“Are you going away?” he asked, “or shall you stay here always?”
“Always,” she promptly returned. “I’m going to live here with this old garden until I grow to be an ancient dame—and you may walk over on autumn afternoons and I’ll be sympathetic about your rheumatism. Isn’t that a picture that delights your soul?”
“No,” he said bluntly; “I see a better one.”
“I can never tell you,” he replied gravely—“not even when you are an ancient dame and I rheumatic.”
She was merry again.
“Then I fear it’s wicked,” she said, “and I’m amazed at you. But my day-dreams are all common ones. I ask only the country and my home and horses and cows and chickens—and a rheumatic friend. You see I must be happy, I ask so little.”
“And you argue that he who demands little gets it,” he returned lightly. “On the other hand, I should say that he who is content with less gets nothing. I ask the biggest thing Fate has to give, and then stand waiting for—”
He paused for a breathless instant while he looked at her, and then slowly finished:
“For the skies to fall.”
They swung open the gate into cattle lane, and stood waiting while the cows trooped by to the barnyard.
Eugenia called them by name, and they turned great stupid eyes upon her as they stopped to munch the hollyhocks.
“She was named after you,” said the girl suddenly.
“She? Who?” he turned a helpless look upon the two small negroes who drove the cows.
“Why, Burr Bess, of course—that Jersey there. You know we couldn’t name her Nick because she wasn’t a boy, so Bernard called her Burr Bess. You don’t seem pleased.”
“She’s a fine cow,” observed Nicholas critically.
“Oh! she was the most beautiful calf! I thought you remembered it. One was named after me, but it died, and one was named after Bernard, but it went to the butcher. Bernard was so angry about it that he waylaid the cart on the road and let it out. But they caught it again. It was too bad, wasn’t it?”
The garden gate closed behind them with a click, and they crossed the lane to the lawn.
Miss Chris, who stood shading her eyes in the back porch, was giving directions to Aunt Verbeny in the smoke-house. When she saw Nicholas she broke off and asked him to stay to supper, but he declined hastily, and, with an embarrassed good-evening, turned back into the lane. The hollyhocks over the whitewashed fence brushed him as he passed, and the spices of the garden came to him like the essence of the eternal Romance.