“I want to know about the world—how they all look, and how they speak, and what they do. I’ve been lonely all these weeks. I’ve been wondering all the time what you were doing. Now I want it to seem that you’ve come to take me with you, back through it all. I want it to seem just as though I were travelling along with you—that will make me forget how lonely I’ve been, waiting here on the edge of the big woods.”
And he humored her whim, for he had always understood her child’s ways. The woods had trained him to note the details of all he saw; his experiences had been fresh and stirring, and he told his story with zest.
Then he came to his mention of Madeleine Presson. “Her father is the State chairman—the man you saw at ‘The Barracks.’ I was at their house a few times. Her mother—”
“But about her! You are skipping again, Big Boy.”
“There is not much about her,” he said, stammering a bit. “I saw her here and there, and talked with her, that’s all.”
“But I’m seeing with your eyes and hearing with your ears as I go along with you,” she insisted. “I want to know how other girls are in the world outside. I have been waiting to have some one tell me. You saw her, you heard her. Begin, Harlan: her looks, her clothes, her manners, what she said, what she talks about. I have only you to ask.”
His self-consciousness left him after he began. He drew his word-picture as best he could.
“That makes her beautiful,” she said, when he paused, searching his mind for some word of description. “I think I can see her with your eyes, Big Boy. Tell me what she knows; and how does she talk?”
In the dusk he could not see the expression on her face. He knew that she listened intently, leaning above him. He was not conscious that he praised Madeleine Presson’s gifts of mind or person. But as he had found her, so he portrayed her to the isolated girl of the north country, describing her attainments, her culture, her breadth of view, her grasp of the questions of the day, her ability to understand the big matters in which men were interested.
She made no comment as he talked. She did not interrupt him when he had finished with Madeleine Presson and went on to relate how he had been forced into the forefront of the State’s political situation.
“So, then, you have become a great man,” she faltered. “I remember. I was selfish. I did not want you to go away.”
“No, I am not a great man, little Clare,” he protested, laughingly. “I’m only a little chap that a great man is using. And you were not selfish. It was you that first put the thought into my mind that I ought to use my opportunities. That night at the end of the bridge, you know! I was sullen and obstinate. But you talked to me like a wise little woman. All the time I was with my grandfather later that evening, trying to be angry with him, I kept remembering your advice.”