“By George, Veath, just let me know how much you need—” broke in Hugh warmly, but the other silenced him, smiling sadly.
“I’m greatly obliged to you, but I don’t believe it is money that I want now—at least, not borrowed money. When you told me that your sister was to become a missionary, I inferred that you were not burdened with worldly goods, and I felt at home with you both—more so than I should, I believe—”
“Oh, the devil!”
“But a few days ago your sister told me that she is not to be a missionary and that she is rich enough to make this trip to the Orient for mere pleasure—oh, well, you know better than I how rich you both are.” His voice was low and unsteady. “I don’t know why you should have told me that she—she was to be a missionary.”
“It was—I did it for a little joke on her, honestly I did,” mumbled Hugh.
“And it was a serious one for me. Before I knew of her real position she seemed more approachable to me, more as if I could claim her friendship on the grounds of mutual sympathy. I was deceived into believing our lots not vastly unequal, and I have suffered more than I can tell you by the disparity which I now know exists.”
“But what difference can it make whether we are rich or poor? We can still be friends,” said Hugh eagerly.
“It was when I believed your sister to be a missionary that I learned to love her better than all else in this world. Now do you understand?”
“Great Scott!” gasped his listener, starting from his chair. Now he realised that she had not been mistaken in her fears. “Does she know this?” he managed to ask.
“No, and I dare not tell her—I cannot. I had to tell some one, and to whom should I confess it if not to the brother of the woman I love? It is no disgrace, no dishonor to her. You cannot blame me for being honest with you. Some day after you have gone back to America you can tell her that I love her and always will. She has intimated to me that she is to marry another man, so what chance is there for a poor wretch like me? I don’t see how I have endured the awakening from the dreams I have had. I even went so far as to imagine a little home in Manila, after I had won her from the mission field and after I had laid by the savings of a year or two. I had planned to fairly starve myself that I might save enough to make a home for her and—and—” but he could say no more. Hugh heard the sob and turned sick at heart. To what a pass their elopement had come!