Her horse, as if he perfectly understood, tossed his head, and she drew attention to it with a deprecatory little gesture of her hand and then said, “Shall we come down now? Is your dance quite finished, Tony? Are you content, Marko? All right. We’ll descend. This is us descending. Lady Tybar, who is a superb horsewoman, descending a precipice on her beautiful half-bred Derry and Toms, a winner at several shows.”
Derry and Toms stepped down off the bank with complete assurance and superb dignity. With equal precision, moving his feet as though there were marked for them certain exact spots which he covered with infinite lightness and exactitude, he turned about and stood beside his partner in exquisite and immobile pose.
Thus the two riders faced Sabre, smiling upon him. He stood holding his bicycle immediately in front of them. The mare continued to quiver her beautiful nostrils at him; every now and then she blew a little agitated puff through them, causing them to expand and reveal yet more exquisitely their glorious softness and delicacy.
Sabre thought that the riders, with their horses, made the most striking, and somehow affecting picture of virile and graceful beauty he could ever have imagined.
Lord Tybar, who was thirty-two, was debonair and attractive of countenance to a degree. His eyes, which were grey, were extraordinarily mirthful, mischievous. A supremely airy and careless and bold spirit looked through those eyes and shone through their flashes and glints and sparkles of diamond light. His face was thin and of tanned olive. His face seemed to say to the world, challengingly, “I am here! I have arrived! Bring out your best and watch me!” There were people—women—who said he had a cruel mouth. They said this, not with censure or regret, but with a deliciously fearful rapture as though the cruel mouth (if it were cruel) were not the least part of his attraction.
Lord Tybar’s lady, who was twenty-eight, carried in her countenance and in her hair the pleasing complement of her lord’s tan and olive hue and of his cropped black poll. She was extraordinarily fair. Her skin was of the hue and of the sheen of creamy silk, and glowed beneath its hue. It presented amazing delicacy and yet an exquisite firmness. Children, playing with her, and she delighted in playing with children (but she was childless), often asked to stroke her face. They would stare at her face in that immensely absorbed way in which children stare, and then ask to touch her face and just stroke it; their baby fingers were not more softly silken. Of her hair Lady Tybar had said frequently, from her girlhood upwards, that it was “a most sickening nuisance.” She bound it tightly as if to punish and be firm with the sickening nuisance that it was to her. And these close, gleaming plaits and coils children also liked to touch with their soft fingers.