A coy tap sounds on her door and she glides to it. “Who—who?” But in spite of her it opens to the bearer of a lamp, her sister Constance.
“Who—who—?” she mocks in soft glee. “That’s the question! ’Who is Sylvia?’”
“Don’t try to come in! I—I—the floor is all strewn with matches!”
The sister’s mirth vanishes: “Why, Nan! what is the matter?”
“Do-on’t whisper so loud! He’s right out there!”
“But, dearie! it’s nothing but a serenade.”
“It’s an outrage, Con! How did he ever know—how did he dare to know—this was my window? Oh, put out that lamp or he’ll think I lighted it—No! no! don’t put it out, he’ll think I did that, too!”
“Why, Nan! you never in your life—”
“Now, Connie, that isn’t fair! I won’t stay with you!” The speaker fled. Constance put out the light.
A few steps down and across a hall a soft sound broke, and Anna stood in Miranda’s doorway wearing her most self-contained smile: “Dearie!” she quietly said, “isn’t it too ridiculous!”
Miranda crinkled a smile so rife with love and insight that Anna’s eyes suddenly ran full and she glided to her knees by the seated one and into her arms, murmuring, “You ought both of you to be ashamed of yourselves! You’re totally mistaken!”
Presently, back in the dusk of her own room, an audible breathing betrayed her return, and Constance endeavoured to slip out, but Anna clung: “You sha’n’t go! You sha’—” Yet the fugitive easily got away.
Down among the roses a stanza had just ended. Anna tiptoed out half across the dim veranda, tossed her crumpled ribbon over the rail, flitted back, bent an ear, and knew by a brief hush of the strings that the token had drifted home.
The die was cast. From brow and heart fled all perturbation and once more into her eyes came their wonted serenity—with a tinge of exultation—while the strings sounded again, and again rose the song:
When Sylvia smiles
Her eyes to mine inclining,
Like azure isles
In seas of lovelight shining,
With a merry madness find I endless pleasure—
Till she sighs—then sadness is my only treasure.
Woe best beguiles;
Mirth, wait thou other whiles,
Thou shalt borrow all my sorrow
When Sylvia smiles.
IN COLUMN OF PLATOONS
Love’s war was declared. From hour to hour of that night and the next morning, in bed, at board, dressing for the thronged city, spinning with Constance and Miranda up Love Street across Piety and Desire and on into the town’s centre, Anna, outwardly all peace, planned that war’s defensive strategy. Splendidly maidenly it should be, harrowingly arduous to the proud invader, and long drawn out. Constance should see what a man can be put through. But oh, but oh, if, after all, the invasion should not come!