“My sweet! it will be so hard for you; you are so little, so little, and so weak.” Clasping his hand closer to her face, she murmured: “I don’t care.”
There was a long, soft silence, that seemed to last for ever. Suddenly she threw her arms round his neck and kissed him.
“Whatever comes!” she whispered, and gathering her dress, escaped from him into the darkness.
Christian woke next morning with a smile. In her attitudes, her voice, her eyes, there was a happy and sweet seriousness, as if she were hugging some holy thought. After breakfast she took a book and sat in the open window, whence she could see the poplar-trees guarding the entrance. There was a breeze; the roses close by kept nodding to her; the cathedral bells were in full chime; bees hummed above the lavender; and in the sky soft clouds were floating like huge, white birds.
The sounds of Miss Naylor’s staccato dictation travelled across the room, and Greta’s sighs as she took it down, one eye on her paper, one eye on Scruff, who lay with a black ear flapped across his paw, and his tan eyebrows quivering. He was in disgrace, for Dominique, coming on him unawares, had seen him “say his prayers” before a pudding, and take the pudding for reward.
Christian put her book down gently, and slipped through the window. Harz was coming in from the road. “I am all yours!” she whispered. His fingers closed on hers, and he went into the house.
She slipped back, took up her book, and waited. It seemed long before he came out, but when he did he waved her back, and hurried on; she had a glimpse of his face, white to the lips. Feeling faint and sick, she flew to her stepfather’s room.
Herr Paul was standing in a corner with the utterly disturbed appearance of an easy-going man, visited by the unexpected. His fine shirt-front was crumpled as if his breast had heaved too suddenly under strong emotion; his smoked eyeglasses dangled down his back; his fingers were embedded in his beard. He was fixing his eye on a spot in the floor as though he expected it to explode and blow them to fragments. In another corner Mrs. Decie, with half-closed eyes, was running her finger-tips across her brow.
“What have you said to him?” cried Christian.
Herr Paul regarded her with glassy eyes.
“Mein Gott!” he said. “Your aunt and I!”
“What have you said to him?” repeated Christian.
“The impudence! An anarchist! A beggar!”
“Paul!” murmured Mrs. Decie.
“The outlaw! The fellow!” Herr Paul began to stride about the room.
Quivering from head to foot, Christian cried: “How dared you?” and ran from the room, pushing aside Miss Naylor and Greta, who stood blanched and frightened in the doorway.
Herr Paul stopped in his tramp, and, still with his eyes fixed on the floor, growled: