There was a long wait in the hall, where they were joined by the assiduous Marquis and Delaval Stirling. And Hector, from a place on the stairs, had all his feelings of jealous rage aroused again in watching them while he was detained where he was by his hostess.
Meanwhile, Sir Patrick Fitzgerald had gone about telling every one of the beauty of his new-found niece, and had brought his wife to be introduced to her just after Theodora had left.
Since his scapegrace brother was going to make such an advantageous marriage, and this niece had proved a lovely woman, and rich withal, he quite admitted the ties of blood were thicker than water.
Lady Ada was not of like opinion; she had enough relations of her own, and resented his having asked the Browns to Beechleigh for Whitsuntide.
“My party was all made up but for one extra man,” she said, “whom I think I have found; and we did not need these people.”
Lord Bracondale arrived at his sister’s house in Charles Street about a quarter of an hour before her luncheon guests were due.
Anne rushed down to see him, meeting her husband on the stairs.
“Oh, don’t come in yet, Billy, like a darling,” she said, “I want to talk to Hector alone.”
And the meek and fond Lord Anningford had obediently retired to his smoking-room.
“Well, Hector,” she said, when she had greeted him, “and so you are going to the Fitzgeralds’ for Whitsuntide, and not to Bracondale, mother tells me this morning. She is in the seventh heaven, taking it for a sign, as you had to manoeuvre so to be asked, that things are coming to a climax between you and Morella.”
“Morella? Is she going?” said Hector, absently. He had quite forgotten that fact, so perfectly indifferent was he to her movements, and so completely had his own aims engrossed him.
“Why—dear boy!” Anne gasped. The whole scene, highly colored by repetition, had been recounted to her. How Morella had told him of her plans, and how he had at once got introduced to Lady Ada, and played his cards so skilfully that the end of the evening produced the invitation.
“Oh yes, of course, I remember she is going,” he said, impatiently. “Anne, you haven’t asked that beast Wensleydown to-day, have you?”
“No, dear. What made you think so?”
“I saw you talking to him in the park this morning, and I feared you might have. I shall certainly quarrel with him one of these days.”
“You will have an opportunity, then, at Beechleigh, as he will be there. He is always with the Fitzgeralds,” Anne said, and she tried to laugh. “But don’t make a scandal, Hector.”
She saw his eyes blaze.
“He is going there, is he?” he said, and then he stared out of the window.
Anne knew nothing of the relationship between Theodora and Sir Patrick. She never for a moment imagined the humble Browns would be invited to this exceptionally smart party. And yet she was uneasy. Why was Hector going? What plan was in his head? Not Morella, evidently. But she had never believed that would be his attraction.