Lady Constance Tremaine smiled as she turned with him and walked along the mosaic pavement of the terrace. She was little more than a girl, with a slim, graceful figure, and clad in a simple white morning gown, which served to enhance her youthful beauty. Her face was a pure oval, with clear-cut features and an exquisitely curved, sensitive mouth, while her grey-blue eyes gazed from beneath their thick lashes with a calm serenity that bred faith and confidence in those who looked upon them. Crowned with a wealth of pale golden hair, together with her delicate complexion, she looked as if she had stepped from one of the old Florentine pictures of the saints.
As the two so typical of youth and age stood side by side in the clear morning light, the resemblance between them was marked. Indeed, they were related, for the Tremaines were a distant branch of the Leroy family, and the same proud blood ran in their veins. Lady Constance had been brought up in the Barminster household, and Adrien had grown to regard her in the light of a loved and trusted sister; but, as yet, nothing more.
“Won’t you come in to breakfast?” she said, as they reached the end of the terrace. “Aunt Penelope is not coming down; her nerves are bad this morning.”
Miss Penelope Leroy, Lord Barminster’s only sister, was not strictly speaking Constance’s aunt, merely a distant cousin; but as a child Constance had been accustomed to call her so, and the habit had grown up with her.
Lord Barminster smiled grimly.
“I advised her to let the cucumber alone last night,” was his only comment as he turned towards the breakfast room.
Constance smiled too, for she knew that when Miss Penelope complained of her nerves, it was in reality nothing but a case of indigestion.
“How bright the course looks this morning!” she said, with a charitable wish to change the subject, for Lord Barminster was apt at times to wax caustic over his sister’s small weaknesses.
“Yes,” he said grimly; “like all things dangerous, it is pleasant to the eye. I hate that strip of green—it is the grave of many a Leroys’ best hope. The turf has always been a fatal snare to our race. But, come,” he broke off, “let us go in. Thank goodness, Adrien arrives to-day.”
“To-day?” repeated Lady Constance, a delicate flush rising to her sweet face. “I thought he was not going to arrive until the morning of the race.”
“The race is to-morrow, but he comes to-day,” answered Lord Barminster. “I had a note from him last night saying he would be here by lunch time, and was bringing a few friends down with him.”
“And Mr. Vermont, too?” inquired Lady Constance almost timidly.
The old man’s face darkened and his thin lips set in a hard line.
“Yes,” he said fiercely, “I suppose so. Adrien is as much in love with him as a young fellow with his first sweetheart. I know that he’s a scoundrel and a rogue—but there, what would you? Times have changed since my day; we have replaced horses by motors, to spoil our roads and ruin our lands, and gentleman friends by base-born, scheming adventurers.”