Becky had been singing, and she had stopped and looked up at him.
“Oh, you lovely—lovely, little thing,” he said, and bent his head.
To Becky, that moment was supreme, sacred. She trembled with happiness. To her that kiss meant betrothal—ultimate marriage.
To George it meant, of course, nothing of the kind. It was only one of many moments. It was a romance which might have been borrowed from the Middle Ages. A rare tale such as one might read in a book. A pleasant dalliance—to be continued until he was tired of it. If he ever married, it must be a spectacular affair—handsome woman, big fortune, not an unsophisticated slip of a child from an impoverished Virginia farm.
In the days that followed, Becky’s gay lover came and rode away, and came again. He sparkled and shone and worshipped, but not a word did he say about the future. He seemed content with this idyl of old gardens, scented twilights, starlight nights, with Beauty’s eyes for him alone radiant eyes that matched the stars.
Yet as the days went on the radiance was dimmed. Becky was in a state of bewilderment which bordered on fear. George showed himself an incomparable lover, but always he was silent about the things which she felt cried for utterance.
So at last one day she spoke to the Judge.
“Granddad, did you kiss Grandmother before you asked her to marry you?”
“Asking always comes first, my dear. And you are too young to think of such things.”
Grandfather was, thus obviously, no help. He sat in the Bird Room and dreamed of the days when the stuffed mocking-bird on the wax branch sang to a young bride, and his ideal of love had to do with the courtly etiquette of a time when men knelt and sued and were rewarded with the touch of finger tips.
As for George, he found himself liking this affair rather more than usual. There was no denying that the child was tremendously attractive—with her youth and beauty and the reserve which like a stone wall seemed now and then to shut her in. He had always a feeling that he would like to climb over the wall. It had pricked his interest to find in this little creature a strength and delicacy which he had found in no other woman.
He had had one or two letters from Madge, and had answered them with a line. She gave rather generously of her correspondence and her letters were never dull. In the last one she had asked him to join her on the North Shore.
“I am sorry,” she said, “for the new little girl. I have a feeling that she won’t know how to play the game and that you’ll hurt her. You will probably think that I am jealous, but I can’t help that. Men always think that women are jealous when it comes to other women. They never seem to understand that we are trying to keep the world straight.
“Oscar writes that Flora isn’t