At the sound of the knock he raised his head, an expression, which was a mixture of fear and senile cunning came into his lined and pallid face, his dull eyes peered from under their lids with a flash of sudden alertness, and with one motion of his long hands he hurriedly folded the deed before him, crammed it, with the others, into the box, locked it with a hurried and trembling hand, and placed it in a cupboard, which he also locked; then he drew one of the large books into the place were the deed had been, and with a cautious glance round the room, shuffled to the door, and opened it.
As the girl entered, one would have noticed the resemblance between her and the old man, and have seen that they were father and daughter; for Godfrey Heron had been one of the handsomest men of his time, and though she had got her dark eyes and the firm, delicate lips from her mother, the clear oval of her face and its expression of aristocratic pride had come from the Herons.
“Are you here still, father?” she said. “It is nearly dinner-time, and you are not dressed. You promised me that you would go out: how wicked of you not to have done so!”
He shuffled back to the table and made a great business of closing the book.
“I’ve been busy—reading, Ida,” he said. “I did not know it was so late. You have been out, I see; I hope you have enjoyed your ride. Have you met anyone?”
“No,” she replied; then she smiled, as she added: “Only a poacher.”
The old man raised his head, a faint flush came on his face and his eyes flashed with haughty resentment.
“A poacher! What are the keepers about! Ah, I forgot; there are no keepers now; any vagrant is free to trespass and poach on Herondale!”
“I’m sorry, father!” she said, laying her hand on his arm soothingly. “It was not an ordinary poacher, only a gentleman who had mistaken the Heron water for the Avory’s. Come now, father, you have barely time to dress.”
“Yes, yes, I will come in a moment—a moment,” he said.
But after she had left the room, he still lingered, and when at last he got to the door, he closed it and went back to the cupboard and tried it, to see if it were locked, muttering, suspiciously:
“Did she hear me? She might have heard the rustle of the parchment, the turn of the lock. Sometimes I think she suspects—But, no, no, she’s a child still, and she’d say something, speak out. No, no; it’s all right. Yes, yes, I’m coming, Ida!” he said aloud, as the girl called to him on her way up the stairs.
As Stafford climbed the hill steadily, he wondered who the girl was. It did not occur to him that she might be the daughter of the Mr. Heron to whom the stream belonged and from whose family name the whole dale had taken its own; for, though she had looked and spoken like a lady, the habit, the gauntlets, the soft felt hat were old and weather-stained: and her familiarity with the proper treatment of a sheep in difficulty indicated rather the farmer’s daughter than that of the squire.