“Old portraits round in order set,
Carved heavy tables, chairs, buffet Of dark mahogany.”
For there was a bright fire burning in the room, which sent red rays flickering and dancing in all directions, lighting up the faded tints of the ancient curtains and covers, and bringing rich crimson shades out of the shining, old dark mahogany furniture. There were flowers too; a bouquet of autumn leaves—bronze and copper and olive—with two or three fragile “last roses” in the middle, on which Gratian’s eyes rested with pleasure for a moment, on their way to the small figure—the most interesting object of all.
He was lying on a little sofa, placed so as to be within reach of the fire’s warmth, and yet near enough to the window for him to see out into the garden, to watch the life of the birds and the plants, the clouds and the breezes. The autumn afternoon looked later and darker now to Gratian as he glanced at it from within than when he was himself a part of it out-of-doors, and his eyes returned with pleasure to the nearer warmth and colour, though after the first momentary glimpse of the boy on the sofa a sort of shyness had made him look away.
For the child was extremely pale and thin—he looked much more ill than Gratian had been prepared for, and this gave him a feeling of timidity that nothing else could have caused. But the lady soon put him at his ease.
“Fergus, dear,” she said, “here is the little friend you have been hoping for. Come over here near us, my dear boy”—for she had sat down on a low chair beside the couch, evidently her usual place—”and I will help you to get over the first few steps of making friends. To begin with,” she said smiling, “do you know we don’t know your name? That seems absurd, doesn’t it? And you don’t know ours.”
“Yes—I know his,” said Gratian, smiling too, and with a little gesture towards the invalid, so gentle and half-timid that no one could have called it rude; “you have just said it—Fergus. I never heard that name before.”
“It is a Scotch name,” said the lady. “One can almost fancy oneself in Scotland here. And tell us your name.”
“Gratian,” he replied, “Gratian Conyfer.”
“What a nice name,” said Fergus, speaking for the first time, “and what a queer one! I can say the same to you as you said to me, Gratian—I never heard that name before.”
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