“Philip,” she said at last, in quite a changed voice, “I do not think that you are being well treated. I do not think that your cousin means kindly by you, but—but I do not think that you have behaved rightly either. I don’t like that about the ten pounds; and I think that you should not have touched George; he is not so strong as you. Please try to do as your father—dear me, I am sure I don’t wonder that you are afraid of him; I am—tells you, and regain his affection, and make it up with George; and, if you get into any more troubles, come and tell me about them before you do anything foolish; for though, according to Grumps, I am silly enough, two heads are better than one.”
The tears stood in the lad’s brown eyes as he listened to her. He gulped them down, however, and said—
“You are awfully kind to me; you are the only friend I have. Sometimes I think that you are an angel.”
“Nonsense, Philip. If ‘it’ heard you talk like that, you would join Grumps. Don’t let me hear any more such stuff,” but, though she spoke sharply, somehow she did not look displeased.
“I must be off,” he said at length. “I promised to go with my father to see a new building on Reynold’s farm. I have only twenty minutes to get home;” and rising they went into the house through a French window opening on to the lawn.
In the dining-room he turned, and, after a moment’s hesitation, stuttered out—
“Maria, don’t be angry with me, but may I give you a kiss?”
She blushed vividly.
“How dare you suggest such a thing?—but—but as Grumps has gone, and there is no new Grumps to refer to, and therefore I can only consult my own wishes, perhaps if you really wish to, Philip, why, Philip, you may.”
And he did.
When he was gone she leant her head against the cold marble mantelpiece.
“I do love him,” she murmured, “yes, that I do.”
Philip was not very fond of taking walks with his father, since he found that in nine cases out of ten they afforded opportunities for inculcation of facts of the driest description with reference to estate management, or to the narration by his parent of little histories of which his conduct upon some recent occasion would adorn the moral. On this particular occasion the prospect was particularly unpleasant, for his father would, he was well aware, overflow with awful politeness, indeed, after the scene of the morning, it could not be otherwise. Oh, how much rather would he have spent that lovely afternoon with Maria Lee! Dear Maria, he would go and see her again the very next day.
When he arrived, some ten minutes after time in the antler-hung hall of the Abbey House, he found his father standing, watch in hand, exactly under the big clock, as though he was determined to make a note by double entry of every passing second.