“I am so sorry,” I stammer—“I never thought—I did not know—”
“It is of no consequence,” she answers, speaking with some difficulty, and with a slight but quite musical tremor in her voice—very different from the ugly gulpings and catchings of the breath which always set off my tears—“but the fact is, that I have one little one—and—and— she no longer lives with me; my husband’s people have taken her; I am sure that they meant it for the best; only—only—I am afraid I cannot quite manage to talk of her yet” (turning away from me, and looking up into Algy’s face with a showery smile). Then, as if unable to run the risk of any other further shock to her feelings, she rises and takes her leave; Algy eagerly attending her to the door.
The old deaf gentleman departs at the same time, loading Barbara with polite parting messages to her husband, and bowing distantly to me. Algy reenters presently, looking cross and ruffled.
“You really are too bad, Nancy!” he says, harshly, throwing himself into the chair lately occupied by Mrs. Huntley. “You grow worse every day—one would think you did it on purpose—riding rough-shod over people’s feelings.”
I stand aghast. Formerly, I used not to mind rough words; but I think Roger must have spoilt me; they make me wince now.
“But—but—it was not dead!” I say, whimpering; “it had only gone to visit its grandmother.”
“Never you mind, my Nancy!” says Barbara, in a whisper, drawing me away to the window, and pressing her soft, cool lips, to the flushed misery of my cheeks; “she was not hurt a bit! her eyes were as dry as a bone!”
One more day is gone. We are one day nearer Roger’s return. This is the way in which I am growing to look at the flight of time; just as, in Dresden, I joyfully marked each sunset, as bringing me twenty-four hours nearer home and the boys. And now the boys are within reach; at a wish I could have them all round me; and still, in my thoughts, I hurry the slow days, and blame them for dawdling. With all their broad, gold sunshine, and their rainbow-colored flowers, I wish them away.
Alas! that life should be both so quick and so lagging!
It is afternoon, and I am lying by myself on a cloak at the bottom of the punt—the unupsettable, broad-bottomed punt. My elbow rests on the seat, and a book is on my lap. But, in the middle of the pool, the glare from the water is unbearably bright, but here, underneath those dipping, drooped trees, the sun only filters through in little flakes, and the shade is brown, and the reflections are so vivid that the flags hardly know which are themselves—they, or the other flags that grow in the water at their feet.