Though spring now visibly advanced, there were still many disagreeable and variable days before it was probable Althea could make those excursions into the country around, which promised her the only pleasure it was likely to afford her. – The afternoons now grew long, but there was little temptation to walk – unless in the banqueting-room or gallery, taking a book with her. Thither she was generally accompanied by the little Wansfords, whose cheerful voices as they ran about relieved (without disturbing her meditations) that mournful stillness which would otherwise have reigned in the deserted rooms – stillness, unbroken but by the evening song of the robin, or, at a distance in the fields, the first low chant of the thrush, which at this season is heard almost singly to sing his faint vespers to the yet remote sun.