For Dalton, after that first ride in the rain from Pavilion Hill, had speeded his wooing. He had swept Becky along on a rushing tide. He had courted the Judge, and the Judge had pressed upon him invitation after invitation. Day and night the big motor had flashed up to Huntersfield, bringing Dalton to some tryst with Becky, or carrying her forth to some gay adventure. Her world was rose-colored. She had not dreamed of life like this. She seemed to have drunk of some new wine, which lighted her eyes and flamed in her cheeks. Her beauty shone with an almost transcendent quality. As the dove’s plumage takes on in the spring an added luster, so did the bronze of Becky’s hair seem to burn with a brighter sheen.
Yet the Judge noticed nothing.
“Did you ask him to dine with us?” he had demanded, when Dalton had called Becky up on the morning of the receipt of Aunt Claudia’s letter.
“Then I’ll do it,” and he had gone to the telephone, and had urged his hospitality.
When Dalton came Becky met him on the front steps of the house.
“Dinner is late,” she said, “let’s go down into the garden.”
The garden at Huntersfield was square with box hedges and peaked up with yew, and there were stained marble statues of Diana and Flora and Ceres, and a little pool with lily pads.
“You are like the pretty little girls in the picture books,” said George, as they walked along. “Isn’t that a new frock?”
“Yes,” said Becky, “it is. Do you like it?”
“You are a rose among the roses,” he said. He wondered a bit at its apparent expensiveness. Perhaps, however, Becky was skillful with her needle. Some women were. He did not care greatly for such skill, but he was charmed by the effect.
“You are a rose among the roses,” he said again, and broke off a big pink bud from a bush near by.
“Bend your head a little. I want to put it in your hair.”
His fingers caught in the bronze mesh. “It is wound around my ring.” He fumbled in his pockets with his free hand and got his knife. “It may pull a bit.”
He showed her presently the lock which he had cut. “It seems alive,” he kissed it and put it in his pocket.
Her protest was genuine. “Oh, please,” she said, “I wish you wouldn’t.”
“Shall I throw it away?”
“You shouldn’t have cut it off.”
“Other men have been tempted—in a garden——”
It might have startled George could he have known that old Mandy, eyeing him from the kitchen, placed him in Eden’s bower not as the hero of the world’s initial tragedy, but as its Satanic villain.
“He sutt’n’y have bewitched Miss Becky,” she told Calvin; “she ain’ got her min’ on nothin’ but him.”
“Yo’ put yo’ min’ on yo’ roas’ lamb, honey,” Calvin suggested. “How-cum you got late?”