“Do not lose any more time,” continued Helen, following up the impression she saw she had made upon him. “Speak to her this evening; get her to fix your wedding-day within the month; believe me, a man gets no advantage by putting things off too long; and there are dangers, too, in your case.”
“Dangers! How do you mean?” he said, quickly.
“Oh, nothing particular—only she is very handsome, and she is young, and not accustomed, I dare say, to admiration. Other men may admire her as well as you.”
“If they did, it could do her no harm,” he answered, stiffly.
“Oh, no, of course not; but you can’t keep other men from looking at her. When once she is your wife you will have her more completely to yourself.”
Sir John made no particular answer to this; but when he had done dancing with Mrs. Romer, he led her back to her seat and thanked her gravely and courteously for her suggestions.
“You have done me a great service, Mrs. Romer, and I am infinitely obliged to you,” he said, and then went his way to find Vera.
He was not jealous; but there was a certain uneasiness in his mind. It might be, indeed, true that others would admire and love Vera; others more worthy of her, more equally mated with her youth and loveliness; and he, he said to himself in his humility with regard to her, he had so little to offer her—nothing but his love. He knew himself to be grave and quiet; there was nothing about him to enchain her to him. He lacked brilliancy in manner and conversation; he was dull; he was, perhaps, even prosy. He knew it very well himself; but suppose Vera should find it out, and find that she had made a mistake! The bare thought of it was enough to make him shudder.
No; Mrs. Romer was a clever, well-intentioned little woman. She had meant to give him a hint in all kindness, and he would not be slow to take it. What she had meant to say was, “Take her yourself quickly, or some one else will take her from you.”
And Sir John said to himself that he would so take her, and that as quickly as possible.
Standing talking to her younger son, later on that evening, Lady Kynaston said to him, suddenly,
“Why does Vera wear peacock’s feathers?”
“Why should she not?”
“They are bad luck.”
Maurice laughed. “I never knew you to be superstitious before, mother.”
“I am not so really; but from choice I would avoid anything that bears an unlucky interpretation. I saw her with you in the conservatory as I came downstairs.”
Maurice turned suddenly red. “Did you?” he asked, a little anxiously.
“Yes. I did not know it was her, of course. I did not see her face, only her dress, and I noticed that it was trimmed with peacock’s feathers; that was what made me recognize her afterwards.”
“That was bad luck, at all events,” said Maurice, almost involuntarily.