“Why?” asked Lady Kynaston, looking up at him sharply. But Maurice would not tell her why.
Lady Kynaston asked no more questions; but she pondered, and she watched. Captain Kynaston did not dance again with Vera that night, and he did dance several times with Mrs. Romer; it did not escape her notice, however, that he seemed absent and abstracted, and that his face bore its hardest and sternest aspect throughout the remainder of the evening.
So the ball at Shadonake came to an end, as balls do, with the first gleams of daylight; and nothing was left of all the gay crowd who had so lately filled the brilliant rooms but several sleepy people creeping up slowly to bed, and a great chiffonade of tattered laces, and flowers, and coloured scraps littered all over the polished floor of the ball-room.
HER WEDDING DRESS.
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings,
High instincts before which our moral nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised.
“Vera, are you not coming to look at it?”
“It is all laid out on your bed, and you ought to try it on; it might want alterations.”
“Oh, there is plenty of time!”
“It is downright affectation!” says old Mrs. Daintree, angrily, to her daughter-in-law, as she and Marion leave the room together; “no girl can really be indifferent to a wedding dress covered with yards of lovely Brussels lace flounces; she ought to be ashamed of herself for her ingratitude to Lady Kynaston for such a present; she must really want to see it, only she likes playing the fine lady beforehand!”
“I don’t think it is that,” says Marion, gently; “I don’t believe Vera is well.”
“Fiddlesticks!” snorts her mother-in-law. “A woman who is going to marry ten thousand a year within ten days is bound to be well.”
Vera sits alone; she leans her head against the window, her hands lie idle in her lap, her eyes mechanically follow the rough, gray clouds that rack across the winter sky. In little more than a week she will be Vera Nevill no longer; she will have gained all that she desired and tried for—wealth, position, Kynaston—and Sir John! She should be well content, seeing that it has been her own doing all along. No one has forced or persuaded her into this engagement, no one has urged her on to a course contrary to her own inclination, or her own judgment. It has been her own act throughout. And yet, as she sits alone in the twilight, and counts over on her fingers the few short days that intervene between to-day and her bridal morning, hot miserable tears rise to her eyes, and fall slowly down, one by one, upon her clasped hands. She does not ask herself why she weeps; possibly she dares not. Only her thoughts somehow—by that strange connection of ideas which links something in our present to some other thing in our past, and which apparently is in no way dependent upon it—go back instinctively, as it were, to her dead sister, the Princess Marinari.