The old gentleman chuckled and took snuff.
“He loves an audience. At about four in the morning, when all the elders were in bed—(pardon me, Mademoiselle, if I claim to reckon myself among les jeunes; my poor back tells me at what cost)—at about four in the morning the young lady who has just left you spoke of a new dance she had seen performed this season at Bath. Well, it appears that M. Raoul had also seen it a—valtz they called it, or some such name. Whereupon nothing would do but they must dance it together. Such a dance, Mademoiselle! Roll, roll—round and round— roll, roll—but perpendicularly, you understand. By-and-by the others began to copy them, and someone asked M. Raoul where he had found this accomplishment. ‘Oh, in my travels,’ says he, and points to one of the panels; and there, if you will believe me, the fellow had actually painted himself as Perseus in the Garden of the Hesperides.”
Poor Dorothea glanced towards the panel.
“Ah, you remember it! But he must have painted in the face after showing it to us the other day, or I should have recognised it at the time. You must come and see it; really an excellent portrait!”
He led her towards it. The orange curtain no longer hid the third nymph. But the blood which had left Dorothea’s face rushed back as she saw that the trinket had been roughly erased.
“It was quite a coup, but M. Raoul loves an audience.”
Shortly before noon the road by the bridge was reported to be clear. Carriages were announced, and the guests shook hands and were rolled away—the elder glum, their juniors in boisterous spirits. As each carriage passed the bridge, where M. Raoul stood among the workmen, handkerchiefs fluttered out, and he lifted his hat gaily in response.
BEGINS WITH ANCIENT HISTORY AND ENDS WITH AN OLD STORY
“Ubicunque vicit Romanus habitat,—Where the Roman conquered he settled—and it is from his settlements that to-day we deduce his conquests. Of Vespasian and his second legion the jejune page of Suetonius records neither where they landed nor at what limit their victorious eagles were stayed. Yet will the patient investigator trace their footprints across many a familiar landscape of rural England, led by the blurred imperishable impress he has learned to recognise. The invading host sweeps forward, and is gone; but behind it the homestead arises and smiles upon the devastated fields, arms yield to the implements and habiliments of peace, and the colonist, who supersedes the legionary, in time furnishes the sole evidence of his feverish and ensanguined transit . . .”
Narcissus was enjoying himself amazingly. His audience endured him because the experience was new, and their ears caught the rattle of tea-cups in the adjoining library.
Dorothea sat counting her guests, and assuring herself that the number of teacups would suffice. She had heard the lecture many times before, and with repetition its sonorous periods had lost hold upon her, although her brother had been at pains to model them upon Gibbon.