The drowsy pair sank back upon their cushions; only Pepper accompanied her to the attic room. He jumped upon the window seat, wriggling and yapping, and they looked forth together from the open casement upon the spectacle of Bruce and Mr Peter apparently engaged in mortal combat. The collie had realised that he was off the chain and about to take a walk, and was expressing himself not merely in frenzied yells, but in acrobatic feats that threatened to overwhelm his master. The latter, tall-hatted, frock-coated, lavender-trousered, with a cane in his hand and a flower in his button-hole, jumped and dodged wildly to escape the leaping mass, his face puckered with anxiety for the results of his experiment. Pepper’s delighted comments drew his eyes upwards, and he made shift to raise his hat, with a smile that was instantly and generously repaid. Rose nodded and waved her hand, and Peter went off, making gestures and casting backward glances at her, until he was a mere dot upon the distant road, with another dot circling around him.
“Dear fellow!” she mused, when he was out of sight.
Bruce went unchained, within limits, and had a run nearly every day. Workmen came to put a railing and gate to the back verandah of his establishment, and Mrs Breen kept a fidgety watch upon his movements; but evidently the only son’s will ruled, and he was more than faithful to his compact with Rose. She was able to see this from her commanding window, and to hear it from Bruce’s mouth; and day by day her heart warmed towards Bruce’s master. Many were the friendly smiles and salutes that passed between the attic window and the Breen back-yard, all unknown to Rose’s sisters.
They were walking with her one Saturday afternoon, when they met Mr Peter and the collie. Pepper ran forward to greet Bruce, and they sniffed at each other’s noses and wagged their respective tails in a friendly way. Deb was remarking to Rose that their pity for the Breens’ dog had been quite misplaced, when a bow from her sister and a lift of the hat by the young man caused her to stop short and raise her fine brows inquiringly.
“I—I spoke to him one day,” explained Rose, pink as her pinkest namesake. “About Bruce.”
“That’s Bruce—his dog.”
Frances came running up. “Rose,” said she indignantly, “did you bow to that man?”
“He is our neighbour next door,” mumbled Rose.
“I know that. So is the wood-carter. But is that a reason why you should bow to him? Do you know who those people are?”
“They are perfectly respectable people, I believe,” said Rose, growing restive.
“Drapers,” said Frances witheringly.
“I shouldn’t care if they were chimney-sweeps. They have a beautiful dog, and young Mr Breen is very kind to him, and I—I thanked him for it.” “Oh, Deb!”