The three great fellows advanced in their dignified way, casting adoring glances at their master.
“Now die, all of you!”
They sneezed and curled up their lips, and made the usual grimaces of dogs when they are moved and self-conscious, but they all three lay flat down at my feet.
“I am flattered,” I said, “and I have not even a biscuit to give you.”
“We are not so sordid as that at Dane Mount. We do not die for biscuits, but because we love the lady,” said Antony.
I bent down and kissed Ulfus, who was nearest to me.
“Now I am going to show you some Thornhirst pictures and some older Athelstans that are in the hall and the dining-room, and a portrait of my mother that I have in my own smoking-room.”
Antony made the most interesting guide. There was something amusing and to the point about all his comments. I soon knew the different characteristics of each member of the family. One or two, especially of the Thornhirsts, are wonderfully like him—the same level, dark eyebrows and firm mouths.
“This is my sanctum,” he said, at last, opening a door down a corridor, and we went into a large room with a lower ceiling than the rest of the apartments I had been into. It is panelled with cedar-wood also and sparely hung with old prints. A delicious smell of burning pine-logs again greeted me. The thick, silk curtains were drawn. The lamps were softly shaded. An old dog of the same family as the three knights basked before the fire. It was all cosey and homelike.
“Oh! this is a nice room, too!” I exclaimed.
“I spend a good deal of time here. One grows to like one’s rooms.”
His mother’s portrait hangs over the fireplace, a charming face, whose beauty is not even disguised by the hideous fashions of 1870, when it was painted.
“She died when I was in Russia,” said Antony.
My eyes fell on the mantel-piece. The narrow ledge held three photographs, one of a man, one of Lady Tilchester, and the centre one—an amateur production, evidently—of a little girl with bare feet, putting one fat toe into a stream, her hat hanging down her back, and her face bent down looking at the water.
“What a dear little picture,” I said. “Who is that?”
“Oh, that is the Tilchester child, Muriel Harley,” he said, carelessly. “We snap-shotted her paddling in the burn in Scotland a year or two ago. Come, it is dressing-time. I must send you up-stairs.” And then, as we left the room, “You look so comfortable in that tea-gown! Don’t bother to change,” he said.
“Why deprive me of displaying to you the splendors I brought over on purpose?” I said, gayly, as I ran up the broad steps.
I do not think there can be a more agreeable form of entertainment than a tete-a-tete dinner, provided your companion is sympathetic. Anyway, to me this will always be one of the golden hours in my life to look back upon.