Venia Turnbull in a quiet, unobtrusive fashion was enjoying herself. The cool living-room at Turnbull's farm was a delightful contrast to the hot sunshine without, and the drowsy humming of bees floating in at the open window was charged with hints of slumber to the middle-aged. From her seat by the window she watched with amused interest the efforts of her father—kept from his Sunday afternoon nap by the assiduous attentions of her two admirers—to maintain his politeness.
"Father was so pleased to see you both come in," she said, softly; "it's very dull for him here of an afternoon with only me."
"I can't imagine anybody being dull with only you," said Sergeant Dick Daly, turning a bold brown eye upon her.
Mr. John Blundell scowled; this was the third time the sergeant had said the thing that he would have liked to say if he had thought of it.
"I don't mind being dull," remarked Mr. Turnbull, casually.
Neither gentleman made any comment.
"I like it," pursued Mr. Turnbull, longingly; "always did, from a child."
The two young men looked at each other; then they looked at Venia; the sergeant assumed an expression of careless ease, while John Blundell sat his chair like a human limpet. Mr. Turnbull almost groaned as he remembered his tenacity.
"The garden's looking very nice," he said, with a pathetic glance round.
"Beautiful," assented the sergeant. "I saw it yesterday."
"Some o' the roses on that big bush have opened a bit more since then," said the farmer.
Sergeant Daly expressed his gratification, and said that he was not surprised. It was only ten days since he had arrived in the village on a visit to a relative, but in that short space of time he had, to the great discomfort of Mr. Blundell, made himself wonderfully at home at Mr. Turnbull's. To Venia he related strange adventures by sea and land, and on subjects of which he was sure the farmer knew nothing he was a perfect mine of information. He began to talk in low tones to Venia, and the heart of Mr. Blundell sank within him as he noted her interest. Their voices fell to a gentle murmur, and the sergeant's sleek, well-brushed head bent closer to that of his listener. Relieved from his attentions, Mr. Turnbull fell asleep without more ado.
Blundell sat neglected, the unwilling witness of a flirtation he was powerless to prevent. Considering her limited opportunities, Miss Turnbull displayed a proficiency which astonished him. Even the sergeant was amazed, and suspected her of long practice.
"I wonder whether it is very hot outside?" she said, at last, rising and looking out of the window.
"Only pleasantly warm," said the sergeant. "It would be nice down by the water."
"I'm afraid of disturbing father by our talk," said the considerate daughter. "You might tell him we've gone for a little stroll when he wakes," she added, turning to Blundell.
Mr. Blundell, who had risen with the idea of acting the humble but, in his opinion, highly necessary part of chaperon, sat down again and watched blankly from the window until they were out of sight....