He sat up, peering out into the night. He was still peering thus, building hasty wild guesses, when again a light showed, waving as it drew nearer. It came close; it was one of the coach-lamps, and blazed full into his eyes through the window. The door opened, letting in the roar of the beach and smiting his small nostrils with sea-brine, that with one breath purged away the stuffy scent of leather.
Manasseh was handing some one into the coach.
“De child—Mas’ Richard—if you’ll tak’ care, miss. He’s fas’ asleep, prob’ly.”
“But I’m not,” said Dicky, sitting bolt upright and gathering his rugs about him. “Who is it?”
Manasseh perhaps did not hear. He made no reply, at any rate, but turned the lamp full on Ruth Josselin as she sank back against the cushions on Dicky’s right.
“You will find plenty rugs, miss.”
He shut the door. Dicky, holding his breath, heard him replace the lamp in its socket, and felt the soft tilt of his great weight as he climbed to the perch behind.
There was a tug, and the great coach rolled forward. In the darkness Dicky caught the sound of a smothered sob.
“Who are you?” he asked. There was no response, and after a moment he added, “I know. You are the girl who put out the fire. I like you.”
He was very sleepy. He wondered why she did not answer; but, his childish instinct assuring him that she was a friend, in his somnolence he felt nothing other than trust in her. He nestled close in his rugs and reached out an arm.
It rubbed across the weals on Ruth’s back, and was torture. She clenched her teeth, while tears—tears of physical anguish, irrepressible—over-brimmed her lashes and fell uncounted in the darkness.
“You are crying. Why? I like you.” The child’s voice trailed off into dream.
“Closer!” whispered Ruth, and would have forced the embrace upon her pain; but it relaxed. Dicky’s head fell sideways, and rested, angled between the cushions and her shoulder.
She sat wide-eyed, staring into folds of darkness, while the coach rolled forward smoothly towards the dawn.
AFTER TWO YEARS.
“Come down and play!”
Ruth, looking down from the open lattice, smiled and shook her head. “I must not; I’m doing my lessons.”
“Must not!” mimicked Master Dick. “You’re getting stupider and stupider, living up here. If you don’t look out, one of these days you’ll turn into an old maid—just like Miss Quiney.”
“Hs-s-sh! She’s downstairs somewhere.”
“I don’t care if she hears.” Dicky ran his eyes defiantly along the line of ground-floor windows under the verandah, then upturned his face again. “After coming all this way on purpose to play with you,” he protested.