‘And your cold, is it better?’
She shook her head languidly, her elbow resting on the chair, and three finger-tips supporting her forehead, and then she made a little sigh, looking down from the corners of her eyes, in an interesting dejection.
’Je sens des lassitudes in all the members—but I am quaite ’appy, and though I suffer I am console and oblige des bontes, ma chere, que vous avez tous pour moi;’ and with these words she turned a languid glance of gratitude on me which dropped on the ground.
’Lady Knollys wishes very much to see you, only for a few minutes, if you could admit her.’
‘Vous savez les malades see never visitors,’ she replied with a startled sort of tartness, and a momentary energy. ’Besides, I cannot converse; je sens de temps en temps des douleurs de tete—of head, and of the ear, the right ear, it is parfois agony absolutely, and now it is here.’
And she winced and moaned, with her eyes closed and her hand pressed to the organ affected.
Simple as I was, I felt instinctively that Madame was shamming. She was over-acting; her transitions were too violent, and beside she forgot that I knew how well she could speak English, and must perceive that she was heightening the interest of her helplessness by that pretty tessellation of foreign idiom. I there-fore said with a kind of courage which sometimes helped me suddenly—
’Oh, Madame, don’t you really think you might, without much inconvenience, see Lady Knollys for a very few minutes?’
’Cruel cheaile! you know I have a pain of the ear which makes me ’orribly suffer at this moment, and you demand me whether I will not converse with strangers. I did not think you would be so unkain, Maud; but it is impossible, you must see—quite impossible. I never, you know, refuse to take trouble when I am able—never—never.’
And Madame shed some tears, which always came at call, and with her hand pressed to her ear, said very faintly,
’Be so good to tell your friend how you see me, and how I suffer, and leave me, Maud, for I wish to lie down for a little, since the pain will not allow me to remain longer.’
So with a few words of comfort which could not well be refused, but I dare say betraying my suspicion that more was made of her sufferings than need be, I returned to the drawing-room.
’Captain Oakley has been here, my dear, and fancying, I suppose, that you had left us for the evening, has gone to the billiard-room, I think,’ said Lady Knollys, as I entered.
That, then, accounted for the rumble and smack of balls which I had heard as I passed the door.
‘I have been telling Maud how detestably she is got up.’
‘Very thoughtful of you, Monica!’ said my father.
’Yes, and really, Austin, it is quite clear you ought to marry; you want some one to take this girl out, and look after her, and who’s to do it? She’s a dowdy—don’t you see? Such a dust! And it is really such a pity; for she’s a very pretty creature, and a clever woman could make her quite charming.’