“Thank you,” he said, gravely, and though the words were trivial the manner gave them significance.
“Were you coming to call on me?” Katrine inquired.
Frank shook his head. “The lawyers at Marlton are waiting for me.”
“Stay with me,” she said, opening her hand and showing some nuts, as though they might be an inducement to remain. “It’s lonesome. I’ve finished practising. Stay with me!”
“Duty calls,” he answered, looking down at her.
“Put your fingers in your ears! If you once listen to her, you can never hear any other thing in life.” She folded her arms on one of the bars of the gate, resting her chin upon them, as she looked up at him. “If you will stay with me,” she hesitated, searching her mind for further inducements, “I’ll tell you tales of Killybegs and the Black Bradley Brothers, who hid their sister in the ‘pocheen’ barrel”—she waited a minute—“and of the wedding of Peggy Menalis on the old sea-wall.”
He shook his head.
“And I’ll sing you a funny little song that ends like this”:
She sang the tones out sweet and true as a bird. “Is she calling still?” she asked.
“Who?” Frank asked, not following.
“Duty,” she answered; and as she spoke she shut her eyes tight and drew the lids together.
“Somehow, I don’t hear her so plainly as I did,” he returned, with a laugh.
There was another pause, filled by a glance which made his heart throb.
“And if you stayed,” she went on, at length, “I could tell you how nice you are.”
Frank smiled. “I don’t hear her at all now—that Duty person,” he said, gayly.
“You are,” she hesitated, “a very nice man.”
He kept his eyes averted.
“One of the nicest I have ever known.”
He fastened his eyes on the Chestnut Ridge.
“The nicest of all,” she said, almost in a whisper, her eyes brimming over with laughter.
At the words he sprang to the ground and stood beside her.
“And Duty?” she asked.
“I don’t know whether it’s Duty or not, but something tells me that there’s nothing in all the world of any importance except to stay with you,” he answered.
But with his acquiescence there came the veering in her moods for which he had already learned to watch.
“Where were you going?” she asked.
“The lawyers telephoned for me from Marlton.”
“They are waiting for you?”
“And you are going to keep them waiting because I asked you to stay?”
“Them or the whole world,” he answered.
“King Francis,” she said, with a courtesy, “must do no wrong. Here is a flower—a horrible one, it is true, but the only one I have. Wear it, and go to the lawyer men and think of me. Perhaps—this evening—” she hesitated.
“May I come,” he said, “early?”