“But how could there be any doubt of that?” she asked surprised. “Good only can bring good, and evil, evil.”
At this moment, out from the copse the soft head of a doe appeared, and at the thrilling sight Halcyone slipped her hand into her companion’s, and held his tight lest he should move or rustle a leaf.
“See,” she whispered right in his ear. “She will cross to the other side by the stream—and oh! there is the fawn! Is he not the dearest baby angel you have ever seen—!”
And the doe, feeling herself safe, trotted by, followed by a minute son in pale drab velvet hardly a month old.
The pair in the tree watched them breathlessly until they had entered the copse again beyond the bend, and then Halcyone said:
“That makes six—and perhaps there are more. Oh! how I hope the Long Man will not see them!”
John Derringham did not let go her hand at once; there was something soft and pleasant in the touch of the cool little fingers.
“I want to hear about everything,” he said. “Tell me of the Long Man—and the fawns, and why there are only six. I am having the happiest morning I have had for years.”
So Halcyone began. She glossed a good deal over the facts she had told Mr. Carlyon upon the subject because she did not feel she knew this stranger well enough to let him into her aunts’ private affairs—so she turned the interest to the deer themselves, and they chatted on about all sorts of animals and their ways, and John Derringham was entranced and felt quite aggrieved when she said it was getting late and she must go back to the house for her early dinner. He swung himself down from the tree by the high branch with ease and stood ready to catch her, but with a nimbleness he did not expect, she crept round to the lower side and was landed upon the soft turf before he could reach her.
Then he walked back with her to the broken gate, telling her about his own old home the while, and then they paused to say good-by.
Halcyone carried a twig of freshly sprouting oak which she had brought from the tree, having broken it off in her lightning descent.
“Give me one leaf and you keep the other,” he said. “And then, whenever I see it, I will try to remember that I must always be good and true.”
With grave earnestness she did as he asked, and then opened the gate.
“I want to tell you,” she said—and she looked down for a second, and then up into his eyes from beyond the bars. “I did not like the thought of your coming—and at first I did not like you—but now I see something quite different at the other side of your head—Good-by.”
And before he could answer, she was off as the young fawn would have been—a flitting shape among the trees. And John Derringham walked slowly back to the orchard house, musing as he went.
But when he got there a telegram from his Chief had arrived, recalling him instantly to London.