She crossed her arms slowly.
“You are good to me,” she said. “You do me too great honour, my lord.”
He laughed, and catching up a necklace of diamonds from the dressing-table, looped it across her throat, clasped it, leaned over her shoulder and kissed her softly between the ear and the cheek’s delicate round. Their eyes met in the mirror.
“I invited the Quiney,” he said gaily, “to give you a feeling of home among these strange faces. She will not dine with us, though, unless you choose.”
“Let us be alone, to-night!” she pleaded.
“So be it. . . . But you shiver: you are cold. No? Then weary, perhaps—yes, and hungry. I’ve a backwoods hunger, for my part. Let us go down and dine.”
BATTY LANGTON, CHRONICLER.
From Batty Langton, Esquire, to the Hon. Horatio Walpole.
January 21st, 1748.
. . . . . You ask me, my dear Sir, why I linger on year by year in this land of Cherokees and Choctaws, as you put it, at the same time hinting very delicately that now, with my poor old father in his grave and my own youthful debts discharged, you see no enduring reason for this exile. It is kind of you to be so solicitous: kinder still to profess that you yet miss me. But that I am missed at White’s is more than you shall persuade me to believe. In an earlier letter, written when the Gaming Act passed, you told me they were for nailing up an escutcheon to mourn the death of play; they nailed up none for me. And I gather that play has recovered, and Dick Edgcumbe holds my cards. I doubt if I could endure to revisit St. James’s—save by moonlight perhaps. Rappelez-moi to the waiters. They will remember me.
But in good deed, dear Sir, what should I be doing at home among the Malvern Hills upon a patrimony of 800 pounds?—for to that it has dwindled. Can I hoe turnips, or poke a knowledgeable finger into the flanks of beeves? I wonder if your literary explorations ever led you across the furrow of an ancient ploughman who—
—on a May morning, on Malvern hills
was weary of wandering and laid him down to sleep beside a brook—having been chased thither betimes, no doubt, by a nagging bedfellow. I have no wife, nor mean to take one, and find it more to my comfort to sleep here by the River Charles and dream of Malvern, secure that I shall wake to find myself detached from it by half a world.
Yet your last letter touched me closely; for it happens that Sir O. V., for love of whom rather than for any better reason I have kept this exile, has taken to himself a Lady. That, you’ll say, should be my dismissal; and that I like her, as she appears willing to be friends with me, gives me, you’ll say again, no excuse to linger. Yet I do, and shall.