“Do you mean Ruth Nelson?” asked Mrs. Hollis, snapping her scissors sharply. “He surely wouldn’t be fool enough to think she would look at him. Why, the Nelsons think they are the only aristocratic people that ever lived in Clayton. If they had paid less attention to their ancestors and more to their descendants, they might have had a better showing.”
“I nebber said it was Miss Rufe,” said Aunt Melvy from the doorway; “but den ag’in I don’t say hit ain’t.”
“Well, I hope it’s not,” said the judge to his wife as he laid down his paper; “though I must say she is as pretty and friendly a girl as I ever saw. No matter how long she stays away, she is always glad to see everybody when she comes back. Some of old Evan’s geniality must have come down to her.”
“Geniality!” cried Mrs. Hollis. “It was mint-juleps and brandy and soda. He was just as snobbish as the rest of them when he was sober. If she has any good in her, it’s from her mother’s side of the house.”
“I hope Sandy isn’t interested there,” went on the judge, thoughtfully. “It would not do him any good, and would spoil his taste for what he could get. How long has it been going on, Sue?”
“He’s been acting foolish for a month, but it gets worse all the time. He moons around the house, with his head in the clouds, and sits up half the night hanging out of his window. He has raked out all those silly old poetry-books of yours, and I find them strewn all over the house. Here’s one now; look at those pencil-marks all round the margin!”
“Some of the marks were there before,” said the judge, as he read the title.
“Then there are more fools than one in the world. Here is where he has turned down a leaf. Now just read that bosh and nonsense!”
The judge took the book from her hand and read with a reminiscent smile:
“When cold in the earth
lies the friend thou hast loved,
Be his faults and his follies forgot by thee then;
Or if from their slumber the veil be removed,
Weep o’er them in silence and close it again.
And, oh! if ’t is pain to remember how far
From the pathway of light he was tempted to roam,
Be it bliss to remember that thou wert the star
That arose on his darkness and guided him home.”
The judge paused, with his eyes on the fire; then he said: “I think I’ll wait up for the boy to-night, Sue. I want to tell him the good news myself. You haven’t spoken of it?”
“No, indeed. I haven’t seen him since breakfast. Melvy says he spends his spare time on the river. That’s what’s giving him the malaria, too, you mark my words.”
It was after eleven when Sandy’s step sounded on the porch. At the judge’s call he opened the sitting-room door and stood dazed by the sudden light. The judge noticed that he was pale and dejected, and he suppressed a smile over the imaginary troubles of youth.