The gentle porter bowed her toward the steps of his car; but first she gave Flopit into the hands of May Parcher, for a moment, and whispered a word to Wallace Banks; then to Joe Bullitt; then to Johnnie Watson;—then she ran to William.
She took his hand.
“Don’t forget!” she whispered. “Don’t forget Lola!”
He stood stock-still. His face was blank, his hand limp. He said nothing.
She enfolded May Parcher, kissed her devotedly; then, with Flopit once more under her arm, she ran and jumped upon the steps just as the train began to move. She stood there, on the lowest step, slowly gliding away from them, and in her eyes there was a sparkle of tears, left, it may be, from her laughter at poor William’s pageant with Jane and Rannie Kirsted—or, it may be, not.
She could not wave to her friends, in answer to their gestures of farewell, for her arms were too full of Flopit and roses and candy and sweet peas; but she kept nodding to them in a way that showed them how much she thanked them for being sorry she was going—and made it clear that she was sorry, too, and loved them all.
“Good-by!” she meant.
Faster she glided; the engine passed from sight round a curve beyond a culvert, but for a moment longer they could see the little figure upon the steps—and, to the very last glimpse they had of her, the small, golden head was still nodding “Good-by!” Then those steps whereon she stood passed in their turn beneath the culvert, and they saw her no more.
Lola Pratt was gone!
Wet-eyed, her young hostess of the long summer turned away, and stumbled against William. “Why, Willie Baxter!” she cried, blinking at him.
The last car of the train had rounded the curve and disappeared, but William was still waving farewell—not with his handkerchief, but with a symmetrical, one-pound parcel, wrapped in white tissue-paper, girdled with blue ribbon.
“Never mind!” said May Parcher. “Let’s all walk Up-town together, and talk about her on the way, and we’ll go by the express-office, and you can send your candy to her by express, Willie.”
In the smallish house which all summer long, from morning until late at night, had resounded with the voices of young people, echoing their songs, murmurous with their theories of love, or vibrating with their glee, sometimes shaking all over during their more boisterous moods—in that house, now comparatively so vacant, the proprietor stood and breathed deep breaths.
“Hah!” he said, inhaling and exhaling the air profoundly.
His wife was upon the porch, outside, sewing. The silence was deep. He seemed to listen to it—to listen with gusto; his face slowly broadening, a pinkish tint overspreading it. His flaccid cheeks appeared to fill, to grow firm again, a smile finally widening them.