The next morning Eric took David up to the Gordon homestead. As they approached the old orchard a strain of music came floating through the resinous morning arcades of the spruce wood—a wild, sorrowful, appealing cry, full of indescribable pathos, yet marvelously sweet.
“What is that?” exclaimed David, starting.
“That is Kilmeny playing on her violin,” answered Eric. “She has great talent in that respect and improvises wonderful melodies.”
When they reached the orchard Kilmeny rose from the old bench to meet them, her lovely luminous eyes distended, her face flushed with the excitement of mingled hope and fear.
“Oh, ye gods!” muttered David helplessly.
He could not hide his amazement and Eric smiled to see it. The latter had not failed to perceive that his friend had until now considered him as little better than a lunatic.
“Kilmeny, this is my friend, Dr. Baker,” he said.
Kilmeny held out her hand with a smile. Her beauty, as she stood there in the fresh morning sunshine beside a clump of her sister lilies, was something to take away a man’s breath. David, who was by no means lacking in confidence and generally had a ready tongue where women were concerned, found himself as mute and awkward as a school boy, as he bowed over her hand.
But Kilmeny was charmingly at ease. There was not a trace of embarrassment in her manner, though there was a pretty shyness. Eric smiled as he recalled his first meeting with her. He suddenly realized how far Kilmeny had come since then and how much she had developed.
With a little gesture of invitation Kilmeny led the way through the orchard to the wild cherry lane, and the two men followed.
“Eric, she is simply unutterable!” said David in an undertone. “Last night, to tell you the truth, I had a rather poor opinion of your sanity. But now I am consumed with a fierce envy. She is the loveliest creature I ever saw.”
Eric introduced David to the Gordons and then hurried away to his school. On his way down the Gordon lane he met Neil and was half startled by the glare of hatred in the Italian boy’s eyes. Pity succeeded the momentary alarm. Neil’s face had grown thin and haggard; his eyes were sunken and feverishly bright; he looked years older than on the day when Eric had first seen him in the brook hollow.
Prompted by sudden compassionate impulse Eric stopped and held out his hand.
“Neil, can’t we be friends?” he said. “I am sorry if I have been the cause of inflicting pain on you.”
“Friends! Never!” said Neil passionately. “You have taken Kilmeny from me. I shall hate you always. And I’ll be even with you yet.”
He strode fiercely up the lane, and Eric, with a shrug of his shoulders, went on his way, dismissing the meeting from his mind.
The day seemed interminably long to him. David had not returned when he went home to dinner; but when he went to his room in the evening he found his friend there, staring out of the window.