“Really? You delight me. Who knows but that my guests were sincere in their congratulations on a thoroughly successful evening? I have fallen to this, you see! And I know, wretched people! that as often as not it is their way of condoling with one. I do it myself: but only where there have been amiable efforts. But imagine my being congratulated for that!—Good-morning, Sir Willoughby.—The worst offender! and I am in no pleasant mood with him,” Mrs. Mountstuart said aside to Laetitia, who drew back, retiring.
Sir Willoughby came on a step or two. He stopped to watch Laetitia’s figure swimming to the house.
So, as, for instance, beside a stream, when a flower on the surface extends its petals drowning to subside in the clear still water, we exercise our privilege to be absent in the charmed contemplation of a beautiful natural incident.
A smile of pleased abstraction melted on his features.
MRS. MOUNTSTUART AND SIR WILLOUGHBY
“Good morning, my dear Mrs. Mountstuart,” Sir Willoughby wakened himself to address the great lady. “Why has she fled?”
“Has any one fled?”
“Letty Dale? Oh, if you call that flying. Possibly to renew a close conversation with Vernon Whitford, that I cut short. You frightened me with your ‘Shepherds-tell-me’ air and tone. Lead me to one of your garden-seats: out of hearing to Dr. Middleton, I beg. He mesmerizes me, he makes me talk Latin. I was curiously susceptible last night. I know I shall everlastingly associate him with an abortive entertainment and solos on big instruments. We were flat.”
“Horace was in good vein.”
“You were not.”
“And Laetitia—Miss Dale talked well, I thought.”
“She talked with you, and no doubt she talked well. We did not mix. The yeast was bad. You shot darts at Colonel De Craye: you tried to sting. You brought Dr. Middleton down on you. Dear me, that man is a reverberation in my head. Where is your lady and love?”
“Am I to name her?”
“Clara? I have not seen her for the last hour. Wandering, I suppose.”
“A very pretty summer bower,” said Mrs. Mountstuart, seating herself “Well, my dear Sir Willoughby, preferences, preferences are not to be accounted for, and one never knows whether to pity or congratulate, whatever may occur. I want to see Miss Middleton.”
“Your ‘dainty rogue in porcelain’ will be at your beck—you lunch with us?—before you leave.”
“So now you have taken to quoting me, have you?”
“But ‘a romantic tale on her eyelashes’ is hardly descriptive any longer.”
“Descriptive of whom? Now you are upon Laetitia Dale!”
“I quote you generally. She has now a graver look.”
“And well may have!”
“Not that the romance has entirely disappeared.”