“You must not speak like that,” she said, her face contracted by pain and pity. “You are the most wonderful man I’ve ever known—the best and the truest. But—” and she paused, with a wan, drear smile on her lips.
“I understand,” he interrupted. “Don’t say it. I want to think that some day you will feel like saying something else, and I want to hope, Rosalie, that it won’t always be like this. Let us talk about something else.” But neither cared to speak for what seemed an hour. They were in sight of home before the stony silence was broken. “I may come over from Bonner Place to see you?” he asked at last. He was to cross the river the next day for a stay of a week or two at his uncle’s place.
“Yes—often, Wicker. I shall want to see you every day. Yes, every day; I’m sure of it,” she said wistfully, a hungry look in her eyes that he did not see, for he was staring straight ahead. Had he seen that look or caught the true tone in her voice, the world might not have looked so dark to him. When he did look at her again, her face was calm almost to sereneness.
“And you will come to Boston in June just the same?”
“If your sister and—and your mother still want me to come.”
[Illustration: “‘I think I understand, rosalie’”]
She was thinking of herself, the nameless one, in the house of his people; she was thinking of the doubts, the speculations—even the fears that would form the background of her welcome in that proud house. No longer was Rosalie Gray regarding herself as the happy, careless foster-child of Anderson Crow; she was seeing herself only as the castaway, the unwanted, and the world was growing bitter for her. But Bonner was blind to all this; he could not, should not know.
“You know they want you to come. Why do you say that?” he asked quickly, a strange, dim perspective rising before him for an instant, only to fade away before it could be analysed.
“One always says that,” she replied with a smile. “It is the penalty of being invited. Your sister has written the dearest letter to me, and I have answered it. We love one another, she and I.”
“Rosalie, I am going to write to you,” said he suddenly; “you will answer?”
“Yes,” she told him simply. His heart quickened, but faltered, and was lost. “I had a long letter from Elsie Banks to-day,” she went on with an indifference that chilled.
“Oh,” he said; “she is your friend who was or is to marry Tom Reddon, I believe. I knew him at Harvard. Tell me, are they married?”
“No. It was not to take place until March, but now she writes that her mother is ill and must go to California for several months. Mr. Reddon wants to be married at once, or before they go West, at least; but she says she cannot consent while her mother requires so much of her. I don’t know how it will end, but I presume they will be married and all go to California. That seems the simple and just way, doesn’t it?”