“I should say not. How could you be?”
“Then,” Isabel smiled, “I’ll come sometimes, if I may. It’s the only pleasure I have.”
“That’s too bad. Sometime we’ll go into town to the theatre, just you and I. Would you like to go?”
“I’d love to,” she answered, eagerly.
The clock ticked industriously, the fire crackled merrily upon the hearth, and the wind howled outside. In the quiet room, Allison sat and studied Isabel, with the firelight shining upon her face and her white gown. She seemed much younger than her years.
“You’re only a child,” he said, aloud; “a little, helpless child.”
“How long do you think it will be before I’m grown up?”
“I don’t want you to grow up. I can remember now just how you looked the day I told you about the scent bottles. You had on a pink dress, with a sash to match, pink stockings, little white shoes with black buttons, and the most fetching white sunbonnet. Your hair was falling in curls all round your face and it was such a warm day that the curls clung to your neck and annoyed you. You toddled over to me and said: ’Allison, please fix my’s turls.’ Don’t you remember?”
She smiled and said she had forgotten. “But,” she added, truthfully, “I’ve often wondered how I looked when I was dressed up.”
“Then,” he continued, “I told you how the scent bottles grew on the roots of the rose bushes, and, after I went home, you went and pulled up as many as you could. Aunt Francesca was very angry with me.”
“Yes, I remember that. I felt as though you were being punished for my sins. It was years afterward that I saw I’d been sufficiently punished myself. Look!”
She leaned toward him and showed him a narrow white line on the soft flesh between her forefinger and her thumb, extending back over her hand.
“A thorn,” she said. “I shall carry the scar to my dying day.”
With a little catch in his throat, Allison caught the little hand and pressed it to his lips. “Forgive me!” he said.
THE LIGHT ON THE ALTAR
Colonel Kent had gone away on a short business trip and Allison was spending his evenings, which otherwise would have been lonely, at Madame Bernard’s. After talking for a time with Aunt Francesca and Isabel, it seemed natural for him to take up his violin and suggest, if only by a half-humorous glance, that Rose should go to the piano.
Sometimes they played for their own pleasure and sometimes worked for their own benefit. Neither Madame nor Isabel minded hearing the same thing a dozen times or more in the course of an evening, for, as Madame said, with a twinkle in her blue eyes, it made “a pleasant noise,” and Isabel did not trouble herself to listen.
Both Rose and Allison were among the fortunate ones who find joy in work. Rose was so keenly interested in her music that she took no count of the hours spent at the piano, and Allison fully appreciated her. It had been a most pleasant surprise for him to find a good accompanist so near home.