So musing, she walked on to the farm-house. Leonard had picked up one of the blossoms she had let fall, and appeared to be curiously examining it. If he had apologized for his want of grammar, or promised to reform it, her interest in him might have diminished; but his silence, his simple, natural obedience to some powerful inner force, whatever it was, helped to strengthen that phantom of him in her mind, which was now beginning to be a serious trouble.
Once again, the day before she left the Rambo farmhouse to return to the city, she came upon him, alone. She had wandered off to the Brandywine, to gather ferns at a rocky point where some choice varieties were to be found. There were a few charming clumps, half-way up a slaty cliff, which it did not seem possible to scale, and she was standing at the base, looking up in vain longing, when a voice, almost at her ear, said:
Afterwards, she wondered that she did not start at the voice. Leonard had come up the road from one of the lower fields: he wore neither coat nor waistcoat, and his shirt, open at the throat, showed the firm, beautiful white of the flesh below the strong tan of his neck. Miss Bartram noticed the sinewy strength and elasticity of his form, yet when she looked again at the ferns, she shook her head, and answered:
"None, since I cannot have them."
Without saying a word, he took off his shoes, and commenced climbing the nearly perpendicular face of the cliff. He had done it before, many a time; but Miss Bartram, although she was familiar with such exploits from the pages of many novels, had never seen the reality, and it quite took away her breath.
When he descended with the ferns in his hand, she said: "It was a great risk; I wish I had not wanted them."
"It was no risk for me," he answered.
"What can I send you in return?" she asked, as they walked forwards. "I am going home to-morrow."