One day in July, I believe it was, I found myself sitting with several acquaintances in Christopher's parlour. It was one of those deliciously lazy afternoons which only the summer in her full glory can bring. The room had a wan, listless light to it, relaxing the other guests and myself as we languidly chatted over tea and crumpets. The air was also sluggishly heavy, dulling the senses to a slowly-blended calm engendered by the heat of St. Othniel's southerly climate.
At length, after much stimulating conversation, Christopher stood, producing a book of sheet music.
"What do you all say to a bit of music?" he asked.
"Certainly," I answered.
"Oh yes, please do darling!" Tabitha exclaimed, "he's quite the maestro."
Christopher laughed, shaking his head.
"Now, now love, I'd not go that far."
He strode over to the piano as the other guests urged him on. Ida entered the room bearing a merrily steaming teapot and more crumpets.
"More tea sirs?" she inquired, shooting sideways glances at her master, who was busy choosing a song to play. Noticing my teacup was near empty, I inquired after more. As Ida began pouring my tea, Christopher began to play. It was a sublime waltz, though the name now eludes me, which soared airily about the room, holding both the guests and I enraptured. It seemed the perfect compliment to the glorious day, calling to mind green branches against a blue sky with the sun flickering through as the viewer looks up from a cart in motion. I sipped my tea in pure bliss, oblivious to my surroundings.
It was then I noticed the side effects of drinking too much tea on a lazy afternoon and I felt the need to relieve myself. I got up quietly to use the loo, the spell of the music partially dispelled.
As I crossed into the entry foyer, I beheld none other than Ida, waltzing on the spot, an expression of bliss on her face. Her long, black hair was undone and her headband and apron were lying discarded on the floor. Her arm was draped on an invisible shoulder and she clasped an immaterial hand. It was such a moving sight of melancholy, this lone dance accompanied by the beauty of the waltz. I felt a terrible sense of intrusion upon this surreal scene, though she gave no indication of noticing my presence. I crept to the loo and attended to the business at hand.
She was still dancing about the hall when I emerged, moving with a momentous passion. I was overcome with pity for this odd girl and her immense longing for her master. As I moved in closer, I could see her lip quivering slightly as Christopher played on, oblivious to the scene unfolding in his name. I could bear the sight of her dancing alone no longer. I have no idea to this day what came over me, but I gently grasped her hand and laid the other upon the small of her back. I felt her tense at my touch and she looked up at me. She looked as though she had come out of a pleasant dream. Her gaze softened, and I caught a brief flicker of a smile on her lips.
She resumed the dance, her initial tension beginning to ease. Though she was looking at me, her eyes seemed to be staring off into some unknowable infinity. I became awed at the beauty of the situation. The airy, fantastical melody filled my ears as the colours and shapes of the room spun around us, lit by the afternoon gold. This illumination set off Ida's often expressionless face, giving it a softness and light I hadn't noticed before. The softness of her dress and the contour of her back compounded the effect as I was drawn into the spell cast by these elements. Soon, I was lost in this unfolding scene.
I heard applause in the next room, shutting off my epiphany. Ida let go of me and was hurriedly throwing on her apron. She said nothing in her frenzy and was barely able to scurry down the adjoining corridor before Christopher entered the room with Tabitha on his arm.
"Wherever were you old boy?" he asked, "I looked up and you were nowhere to be seen."
" I muttered, my senses slowly returning as the drugs of music and afternoon stupor were wearing off.
"Ah well, can't help that, can we? Could you hear it from there?"
"Yes," I replied, "it was splendid."