“Miss Welse is.” Corliss touched the visor of his cap and half-turned on his heel.
“Where’re you off to?” Dave demanded.
“Got an appointment,” he lied.
“Remember,” Frona called to him, “you must come and see me.”
“Too busy, I’m afraid, just now. Good-by. So long, Dave.”
“Jemimy!” Dave remarked, staring after him; “but he’s a hustler. Always busy—with big things, too. Wonder why he didn’t go in for dogs?”
But Corliss did go back to see her, and before the day was out. A little bitter self-communion had not taken long to show him his childishness. The sting of loss was hard enough, but the thought, now they could be nothing to each other, that her last impressions of him should be bad, hurt almost as much, and in a way, even more. And further, putting all to the side, he was really ashamed. He had thought that he could have taken such a disappointment more manfully, especially since in advance he had not been at all sure of his footing.
So he called upon her, walked with her up to the Barracks, and on the way, with her help, managed to soften the awkwardness which the morning had left between them. He talked reasonably and meekly, which she countenanced, and would have apologized roundly had she not prevented him.
“Not the slightest bit of blame attaches to you,” she said. “Had I been in your place, I should probably have done the same and behaved much more outrageously. For you were outrageous, you know.”
“But had you been in my place, and I in yours,” he answered, with a weak attempt at humor, “there would have been no need.”
She smiled, glad that he was feeling less strongly about it.
“But, unhappily, our social wisdom does not permit such a reversal,” he added, more with a desire to be saying something.
“Ah!” she laughed. “There’s where my Jesuitism comes in. I can rise above our social wisdom.”
“You don’t mean to say,—that—?”
“There, shocked as usual! No, I could not be so crude as to speak outright, but I might finesse, as you whist-players say. Accomplish the same end, only with greater delicacy. After all, a distinction without a difference.”
“Could you?” he asked.
“I know I could,—if the occasion demanded. I am not one to let what I might deem life-happiness slip from me without a struggle. That” (judicially) “occurs only in books and among sentimentalists. As my father always says, I belong to the strugglers and fighters. That which appeared to me great and sacred, that would I battle for, though I brought heaven tumbling about my ears.”
“You have made me very happy, Vance,” she said at parting by the Barracks gates. “And things shall go along in the same old way. And mind, not a bit less of you than formerly; but, rather, much more.”