She watched Eric out of sight anxiously.
“I hope it’ll all come out right,” she thought. “I hope he ain’t making an awful mistake—but—I’m afraid. Kilmeny must be very pretty to have bewitched him so. Well, I suppose there is no use in my worrying over it. But I do wish he had never gone back to that old orchard and seen her.”
Kilmeny was in the orchard when Eric reached it, and he lingered for a moment in the shadow of the spruce wood to dream over her beauty.
The orchard had lately overflowed in waves of old-fashioned caraway, and she was standing in the midst of its sea of bloom, with the lace-like blossoms swaying around her in the wind. She wore the simple dress of pale blue print in which he had first seen her; silk attire could not better have become her loveliness. She had woven herself a chaplet of half open white rosebuds and placed it on her dark hair, where the delicate blossoms seemed less wonderful than her face.
When Eric stepped through the gap she ran to meet him with outstretched hands, smiling. He took her hands and looked into her eyes with an expression before which hers for the first time faltered. She looked down, and a warm blush strained the ivory curves of her cheek and throat. His heart bounded, for in that blush he recognized the banner of love’s vanguard.
“Are you glad to see me, Kilmeny?” he asked, in a low significant tone.
She nodded, and wrote in a somewhat embarrassed fashion,
“Yes. Why do you ask? You know I am always glad to see you. I was afraid you would not come. You did not come last night and I was so sorry. Nothing in the orchard seemed nice any longer. I couldn’t even play. I tried to, and my violin only cried. I waited until it was dark and then I went home.”
“I am sorry you were disappointed, Kilmeny. I couldn’t come last night. Some day I shall tell you why. I stayed home to learn a new lesson. I am sorry you missed me—no, I am glad. Can you understand how a person may be glad and sorry for the same thing?”
She nodded again, with a return of her usual sweet composure.
“Yes, I could not have understood once, but I can now. Did you learn your new lesson?”
“Yes, very thoroughly. It was a delightful lesson when I once understood it. I must try to teach it to you some day. Come over to the old bench, Kilmeny. There is something I want to say to you. But first, will you give me a rose?”
She ran to the bush, and, after careful deliberation, selected a perfect half-open bud and brought it to him—a white bud with a faint, sunrise flush about its golden heart.
“Thank you. It is as beautiful as—as a woman I know,” Eric said.
A wistful look came into her face at his words, and she walked with a drooping head across the orchard to the bench.