After congratulating Adam, Mrs Dinnimont retired to the back sitting-room to do her needlepoint. The initial excitement at Adam’s success had died down a little, except in Kirsty’s case.“I’m no’ surprised that Adam won,” she said, butting into the conversation yet again. “After all, he won that scholarship.” She smiled worshipfully at her elder brother.“ There’s no’ many wi’ a scholarship, and that’s a fact.”Adam went red with embarrassment. Constance had grown quiet as Kirsty had sung her brother’s praises.“Come and help me with the tea-tray, Kirsty,” Josh said at last. “Don’t make a noise, mind, or Mrs Dinnimont will know you’re trespassing in the kitchen!”To Adam’s surprise, Constance came over and sat beside him.“I’m sorry,” he said. “My little sister gets over-enthusiastic.”She smiled at him.“Kirsty’s a delight, Adam, and she’s right to be proud of her big brother. Your work is so mature, so demanding of attention that you were a clear winner from the start. “I lingered over it when the entries were being exhibited. That old man, with the horse leaning its head on his shoulder? You could see the bond between them. And the hands! I loved those hands . . .”Adam felt relief flood over him.“Kirsty was telling me that she’s looking for a new situation,” she went on. “Has she any prospects?”“There was one, but something put her off at the last minute. She’s nervous about new places. Truth to tell, I think she got a bad fright at that last place although she’d never admit it.”Constance examined her hands.“Would your sister mind living out in the country, do you think?”Out in the kitchen, Josh turned to Kirsty. “For goodness’ sake, Kirsty, stop.”She looked at him, puzzled.“Stop what?”“Stop going on about Adam winning the Year Prize. Don’t you realise Constance must be really disappointed? She worked hard for that competition, and she’s very promising. It will have been a blow.”Kirsty bit her lip.“I’m sorry. I didn’t think.”Her eyes filled with tears, alarming Josh.“Don’t cry. Just put a guard on your tongue.”She lifted the tray and made to exit.“That’s funny. Mither says that to me quite a lot . . .”He fought rising laughter.“Well, then!” was all he could manage.Later, while the others discussed the merits of Leonardo da Vinci, Mr Scoular’s hero, Constance sat in a corner with Kirsty, talking urgently.“The girl who helps Mama is getting married, so the position is vacant at present.” “In the country?” The girl sounded doubtful. “I’ve never worked in the country.”When Constance mentioned the wages, her interest grew.“That much and my keep, too?”“Well, that’s what the girl who’s leaving was paid. She was with us for a long time, mind. I expect you’d be offered a little less at the beginning. You’d have your own room beside the kitchen, too.”Even at fifteen, Kirsty had become used to bargaining. She pulled back a little.“What’s yer mother like?”Constance thought for a moment.“Delicate. She doesn’t like noise and fuss. Oh, and she has a particular dislike of followers!”The two of them laughed.“It’s a lot to think about,” Kirsty said warily. “There’ll no’ be much company in the country . . .”She withdrew into her own thoughts for a moment or two, avoiding Constance’s gaze and staring at the carpet.Adam and Constance looked at each other across the room. Adam’s heart was in his mouth at the thought of what this new link with Constance might mean.For her part, while she waited for Kirsty’s decision, Constance’s expression was as anxious as his . . .