I nodded. “I thought you two were going to make a match of it sometime,” I said.
“Prettiest girl in the valley,” he assented; “but her family is hardly what we would call the best, you know.” I looked at him very hard.
“Then why did you go there so often all last year?” I asked him. “Might she not think—”
He flushed still more, his mouth twitching now. “Jack,” he said, “it’s all through. I want to ask you. I ought to marry Jennie Williams, but—”
Now I looked at him full and hard, and guessed. Perhaps my face was grave. I was beginning to wonder whether there was one clean thing in all the world.
“Oh, she can marry,” went on Harry. “No difficulty about that. She has another beau who loves her to distraction, and who doesn’t in the least suspect—a decent sort of a fellow, a young farmer of her own class.”
“And, in your belief, that wedding should go on?”
He shifted uneasily.
“When is this wedding to be?” I asked.
“Oh, naturally, very soon,” he answered. “I am doing as handsome a thing as I know how by her. Sometimes it’s mighty hard to do the handsome thing—even mighty hard to know what is the handsome thing itself.”
“Yes,” said I. But who was I that I should judge him?
“If you were just where I am,” asked Harry Sheraton, slowly, “what would you do? I’d like to do what is right, you know.”
“Oh no, you don’t, Harry,” I broke out. “You want to do what is easiest. If you wanted to do what is right, you’d never ask me nor any one else. Don’t ask me, because I don’t know. Suppose you were in the case of that other young man who loves her? Suppose he did not know—or suppose he did know. What would be right for him?”
“Heavy end of the log for him,” admitted he, grimly. “That’s true, sure as you’re born.”
“When one does not love a girl, and sees no happiness in the thought of living with her all his life, what squares that, Harry, in your opinion?”
“I’ve just asked you,” he rejoined. “Why do you ask me? You say one ought to know what is right in his own case without any such asking, and I say that isn’t always true. Oh, damn it all, anyway. Why are we made the way we are?”
“If only the girl in each case would be content by having the handsome thing done by her!” said I, bitterly.
THE UNCOVERING OF GORDON ORME
It is not necessary for me to state that dinner in the Sheraton hall, with its dull mahogany and its shining silver and glass, was barely better than a nightmare to me, who should have been most happy. At least there remained the topic of politics and war; and never was I more glad to plunge into such matters than upon that evening. In some way the dinner hour passed. Miss Grace pleaded a headache and left us; my mother asked leave; and presently our hostess and host departed. Harry and I remained to stare at each other moodily. I admit I was glad when finally he announced his intention of retiring.