AT length came the summons from Lady Lufa to hear her music to his verses.
It was not much of a song, neither did he think it was.
Mist and vapor and cloud
Filled the earth and the air!
My heart was wrapt in a shroud.
And death was everywhere.
The sun went silently down
To his rest in the unseen wave;
But my heart, in its purple and crown. Lay already in its grave.
For a cloud had darkened the brow
Of the lady who is my queen;
- had been a monarch, but now
All things had only been!
- sprung from the couch of death:
Who called my soul? Who spake?
No sound! no answer! no breath!
Yet my soul was wide awake!
And my heart began to blunder
Into rhythmic pulse the while;
- turned--away was the wonder--
My queen had begun to smile!
Outbrake the sun in the west!
Outlaughed the crested sea!
And my heart was alive in my breast With light, and love, and thee!
There was a little music in the verses, and they had a meaning--though not a very new or valuable one.
He went in the morning--the real, not the conventional--and was shown into the drawing-room, his heart beating with expectation. Lady Lufa was alone, and already at the piano. She was in a gray stuff with red rosebuds, and looked as simple as any country parson's daughter. She gave him no greeting beyond a little nod, at once struck a chord or two, and began to sing.
Walter was charmed. The singing, and the song through the singing, altogether exceeded his expectation. He had feared he should not be able to laud heartily, for he had not lost his desire to be truthful--but she was an artist! There was indeed nothing original in her music; it was mainly a reconstruction of common phrases afloat in the musical atmosphere; but she managed the slight dramatic element in the lyric with taste and skill, following tone and sentiment with chord and inflection; so that the music was worthy of the verses--which is not saying very much for either; while the expression the girl threw into the song went to the heart of the youth, and made him foolish.
She ceased; he was silent for a moment, then fervent in thanks and admiration.
"The verses are mine no more," he said. "I shall care for them now!"
"You won't mind if I publish them with the music?"
"I shall feel more honored than I dare tell you. But how am I to go to my work after this taste of paradise! It was too cruel of you, Lady Lufa, to make me come in the morning!"
"I am very sorry!"
"Will you grant me one favor to make up?"
"Never to sing the song to any one when I am present. I could not bear it."
"I promise," she answered, looking up in his face with a glance of sympathetic consciousness.
There was an acknowledged secret between them, and Walter hugged it.
"I gave you a frozen bird," he said, "and you have warmed it, and made it soar and sing."
"Thank you; a very pretty compliment!" she answered--and there was a moment's silence.
"I am so glad we know each other!" she resumed. "You could help me so much if you would! Next time you come, you must tell me something about those old French rhymes that have come into fashion of late! They say a pretty thing so much more prettily for their quaint, antique, courtly liberty! The triolet now--how deliriously impertinent it is! Is it not?"
Walter knew nothing about the old French modes of versifying; and, unwilling to place himself at a disadvantage, made an evasive reply, and went. But when at length he reached home, it was with several ancient volumes, among the rest "Clement Marot," in pockets and hands. Ere an hour was over, he was in delight with the variety of dainty modes in which, by shape and sound, a very pretty French something was carved out of nothing at all. Their fantastic surprises, the ring of their bell-like returns upon themselves, their music of triangle and cymbal, gave him quite a new pleasure. In some of them poetry seemed to approach the nearest possible to bird-song--to unconscious seeming through most conscious art, imitating the carelessness and impromptu of warblings as old as the existence of birds, and as new as every fresh individual joy; for each new generation grows its own feathers, and sings its own song, yet always the feathers of its kind, and the song of its kind.
The same night he sent her the following triolet
Oh, why is the moon
Awake when thou sleepest?
To the nightingale's tune,
Why is the moon
Making a noon,
When night is the deepest
Why is the moon
Awake when thou sleepest?
In the evening came a little note, with a coronet on the paper, but neither date nor signature:
"Perfectly delicious! How can such a little gem hold so much color? Thank you a thousand times!"