“Oh, my poor darling Theodora!” she murmurs, half aloud; “if you had lived, you would have taken care of your Vera; if you had not died, I should never have come here, nor ever have known—any of them.”
And then she hears Marion’s voice calling to her from the top of the stairs.
“Vera! Vera! do come up and see it before it gets quite dark.”
She rises hastily and dashes away her tears.
“What is the matter with me to-day!” she says to herself, impatiently. “Have I not everything in the world I wish for? I am happy—of course I am happy. I am coming, Marion, instantly.”
Upstairs her wedding dress, a soft cloud of rich silk and fleecy lace, relieved with knots of flowers, dark-leaved myrtle, and waxen orange blossoms, lies spread out upon her bed. Marion stands contemplating it, wrapt in ecstatic admiration; old Mrs. Daintree has gone away.
“It is perfectly lovely! I am so glad you had silk instead of satin; nothing could show off Lady Kynaston’s lace so well: is it not beautiful? you ought to try it on. Why, Vera! what is the matter? I believe you have been crying.”
“I was thinking of Theodora,” she murmurs.
“Ah! poor dear Theodora!” assents Marion, with a compassionate sigh; “how she would have liked to have known of your marriage; how pleased she would have been.”
Vera looks at her sister. “Marion,” she says, in a low earnest voice; “if—if I should break it off, what would you say?”
“Break it off!” cries her sister, horror-struck. “Good heavens, Vera! what can you mean? Have you gone suddenly mad? What is the matter with you? Break off a match like this at the last minute? You must be demented!”
“Oh, of course,” with a sudden change of manner; “of course I did not mean it, it only came into my head for a minute; of course, as you say, it is a splendid match for me. What should I want to break it off for? What should I gain? what, indeed?” She spoke feverishly and excitedly, laughing a little harshly as she spoke.
Marion looked at her anxiously. “I hope to goodness you will never say such horrid things to anybody else; it sounds dreadful, Vera, as if Eustace and I were forcing you into it; as if you did not want to marry Sir John yourself.”
“Of course I want to marry him!” interrupted Vera, with unreasonable sharpness.
“Then, pray don’t make a fool of yourself, my dear, by talking about breaking it off.”
“It was only a joke. Break it off! how could I? The best match in the county, as you say. I am not going to make a fool of myself; don’t be afraid, Marion. It would be so inconvenient, too; the trousseau all bought, the breakfast ordered, the guests invited; even the wedding dress here, all finished and ready to put on, and ten thousand a year waiting for me! Oh, no, I am not going to be such an utter fool!”
She laughed; but her laughter was almost more sad than her tears, and her sister left her, saddened and puzzled by her manner.