“Eh? . . . I don’t see—”
“He’s goin’ to hell,” she repeated with a nod as over a matter that admitted no dispute.
“Well, but dang it all!” protested Captain Cai after a pause, “we’ll allow as he’s goin’ there, for the sake of argyment. Is that why you’re tendin’ on him so careful?”
“You mustn’t think,” answered the child, “that I’m doin’ it out o’ pity altogether. There’s something terrible fascinatin’ about a man in that position.”
VOICES IN THE TWILIGHT.
“I don’t see anything immodest in it,” said Mrs Bosenna looking up. She was on her knees and had just finished pressing the earth about the roots of a small rose-bush. “The house is mine, and naturally I am curious to know something about my tenant.”
Dinah, her middle-aged maid, who had been holding the bush upright and steady, answered this challenge with a short sniff. “He don’t seem over curious, for his part, about you.” She, too, glanced upward and toward the house, the upper storey alone of which, from where they stood, was visible above the spikes of a green palisade. A roadway divided the house from the garden, which descended to the harbour-cliff in a series of tiny terraces. “They’ve been pokin’ around indoors this hour and more.”
“You don’t suppose he caught sight of us?”
“Maybe not; but Tabb’s child did. That girl ’ve a-got eyes like niddles. If he don’t come down to pay his respects, you may bet ’tis because he don’t want to.” Dinah, being vexed, spoke viciously. Her speech implied that her mistress’s conduct had been not only indelicate but clumsy.
“You are a horrid woman,” Mrs Bosenna accused her; “and I can’t think what put such nasty-minded thoughts into your head.”
“No more can I, unless you suggested ’em,” Dinah retorted.
“You were willing enough to come, when—when—”
“When you proposed it,” Dinah relentlessly concluded the sentence. “Of course. Why not?”
“And you were excited enough—you can’t deny it”—her mistress insisted, “when you brought the news this morning, that his ship had arrived. But now, and only because you happen to be put out—”
“Who said I was put out?”
“As if I couldn’t tell by your tone! Now, just because you happen to be put out, I’m indelicate all of a sudden.”
“I never said so,” Dinah protested sullenly.
“Said so?” Mrs Bosenna, rising, faced her with withering scorn. “I hope you’ve a better sense of your position than to say such a thing. Oh, you content yourself with hinting! . . . But who owns this house and garden, I should like to know?”
Dinah, though remorseful, showed fight yet. “Then why couldn’ ye take the bull by the horns an’ march in by the front door?”
“Why? Because you agreed with me that to plant a two or three roses for him would be a nice attention! . . . You can’t start planting roses in the dusk, at the end of an afternoon call; and, as it is, we’ve only just finished before twilight.”