Noble was dazed; no novelty, for he had been dazed almost continually during the past seven months, since a night when dancing with Julia, whom he had known all his life, he “noticed for the first time what she looked like.” (This was his mother’s description.) Somewhere, he vaguely recalled, he had read of the extraordinary influence possessed by certain angelic kinds of children; he knew, too, what favourite grandchildren can do with grandfathers. The effect upon him was altogether base; he immediately sought by flattery to increase and retain Florence’s kindness. “I always thought you seemed to know more than most girls of your age,” he began.
It was a great afternoon for Florence. From time to time she glanced over her shoulder at the switching skirt, and increased its radius of action, though this probably required more exercise, compared to the extent of ground covered, than any lady member of a walking-party had ever before taken, merely as a pedestrian. Meanwhile, she chattered on, but found time to listen to the pleasant things said to her by her companion; and though most of these were, in truth, rather vague, she was won to him more than he knew. Henceforth she was to be his champion indeed, sometimes with greater energy than he would need.
... The two were left alone together by Julia’s gate when the walk (as short as Julia dared to make it) was over.
“Well,” Florence said, “I’ve had quite a nice time. I hope you enjoyed yourself nicely, too, Mr. Dill.” Then her eye rose to the overhanging branch of a shade-tree near them. “Would you like to see me chin myself?” she asked, stepping beneath the branch. “I bet I could skin-the-cat on that limb! Would you like to see me do it?”
“I would so!” the flatterer enthused.
She became thoughtful, remembering that she was now a lady who took walks with grown gentlemen. “I can, but I won’t,” she said. “I used to do lots of things like that. I used to whenever I felt like it. I could chin myself four times and Herbert only three. I was lots better than Herbert when I used to do all kinds of things like that.”
She laughed as in a musing retrospect of times gone by. “I guess I used to be a pretty queer kind of a girl in those days,” she said. “Well—I s’pose we ought to say good-bye for the present, so to speak, Mr. Dill.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Well——” She stood looking at him expectantly, but he said nothing more. “Well, good-bye for the present, Mr. Dill,” she said again, and, turning, walked away with dignity. But a moment later she forgot all about her skirt and scampered.