He shrugs his shoulders.
“That is so likely, is it not?”
“Likely or not,” cry I, excitedly, “it was true in my case. If you had put me on the rack, I could have confessed nothing!”
“I do not see the analogy,” he answers, coldly; “you are—what did you tell me? nineteen?—It is to be supposed”—(with a rather unlovely smile)—“that your history is yet to come; and he is—forty-seven! We shall be late for church!”—with a glance at Algy’s and Barbara’s quickly diminishing figures.
“I do not care whether we are late or not!” cry I, vehemently, and stamping on the daisy-heads as I speak. “I will not stir until you tell me.”
“There is really no need for such excitement!” returns he with a cold smile; “since you will have it, it is only that rumor—and you know what a liar rumor is—says that once, some years ago, they were engaged to marry each other.”
“And why did not they?” speaking with breathless panting, and forgetting my stout asseveration that the whole tale is a lie.
“Because—mind, I vouch for nothing, I am only quoting rumor again— because—she threw him over.”
“Threw him over!” with an accent of most unfeigned astonishment.
“You are surprised!” he says, quickly, and with what sounds to me like a slightly annoyed inflection of voice; “it does seem incredible, does not it? But at that time, you see, he had not all the desirables—not quite the pull over other men that he has now; his brother was not dead or likely to die, and he was only General Tempest, with nothing much besides his pay.”
“Threw—him—over!” repeat I, slowly, as if unable yet to grasp the sense of the phrase.
“We shall certainly be late; the last bell is beginning,” says Frank, impatiently.
I move slowly on. We have reached the turnstile that gives issue from the park to the road. The smart farmers’ wives, the rosy farmers’ daughters, are pacing along through the powdery dust toward the church-gate.
“Is she a widow?” ask I, in a low voice.
He laughs sarcastically.
“A widow indeed, and desolate, eh? No! I believe she has a husband somewhere about, but she keeps him well out of sight—away in the colonies. He is there now, I fancy.”
“And why is not she with him?” cry I, indignantly; but the moment that the words are out of my mouth, I hang my head. Might not she ask the same question with regard to me?
“She did not like the sea, perhaps,” answers Frank, demurely.
A day—two days pass.
“More callers,” say I, hearing the sound of wheels, and running to the window; “I thought we must have exhausted the neighborhood yesterday and the day before!” I add, sighing.