The following Thursday was as fine as a Chiswick flower-show-day ought to be, and so very seldom is. The party who had agreed to congregate there — the party, that is, whom we are to meet — was very select. Linda and Katie had come up to spend a few days with their sister. Mrs. Val, Clementina, Gertrude, and Linda were to go in a carriage, for which Alaric was destined to pay, and which Mrs. Val had hired, having selected it regardless of expense, as one which, by its decent exterior and polished outward graces, conferred on its temporary occupiers an agreeable appearance of proprietorship. The two Miss Neverbends, sisters of Fidus, were also to be with them, and they with Katie followed humbly, as became their station, in a cab, which was not only hired, but which very vulgarly told the fact to all the world.
Slight as had been the intimacy between Fidus Neverbend and Alaric at Tavistock, nevertheless a sort of friendship had since grown up between them. Alaric had ascertained that Fidus might in a certain degree be useful to him, that the good word of the Aristides of the Works and Buildings might be serviceable, and that, in short, Neverbend was worth cultivating. Neverbend, on the other hand, when he perceived that Tudor was likely to become a Civil Service hero, a man to be named with glowing eulogy at all the Government Boards in London, felt unconsciously a desire to pay him some of that reverence which a mortal always feels for a god. And thus there was formed between them a sort of alliance, which included also the ladies of the family.
Not that Mrs. Val, or even Mrs. A. Tudor, encountered Lactimel and Ugolina Neverbend on equal terms. There is a distressing habitual humility in many unmarried ladies of an uncertain age, which at the first blush tells the tale against them which they are so painfully anxious to leave untold. In order to maintain their places but yet a little longer in that delicious world of love, sighs, and dancing partners, from which it must be so hard for a maiden, with all her youthful tastes about her, to tear herself for ever away, they smile and say pretty things, put up with the caprices of married women, and play second fiddle, though the doing so in no whit assists them in their task. Nay, the doing so does but stamp them the more plainly with that horrid name from which they would so fain escape. Their plea is for mercy —‘Have pity on me, have pity on me; put up with me but for one other short twelve months; and then, if then I shall still have failed, I will be content to vanish from the world for ever.’ When did such plea for pity from one woman ever find real entrance into the heart of another?
On such terms, however, the Misses Neverbend were content to follow Mrs. Val to the Chiswick flower-show, and to feed on the crumbs which might chance to fall from the rich table of Miss Golightly; to partake of broken meat in the shape of cast-off adorers, and regale themselves with lukewarm civility from the outsiders in the throng which followed that adorable heiress.
And yet the Misses Neverbend were quite as estimable as the divine Clementina, and had once been, perhaps, as attractive as she is now. They had never waltzed, it is true, as Miss Golightly waltzes. It may be doubted, indeed, whether any lady ever did. In the pursuit of that amusement Ugolina was apt to be stiff and ungainly, and to turn herself, or allow herself to be turned, as though she were made of wood; she was somewhat flat in her figure, looking as though she had been uncomfortably pressed into an unbecoming thinness of substance, and a corresponding breadth of surface, and this conformation did not assist her in acquiring a graceful flowing style of motion. The elder sister, Lactimel, was of a different form, but yet hardly more fit to shine in the mazes of the dance than her sister. She had her charms, nevertheless, which consisted of a somewhat stumpy dumpy comeliness. She was altogether short in stature, and very short below the knee. She had fair hair and a fair skin, small bones and copious soft flesh. She had a trick of sighing gently in the evolutions of the waltz, which young men attributed to her softness of heart, and old ladies to her shortness of breath. They both loved dancing dearly, and were content to enjoy it whenever the chance might be given to them by the aid of Miss Golightly’s crumbs.
The two sisters were as unlike in their inward lights as in their outward appearance. Lactimel walked ever on the earth, but Ugolina never deserted the clouds. Lactimel talked prose and professed to read it; Ugolina read poetry and professed to write it. Lactimel was utilitarian. Cui bono? — though probably in less classic phrase — was the question she asked as to everything. Ugolina was transcendental, and denied that there could be real good in anything. Lactimel would have clothed and fed the hungry and naked, so that all mankind might be comfortable. Ugolina would have brought mankind back to their original nakedness, and have taught them to feed on the grasses of the field, so that the claims of the body, which so vitally oppose those of the mind, might remain unheeded and despised. They were both a little nebulous in their doctrines, and apt to be somewhat unintelligible in their discourse, when indulged in the delights of unrestrained conversation. Lactimel had a theory that every poor brother might eat of the fat and drink of the sweet, might lie softly, and wear fine linen, if only some body or bodies could be induced to do their duties; and Ugolina was equally strong in a belief that if the mind were properly looked to, all appreciation of human ill would cease. But they delighted in generalizing rather than in detailed propositions; and had not probably, even in their own minds, realized any exact idea as to the means by which the results they desired were to be brought about.
They toadied Mrs. Val — poor young women, how little should they be blamed for this fault, which came so naturally to them in their forlorn position! — they toadied Mrs. Val, and therefore Mrs. Val bore with them; they bored Gertrude, and Gertrude, for her husband’s sake, bore with them also; they were confidential with Clementina, and Clementina, of course, snubbed them. They called Clementina ‘the sweetest creature.’ Lactimel declared that she was born to grace the position of a wife and mother, and Ugolina swore that her face was perfect poetry. Whereupon Clementina laughed aloud, and elegantly made a grimace with her nose and mouth, as she turned the ‘perfect poetry’ to her mother. Such were the ladies of the party who went to the Chiswick flower-show, and who afterwards were to figure at Mrs. Val’s little evening ‘the dansant,’ at which nobody was to be admitted who was not nice.
They were met at the gate of the Gardens by a party of young men, of whom Victoire Jaquêtanàpe was foremost. Alaric and Charley were to come down there when their office work was done. Undy was by this time on his road to Tillietudlem; and Captain Val was playing billiards at his club. The latter had given a promise that he would make his appearance — a promise, however, which no one expected, or wished him to keep.
The happy Victoire was dressed up to his eyes. That, perhaps, is not saying much, for he was only a few feet high; but what he wanted in quantity he fully made up in quality. He was a well-made, shining, jaunty little Frenchman, who seemed to be perfectly at ease with himself and all the world. He had the smallest little pair of moustaches imaginable, the smallest little imperial, the smallest possible pair of boots, and the smallest possible pair of gloves. Nothing on earth could be nicer, or sweeter, or finer, than he was. But he did not carry his finery like a hog in armour, as an Englishman so often does when an Englishman stoops to be fine. It sat as naturally on Victoire as though he had been born in it. He jumped about in his best patent leather boots, apparently quite heedless whether he spoilt them or not; and when he picked up Miss Golightly’s parasol from the gravel, he seemed to suffer no anxiety about his gloves.
He handed out the ladies one after another, as though his life had been passed in handing out ladies, as, indeed, it probably had — in handing them out and handing them in; and when Mrs. Val’s ‘private’ carriage passed on, he was just as courteous to the Misses Neverbend and Katie in their cab, as he had been to the greater ladies who had descended from the more ambitious vehicle. As Katie said afterwards to Linda, when she found the free use of her voice in their own bedroom, ‘he was a darling little duck of a man, only he smelt so strongly of tobacco.’
But when they were once in the garden, Victoire had no time for anyone but Mrs. Val and Clementina. He had done his duty by the Misses Neverbend and those other two insipid young English girls, and now he had his own affairs to look after. He also knew that Miss Golightly had £20,000 of her own!
He was one of those butterfly beings who seem to have been created that they may flutter about from flower to flower in the summer hours of such gala times as those now going on at Chiswick, just as other butterflies do. What the butterflies were last winter, or what will become of them next winter, no one but the naturalist thinks of inquiring. How they may feed themselves on flower-juice, or on insects small enough to be their prey, is matter of no moment to the general world. It is sufficient that they flit about in the sunbeams, and add bright glancing spangles to the beauty of the summer day.
And so it was with Victoire Jaquêtanàpe. He did no work. He made no honey. He appeared to no one in the more serious moments of life. He was the reverse of Shylock; he would neither buy with you nor sell with you, but he would eat with you and drink with you; as for praying, he did little of that either with or without company. He was clothed in purple and fine linen, as butterflies should be clothed, and fared sumptuously everyday; but whence came his gay colours, or why people fed him with pate and champagne, nobody knew and nobody asked.
Like most Frenchmen of his class, he never talked about himself. He understood life, and the art of pleasing, and the necessity that he should please, too well to do so. All that his companions knew of him was that he came from France, and that when the gloomy months came on in England, the months so unfitted for a French butterfly, he packed up his azure wings and sought some more genial climate, certain to return and be seen again when the world of London became habitable.
If he had means of living no one knew it; if he was in debt no one ever heard of it; if he had a care in the world he concealed it. He abounded in acquaintances who were always glad to see him, and would have regarded it as quite de trop to have a friend. Nevertheless time was flying on with him as with others; and, butterfly as he was, the idea of Miss Golightly’s £20,000 struck him with delightful amazement — 500,000 francs! 500,000 francs! and so he resolved to dance his very best, warm as the weather undoubtedly was at the present moment.
‘Ah, he was charmed to see madame and mademoiselle look so charmingly,’ he said, walking between mother and daughter, but paying apparently much the greater share of attention to the elder lady. In this respect we Englishmen might certainly learn much from the manners of our dear allies. We know well enough how to behave ourselves to our fair young countrywomen; we can be civil enough to young women — nature teaches us that; but it is so seldom that we are sufficiently complaisant to be civil to old women. And yet that, after all, is the soul of gallantry. It is to the sex that we profess to do homage. Our theory is, that feminine weakness shall receive from man’s strength humble and respectful service. But where is the chivalry, where the gallantry, if we only do service in expectation of receiving such guerdon as rosy cheeks and laughing eyes can bestow?
It may be said that Victoire had an object in being civil to Mrs. Val. But the truth is, all French Victoires are courteous to old ladies. An Englishman may probably be as forward as a Frenchman in rushing into a flaming building to save an old woman’s life; but then it so rarely happens that occasion offers itself for gallantry such as that. A man, however, may with ease be civil to a dozen old women in one day.
And so they went on, walking through parterres and glass-houses, talking of theatres, balls, dinner-parties, picnics, concerts, operas, of ladies married and single, of single gentlemen who should be married, and of married gentlemen who should be single, of everything, indeed, except the flowers, of which neither Victoire nor his companions took the slightest notice.
‘And madame really has a dance to-night in her own house?’
‘O yes,’ said Mrs. Val; ‘that is, just a few quadrilles and waltzes for Clementina. I really hardly know whether the people will take the carpet up or no.’ The people, consisting of the cook and housemaid — for the page had, of course, come with the carriage — were at this moment hard at work wrenching up the nails, as Mrs. Val was very well aware.
‘It will be delightful, charming,’ said Victoire.
‘Just a few people of our own set, you know,’ said Mrs. Val: ‘no crowd, or fuss, or anything of that sort; just a few people that we know are nice, in a quiet homely way.’
‘Ah, that is so pleasing,’ said M. Victoire: ‘that is just what I like; and is mademoiselle engaged for —?’
No. Mademoiselle was not engaged either for — or for — or for — &c., &c., &c.; and then out came the little tablets, under the dome of a huge greenhouse filled with the most costly exotics, and Clementina and her fellow-labourer in the cause of Terpsichore went to work to make their arrangements for the evening.
And the rest of the party followed them. Gertrude was accompanied by an Englishman just as idle and quite as useless as M. Victoire, of the butterfly tribe also, but not so graceful, and without colour.
And then came the Misses Neverbend walking together, and with them, one on each side, two tall Frenchmen, whose faces had been remodelled in that mould into which so large a proportion of Parisians of the present day force their heads, in order that they may come out with some look of the Emperor about them. Were there not some such machine as this in operation, it would be impossible that so many Frenchmen should appear with elongated, angular, hard faces, all as like each other as though they were brothers! The cut of the beard, the long prickly-ended, clotted moustache, which looks as though it were being continually rolled up in saliva, the sallow, half-bronzed, apparently unwashed colour — these may all, perhaps, be assumed by any man after a certain amount of labour and culture. But how it has come to pass that every Parisian has been able to obtain for himself a pair of the Emperor’s long, hard, bony, cruel-looking cheeks, no Englishman has yet been able to guess. That having the power they should have the wish to wear this mask is almost equally remarkable. Can it be that a political phase, when stamped on a people with an iron hand of sufficient power of pressure, will leave its impress on the outward body as well as on the inward soul? If so, a Frenchman may, perhaps, be thought to have gained in the apparent stubborn wilfulness of his countenance some recompense for his compelled loss of all political wilfulness whatever.
Be this as it may, the two Misses Neverbend walked on, each with a stubborn long-faced Frenchman at her side, looking altogether not ill pleased at this instance of the excellence of French manners. After them came Linda, talking to some acquaintance of her own, and then poor dear little Katie with another Frenchman, sterner, more stubborn-looking, more long-faced, more like the pattern after whom he and they had been remodelled, than any of them.
Poor little Katie! This was her first day in public. With many imploring caresses, with many half-formed tears in her bright eyes, with many assurances of her perfect health, she had induced her mother to allow her to come to the flower-show; to allow her also to go to Mrs. Val’s dance, at which there were to be none but such very nice people. Katie was to commence her life, to open her ball with this flower-show. In her imagination it was all to be one long bright flower-show, in which, however, the sweet sorrowing of the sensitive plant would ever and anon invite her to pity and tears. When she entered that narrow portal she entered the world, and there she found herself walking on the well-mown grass with this huge, stern, bearded Frenchman by her side! As to talking to him, that was quite out of the question. At the gate some slight ceremony of introduction had been gone through, which had consisted in all the Frenchmen taking off their hats and bowing to the two married ladies, and in the Englishmen standing behind and poking the gravel with their canes. But in this no special notice had of course been taken of Katie; and she had a kind of idea, whence derived she knew not, that it would be improper for her to talk to this man, unless she were actually and bona fide introduced to him. And then, again, poor Katie was not very confident in her French, and then her companion was not very intelligible in his English; so when the gentleman asked, ‘Is it that mademoiselle lofe de fleurs?’ poor little Katie felt herself tremble, and tried in vain to mutter something; and when, again essaying to do his duty, he suggested that ‘all de beauté of Londres did delight to valk itself at Chisveek,’ she was equally dumb, merely turning on him her large eyes for one moment, to show that she knew that he addressed her. After that he walked on as silent as herself, still keeping close to her side; and other ladies, who had not the good fortune to have male companions, envied her happiness in being so attended.
But Alaric and Charley were coming, she knew; Alaric was her brother-inlaw now, and therefore she would be delighted to meet him; and Charley, dear Charley! she had not seen him since he went away that morning, now four days since; and four days was a long time, considering that he had saved her life. Her busy little fingers had been hard at work the while, and now she had in her pocket the purse which she had been so eager to make, and which she was almost afraid to bestow.
‘Oh, Linda,’ she had said, ‘I don’t think I will, after all; it is such a little thing.’
‘Nonsense, child, you wouldn’t give him a worked counterpane; little things are best for presents.’
‘But it isn’t good enough,’ she said, looking at her handiwork in despair. But, nevertheless, she persevered, working in the golden beads with constant diligence, so that she might be able to give it to Charley among the Chiswick flowers. Oh! what a place it was in which to bestow a present, with all the eyes of all the world upon her!
And then this dance to which she was going! The thought of what she would do there troubled her. Would anyone ask her to dance? Would Charley think of her when he had so many grown-up girls, girls quite grown up, all around him? It would be very sad if at this London party it should be her fate to sit down the whole evening and see others dance. It would suffice for her, she thought, if she could stand up with Linda, but she had an idea that this would not be allowed at a London party; and then Linda, perhaps, might not like it. Altogether she had much upon her mind, and was beginning to think that, perhaps, she might have been happier to have stayed at home with her mamma. She had not quite recovered from the effect of her toss into the water, or the consequent excitement, and a very little misery would upset her. And so she walked on with her Napoleonic companion, from whom she did not know how to free herself, through one glass-house after another, across lawns and along paths, attempting every now and then to get a word with Linda, and not at all so happy as she had hoped to have been.
At last Gertrude came to her rescue. They were all congregated for a while in one great flower-house, and Gertrude, finding herself near her sister, asked her how she liked it all.
‘Oh! it is very beautiful,’ said Katie, ‘only —’
‘Only what, dear?’
‘Would you let me come with you a little while! Look here’— and she crept softly around to the other side of her sister, sidling with little steps away from the Frenchman, at whom, however, she kept furtively looking, as though she feared that he would detect her in the act. ‘Look here, Gertrude,’ she said, twitching her sister’s arm; ‘that gentleman there — you see him, don’t you? he’s a Frenchman, and I don’t know how to get away from him.’
‘How to get away from him?’ said Gertrude. ‘That’s M. Delabarbe de l’Empereur, a great friend of Mrs. Val’s, and a very quiet sort of man, I believe; he won’t eat you.’
‘No, he won’t eat me, I know; but I can’t look at anything, because he will walk so close to me! Mayn’t I come with you?’
Gertrude told her she might, and so Katie made good her escape, hiding herself from her enemy as well as she could behind her sister’s petticoats. He, poor man, was perhaps as rejoiced at the arrangement as Katie herself; at any rate he made no attempt to regain his prey, but went on by himself, looking as placidly stern as ever, till he was absorbed by Mrs. Val’s more immediate party, and then he devoted himself to her, while M. Jaquêtanàpe settled with Clementina the properest arrangement for the waltzes of the evening.
Katie was beginning to be tranquilly happy, and was listening to the enthusiasm of Ugolina Neverbend, who declared that flowers were the female poet’s fitting food — it may be doubted whether she had ever tried it — when her heart leaped within her on hearing a sharp, clear, well-known voice, almost close behind her. It was Charley Tudor. After her silent promenade with M. Delabarbe de l’Empereur, Katie had been well pleased to put up with the obscure but yet endurable volubility of Ugolina; but now she felt almost as anxious to get quit of Ugolina as she had before been to shake off the Frenchman.
‘Flowers are Nature’s chef-d’oeuvre,’ said Ugolina; ‘they convey to me the purest and most direct essence of that heavenly power of production which is the sweetest evidence which Jehovah gives us of His presence.’
‘Do they?’ said Katie, looking over her shoulder to watch what Charley was doing, and to see whether he was coming to notice her.
‘They are the bright stars of His immediate handiwork,’ said Ugolina; ‘and if our dim eyes could read them aright, they would whisper to us the secret of His love.’
‘Yes, I dare say they would,’ said Katie, who felt, perhaps, a little disappointed because Charley lingered a while shaking hands with Mrs. Val and Clementina Golightly.
It was, however, but for a moment. There was much shaking of hands to be done, and a considerable taking off of hats to be gone through; and as Alaric and Charley encountered the head of the column first, it was only natural that they should work their way through it gradually. Katie, however, never guessed — how could she? — that Charley had calculated that by reaching her last he would be able to remain with her.
She was still listening to Ugolina, who was mounting higher and higher up to heaven, when she found her hand in Charley’s. Ugolina might now mount up, and get down again as best she could, for Katie could no longer listen to her.
Alaric had not seen her yet since her ducking. She had to listen to and to answer his congratulations, Charley standing by and making his comments.
‘Charley says you took to the water quite naturally, and swam like a duck,’ said Alaric.
‘Only she went in head foremost,’ said Charley.
‘All bathers ought to do that,’ said Alaric; ‘and tell me, Katie, did you feel comfortable when you were in the water?’
‘Indeed I don’t recollect anything about it,’ said she, ‘only that I saw Charley coming to me, just when I was going to sink for the last time.’
‘Sink! Why, I’m told that you floated like a deal board.’
‘The big hat and the crinoline kept her up,’ said Charley; ‘she had no idea of sinking.’
‘Oh! Charley, you know I was under the water for a long time; and that if you had not come, just at that very moment, I should never have come up again.’
And then Alaric went on, and Charley and Katie were left together.
How was she to give him the purse? It was burning a hole in her pocket till she could do so; and yet how was she to get it out of her possession into his, and make her little speech, here in the public garden? She could have done it easily enough at home in the drawing-room at Surbiton Cottage.
‘And how do you like the gardens?’ asked Charley.
‘Oh! they are beautiful; but I have hardly been able to see anything yet. I have been going about with a great big Frenchman — there, that man there — he has such a queer name.’
‘Did his name prevent your seeing?’
‘No, not his name; I didn’t know his name then.
But it seemed so odd to be walking about with such a man as that. But I want to go back, and look at the black and yellow roses in that house, there. Would you go with me? that is, if we may. I wonder whether we may!’
Charley was clearly of opinion that they might, and should, and would; and so away they sallied back to the roses, and Katie began to enjoy the first instalment of the happiness which she had anticipated. In the temple of the roses the crowd at first was great, and she could not get the purse out of her pocket, nor make her speech; but after a while the people passed on, and there was a lull before others filled their places, and Katie found herself opposite to a beautiful black rose, with no one close to her but Charley.
‘I have got something for you,’ she said; and as she spoke she felt herself to be almost hot with blushing.
‘Something for me!’ said Charley; and he also felt himself abashed, he did not know why.
‘It’s only a very little thing,’ said Katie, feeling in her pocket, ‘and I am almost ashamed to ask you to take it. But I made it all myself; no one else put a stitch in it,’ and so saying, and looking round to see that she was not observed, she handed her gift to Charley.
‘Oh! Katie, dearest Katie,’ said he, ‘I am so much obliged to you — I’ll keep it till I die.’
‘I didn’t know what to make that was better,’ said she.
‘Nothing on earth could possibly be better,’ said he.
‘A plate of bread and butter and a purse are a very poor return for saving one’s life,’ said she, half laughing, half crying.
He looked at her with his eyes full of love; and as he looked, he swore within himself that come what might, he would never see Norah Geraghty again, but would devote his life to an endeavour to make himself worthy of the angel that was now with him. Katie the while was looking up anxiously into his face. She was thinking of no other love than that which it became her to feel for the man who had saved her life. She was thinking of no other love; but her young heart was opening itself to a very different feeling. She was sinking deep, deep in waters which were to go near to drown her warm heart; much nearer than those other waters which she fancied had all but closed for ever over her life.
She looked into his face and saw that he was pleased; and that, for the present, was enough for her. She was at any rate happy now. So they passed on through the roses, and then lost themselves among the geraniums, and wondered at the gigantic rhododendrons, and beautiful azaleas, and so went on from house to house, and from flower-bed to flower-bed, Katie talking and Charley listening, till she began to wonder at her former supineness, and to say both to herself and out loud to her companion, how very, very, very glad she was that her mother had let her come.
Poor Katie! — dear, darling, bonny Katie! — sweet sweetest, dearest child! why, oh why, has that mother of thine, that tender-hearted loving mother, put thee unguarded in the way of such peril as this? Has she not sworn to herself that over thee at least she would watch as a hen does over her young, so that no unfortunate love should quench thy young spirit, or blanch thy cheek’s bloom? Has she not trembled at the thought of what would have befallen thee, had thy fate been such as Linda’s? Has she not often — oh, how often! — on her knees thanked the Almighty God that Linda’s spirit was not as thine; that this evil had happened to the lamb whose temper had been fitted by Him to endure it? And yet — here thou art — all unguarded, all unaided, left by thyself to drink of the cup of sweet poison, and none near to warn thee that the draught is deadly.
Alas! —‘twould be useless to warn thee now. The false god has been placed upon the altar, the temple all shining with gems and gold has been built around him, the incense-cup is already swinging; nothing will now turn the idolater from her worship, nothing short of a miracle.
Our Katie’s childish days are now all gone. A woman’s passion glows within her breast, though as yet she has not scanned it with a woman’s intelligence. Her mother, listening to a child’s entreaty, had suffered her darling to go forth for a child’s amusement. It was doomed that the child should return no more; but in lieu of her, a fair, heart-laden maiden, whose every fondest thought must henceforth be of a stranger’s welfare and a stranger’s fate.
But it must not be thought that Charley abused the friendship of Mrs. Woodward, and made love to Katie, as love is usually made — with warm words, assurances of affection, with squeezing of the hand, with sighs, and all a lover’s ordinary catalogue of resources. Though we have said that he was a false god, yet he was hardly to be blamed for the temple, and gems, and gold, with which he was endowed; not more so, perhaps, than the unconscious bud which is made so sacred on the banks of the Egyptian river. He loved too, perhaps as warmly, though not so fatally as Katie did; but he spoke no word of his love. He walked among the flowers with her, laughing and listening to her in his usual light-hearted, easy manner; every now and again his arm would thrill with pleasure, as he felt on it the touch of her little fingers, and his heart would leap within him as he gazed on the speaking beauty of her face; but he was too honest-hearted to talk to the young girl, to Mrs. Woodward’s child, of love. He talked to her as to a child — but she listened to him and loved him as a woman.
And so they rambled on till the hour appointed for quitting this Elysium had arrived. Every now and again they had a glimpse of some one of their party, which had satisfied Katie that they were not lost. At first Clementina was seen tracing with her parasol on the turf the plan of a new dance. Then Ugolina passed by them describing the poetry of the motion of the spheres in a full flow of impassioned eloquence to M. Delabarbe de l’Empereur: ‘C’est toujours vrai; ce que mademoiselle dit est toujours vrai,’ was the Frenchman’s answer, which they heard thrice repeated. And then Lactimel and Captain Val were seen together, the latter having disappointed the prophecies which had been made respecting him. Lactimel had an idea that as the Scotts were great people, they were all in Parliament, and she was endeavouring to persuade Captain Val that something ought to be done for the poor.
‘Think,’ said she, ‘only think, Captain Scott, of all the money that this fête must cost.’
‘A doosed sight,’ said the captain, hardly articulating from under his thick, sandy-coloured moustache, which, growing downwards from his nose, looked like a heavy thatch put on to protect his mouth from the inclemency of the clouds above. ‘A doosed sight,’ said the captain.
‘Now suppose, Captain Scott, that all this money could be collected. The tickets, you know, and the dresses, and ——’
‘I wish I knew how to do it,’ said the captain.
Lactimel went on with her little scheme for expending the cost of the flower-show in bread and bacon for the poor Irish of Saffron Hill; but Charley and Katie heard no more, for the mild philosopher passed out of hearing and out of sight.
At last Katie got a poke in her back from a parasol, just as Charley had expended half a crown, one of Mr. M’Ruen’s last, in purchasing for her one simple beautiful flower, to put into her hair that night.
‘You naughty puss!’ said Gertrude, ‘we have been looking for you all over the gardens. Mrs. Val and the Miss Neverbends have been waiting this half-hour.’ Katie looked terribly frightened. ‘Come along, and don’t keep them waiting any longer. They are all in the passage. This was your fault, Master Charley.’
‘O no, it was not,’ said Katie; ‘but we thought ——’
‘Never mind thinking,’ said Gertrude, ‘but come along.’ And so they hurried on, and were soon replaced in their respective vehicles, and then went back to town.
‘Well, I do think the Chiswick Gardens is the nicest place in all the world,’ said Katie, leaning back in the cab, and meditating on her past enjoyment.
‘They are very pretty — very,’ said Lactimel Neverbend. ‘I only wish every cottar had such a garden behind his cottage. I am sure we might manage it, if we set about it in the right way.’
‘What! as big as Chiswick?’ said Katie.
‘No; not so big,’ said Lactimel; ‘but quite as nicely kept.’
‘I think the pigs would get in,’ said Katie.
‘It would be much easier, and more important too, to keep their minds nicely,’ said Ugolina; and there the pigs could never get in.’
‘No; I suppose not,’ said Katie.
‘I don’t know that,’ said Lactimel.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01