Long the man looked; through a faint veil of mist, turret and tower quivered; strong lines of masonry vibrated. Wavering as in the spell of an optical illusion, the structure might have seemed but a figment of imagination, or one of those fanciful castles sung by the Elizabethan brotherhood of poets. Did the image occur to John Steele, did he feel for the time, despite other disquieting, extraneous thoughts, the subtle enchantment of the scene? The minutes passed; he did not move.
“You find it to your liking?”
A voice, fresh, gay, interrupted; with a great start, he turned.
Jocelyn Wray, for it was she, laughed; so absorbed had he been, he had not heard her light footstep on the grass behind.
“You find it to your liking?” she repeated, tilting quizzically her fair head.
His face changing, “Entirely!” he managed to say. And then, “I—did not know you were near.”
“No? But I could see that. Confess,” with accent a little derisory, “I startled you.” As she spoke she leaned slightly back against the low stone wall of the churchyard; the shifting light through the leaves played over her; her eyes seemed to dance in consonance with that movement.
“Perhaps,” he confessed.
The girl laughed again; one would have sworn there was; oy in her voice. “You must have been much absorbed,” she continued, “in the view!”
“It is very fine.” He saw now more clearly the picture she made: the details of her dress, the slender figure, closely sheathed in a garb of blue lighter in shade than her eyes.
She put out her hand. “I am forgetting—you came down with my uncle, I suppose?” in a matter-of-fact tone. “A pleasure we hardly expected! Let me see. I haven’t seen you since—ah, when was it?”
He told her. “Yes; I remember now. Wasn’t that the day the Scotch bagpipes went by? You had business that called you away. Something very important, was it not? You were successful?”
“How oddly you say that!” She looked at him curiously. “But shall we walk on toward the house? I went down into the town thinking to meet my uncle,” she explained, “but as I had a few errands, on account of a children’s fete we are planning, reached the tavern after he had gone.”
“He went to a farm not far distant.”
As he spoke, she stepped into the path leading from the churchyard; it was narrow and she walked before him.
“Yes; so the landlord said,” she remarked without looking around. And then, irrelevantly, “The others went hunting. Are you a Nimrod, Mr. Steele?”
“Not a mighty one.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t have to be that—for rabbits!”