invitation being accepted, for there was not the least chance that Laura would consent to leave Blackwater Park, while Marian was lying there ill. How this charmingly convenient obstacle could have escaped the officious penetration of the Count, it was impossible to conceive—but it had escaped him. My dread that he might yet discover it, if I allowed him any more time to think, stimulated me to such an amazing degree, that I struggled into a sitting position; seized, really seized the writing materials by my side; and produced the letter as rapidly as if I had been a common clerk in an office. "Dearest Laura, Please come, whenever you like. Break the journey by sleeping in London at your aunt's house. Grieved to hear of dear Marian's illness. Ever affectionately yours." I handed these lines, at arm's length, to the Count—I sank back in my chair—I said, "Excuse me; I am entirely prostrated; I can do no more. Will you rest and lunch downstairs? Love to all, and sympathy, and so on. Good morning."
He made another speech—the man was absolutely inexhaustible. I closed my eyes; I endeavoured to hear as little as possible. In spite of my endeavours, I was obliged to hear a great deal. My sister's endless husband congratulated himself and congratulated me, on the result of our interview; he mentioned a great deal more about his sympathies and mine; he deplored my miserable health; he offered to write me a prescription; he impressed on me the necessity of not forgetting what he had said about the importance of light; he accepted my obliging invitation to rest and lunch; he recommended me to expect Lady Glyde in two or three days' time; he begged my permission to look forward to our next meeting, instead of paining himself and paining me, by saying farewell; he added a great deal more, which, I rejoice to think, I did not attend to at the time, and do not remember now. I heard his sympathetic voice travelling away from me by degrees—but, large as he was, I never heard him. He had the negative merit of being absolutely noiseless. I don't know when he opened the door, or when he shut it. I ventured to make use of my eyes again, after an interval of silence—and he was gone.
I rang for Louis, and retired to my bath-room. Tepid water, strengthened with aromatic vinegar, for myself, and copious fumigation, for my study, were the obvious precautions to take; and of course I adopted them. I rejoice to say, they proved successful. I enjoyed my customary siesta. I awoke moist and cool.
My first inquiries were for the Count. Had we really got