great painter! You have seen his works?'
'I have seen some of them,' returned Dick; 'they - they are very nice.'
She laughed aloud. 'Nice?' she repeated. 'I see you don't care much for art.'
'Not much,' he admitted; 'but I know that many people are glad to buy Mr. Van Tromp's pictures.'
'Call him the Admiral!' she cried. 'It sounds kindly and familiar; and I like to think that he is appreciated and looked up to by young painters. He has not always been appreciated; he had a cruel life for many years; and when I think' - there were tears in her eyes - 'when I think of that, I feel incline to be a fool,' she broke off. 'And now I shall go home. You have filled me full of happiness; for think, Mr. Naseby, I have not seen my father since I was six years old; and yet he is in my thoughts all day! You must come and call on me; my aunt will be delighted, I am sure; and then you will tell me all - all about my father, will you not?'
Dick helped her to get her sketching traps together; and when all was ready, she gave Dick her hand and a frank return of pressure.
'You are my father's friend,' she said; 'we shall be great friends too. You must come and see me soon.'
Then she was gone down the hillside at a run; and Dick stood by himself in a state of some bewilderment and even distress. There were elements of laughter in the business; but the black dress, and the face that belonged to it, and the hand that he had held in his, inclined him to a serious view. What was he, under the circumstances, called upon to do? Perhaps to avoid the girl? Well, he would think about that. Perhaps to break the truth to her? Why, ten to one, such was her infatuation, he would fail. Perhaps to keep up the illusion, to colour the raw facts; to help her to false ideas, while yet not plainly stating falsehoods? Well, he would see about that; he would also see about avoiding the girl. He saw about this last so well, that the next afternoon beheld him on his way to visit her.
In the meantime the girl had gone straight home, light as a bird, tremulous with joy, to the little cottage where she lived alone with a maiden aunt; and to that lady, a grim, sixty years old Scotchwoman, with a nodding head, communicated news of her encounter and invitation.
'A friend of his?' cried the aunt. 'What like is he? What did ye say was his name?'
She was dead silent, and stared at the old woman darkling. Then very slowly, 'I said he was my father's friend; I have invited him to my house, and come he shall,' she said; and with that she walked off to her room, where she sat staring at the wall all the evening. Miss M'Glashan, for that was the aunt's name, read a large bible in the kitchen with some of the joys of martyrdom.
It was perhaps half-past three when Dick presented himself, rather scrupulously dressed, before the cottage door; he knocked, and a voice bade him enter. The kitchen, which opened directly off the garden, was somewhat darkened by foliage; but he could see her as she approached from the far end to meet him. This second sight of her surprised him. Her strong black brows spoke of temper easily aroused and hard to quiet; her mouth was small, nervous and weak; there was something dangerous and sulky underlying, in her nature, much that was honest, compassionate, and even noble.
'My father's name,' she said, 'has made you very welcome.'
And she gave him her hand, with a sort of curtsy. It was a pretty greeting, although somewhat mannered; and Dick felt himself among the gods. She led him through the kitchen to a parlour, and presented him to Miss M'Glashan.
'Esther,' said the aunt, 'see and make Mr. Naseby his tea.'
And as soon as the girl was gone upon this hospitable intent, the old woman crossed the room and came quite near to Dick as if in menace.
'Ye know that man?' she asked in an imperious whisper.
'Mr. Van Tromp?' said Dick. 'Yes, I know him.'
'Well, and what brings ye here?' she said. 'I couldn't save the mother - her that's dead - but the bairn!' She had a note in her voice that filled poor Dick with consternation. 'Man,' she went on, 'what is it now? Is it money?'
'My dear lady,' said Dick, 'I think you misinterpret my position.