HUGH (on furlough).
HELEN (his cousin).
They have not come! And ten is past,--
Unless, by chance, my watch is fast;
--Aunt Mabel surely told us "ten."
I doubt if she can do it, then.
In fact, their train....
That is,--you knew.
How could you be so treacherous, Hugh?
Nay;--it is scarcely mine, the crime,
One can't account for railway-time!
Where shall we sit? Not here, I vote;--
At least, there's nothing here of note.
Then here we'll stay, please. Once for all,
I bar all artists,--great and small!
From now until we go in June
I shall hear nothing but this tune:--
Whether I like Long's "Vashti," or
Like Leslie's "Naughty Kitty" more;
With all that critics, right or wrong,
Have said of Leslie and of Long....
No. If you value my esteem,
I beg you'll take another theme;
Paint me some pictures, if you will,
But spare me these, for good and ill....
"Paint you some pictures!" Come, that's kind!
You know I'm nearly colour-blind.
Paint then, in words. You did before;
Scenes at--where was it? Dustypoor?
HUGH (with an inspiration).
But mind they're pretty
Not "hog hunts." ...
You shall be Committee,
And say if they are "out" or "in."
I shall reject them all. Begin.
Here is the first. An antique Hall
(Like Chanticlere) with panelled wall.
A boy, or rather lad. A girl,
Laughing with all her rows of pearl
Before a portrait in a ruff.
He meanwhile watches....
It wants "verve," "brio," "breadth," "design," ...
Besides, it's English. I decline.
This is the next. 'Tis finer far:
A foaming torrent (say Braemar).
A pony, grazing by a boulder,
Then the same pair, a little older,
Left by some lucky chance together.
He begs her for a sprig of heather....
--"Which she accords with smile seraphic."
I know it,--it was in the "Graphic."
Once more, and I forego
All hopes of hanging, high or low:
Behold the hero of the scene,
In bungalow and palankeen....
What!--all at once! But that's absurd;--
Unless he's Sir Boyle Roche's bird!
Permit me--'Tis a Panorama,
In which the person of the drama,
Mid orientals dusk and tawny,
Mid warriors drinking brandy pawnee,
Mid scorpions, dowagers, and griffins,
In morning rides, at noon-day tiffins,
In every kind of place and weather,
Is solaced ... by a sprig of heather.
He puts that faded scrap before
The "Rajah," or the "Koh-i-noor"....
He would not barter it for all
Benares, or the Taj-Mahal....
It guides,--directs his every act,
And word, and thought--In short--in fact--
I mean ...
(Opening his locket.)
Look, Helen, that's the heather!
(Too late! Here come both Aunts together.)
What heather, Sir?
(After a pause.)
And why ... "too late?"
--Aunt Dora, how you've made us wait!
Don't you agree that it's a pity
Portraits are hung by the Committee?