With something like intoxication in his blood, he followed his imperious, high-spirited companion from the house. He hurried forward to help her to mount, but she had her foot in the stirrup and had swung herself into the saddle before he could reach her side. With less ease, but with creditable horse-management, Selwyn mounted the chestnut and drew alongside the bay, who was cavorting airily, as if to taunt the larger horse with the superior charm of the creature that bestrode him.
‘We’ll be back, Smith, at twelve-thirty,’ she called; and with the tossing of the horses’ heads, resentful of the restraining reins, and the clattering of hoofs that struck sparks from the roadway, they made for the Park.
London is a stage that is always set. The youthful Dickens watching the murky Thames found the setting for his moments of horror, just as surely as cheery coach-houses, many of them but little changed to this day, bespoke the entrance of Wellers senior and junior. London gave to Wilde’s exotic genius the scenes wherein his brilliantly futile characters played their wordy dramas; then, turning on the author, London’s own vileness called to his. Thackeray the satirist needed no further inspiration than the nicely drawn distinction between Belgravia and Mayfair. Generous London refused nothing to the seeking mind. Nor is it more sparing to-day than it was in the past; it yields its inspiration to the gloom of Galsworthy, the pedagogic utterances of Mr. Wells, the brilliant restlessness of Arnold Bennett, and the ever-delightful humour of Punch.
On this morning in November London was in a gracious mood, and Hyde Park, coloured with autumn’s pensive melancholy, sparkled in the sunlight. Snowy bits of cloud raced across the sky, like sails against the blue of the ocean. November leaves, lying thick upon the grass, stirred into life, and for an hour imagined the fickle wind to be a harbinger of spring. Children, with laughter that knew no other cause than the exhilaration of the morning, played and romped, weaving dreams into their lives and their lives into dreams. Invalids in chairs leaned back upon their pillows and smiled. Something in the laughter of the children or the spirit of the wind had recalled their own careless moments of full-lived youth.
Paris, despite your Bois de Boulogne; New York, for all the beauties of your Central Park and Riverside Drive—what have you to compare with London’s parks on a sun-strewn morning in November?
Reaching the tan-bark surface of Rotten Row, Selwyn and the English girl eased the reins and let the horses into a canter. With the motion of the strong-limbed chestnut the American felt a wave of exultation, and chuckled from no better cause than sheer enjoyment in the morning’s mood of emancipation. He glanced at Elise Durwent, and saw that her eyes were sparkling like diamonds, and that the self-conscious bay was shaking his head and cantering so lightly that he seemed to be borne on the wings of the wind. Selwyn wished that he were a sculptor that he might make her image in bronze: he would call it ‘Recalcitrant Autumn.’ He even felt that he could burst into poetry. He wished——