So they stood and watched the curls of hair trailing down the back of the successful rival, and the waving of her feather, as she swayed her head. After a few timid notes and uncertain touches her playing became markedly correct, and towards the end full and free. But, whether from prejudice or unbiassed judgment, the venerable body of musicians could not help thinking that the simpler notes they had been wont to bring forth were more in keeping with the simplicity of their old church than the crowded chords and interludes it was her pleasure to produce.
The day was done, and Fancy was again in the school-house. About five o’clock it began to rain, and in rather a dull frame of mind she wandered into the schoolroom, for want of something better to do. She was thinking—of her lover Dick Dewy? Not precisely. Of how weary she was of living alone: how unbearable it would be to return to Yalbury under the rule of her strange-tempered step-mother; that it was far better to be married to anybody than do that; that eight or nine long months had yet to be lived through ere the wedding could take place.
At the side of the room were high windows of Ham-hill stone, upon either sill of which she could sit by first mounting a desk and using it as a footstool. As the evening advanced here she perched herself, as was her custom on such wet and gloomy occasions, put on a light shawl and bonnet, opened the window, and looked out at the rain.
The window overlooked a field called the Grove, and it was the position from which she used to survey the crown of Dick’s passing hat in the early days of their acquaintance and meetings. Not a living soul was now visible anywhere; the rain kept all people indoors who were not forced abroad by necessity, and necessity was less importunate on Sundays than during the week.
Sitting here and thinking again—of her lover, or of the sensation she had created at church that day?—well, it is unknown—thinking and thinking she saw a dark masculine figure arising into distinctness at the further end of the Grove—a man without an umbrella. Nearer and nearer he came, and she perceived that he was in deep mourning, and then that it was Dick. Yes, in the fondness and foolishness of his young heart, after walking four miles, in a drizzling rain without overcoat or umbrella, and in face of a remark from his love that he was not to come because he would be tired, he had made it his business to wander this mile out of his way again, from sheer wish of spending ten minutes in her presence.
“O Dick, how wet you are!” she said, as he drew up under the window. “Why, your coat shines as if it had been varnished, and your hat—my goodness, there’s a streaming hat!”
“O, I don’t mind, darling!” said Dick cheerfully. “Wet never hurts me, though I am rather sorry for my best clothes. However, it couldn’t be helped; we lent all the umbrellas to the women. I don’t know when I shall get mine back!”