“Is she engaged?"’
“No, but—but, sir, I think she is nearly heartbroken.”
“I’m sorry,” said Trove. “Not that she may choose another, but that she lost faith in me.”
“Poor child! Long ago she thought you had ceased to love her,” said the widow, her voice trembling,
“I loved her as I can never love again,” said he, his elbow resting on a table, his head leaning on his hand. He spoke calmly.
“Don’t let it kill you, boy,” said she.
“No,” he answered. “A man must be greater than his trouble; I have work to do, and I shall not give up. May I go and see Polly?”
“Not now,” said the widow, “give her time to find her own way. If you deserve her love it will return to you.”
“I fear that you, too, have lost faith in me,” said Trove.
“No,” she answered, “but surely Darrel is not the guilty one. It’s all such a mystery.”
“Mrs. Vaughn, do not suffer yourself to think evil of me or of Darrel. If I do lose your daughter, I hope I may not lose your good opinion.” The young man spoke earnestly and his eyes were wet.
“I shall not think evil of you,” said the woman.
Trove stood a moment, his hand upon the latch.
“If there’s anything I can do for you or for Polly,” said he, “I should like to know it. Let’s hope for the best. Some day you must let me come and—” he hesitated, his voice failing him for a moment, “and play a game of checkers,” he added.
Paul stood looking up at him sadly, his face troubled.
“It’s an evil day when the heart of a child is heavy,” said Trove, bending over the boy. “What is the first law, Paul?”
“Thou shalt learn to obey,” said the boy, quickly.
“And who is the great master?”
“Right, boy! Let’s command our hearts to be happy.”
The great, bare maple was harping dolefully in the wind. Trove went for the mare, and Tunk rode down the hill with him in the cutter.
“Things here ain’t what they used t’ be,” said Tunk.
“Widder, she takes on awful. Great changes!”
There was a moment of silence.
“I ain’t the same dum fool I used t’ be,” Tunk added presently.
“What’s happened to you?”
“Well, they tol’ me what you said about lyin’. Ye know a man in the hoss business is apt t’ git a leetle careless, but I ain’t no such dum fool as I used t’ be. Have you heard that Teesey Tower was married?”
“The old maid?”
“Yes, sir; the ol’ maid, to Deacon Haskins, an’ he lives with ’em, an’ now they’re jes like other folks. Never was so surprised since I was first kicked by a hoss.”
Tunk’s conscience revived suddenly and seemed to put its hand over his mouth.
“Joe Beach is goin’ to be a doctor,” Tunk went on presently.
“I advised him to study medicine,” Trove answered.