“Why not?” he asked, a storm of tempestuous impatience raging behind his lips. “Do say it,” he pleaded.
“No, I can’t say it. It wouldn’t be right. I don’t mean it, and so I won’t say it. I’ll only tell you that I can promise nothing as things are, and that unless you go at life from now on with a tremendous energy I never shall even dream of a possible promising.”
He rose to his feet and towered above her, tall and straight and handsome, and very grave.
“All right,” he said simply. “I’ll remember.”
Ever so much later that evening he rose to bid her good-night.
“Whatever comes, you’ve been an angel to me,” he said in that hasty five seconds that her hand was his.
“Shall I ever regret it?” she asked, looking up to his eyes.
“Never,” he declared earnestly, “never, never. I can swear that, and I shall be able to swear the same thing when I’m as old as my Aunt Mary.”
Mrs. Rosscott lowered her eyes.
“Who could ask more?” she said softly.
“I could,” said Jack—“but I’ll wait first.”
Chapter Nineteen — Aunt Mary’s Return
Joshua was at the station to meet his mistress, and Lucinda, full to the brim with curiosity, sat on the back seat of the carryall.
Aunt Mary quitted the train with a dignity which was sufficiently overpowering to counteract the effect of her bonnet’s being somewhat awry. She greeted Joshua with a chill perfunctoriness that was indescribable, and her glance glided completely over Lucinda and faded away in the open country on the further side of her.
Lucinda did not care. Lucinda was of a hardy stock and stormy glances neither bent nor broke her spirit.
“I’m glad to see you come back looking so well,” she screamed, when Aunt Mary was in and they were off.
Aunt Mary raised her eyebrows in a manner that appeared a trifle indignant, and riveted her gaze on the hindquarters of the horse.
“I thought it was more like heaven myself,” she said coldly. “Not that your opinion matters any to me, Lucinda.”
Then she leaned forward and poked the driver.
“Joshua!” she said.
Joshua jumped in his seat at the asperity of her poke and her tone.
“What is it?” he said hastily.
“Jus’ ’s soon as we get home I want you to take the saw—that little, sharp one, you know—and dock Billy’s tail. Cut it off as close as you can; do you hear?”
“I hear,” was the startled answer.
“Did you have a good time?” Lucinda had the temerity to ask, after a minute.
“I guess I could if I tried,” the lady replied; “but I’m too tired to try now.”
“How did you leave Mr. Jack?”
“I couldn’t stay forever, could I?” asked the traveler impatiently. “I thought that a week was long enough for the first time, anyhow.”