With sneers never hitherto sneered.
`Avengement,' they cry, `on our Foelet!
   Let the Manikin weep for our wrongs!
Let us drench him, from toplet to toelet,
                              With Nursery-Songs!

`He shall muse upon "Hey! Diddle! Diddle!"
   On the Cow that surmounted the Moon:
He shall rave of the Cat and the Fiddle,
   And the Dish that eloped with the Spoon:
And his soul shall be sad for the Spider,
   When Miss Muffet was sipping her whey,
That so tenderly sat down beside her,
                              And scared her away!

`The music of Midsummer-madness
   Shall sting him with many a bite,
Till, in rapture of rollicking sadness,
   He shall groan with a gloomy delight:
He shall swathe him, like mists of the morning,
   In platitudes luscious and limp,
Such as deck, with a deathless adorning,
                              The Song of the Shrimp!

`When the Ducklet's dark doom is decided,
   We will trundle him home in a trice:
And the banquet, so plainly provided,
   Shall round into rose-buds and rice:
In a blaze of pragmatic invention
   He shall wrestle with Fate, and shall reign:
But he has not a friend fit to mention,
                              So hit him again!'

He has shot it, the delicate darling!
   And the Voices have ceased from their strife:
Not a whisper of sneering or snarling,
   As he carries it home to his wife:
Then, cheerily champing the bunlet
   His spouse was so skilful to bake,
He hies him once more to the runlet,
                              To fetch her the Drake!

`He's sound asleep now,' said Sylvie, carefully tucking in the edge of a violet-leaf, which she had been spreading over him as a sort of blanket: `good night!'

`Good night!' I echoed.

`You may well say "good night"!' laughed Lady Muriel, rising and shutting up the piano as she spoke. `When you've been nid--nid--nodding all the time I've been singing for your benefit! What was it all about, now?' she demanded imperiously.

`Something about a duck?' I hazarded. `Well, a bird of some kind?' I corrected myself, perceiving at once that that guess was wrong, at any rate.

`Something about a bird of some kind!' Lady Muriel repeated, with as much withering scorn as her sweet face was capable of conveying. `And that's the way he speaks of Shelley's Sky-Lark, is it? When the Poet particularly says "Hail to thee, blithe spirit! Bird thou never wert!"'

She led the way to the smoking-room, where, ignoring all the usages of Society and all the instincts of Chivalry, the three Lords of the Creation reposed at their ease in low rocking-chairs, and permitted the one lady who was present to glide gracefully about among us, supplying our wants in the form of cooling drinks, cigarettes, and lights. Nay, it was only one of the three who had the chivalry to go beyond the common-place `thank you', and to quote the Poet's exquisite description of how Geraint, when waited on by Enid, was moved

`To stoop and kiss the tender little thumb
That crossed the platter as she laid it down',

and to suit the action to the word--an audacious liberty for which, I feel bound to report, he was not duly reprimanded.

As no topic of conversation seemed to occur to any one, and as we were, all four, on those delightful terms with one another (the only terms, I think, on which any friendship, that deserves the name of intimacy, can be maintained) which involve no sort of necessity for speaking for mere speaking's sake, we sat in silence for some minutes.

At length I broke the silence by asking `Is there any fresh news from the harbour about the Fever?'

`None since this morning,' the Earl said, looking very grave. `But that was alarming enough. The Fever is spreading fast: the London doctor has taken fright and left the place, and the only one now available isn't a regular doctor at all: he is apothecary, and doctor, and dentist, and I don't know what other trades, all in one. It's a bad outlook for those poor fishermen--and a worse one for all the women and children.'

`How many are there of them altogether?' Arthur asked.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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