“You must not quarrel with him, Nancy,” says Sir Roger, laughing. “He lives not a stone’s-throw from us.”
“So he told me!”
“Poor fellow!” with an accent of compassion. “He has never had much of a chance; he has been his own master almost ever since he was born—a bad thing for any boy—he has no parents, you know.”
“So he told me.”
“Neither has he any brothers or sisters.”
“So he told me!”
“He seems to have told you a great many things.”
“Yes,” reply I, “but then I asked him a great many questions: our conversation was rather like the catechism: the moment I stopped asking him questions, he began asking me!”
Three long days—all blue and gold—blue sky and gold sunshine—roll away. If Schmidt, the courier, has a fault, it is over-driving us. We visit the Gruene Gewoelbe, the Japanese Palace, the Zwinger—and we visit them alone. Dresden is not a very large place, yet in no part of it, in none of its bright streets—in neither its old nor its new market, in none of its public places, do I catch a glimpse of my new acquaintance. Neither does he come to call. This last fact surprises me a little, and disappoints me a good deal. Our walk at the Linnisches Bad in the gay lamplight, his character, his conversation, even his appearance, begin to undergo a transformation in my mind. After all, he was not really dark—not one of those black men, against whom Barbara and I have always lifted up our testimonies; by daylight, I think his eyes would have been hazel. He certainly was very easy to talk to. One had not to pump up conversation for him, and I do not suppose that, as men go, he was really very touchy. One cannot expect everybody to be so jest-hardened and robustly good-tempered as the boys. Often before now I have only been able to gauge the unfortunateness of my speeches to men, by the rasping effect they have had on their tempers, and which has often taken me honestly by surprise.
“Again, Mr. Musgrave has not been to call,” say I, one afternoon, on returning from a long and rather grilling drive, speaking in a slightly annoyed tone.
“Did you expect that he would?” asks Sir Roger, with a smile. “I think that, after the searching snub you gave him, he would have been a bolder man than I take him for, if he had risked his head in the lion’s mouth.”
“Am I such a lion?” say I, with an accent of vexation. “Did I snub him? I am sure I had no more idea of snubbing him than I had of snubbing you; that is the way in which I always cut my own throat!”
I draw a chair into the balcony, where he has already established himself with his cigar, and sit down beside him.
“I foresee,” say I, beginning to laugh rather grimly, “that a desert will spread all round our house! your friends will disappear before my tongue, like morning mist.”