“Now, Bessie, I entreat that you will not make a ridiculous story of a most simple affair,” implored Rachel.
“I promise not to make one, but don’t blame me if it makes itself.”
“It cannot, unless some of us tell the story.”
“What, do you expect the young Alcides to hold his tongue? That is more than can be hoped of mortal landscape painter.”
“I wish you would not call him so. I am sure he is a clergyman.”
“Landscape painter, I would lay you anything you please.”
“Nay,” said Grace, “according to you, that is just what he ought not to be.”
“I do not understand what diverts you so much,” said Rachel, growing lofty in her displeasure. “What matters it what the man may be?”
“That is exactly what we want to see,” returned Bessie.
Poor Rachel, a grave and earnest person like her, had little chance with one so full of playful wit and fun as Bessie Keith, to whom her very dignity and susceptibility of annoyance made her the better game. To have involved the grave Rachel in such a parody of an adventure was perfectly irresistible to her, and to expect absolute indifference to it would, as Grace felt, have been requiring mere stupidity. Indeed, there was forbearance in not pushing Rachel further at the moment; but proceeding to tell the tale at Myrtlewood, whither Grace accompanied Bessie, as a guard against possible madcap versions capable of misconstruction.
“Yes,” said Rachel to herself, “I see now what Captain Keith regrets. His sister, with all her fine powers and abilities, has had her tone lowered to the hateful conventional style of wit that would put me to the blush for the smallest mishap. I hope he will not come over till it is forgotten, for the very sight of his disapproval would incite her further. I am glad the Colonel is not here. Here, of course, he is in my imagination. Why should I be referring everything to him; I, who used to be so independent? Suppose this nonsense gave him umbrage? Let it. I might then have light thrown on his feelings and my own. At any rate, I will not be conscious. If this stranger be really worth notice, as I think he is, I will trample on her ridicule, and show how little I esteem it.”
THE NEW SPORT
“‘Sire,’ I replied, ’joys
Men are the merest Ixions.’
Here the King whistled aloud, ’Let’s,
Heigho, go look at our lions!’
Such are the sorrowful chances
If you talk fine to King Francis.”—R. Browning.
The day after Rachel’s adventure with Don a card came into the drawing-room, and therewith a message that the gentleman had availed himself of Mrs. Curtis’s kind permission, and was sketching the Spinster’s Needles, two sharp points of red rock that stood out in the sea at the end of the peninsula, and were specially appropriated by Rachel and Grace.