Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys saw this, and broke into a silvery laugh. The infection spread. In an instant the whole room burst into a peal, a roar. They laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks; they held their sides and laughed again. She had them at her will.
There was no more wonder after this. At supper the talk was furious and incessant; Miss Lavinia spoke of a “tipsy-cake,” and never blushed; the Vicar took wine with everybody, and told more stories of Three-bottle Beauchamp; even Sophia laughed with the rest, although her heart was aching—for still her poet neglected her and hung with her brother on the lips of Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys. I saw him bring the poor girl’s cloak in the hall afterwards and receive the most piteous of glances. I doubt if he noticed it.
Outside, the Admiral’s double-bass was still droning the “Dead March” to Miss Limpenny’s laurestinus grove. It was the requiem of our decorum. Long after I was in bed that night I heard the voice of Mr. Moggridge trolling down the street—
“An’ be jabbers! he’ll tache ’em the thrick!”
Mrs. Goodwyn-Sandys had “taught us the trick,” indeed.
OF ONE EXCURSION AND MANY ALARUMS.
“Caleb!” said Mr. Fogo on the morning after Miss Limpenny’s party.
“Aye, aye, sir!” Caleb paused in his carpentering to look up.
“It is a lovely morning; I think I will take my easel and go for a walk. You are sure that the crowds have gone at last?”
“All gone, sir. Paice and quiet at last—as Bill said when he was left a widow. Do ’ee want me to go ‘long wi’ ’ee, sir?”
“No, thank you, Caleb. I shall go along the hills on this side of the river.”
“You’d best let me come, sir, or you’ll be wool-gatherin’ and wand’rin’ about till goodness knows what time o’ night.”
“I shall be back by four o’clock.”
“Stop a minnit, sir; I have et. I’ll jest put that alarmin’ clock o’ yourn in your tail-pocket an’ set et to ha’f-arter-dree, an’ that’ll put you in mind when ‘tes time to come hom’. ’Tes a wonnerful in-jine, this ’ere clock,” reflected Caleb as he carefully set the alarum, “an’ chuck-full o’ sense, like Malachi’s cheeld. Lor’, what a thing es Science, as Jenifer said when her seed the tellygrarf-clerk in platey buttons an’ red facin’s to his breeches. Up the path, sir, an’ keep to the left. Good-bye, sir! Now, I’d gie summat,” soliloquised Caleb as he watched his master ascend the hill, “to be sure of seein’ him back safe an’ sound afore nightfall. Aw dear! ’tes a terrable ‘sponsible post, bein’ teetotum to a babby!”
With this he walked back to the house, but more than once halted on his way to ponder and shake his head ominously.