Suddenly, across the purple darkness between the pale stars, flamed a meteor—an uncharted voyager through infinite seas of space. It left a trail of fire across the heavens, fading at last into luminous mist, the colour of the stars. When the light had quite died out, Madame Bernard spoke.
“A passing soul,” she sighed.
“A kiss,” breathed Rose, dreamily.
“Star-dust!” laughed Isabel.
“Great news, my dears, great news!” cried Madame Bernard, gaily waving an open letter as she came into the room where Rose was sewing and Isabel experimenting with a new coiffure. “I’ll give you three guesses!”
“Somebody coming for a visit?” asked Isabel.
“Somebody coming, but not for a visit?” queried Rose.
“You’re getting warmer.”
“How can anybody come, if not for a visit?” inquired Isabel, mildly perplexed. “That is, unless it’s a messenger?”
“The old Kent house is to be opened,” said Madame, “and we’re to open it. At last we shall have neighbours!”
“How exciting,” Rose answered. She did not wholly share the old lady’s pleasure, and wondered with a guilty consciousness of the long hours she spent at her music, whether Aunt Francesca had been lonely.
“Listen, girls!” Madame’s cheeks were pink with excitement as she sat down with the letter, which had been written in Paris.
“My dear Madame Francesca:
“’At last we are coming home—Allison and I. The boy has a fancy to see Spring come again on his native heath, so we shall sail earlier than we had otherwise planned.
“’I wonder, my dear friend, if I dare ask you to open the house for us? I am so tired of hotels that I want to go straight back. You have the keys and if you will engage the proper number of servants and see that the place is made habitable, I shall be more than ever your debtor. I will cable you when we start.
“’Trusting that all is well with you and yours and with many thanks, believe me, my dear Madame,
“’Most faithfully yours,
“How like a man,” smiled Rose. “That house has been closed for over ten years, and he thinks there is nothing to be done but to unlock the front door and engage two or three servants who may or may not be trustworthy.”
“What an imposition!” Isabel said. “Aunt Francesca, didn’t I meet Allison Kent when I was here before?”
“Don’t you remember? Mother brought me here once when I was a little tot. We stayed about a week and the roses were all in bloom. I can see the garden now. Allison used to come over sometimes and tell me fairy stories. He told me that the long, slender gold-trimmed bottles filled with attar of roses came from the roots of the rose bushes—don’t you remember? And I pulled up rose bushes all over the garden to find out.”