Christian hugged her.
“Come—quick! There is nobody about. Are those the pictures?”
Each supporting an end, the girls carried the bundle downstairs, and set out with their corpse-like burden along the wall-path between the river and the vines.
Hidden by the shade of rose-bushes Greta lay stretched at length, cheek on arm, sleeping the sleep of the unrighteous. Through the flowers the sun flicked her parted lips with kisses, and spilled the withered petals on her. In a denser islet of shade, Scruff lay snapping at a fly. His head lolled drowsily in the middle of a snap, and snapped in the middle of a loll.
At three o’clock Miss Naylor too came out, carrying a basket and pair of scissors. Lifting her skirts to avoid the lakes of water left by the garden hose, she stopped in front of a rose-bush, and began to snip off the shrivelled flowers. The little lady’s silvered head and thin, brown face sustained the shower of sunlight unprotected, and had a gentle dignity in their freedom.
Presently, as the scissors flittered in and out of the leaves, she, began talking to herself.
“If girls were more like what they used to be, this would not have happened. Perhaps we don’t understand; it’s very easy to forget.” Burying her nose and lips in a rose, she sniffed. “Poor dear girl! It’s such a pity his father is—a—”
“A farmer,” said a sleepy voice behind the rosebush.
Miss Naylor leaped. “Greta! How you startled me! A farmer—that is —an—an agriculturalist!”
“A farmer with vineyards—he told us, and he is not ashamed. Why is it a pity, Miss Naylor?”
Miss Naylor’s lips looked very thin.
“For many reasons, of which you know nothing.”
“That is what you always say,” pursued the sleepy voice; “and that is why, when I am to be married, there shall also be a pity.”
“Greta!” Miss Naylor cried, “it is not proper for a girl of your age to talk like that.”
“Why?” said Greta. “Because it is the truth?”
Miss Naylor made no reply to this, but vexedly cut off a sound rose, which she hastily picked up and regarded with contrition. Greta spoke again:
“Chris said: ‘I have got the pictures, I shall tell her’; but I shall tell you instead, because it was I that told the story.”
Miss Naylor stared, wrinkling her nose, and holding the scissors wide apart....
“Last night,” said Greta slowly, “I and Chris went to his studio and took his pictures, and so, because the gate was shut, I came back to tell it; and when you asked me where Chris was, I told it; because she was in the studio all night, and I and Scruff sat up all night, and in the morning we brought the pictures, and hid them under our beds, and that is why—we—are—so—sleepy.”
Over the rose-bush Miss Naylor peered down at her; and though she was obliged to stand on tiptoe this did not altogether destroy her dignity.