“Yes, but a light coin.”
“My pet! He knows you’re the tenderest, gentlest dear he ever saw.”
“But neither brave nor strong.”
“Oh, you not brave! you not strong! You’re the lovingest, truest”—
“Only inclined to be a bit too hungry after sympathy, dear.”
“You never bid for it, love, never.”
“Well, no matter; I shall never love any one but myself too much. I think I shall some day love Arthur as I wish I could love him now. I never did really love Leonard,—I couldn’t; I haven’t the stature. That was my trouble, dearie: I hadn’t the stature. I never shall have; and if it’s he you are thinking of, you are wasting your dear, sweet care. But he’s going to be our best and nearest friend, mother,—he and Ruth and Godfrey, together and alike. We’ve so agreed, Arthur and I. Oh, I’m not going to come in here and turn the sweet old nickname of this happy spot into a sneer.”
“Then why are you not happy, precious?”
“Happy? Why, my dear, I am happy!”
“With touches of heartache?”
“Oh, with big wrenches of heartache! Why not? Were you never so?”
“I’m so right now, dearie. For after all is said”—
“And thought that can’t be said”—murmured Isabel.
“Yes,” replied the mother, “after all is said and thought, I should rather give you to Arthur than to any other man I know. Leonard will have a shining career, but it will be in politics.”
“I tried to dissuade him,” broke in the daughter, “till I was ashamed.”
“In politics,” continued Mrs. Morris,—“and Northern politics, Isabel. Arthur’s will be in the church!”
“Yes,” said the other, but her whole attention was within the fence at their side, where a rough stile, made in boyhood days by the two brothers and Leonard, led over into the garden. She sprang up. “Let’s go, mother; he’s coming!”
“Who, my child?”
“Both! Come, dear, come quickly! Oh, I don’t know why we ever came out at all!”
“My dear, it was you proposed it, lest some one should come in!”
The daughter had moved some steps down the road, but now turned again; for Ruth and Godfrey, returning, came out through the garden’s high gateway. However, they were giving all their smiles to the greetings which the General sent them from his piazza.
“Come over, mother!” called Isabel, in a stifled voice. “Cross to the hill path!” But before they could reach it Arthur and Leonard came into full view on the stile. Isabel motioned her mother despairingly toward them, wheeled once more, and with a gay call for Ruth’s notice hurried to meet her in the middle of the way.
ARTHUR AND LEONARD
Godfrey passed over to the General, who had walked down to his gate on his way to the great elm. Out from behind the elm came the other two men, Arthur leading and talking briskly:—