Farther off, a little up the hill-side, Willie Ferrars was holding the hand of the chestnut-curled, black-eyed fairy, ‘little Awk,’ who was impressing him by her fluency in two languages at once, according as she chattered to him in English, or in French to a picturesque peasant, her great ally, who was mowing his flowery crop of hay, glancing like an illumination, with an under-current of brilliant blossoms among the grass.
Wandering with slow conversational pace up and down the beach of the lake, were Mr. Kendal and Sir William Ferrars, conversing as usual; the soldier, with quick alert comprehension, wide observation, and clearness of mind, which jumped to the very points to which the scholar’s deeply-read and long-digested arguments were bringing him more slowly.
On a projecting point sat Albinia, her fair hair shaded under her dark hat, beneath which her English complexion glowed fresh and youthful, as with flat tin box by her side, and block sketch-book on her knee, she mixed and she painted, and tried to catch those purples and those blues with unabated ardour. Suddenly a great trailing frond of mountain fern came over the brim of her hat from behind. ‘Oh, Maurice, don’t!’ Then, looking up and laughing, ’Oh, it is you, is it? I knew Maurice would do, whichever it might be; but see, the other is quite out of mischief.’
‘Unless he should upset Sophy into the lake.’
’He can’t do that, the rope is too short. But is not he very much improved? He has quite lost his imperious manner towards her.’
‘Nothing like school for making a boy behave himself to his sisters.’
’Exactly, as I learnt by experience long ago. I am glad William did not see him till he had learnt to be agreeable. How he does admire him!’
’You’ll never make anything of that sketch; the mountain is humpbacked, and the face of that precipice is exactly like Colonel Bury;’ and he caught up a pencil to help out the resemblance with nostril and eyebrow.
‘For shame, to be so mischievieous; such a great boy as you.’
’Well, we all came out here to be great boys, didn’t we? I am sure you look a dozen years younger than when I last saw you, Mrs. Grandmother. By-the-by, it was a bold stroke to encumber yourself with that brat; what’s become of him?’
’Susan has taken him in asleep. You see, Maurice, I really could not help it, the poor little thing was so sickly, and had never thriven; but when they were a little while in bracing air, Lucy was longing to have him in England, and his father, who never believes in anything but what he likes, would not see it, and what with those Italian servants, and Algernon hunting Lucy about as he does, it would have been the death of him. Susan, good creature, had taken to him of her own accord the moment we came to Naples, and could not have borne to leave him, and you know the Awk is almost off her hands now, and Sophy, who first proposed it, or I am sure I should never have ventured, is delighted to do anything for either of them, and always has her little sister in her room. As to papa, he was very good, and the child is very little in his way, and has been quite well ever since we have been in this delicious air.’