Page:Court Royal.djvu/186

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‘Never, never, Lady Grace! with a heart as fresh and a spirit as bright as a May morning.’

She smiled very faintly, almost imperceptibly, slight dimples forming at the corners of her mouth. The tears were very near the surface.

‘I must trust you,’ she said. Then, thinking she had spoken grudgingly and ungenerously, she looked up and said, ‘I trust you frankly, freely, from the bottom of my soul. Excuse my petulance, my curiosity. From the days of Eve woman has wanted to know what she had better not know!’

Beavis was uneasy. He felt that she was hurt by his want of confidence—hurt and disappointed. He knew that this disappointment would cost her tears when alone. He could not do otherwise. He could not tell her that this marriage was de convenance, one for money, and money only. Her healthy, pure mind would recoil from such a truth. She would think such a union unholy, dishonouring. But it was necessary. She did not know the bankrupt condition of the family. If told it, she would not realise it. If she did realise it, she would refuse to sanction escape from it by such means. Beavis knew this. He could see into that transparent soul better far than she could look into his.

‘The quadrille is forming,’ she said; ‘let us take our places.’

They did so under one of the great chandeliers.

How beautiful was the scene: the background of old paintings and white and gold, the brilliant light from above, the brightly polished floor of inlaid woods, the figures in gay colours—the turquoise blue, the eschscholtzia yellow, the carnation pink, the lily white—flickering in and out like pieces in a kaleidoscope. The beautiful faces, bright eyes, the various hairs—golden, chestnut brown, black—the flash of diamonds, the flowers—how lovely was the scene! Yet, lovely above every person and every object there, incomparable in every way, Beavis thought Lady Grace—not wrongly, not with any exaggeration. Incomparable she was in white and the palest blue satin, so pale as to be scarcely blue at all, with aquamarine parure, and a cross of the same hanging from her necklet and resting on her pure bosom. The delicate blue veins in her temples and on her throat and bosom showed through her transparent skin. Her eyes were of deep violet blue—the only dark colour about her. In her cheeks was the faintest tinge of rose. Lady Grace, as has been said before, was not a young girl; she was sliding out of youth. But age