“Oh, I do not know! I have forgotten,” reply I, in some confusion. “I’ve made some very bad shots.”
And so we slip away from the subject; but, all the same, I wish that I had not said it.
We have come to the day before the wedding. My spirits, which held up bravely during the first two weeks of my engagement, have now fallen— fallen, like a wind at sundown. I am as limp, lachrymose, and lamentable, a young woman as you would find between the three seas. I have cried with loud publicity in full school-room conclave; I have cried with silent privacy in bed. I have cried over the jackdaw. I have cried over the bear. I have not cried over Vick, as I am to take her with me. To-day we have all cried—boys and all; and have moistened the bun-loaf and the gooseberry-jam at tea with our tears. Our spirits being now temporarily revived, I am undergoing the operation of trying my wedding-dress. I am having a private rehearsal, in fact, in mother’s boudoir, with only mother, Barbara, and the maid, for audience.
“Mine is the most hopeless kind of ugliness,” say I, with an admirable dispassionateness, as if I were talking of some one else, as, armed in full panoply, I stand staring at my white reflection in a long mirror let into the wall—staring at myself from top to toe—from the highest jasmine star of my wreath to the lowest edge of my Brussels flounce. “If I were very fat, I might fine down; if I were very thin, I might plump up; if I were very red, I might grow pale; if I were—hush! here are the boys. I would not for worlds that they should see me!”
So saying, I run behind the folding-screen—the screen which, through so many winter evenings, we have adorned with gay and ingenious pictures, and which, after having worked openly at it under her nose for a year and a half, we presented to mother as a surprise, on her last birthday.
“Come out, ostrich!” cries Algy, laughing. “Do you suppose that you are hidden? Did it never occur to you that we could see your reflection in the glass?”
Thus adjured, I reissue forth.
“Did you ever see such a fool as I look?” say I, feeling very sneaky, and going through a few uncouth antics to disguise my confusion,
“Talk of me being a Brat,” cries the Brat, triumphantly. “I am not half such a brat as you are! You look about ten years old!”
“Mark my words!” cries Bobby. “Wherever you go, on the Continent, you will be taken for a good little girl making a tour with her grandpapa!”
Bobby is speaking at the top of his voice; as, indeed, we have all of us rather a bad habit of doing. Bobby has the most excuse for it, as, being a sailor, I suppose that he has to bellow a good deal at the blue-jackets. In the present case, he has one more listener than he thinks. Sir Roger is among us. The door has been left ajar, and he, hearing the merry clamor, and having always the entree to mother’s room, has entered. By the pained smile on his face, I can see that he has heard.