"You wouldn't leave me in the lurch now, Hilary," Mr. Flint continued, "when all this nonsense is in the air? Think of the effect such an announcement would have! Everybody knows and respects you, and we can't do without your advice and counsel. But I won't put it on that ground. I'd never forgive myself, as long as I lived, if I lost one of my oldest and most valued personal friends in this way."
The Honourable Hilary looked at Mr. Flint, and sat down. He began to cut a piece of Honey Dew, but his hand shook. It was difficult, as we know, for him to give expression to his feelings.
Half an hour later Victoria, from under the awning of the little balcony in front of her mother's sitting room, saw her father come out bareheaded into the sun and escort the Honourable Hilary Vane to his buggy. This was an unwonted proceeding.
Victoria loved to sit in that balcony, a book lying neglected in her lap, listening to the summer sounds: the tinkle of distant cattle bells, the bass note of a hurrying bee, the strangely compelling song of the hermit- thrush, which made her breathe quickly; the summer wind, stirring wantonly, was prodigal with perfumes gathered from the pines and the sweet June clover in the fields and the banks of flowers; in the distance, across the gentle foreground of the hills, Sawanec beckoned-- did Victoria but raise her eyes!--to a land of enchantment.
The appearance of her father and Hilary had broken her reverie, and a new thought, like a pain, had clutched her. The buggy rolled slowly down the drive, and Mr. Flint, staring after it a moment, went in the house. After a few minutes he emerged again, an old felt hat on his head which he was wont to wear in the country and a stick in his hand. Without raising his eyes, he started slowly across the lawn; and to Victoria, leaning forward intently over the balcony rail, there seemed an unwonted lack of purpose in his movements. Usually he struck out briskly in the direction of the pastures where his prize Guernseys were feeding, stopping on the way to pick up the manager of his farm. There are signs, unknown to men, which women read, and Victoria felt her heart beating, as she turned and entered the sitting room through the French window. A trained nurse was softly closing the door of the bedroom on the right.
"Mrs. Flint is asleep," she said.
"I am going out for a little while, Miss Oliver," Victoria answered, and the nurse returned a gentle smile of understanding.
Victoria, descending the stairs, hastily pinned on a hat which she kept in the coat closet, and hurried across the lawn in the direction Mr. Flint had taken. Reaching the pine grove, thinned by a famous landscape architect, she paused involuntarily to wonder again at the ultramarine of Sawanec through the upright columns of the trunks under the high canopy of boughs. The grove was on a plateau, which was cut on the side nearest the mountain by the line of a gray stone wall, under which the land fell away sharply. Mr. Flint was seated on a bench, his hands clasped across his stick, and as she came softly over the carpet of the needles he did not hear her until she stood beside him.