Wingrave nodded gravely.
“True enough,” he answered. “But the one thing which no man can mistake is death. Listen, and I will quote some poetry to you. I think—it is something like this:—
“’The rivers of ice may melt, and the mountains crumble into dust, but the heart of a dead man is like the seed plot unsown. Green grass shall not sprout there, nor flowers blossom, nor shall all the ages of eternity show there any sign of life.’”
He spoke as though he had been reading from a child’s Primer. When he had finished, he replaced his cigarette between his teeth.
“I am a dead man,” he said calmly. “Dead as the wildest seed plot in God’s most forgotten acre!”
She came slowly towards the two men through the overgrown rose garden, a thin, pale, wild-eyed child, dressed in most uncompromising black. It was a matter of doubt whether she was the more surprised to see them, or they to find anyone else, in this wilderness of desolation. They stood face to face with her upon the narrow path.
“Have you lost your way?” she inquired politely.
“We were told,” Aynesworth answered, “that there was a gate in the wall there, through which we could get on to the cliffs.”
“Who told you so?” she asked.
“The housekeeper,” Aynesworth answered. “I will not attempt to pronounce her name.”
“Mrs. Tresfarwin,” the child said. “It is not really difficult. But she had no right to send you through here! It is all private, you know!”
“And you?” Aynesworth asked with a smile, “you have permission, I suppose?”
“Yes,” she answered. “I have lived here all my life. I go where I please. Have you seen the pictures?”
“We have just been looking at them,” Aynesworth answered.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” she exclaimed. “I—oh!”
She sat suddenly down on a rough wooden seat and commenced to cry. For the first time Wingrave looked at her with some apparent interest.
“Why, what is the matter with you, child?” Aynesworth exclaimed.
“I have loved them so all my life,” she sobbed; “the pictures, and the house, and the gardens, and now I have to go away! I don’t know where! Nobody seems to know!”
Aynesworth looked down at her black frock.
“You have lost someone, perhaps?” he said.
“My father,” she answered quietly. “He was organist here, and he died last week.”
“And you have no other relatives?” he asked.
“None at all. No one—seems—quite to know—what is going to become of me!” she sobbed.
“Where are you staying now?” he inquired.
“With an old woman who used to look after our cottage,” she answered. “But she is very poor, and she cannot keep me any longer. Mrs. Colson says that I must go and work, and I am afraid. I don’t know anyone except at Tredowen! And I don’t know how to work! And I don’t want to go away from the pictures, and the garden, and the sea! It is all so beautiful, isn’t it? Don’t you love Tredowen?”