She was patting him gently on the shoulder, as she stood slim and stiff in her dark silk by his chair, and her rosy little face smiled down on him. She was, for an old woman, wonderfully pretty still. What a delicate skin she must have had! The wrinkles were etched upon it with so fine a needle, you scarcely could see them a little way off; and as she smiled her cheeks looked fresh and smooth as two ruddy little apples.
“Look out, I say,” and she nodded towards the window, deep set in the thick wall. “See how bright and soft everything looks in that pleasant light; that’s better, child, than the finest picture man’s hand ever painted yet, and God gives it us for nothing; and how pretty Snakes Island glows up in that light!”
The dejected man, hardly raising his head, followed with his eyes the glance of the old woman, and looked mournfully through the window.
“That island troubles me, Mrs. Julaper.”
“Everything troubles you, my poor goose-cap. I’ll pull your lug for ye, child, if ye be so dowly;” and with a mimic pluck the good-natured old housekeeper pinched his ear and laughed.
“I’ll go to the still-room now, where the water’s boiling, and I’ll make a cup of tea; and if I find ye so dow when I come back, I’ll throw it all out o’ the window, mind.”
It was indeed a beautiful picture that Feltram saw in its deep frame of old masonry. The near part of the lake was flushed all over with the low western light; the more distant waters lay dark in the shadow of the mountains; and against this shadow of purple the rocks on Snakes Island, illuminated by the setting sun, started into sharp clear yellow.
But this beautiful view had no charm—at least, none powerful enough to master the latent horror associated with its prettiest feature—for the weak and dismal man who was looking at it; and being now alone, he rose and leant on the window, and looked out, and then with a kind of shudder clutching his hands together, and walking distractedly about the room.
Without his perceiving, while his back was turned, the housekeeper came back; and seeing him walking in this distracted way, she thought to herself, as he leant again upon the window:
“Well, it is a burning shame to worrit any poor soul into that state. Sir Bale was always down on someone or something, man or beast; there always was something he hated, and could never let alone. It was not pretty; it was his nature. Happen, poor fellow, he could not help it; but so it was.”
A maid came in and set the tea-things down; and Mrs. Julaper drew her sad guest over by the arm, and made him sit down, and she said: “What has a man to do, frettin’ in that way? By Jen, I’m ashamed o’ ye, Master Philip! Ye like three lumps o’ sugar, I think, and—look cheerful, ye must!—a good deal o’ cream?”
“You’re so kind, Mrs. Julaper, you’re so cheery. I feel quite comfortable after awhile when I’m with you; I feel quite happy,” and he began to cry.