“Not an atom!” reassuringly.
We both look for an instant at the silent flower-beds, at the sombre bulk of the house.
“If they do not come to-morrow—” begins Frank.
“But they will,’” cry I, petulantly; “they must! I cannot do without them! I believe some people do not mind being alone—not even in the evenings, when the furniture cracks and the door-handles rattle. I dare say you do not; but I hate my own company; I have never been used to it. I have always been used to a great deal of noise—too much, I have sometimes thought, but I am sure that I never shall think so again!”
“Well, but if they do not—”
“You have said that three times,” I cry, irritably. “You seem to take a pleasure in saying it. If they do not—well, what?”
“I will not say what I was going to say,” he answers, shortly. “I shall only get my nose bitten off if I do.”
“Very well, do not!” reply I, with equal suavity.
We walk in silence toward the house, the wet grass is making my long gown drenched and flabby. We have reached the garden-door whence I issued, and by which I shall return.
“You must go now, I suppose,” say I, reluctantly. “You will be by yourself too, will not you? Tell me” (speaking with lowered confidential tone), “do your chairs and tables ever make odd noises?”
“Awful!” he answers, laughing. “I can hardly bear myself speak for them.”
I laugh too.
“You might as well tell me before you go what the remark that I quenched was? One always longs to hear the things that people are going to say, and do not! Have no fear! your nose is quite safe!”
“It is nothing much,” he answers, with self-conscious stiffness, looking down and poking about the little dark pebbles with his cane; “nothing that you would care about.”
“Care about!” echo I, leaning my back against the dusk house-wall, and staring up at the sombre purple of the sky. “Well, no! I dare say not! What should I care to hear now? I am sure I should be puzzled to say! But, as I have been so near it, I may as well be told.”
“As you will!” he answers, with an air of affected carelessness. “It is only that, if they do not come to-morrow—”
“Fourth time!” interject I, counting on my fingers and smiling.
“If you wish—if you like—if it would be any comfort to you—I shall be happy—! mean I shall be very glad to come up again about the same time to-morrow evening.”
“Will you?” (eagerly, with a great accession of exhilaration in my voice). “Are you serious? I shall be so much obliged if you will, but—”
“It is impossible that any one can say any thing-,” he interrupts, hastily. “There could be no harm in it!”
“Harm!” repeat I, laughing. “Well, hardly! I cannot fancy a more innocent amusement.”