“I think that was Colonel Lanstron leading when he ought to leave such work to his assistants,” said Mrs. Galland. “You remember him—why, it was the colonel who recommended you! There, now, I’ve forgotten again that you are deaf!”
The slip of paper glided back and forth on slight currents of air and finally fell among the rose-bushes a few yards from where the two were standing. Feller brought it to Mrs. Galland.
“Yes, it was Colonel Lanstron,” she said, after reading the message. “The message says: ‘Hello, Marta!’ Any other officer would have said: ‘How do you do, Miss Galland!’ He could not have known that she was away. I’ve just had a telegram from her that she will be home in the morning, and that takes me back to my idea that I came to speak about to you,” she babbled on, while Feller regarded her with a gentle, uncomprehending smile. “You know how she likes chrysanthemums and they are in full bloom. We’ll cut them and fill all the vases in the living-room and her room and—oh, how I do forget! You’re not hearing a word!” she exclaimed as she noted the helpless eagerness of his eyes.
“It is a great nuisance, deafness in a gardener. But I love my work. I try to do it well,” he said in his monotone.
“You do wonderfully, wonderfully!” she assented; “and you deserve great credit. Many deaf people are irritable—and you are so cheerful!”
He smiled as pleasantly as if he had heard the compliment and passed her a small pad from his blouse pocket. With the pencil attached to it by a string she wrote her instructions slowly, in an old-fashioned hand, dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.
“Pardon me, madam, but Miss Galland”—he paused, dwelling with a slight inflection on his mention of the daughter as the talisman that warranted his presuming to disagree with the mother—“Miss Galland, when she took her last look around before going, said: ’Please don’t cut any yet. I want to see them all abloom in their beds first.’”
“She has taken such an interest in them, and my idea was to please her. Of course, leave them,” said Mrs. Galland. She made repeated vigorous nods of assent to save herself the trouble of writing. Starting back up the steps, she murmured: “I suppose cut flowers are out of fashion—I know I am—and deaf gardeners are in.” She sighed. “And you are twenty-seven, Marta, twenty-seven!” She drew another, a very long sigh, and then her serenity returned.
“Ours did not pass theirs,” observed the gardener, with a musing smile when he was alone; “but theirs nearly had a jolly spill there at the turn!”
As he bent once more to his work a bumblebee approached on its glad, piratical errand from flower to flower in the rapt stillness, and Feller looked around with a slight courtesy of his hat brim.
“You and your fussily thunderous wings!” he said, half aloud. “I wonder if you think you’re an aeroplane. Surely, they’d never train you to evolute in squadrons. You are an anarchist, you are, and an epicurean into the bargain!”