While all this gayety was going on in the ballroom another and equally joyous gathering was besieging the serving tables in the colonel’s private den—a room leading out of the larger supper room, where he kept his guns and shooting togs, and which had been pressed into service for this one night.
These thirsty gentlemen were of all ages and tastes, from the young men just entering society to the few wrinkled bald-pates whose legs had given out and who, therefore, preferred the colonel’s Madeira and terrapin to the lighter pleasures of the dance.
In and out of the groups, his ruddy, handsome face radiant with the joy that welled up in his heart, moved St. George Temple. Never had he been in finer form or feather—never had he looked so well—(not all the clothes that Poole of London cut came to Moorlands). Something of the same glow filtered through him that he had felt on the night when the two lovers had settled their difficulties, and he had swung back through the park at peace with all the world.
All this could be seen in the way he threw back his head, smiling right and left; the way he moved his hands—using them as some men do words or their eyebrows—now uplifting them in surprise at the first glimpse of some unexpected face, his long delicate fingers outspread in exclamations of delight; now closing them tight when he had those of the new arrival in his grasp—now curving them, palms up, as he lifted to his lips the fingers of a grande dame. “Keep your eyes on St. George,” whispered Mrs. Cheston, who never missed a point in friend or foe and whose fun at a festivity often lay in commenting on her neighbors, praise or blame being impartially mixed as her fancy was touched. “And by all means watch his hands, my dear. They are like the baton of an orchestra leader and tell the whole story. Only men whose blood and lineage have earned them freedom from toil, or men whose brains throb clear to their finger-tips, have such hands. Yes! St. George is very happy to-night, and I know why. He has something on his mind that he means to tell us later on.”
Mrs. Cheston was right: she generally was—St. George did have something on his mind—something very particular on his mind—a little speech really which was a dead secret to everybody except prying Mrs. Cheston—one which was to precede the uncorking of that wonderful old Madeira, and the final announcement of the engagement—a little speech in which he meant to refer to their two dear mothers when they were girls, recalling traits and episodes forgotten by most, but which from their very loveliness had always lingered in his heart and memory.