“Well,” McCarthy deliberated, “there’s other talk goes round, ’Tis said Vincent is over-thick with a jade down in the town—Lucile, they speak iv her.”
“All of which signifies?”
She waited, and McCarthy watched her dumbly.
“I know Lucile, and I like her,” Frona continued, filling the gap of his silence, and ostentatiously manoeuvring to help him on. “Do you know her? Don’t you like her?”
Matt started to speak, cleared his throat, and halted. At last, in desperation, he blurted out, “For two cents, Frona, I’d lay ye acrost me knee.”
She laughed. “You don’t dare. I’m not running barelegged at Dyea.”
“Now don’t be tasin’,” he blarneyed.
“I’m not teasing. Don’t you like her?—Lucile?”
“An’ what iv it?” he challenged, brazenly.
“Just what I asked,—what of it?”
“Thin I’ll tell ye in plain words from a man old enough to be yer father. ’Tis undacent, damnably undacent, for a man to kape company with a good young girl—”
“Thank you,” she laughed, dropping a courtesy. Then she added, half in bitterness, “There have been others who—”
“Name me the man!” he cried hotly.
“There, there, go on. You were saying?”
“That it’s a crying shame for a man to kape company with—with you, an’ at the same time be chake by jowl with a woman iv her stamp.”
“To come drippin’ from the muck to dirty yer claneness! An’ ye can ask why?”
“But wait, Matt, wait a moment. Granting your premises—”
“Little I know iv primises,” he growled. “‘Tis facts I’m dalin’ with.”
Frona bit her lip. “Never mind. Have it as you will; but let me go on and I will deal with facts, too. When did you last see Lucile?”
“An’ why are ye askin’?” he demanded, suspiciously.
“Never mind why. The fact.”
“Well, thin, the fore part iv last night, an’ much good may it do ye.”
“And danced with her?”
“A rollickin’ Virginia reel, an’ not sayin’ a word iv a quadrille or so. Tis at square dances I excel meself.”
Frona walked on in a simulated brown study, no sound going up from the twain save the complaint of the snow from under their moccasins.
“Well, thin?” he questioned, uneasily.
“An’ what iv it?” he insisted after another silence.
“Oh, nothing,” she answered. “I was just wondering which was the muckiest, Mr. St. Vincent or you—or myself, with whom you have both been cheek by jowl.”
Now, McCarthy was unversed in the virtues of social wisdom, and, though he felt somehow the error of her position, he could not put it into definite thought; so he steered wisely, if weakly, out of danger.
“It’s gettin’ mad ye are with yer old Matt,” he insinuated, “who has yer own good at heart, an’ because iv it makes a fool iv himself.”