With that she made me a solemn courtesy and departed, a pretty little figure, not little in attractiveness, the strong moonlight, tinged with blue, shimmering over her blond hair and splashing brightly among the ripples of her silks and laces. She swept across the terrace languidly, offering an effect of comedy not unfairylike, and, ascending the steps of the veranda, disappeared into the orange candle-light of a salon. A moment later some chords were sounded firmly upon a piano in that room, and a bitter song swam out to me over the laughter and talk of the people at the other tables. It was to be observed that Miss Anne Elliott sang very well, though I thought she over-emphasised one line of the stanza:
“This world is a world of lies!”
Perhaps she had poisoned another little arrow for me, too. Impelled by the fine night, the groups upon the terrace were tending toward a wider dispersal, drifting over the sloping lawns by threes and couples, and I was able to identify two figures threading the paths of the garden, together, some distance below. Judging by the pace they kept, I should have concluded that Miss Ward and Mr. Cresson Ingle sought the healthful effects of exercise. However, I could see no good reason for wishing their conversation less obviously absorbing, though Miss Elliott’s insinuation that Mr. Ingle might deplore intrusion upon the interview had struck me as too definite to be altogether pleasing. Still, such matters could not discontent me with my solitude. Eastward, over the moonlit roof of the forest, I could see the quiet ocean, its unending lines of foam moving slowly to the long beaches, too far away to be heard. The reproachful voice of the singer came no more from the house, but the piano ran on into “La Vie de Boheme,” and out of that into something else, I did not know what, but it seemed to be music; at least it was musical enough to bring before me some memory of the faces of pretty girls I had danced with long ago in my dancing days, so that, what with the music, and the distant sea, and the soft air, so sparklingly full of moonshine, and the little dancing memories, I was floated off into a reverie that was like a prelude for the person who broke it. She came so quietly that I did not hear her until she was almost beside me and spoke to me. It was the second time that had happened.
“Mrs. Harman,” I said, as she took the chair vacated by the elfin young lady, “you see I can manage it! But perhaps I control myself better when there’s no camp-stool to inspire me. You remember my woodland didoes—I fear?”