“You two dear things, I should love to stroke you both, but I’m not sure how Joyeuse would take it. So I’ll stroke you down verbally instead. I admired your attack on Sir Edward immensely, though of course I don’t agree with a word of it. Your description of him building a hedge round the German cuckoo and hoping he was isolating it was rather sweet. Seriously though, I regard him as one of the pillars of the Administration.”
“So do I,” said Youghal; “the misfortune is that he is merely propping up a canvas roof. It’s just his regrettable solidity and integrity that makes him so expensively dangerous. The average Briton arrives at the same judgment about Roan’s handling of foreign affairs as Omar does of the Supreme Being in his dealings with the world: He’s a good fellow and ‘twill all be well.’”
Lady Veula laughed lightly. “My Party is in power so I may exercise the privilege of being optimistic. Who is that who bowed to you?” she continued, as a dark young man with an inclination to stoutness passed by them on foot; “I’ve seen him about a good deal lately. He’s been to one or two of my dances.”
“Andrei Drakoloff,” said Youghal; “he’s just produced a play that has had a big success in Moscow and is certain to be extremely popular all over Russia. In the first three acts the heroine is supposed to be dying of consumption; in the last act they find she is really dying of cancer.”
“Are the Russians really such a gloomy people?”
“Gloom-loving but not in the least gloomy. They merely take their sadness pleasurably, just as we are accused of taking our pleasures sadly. Have you noticed that dreadful Klopstock youth has been pounding past us at shortening intervals. He’ll come up and talk if he half catches your eye.”
“I only just know him. Isn’t he at an agricultural college or something of the sort?”
“Yes, studying to be a gentleman farmer, he told me. I didn’t ask if both subjects were compulsory.”
“You’re really rather dreadful,” said Lady Veula, trying to look as if she thought so; “remember, we are all equal in the sight of Heaven.”
For a preacher of wholesome truths her voice rather lacked conviction.
“If I and Ernest Klopstock are really equal in the sight of Heaven,” said Youghal, with intense complacency, “I should recommend Heaven to consult an eye specialist.”
There was a heavy spattering of loose earth, and a squelching of saddle-leather, as the Klopstock youth lumbered up to the rails and delivered himself of loud, cheerful greetings. Joyeuse laid his ears well back as the ungainly bay cob and his appropriately matched rider drew up beside him; his verdict was reflected and endorsed by the cold stare of Youghal’s eyes.
“I’ve been having a nailing fine time,” recounted the newcomer with clamorous enthusiasm; “I was over in Paris last month and had lots of strawberries there, then I had a lot more in London, and now I’ve been having a late crop of them in Herefordshire, so I’ve had quite a lot this year.” And he laughed as one who had deserved well and received well of Fate.