Beyond These Voices

`I DIDN'T quite catch what you said!' were the next words that reached my ear, but certainly not in the voice either of Sylvie or of Bruno, whom I could just see, through the crowd of guests, standing by the piano, and listening to the Count's song. Mein Herr was the speaker. `I didn't quite catch what you said!' he repeated. `But I've no doubt you take my view of it. Thank you very much for your kind attention. There is only but one verse left to be sung!' These last words were not in the gentle voice of Mein Herr, but in the deep bass of the French Count. And, in the silence that followed, the final stanza of `Tottles' rang through the room.

See now this couple settled down
In quiet lodgings, out of town:
Submissively the tearful wife
Accepts a plain and humble life:
Yet begs one boon on bended knee:
`My ducky-darling, don't resent it!
Mamma might come for two or three--'
`NEVER!' yelled Tottles. And he meant it.

The conclusion of the song was followed by quite a chorus of thanks and compliments from all parts of the room, which the gratified signer responded to by bowing low in all directions. `It is to me a great privilege,' he said to Lady Muriel, `to have met with this so marvellous a song. The accompaniment to him is so strange, so mysterious: it is as if a new music were to be invented! I will play him once again so as that to show you what I mean.' He returned to the piano, but the song had vanished.

The bewildered singer searched through the heap of music lying on an adjoining table, but it was not there, either. Lady Muriel helped in the search: others soon joined: the excitement grew. `What can have become of it?' exclaimed Lady Muriel. Nobody knew: one thing only was certain, that no one had been near the piano since the Count had sung the last verse of the song.

`Nevare mind him!' he said, most good-naturedly. `I shall give it you with memory alone!' He sat down, and began vaguely fingering the notes; but nothing resembling the tune came out. Then he, too, grew excited. `But what oddness! How much of singularity! That I might lose, not the words alone, but the tune also--that is quite curious, I suppose?'

We all supposed it, heartily.

`It was that sweet little boy, who found it for me,' the Count suggested. `Quite perhaps he is the thief?'

`Of course he is!' cried Lady Muriel. `Bruno! Where are you, my darling?'

But no Bruno replied: it seemed that the two children had vanished as suddenly, and as mysteriously, as the song.

`They are playing us a trick!' Lady Muriel gaily exclaimed. `This is only an ex tempore game of Hide- and-Seek! That little Bruno is an embodied Mischief!'

The suggestion was a welcome one to most of us, for some of the guests were beginning to look decidedly uneasy. A general search was set on foot with much enthusiasm: curtains were thrown back and shaken, cupboards opened, and ottomans turned over; but the number of possible hiding-places proved to be strictly limited; and the search came to an end almost as soon as it had begun.

`They must have run out, while we were wrapped up in the song,' Lady Muriel said, addressing herself to the Count, who seemed more agitated than the others; `and no doubt they've found their way back to the housekeeper's room.'

`Not by this door!' was the earnest protest of a knot of two or three gentlemen, who had been grouped round the door (one of them actually leaning against it) for the last half-hour, as they declared. `This door has not been opened since the song began!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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