“Do not I?”—(Then half turning away in a lowered voice)—“nor you me!”
“I” repeat I, positively laughing in my scorn of this accusation. “I hint! I imply! why, I could not do it, if I were to be shot for it! it is not in me!”
He does not immediately answer; still, he is looking aside, and his color changes.
“Ask mother, ask the boys, ask Barbara,” cry I, in great excitement, “whether I ever could wrap up any thing neatly, if I wished it ever so much? Always, always, I have to blurt it out! I hint!”
“Hint! no!” he repeats, in a tone of vexed bitterness. “Well, no! no one could accuse you of hinting! Yours is honest, open cut and thrust!”
“If it is,” retort I, bluntly, still speaking with a good deal of heat, “it is your own fault! I have no wish to quarrel, being such near neighbors, and—and—altogether—of course I had rather be on good terms than bad ones! When you let me—when you leave me alone—I almost— sometimes I quite like you. I am speaking seriously! I do”
“You do not say so?” again turning his head aside, and speaking with the objectionable intonation of irony.
“At home,” pursue I, still chafing under the insult to my amiability, “I never was reckoned quarrelsome—never! Of course I was not like Barbara—there are not many like her—but I did very well. Ask any one of them—it does not matter which—they will all tell you the same— whether I did not!”
“You were a household angel, in fact?”
“I was nothing of the kind,” cry I, very angry, and yet laughing: the laughter caused by the antagonism of the epithet with the many recollected blows and honest sounding cuffs that I have, on and off, exchanged with Bobby.
The sun has quite gone now: sulky and feeble, he has shrunk to his cold bed in the west, and the victor-mist creeps, crawls, and soaks on unopposed.
“Good-night!” cry I, suddenly. “I am going!” and I am as good as my word.
With the triple agility of health, youth, and indignation, I scurry away through the melancholy grass, and the heaped and fallen leaves, home.
Ding-dong bell! The Christmas bells are ringing. Christmas has come— Christmas as it appears on a Christmas card, white and hard, and beset with puffed-out, ruffled robins. Only Nature is wise enough not to express the ironical wish that we may have a “merry one.” For myself, I have but small opinion of Christmas as a time of jollity. Solemn— blessed, if you will—but no, not jovial. At no time do the dead so clamor to be remembered. Even those that went a long time ago, the regret for whose departure has settled down to a tender, almost pleasant pain; whom at other times we go nigh to forget; even they cry out loud, “Think of us!”