150 MOLLY BAWN.
Mrs. Darley, who, believing herself irresistible, goes in for
the doubtful task of soothing the bear, and coaxing him from
' I am afraid you have a headache, dear Mr. Amherst,'
she says, beaming sweetly upon him.
' Are you, madam ? Even if I were a victim to that
foohsh disorder, I hardly see why the fact should arouse a
feeling of teri'or in your breast—only weak-minded gilds have
A faint pause. Conversation is languishing, dying,
amongst the other guests; they smell the fight afar, and
pause in hungry expectation of what is so surely coming.
' I pity anyone so afiicted,' says Mrs. Darley, going
valiantly to her death, ' I am a perfect martyr to them
myself:' here she gives way to a little sympathetic sigh,
being still evidently bent on beheving bim weighed down
with pain heroically borne.
' Are you ?' says Mr. Amherst, with elaborate pohteness,
' you astonish me. I should never have thought it. Rheu¬
matism now I might. But how old are you, madam ?'
' Well, reaUy,' says Mrs. Darley, with a pretty childish
laugh which she rather cultivates, being under the impres¬
sion that it is fascinating to the last degree, ' asking me so
suddenly puts the precise day I was born out of my head. I
Conversation has died. Everyone's attention is fixed;
by experience they know the end is nigh.
' Just so, I don't suppose you could, it happened such a
long time ago !' says this terrible old man, with an audible
chuckle, that falls upon a silent, and (must it be said ?)
Mrs. Darley says no more; what is there left to say ? and
conversation is once more taken up, and flows on as smoothly
as it can, when everybody knows that everybody else is
talking for a purpose.
' Is she old ?' Molly asks Philip presently in a low tone
when the buzz is at its highest, ' very old, I mean ? She
looks so babyish.'
' How old would you say ?' speaking in the same guarded
tone as her own, which has the effect of making Luttrell and
Marcia believe them deep in a growing flirtation.
' About twenty-two or three.'