“I—I thought you were out,” say I, hesitatingly, and reddening a little, as if I were being caught in the commission of some little private sin.
“No, I came in an hour ago.”
“I beg your pardon,” I say, humbly; “I will not disturb you; I would have knocked if I had known!”
He has risen, and is coming toward me.
“Knock! why, in Heaven’s name, should you knock?” he says, with something of his old glad animation; then, suddenly changing his tone to one of courteous friendly coldness, “Why do you stand out there? will not you come in?”
I comply with this invitation, and, entering, sit down in another arm-chair not far from Roger’s, but, now that I am here, I do not seem to have much to say.
“You have been in the gardens?” he says, presently, glancing at my little nosegay, and speaking more to hinder total silence from reigning, than for any other reason.
“Yes,” I reply, trying-to be cheerful and chatty, “I have been picking these; the Czar have not half their perfume, though they are three times their size! these smell so good!”
As I speak, I timidly half stretch out the little bunch to him, that he, too, may inhale their odor, but the gesture is so uncertain and faint that he does not perceive it—at least, he takes no notice of it, and I am sure that if he had he would; but yet I am so discouraged by the failure of my little overture that I have not resolution enough to tell him that I had gathered them for him. Instead, I snubbedly and discomfortedly put them in my own breast.
Presently I speak again.
“Do you remember,” I say—“no, I dare say you do not, but yet it is so— it is a year to-day since you found me sitting on the top of the wall!— such a situation for a person of nineteen to be discovered in!”
At the recollection I laugh a little, and not bitterly, which is what I do not often do now. I can only see his profile, but it seems to me that a faint smile is dawning on his face, too.
“It was a good jump, was not it?” I go on, laughing again; “I still wonder that I did not knock you down.”
He is certainly smiling now; his face has almost its old, tender mirth.
“It will be a year to-morrow,” continue I, emboldened by perceiving this, and beginning to count on my fingers, “since Toothless Jack and the curates came to dine, and you staid so long in the dining-room that I fell asleep; the day after to-morrow, it will be a year since we walked by the river-side, and saw the goslings flowering out on the willows; the day after that it will be a year since—”
“Stop!” he cries, interrupting me, with a voice and face equally full of disquiet and pain; “do not go on, where is the use?—I hate anniversaries.”
I stop, quenched into silence; my poor little trickle of talk effectually dried. After a pause, he speaks.
“What has made you think of all these dead trivialities?” he asks in a voice more moved—or I think so—less positively steady than his has been of late; “at your age, it is more natural to look on than to look back.”