Just – William Page 13

William had received specific instructions. He was not to come into the house till the tea-bell rang, and he was to go out and play in the garden again directly after tea. He was perfectly willing to obey them. He was thrilled by the thought of Robert in the rôle of the love-lorn hero. He took the situation quite seriously.

He was in the garden when the visitor came up the drive. He had been told not to obtrude himself upon her notice, so he crept up silently and peered at her through the rhododendron bushes. The proceeding also happened to suit his character of the moment, which was that of a Red Indian chief.

Miss Cannon was certainly pretty. She had brown hair, brown eyes, and dimples that came and went in her rosy cheeks. She was dressed in white and carried a parasol. She walked up the drive, looking neither to right nor left, till a slight movement in the bushes arrested her attention. She turned quickly and saw a small boy’s face, smeared black with burnt cork and framed in hens’ feathers tied on with tape. The dimples peeped out.

“Hail, O great chief!” she said.

William gazed at her open-mouthed. Such intelligence on the part of a grown-up was unusual.

“Chief Red Hand,” he supplied with a fierce scowl.

She bowed low, brown eyes alight with merriment.

“And what death awaits the poor white face who has fallen defenceless into his hand?”

“You better come quiet to my wigwam an’ see,” said Red Hand darkly.

She threw a glance to the bend in the drive behind which lay the house and with a low laugh followed him through the bushes. From one point the drawing-room window could be seen, and there the anxious Robert stood, pale with anxiety, stiff and upright in his newly-creased trousers (well turned up to show the new blue socks), his soulful eyes fixed steadfastly on the bend in the drive round which the beloved should come. Every now and then his nervous hand wandered up to touch the new tie and gleaming new collar, which was rather too high and too tight for comfort, but which the shopkeeper had informed his harassed customer was the “latest and most correct shape.”

Meanwhile the beloved had reached William’s “dug-out.” William had made this himself of branches cut down from the trees and spent many happy hours in it with one or other of his friends.

“Here is the wigwam, Pale-face,” he said in a sepulchral voice. “Stand here while I decide with Snake Face and the other chiefs what’s goin’ to be done to you. There’s Snake Face an’ the others,” he added in his natural voice, pointing to a small cluster of shrubs.

Approaching these, he stood and talked fiercely and unintelligibly for a few minutes, turning his scowling corked face and pointing his finger at her every now and then, as, apparently, he described his capture.

Then he approached her again.

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