`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
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.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|