The badinage of other days came to him, the days when women had rather bothered. They would be amused, these women, did they know his surrender to the god unknown at that time—the god he had sometimes smiled at because he had not known. Day after to-morrow she was going home. He had not seen her since the afternoon they had been shopping together. The man from Washington had claimed her time, and he had stayed away. Who was this man? To ask Hope or Channing had been impossible. Dorothea would be delighted to tell him. The instincts of her sex were well developed in Dorothea; and she missed no chance of letting him know of Claudia’s engagements, of what she did, and where she went, and from whom her flowers came. Doubtless she would be delighted to tell him even more.
He got up and began to walk the length and breadth of the room. The sound of his footsteps was lost in the heavy rugs, and only the ticking of the clock broke the stillness, and presently it struck the hour of midnight. He took out his watch and looked at it. “Tomorrow she is going home,” he said.
AN INFORMAL VISIT
At the door of what was still called the nursery Laine stood a moment, hesitating whether to go in or to go away. In a low rocking-chair Claudia was holding Channing, half-asleep in her arms; and at her feet Dorothea, on a footstool, elbows on knees and chin in the palms of her hands, was listening so intently to the story being told that for half a minute his presence was not noted.
Presently she looked up and saw him. “Come in.” Her voice was a high whisper. “It’s the grandest story. Wait a minute, Cousin Claudia.” She ran toward the door and drew him in. “You’ll have to stay with us,” she said, “because mother and father have gone out. Some kind of a relation is in town and they had to go. Channing’s got an awful cold, and mother said he could have anything he wanted, and he took Cousin Claudia to tell him stories. She’s been doing it ever since dinner. He’s asleep now, but—”
“I’m not asleep.” Channing’s eyes opened blinkingly. “She said they found the squirrel in a hollow down by the chestnut-tree, and the moonlight on the snow—the moonlight—on—the—snow.” His head fell back on Claudia’s bosom and, with a smile, she nodded to Laine and held out her hand.
“The spirit is valiant, but the flesh prevails. I’m so sorry Hope and Channing are out.”
“I’m not.” He drew a cushioned wicker chair close to the fire. “It’s been long since I heard a good fairy story. Please don’t stop.”