[Attributed to Mrs. Milne Rae]
[Illustration: Geordie’s herding ended.]
It was a chilly Scotch spring day. The afternoon sun glistened with fitful, feeble rays on the windows of the old house of Kirklands, and unpleasant little gusts of east wind came eddying round its ancient gables, and sweeping along its broad walks and shrubberies, sending a chill to the hearts of all the young green things that were struggling into life.
On the time-worn steps of the grey mansion there stood a girl, cloaked and bonneted for a walk, notwithstanding the uninviting weather.
“It’s a fule’s errand, I assure ye, Miss Grace, and on such an afternoon, too. I’ve been askin’ at old Adam the gardener, and he says there isna one o’ the kind left worth mindin’ in all the valley o’ Kirklands. So do not go wanderin’ on such an errand in this bitter wind, missy.”
The speaker was an old woman, standing in the doorway, glancing with an expression of kindly anxiety towards the girl, who leant on one of the carved griffins of the old stone railing.
Grace had been looking at the speaker with troubled eyes as she listened to her remonstrance, and now she said, meditatively, “Does old Adam really say so, Margery?” Then with a quick gesture she turned to go down the steps, adding cheerily, “Well, there’s no harm in trying, and as for the wind, that doesn’t matter a bit. It’s what Walter would call a nice breezy day. I’m really going, nursie. Shut the door, and keep your old self warm. I shall be home again by the time aunt has finished her afternoon’s sleep.” And Grace turned quickly away, not in the direction of the sheltered elm avenue, but across the park, by the path which led most quickly beyond the grounds. Presently she slackened her pace, and turning for a moment she glanced rather ruefully towards the high walls of the old garden, as if prudence dictated that she should seek fuller information there, before she set out on this search, which she had planned that afternoon. The old nurse’s words on the subject seemed to have sent a chilling gust to her heart, harder to bear than the bitter spring wind. Old Adam certainly knew the countryside better than anybody else, she pondered, and he seemed to have given it as his decision that she would not find her search successful.
Was it a rare plant growing in the valley that Grace was in search of? Then, surely, the gardener was right; she should wait till the warm sunshine came, and the south winds wafted sweet scents about, leading to where the pleasant flowers grow among the cozy moss. Or did she mean to go to the green velvety haughs of the winding river to get her fishing-rod and tackle into working order at the little boat-house, and try to tempt some unwary trout to eat his last supper, as she and her brother Walter used to do in sunny summer evenings long ago?