‘Oh, is not she? such a darling!’ I said, and then blushed at my outspoken affection.
But he smiled kindly, as if he liked me for it; and he said—
’You know whatever I think, I dare not quite say that; but frankly I can quite understand it. She preserves her youth so wonderfully, and her fun and her good-nature are so entirely girlish. What a sweet view you have selected,’ he continued, changing all at once. ’I’ve stood just at this point so often to look back at that exquisite old bridge. Do you observe—you’re an artist, I see—something very peculiar in that tint of the grey, with those odd cross stains of faded red and yellow?’
’I do, indeed; I was just remarking the peculiar beauty of the colouring—was not I, Milly?’
Milly stared at me, and uttered an alarmed ‘Yes,’ and looked as if she had been caught in a robbery.
‘Yes, and you have so very peculiar a background,’ he resumed. ’It was better before the storm though; but it is very good still.’
Then a little pause, and ‘Do you know this country at all?’ rather suddenly.
’No, not in the least—that is, I’ve only had the drive to this place; but what I did see interested me very much.’
’You will be charmed with it when you know it better—the very place for an artist. I’m a wretched scribbler myself, and I carry this little book in my pocket,’ and he laughed deprecatingly while he drew forth a thin fishing-book, as it looked. ’They are mere memoranda, you see. I walk so much and come unexpectedly on such pretty nooks and studies, I just try to make a note of them, but it is really more writing than sketching; my sister says it is a cipher which nobody but myself understands. However, I’ll try and explain just two—because you really ought to go and see the places. Oh, no; not that,’ he laughed, as accidentally the page blew over, ’that’s the Cat and Fiddle, a curious little pot-house, where they gave me some very good ale one day.’
Milly at this exhibited some uneasy tokens of being about to speak, but not knowing what might be coming, I hastened to observe on the spirited little sketches to which he meant to draw my attention.
’I want to show you only the places within easy reach—a short ride or drive.’
So he proceeded to turn over two or three, in addition to the two he had at first proposed, and then another; then a little sketch just tinted, and really quite a charming little gem, of Cousin Monica’s pretty gabled old house; and every subject had its little criticism, or its narrative, or adventure.
As he was about returning this little sketch-book to his pocket, still chatting to me, he suddenly recollected poor Milly, who was looking rather lowering; but she brightened a good deal as he presented it to her, with a little speech which she palpably misunderstood, for she made one of her odd courtesies, and was about, I thought, to put it into her large pocket, and accept it as a present.