“Yes, you will!” He caught her by the arm; “I’m going to teach you not to be afraid of things outdoors. This lizard-like thing is perfectly harmless. Hold out your hand!”
“Oh, Scott, don’t make me——”
“Yes, I will. I thought you and I were going to be in thorough accord and sympathy and everything else.”
“Yes, but you mustn’t bully me.”
“I’m not. I merely want you to get over your absurd fear of live things, so that you and I can really enjoy ourselves. You said you would, Kathleen.”
“Can’t we be in perfect sympathy and roam about and—and everything, unless I touch such things?”
He said reproachfully, balancing the little creature on his palm: “The fun is in being perfectly confident and fearless. You have no idea how I like all these things. You said you were going to like ’em, too.”
“Then take this one and pet it.”
She glanced at the boy beside her, realising how completely their former relations were changing.
Long ago she had given all her heart to the Seagrave children—all the unspent passion in her had become an unswerving devotion to them. And now, a woman still young, the devotion remained, but time was modifying it in a manner sometimes disquieting. She tried not to remember that now, in Scott, she had a man to deal with, and tried in vain; and dealt with him weakly, and he was beginning to do with her as he pleased.
“You do like to bully me, don’t you?” she said.
“I only want you to like to do what I like to do.”
She stood silent a moment, then, with a shudder, held out her hand, fingers rigid and wide apart.
“Oh!” she protested, as he placed the small dark-red amphibian on the palm, where it crinkled up and lowered its head.
“That’s the idea!” he said, delighted. “Here, I’ll take it now. Some day you’ll be able to handle snakes if you’ll only have patience.”
“But I don’t want to.” She stood holding out the contaminated hand for a moment, then dropped on her knees and scrubbed it vigorously in the brook.
“You see,” said Scott, squatting cheerfully beside her, “you and I don’t yet begin to realise the pleasure that there is in these woods and streams—hidden and waiting for us to discover it. I wouldn’t bother with any other woman, but you’ve always liked what I like, and its half the fun in having you see these things. Look here, Kathleen, I’m keeping a book of field notes.” He extracted from his stuffed pockets a small leather-covered book, fished out a stylograph, and wrote the date while she watched over his shoulder.
“Discovered what seems to be a small dark-red newt under a stone near Hurryon Brook. Couldn’t make it bite me, so let Kathleen hold it. Query: Is it a land or water lizard, a salamander, or a newt; and what does it feed on and where does it deposit its eggs?”
Kathleen’s violet eyes wandered to the written page opposite.