his custom to mask his feelings so completely that very few had the smallest inkling as to his state of mind.
He was considered a hard man in his regiment, but he was known to be a splendid soldier, and chiefly for that reason he was respected rather than disliked. But the kindest critic could not have called him either popular or attractive. And the news of his marriage in England had fallen like a thunderbolt upon his Indian acquaintances, for he had long ago come to be regarded among them as the last man in the world to commit such a folly.
The full extent thereof had not been apparent till his return to his regiment, accompanied by his bride, and then as one man the whole mess had risen and condemned him in no measured terms, for the bride, with all her entrancing beauty, her vivacity, her charm, was certainly a startling contrast to the man who had wedded her—a contrast so sharp as to be almost painful to the onlookers.
She herself, however, seemed to be wholly unaware of any incongruity. Perhaps she had not seen enough of the world to feel it, or perhaps she was wilfully blind to the things she did not desire to see.
In any case her face, as she lay back in the carriage by her husband’s side, expressed only the most complete contentment.
“Are you tired, Eustace?” she asked, as he did not hasten to reply to her first question.
“No,” he answered, “not tired; but glad to be going back.”
“You’ve been bored,” she said quickly. “What a frightful pity! Why did you stay so long?”
Again he paused before replying, and she drummed on his knee with her fingers with slight impatience.
“I had a notion,” he said, in his quiet, unhurried tones, “that my wife would have considered it rather hard lines to be dragged away while there was a single man left to dance with.”