“Pounds?” gasped Thomas.
“Oh, no; dollars. I do not expect your answer at this moment. You must have time to think it over.”
“It is not necessary, Miss Killigrew.”
“On the contrary, I accept with a good deal of gratitude. On condition,” he added gravely.
“You will ask me no questions regarding my past.”
Kitty looked squarely into his eyes and he returned the glance steadily and calmly.
“Very well; I accept the condition,”
Thomas was mightily surprised.
He had put forward this condition, perfectly sure that she would refuse to accept it. He could not understand.
“You accept that condition?”
“Yes.” Having gone thus far with her plot, Kitty would have died rather than retreated; Irish temperament.
Thomas was moved to a burst of confidence. “I know that I am poor, and to the best of my belief, honest. Moreover, perhaps I should be compelled by the exigencies of circumstance to leave you after a few months. I am not a rich man, masquerading for the sport of it; I am really poor and grateful for any work. It is only fair that I should tell you this much, that I am running away from no one. Beyond the fact that I am the son of a very great but unknown scholar, a farmer of mediocre talents who lost his farm because he dreamed of humanity instead of cabbages, I have nothing to say.” He said it gravely, without pride or veiled hauteur.
“That is frank enough,” replied Kitty, curiously stirred. “You will not find us hard task-masters. Be here this afternoon at three. My father will wish to talk to you. And be as frank with him as you have been with me.”
She smiled and nodded brightly, and turned away. He had a glimpse of a tan shoe and a slim tan-silk ankle, which poised birdlike above the high doorsill; and then she vanished into the black shadow of the companionway. She afterward confessed to me that her sensation must have been akin to that of a boy who had stolen an apple and beaten the farmer in the race to the road.
We all make the mistake of searching for our drama, forgetting that it arrives sooner or later, unsolicited.
Bewitched. Thomas should have been the happiest man alive, but the devil had recruited him for his miserables. Her piquant face no longer confronting and bewildering him, he saw this second net into which he had permitted himself to be drawn. As if the first had not been colossal enough! Where would it all end? Private secretary and two hundred the month—forty pounds—this was a godsend. But to take her orders day by day, to see her, to be near her. . . . Poverty-stricken wretch that he was, he should have declined. Now he could not; being a simple Englishman, he had given his word and meant to abide by it. There was one glimmer of hope; her father. He was a practical merchant and would not permit a man without a past (often worse than a man with one) to enter his establishment.