“I had an idea, Lady Tempest, that this was our dance!”
“So it was!” reply I, cheerfully; “but you see I have cut you!”
“So I perceive!”
“Had not you better call Bobby out!” cry I, with a jeering laugh, tired of his eternal black looks. “You really are too silly! I wish I had a looking-glass here to show you your face!”
“Do you?” (very shortly).
Repartee is never Frank’s forte. This is all that he now finds with which to wither me. However, even if he had any thing more or more pungent to say, I should not hear him, for I am beginning to dance off again.
“What a fool he is to care!” says Bobby, contemptuously; “after all, he is an ill-tempered beast! I suppose if one kicked him down-stairs it would put a stop to his marrying Barbara, would not it?”
“I suppose so.”
It is over now. The last long-drawn-out notes have ceased to occupy the air. As far as we are concerned, the ball is over, for we have quitted it. We have at length removed the gene of our presence from the company, and have left them to polka and schottische their fill until the morning. We have reached our own part of the house. My cheeks are burning and throbbing with the quick, unwonted exercise. My brain is unpleasantly stirred: a hundred thoughts in a second run galloping through it. I leave the others in the warm-lit drawing-room, briskly talking and discussing the scene we have quitted, and slip away through the door, into a dark and empty adjacent anteroom, where the fire lies at death’s door, low and dull, and the candles are unlighted.
I draw the curtains, unbar the shutters, and, lifting the heavy sash, look out. A cold, still air, sharp and clear, at once greets my face with its frosty kisses. Below me, the great house-shadow projects in darkness, and beyond it lies a great and dazzling field of shining snow, asleep in the moonlight.
Snow-trees, snow-bushes, sparkle up against the dusk quiet of the sky. No movement anywhere! absolute stillness! perfect silence! It is broken now, this silence, by the church-clock with slow wakefulness chiming twelve. Those slow strokes set me a thinking. I hear no longer the loud and lively voices next door, the icy penetration of the air is unfelt by me, as I lean, with my elbow on the sill, looking out at the cold grace of the night. My mind strays gently away over all my past life—over the last important year. I think of my wedding, of my little live wreath of sweet Nancies, of our long, dusty journey, of Dresden.
With an honest, stinging heart-pang, I think of my ill-concealed and selfish weariness in our twilight walks and scented drives, of the look of hurt kindness on his face, at his inability to please me. I think of our return, of the day when he told me of the necessity for his voyage to Antigua, and of my own egotistic unwillingness to accompany him. I think of our parting, when I shed such plenteous tears—tears that seem to me now to have been so much more tears of remorse, of sorrow that I was not sorrier, than of real grief. In every scene I seem to myself to have borne a most shabby part.