The girl’s abrupt question came as a relief to Theron. They were walking along in a darkness so nearly complete that he could see next to nothing of his companion. For some reason, this seemed to suggest a sort of impropriety. He had listened to the footsteps of the man ahead—whom he guessed to be a servant—and pictured him as intent upon getting up early next morning to tell everybody that the Methodist minister had stolen into the Catholic church at night to walk home with Miss Madden. That was going to be very awkward—yes, worse than awkward! It might mean ruin itself. She had mentioned aloud that she had matters to talk over with him: that of course implied confidences, and the man might put heaven only knew what construction on that. It was notorious that servants did ascribe the very worst motives to those they worked for. The bare thought of the delight an Irish servant would have in also dragging a Protestant clergyman into the thing was sickening. And what could she want to talk to him about, anyway? The minute of silence stretched itself out upon his nerves into an interminable period of anxious unhappiness. Her mention of the doctor at last somehow, seemed to lighten the situation.
“Oh, I thought he was very smart.” he made haste to answer. “Wouldn’t it be better—to—keep close to your man? He—may—think we’ve gone some other way.”
“It wouldn’t matter if he did,” remarked Celia. She appeared to comprehend his nervousness and take pity on it, for she added, “It is my brother Michael, as good a soul as ever lived. He is quite used to my ways.”
The Rev. Mr. Ware drew a long comforting breath. “Oh, I see! He went with you to—bring you home.”
“To blow the organ,” said the girl in the dark, correctingly. “But about that doctor; did you like him?”
“Well,” Theron began, “‘like’ is rather a strong word for so short an acquaintance. He talked very well; that is, fluently. But he is so different from any other man I have come into contact with that—”
“What I wanted you to say was that you hated him,” put in Celia, firmly.
“I don’t make a practice of saying that of anybody,” returned Theron, so much at his ease again that he put an effect of gentle, smiling reproof into the words. “And why specially should I make an exception for him?”
“Because he’s a beast!”
Theron fancied that he understood. “I noticed that he seemed not to have much of an ear for music,” he commented, with a little laugh. “He shut down the window when you began to play. His doing so annoyed me, because I—I wanted very much to hear it all. I never heard such music before. I—I came into the church to hear more of it; but then you stopped!”
“I will play for you some other time,” Celia said, answering the reproach in his tone. “But tonight I wanted to talk with you instead.”
She kept silent, in spite of this, so long now that Theron was on the point of jestingly asking when the talk was to begin. Then she put a question abruptly—