Lying back on my couch, listening with closed eyes to this mysterious, soul-stirring concert, I was affected to tears, and almost feared that I had been snatched away into some supra-mundane region inhabited by beings of an angelic or half-angelic order — feared, I say, for, with this new love in my heart, no elysium or starry abode could compare with this green earth for a dwellingplace. But when I remembered my own brutal bull of Bashan performance, my face, there in the dark, was on fire with shame; and I cursed the ignorant, presumptuous folly I had been guilty of in roaring out that abominable “Vicar of Bray” ballad, which had now become as hateful to me as my trousers or boots. The composer of that song, the writer of the words, and its subject, the double-faced Vicar himself, presented themselves to my mind as the three most damnable beings that had ever existed. “The devil take my luck!” I muttered, grinding my teeth with impotent anger; for it seemed such hard lines, just when I had succeeded in getting into favor, to go and spoil it all in that unhappy way. Now that I had become acquainted with their style of singing, the supposed fib, about which there had been such a pother, seemed a very venial offense compared with my attempt to lead the singing. Nevertheless, when the concert was over, not a word was said on the subject by any one, though I had quite expected to be taken at once to the magisterial chamber to hear some dreadful sentence passed on me; and when, before retiring, anxious to propitiate my host, I began to express regret for having inflicted pain on them by attempting to sing, the venerable gentleman raised his hands deprecatingly, and begged me to say no more about it, for painful subjects were best forgotten. “No doubt,” he kindly added, “when you were lying there buried among the hills, you swallowed a large amount of earth and gravel in your efforts to breathe, and have not yet freed your lungs from it.”
This was the most charitable view he could take of the matter, and I was thankful that no worse result followed.
At length the joyful day arrived when I was to cease, in outward appearance at all events, to be an alien; for returning at noon from the fields, on entering my cell I beheld my beautiful new garments — two complete suits, besides underwear: one, the most soberly colored, intended only for working hours; but the second, which was for the house, claimed my first attention. Trembling with eagerness, I flung off the old tweeds, the cracked boots, and other vestiges of a civilization which they had perhaps survived, and soon found that I had been measured with faultless accuracy; for everything, down to the shoes, fitted to perfection. Green was the prevailing or ground tint — a soft sap green; the pattern on it, which was very beautiful, being a somewhat obscure red, inclining to purple. My delight culminated when I drew on the hose, which had, like those worn by the others, a curious design, evidently borrowed from the skin of some kind of snake. The ground color was light green, almost citron yellow, in fact, and the pattern a bright maroon red, with bronze reflections.
I had no sooner arrayed myself than, with a flushed face and palpitating heart, I flew to exhibit myself to my friends, and found them assembled and waiting to see and admire the result of their work. The pleasure I saw reflected in their transparent faces increased my happiness a hundredfold, and I quite astonished them with the torrent of eloquence in which I expressed my overflowing gratitude.
“Now, tell me one secret,” I exclaimed, when the excitement began to abate a little. “Why is green the principal color in my clothes, when no other person in the house wears more than a very little of it?”
I had no sooner spoken than I heartily wished that I had held my peace; for it all at once occurred to me that green was perhaps the color for an alien or mere hireling, in which light they perhaps regarded me.
“Oh, Smith, can you not guess so simple a thing?” said Edra, placing her white hands on my shoulders and smiling straight into my face.
How beautiful she looked, standing there with her eyes so near to mine! “Tell me why, Edra?” I said, still with a lingering apprehension.
“Why, look at the color of my eyes and skin — would this green tint be suitable for me to wear?”
“Oh, is that the reason!” cried I, immensely relieved. “I think, Edra, you would look very beautiful in any color that is on the earth, or in the rainbow above the earth. But am I so different from you all?”
“Oh yes, quite different — have you never looked at yourself? Your skin is whiter and redder, and your hair has a very different color. It will look better when it grows long, I think. And your eyes — do you know that they never change! for when we look at you closely they are still blue-gray, and not green.”
“No; I wish they were,” said I. “Now I shall value my clothes a hundred times more, since you have taken so much pains to make them — well, what shall I say? — harmonize, I suppose, with the peculiar color of my mug. Dash it all, ! I mean — I mean — don’t you know —— ”
Edra laughed and gave it up. Then we all laughed; for now evidently my blundering did not so much matter, since I had shed my outer integument, and come forth like a snake (with a divided tail) in a brand new skin.
Presently I missed Yoletta from the room, and desiring above all things to have some word of congratulation from her lips, I went off to seek her. She was standing under the portico waiting for me. “Come,” she said, and proceeded to lead me into the music-room, where we sat down on one of the couches close to the dais; there she produced some large white tablets, and red chalk pencils or crayons.