I turn away my head, and look out of the window up at Charles’s Wain, and all my other bright old friends. No one is heeding me—no one sees me; so I drop my hot cheek on the sill.
Suddenly I start up. Some one is approaching me: some one has thrown himself with careless freedom on the couch beside me. It is Algy.
Having utterly failed in dislodging Mr. Parker from his cushion—having had a suggestion on his part, on the treatment of the gnat-bite, passed over in silent contempt—he has retired from the circle in dudgeon.
“This is lively, is not it?” he says, in an aggressively loud voice, as if he were quarrelsomely anxious to be overheard.
I say “Hush!” apprehensively
“As no one makes the slightest attempt to entertain us, we must entertain each other, I suppose!”
“Yes, dear old boy!” I say, affectionately, “why not?—it would not be the first time by many.”
“That does not make it any the more amusing!” he says, harshly.—“I say, Nancy”—his eyes fixing themselves with sullen greediness on the central figure of the group he has left—on the slight round arm (after all, not half so round or so white as Barbara’s or mine)—which is still under treatment, “is eau de cologne good for those sort of bites?—her arm is bad, you know!”
“Bad!” echo I, scornfully; “bad! why, I am all lumps, more or less, and so is Barbara! who minds us!”
“You ought to make your old man—’auld Robin Gray’—mind you,” he says, with a disagreeable laugh. “It is his business, but he does not seem to see it, does he? ha! ha!”
“I wish!” cry I, passionately; then I stop myself. After all, he is hardly himself to-night, poor Algy!
“By-the-by,” he says, presently, with a wretchedly assumed air of carelessness, “is it true—it is as well to come to the fountain-head at once—is it true that once, some time in the dark ages, he—he— thought fit to engage himself to, to her?” (with a fierce accent on the last word).
A pain runs through my heart. Well, that is nothing new nowadays. He too has heard it, then.
“I do not know!” I answer, faintly.
“What! he has not told you? Kept it dark! eh?” (with the same hateful laugh).
“He has kept nothing dark!” I answer, indignantly. “One day he began to tell me something, and I stopped him! I would not hear; I did not want to hear, I believe; I am sure that they are—only—only—old friends.”
“Old friends!” he echoes, with a smile, in comparison of which our host’s satyr-leer seems pleasant and chaste. “Old friends! you call yourself a woman of the world” (indeed I call myself nothing of the kind), “you call yourself a woman of the world, and believe that! They looked like old friends at dinner to-day, did not they? A little less than kin, and more than kind! Ha! ha!”