A cool breeze, moist and fresh from the river, was blowing across the garden, stirring the leaves to sleepy rustlings and wafting the fragrance of thousands of roses into the evening air. There was no light save the soft radiance of the stars; no sound save their voices as they strolled slowly back and forth between the hedges and swaying blossoms.
“A confession?” he was saying.
“Yes,” she answered. “I wonder if you will absolve me?”
“Wait until you hear,” she advised solemnly. “There was a paper.”
“Yes, I found it on the path that first morning. It must have blown through the fence, you see. I picked it up; I didn’t know what it was. Afterwards, in the house, I found it in among the roses and—and I saw something on it that made me—made me read it. Was it frightfully wrong?”
“Wrong? No, but what was it?”
“It was ‘Kitty’!”
“But the paper?”
“Don’t you remember?” she asked wonderingly. “Really?”
“Well——” She took something from the bosom of her dress and spread it out in the half-darkness. Then, “Listen,” she said: “‘Belle Harbour, Virginia, June the third. She’s coming; she’s almost in sight. I don’t quite know what I am writing. The situation grows intense. Will she——’”
“I remember!” he cried. “And you found that? And you knew, then, that——”
“Listen,” she said sternly. Again she bent over the paper. “‘Will she retreat or advance? I can see the white of her gown through the leaves. She is almost at the corner of the path. My courage is ebbing fast; if she delays much longer, I shall beat a disordered retreat myself. Now! She’s coming, coming, coming—she’s here——’”
“Kitty,” he cried, “you’re not reading! You couldn’t in this light.”
“I don’t need to,” she said with a little, soft laugh, “I know it by heart. ‘Had I the courage I would ask for a parley, but, alas! I am already wavering along my entire line; I can only put up a brave front and rely upon awing her. She is delicious, simply delicious. Her eyes——’ What about my eyes? You stopped there.”
“Your eyes? Your eyes—your eyes——” He paused, at a loss for words. She sighed dolefully.
“There, you’ve stopped again! I reckon I’ll never know,” she mourned.
He took her hands and turned her about until the light of the stars was full upon her face.
“Your eyes, Kitty—ah, I’ll spend my life, sweetheart, telling you about your eyes!” They dropped before his own ardent ones. “Was it—was it then, Kitty?” he whispered.
“What?” she murmured.
“That you cared for me?”
“I—I think so!”
With sudden shyness she broke from his clasp and went forward up the path. When he caught up with her she was bending with her face almost buried in a great cup-like rose. He stooped and placed his cheek against hers and their hands met and caught.
“Ah, dear, dear roses,” she murmured tremulously, “how I love you, how I love you!”
“And me, Kitty?” he whispered in her ear.
She raised her head and laid her hands upon his arms, looking up silently into his face. About them the roses whispered and nodded in the breeze. He bent until his lips were upon hers.
“Kitty,” he cried softly, “my Kitty! Kitty of the Roses!”