The sky that has been all of one hue during the livelong day—wherever you looked, nothing but pale, pale azure—is now like the palette of some God-painter splashed and freaked with all manner of great and noble colors—a most regal blaze of gold—wide, plains of crimson, as if all heaven were flashing at some high thought—little feathery cloud-islands of tenderest rose-pink. We are coming very near now. There, down below, set round its hips with tall rushes, is our pool, all blood-red in the sunset! Can that be colorless water—that great carmine fire? There are our elms, with their heads in the sunset, too.
“General,” say I, very softly, putting my hand through his arm, and speaking in a small tone of unutterable content, “I should like to kiss everybody in the world.”
“Perhaps you would not mind beginning with me” returns he, gayly; then—for I look quite capable of it—glancing slightly over his shoulder at the vigilant couple in the dickey.
“No, I did not mean really.”
We are trotting alongside of the park-paling. I stand up and try to catch a glimpse between the coachman and footman, of the gate, to see whether they have come to meet me.
We are slackening our speed; we are going to turn in; the lodge-keeper runs out to open the gate; but no, it is needless. It is already open. I could have told her that. Here they all are!—Barbara, Algy, Bobby, Tou Tou.
“Here they are!” cry I, in a fidgety rapture. “Oh, general, just look how Tou Tou has grown; her frock is nearly up to her knees!”
“Do you think she can have grown that much in four weeks?” asks he, not contradictiously, but a little doubtfully, as Don Quixote may have asked the Princess Micomicona her reasons for landing at Ossime. “But pray, madam,” says he, “why did your ladyship land at Ossime, seeing that it is not a seaport town?”
“I suppose not,” I reply, a little disappointed. “I suppose that her frock must have run up in the washing.”
To this day I have not the faintest idea how I got out of the carriage. My impression is that I flew over the side with wings which came to my aid in that one emergency, and then for evermore disappeared.
I do not know this time where I begin, or whom I end with. I seemed to be kissing them all at once. All their arms seem to be round my neck, and mine round all of theirs at the same moment. The only wonder is that, at the end of our greetings, we have a feature left among us. When at length they are ended—
“Well,” say I, studiedly, with a long sigh of content, staring from one countenance to another, with a broad grin on my own. “Well!” and though I have been away four weeks, and been to foreign parts, and dined at table d’hotes and seen Crucifixions and Madonnas, and seem to have more to tell than could be crowded into a closely-packed twelvemonth of talk, this is all I can find to say.