Daintiness and Myrtilla!
“Well, this is lovely of you, Myrtilla! But what courage! How did you ever dare venture into this wild and savage spot,—this mountain-fastness of Bohemia?”
“Yes, it was brave of me, wasn’t it?” said Myrtilla, with a little laugh, for which the stairs had hardly left her breath. “But what a climb! It is like having your rooms on the Matterhorn. I think I must write a magazine article: ‘How I climbed the fifty-thousand stairs,’ with illustrations,—and we could have some quite pretty ones,” she said, looking round the room.
“That big skylight is splendid! As close, dear lad, to the stars as you can get it? Are you as devoted to them as ever?”
“Aren’t you, Myrtilla?”
“Oh, yes; but they don’t get any nearer, you know.”
“It’s awfully good to see you again, Myrtilla,” said Henry, going over to her and taking both her hands. “It’s quite a long time, you know, since we had a talk. It was a sweet thought of you to come. You’ll have some tea, won’t you?”
“Yes, I should love to see you make tea. Bachelors always make such good tea. What pretty cups! My word, we are dainty! I suppose it was Esther bought them for you?”
Henry detected the little trap and smiled. No, it hadn’t been Esther.
“No? Someone else then? eh! I think I can guess her name. It was mean of you not to tell me about her, Henry. I hear she’s called Angel, and that she looks like one. I wish I could have seen her before I went away.”
“Going away, Myrtilla? why, where? I’ve heard nothing of it. Tell me about it.”
The atmosphere perceptibly darkened with the thought of Williamson.
“Well!” she said, in the little airy melodious way she had when she was telling something particularly unhappy about herself—a sort of harpsichord bravado—“Well, you know, he’s taken to fancying himself seriously ill lately, and the doctors have aided and abetted him; and so we’re going to Davos Platz, or some such health-wilderness—and well, that’s all!”
“And you I suppose are to nurse the—to nurse him?” said Henry, savagely.
“Hush, lad! It’s no use, not a bit! You won’t help me that way,” she said, laying her hand kindly on his, and her eyes growing bright with suppressed tears.
“It’s a shame, nevertheless, Myrtilla, a cruel shame!”
“You’d like to say it was a something-else shame, wouldn’t you, dear boy? Well, you can, if you like: but then you must say no more. And if you really want to help me, you shall send me a long letter now and again, with some of your new poems enclosed; and tell me what new books are worth sending for? Will you do that?”
“Of course, I will. That’s precious little to do anyhow.”
“It’s a good deal, really. But be sure you do it.”
“And, of course, you’ll write to me sometimes. I don’t think you know yet what your letters are to me. I never work so well as when I’ve had a letter from you.”