« VorigeDoorgaan »
“Ah, what is that ? ”.
greyish-yellow lying in the interstices “That,” said Bell, suddenly recover- of the heavy sky; but the pale and ing from her trance, “is a hotel for shimmering comb in the west had disGerman princes."
appeared. She had no sooner uttered the words, "What has come over your fine however, than she looked thoroughly weather, Bell ?" said my Lady. “Do alarmed ; and with a prodigious shame you remember how you used to dream
pardon, who merely laughed, and said colour and sunshine you lavished on he regretted he was not a Prince. your picture ? ”
“ It is Windsor, is it not ?” he said. “My dear,” said Bell, “you are un
“Yes," replied Bell humbly, wbile her acquainted with the art of a stageface was still pained and glowing. “I- manager. Do you think I would begin I hope you will forgive my rudeness : I my pantomime with a blaze of light, think I must have heard someone say and bright music, and a great show of that recently, and it escaped me before costume ? No! First of all, comes I thought what it meant.”
the dungeon scene-darkness and gloom Of course, the Lieutenant passed the thunder and solemn music—nothing matter off lightly, as a very harmless but demons appearing through the saying ; but all the same Bell seemed smoke ; and then, when you have all determined for some time after to inake got impressed and terrified and attenhim amends, and quite took away my tive, you will hear in the distance a Lady's occupation by pointing out to little sound of melody, there will be a our young Uhlan, in a very respectful flutter of wings, just as if the fairies and submissive manner, whatever she were preparing a surprise, and then all thought of note on the road. Whether at once into the darkness leaps the the Lieutenant perceived this inten- queen herself, and a blaze of suntion or not, I do not know ; but at all light dashes on to her silver wings, and events he took enormous pains to be you see her gauzy costume, and the interested in what she said, and paid scarlet and gold of a thousand attendfar more attention to her than to his ants who have all swarned into the own companion. Moreover he once or light." twice, in looking back, pretty nearly “ How long have we to wait, maderan us into a cart, insomuch that Queen moiselle?" said the Lieutenant, seriously. Tita had laughingly to recall him to his “I have not quite settled that," duties.
replied Bell, with a fine air of reflecIn this wise we went down through tion, “but I will see about it while you the sweetly-smelling country, with its are having dinner.” lines of wood and hedge and its breadths Comforted by these promises—which of field and meadow still suffering from ought, however, to have come from the gloom of a darkened sky. We cut Queen Titania, if the fairies were supthrough the village of Slough, passed posed to be invoked-we drove underthe famous Salthill, got over the Two neath the railway-line and past the Mill Brook at Cuckfield Bridge, and station of Taplow, and so forward to were rapidly nearing Maidenhead, where the hotel by the bridge. When, having, we proposed to rest an hour or two with some exercise of patience, seen and dine. Bell had pledged her word Castor and Pollux housed and fed, I there would be a bright evening, and went into the parlour, I found dinner had thrown out vague hints about a boat- on the point of being served, and the ing-excursion up to the wooded heights Count grown almost eloquent about the of Cliefden. In the meantime, the sun comforts of English inns. Indeed, had made little way in breaking through there was a considerable difference, as the clouds. There were faint indica- he pointed out, between the hard, tions here and there of a luminous bright, cheery public-room of a German
inn, and this long, low-roofed apart- enemy all through the war,” said Tita, ment, with its old-fashioned furniture, ashamed of the defection of her ancient its carpets, and general air of gravity ally. and respectability. Then the series of “I think you behaved very badly to pictures around the walls-venerable the poor French people,” said Bell, lithographs, glazed and yellow, repre- looking down, and evidently wishing senting all manner of wild adventures that some good spirit or bad one would in driving and hunting-amused him fly away with this embarrassing topic. much.
The spirit appeared. There came to 6 That is
your English the open space in front of the inn a humour,” he said, —" of the country, I young girl of about fifteen or sixteen, The joke is a man thrown into
careworn and yet healthilya ditch, and many borses coming over coloured face, and shrewd blue eyes. on him; or it is a carriage upset in the She wore a man's jacket, and she had a road, and men crawling from under- shillelagh in her hand, which she twirled neath, and women trying to get through about as she glanced at the windows of the window. It is rough, strong, the inn. Then, in a hard, cracked voice, practical fun, at the expense of unfor she began to sing a song. It was suptunate people that you like."
posed to be rather a dashing and aris“At least,” I point out, “it is quite tocratic ballad, in which this oddly-clad as good a sort of public-house furniture girl with the shillelagh recounted her as pictures of bleeding saints, or litho- experiences of the opera, and told us graphs of smooth-headed princes.” how she loved champagne, and croquet,
“Oh, I do not object to it,” he said, and various other fashionable diversions. 66 not in the least.
I do like your
There was something very curious in sporting pictures very much."
the forced gaiety with which she entered “And when you talk of German into these particulars, the shillelagh lithographs," struck in Bell, quite meanwhile being kept as still as circumwarmly, “I suppose you know that it is stances would permit.
But presently to the German printsellers our poorer she sang an Irish song, describing her. classes owe all the possession of art self as some free and easy Irish lover they can afford. They would never and fighter; and here the bit of wood have a picture in their house but for came into play. She thrust one of her those cheap lithographs that come over hands, with an audacious air, into the from Germany; and, although they are pocket of the jacket she wore, while very bad, and even carelessly bad often, she twirled the shillelagh with the they are surely better than nothing for other; and then, so soon as she had cottages and country inns, that would finished, her face dropped into a plainnever otherwise have anything to show tive and matter-of-fact air, and she but coarse patterns of wall-paper.” came forward to receive pence.
My dear child,” remarked Queen “She is scarcely our Lorelei,” said Tita, we are none of us accusing Ger the Count, “who sits over the Rhine in many
the evening. But she is a hard-work“But it is very good-natured of ing girl, you can see that. She has not mademoiselle to defend my country, for much pleasure in life. If we give her all that,” said the Lieutenant, with a a shilling, it will be much comfort to smile. We are unpopular with you her." just now, I believe.
That I cannot And with that he went out. But help. It is a pity. But it is only a what was Tita's surprise to see him family quarrel, you know, and it will go up to the girl and begin to talk go away. And just now, it requires to her! She, looking up to the big, some courage, does it not, to say a word brown-bearded man with a sort of awe, for Germany ?"
answered his questions with some ap“Why, Bell has been your bitterest pearance of shamefaced embarrassment;
“ And yet your
and then, when he gave her a piece of “Is not this like long ago ?” money, she performed something like a “You talk like an old woman, Tita,” curtsey, and looked after him as he says one of the party. returned whistling to the door of the eyes are as pretty as they were a dozen inn.
years ago, when you used to walk along Then we had dinner-a plain, com the beach at Eastbourne, and cry befortable, wholesome meal enough ; and it cause you were afraid of becoming the seemed somehow in this old-fashioned mistress of a house. And now the house parlour that we formed quite a family has been too much for you; and you party. We were cut off at last from the are full of confused facts, and uninworld of friends and acquaintances, and telligible figures, and petty anxieties, thrown upon each other's society in a until your responsibilities have hidden very peculiar fashion. In what manner away the old tenderness of your look, should we sit down to our final repast, except at such a moment as this, when after all this journey and its perils and you forget yourself. Tita, do you reaccidents were over? Tita, I could see, member who pricked her finger to sign was rather grave, and perhaps specu a document in her own blood, when lating on the future ; while Bell and she was only a schoolgirl, and who prothe young Lieutenant had got to talk of duced it years afterwards with something some people they recollected as living at of a shamefaced pride ? " Bonn some dozen years before. Nobody “Stuff !” says Tita, angrily, but said a word about Arthur.
blushing dreadfully all the same; and so, with a frown and an imperious
manner, she stepped down to the marCHAPTER V.
gin of the river.
Now mark this circumstance. In the QUEEN TITANIA AFLOAT.
old days of which my Lady was then Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
thinking, she used to be very well conFull many a sprightly race,
tent with pulling bow-oar when we two Disporting on thy margent green,
used to go out in the evenings. Now, The paths of pleasure trace,
when the Lieutenant and Bell had been Who foremost now delight to cleave
comfortably placed in the stern, Tita With pliant arm thy glassy wave?”
daintily stepped into the boat and sat At length we hit upon one thing that down quite naturally to pull stroke. Count von Rosen could not do. When She made no apology.
She took the we had wandered down to the side of place as if it were hers by right. Such the Thames, just by Maidenhead Bridge, are the changes which a few years of and opposite the fine old houses, and married life produce. smooth lawns, and green banks that So Bell pulled the white tiller-ropes stand on the other margin of the broad over her shoulder, and we glided out and shallow river, we discovered that and up the glassy stream, into that the Lieutenant was of no use in a boat. world of greenness and soft sounds and And so, as the young folks would have sweet odours that lay all around. Alus go up under the shadows of the leafy ready something of Bell's prophecy was hills of Cliefden, there was nothing likely to come true ; for the clouds were for it but that Tita and I should resort perceptibly growing thinner overhead, to the habits of earlier years, and show and a diffused yellow light falling from a later generation how to feather an oar no particular place seemed to dwell over with skill and dexterity. As Queen the hanging woods of Cliefden. It gave Titania stood by the boat-house, pulling a new look, too, to the smooth river, to off her gloves with economic forethought, the rounded elms and tall poplars on and looking rather pensively at the land the banks, and the long aits beyond the ing-place and the boats and the water, bridge, where the swans were sailing she suddenly said-
close in by the reeds.
We had got but a short way up the by the roar of the tumbling river, that river when our coxswain, without a seemed strangely wild in the stillness of word of warning, shot us into a half the evening. submerged forest that seemed to hide But when we turned to drop quietly from us a lake on the other side. Tita down stream, the scene around was had so little time to ship her oar that so lovely that Queen Titania had no no protest was possible ; and then the heart to pull away from it. For now Lieutenant catching hold of the branches the hanging woods of beach and birch pulled us through the narrow channel, and oak had caught a glow of the sunand lo! we were in a still piece of set along their masses of yellow and water, with a smooth curve of the river green, and the broad stream had the bank on one side and a long island on purple of its glassy sweeps dashed here the other, and with a pretty little house and there with red, and in the far east looking quietly down at us over this a reflected tinge of pink mingled with inland sea. We were still in the Thames; the cold green, and lay soft and pure but this house seemed so entirely to and clear over the low woods, and the have become owner of the charming river, and the bridge. As if by magic, landscape around and its stretch of water the world had grown suddenly light, in front, that Bell asked in a hurry how etherial, and full of beautiful colours ; we could get away. Tita, being still a and the clouds that still remained overlittle indignant, answered not, but put head had parted into long cirrhous lines, her oar into the outrigger again, and with pearly edges, and a touch of scarlet commenced pulling. And then our cox and gold along their western side. swain, who was not so familiar with the “ What a drive we shall have this tricks of the Thames at Maidenhead as evening !” cried Bell. “It will be a some of us, discovered a north-west pas clear night when we get to Henley, and sage by which it was possible to return there will be stars over the river, and into the main channel of the stream, perhaps a moon, who knows ?” and we continued our voyage.
“I thought you would have proWhen, at length, we had got past the vided a moon, mademoiselle," said the picturesque old mill, and reached the Lieutenant, gravely. “You have done sea of tumbling white water that came very well for us this evening-oh! very rushing down from the weir, it seemed well indeed. I have not seen any such as though the sky had entered into a beautiful picture for many years.
You compact with Bell to fulfil her predic- did very well to keep a dark day all day, tions. For as we lay and rocked in and make us tired of cold colours and the surge - watching the long level green trees; and then you surprise us by line of foam come tumbling over in this picture of magic-oh! it is very spouts, and jets, and white masses, well done." listening to the roar of the fall, and “ All that it wants," said Bell, with regarding the swirling circles of white a critical eye, “is a little woman in a bells that swept away downward on the scarlet shawl under the trees there, and stream—there appeared in the west, just over the green of the rushes—one of over the line of the weir, a parallel line those nice fat little women who always of dark blood-red. It was but a streak wear bright shawls just to please landas yet ; but presently it widened and
scape-painters—making a little blob of grew more intense-a great glow of strong colour, you know, just like a crimson colour came shining forth ladybird among green moss. and it seemed as if all the western know, I am quite grateful to a pleasant heavens, just over that line of white little countrywoman when she dresses foam, were becoming a mass of fire. herself ridiculously merely to make a Bell's transformation-scene was posi landscape look fine; and how can you tively blinding; and the bewilderment laugh at her when she comes near ? I of the splendid colours was not lessened sometimes think that she wears those
colours, especially those in her bonnet, “But still it is a cross-road,” she says. out of mere modesty.
She does not * Very well, then, my dear," I say, know what will please you-she puts in wondering what the little woman is a little of everything to give you a after. choice. She holds up to you a whole “ You must drive," she continues, bouquet of flowers, and says, Please, “for none of us know the road." miss, do you like blue ?—for here is “ Yes, m'm, please m'm : any more corn-cockle ; or red 1-for here are
orders ? " poppies ; or yellow l-for here are “Oh, Bell,” says my Lady, with a rock-roses.' She is like Perdita, you gracious air (she can change the expresknow, going about with an armful of sion of her face in a second), “would you blossoms, and giving to everyone what mind taking Count von Rosen under she thinks will please them.”
your charge until we get to Henley? I “My dear,” said Tita, “ you are too am afraid it will take both of us to find generous; I am afraid the woman wears the road in the dark." those things out of vanity. She does “No, I will take you under my charge, not know what colour suits her com mademoiselle," said the Lieutenant, plexion best, and so wears a variety, frankly; and therewith he helped Bell quite sure that one of them must be into the phaeton, and followed himself. the right one.
And there are plenty The consequence of this little arrangeof women in town, as well as in the ment was that while Tita and I were in country, who do that too.”
front, the young folks were behind ; and “I hope you don't mean me," said no sooner had we started from the inn, Bell, contritely, as she leant her arm got across the bridge, and were going over the side of the boat, and dipped down the road towards the village of the tips of her fingers into the glassy Maidenhead proper, than Titania says, stream.
in a very low voiceBut if we were to get to Henley that "Do you know, my dear, our pulling night, there was no time for lingering together in that boat quite brought back longer about that bend by the river, old times ; and-and-and I wanted to with its islands and mills and woods. be sitting up here beside you for a while, That great burst of colour in the west just to recall the old, old drives we used had been the expiring effort of the sun ; to have, you know, about here, and and when we got back to the inn, there Henley, and Reading. How long ago was nothing left in the sky but the last is it, do you think ?" golden and crimson traces of his going That wife of mine is a wonderful down. The river was becoming grey, creature. You would have thought she and the Cliefden woods were preparing was as innocent as a lamb when she for the night by drawing over them uttered these words, looking up with a selves a thin veil of mist, which ren world of sincerity and pathos in the big, dered them distant and shadowy, as clear, earnest, brown eyes. And the they lay under the lambent sky.
courage of the small creature, too, who The phaeton was at the door ; our bill thought she could deceive her husband paid ; an extra shawl got out of the im by this open, transparent, audacious perial-although, in that operation, the piece of hypocrisy ! Lieutenant nearly succeeded in smashing “Madam," I said, with some care that Bell's guitar.
the young folks should not overhear, “ It will be dark before we get to your tenderness overwhelms me." Henley," says Tita.
“ What do you mean ?” she says, Yes," I answer obediently.
suddenly becoming as cold and as rigid “And we are going now by cross as Lot's wife after the accident haproads," she remarks.
“The road is a very good one,” I “Perhaps," I ventured to suggest, venture to reply.
“you would like to have the hood up,