“Do you propose soon to return to New York?” he asked.
“No; at least I have made no plans in regard to it. I think it would grieve my aunt very much if I were to go away from her now, and as long as I have Mr Null to protect me from her matrimonial schemes, I am glad to stay with her. She is very kind to me.”
“I think you are entirely right in deciding to stay here,” he said, looking around at her, and contrasting in his mind the bright-faced, and somewhat plump young person walking beside him with the thin-faced girl in black whom he had seen behind the cashier’s desk.
“Now,” said she, with a vivacious little laugh, “I have poured out my whole soul before you, and, in return, I want you to gratify a curiosity which is fairly eating me up. Why were you so anxious to find my Cousin Junius? And how did you happen to come here the very day after he arrived? And, more than that, how was it that you had seen him at Midbranch so recently? You were talking about it last night. It couldn’t have been my letter from Howlett’s that brought you down here?”
“No,” said Lawrence, “my meeting with Mr Keswick at Midbranch was entirely accidental. When I arrived there, a few days ago, I had no reason to suppose that I should meet him. But I must ask you to excuse me from giving my reasons for wishing to find your cousin, and for coming to see him here. The matter between us has now become one of no importance, and will be dropped.”
The lady’s face flushed. “Oh, indeed!” she said. And during the short remainder of their walk to the house she made no further remark.
When Lawrence and his companion reached the house, they found on the porch Mrs Keswick and her nephew; and, after a little general conversation, the latter remarked to Mr Croft that he had found it would not be in his power to attend to that matter he had spoken of; to which Croft replied that he was very much obliged to him for thinking of it, and that it was of no consequence at all, as he would probably make other arrangements. He then stated that he would be obliged to return to the Green Sulphur Springs that day, and that, as it was a long ride, he would like to start as soon as his horse could be brought to him. But this procedure was condemned utterly by the old lady, who insisted that Mr Croft should not leave until after dinner, which meal should be served earlier than usual in order to give him plenty of time to get to the Springs before dark, and as Lawrence had nothing to oppose to her very urgent protest, he consented to stay. Before dinner was ready he found out why the protest was made. The old lady took him aside and made inquiries of him in regard to Mr Null. He had already informed her that he was not acquainted with that gentleman, but she thought, as Mr Croft seemed to be going about the country a good deal, he might possibly meet with her niece’s husband; and, if he should do so, she would be very glad to have him become acquainted with him.