He thought that possibly the consciousness of her defect accounted for this. Yet she did not seem sensitive about her dumbness and made frequent casual references to it in her written remarks. Or perhaps it was the shadow on her birth. Yet she was so innocent that it seemed unlikely she could realize or understand the existence of such a shadow. Eric finally decided that it was merely the rather morbid shrinking of a sensitive child who had been brought up in an unwholesome and unnatural way. At last the lengthening shadows warned him that it was time to go.
“You won’t forget to come to-morrow evening and play for me,” he said, rising reluctantly. She answered by a quick little shake of her sleek, dark head, and a smile that was eloquent. He watched her as she walked across the orchard,
“With the moon’s beauty and the moon’s soft pace,”
and along the wild cherry lane. At the corner of the firs she paused and waved her hand to him before turning it.
When Eric reached home old Robert Williamson was having a lunch of bread and milk in the kitchen. He looked up, with a friendly grin, as Eric strode in, whistling.
“Been having a walk, Master?” he queried.
“Yes,” said Eric.
Unconsciously and involuntarily he infused so much triumph into the simple monosyllable that even old Robert felt it. Mrs. Williamson, who was cutting bread at the end of the table, laid down her knife and loaf, and looked at the young man with a softly troubled expression in her eyes. She wondered if he had been back to the Connors orchard—and if he could have seen Kilmeny Gordon again.
“You didn’t discover a gold mine, I s’pose?” said old Robert dryly. “You look as if you might have.”
When Eric went to the old Connors orchard the next evening he found Kilmeny waiting for him on the bench under the white lilac tree, with the violin in her lap. As soon as she saw him she caught it up and began to play an airy delicate little melody that sounded like the laughter of daisies.
When it was finished she dropped her bow, and looked up at him with flushed cheeks and questioning eyes.
“What did that say to you?” she wrote.
“It said something like this,” answered Eric, falling into her humour smilingly. “Welcome, my friend. It is a very beautiful evening. The sky is so blue and the apple blossoms so sweet. The wind and I have been here alone together and the wind is a good companion, but still I am glad to see you. It is an evening on which it is good to be alive and to wander in an orchard that is fine and white. Welcome, my friend.”
She clapped her hands, looking like a pleased child.