A moment later Greta stole in on tiptoe. She bent over till her hair touched Mr. Treffry’s face.
“Uncle Nic!” she whispered. He opened his eyes.
“I have come to bring you my love, Uncle Nic, and to say good-bye. Papa says that I and Scruff and Miss Naylor are going to Vienna with him; we have had to pack in half an hour; in five minutes we are going to Vienna, and it is my first visit there, Uncle Nic.”
“To Vienna!” Mr. Treffry repeated slowly. “Don’t have a guide, Greta; they’re humbugs.”
“No, Uncle Nic,” said Greta solemnly.
“Draw the curtains, old girl, let’s have a look at you. Why, you’re as smart as ninepence!”
“Yes,” said Greta with a sigh, touching the buttons of her cape, “because I am going to Vienna; but I am sorry to leave you, Uncle Nic.”
“Are you, Greta?”
“But you will have Chris, and you are fonder of Chris than of me, Uncle Nic.”
“I’ve known her longer.”
“Perhaps when you’ve known me as long as Chris, you shall be as fond of me.”
“When I’ve known you as long—may be.”
“While I am gone, Uncle Nic, you are to get well, you are not very well, you know.”
“What put that into your head?”
“If you were well you would be smoking a cigar—it is just three o’clock. This kiss is for myself, this is for Scruff, and this is for Miss Naylor.”
She stood upright again; a tremulous, joyful gravity was in her eyes and on her lips.
“Good-bye, my dear; take care of yourselves; and don’t you have a guide, they’re humbugs.”
“No, Uncle Nic. There is the carriage! To Vienna, Uncle Nic!” The dead gold of her hair gleamed in the doorway. Mr. Treffry raised himself upon his elbow.
“Give us one more, for luck!”
Greta ran back.
“I love you very much!” she said, and kissing him, backed slowly, then, turning, flew out like a bird.
Mr. Treffry fixed his eyes on the shut door.
After many days of hot, still weather, the wind had come, and whirled the dust along the parched roads. The leaves were all astir, like tiny wings. Round Villa Rubein the pigeons cooed uneasily, all the other birds were silent. Late in the afternoon Christian came out on the veranda, reading a letter:
“Dear Chris,—We are here now six days, and it is a very large place with many churches. In the first place then we have been to a great many, but the nicest of them is not St. Stephan’s Kirche, it is another, but I do not remember the name. Papa is out nearly all the night; he says he is resting here, so he is not able to come to the churches with us, but I do not think he rests very much. The day before yesterday we, that is, Papa, I, and Miss Naylor, went to an exhibition of pictures. It was quite beautiful