“Why did you not tell?”
But I did not answer her that. I only thanked her, or tried to thank her, I dare say in such surly fashion that it was more like a rebuff; then I was off, but I felt her standing there close to the white-blooming hedge, staring after me with that inscrutable look of an immature girl who questions doubly all she sees, beginning with herself.
Although I was heir to a large estate, I had not much gold and silver nor many treasures in my possession. I never knew rightly why; but my mother, having control until I was come of age, and having, indeed, the whole property at her disposal, doubtless considered it best that the wealth should accumulate rather than be frittered away in trifles which could be of but passing moment to a boy. But I was well equipped enough as regarded comforts, and, as I said before, my education was well looked after. Through never having much regard for such small matters, it used to gall me not at all that my half-brother, who was younger and such a fair lad that he became them like a girl, should go clad in silks and velvets and laces, with a ready jingle of money in his purse and plenty of sweets and trinkets to command. But after I saw that little maid it went somewhat hard with me that I had no bravery of apparel to catch her sweet eyes and cause her to laugh and point with delight, as I have often seen her do, at the glitter of a loop of gold or a jewelled button or a flash of crimson sheen from a fold of velvet, for she always dearly loved such pretty things. And it went hard with me that I had not the wherewithal to sometimes purchase a comfit to thrust into her little hand, reaching of her nature for sweets like the hands of all young things. Often I saw my brother John win her notice in such wise, for he, though he cared in general but little for small folk, was ravished by her, as indeed was every one who saw her. And once my brother John gave her a ribbon stiff with threads of gold which pleased her mightily at the time, though, the day after, I saw it gleaming from the wet of the park grass, whither she had flung it, for the caprices of a baby are beyond those of the wind, being indeed human inclination without rudder nor compass. Then I did an ungallant and ungenerous thing, for which I have always held myself in light esteem: I gathered up that ribbon and carried it to my brother and told him where I had found it, but all to small purpose as regarded my jealousy, as he scarce gave it a thought, and the next day gave the little maid a silver button, which she treasured longer. As for me, I having no ribbons nor sweets nor silver buttons to give her, was fain to search the woods and fields and the seashore for those small treasures, without money and without price, with which nature is lavish toward the poor who love her and attend her carefully, such as the first flowers of the season, nuts and seed-vessels, and sometimes an empty bird’s