His swiftly illuminating face made her add, hastily, “and now you go and spoil everything!”
“I won’t spoil things, Skeezics,” he said, gently; “oh, say, Edith, let up on crying! That breaks me all up.”
But Edith, having discovered her handkerchief, was mopping very flushed cheeks and mumbling on about her own woes. “Why can’t you be satisfied just to go on the way we always have? Why can’t you be satisfied to have me like you almost as much as I like Maurice?”
“Maurice!” the young man said, with a helpless laugh. “Oh, Edith, you are several kinds of a goose! In the first place, Maurice is married; and in the second place, he’s old enough to be your father—”
“He isn’t old enough to be my father! And I shall never like anybody as much as Maurice, because there isn’t anybody like him in the entire world. I’ve always thought he was exactly like Sir Walter Raleigh. Besides, I shall never marry anybody! But I mean, I don’t see why it isn’t enough for you to have me awfully fond of you?”
“Well, it isn’t,” Johnny said, briefly, “but don’t you worry.” He was white, but his tenderness was like a new sense. Edith had never seen this Johnny. Her entirely selfish impatience turned to shyness. “Edith,” he said, very gently, “you don’t understand, dear. You’re awfully young—younger than your age. I didn’t take in how young you were—talking about Maurice! I suppose it’s because you know so few girls, that you are so young. Well; I can’t hang round with you any more, as if we were ten years old. You see, I—I love you, Edith. That makes the difference ... dear.”
“Oh,” said Edith, desperately, “how perfectly horrid—” She looked really distracted, poor child! (but that was the moment when her preposterous youthfulness ceased.) She jumped to her feet so suddenly that Johnny, who had begun, his fingers trembling, to scrape out the bowl of his pipe, dropped his jackknife, which rolled down the steeply sloping rock into the water. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Edith said.
John sighed. “Oh, that’s nothing,” he said, and slid over the moss and ferns to the water’s edge; there, lying flat on his stomach, his sleeve rolled up, he thrust his bare white arm into the dark and troutless depths of the pool, and salvaged his knife. Edith, on the bank, began furiously to pack up. When Johnny climbed back to her she said she wanted to go home, “now!”
“All right,” he said again, gently.
So, silently, they started homeward; and never in her life had Edith been so glad to see any human creature as she was to see Maurice on the West Branch Road! But she let him do all the talking. To herself she was saying, “It’s all Eleanor’s fault for not letting him come this morning! I just hate her!...”
That night her father said to her mother, rather sadly, “Mary, our little girl has grown up. Johnny Bennett is casting sheep’s eyes at her.”