“Until the workmen finish painting my house and installing the new plumbing. Colonel Arran is good enough to look after it.”
Camilla, her light head always ringing with gossip, watched Ailsa curiously.
“It’s odd,” she observed, “that Colonel Arran and the Craigs never exchange civilities.”
“Mrs. Craig doesn’t like him,” said Ailsa simply.
“You do, don’t you?”
“Naturally. He was my guardian.”
“My uncle likes him. To me he has a hard face.”
“He has a sad face,” said Ailsa Paige.
Ailsa and her sister-in-law, Mrs. Craig, had been unusually reticent over their embroidery that early afternoon, seated together in the front room, which was now flooded with sunshine—an attractive, intimate room, restful and pretty in spite of the unlovely Victorian walnut furniture.
Through a sunny passageway they could look into Ailsa’s bedroom—formerly the children’s nursery—where her maid sat sewing.
Outside the open windows, seen between breezy curtains, new buds already clothed the great twisted ropes of pendant wistaria with a silvery-green down.
The street was quiet under its leafless double row of trees, maple, ailanthus, and catalpa; the old man who trudged his rounds regularly every week was passing now with his muffled shout:
Any old hats Old coats Old boots! Any old mats Old suits, Old flutes! Ca-ash!
And, leaning near to the sill, Ailsa saw him shuffling along, green-baize bag bulging, a pyramid of stove-pipe hats crammed down over his ears.
At intervals from somewhere in the neighbourhood sounded the pleasant bell of the scissors grinder, and the not unmusical call of “Glass put in!” But it was really very tranquil there in the sunshine of Fort Greene Place, stiller even for the fluted call of an oriole aloft in the silver maple in front of the stoop.
He was a shy bird even though there were no imported sparrows to drive this lovely native from the trees of a sleepy city; and he sat very still in the top branches, clad in his gorgeous livery of orange and black, and scarcely stirred save to slant his head and peer doubtfully at last year’s cocoons, which clung to the bark like shreds of frosted cotton.
Very far away, from somewhere in the harbour, a deep sound jarred the silence. Ailsa raised her head, needle suspended, listened for a moment, then resumed her embroidery with an unconscious sigh.
Her sister-in-law glanced sideways at her.
“I was thinking of Major Anderson, Celia,” she said absently.
“So was I, dear. And of those who must answer for his gove’nment’s madness,—God fo’give them.”