by Georgette Heyer
"I like the Squire, don't you?" remarked Julian idly.
"Better than I like his wife!"
"Oh, lord, yes! All pretension, ain't she? The girls are very unaffected and jolly, too: nothing to look at, of course! I suppose the most striking, au fait de beauté, as Mama would say, was the redheaded dasher, with the quiz of a brother, but, for my part, I prefer Miss Chartley's style - and her parents! No pretensions there, but - I don't know how to express it!"
"A touch of quality?" suggested Sir Waldo.
"Ay, that's it!" agreed Julian, yawning, and relapsing into sleepy silence.
He made no further reference to Miss Wield, either then or during the succeeding days; and so far from showing any of the signs of the love-lorn entered with enthusiasm on a search for a likely hunter, under the aegis of Mr Gregory Ash; struck up a friendship with Jack Banningham's elder brother, and went flapper-shooting with him; dragged his cousin twenty miles to watch a disappointing mill; and in general seemed to be more interested in sport than in ravishing beauties. Sir Waldo did not quite banish his uneasy suspicion that he was harder-hit than his mother would like, but he relegated it to the back of his mind, thinking that he might well have been mistaken.
On Wednesday, when he saw Miss Wield at the Staples party, he knew that he had not been mistaken.
The hall at Staples was very large and lofty, with the main staircase rising from it in a graceful curve. Just as the cousins, having relinquished their hats and cloaks into the care of a powdered footman, were about to cross the floor in the wake of the butler, Miss Wield came lightly down the stairs, checking at sight of the guests, and exclaiming: "Oh! Oh, dear, I didn't know anyone had arrived yet! I'm late, and my aunt will scold! Oh, how do you do, Lord Lindeth!"
As conduct befitting one who was to all intents and purposes a daughter of the house this belated arrival on the scene might leave much to be desired; but as an entrance it was superb. Sir Waldo was not at all surprised to hear Lord Lindeth catch his breath; he himself thought that he had never beheld a lovelier vision, and he was neither impressionable nor three-and-twenty. The velvet ribbons which embellished a ball dress of celestial blue crape and silver gauze were of an intense blue, but not more brilliant than Tiffany's eyes, to which they seemed to draw attention. Pausing on the stairway, one gloved hand resting on the baluster-rail, her pretty lips parting in a smile which showed her white teeth, Tiffany presented a picture to gladden most men's hearts.
O my God! thought Sir Waldo. Now we are in the basket!
She resumed her floating descent of the stairs, as Julian stood spellbound. Recovering, he started forward to meet her, stammering: "M-Miss Wield! We meet again - at last!"
Enchanting dimples peeped as she gave him her hand. "At last? But it's hardly more than a sennight since I disturbed you at your fishing! You were vexed, too - horridly vexed!"
"Never!" he declared, laughing. "Only when I looked in vain for you at the Manor last week - and I wasn't vexed then: that's too small a word!" He ventured to press her hand before releasing it, and turning to introduce his cousin to her.
Sir Waldo, who strongly (and quite correctly) suspected that Tiffany had been lying in wait on the upper landing, and had thus been able exactly to time her appearance on the scene, bowed, and said How-do-you-do, his manner a nice blend of civility and indifference. Tiffany, accustomed to meet with blatant admiration, was piqued. She had not sojourned for long under her uncle Burford's roof in Portland Place, but she had not wasted her time there, and she was well aware that, notwithstanding his rank, Lord Lindeth was a nonentity, when compared with his splendid cousin. To attach the Nonesuch, however temporarily, would be enough to confer distinction on any lady; to inspire him with a lasting passion would be a resounding triumph; for although he was said to have many flirts these always seemed to be married ladies, and the decided preferences he showed from time to time had led neither to scandal nor to any belief that his affections had been seriously engaged.
Dropping a demure curtsy, Tiffany raised her eyes to his face, favouring
him with a wide, innocent gaze. She had previously only seen him
from a distance, and she now perceived that he was very good-looking,
and even more elegant than she had supposed. But instead of showing
admiration he was looking rather amused, and that displeased her
Genealogical Chart by Warren Mendes.
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