“But, my dear Miss Lavinia, you have not as yet told us to what we are indebted for this mark of your graciousness; and Sue, my dear, you grow more like your dear mother every day. Why are you two angels abroad at this hour, and what can we do for you?”
“To the simple fact, my dear captain,” retorted the irresistible spinster, spreading her skirts the wider, both arms akimbo—her thin fingers acting as clothespins, “that Sue is to take her dancing lesson next door, and as I can’t fly in the second-story window, having mislaid my wings, I must use my feet and disturb everybody. No, gentlemen—don’t move—I can pass.”
The captain made so profound a salaam in reply that his hat grazed the bricks of the sidewalk.
“Let me hunt for them, Miss Lavinia. I know where they are!” he exclaimed, with his hand on his heart.
“Where?” she asked roguishly, twisting her head on one side with the movement of a listening bird.
“In heaven, my lady, where they are waiting your arrival,” he answered, with another profound sweep of his hand and dip of his back, his bald head glistening in the sunlight as he stooped before her.
“Then you will never get near them,” she returned with an equally low curtsy and a laugh that nearly shook her side curls loose.
St. George was about to step the closer to take a hand in the badinage—he and the little old maid were forever crossing swords—when her eyes fell upon him. Instantly her expression changed. She was one of the women who had blamed him for not stopping the duel, and had been on the lookout for him for days to air her views in person.
“So you are still in town, are you?” she remarked frigidly in lowered tones. “I thought you had taken that young firebrand down to the Eastern Shore to cool off.”
St. George frowned meaningly in the effort to apprise her ladyship that Harry was within hearing distance, but Miss Lavinia either did not, or would not, understand.
“Two young boobies, that’s what they are, breaking their hearts over each other,” she rattled on, gathering the ends of her cape the closer. “Both of them ought to be spanked and put to bed. Get them into each other’s arms just as quick as you can. As for Talbot Rutter, he’s the biggest fool of the three, or was until Annie Rutter got hold of him. Now I hear he is willing to let Harry come back, as if that would do any good. It’s Kate who must be looked after; that Scotch blood in her veins makes her as pig-headed as her father. No—I don’t want your arm, sir—get out of my way.”
If the courtiers heard—and half of them did—they neither by word or expression conveyed that fact to Harry or St. George. It was not intended for their ears, and, therefore, was not their property. With still more profound salutations from everybody, the three bareheaded men escorted them to the next stoop, the fourth going ahead to see that the door was properly opened, and so the ladies passed on, up and inside the house. This over, the group resumed its normal condition on the sidewalk, the men regaining their seats and relighting their cigars (no gentleman ever held one in evidence when ladies were present)—fresh orders being given to the servants for the several interrupted mixtures with which the coterie were wont to regale themselves.