“Well, I’ve got a piece of news for you women!” says Mr. Esterworth, stretching out his hand for his tea. “John Kynaston’s going to be married!”
Mrs. Miller never knew how it was that the old Worcester tea-cup in her hand did not at this juncture fall flat on the ground into a thousand atoms at her brother’s feet. It is certain that only a very strong exercise of self-control and presence of mind saved it from destruction.
“Engaged to be married!” she said, with a gasp.
“That is news indeed,” cried Beatrice, heartily, “I am delighted.”
“Don’t be so foolish, Beatrice,” said her mother, quite sharply. “How on earth can you be delighted when you don’t even know who it is? Who is it, Tom?”
“Ah, that is the whole pith of the matter,” said Mr. Esterworth, who was not above the weakness of liking to be the bearer of a piece of gossip. “I’ll give you three guesses, and I’ll bet you won’t hit it.”
“One of the Courtenay girls?”
“I know,” says Beatrice, nodding her head sagely; “it is that girl who lives with the Daintrees.”
“Beatrice, how silly you are!” cries her mother.
Tom Esterworth turns round in his chair, and looks at his niece.
“By Jove, you’ve hit it!” he exclaims. “What a clever pussy you are to be sure.”
And then the soul of the member’s wife became filled with consternation and disgust.
“Well, I call it downright sly of John Kynaston!” she exclaims, angrily; “picking out a nobody like that behind all our backs, and keeping it so quiet, too; he ought to be ashamed of himself for such an unsuitable selection!”
Beatrice laughed. “You know, uncle Tom, mamma wanted him to marry me.”
“Beatrice, you should not say such things,” said her mother, colouring.
“Whew!” whistled Mr. Esterworth. “So that was the little game, Caroline, was it? John Kynaston has better taste. He wouldn’t have looked at an ugly little girl like our pussy here, would he, Puss? Miss Nevill is one of the finest women I ever saw in my life. She was at the meet to-day on one of his horses; and, by Jove! she made all the other women look plain by the side of her! Kynaston is a very lucky fellow.”
“I think, mamma, there can be no doubt about sending Miss Nevill an invitation to our ball now,” said Beatrice, laughingly.
“She will have to be asked to stay in the house,” said Mrs. Miller, with something akin to a groan. “I cannot leave her out, as Lady Kynaston is coming. Oh, dear! oh, dear! what fools men are, to be sure!”
But Beatrice was wicked enough to laugh again over her mother’s discomfiture.
I wonder did you ever count
The value of one human fate,
Or sum the infinite amount
Of one heart’s treasures, and the weight
Of one heart’s venture.