train of thought. 'A man who laughs at a child—unless the child is laughing too—is a heathen!'
'I didn't mean that, of course. You'd never laugh at children, but I thought—I used to think—that perhaps you might laugh about them. So now I beg your pardon. . . . What are you going to laugh at?'
I had made no sound, but she knew.
'At the notion of your begging my pardon. If you had done your duty as a pillar of the State and a landed proprietress you ought to have summoned me for trespass when I barged through your woods the other day. It was disgraceful of me—inexcusable.'
She looked at me, her head against the tree trunk—long and steadfastly—this woman who could see the naked soul.
'How curious,' she half whispered. 'How very curious.'
'Why, what have I done?'
'You don't understand . . . and yet you understood about the Colours. Don't you understand?'
She spoke with a passion that nothing had justified, and I faced her bewilderedly as she rose. The children had gathered themselves in a roundel behind a bramble bush. One sleek head bent over something smaller, and the set of the little shoulders told me that fingers were on lips. They, too, had some child's tremendous secret. I alone was hopelessly astray there in the broad sunlight.
'No,' I said, and shook my head as though the dead eyes could note. 'Whatever it is, I don't