silk shawl of some wide-meshed net-like material; and now she is sure of being unseen, she takes off her bonnet and ties it over her arm. One would certainly suppose her to be farther on in life than her seventeenth year - perhaps because of the slow resigned sadness of the glance, from which all search and unrest seem to have departed, perhaps because her broad-chested figure has the mould of early womanhood. Youth and health have withstood well the involuntary and voluntary hardships of her lot, and the nights in which she has lain on the hard floor for a penance have left no obvious trace: the eyes are liquid, the brown cheek is firm and rounded, the full lips are red. With her dark colouring and jet crown surmounting her tall figure, she seems to have a sort of kinship with the grand Scotch firs, at which she is looking up as if she loved them well. Yet one has a sense of uneasiness in looking at her - a sense of opposing elements, of which a fierce collision is imminent: surely there is a hushed expression such as one often sees in older faces under borderless caps, out of keeping with the resistant youth, which one expects to flash out in a sudden, passionate glance that will dissipate all the quietude, like a damped fire leaping out again when all seemed safe.

But Maggie herself was not uneasy at this moment. She was calmly enjoying the free air, while she looked up at the old fir-trees and thought that those broken ends of branches were the records of past storms which had only made the red stems soar higher. But while her eyes were still turned upward, she became conscious of a moving shadow cast by the evening sun on the grassy path before her, and looked down with a startled gesture to see Philip Wakem, who first raised his hat, and then blushing deeply, came forward to her and put out his hand. Maggie too coloured with surprise which soon gave way to pleasure. She put out her hand and looked down at the lower deformed figure before her with frank eyes, filled for the moment with nothing but the memory of her child's feelings - a memory that was always strong in her. She was the first to speak.

`You startled me,' she said, smiling faintly. `I never meet any one here. How came you to be walking here? Did you come to meet me?'

It was impossible not to perceive that Maggie felt herself a child again.

`Yes, I did,' said Philip, still embarrassed. `I wished to see you very much. I watched a long while yesterday on the bank near your house to see if you would come out; but you never came. Then I watched again today, and when I saw the way you took, I kept you in sight and came down the bank, behind there. I hope you will not be displeased with me.'

`No,' said Maggie with simple seriousness, walking on, as if she meant Philip to accompany her, `I'm very glad you came, for I wished very much to have an opportunity of speaking to you. I've never forgotten how good you were long ago to Tom, and me too; but I was not sure that you would remember us so well. Tom and I have had a great deal of trouble since then, and I think that makes one think more of what happened before the trouble came.'

`I can't believe that you have thought of me so much as I have thought of you,' said Philip, timidly. `Do you know, when I was away, I made a picture of you as you looked that morning in the study when you said you would not forget me.'

Philip drew a large miniature-case from his pocket, and opened it. Maggie saw her old self leaning on a table, with her black locks hanging down behind her ears, looking into space with strange, dreamy eyes. It was a water-colour sketch, of real merit as a portrait.

`O dear,' said Maggie, smiling, and flushed with pleasure. `What a queer little girl I was. I remember myself with my hair in that way, in that pink frock. I really was like a gypsy. I daresay I am now,' she added, after a little pause: `am I like what you expected me to be?'

The words might have been those of a coquette, but the full bright glance Maggie turned on Philip was not that of a coquette. She really did hope he liked her face as it was now, but it was simply the rising

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.