In the Casserols’ house he found himself at last going round the presents with the eldest Casserol surviving, a tall girl in pale violet, who had been chief bridesmaid.
“Did n’t it go off well, Mr. Shelton?” she was saying
“I always think it’s so awkward for the man waiting up there for the bride to come.”
“Yes,” murmured Shelton.
“Don’t you think it’s smart, the bridesmaids having no hats?”
Shelton had not noticed this improvement, but he agreed.
“That was my idea; I think it ’s very chic. They ’ve had fifteen tea-sets-so dull, is n’t it?”
“By Jove!” Shelton hastened to remark.
“Oh, its fearfully useful to have a lot of things you don’t want; of course, you change them for those you do.”
The whole of London seemed to have disgorged its shops into this room; he looked at Miss Casserol’s face, and was greatly struck by the shrewd acquisitiveness of her small eyes.
“Is that your future brother-in-law?” she asked, pointing to Bill Dennant with a little movement of her chin; “I think he’s such a bright boy. I want you both to come to dinner, and help to keep things jolly. It’s so deadly after a wedding.”
And Shelton said they would.
They adjourned to the hall now, to wait for the bride’s departure. Her face as she came down the stairs was impassive, gay, with a furtive trouble in the eyes, and once more Shelton had the odd sensation of having sinned against his manhood. Jammed close to him was her old nurse, whose puffy, yellow face was pouting with emotion, while tears rolled from her eyes. She was trying to say something, but in the hubbub her farewell was lost. There was a scamper to the carriage, a flurry of rice and flowers; the shoe was flung against the sharply drawn-up window. Then Benjy’s shaven face was seen a moment, bland and steely; the footman folded his arms, and with a solemn crunch the brougham wheels rolled away. “How splendidly it went off!” said a voice on Shelton’s right. “She looked a little pale,” said a voice on Shelton’s left. He put his hand up to his forehead; behind him the old nurse sniffed.
“Dick,” said young Dennant in his ear, “this isn’t good enough; I vote we bolt.”
Shelton assenting, they walked towards the Park; nor could he tell whether the slight nausea he experienced was due to afternoon champagne or to the ceremony that had gone so well.
“What’s up with you?” asked Dennant; “you look as glum as any m-monkey.”
“Nothing,” said Shelton; “I was only thinking what humbugs we all are!”
Bill Dennant stopped in the middle of the crossing, and clapped his future brother-in-law upon the shoulder.
“Oh,” said he, “if you’re going to talk shop, I ’m off.”