Edward—so we shall call a wealthy nobleman in the prime of life—had been spending several hours of a fine April morning in his nursery-garden, budding the stems of some young trees with cuttings which had been recently sent to him.
He had finished what he was about, and having laid his tools together in their box, was complacently surveying his work, when the gardener came up and complimented his master on his industry.
"Have you seen my wife anywhere?" inquired Edward, as he moved to go away.
"My lady is alone yonder in the new grounds," said the man; "the summer-house which she has been making on the rock over against the castle is finished today, and really it is beautiful. It cannot fail to please your grace. The view from it is perfect:—the village at your feet; a little to your right the church, with its tower, which you can just see over; and directly opposite you, the castle and the garden."
"Quite true," replied Edward; "I can see the people at work a few steps from where I am standing."
"And then, to the right of the church again," continued the gardener, "is the opening of the valley; and you look along over a range of wood and meadow far into the distance. The steps up the rock, too, are excellently arranged. My gracious lady understands these things; it is a pleasure to work under her."
"Go to her," said Edward, "and desire her to be so good as to wait for me there. Tell her I wish to see this new creation of hers, and enjoy it with her."
The gardener went rapidly off, and Edward soon followed. Descending the terrace, and stopping as he passed to look into the hot-houses and the forcing-pits, he came presently to the stream, and thence, over a narrow bridge, to a place where the walk leading to the summer-house branched off in two directions. One path led across the churchyard, immediately up the face of the rock. The other, into which he struck, wound away to the left, with a more gradual ascent, through a pretty shrubbery. Where the two paths joined again, a seat had been made, where he stopped a few moments to rest; and then, following the now single road, he found himself, after scrambling along among steps and slopes of all sorts and kinds, conducted at last through a narrow more or less steep outlet to the summer-house.
Charlotte was standing at the door to receive her husband. She made him sit down where, without moving, he could command a view of the different landscapes through the door and window—these serving as frames, in which they were set like pictures. Spring was coming on; a rich, beautiful life would soon everywhere be bursting; and Edward spoke of it with delight.
"There is only one thing which I should observe," he added, "the summer-house itself is rather small."
"It is large enough for you and me, at any rate," answered Charlotte.
"Certainly," said Edward; "there is room for a third, too, easily."
"Of course; and for a fourth also," replied Charlotte. "For larger parties we can contrive other places."
"Now that we are here by ourselves, with no one to disturb us, and in such a pleasant mood," said Edward, "it is a good opportunity for me to tell you that I have for some time had something on my mind, about which I have wished to speak to you, but have never been able to muster up my courage."
"I have observed that there has been something of the sort," saidCharlotte....