Appetite for breakfast was lacking, but Lance forced himself to swallow, as one aware of the consequences of fasting for agitation’s sake, and he nearly crammed Gerald; so that Adrian and Fely laughed, and he excused himself by declaring that he wanted his turkey-cock to gobble and not pipe. For which bit of pleasantry he encountered a glare from Gerald’s Hungarian eyes. He was afraid on one side to lose sight of his nephew, on the other he did not feel equal to encounter a scolding from Marilda, so he sent Adrian and Fely down to the Marine Hotel to fetch Franceska, while he stole a moment or two for greeting Clement, who was much better, and only wanted more conversation than he durst give him.
CHAPTER XXI. THE MASQUE
Your honour’s players, hearing your amendment,
Are come to play a pleasant comedy.
Taming of the Shrew.
Poor Franceska! First she encountered Cousin Marilda’s wonder and displeasure, and the declaration that Uncle Lance went absolutely crazy over his musical mania. She had seen it before in poor Edgar, and knew what it came to. She wanted to telegraph at once to Alda to ask her consent or refusal to Franceska’s appearance; but Sir Ferdinand stopped this on the ground that the circumstances could not be explained, and told her to content herself with Clement’s opinion.
This she sent Sophy and Emilia to ascertain, before she would let them and the boys escort Francie to her destination. Clement, not yet up, had to hold a lit de justice, and pronounce that Uncle Lance was to be fully trusted to ask nothing unbecoming or unnecessary, and that Francie would have nothing to do with any one except him and Gerald.
“Besides,” said Emilia, as they walked up, “nobody will find it out. The posters are all over the town, ’Mona, Miss Ludmilla Schnetterling.’”
So the sisters were received with a murmur on their delay. The pretty dress prepared for Mona was found to be too small for the tall shapely Franceska, and Sophy undertook to alter it, while poor Francie’s troubles began.
Whether it was that Uncle Lance and Gerald were in a secret state of turmoil, or that their requirements were a good deal higher than for the Vale Leston audience, or perhaps that she had no inheritance of actress traditions, they certainly were a great deal sharper with her than they had been ever before or with Ludmilla.
Gerald derided her efforts sarcastically, and Uncle Lance found fault good-humouredly but seriously, and she was nearly in tears by eleven o’clock, when the procession was to take place. She was quite surprised when Lance turned to her and said-
“Thank you, my dear, you are doing capitally. I shall be proud of my daughter Mona.”
Quite in spirits again, she was sewn by Sophy into her still unfinished dress, her beautiful light golden flax tresses were snooded, her Highland scarf pinned on her shoulder, and she hurried to her uncle, now be-robed and be-wigged, with Gerald in full Highland garb, looking very much disgusted, especially when her uncle said-