Sir William appeared hovering in the doorway, not at all liking the defection of Mr. Aaron. Then he retreated. He seemed not to care for music. The Major’s wife hovered—felt it her duty to aude, or play audience—and entered, seating herself in a breath of lilac and amethyst again at the near distance. The Major, after a certain beating about the bush, followed and sat wrapt in dim contemplation near his wife. Arthur luckily was still busy with something.
Aaron of course made proper musical remarks in the intervals—Arthur’s wife sorted out more pieces. Arthur appeared—and then the Colonel. The Colonel tip-toed beautifully across the wide blank space of the Empire room, and seated himself on a chair, rather in the distance, with his back to the wall, facing Aaron. When Lady Franks finished her piece, to everybody’s amazement the Colonel clapped gaily to himself and said Bravo! as if at a Cafe Chantant, looking round for his glass. But there was no glass. So he crossed his neatly-khakied legs, and looked rapt again.
Lady Franks started with a vivace Schumann piece. Everybody listened in sanctified silence, trying to seem to like it. When suddenly our Colonel began to spring and bounce in his chair, slinging his loose leg with a kind of rapture up and down in the air, and capering upon his posterior, doing a sitting-down jig to the Schumann vivace. Arthur, who had seated himself at the farthest extremity of the room, winked with wild bliss at Aaron. The Major tried to look as if he noticed nothing, and only succeeded in looking agonised. His wife studied the point of her silver shoe minutely, and peeped through her hair at the performance. Aaron grimly chuckled, and loved the Colonel with real tenderness.
And the game went on while the vivace lasted. Up and down bounced the plump Colonel on his chair, kicking with his bright, black-patent toe higher and higher, getting quite enthusiastic over his jig. Rosy and unabashed, he was worthy of the great nation he belonged to. The broad-seated Empire chair showed no signs of giving way. Let him enjoy himself, away there across the yellow Sahara of this silk-panelled salon. Aaron felt quite cheered up.
“Well, now,” he thought to himself, “this man is in entire command of a very important branch of the British Service in Italy. We are a great race still.”
But Lady Franks must have twigged. Her playing went rather stiff. She came to the end of the vivace movement, and abandoned her piece.
“I always prefer Schumann in his vivace moods,” said Aaron.
“Do you?” said Lady Franks. “Oh, I don’t know.”