Young Mr. Higgins found his companion bubbling over with vivacity. Her pretty chin was in the air and every word bore the promise of a laugh. He afterward recalled one little incident of their walk through the frosty night, and repeated it to Anderson Crow with more awe than seemed necessary. They were passing the town pump on their way to the post-office. The street was dark and deserted.
“Gosh!” said Ed, “I bet the town pump’s froze up!”
“It doesn’t seem very cold,” she said brightly.
“Gee! it’s below zero! I bet ’Rast thinks it’s pretty doggone cold up there by your gate.”
“Poor ’Rast! His mother should keep him indoors on nights like this.” Ed laughed loud and long and a tingle of happiness shot through his erstwhile shivering frame. “I’m not a bit cold,” she went on. “See—feel my hand. I’m not even wearing mittens.”
Ed Higgins gingerly clasped the little hand, but it was withdrawn at once. He found it as warm as toast. Words of love surged to his humble lips; his knees felt a tendency to lower themselves precipitously to the frozen sidewalk; he was ready to grovel at her feet—and he wondered if they were as warm as toast. But ’Rast Little came up at that instant and the chance was lost.
“Doggone!” slipped unconsciously but bitterly from Ed’s lips.
“Can I be your company to the spellin’-bee to-morrow night, Miss Banks?” burst unceremoniously from the lips of the newcomer.
“Thank you, ’Rast. I was just wondering how I should get out to the schoolhouse. You are very kind. We’ll go in the bob-sled with the Holabirds.”
“Doggone!” came in almost a wail from poor Ed. He could have killed ’Rast for the triumphant laugh that followed.
In the meantime Anderson Crow was preparing to crawl in between the icy sheets at home. Mrs. Crow was “sitting up” with old Mrs. Luce, who was ill next door.
“She’s a girl with a past,” reflected Anderson. “She’s a mystery, that’s what she is; but I’ll unravel her. She had a mighty good reason fer sawin’ me off out there to-day. I was gittin’ too close home. She seen I was about to corner her. By gum, I hope she don’t suspect nothin’! She’s found out that Ed Higgins has a good job down to Lamson’s store, an’ she’s settin’ her cap fer him. It shows she’d ruther live in the city than in the country—so it’s all up with ’Rast. That proves she’s from Chicago er some other big place. Ed’s gettin’ eight dollars a week down there at Lamson’s. By gum, that boy’s doin’ well! I used to think he wouldn’t amount to nothin’. It shows that the best of us git fooled in a feller once in a while. To-morrow night I’ll go out to the spellin’-match, an’ when the chanct comes I’ll sidle up to her an’ whisper her real name in her ear. I bet four dollars an’ a half that’ll fetch her purty prompt. Doggone, these here sheets air cold! It’s forty below zero right here in this bed.”