To such a little girl death had meant no more than a bewildered loneliness, but the bewilderment was so sharp, the loneliness so aching, that she cried herself into an illness. She had seen her dead mother, the sweet, sightless, silent face, familiar yet amazing, and more than any fear or shrinking had been the suffocating mystery of feeling herself forgotten and left behind. Her uncle Nigel, sorrowful and grave, but so large and kind that his presence seemed to radiate a restoring warmth, came to London for her and a fond nurse went with her to the North, and after a few weeks the anxious affection of her aunts Rachel and Barbara built about her, again, a child’s safe universe of love.
Kirklands was a large white house and stood on a slope facing south, backed by a rise of thickly wooded hill and overlooking a sea of heathery moorland. It was a solitary but not a melancholy house. Lichens yellowed the high-pitched slate roof and creepers clung to the roughly “harled” walls. On sunny days the long rows of windows were golden squares in the illumined white, and, under a desolate winter sky, glowed with an inner radiance.