Her bungalow is an Elysium, of course; it is a cottage with a verandah, built on a steep slope, and buried deep in shrubbery and trees. Within all is plain, but exquisitely neat. A wood fire is burning gaily, and the kindly tea-tray is at hand. It is five o’clock. Clean servants move silently about with hot water, cake, &c. The little boy, a hostage from papa in the warm plains below, is sitting pensive, after the fashion of Anglo-Indian children, in a little chair. His bearer crouches behind him. The unspeakable widow, in a tea-gown dimly splendid with tropical vegetation in neutral tints, holds a piece of chocolate in her hand, while she leans back in her fauteuil convulsed with laughter. (It is not necessary to say that Ali Baba is relating one of his improving tales.) How pretty she looks, showing her excellent teeth and suffused with bright warm blushes, [which, I beg leave to explain, proceed from drinking hot tea and indulging in immoderate laughter, not from listening to A.B.’s improving tales!] As I gaze upon her with fond amazement, I murmur mechanically:—
Mine be a cot
beside the hill;
A tea-pot’s hum shall soothe my ear,
A widowy girl, that likes me still,
With many a smile shall linger near.
I have been asked to write a philosophical minute on the mental and moral condition of delightful Mrs. Lollipop’s husband, who lives down in the plains. I have been requested by the Press Commissioner to inquire in Government fashion, with pen and ink, as to whether the complaisant proprietor of so many charms desires to have a recheat winded in his forehead, and to hang his bugle in an invisible baldrick; whether it is true in his case that Love’s ear will hear the lowest cuckoo note, and that Love’s perception of gossip is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cockled snails. Towards all these points I have directed my researches. I have resolved myself into a Special Commission, and I have sat upon grass-widowers in camera. If I sit a little longer a Report will be hatched, which, of course, I shall take to England, and when there I shall go to the places of amusement with the Famine Commission, and have rather a good time of it. Already I can see, with that bright internal eye which requires no limelight, grim Famine stalking about the Aquarium after dinner with a merry jest preening its wings on his lips.
But what has all this talk of country matters to do with little Mrs. Lollipop? Absolutely nothing. She thinks no ill of herself. She is the most charitable woman in the world. There is no veil of sin over her eye; no cloud of suspicion darkens her forehead; no concealment feeds upon her damask cheek. Like Eve she goes about hand in hand with her friends, in native innocence, relying on what she has of virtue. Sweet simplicity! sweet confidence! My eagle quill shall not flutter these doves.