“But if he has other engagements——”
“He has no other engagement!” he interrupted, angrily; “He cannot find any but the most paltry excuses. It is behaving with great unkindness to myself, but that is a small matter. What I do mind and will not submit to is, that it is a deliberate insult to you.”
“An insult to me! Oh! John, how can that be?” she said, in some surprise; and then, suddenly, she flushed hotly. She knew what he meant. There had been plenty of people to say that Sir John Kynaston was marrying beneath himself—a nobody who was unworthy of him: these murmurs had reached Vera’s ears, but she had not heeded them since Lady Kynaston had been on her side. She saw, however, that Sir John feared that the absence of his mother and his brother at his wedding might be misconstrued into a sign that they also disapproved of his bride.
“I don’t think Maurice would wish to slight me,” she said, gently.
“No; but, then, he must not behave as though he did. I assure you, Vera, if he perseveres in his determination, I shall be most deeply hurt. I have always endeavoured to be a kind brother to him, and, if he cannot do this small thing to please me, I shall consider him most ungrateful.”
“That I am sure he is not,” she answered, earnestly; “little as I know him, I can assure you that he never loses an occasion of saying how much he feels your goodness and generosity to him.”
“Then he must prove it. Look here, Vera, will you go up to the Hall now and talk to him? He is not hunting to-day; you will find him in the library.”
“I?” she cried, looking half frightened; “what can I do? You had much better ask him yourself.”
“I have asked him over and over again, till I am sick of asking! If you were to put it as a personal request from yourself, I am sure he would see how important to us both it is that he should be present at our wedding.”
“Pray don’t ask me to do such a thing; I really cannot,” she said, hastily.
Sir John looked at her in some surprise; there was an amount of distress in her face that struck him as inadequate to the small thing he had asked of her.
“Why, Vera! have you grown shy? Surely you will not mind doing so small a thing to please me? You need not stay long, and you have your hat on all ready. I have to speak to your brother-in-law about the chancel; I have a letter from the architect this morning; and everything must be settled about it before we go. If you will go up and speak to Maurice now, I will join you—say in twenty minutes from now,” consulting his watch, “at the lodge gates. You will go, won’t you, dear, just to please me?”
She did not know how to refuse; she had no excuse to give, no reason that she could put into words why she should shrink with such a dreadful terror from this interview with his brother which he was forcing upon her. She told him that she would go, and Sir John, leaving her, went into the house well satisfied to do his business with the vicar.