“He doesn’t think many worth caring for.”
“Indeed! And he is perfect, then, is he?”
“He thinks he is nearly as bad as any; but that doesn’t make the rest any better.”
“Poor old gentleman! He must have the blues dreadfully. What does he do with his birds? Eat his robins, and stuff his cats, and sell his red-birds in cages?”
“He considers it part of his mission in life to keep them from being eaten or stuffed or caged.”
“And you say he is nearly a hundred?”
“He is something over thirty years of age, madam.”
“Thirty? Surely we heard he was very old. Thirty! And does he live in that beautiful little old house all by himself?”
“I live with him!”
“You! Ha! ha! ha! And what is your name, you dear good old man?”
“Two Adams living in the same house! Are you the old Adam? I have heard so much of him.”
At this I rose, pushed back my hat, and looked up at her.
“I am Adam Moss,” I said, with distant politeness. “You can have these strawberries for your breakfast if you want them.”
There was a low quick “Oh!” and she was gone, and the curtains closed over her face. It was rude; but neither ought she to have called me the old Adam. I have been thinking of one thing: why should she speak slightingly of my knowledge of birds? What does she know about them? I should like to inquire.
Late this afternoon I dressed up in my high gray wool hat, my fine long-tailed blue cloth coat with brass buttons, by pink waistcoat, frilled shirt, white cravat, and yellow nankeen trousers, and walked slowly several times around my strawberry bed. Did no see any more ripe strawberries.
Within the last ten days I have called twice upon the Cobbs, urged no doubt by an extravagant readiness to find them all that I feared they were not. How exquisite in life is the art of not seeing many things, and of forgetting many that have been seen! They received me as though nothing unpleasant had happened. Nor did the elder daughter betray that we had met. She has not forgotten, for more than once I surprised a light in her eyes as though she were laughing. She has not, it is certain, told even her mother and sister. Somehow this fact invest her character with a charm as of subterranean roominess and secrecy. Women who tell everything are like finger-bowls of clear water.
But it is Sylvia that pleases me. She must be about seventeen; and so demure and confiding that I was ready to take her by the hand, lead her to the garden-gate, and say: Dear child, everything in here—butterflies, flowers, fruit, honey, everything—is yours; come and go and gather as you like.