But here came Mrs Null, with a fat brown book in her hand. “One of the funniest things,” she said, as she came to the door, “is Mr Salmon’s chapter on paradoxes. He thinks it would be quite improper to issue a book of this kind without alluding to geographical paradoxes. Listen to this one.” And then she read to him the elucidation of the apparent paradox that there is a certain place in this world where the wind always blows from the south; and another explaining the statement that in certain cannibal islands the people eat themselves. “There is something he says about Virginia,” said she, turning over the pages, “which I want you to be sure to read.”
“Won’t you sit down,” said Lawrence, “and read to me some of those extracts? You know just where to find them.”
“That chair wasn’t put there for me,” said Miss Annie, with a smile.
“Nonsense,” said Lawrence. “Won’t you please sit down? I ought to have asked you before. Perhaps it is too cool for you, out there.”
“Oh, not at all,” said she. “The air is still quite warm.” And she took her seat on the chair which was placed close to the door-step, and she read to him some of the surprising and interesting facts which Mr Salmon had heard, in a Dublin coffee-house, about Virginia and the other colonies, and also some of those relating to the kindly way in which slave-holders in South America, when they killed a slave to feed their hounds, would send a quarter to a neighbor, expecting some day to receive a similar favor in return. When they had laughed over these, she read some very odd and surprising statements about Southern Europe, and the people of far-away lands; and so she went on, from one thing to another, talking a good deal about what she had read, and always on the point of stopping and giving the book to Lawrence, until the short autumnal afternoon began to draw to its close, and he told her that it was growing too chilly for her to sit out on the grass any longer.
“Very well,” said she, closing the book, and handing it to him, “you can read the rest of it yourself, and if you want any other books on the list, just let me know by Uncle Isham, and I will send them to you. He is coming now to see after you. I wonder,” she said, stopping for a moment as she turned to leave, “if Miss March had been sitting in that chair, if you would have had the heart to tell her to go away; or if you would have let her sit still, and take cold.”
Lawrence smiled, but very slightly. “That subject,” said he, “is one on which I don’t joke.”
“Goodness!” exclaimed Miss Annie, clasping her hands and gazing with an air of comical commiseration at Mr Croft’s serious face. “I should think not!” and away she went.
Just before supper time, when Lawrence’s door had been closed, and his lamp lighted, there came a knock, and Mrs Keswick appeared. “That plan of mine didn’t work,” she said, “but I will bring Miss March out here, and manage it so that she’ll have to stay till I come back. I have an idea about that. All that you have to do is to be ready when you get your chance.”