“I myself,” he went on, “would not have known, half an hour ago, what you meant by the worship of the maternal idea. I am much older than you. I am a strong, mature man. But when I lay down there, and shut my eyes—because the charm and marvel of this whole experience had for the moment overcome me—the strangest sensation seized upon me. It was absolutely as if I were a boy again, a good, pure-minded, fond little child, and you were the mother that I idolized.”
Celia had not taken her eyes from his face. “I find myself liking you better at this moment,” she said, with gravity, “than I have ever liked you before.”
Then, as by a sudden impulse, she sprang to her feet. “Come!” she cried, her voice and manner all vivacity once more, “we have been here long enough.”
Upon the instant, as Theron was more laboriously getting up, it became apparent to them both that perhaps they had been there too long.
A boy with a gun under his arm, and two gray squirrels tied by the tails slung across his shoulder, stood at the entrance to the glade, some dozen paces away, regarding them with undisguised interest. Upon the discovery that he was in turn observed, he resumed his interrupted progress through the woods, whistling softly as he went, and vanished among the trees.
“Heavens above!” groaned Theron, shudderingly.
“Know him?” he went on, in answer to the glance of inquiry on his companion’s face. “I should think I did! He spades my—my wife’s garden for her. He used to bring our milk. He works in the law office of one of my trustees—the one who isn’t friendly to me, but is very friendly indeed with my—with Mrs. Ware. Oh, what shall I do? It may easily mean my ruin!”
Celia looked at him attentively. The color had gone out of his face, and with it the effect of earnestness and mental elevation which, a minute before, had caught her fancy. “Somehow, I fear that I do not like you quite so much just now, my friend,” she remarked.
“In God’s name, don’t say that!” urged Theron. He raised his voice in agitated entreaty. “You don’t know what these people are—how they would leap at the barest hint of a scandal about me. In my position I am a thousand times more defenceless than any woman. Just a single whisper, and I am done for!”
“Let me point out to you, Mr. Ware,” said Celia, slowly, “that to be seen sitting and talking with me, whatever doubts it may raise as to a gentleman’s intellectual condition, need not necessarily blast his social reputation beyond all hope whatever.”
Theron stared at her, as if he had not grasped her meaning. Then he winced visibly under it, and put out his hands to implore her. “Forgive me! Forgive me!” he pleaded. “I was beside myself for the moment with the fright of the thing. Oh, say you do forgive me, Celia!” He made haste to support this daring use of her name. “I have been so happy today—so deeply,