* * * * *
Some one was passing along among the upper rooms of the house, followed by Mrs. Eccles, panting and exhausted.
“I am sure, Sir John, I am quite ashamed that you should see the place so choked up with dust and lumber. If you had only let me have a day’s notice, instead of being took all of a sudden like, I’d have had the house tidied up a bit; but what with not expecting to see any of the family, and my being old, and not so quick at the cleaning as I used to be——”
“Never mind, Mrs. Eccles; I had just as soon see it as it is. I only wanted to see if you could make three or four rooms tolerably habitable in case I thought of bringing my horses down for a month or so. The stables, I find, are in good repair.”
“Yes, Sir John, and so is the house; though the furniture is that old-fashioned, that it is hardly fit for you to use.”
“Oh! it will do well enough; besides, I have not made up my mind at all. It is quite uncertain whether I shall come——Who is that?” stopping suddenly short before the window.
“That! Oh, bless me, Sir John, it’s Miss Vera, from the vicarage. I hope you won’t object to her being here; of course, she could not know you was back. I had given her leave to walk in the grounds.”
“The vicarage! Has Mr. Daintree a daughter so old as that?”
“Oh, law! no, Sir John. It is Mrs. Daintree’s sister. She came from abroad to live with them last year. A very nice young lady, Sir John, is Miss Nevill, and seems lonely like, and it kind of cheers her up to come and see me and walk in the garden. I am sure I hope you won’t take it amiss that I should have allowed her to come.”
“Take it amiss—good gracious, no! Pray, let Miss—Miss Nevill, did you say?—come as often as she likes. What about the cellars, Mrs. Eccles?”
“I will get the key, Sir John.” The housekeeper precedes him out of the room, but Sir John stands still by the window.
“What a picture,” he says to himself below his breath; “how well she looks there. She gives to the old place just the one thing it lacks—has always lacked ever since I have known it—the presence of a beautiful woman. Yes, Mrs. Eccles, I am coming.” This last aloud, and he hastens downstairs.
Five minutes later, Sir John Kynaston says to his housekeeper,
“You need not scare that young lady away from the place by telling her I was here to-day and saw her. And you may get the rooms ready, Mrs. Eccles, and order anything that is wanted, and get in a couple of maids, for I have made up my mind to bring my horses down next month.”
Fanning dead ashes.
Weep no more, nor sigh, nor groan,
Sorrow calls no time that’s gone,
Violets plucked, the sweetest rain
Makes not fresh, nor grow again.