“This is a personal call,” Westerling explained; “so you are at liberty to make one yourself, if you like,” he added, with that magnetic smile of a genial power which he used to draw men to him and hold them.
OURS AND THEIRS
On the second terrace, Feller, the Gallands’ gardener, a patch of blue blouse and a patch of broad-brimmed straw hat over a fringe of white hair, was planting bulbs. Mrs. Galland came down the path from the veranda loiteringly, pausing to look at the flowers and again at the sweep of hills and plain. The air was singularly still, so still that she heard the cries of the children at play in the yards of the factory-workers’ houses which had been steadily creeping up the hill from the town. She breathed in the peace and beauty of the surroundings with that deliberate appreciation of age which holds to the happiness in hand. To-morrow it might rain; to-day it is pleasant. She was getting old. Serenely she made the most of to-day.
The gardener did not look up when she reached his side. She watched his fingers firmly pressing the moist earth around the bulbs that he had sunk in their new beds. There were only three more to set out, and her inclination, in keeping with her leisureliness, was to wait on the completion of his task before speaking. Again she let her glance wander away to the distances. It was arrested and held this time by two groups of far-away points in the sky along the frontier, in the same bright light of that other afternoon when Captain Arthur Lanstron had made his first night over the range.
“Look!” she cried. “Look, look!” she repeated, a girlish excitement rippling her placidity.
Aeroplanes and dirigibles had become a familiar sight. They were always going and coming and manoeuvring, the Browns over their territory and the Grays over theirs. But here was something new: two squadrons of dirigibles and planes in company, one on either side of the white posts. For the fraction of a second the dirigibles seemed prisms and the planes still-winged dragon-flies hung on a blue wall. With the next fraction the prisms were seen to be growing and the stretch of the plane wings broadening.
“They are racing—ours against theirs!” exclaimed Mrs. Galland. “Look, look!”
Still the gardener bent to his work, unconcerned.
“I forgot! I always forget that you are deaf!” she murmured.
She touched his shoulder. The effect was magical on the stoop-shouldered figure, which rose with the spring of muscles that are elastic and joints that are limber. His hat was removed with prompt and rather graceful deference, revealing eyebrows that were still dark in contrast to the white hair. For only an instant did he remain erect, but long enough to suggest how supple and well-formed he must have been in youth. Then he made a grimace and dropped his hand demonstratively over his knee.