Picotee broke in—’You knew that both Gwendoline and Cornelia married two years ago, and went to Queensland? They married two brothers, who were farmers, and left England the following week. Georgie and Myrtle are at school.’
‘We are thinking of making Joseph a parson,’ said Mrs. Chickerel.
‘Indeed! a parson.’
’Yes; ’tis a genteel living for the boy. And he’s talents that way. Since he has been under masters he knows all the strange sounds the old Romans and Greeks used to make by way of talking, and the love stories of the ancient women as if they were his own. I assure you, Mr. Julian, if you could hear how beautiful the boy tells about little Cupid with his bow and arrows, and the rows between that pagan apostle Jupiter and his wife because of another woman, and the handsome young gods who kissed Venus, you’d say he deserved to be made a bishop at once!’
The evening advanced, and they walked in the garden. Here, by some means, Picotee and Christopher found themselves alone.
‘Your letters to my sister have been charming,’ said Christopher. ’And so regular, too. It was as good as a birthday every time one arrived.’
Picotee blushed and said nothing.
Christopher had full assurance that her heart was where it always had been. A suspicion of the fact had been the reason of his visit here to-day.
’Other letters were once written from England to Italy, and they acquired great celebrity. Do you know whose?’
‘Walpole’s?’ said Picotee timidly.
’Yes; but they never charmed me half as much as yours. You may rest assured that one person in the world thinks Walpole your second.’
’You should not have read them; they were not written to you. But I suppose you wished to hear of Ethelberta?’
‘At first I did,’ said Christopher. ’But, oddly enough, I got more interested in the writer than in her news. I don’t know if ever before there has been an instance of loving by means of letters. If not, it is because there have never been such sweet ones written. At last I looked for them more anxiously than Faith.’
‘You see, you knew me before.’ Picotee would have withdrawn this remark if she could, fearing that it seemed like a suggestion of her love long ago.
’Then, on my return, I thought I would just call and see you, and go away and think what would be best for me to do with a view to the future. But since I have been here I have felt that I could not go away to think without first asking you what you think on one point—whether you could ever marry me?’
‘I thought you would ask that when I first saw you.’
‘Did you. Why?’
‘You looked at me as if you would.’
‘Well,’ continued Christopher, ’the worst of it is I am as poor as Job. Faith and I have three hundred a year between us, but only half is mine. So that before I get your promise I must let your father know how poor I am. Besides what I mention, I have only my earnings by music. But I am to be installed as chief organist at Melchester soon, instead of deputy, as I used to be; which is something.’