"It's no use trying to be a humbug," said Victoria, "I can't. And I do like Humphrey, in spite of his career."
And they laughed again. The music of the bells ran faster and faster still, keeping time to a wilder music of the sunlit hills and sky; nor was it strange that her voice, when she spoke, did not break the spell, but laid upon him a deeper sense of magic.
"This brings back the fairy books," she said, "and all those wonderful and never-to-be-forgotten sensations of the truant, doesn't it? You've been a truant--haven't you?"
"Yes," he laughed, "I've been a truant, but I never quite realized the possibilities of the part--until to-day."
She was silent a moment, and turned away her head, surveying the landscape that fell away for miles beyond.
"When I was a child," she said, "I used to think that by opening a door I could step into an enchanted realm like this. Only I could never find the door. Perhaps," she added, gayly pursuing the conceit, "it was because you had the key, and I didn't know you in those days." She gave him a swift, searching look, smiling, whimsical yet startled,--so elusive that the memory of it afterwards was wont to come and go like a flash of light. "Who are you?" she asked.
His blood leaped, but he smiled in delighted understanding of her mood. Sarah Austen had brought just such a magic touch to an excursion, and even at that moment Austen found himself marvelling a little at the strange resemblance between the two.
"I am a plain person whose ancestors came from a village called Camden Street," he replied. "Camden Street is there, on a shelf of the hills, and through the arch of its elms you can look off over the forests of the lowlands until they end in the blue reaches of the ocean,--if you could see far enough."