“That is an association with which I am not acquainted,” said Lady Gosstre, directing her eye-glass on the field. “Here comes young Pole. He’s gallant, they tell me, and handsome: he studies us too obviously. That’s a mistake to be corrected, Charlotte. One doesn’t like to see a pair of eyes measuring us against a preconception quelconque. Now, there is our Ionian Am...but you have corrected me, Merthyr:—host, if you please. But, see! What is the man doing? Is he smitten with madness?”
Mr. Pericles had made a furious dash at the band in the centre of the lawn, scattered their music, and knocked over the stands. When his gesticulations had been observed for some moments, Freshfield Sumner said: “He has the look of a plucked hen, who remembers that she once clapped wings, and tries to recover the practice.”
“Very good,” said Lady Gosstre. She was not one who could be unkind to the professional wit. “And the music-leaves go for feathers. What has the band done to displease him? I thought the playing was good.”
“The instruments appear to have received a dismissal,” said Lady Charlotte. “I suppose this is a clearing of the stage for coming alarums and excursions. Behold! the ‘female element’ is agitated. There are—can you reckon at this distance, Merthyr?—twelve, fourteen of my sex entreating him in the best tragic fashion. Can he continue stern?”
“They seem to be as violent as the women who tore up Orpheus,” said Lady Gosstre.
Tracy Runningbrook shrieked, in a paroxysm, “Splendid!” from his couch on the sward, and immediately ran off with the idea, bodily.
“Have I stumbled anywhere?” Lady Gosstre leaned to Mr. Powys.
He replied with a satiric sententiousness that told Lady Gosstre what she wanted to know.
“This is the isolated case where a little knowledge is truly dangerous,” said Lady Gosstre. “I prohibit girls from any allusion to the classics until they have taken their degree and are warranted not to open the wrong doors. On the whole, don’t you think, Merthyr, it’s better for women to avoid that pool?”
“And accept what the noble creature chooses to bring to us in buckets,” added Lady Charlotte. “What is your opinion, Georgey? I forget: Merthyr has thought you worthy of instruction.”
“Merthyr taught me in camp,” said Georgians, looking at her brother—her face showing peace and that confirmed calm delight habitual to it. “We found that there are times in war when you can do nothing, and you are feverish to be employed. Then, if you can bring your mind to study, you are sure to learn quickly. I liked nothing better than Latin Grammar.”
“Studying Latin Grammar to the tune of great guns must be a new sensation,” Freshfield Sumner observed.
“The pleasure is in getting rid of all sensation,” said she. “I mean you command it without at all crushing your excitement. You cannot feel a fuller happiness than when you look back on those hours: at least, I speak for myself.”