An elderly placid-faced woman sat in a basket chair in the recess, and looked up with quiet loving eyes at the swift play of emotions which swept over the girl's eager features.
"Oh, Uncle George," she cried, "it is really too heavenly. I cannot realize that we are free. I can't help fearing that it is all a dream, and that I shall wake up to find myself pouring out Ezra Girdlestone's coffee, or listening to Mr. Girdlestone as he reads the morning quotations."
The elder woman stroked the girl's hand caressingly with her soft, motherly palm. "Don't think about it," she murmured.
"No, don't think about it," echoed the doctor. "My wife is quite right. Don't think about it. But, dear me, what a job I had to persuade your guardian to let you go. I should have given it up in despair--I really should--if I had not known that you had set your heart upon it."
"Oh, how good you both are to me!" cried the girl, in a pretty little gush of gratitude.
"Pooh, pooh, Kate! But as to Girdlestone, he is perfectly right. If I had you I should keep you fast to myself, I promise you. Eh, Matilda?"
"That we would, George."
"Perfect tyrants, both of us. Eh, Matilda?"
"I am afraid that I am not very useful in a household," said the girl. "I was too young to look after things for poor papa. Mr. Girdlestone, of course, has a housekeeper of his own. I read the _Financial News_ to him after dinner every day, and I know all about stock and Consols and those American railways which are perpetually rising and falling. One of them went wrong last week, and Ezra swore, and Mr. Girdlestone said that the Lord chastens those whom He loves. He did not seem to like being chastened a bit though. But how delightful this is! It is like living in another world."
The girl was a pretty figure as she stood in the window, tall, lithe, and graceful, with the long soft curves of budding womanhood. Her face was sweet rather than beautiful, but an artist would have revelled in the delicate strength of the softly rounded chin, and the quick bright play of her expression. Her hair, of a deep rich brown, with a bronze shimmer where a sunbeam lay athwart it, swept back in those thick luxuriant coils which are the unfailing index of a strong womanly nature. Her deep blue eyes danced with life and light, while her slightly _retrousse_ nose and her sensitive smiling mouth all spoke of gentle good humour. From her sunny face to the dainty little shoe which peeped from under the trim black skirt, she was an eminently pleasant object to look upon. So thought the passers-by as they glanced up at the great bow window, and so, too, thought a young gentleman who had driven up to the hotel door, and who now bounded up the steps and into the room. He was enveloped in a long shaggy ulster, which stretched down to his ankles, and he wore a velvet cap trimmed with silver stuck carelessly on the back of his powerful yellow curled head.
"Here is the boy!" cried his mother gaily.
"How are you, mam dear?" he cried, stooping over her to kiss her. "How are you, dad? Good morning, Cousin Kate. You must come down and wish us luck. What a blessing that it is pretty warm. It is miserable for the spectators when there is an east wind. What do you think of it, dad?"
"I think you are an unnatural young renegade to play against your mother country," said the sturdy doctor.
"Oh, come, dad! I was born in Scotland, and I belong to a Scotch club. Surely that is good enough."
"I hope you lose, then."
"We are very likely to. Atkinson, of the West of Scotland, has strained his leg, and we shall have to play Blair, of the Institution, at full back--not so good a man by a long way. The odds are five to four on the English this morning. They are said to be the very strongest lot that ever played in an International match. I have brought a cab with me, so the moment you are ready we can start."
There were others besides the students who were excited about the coming struggle.