‘Have I abused England?’ exclaimed the margravine. ’Nay, then, it was because England is shockingly unjust to the most amusing, the most reviving, charming of men. There is he fresh as a green bubbling well, and those English decline to do honour to his source. Now tell me, you!’ She addressed me imperiously. ’Are you prosecuting his claims? Are you besieging your Government? What! you are in the season of generosity, an affectionate son, wealthy as a Magyar prince of flocks, herds, mines, and men, and you let him stand in the shade deprived of his birthright? Are you a purse-proud commoner or an imbecile?’
‘My whimsy aunt!’ the princess interposed again, ’now you have taken to abusing a defenceless Englishman.’
’Nothing of the sort, child. I compliment him on his looks and manners; he is the only one of his race who does not appear to have marched out of a sentinel’s box with a pocket-mirror in his hand. I thank him from my soul for not cultivating the national cat’s whisker. None can imagine what I suffer from the oppressive sight of his Monsieur Peterbooroo’! And they are of one pattern—the entire nation! He! no, he has the step of a trained blood-horse. Only, as Kaunitz, or somebody, said of Joseph II., or somebody, he thinks or he chews. Englishmen’s mouths were clearly not made for more purposes than one. In truth, I am so utterly wearied, I could pray for the diversion of a descent of rain. The life here is as bad as in Rippau. I might just as well be in Rippau doing duty: the silly people complain, I hear. I am gathering dust. These, my dear, these are the experiences which age women at a prodigious rate. I feel chains on my limbs here.’
‘Madame, I would,’ said I, ’that I were the Perseus to relieve you of your monster Ennui, but he is coming quickly.’
‘You see he has his pretty phrases!’ cried the margravine; adding encouragingly, ‘S’il nest pas tant sort peu impertinent?’
The advance of some German or Russian nobleman spared me further efforts.
We were on shore, listening to the band in the afternoon, when a sail like a spark of pure white stood on the purple black edge of a storm-cloud. It was the yacht. By sunset it was moored off shore, and at night hung with variegated lamps. Early next morning we went on board. The ladies were astonished at the extent of the vessel, and its luxurious fittings and cunning arrangements. My father, in fact, had negotiated for the hire of the yacht some weeks previously, with his accustomed forethought.
‘House and town and fortress provisioned, and moveable at will!’ the margravine interjected repeatedly.
The princess was laid on raised pillows in her swingcot under an awning aft, and watched the sailors, the splendid offspring of old sea-fights, as I could observe her spirited fancy conceiving them. They were a set of men to point to for an answer to the margravine’s strictures on things English.