“Oh, Crow, dear, what are we to do, then?” said Lady Anningford. “Surely, surely you don’t anticipate any sudden catastrophe? In these days people never run away—”
“No,” said the Crow. “They stay at home until the footman, or the man’s last mistress, or the woman’s dearest friend, send anonymous letters to the husband.”
“Well, I tell you, Queen Anne, to me this appears serious. I know Hector pretty well, and I have never seen him as far gone as this before. The woman—she is a mere child—looks as unsophisticated as a baby, and probably is. She won’t have the least idea of managing the affair. She will tumble headlong into it.”
“Well, what is to be done, then?” exclaimed Anne, piteously.
“You had better talk to him quietly. He is very fond of you. Though nothing, I am afraid, will be of the least use,” said the Crow.
“But if she is going into the country they won’t meet,” reasoned Anne. “You saw the dreadful-looking husband just now. Will he be the colonial who will object, do you think, or the English snob who won’t?”
But the Crow refused to give any more opinions except in general.
It all came, he said, from the ridiculous marriage laws in this over-civilized country. Why should not people eminently suited to each other be allowed to be happy?
“It is too bad, Crow,” said Anne. “You take it for granted that Hector has the most dishonorable intentions towards Mrs. Brown. He may worship her quite in the abstract.”
“Fiddle-dee-dee, my child!” said Colonel Lowerby. “Look at him! You don’t understand the fundamental principles of human nature if you say that. When a man is madly in love with a woman, nature says, ’This is your mate,’ not a saint of alabaster on a church altar. There are numbers of animals about who find a ‘mate’ in every woman they come across. But Hector is not that sort. Look at his face—look at him now they are passing us, and tell me if you see any abstract about it?”
Anne was forced to admit she did not; and it was with intense uneasiness she saw her brother and his partner stop, and disappear through one of the doors towards the supper-room.
When her mother perceived the situation—or Morella—disagreeable moments would begin at once for everybody!
Meanwhile, the culprits were extremely happy.
With the finest and noblest intention in the world, Theodora was too young, and too healthy, not to have become exhilarated with the dance and the scene. Something whispered, Why should she not enjoy herself to-night? What harm could there be in dancing? Every one danced—and Josiah, himself, had left her alone.
Hector had not said a word that she must rebuke him for; they had just waltzed and thrilled, and been—happy!
And now she was going to eat some supper with him, and forget there were any to-morrows.