“Well, we shall be brought into meeting in a simple natural way.”
“And Babie? How does she look? I am ashamed of it; but I can’t help thinking more about seeing her than this new cousin. I can fancy her-handsome, composed, and serene.”
“That may be so ten or twenty years hence! but now she is the tenderest little clinging thing you ever saw.”
“And my ideal would have been that Cecil should have chosen some one superior; but after all, I believe he is really more likely to be raised by being looked up to. He has been our boy too long.”
“Quite true; I have watched him content with the level my impertinent children assign him here, but now trying to be manly for Essie’s sake. You have not told me of Sydney.”
“So angry at the folly of passing over Babie, that I was forced to give her a hint to be silent before Duke. She collapsed, much impressed. Forgive me, if it was a betrayal; but she is two years older now, and would not have been a safe companion unless warned. Hark! Is that the door-bell?”
Therewith the private interview period set in, and Babie made such use of her share of it, that when Lina was produced in the drawing-room before dinner she sat on Cecil’s knee, and gravely observed that she had a verse to repeat to him-
“The phantom blackcock
Is a marvellous bird yet uncaught;
Go out in all weather,
You see not a feather,
Yet a marvellous work it has wrought,
That phantom blackcock of Kilnaught.”
“What is that verse you are saying, Lina?” said her mother.
Lina trotted across and repeated it, while Cecil shook his head at wicked Babie.
“I hope you don’t learn nursery rhymes, about phantoms and ghosts, Lina?” said Mrs. Robert Brownlow.
“This is an original poem, Aunt Ellen,” replied Babie, gravely.
“More original than practical,” said John. “You haven’t accounted for the pronoun?”
“Oh, never mind that. Great poets are above rules. I want Essie to promise us bridesmaids blackcock tails in our hats.”
“My dear!” said her aunt, in serious reproof, shocked at the rapidity of the young lady’s ideas.
“Or, at least,” added Babie, “if she won’t, you’ll give us blackcock lockets, Cecil. They would be lovely-you know-enamelled!”
“That I will!” he cried. “And, Mother Carey, will you model me a group of the birds? That would be a jolly present!”
“Better than Esther’s head, eh? I have done that three times, and you shall choose one, Cecil.”
Nothing would serve Cecil but an immediate expedition to the studio, to choose as well as they could by lamp-light.
And during the examination, Mrs. Evelyn managed to say to Caroline, “I’m quite satisfied. She is as bright and childish as you told me.”
“No, the Infanta.”
“If she is not a little too much so.”