The flicker of a smile shone and died in his eyes. “Don’t mind me!” he said. “The role of an evangelist becomes you better than some.”
“Don’t!” said Dot, turning very red.
“I didn’t,” said Nap. “I’m only being brotherly. Hit as straight as you like.”
“I was going to say,” she said, taking him at his word, “that if a man is a good sort and does his duty, I don’t believe one person in a million cares a rap about what his parents were. I don’t indeed.”
She spoke with great earnestness; it was quite obvious that she meant every word. It was Dot’s straightforward way to speak from her heart.
“And I’m sure Lady Carfax doesn’t either,” she added.
But at that Nap set his teeth. “My child, you don’t chance to know Lady Carfax as I do. Moreover, suppose the man doesn’t chance to be a good sort and loathes the very word ‘duty’? It brings down the house of cards rather fast, eh?”
An older woman might have been discouraged; experience would probably have sadly acquiesced. But Dot possessed neither age nor experience, and so she only lost her patience.
“Oh, but you are absurd!” she exclaimed, shaking his arm with characteristic vigour. “How can you be so disgustingly flabby? You’re worse than old Squinny, who sends for Dad or me every other day to see him die. He’s fearfully keen on going to heaven, but that’s all he ever does to get there.”
Nap broke into a brief laugh. They had reached the stile and he faced round with extended hand. “After that—good-bye!” he said. “With your permission we’ll keep this encounter to ourselves. But you certainly are a rousing evangelist. When you mount the padre’s pulpit I’ll come and sit under it.”
Dot’s fingers held fast for a moment. “It’ll be all right, will it?” she asked bluntly. “I mean—you’ll be sensible?”
He smiled at her in a way she did not wholly understand, yet which went straight to her quick heart.
“So long, little sister!” he said. “Yes, it will be quite all right. I’ll continue to cumber the ground a little longer, if you call that being sensible. And if you think my chances of heaven are likely to be improved by your kind intervention, p’r’aps you’ll put up a prayer now and then on my behalf to the Power that casts out devils—for we are many.”
“I will, Nap, I will!” she said very earnestly.
When he was gone she mounted the stile and paused with her face to the sky. “Take care of him, please, God!” she said.
Notwithstanding her largeness of heart, Mrs. Errol was something of a despot, and when once she had assumed command she was slow to relinquish it.
“I guess you must let me have my own way, dear Anne,” she said, “for I’ve never had a daughter.”