“I never read the newspaper while mother was alive,” she wrote, “nor any poetry either. She taught me to read and write and I read the Bible all through many times and some of the histories. After mother died Aunt Janet gave me all her books. She had a great many. Most of them had been given to her as prizes when she was a girl at school, and some of them had been given to her by my father. Do you know the story of my father and mother?”
“Yes, Mrs. Williamson told me all about it. She was a friend of your mother.”
“I am glad you have heard it. It is so sad that I would not like to tell it, but you will understand everything better because you know. I never heard it until just before mother died. Then she told me all. I think she had thought father was to blame for the trouble; but before she died she told me she believed that she had been unjust to him and that he had not known. She said that when people were dying they saw things more clearly and she saw she had made a mistake about father. She said she had many more things she wanted to tell me, but she did not have time to tell them because she died that night. It was a long while before I had the heart to read her books. But when I did I thought them so beautiful. They were poetry and it was like music put into words.”
“I will bring you some books to read, if you would like them,” said Eric.
Her great blue eyes gleamed with interest and delight.
“Oh, thank you, I would like it very much. I have read mine over so often that I know them nearly all by heart. One cannot get tired of really beautiful things, but sometimes I feel that I would like some new books.”
“Are you never lonely, Kilmeny?”
“Oh, no, how could I be? There is always plenty for me to do, helping Aunt Janet about the house. I can do a great many things”—she glanced up at him with a pretty pride as her flying pencil traced the words. “I can cook and sew. Aunt Janet says I am a very good housekeeper, and she does not praise people very often or very much. And then, when I am not helping her, I have my dear, dear violin. That is all the company I want. But I like to read and hear of the big world so far away and the people who live there and the things that are done. It must be a very wonderful place.”
“Wouldn’t you like to go out into it and see its wonders and meet those people yourself?” he asked, smiling at her.
At once he saw that, in some way he could not understand, he had hurt her. She snatched her pencil and wrote, with such swiftness of motion and energy of expression that it almost seemed as if she had passionately exclaimed the words aloud,
“No, no, no. I do not want to go anywhere away from home. I do not want ever to see strangers or have them see me. I could not bear it.”