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The rain was over—the monotonous drip, drip, which had irritated Isola's nerves all that morning, had ceased at last. She left the modest little lunch untouched upon the table, and went out into the hall, where her hat and jacket hung handy for any impromptu ramble. No need to look at one's self in the glass before going out of doors, at twenty years of age, and in such a place as Trelasco. Isola took her stick from the stand, a green orange stick, bought in the sunny South, on her way to Venice with her husband last year—a leisurely trip, which had been to them as a second honeymoon after a few happy months of wedlock. Then had come the sadness of parting, and a swift and lonely journey for the young wife—a lonely return to the Angler's Nest, Trelasco, that cosy cottage between Lostwithiel and Fowey, which Major Disney had bought and furnished before his marriage. He was a son of the soil, and he had chosen to pitch his tent in that remote spot for the sake of old associations, and from a fixed belief that there was no locality of equal merit for health, beauty, and all other virtues which a man should seek in his home.
She loved this lonely hill, and felt her spirits rise in this lighter atmosphere as she stood resting against the scaly trunk of a Scotch fir, with the wind blowing her hair. It was a relief to escape from the silence of those empty rooms, where she had only the sleepy Persian or the hyper-intelligent fox-terrier for company. There was a longer and more picturesque way home than that by which she had come. She could descend the other side of the hill, skirt the gardens of the Mount, by a path that led through the Park to a lodge gate on the Fowey road. It was one of her favourite walks, and she was so accustomed to seeing the shutters closed at the great house that she never expected[Pg 6] to meet any one more alarming than a farm-servant or a cottager's child.
"If you will take off your hat and jacket, and sit down there, I'll get my housekeeper to attend to you," he said, with his hand upon the bell.
Isola smiled faintly, thinking that the chances of any such meeting were of the slightest; but she did not gainsay him. He wanted to say something courteous no doubt, and had gone into no nice question of probabilities before he spoke. She had heard him described by a good many people, who had hinted darkly at his shortcomings, but had all agreed as to his politeness and persuasive powers.
The table had been decorated by Isola's own hands. Dark crimson roses were lying on the fair white damask; one tall glass stood in the centre with three slim golden lilies, pale and heavy-headed, which filled the room with perfume. These came from one of the hothouses at Glenaveril, whence[Pg 79] good-natured Mrs. Crowther had sent a basket of exotics in honour of the colonel's return. The lamplight, the flowers, the pretty old Wedgwood service of creamy white and dull brown, made up a feast for Martin Disney's eye, after a life spent mostly under canvas. He looked from the gaily adorned table to the face beside him, pallid and pinched, despite its sweetness.
"This soup doesn't look up to Tabitha's old form. Do you know that among other delights of this earthly paradise[Pg 80] I have been looking forward to Tabitha's little dinners. I don't believe there is a chef in Paris who can cook so well as that self-taught genius, who ripened into perfection by a process of gradual evolution, from the early days when my mother discovered that nobody could make arrowroot or cook a mutton cutlet as well as Tabitha. By-the-by, why has not that good soul shown herself? I thought she would have disputed with you for my first kiss."
"I don't care about Dickens."
"I don't think so; only sometimes a longing comes upon me to see the old grey walls, and to hear the old voices, and see the curious old women in their white caps and bright-[Pg 112]coloured handkerchiefs, clattering along to the Cathedral. There must be more old women in Brittany than in Cornwall, I think. Fowey does not swarm with old women as Dinan did. And sometimes I long to see mother, and the good old Brittany servants, and the garden where the hours went by so slowly—almost as slowly as they go here"—with a sigh.
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