It was quite true what Mr. Thomas Esterworth had said, that Vera was engaged to Sir John Kynaston.
It had all come about so rapidly, and withal so quietly, that, when Vera came to think of it, it rather took her breath away. She had expected it, of course; indeed, she had even planned and tried for it; but, when it had actually come to her, she felt herself to be bewildered by the suddenness of it.
In the end the climax of the love-making had been prosaic enough. Sir John had not felt himself equal to the task of a personal interview with the lady of his affections, with the accompanying risks of a personal rejection, which, in his modesty and humility with reference to her, he had believed to be quite on the cards. So he had written to her. The note had been taken up to the vicarage by the footman, and had been brought into the dining-room by the vicarial parlour-maid, just as the three ladies were finishing breakfast, and after the vicar himself had left the room.
“A note from Kynaston, please ’m,” says rosy-cheeked Hannah, holding it forth before her, upon a small japanned tray, as an object of general family interest and excitement.
“For your master, Hannah?” says old Mrs. Daintree. “Are they waiting for an answer? You will find him in his study.”
“No, ma’am, it’s for Miss Vera.”
“Dear me!” with a suspicious glance across the table; “how very odd!”
Vera takes up the note and opens it.
“May I have the crest, auntie?” clamours Tommy before she had read three words of it.
“Is it about the horse he has offered you to ride?” asks his mother.
But Vera answers nothing; she gets up quietly, and leaves the room without a word.
“Extraordinary!” gasps Mrs. Daintree; “Vera’s manners are certainly most abrupt and unlady-like at times, Marion. I think you ought to point it out to her.”
Marion murmurs some unintelligible excuse and follows her sister—leaving the unfortunate Tommy a prey to his grandmother’s tender mercies. So brilliant an opportunity is not, of course, to be thrown away. Tommy’s fingers, having incontinently strayed in the direction of the sugar-basin, are summarily slapped for their indiscretion, and an admonition is straightway delivered to him in forcible language concerning the pains and penalties which threaten the ulterior destiny of naughty little boys in general and of such of them in particular who are specially addicted to the abstraction of lumps of sugar from the breakfast-table.
Meanwhile, Marion has found her sister in the adjoining room standing up alone upon the hearthrug with Sir John Kynaston’s letter in her hands. She is not reading it now, she is looking steadfastly into the fire. It has fulfilled—nay, more than fulfilled—her wishes. The triumph of her success is pleasant to her, and has brought a little more than their usual glow into her cheeks, and yet—Heaven knows what vague and intangible dreams and fancies have not somehow sunk down chill and cold within her during the last five minutes.