Vera stood still and looked at it. Something in its aspect—she could not have told what—affected her powerfully. She went down two or three steps towards the water, and stooped over it intently.
Maurice, watching her curiously, saw, to his surprise, that she trembled. She turned round to him.
“Does it not look dark and deep? Is it very deep?”
“I believe it is. There are all sorts of stories about it. Come up, Vera; why do you tremble so?”
“How dreadful to be drowned here!” she said, below her breath, and she shuddered.
He stretched out his hand to her.
“Do not say such horrid things! Give me your hand—the steps are slippery. What has put drowning into your head? And—why, how pale you are; what has frightened you?”
She took his hand and came back again to where he stood.
“Do you believe in presentiments?” she said, slowly, with her eyes fixed still, as though by some fascination, upon the dark waters beneath them.
“Not in the very least,” he answered, cheerily; “do not think of such things. John would be the first to scold you—and to scold me for bringing you here.”
He stood, holding her hand, looking at her kindly and compassionately; suddenly she looked at him, and as their eyes met once more, she trembled from head to foot.
“Vera, you are frightened; tell me what it is!”
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” she cried, with a sudden wail, like a person in pain; “only—oh! I wish I had not seen it for the first time with you!”
Before he could answer her, some one, beckoning to them from the further side of the pool, caused them both to turn suddenly round.
It was not only Herbert Pryme who had seen them wander away down the garden from the house. Mrs. Romer, too, had been at another window and had noticed them. To run lightly upstairs, put on her hat and jacket, and to follow them, had been the work of but a very few minutes. Helen was not minded to allow Maurice to wander about all the morning with Vera.
“Are you going for a walk?” she called out to them across the water. “Wait for me; I am coming with you.”
Vera turned quickly to her companion.
“Is it true that you are engaged to her?” she asked him rapidly, in a low voice.
Maurice hesitated. Morally speaking, he was engaged to her; but, then, it had been agreed between them that he was to deny any such engagement. He felt singularly disinclined to let Vera know what was the truth.
“People say you are,” she said, once more. “Will you tell me if it is true?”
“No; there is no engagement between us,” he answered, gravely.
“I am very glad,” she answered, earnestly. He coloured, but he had no time to ask her why she was glad—for Helen came up to them.
“How interested you look in each other’s conversation!” she said, looking suspiciously at them both. “May I not hear what you have been talking about?”