The introduction took place at the outer gates whither the judge had gone to receive them.
Reuther threw aside her veil, and looked up into the face bent courteously towards her. It had no look of Oliver. Somehow she felt glad. She could hardly have restrained herself if he had met her gaze with Oliver’s eyes. They were fine eyes notwithstanding, piercing by nature but just now misty with a feeling that took away all her fear. He was going to like her; she saw it in every trembling line of his countenance, and at the thought a smile rose to her lips which, if fleeting, lent such an ethereal aspect to her beauty that he forgave Oliver then and there for a love which never could be crowned, but which henceforth could no longer be regarded by him as despicable.
With a courteous gesture he invited them in, but stopping to lock one gate before leading them through the other, Mrs. Scoville had time to observe that since her last visit with its accompanying inroad of the populace, the two openings which at this point gave access to the walk between the fences had been closed up with boards so rude and dingy that they must have come from some old lumber pile in attic or cellar.
The judge detected her looking at them.
“I have cut off my nightly promenade,” said he. “With youth in the house, more cheerful habits must prevail. To-morrow I shall have my lawn cut, and if I must walk after sundown I will walk there.”
The two women exchanged glances. Perhaps their gloomy anticipations were not going to be realised.
But once within the house, the judge showed embarrassment. He was conscious of its unfitness for their fastidious taste and yet he had not known how to improve matters. In his best days he had concerned himself very little with household affairs, and for the last few years he had not given a thought to anything outside his own rooms. Bela had done all—and Bela was pre-eminently a cook, not a general house-servant. How would these women regard the disorder and the dust?
“I have few comforts to offer,” said he, opening a door at his right and then hastily closing it again. “This part of the house is, as you see, completely dismantled and not—very clean. But you shall have carte blanche to arrange to your liking one of these rooms for your sitting-room and parlour. There is furniture in the attic and you may buy freely whatever else is necessary. I don’t want to discourage little Reuther. As for your bedrooms—” He stopped, hemmed a little and flushed a vivid red as he pointed up the dingy flight of uncarpeted stairs towards which he had led them. “They are above; but it is with shame I admit that I have not gone above this floor for many years. Consequently, I don’t know how it looks up there or whether you can even find towels and things. Perhaps you will go up first, Mrs. Scoville. I will stay here while you take a look. I really, couldn’t have a strange cleaning-woman here, or any one who would make remarks. Have I counted too much on your good-nature?”