After Georgiana’s last treatment of me I resolved not to let her talk to me out of her window. So about nine o’clock this morning I took a Negro boy and set him to picking the berries, while I stood by, directing him in a deep, manly voice as to the best way of managing that intricate business. Presently I heard Georgiana begin to sing to herself behind the curtains.
“Hurry up and fill that cup,” I said to him, savagely. “And that will do this morning. You can go to the mill. The meal’s nearly out.”
When he was gone I called, in an undertone: “Georgiana! Come to the window! Please! Oh, Georgiana!”
But the song went on. What was the matter? I could not endure it. There was one way by which perhaps she could be brought. I whistled long and loud again and again. The curtains parted a little space.
“I was merely whistling to the bird,” I said.
“I knew it,” she answered, looking as I had never seen her. “Whenever you speak to him your voice is full of confidence and of love. I believe in it and like to hear it.”
“What do you mean, Georgiana?” I cried, imploringly.
“Ah, Adam!” she said, with a rush of feeling. It was the first time she had ever called me by name. She bent her face down. Over it there passed a look of sweetness and sadness indescribably blended. “Ah, Adam! you have asked me many times to marry you! Make me believe once that you love me! Make me feel that I could trust myself to you for life!”
“What else can I do?” I answered, stirred to the deepest that was in me, throwing my arms backward, and standing with an open breast into which she might gaze.
And she did search my eyes and face in silence.
“What more,” I cried again, “in God’s name?”
She rested her face on her palm, looking thoughtfully across the yard. Over there the red-bird was singing. Suddenly she leaned down towards me. Love was on her face now. But her eyes held mine with the determination to wrest from them the last truth they might contain, and her voice trembled with doubt:
“Would you put the red-bird in a cage for me? Would you be willing to do that for me, Adam?”
At those whimsical, cruel words I shall never be able to reveal all that I felt—the surprise, the sorrow, the pain. Scenes of boyhood flashed through my memory. A conscience built up through years of experience stood close by me with admonition. I saw the love on her face, the hope with which she hung upon my reply, as though it would decide everything between us. I did not hesitate; my hands dropped to my side, the warmth died out of my heart as out of spent ashes, and I answered her, with cold reproach,
The color died out of her face also. Her eyes still rested on mine, but now with pitying sadness.
“I feared it,” she murmured, audibly, but to herself, and the curtains fell together.