There was a smile on every lip at this ingenuous remark, but only Mark and Bell liked Katy the better for it. Wilford did not care to have her talking of her friends, and he kept her at the piano until she said her fingers were tired, and begged leave to stop.
It was late ere Mark bade them good-night; so late that Katy began to wonder if he would never go, yawning once so perceptibly that Wilford gave her a reproving glance, which sent the hot blood to her face and drove from her every feeling of drowsiness. Even after he had gone the family were in no haste to retire, but sat chatting with Wilford until the city clock struck twelve and Katy was actually nodding in her chair.
“Poor child, she is very tired,” Wilford said, apologetically, gently waking Katy, who, really mortified, begged them to excuse her, and followed her husband to her room, where she was free to ask him what she must ask before she could ever be quite as happy as she had been before.
Notwithstanding what Jamie had said, Juno’s words kept recurring to her mind, and going up to the chair where Wilford was sitting before the fire, and standing partly behind him, she said, timidly: “Will you answer me one thing truly?”
Alone with Katy, Wilford felt all his old tenderness returning, and drawing her into his lap, he asked her what it was she wished to know.
“Did you love anybody three or four years ago, or ever—that is, love them well enough to wish to make them your wife?”
Katy could feel how Wilford started, as he said: “What put that idea into your head? Who has been talking to you?”
“Juno,” Katy answered. “She told me she believed that it was some other love which kept you a bachelor so long. Was it, Wilford?” and Katy’s lips quivered in a grieved kind of way as she put the question.
Wilford did not say what, for he seldom swore, and never in a lady’s presence, even if the lady were his wife. So he said, instead:
“It was very unkind in Juno to distress you thus with matters about which she knew nothing.”
“But did you?” Katy asked again. “Was there not a Sybil Grey, or some one of that name?”
At mention of Sybil Grey, Wilford looked relieved, and answered her at once:
“Yes, there was a Sybil Grey, Mrs. Judge Grandon now, and a dashing widow. Don’t sigh so wearily,” he continued, as Katy drew a gasping breath. “Knowing she was a widow, I chose you, thus showing which I preferred. Few men live to be thirty without more or less fancies, which under some circumstances might ripen into something stronger, and I am not an exception. I never loved Sybil Grey, nor wished to make her my wife. I admired her very much. I admire her yet, and among all my acquaintances there is not one upon whom I would care to have you make so good an impression as upon her, nor one whose manner you could better imitate.”