“I shall bear your image always. You know it.”
She seemed scarcely to have heard him.
“There is no reason in what I say. I know it. Yet—I am destined never to forget you.”
She made no sign.
“Ailsa Paige,” he said mechanically.
And after a long while, slowly, she looked down at him where he sat at her feet, his dark eyes fixed on space.
All the morning she had been busy in the Craig’s backyard garden, clipping, training, loosening the earth around lilac, honeysuckle, and Rose of Sharon. The little German florist on the corner had sent in two loads of richly fertilised soil and a barrel of forest mould. These she sweetened with lime, mixed in her small pan, and applied judiciously to the peach-tree by the grape-arbour, to the thickets of pearl-gray iris, to the beloved roses, prairie climber, Baltimore bell, and General Jacqueminot. A neighbour’s cat, war-scarred and bold, traversing the fences in search of single combat, halted to watch her; an early bee, with no blossoms yet to rummage, passed and repassed, buzzing distractedly.
The Craig’s next-door neighbour, Camilla Lent, came out on her back veranda and looked down with a sleepy nod of recognition and good-morning, stretching her pretty arms luxuriously in the sunshine.
“You look very sweet down there, Ailsa, in your pink gingham apron and garden gloves.”
“And you look very sweet up there, Camilla, in your muslin frock and satin skin! And every time you yawn you resemble a plump, white magnolia bud opening just enough to show the pink inside!”
“It’s mean to call me plump!” returned Camilla reproachfully. “Anyway, anybody would yawn with the Captain keeping the entire household awake all night. I vow, I haven’t slept one wink since that wretched news from Charleston. He thinks he’s a battery of horse artillery now; that’s the very latest development; and I shed tears and the chandeliers shed prisms every time he manoeuvres.”
“The dear old thing,” said Mrs. Paige, smiling as she moved among the shrubs. For a full minute her sensitive lips remained tenderly curved as she stood considering the agricultural problems before her. Then she settled down again, naively—like a child on its haunches—and continued to mix nourishment for the roses.
Camilla, lounging sideways on her own veranda window sill, rested her head against the frame, alternately blinking down at the pretty widow through sleepy eyes, and patting her lips to control the persistent yawns that tormented her.
“I had a horrid dream, too,” she said, “about the ‘Seven Sisters.’ I was Pluto to your Diavoline, and Philip Berkley was a phantom that grinned at everybody and rattled the bones; and I waked in a dreadful fright to hear uncle’s spurred boots overhead, and that horrid noisy old sabre of his banging the best furniture.