“You certainly are stunning, Kathleen,” he said frankly; “you look twenty with all the charm of thirty. Sit here; I’ve a map of the Roya-Neh forest to show you.”
He drew up a chair for himself, lifted a big map from the table, and, unrolling it, laid it across her knees. Then he began to talk enthusiastically about lake and stream and mountain, and about wild boar and deer and keepers and lodges; and she bent her pretty head over the map, following his moving pencil with her eyes, sometimes asking a question, sometimes tracing a road with her own delicate finger.
Once or twice it happened that their hands touched en passant; and at the light contact, she was vaguely aware that somewhere, deep within her, the same faint dismay awoke; that in her, buried in depths unsuspected, something incredible existed, stirred, threatened.
“Scott, dear,” she said quietly, “I am glad you are happy over Roya-Neh forest, but it was too expensive, and it troubles me; so I’m going to sleep to dream over it.”
“You sweet little goose!” laughed the boy impulsively, passing his arm around her. He had done it so often to this nurse and mother.
They both rose abruptly; the map dropped; his arm fell away from her warm, yielding body.
He gazed at her flushed face rather stupidly, not realising yet that the mother and nurse and elder sister had vanished like a tinted bubble in that strange instant—that Kathleen was gone—that, in her calm, sweet, familiar guise stood a woman—a stranger, exquisite, youthful, with troubled violet eyes and vivid lips, looking at him as though for the first time she had met his gaze across the world.
She recovered her composure instantly.
“I’m sorry, Scott, but I’m too sleepy to talk any more. Besides, Geraldine isn’t very well, and I’m going to doze with one eye open. Good-night, dear.”
“Good-night,” said the boy vacantly, not offering the dutiful embrace to which he and she had so long and so lightly been accustomed.
Late on a fragrant mid-June afternoon young Seagrave stood on the Long Terrace to welcome a guest whose advent completed a small house-party of twelve at Roya-Neh.
“Hello, Duane!” cried the youthful landowner in all the pride of new possession, as Mallett emerged from the motor; “frightfully glad to see you, old fellow! How is it in town? Did you bring your own rods? There are plenty here. What do you think of my view? Isn’t that rather fine?”—looking down through the trees at the lake below. “There are bass in it. Those things standing around under the oaks are only silly English fallow deer. Sorry I got ’em. What do you think of my house? It’s merely a modern affair worked up to look old and colonial.... Yes, it certainly does resemble the real thing, but it isn’t. No Seagraves fit and bled here. Those are Geraldine’s quarters up there behind the leaded windows. Those are Kathleen’s where the dinky woodbine twineth. Mine face the east, and yours are next. Come on out into the park——”