Carteret nodded, searching her face with wise, fearless, smiling eyes.
“Ah! yes,” he said, “we can put it that way if you please.” Damaris hesitated detecting some undercurrent of meaning which puzzled her.
“I may never have to tell you. My father may speak of it—or you may just see for yourself. Only then, then”—she with a moving earnestness prayed him—“be kind, be lenient. Don’t judge harshly—promise me you won’t.”
And as she spoke her expression softened to a great and unconscious tenderness; for she beheld, in thought, a wide-winged sea-bird, above certain letters, tattooed in indigo and crimson upon the back of a lean shapely brown hand.
“I promise you,” Carteret said, and passed in at the door marvelling somewhat sadly.
“Is it that?” he asked himself. “If so, it comes early. Has she gone the way of all flesh and fallen in love?”
And this conversation, as shall presently be set forth, ushered in that second matter of cardinal importance, already referred to, which for Damaris marked the close of this eventful year.
TELLING HOW DAMARIS RENEWED HER ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE BELOVED LADY OF HER INFANCY
The windows of the sitting-room—upon the first floor of the long, three-storied, yellow-painted hotel—commanded a vast and glittering panorama of indented coast-line and purple sea. Here and there, in the middle distance, little towns, pale-walled and glistering, climbed upward amid gardens and olive yards from the rocky shore. Heathlands and pine groves covered the intervening headlands and steep valleys, save where meadows marked the course of some descending stream. To the north-east, above dark wooded foot-hills, the flushed whiteness of snow-summits cut delicately into the solid blue of the sky.
Stretched upon the sun-faded, once scarlet cushions of the window-seat, Damaris absorbed her fill of light, and warmth, and colour. Pleading imperative feminine mendings, she stayed at home this afternoon. She felt disposed to rest—here in the middle of her pasture, so to say—and resting, both count her blessings and dream, offering hospitality to all and any pleasant visions which might elect to visit her. And, indeed, those blessings appeared a goodly company, worthy of congratulation and of gratitude. She let the black silk stocking, the toe of which she affected to darn, slip neglected on to the floor while she added up the pleasant column of them.
The journey might be counted as a success—that to start with. For her father was certainly better, readier of speech and of interest in outside things. Oh! the dear “man with the blue eyes” had a marvellous hand on him—tactful, able, devoted, always serene, often even gay. Never could there be another so perfect, because so sane and comfortable, a friend. Her debt to him was of old standing and still for ever grew. How she could ever pay it she didn’t know! Which consideration, for an instant, clouded her content. Not that she felt the obligation irksome; but, that out of pure affection, she wanted to make him some return, some acknowledgment; wanted to give, since to her he had so lavishly given.