The maiden she smil’d and in jewels array’d her, Of thrones and tiaras already dreamt she; And proud was the step, as her bridegroom convey’d her In pomp to his home, of that high-born Ladye.
“But whither,” she,
starting, exclaims, “have you led me?
Here’s nought but a tomb and a dark cypress tree;
Is this the bright palace in which thou wouldst wed me?”
With scorn in her glance, said the high-born Ladye.
“Tis the home,” he replied,
“of earth’s loftiest creatures.”
Then he lifted his helm for the fair one to see;
But she sunk on the ground—’twas a skeleton’s features,
And Death was the Lord of the high-born Ladye!
The beautiful voice throbbed away into silence, and the mandolin jarred and thrummed upon the floor. Violet Campion sat staring straight before her with eyes that were wide and fixed.
Olga jumped up impulsively. “Violet, why did you sing that gruesome thing? Do you want to give us all the horrors?”
She picked up the mandolin with a swish of its red ribbons, and laid it upon the piano, where it quivered and thrummed again like a living thing, awaking weird echoes from the instrument on which it rested.
Then she turned back to her friend. “Violet, wake up! What are you looking at?”
But Violet remained immovable as one in a trance.
Olga bent over her, touched her. “Violet!”
With a quick start, as though suspended animation had suddenly been restored, Violet relaxed in her chair, leaning back with careless grace, her white arms outstretched.
“What’s the matter, Allegretto? You look as if you had had a glimpse of the conqueror of conquerors yourself. I shall have to come and sleep with you to frighten away the spooks.”
“I don’t think I shall ever dare to go to bed at all after that,” said Nick.
She laughed at him lazily. “Get Max to sit up with you and hold your hand! The very sight of him would scare away all bogies.”
“The sign of a wholesome mind,” said Max.
She turned towards him. “Not at all! Scepticism only indicates gross materialism and lack of imagination. There is nothing at all to be proud of in the possession of a low grade of intelligence.”
Max’s mouth went down, and Violet’s face flashed into her most bewitching smile.
“I don’t often get the opportunity to jeer at a genius,” she said. “You know that I am one of your most ardent admirers, don’t you?”
“Is that the preliminary to asking a favour?” said Max.
She broke into a light laugh. “No, I never ask favours. I always take what I want. It’s much the quickest way.”
“Saves trouble, too,” he suggested.
“It does,” she agreed. “I am sure you follow the same plan yourself.”
“Invariably,” said Max.
“It’s a plan that doesn’t always answer,” observed Nick, in a grandfatherly tone. “I shouldn’t recommend it to everybody.”