It was not remarkable, this old house, but it was his home—might some day perhaps be his. And houses at night were strangely alive with their window eyes.
“That is my room,” the girl said, “where the jessamine is—you can just see it. Mark’s is above—look, under where the eave hangs out, away to the left. The other night—”
“Yes; the other night?”
“Oh, I don’t—! Listen. That’s an owl. We have heaps of owls. Mark likes them. I don’t, much.”
“He’s awfully keen, you see, about all beasts and birds—he models them. Shall I show you his workshop?—it’s an old greenhouse. Here, you can see in.”
There through the glass Anna indeed could just see the boy’s quaint creations huddling in the dark on a bare floor, a grotesque company of small monsters. She murmured:
“Yes, I see them, but I won’t really look unless he brings me himself.”
“Oh, he’s sure to. They interest him more than anything in the world.”
For all her cautious resolutions Anna could not for the life of her help saying:
“What, more than you?”
The girl gave her a wistful stare before she answered:
“Oh! I don’t count much.”
Anna laughed, and took her arm. How soft and young it felt! A pang went through her heart, half jealous, half remorseful.
“Do you know,” she said, “that you are very sweet?”
The girl did not answer.
“Are you his cousin?”
“No. Gordy is only Mark’s uncle by marriage; my mother is Gordy’s sister—so I’m nothing.”
“I see—just what you English call ‘a connection.’”
They were silent, seeming to examine the night; then the girl said:
“I wanted to see you awfully. You’re not like what I thought.”
“Oh! And what did you think?”
“I thought you would have dark eyes, and Venetian red hair, and not be quite so tall. Of course, I haven’t any imagination.”
They were at the door again when the girl said that, and the hall light was falling on her; her slip of a white figure showed clear. Young—how young she looked! Everything she said—so young!
And Anna murmured: “And you are—more than I thought, too.”
Just then the men came out from the dining-room; her husband with the look on his face that denoted he had been well listened to; Squire Trusham laughing as a man does who has no sense of humour; Gordy having a curly, slightly asphyxiated air; and the boy his pale, brooding look, as though he had lost touch with his surroundings. He wavered towards her, seemed to lose himself, went and sat down by the old governess. Was it because he did not dare to come up to her, or only because he saw the old lady sitting alone? It might well be that.