“Do you have to be?” he asked smiling.
“My life is a part of lives that are anxious about these things. But I don’t think about dress as some girls do. I never like to talk about it. It is not a temptation to me. It would not trouble me to wear one dress all my life—one color, as the flowers do; it should be a soft gray—a cashmere, and when one was soiled or worn out I would have another like it—and never spend any more thought about it. Aunt Prue loves gray—she almost does that—she spends no thought on dress. If we didn’t have to ‘take thought,’ how much time we would have—and how our minds would be at rest—to work for people and to study God’s works and will.”
Hollis smiled as he looked down at her.
“Girls don’t usually talk like that,” he said.
“Perhaps I don’t—usually. What are you reading now?”
“History, chiefly—the history of the world and the history of the church.”
They walked more and more slowly as they drifted into talk about books and then into his life in New York and the experiences he had had in his business tours and the people whom he had met.
“Do you like your life?” she asked.
“Yes, I like the movement and the life: I like to be ‘on the go.’ I expect to take my third trip across the ocean by and by. I like to mingle with men. I never could settle down into farming; not till I am old, at any rate.”
They found Marjorie’s mother standing in the front doorway, looking for them. She glanced at Hollis, but he was fastening the gate and would not be glanced at. Marjorie’s face was no brighter than when she had set out for her walk. Linnet was setting the tea-table and singing, “A life on the ocean wave.”
After tea the letter from Switzerland was read and discussed. Miss Prudence, as Mrs. West could not refrain from calling her, always gave them something to talk about. To give people something to think about that was worth thinking about, was something to live for, she had said once to Marjorie.
And then there was music and talk. Marjorie and Hollis seemed to find endless themes for conversation. And then Hollis and Linnet went home. Hollis bade them good-bye; he was to take an early train in the morning. Marjorie’s mother scanned Marjorie’s face, and stood with a lighted candle in her hand at bedtime, waiting for her confidence; but unconscious Marjorie closed the piano, piled away the sheets of music, arranged the chairs, and then went out to the milkroom for a glass of milk.
“Good-night, mother,” she called back. “Are you waiting for anything?”
“Did you set the sponge for the bread?”
“Oh, yes,” in a laughing voice.
And then the mother went slowly and wonderingly up the stairs, muttering “Well! well! Of all things!”
Marjorie drew Aunt Prue’s letter from her pocket to think it all over again by herself. Mr. Holmes was buried in manuscript. Prue was studying with her, beside studying French and German with the pastor’s daughter in the village, and she herself was full of many things. They were coming home by and by to choose a home in America.