There can be nothing in the world more charming than the way the Square receives its friends. Let it number amongst its guests a Duchess, that is no reason why it should scorn “Colonel Harry” or “Mouldy Jim,” the singer of hymns. Scorn, indeed, cannot be found within its grey walls, soft grey, soft green, soft white and blue—in these colours is the Square’s body clothed, no anger in its mild eyes, nor contempt anywhere at its heart.
The Square is proud, and is proud with reason, of its garden. It is not a large garden as London gardens go. It has in its centre a fountain. Neptune, with a fine wreath of seaweed about his middle, blowing water through, his conch. There are two statues, the one of a general who fought in the Indian Mutiny and afterwards lived and died in the Square, the other of a mid-Victorian philanthropist whose stout figure and urbane self-satisfaction (as portrayed by the sculptor) bear witness to an easy conscience and an unimaginative mind. There is, round and about the fountain, a lovely green lawn, and there are many overhanging trees and shady corners. An air of peace the garden breathes, and that although children are for ever racing up and down it, shattering the stillness of the air with their cries, rivalling the bells of St. Matthew’s round the corner with their piercing notes.
But it is the quality of the Square that nothing can take from it its peace, nothing temper its tranquillity. In the heat of the days motor-cars will rattle through, bells will ring, all the bustle of a frantic world invade its security; for a moment it submits, but in the evening hour, when the colours are being washed from the sky, and the moon, apricot-tinted, is rising slowly through the smoke, March Square sinks, with a little sigh, back into her peace again. The modern world has not yet touched her, nor ever shall.
The Duchess of Crole had three months ago a son, Henry Fitzgeorge, Marquis of Strether. Very fortunate that the first-born should be a son, very fortunate also that the first-born should be one of the healthiest, liveliest, merriest babies that it has ever been any one’s good fortune to encounter. All smiles, chuckles and amiability is Henry Fitzgeorge; he is determined that all shall be well.
His birth was for a little time the sensation of the Square. Every one knew the beautiful Duchess; they had seen her drive, they had seen her walk, they had seen her in the picture-papers, at race-meetings and coming away from fashionable weddings. The word went round day by day as to his health; he was watched when he came out in his perambulator, and there was gossip as to his appearance and behaviour.
“A jolly little fellow.”
“Just like his father.”
“Rather early to say that, isn’t it?”
“Well, I don’t know, got the same smile. His mother’s rather languid.”