“’Oh, we’re very strict here, you know, and we have rules. Oh, heaps of rules! But I knew dear Miss Maddy would manage it when she knew how I wanted to see you;” and she ran up to Miss Maddy and kissed the little brown ormer shells over her ears, and Miss Maddy patted them hastily lest the tiny kiss should have set them awry.
“And how did you leave them all in Sercq? And when did you see Aunt Jeanne last? And who’s taking care of my boat? And—”
“Wait!” I laughed, “or I shall forget some of them. I saw Aunt Jeanne this morning just before I left. She thought we sailed at once. She would have sent you her love, and maybe some gache, if she had known—”
“Ah, ma fe! How I wish she had known!” sighed Carette longingly, for Aunt Jeanne Falla’s gache had a name all over Sercq.
“And everybody is well except old Pere Guerin, and he is cutting a new tooth, they say, and it makes him sour in the temper.”
“Why, he’s over ninety!” exclaimed Carette.
“Ninety-two next January. That’s why he’s so annoyed about it. And your boat is safe in the top nook of Port du Moulin, all covered over with sailcloth and gorse. Krok and I did it, and he will soak it for ten days before you come home, and have it all ready for you.”
“The dear old Krok!”
“Oh, we have taken very great care of it, I assure you. But maybe you will be too grown-up to care for it by the time you get back.”
“Perhaps!” And oddly enough—though indeed it may have been only my own thought, and without reasonable foundation—thereupon there seemed to fall between us a slight veil of distance. So that, though we talked of Sercq and of our friends there, it seemed to me that we were not quite as we had been, and I could not for the life of me tell why, nor, indeed, for certain if it were so or not.
When I was leaving, however, Carette put both her hands in mine and gave me Godspeed as heartily as I could wish, and I made my best bow to Miss Maddy, and went back to the Hirondelle well pleased at having seen Carette and at her hearty greeting and farewell, but with a little wonder and doubt at my heart as to what the final effect of all this schooling might be.
HOW WE GREW, AND GROWING, GREW APART
As I said, I am not going to waste time telling you of my three long voyages, beyond what is absolutely necessary. These lie for the most part like level plains in my memory, though not without their out-jutting points. But the heights and depths lay beyond.
Very clear to me, however, is the fact that it was ever-growing thought of Carette, more even, I am bound to confess, than thought of my mother and grandfather, that kept me clear of pitfalls which were not lacking to the unwary in those days as in these. Thought of Carette, too, that braced me to the quiet facing of odds on more than one occasion.