“He is at home taking care of the house, aunt. How are you?”
“Oh, thanks—as you see. I think so often what will become of that boy; he is so wild, but with such a good nature, poor fellow!”
“Oh, we shall make something of him, you’ll see,” said Elizabeth, who had been standing behind Salve, and now came forward. “But you must not talk so much.”
Salve’s face grew stern; this was the most unfortunate topic which could have been suggested. And matters were presently made worse by Mother Kirstine saying, when there was a pause—
“You looked so glad last night, Elizabeth! Who was it that was sitting with you talking yesterday?”
“It was Fru Beck.”
“The young one?”
“Yes. But you talk too much, aunt.”
“I am afraid so too,” thought Salve; and as he saw Elizabeth, as if nothing had happened, motioning to him now to come away, he controlled himself for the moment, and said a little constrainedly—
“You will be quite well, aunt, I hope, by the time I come again perhaps in a few days. Good-bye till then.”
He left the room rather brusquely, and his face was black as thunder.
Elizabeth read his thoughts, and when they came out into the kitchen she forestalled him.
“Listen, Salve,” she said; “I must, of course, stay here as long as aunt is ill.”
“Of course,” he replied; “and you have acquaintances here.”
“You mean Fru Beck? Yes, she has been so kind to me, and I am attached to her—she is unhappily married, poor thing!”
Salve was astounded. Elizabeth seemed all in a moment to have forgotten a great deal—to have forgotten that there existed certain stumbling-blocks between them—was it perhaps because she was in her aunt’s house? He looked coldly at her as if he could not quite comprehend what had come over her.
“You will remain, of course, as long as you please,” he said, and prepared to go; but could not help adding with bitterness—
“I daresay you find it lonely and dull at home.”
“You are not so far wrong there, Salve,” she replied. “I have indeed found it lonely enough out there for many years now. You are so often away from home, and then I am left quite alone. It is two years now since I have been in here to see my aunt.”
“Elizabeth,” he burst out, trying hard to restrain himself, “have you taken leave of your senses?”
“That is just what I want to avoid, Salve,” she said, with freezing deliberation.
He stared at her. She could stand and tell him this to his face!
“So these are your sentiments, then,” he observed, scornfully. “I always suspected it; and now, for what I care, you may please yourself about coming home, Elizabeth,” he continued in a cold, indifferent tone.
“You ought always to have known what my sentiments were, Salve; that I was, perhaps, too much attached to you.”