She smiled a little.
“It’s the same with people,” she went on.
[Image: Illustration 2]
“Do not let us play any longer,’ she said. ‘Let us be in earnest.’”
“Only less painful,” he interrupted again.
“Sometimes not,” she said, with a look that silenced him. “Sometimes much more so—my Cousin Maude, for example.”
“Hip, hip, hurrah for the mosquito!” he murmured. They laughed softly together. Then she grew earnest, and looked so grave that he became serious too.
“There is always a purpose,” she said, with a touch of some feeling which he had never guessed at. “If you and I have met, it is because we are to have some influence over one another. I can’t just see how; I can’t form any idea—”
“I can,” he said eagerly.
She looked up so suddenly and steadily that he was silent.
“Do not let us play any longer,” she said. “Let us be in earnest.”
“But I am in earnest,” he asseverated.
“You don’t know what I mean,” she went on very gently. “You’re in college. Let’s fight it out on those lines if it takes all summer.”
He looked up into her face and loved her better than ever for the frank kindliness that shone in her eyes.
“All right, if you say so,” he vowed.
“I do say so,” she said. “I like to see men stick it through in college if they begin. I like to see people finish up every one of life’s jobs that they set out on.”
“But I’m coming to see you in town, you know,” he went on with great apparent irrelevance.
She laughed merrily.
“Yes, surely. You must promise me that.—No,” she stopped and looked thoughtful, “I’ll tell you what I want you to promise me. Promise me that you’ll come once a week or else write me why you can’t come. Will you?”
“You can’t suppose that you’ll ever see my handwriting under such circumstances—can you?” Jack asked.
She laughed again.
“Is it a promise?”
“Yes, it’s a promise.”
Oh, joy unmeasured in the time of spring! No other February like that had ever been for them—nor ever would be. The drive came to an end, the day came to an end, but the good-nights, which were good-bys, too, were not so fraught with hopelessness as he had dreaded, for the promise asked and given paved a broad road illuminated by the most hopeful kind of stars,—a broad road leading straight from college to town,—and his fancy showed him a figure treading it often. A figure that was his own.
That first meeting was in February, you know, and by the last of April it had been followed by so many others that Burnett remarked one day to his chum:
“Say, aren’t you going a little faster than auntie’ll stand for?”
Jack turned in surprise.