“Well, that may be his way of courting,” retorted Ellen. “Men have all kinds of ways, I understand. But don’t forget your promise, Rosemary.”
“There is no need of my either forgetting or remembering it,” said Rosemary, a little wearily. “You forget that I’m an old maid, Ellen. It is only your sisterly delusion that I am still young and blooming and dangerous. Mr. Meredith merely wants to be a friend—if he wants that much itself. He’ll forget us both long before he gets back to the manse.”
“I’ve no objection to your being friends with him,” conceded Ellen, “but it musn’t go beyond friendship, remember. I’m always suspicious of widowers. They are not given to romantic ideas about friendship. They’re apt to mean business. As for this Presbyterian man, what do they call him shy for? He’s not a bit shy, though he may be absent-minded—so absent-minded that he forgot to say goodnight to me when you started to go to the door with him. He’s got brains, too. There’s so few men round here that can talk sense to a body. I’ve enjoyed the evening. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him. But no philandering, Rosemary, mind you—no philandering.”
Rosemary was quite used to being warned by Ellen from philandering if she so much as talked five minutes to any marriageable man under eighty or over eighteen. She had always laughed at the warning with unfeigned amusement. This time it did not amuse her—it irritated her a little. Who wanted to philander?
“Don’t be such a goose, Ellen,” she said with unaccustomed shortness as she took her lamp. She went upstairs without saying goodnight.
Ellen shook her head dubiously and looked at the black cat.
“What is she so cross about, St. George?” she asked. “When you howl you’re hit, I’ve always heard, George. But she promised, Saint—she promised, and we Wests always keep our word. So it won’t matter if he does want to philander, George. She promised. I won’t worry.”
Upstairs, in her room, Rosemary sat for a long while looking out of the window across the moonlit garden to the distant, shining harbour. She felt vaguely upset and unsettled. She was suddenly tired of outworn dreams. And in the garden the petals of the last red rose were scattered by a sudden little wind. Summer was over—it was autumn.
John Meredith walked slowly home. At first he thought a little about Rosemary, but by the time he reached Rainbow Valley he had forgotten all about her and was meditating on a point regarding German theology which Ellen had raised. He passed through Rainbow Valley and knew it not. The charm of Rainbow Valley had no potency against German theology. When he reached the manse he went to his study and took down a bulky volume in order to see which had been right, he or Ellen. He remained immersed