“Mr. Swann has asked your hand in marriage for his son Richard. He wants Richard to settle down. Richard is wild, like all these young men. And I have—well, I encouraged the plan.”
“Mother!” cried Margaret, springing up.
“Margaret, you will see”
“I despise Dick Swann.”
“Why?” asked her mother.
“I just do. I never liked him in school. He used to do such mean things. He’s selfish. He let Holt and Daren suffer for his tricks.”
“Margaret, you talk like a child.”
“Listen, mother.” She threw her arms round Mrs. Maynard and kissed her and spoke pleadingly. “Oh, don’t make me hate myself. It seems I’ve grown so much older in the last year or so—and lately since this marriage talk came up. I’ve thought of things as never before because I’ve—I’ve learned about them. I see so differently. I can’t—can’t love Dick Swann. I can’t bear to have him touch me. He’s rude. He takes liberties.... He’s too free with his hands! Why, it’d be wrong to marry him. What difference can a marriage service make in a girl’s feelings.... Mother, let me say no.”
“Lord spare me from bringing up another girl!” exclaimed Mrs. Maynard. “Margaret, I can’t make you marry Richard Swann. I’m simply trying to tell you what any sensible girl would see she had to do. You think it over—both sides of the question—before you absolutely decide.”
Mrs. Maynard was glad to end the discussion and to get away. In Margaret’s appeal she heard a yielding, a final obedience to her wish. And she thought she had better let well enough alone. The look in Margaret’s clear blue eyes made her shrink; it would haunt her. But she felt no remorse. Any mother would have done the same. There was always the danger of that old love affair; there was new danger in these strange wild fancies of modern girls; there was never any telling what Margaret might do. But once married she would be safe and her position assured.
Daren Lane left Riverside Park, and walked in the meadows until he came to a boulder under a huge chestnut tree. Here he sat down. He could not walk far these days. Many a time in the Indian summers long past he had gathered chestnuts there with Dal, with Mel Iden, with Helen. He would never do it again.
The April day had been warm and fresh with the opening of a late spring. The sun was now gold—rimming the low hills in the west; the sky was pale blue; the spring flowers whitened the meadow. Twilight began to deepen; the evening star twinkled out of the sky; the hush of the gloaming hour stole over the land.
“Four weeks home—and nothing done. So little time left!” he muttered.
Two weeks of that period he had been unable to leave his bed. The rest of the time he had dragged himself around, trying to live up to his resolve, to get at the meaning of the present, to turn his sister Lorna from the path of dalliance. And he had failed in all.