It seems to me as if there never had been such a day. I look at the sky as we drive along to the station. Call it sapphire, turquoise—indeed! What dull stone that ever lived darkling in a mine is fit to be named even in metaphor with this pale yet brilliant arch that so softly leans above us? It seems to me as if all the people we meet were handsome and well-featured—as if the Elbe were the noblest river that ever ran, carrying the sunlight in flakes of gold and diamond on its breast—as if all life were one long and kindly jest.
As we reach the station I see Mr. Musgrave standing on the pavement awaiting us, with a sort of mixed and compound look on his face.
“Here is Mr. Musgrave come to see us off!” I cry, jocundly. “Come to say ’Adieu’ ha! ha!! I must not forget to ask him whether he has any more riddles.”
“For Heaven’s sake do not!” cries Sir Roger, smiling in spite of himself, yet seriously and earnestly desirous of checking my wit. “Let the poor boy have a little peace! He no more understands chaff than I understand Parsee.”
I hop out of the carriage like a parched pea, scorning equally the step and Frank’s hand extended to help me. I feel to-day as if I need only stand on tiptoe, and stretch out my arms in order to be able to fly.
“So you have come to see the last of us,” I say, trying to pull a long face, and walking with him into the waiting-room.
“Yes; rather a mistake, is not it?” he says, somewhat gloomily, but loading himself at once, with ostentatious haste (in memory of my former reproof), with my bag, parasol, and novel.
“The day after—the day after—the day after to-morrow,” say I, smiling cheerfully up in his dismal face. “You may fancy us just turning in at the park-gates—by-the-by, have you any message to send to the boys, to Barbara?”
“None to the boys,” he answers, half smiling, too. “I hate boys: you may give my love to Barbara if you like, and if you are quite sure that she is like the St. Catherine.”
“Wait till you see her,” say I, oracularly.
“But when shall I see her?” he asks, roused into an eagerness which I think promises admirably for Barbara; “when are you coming home, really?”
“Keep a good lookout at your lodge,” I say, gayly, “and you will no doubt see us arrive some fine day, looking very foolish, most probably— crawling along like snails, dragged by our tenants.”
“Were you ever known to answer a plain question plainly since you were born?” he cries, petulantly. “When are you likely to come really?”
“‘I know not! What avails to know?’” reply I, pompously spouting a line out of some forgotten poem that has lurked in my memory, and now struts out, to the anger and discomfiture of Mr. Musgrave.
“Ah! here are the doors opening.”
Everybody pours out on to the platform, and into the empty and expectant train.