Christmas passed off quietly. As soon as it was known that Lady Greendale had returned, the neighbours called, and for the next few months there was the usual round of dinner parties. To all remarks as to the length of time that she had been away, Lady Greendale merely replied that Bertha had been staying among friends, and that as she herself had not been in very good health, she had preferred staying in town, where she could always find a physician close at hand if she needed one.
It was not until they had been back for more than a month, that the engagement between Bertha and Major Mallett was announced by Lady Greendale to her friends, and it was generally supposed that it had but just taken place. The announcement gave great satisfaction, for the general opinion had been that Bertha would get engaged in London, and that Greendale would be virtually lost to the county.
The marriage was to take place in April.
“There is no reason for a long delay,” Lady Greendale explained. “They have known each other ever since Bertha was a child. They intend to spend their honeymoon on board Major Mallett’s yacht, the Osprey, and will go up the Mediterranean until the heat begins to get too oppressive, when they talk about sailing round the islands, or, at any rate, cruising for some time off the west of Scotland.”
About the same time, George Lechmere, in a rather mysterious manner, told Frank that he wished for a few minutes’ conversation with him.
“What is it, George? Anything wrong with the cellar?”
“No, sir, it is not that. The fact is that Anna Parsons, Miss Greendale’s maid, you know, and I, have settled to get married, too.”
“Capital, George, I am heartily glad of it,” Frank said, shaking him warmly by the hand.
“I never thought that I should get to care for anyone again, but you see we were thrown a good deal together on the voyage home, and I don’t know how it came about, but we had pretty well arranged it before we got back, and now we have settled it altogether.”
“I am not surprised to hear it, George. I rather fancied, from what I saw on board, that something was likely to come of it. It is the best thing by far for you.”
“Well, sir, as I said, I never thought that I should care for anyone else, but I am sure that I shall make a better husband, now, than I should have done had I married five years ago.”
“That I am sure you will. You have had a rough lesson, and it has made a great impression, and I doubt whether your marriage would have been a happy one had you married then, after what you told me of your jealous temper. Now I am sure that neither Anna, nor anyone else, could wish for a better husband than you will make. Well now, what are you thinking of doing, for I suppose you have thought it over well?”
“That is what we cannot quite settle, Major. I should like to stay with you all my life, just as I am.”