Now was Sleeny’s chance to make his disclosure; but his voice trembled in spite of him, as he said:
“I seen Mattie up there.”
“Yes,” said the old man, tranquilly. “She went up to see about a place in the library. He said there wasn’t none, but he’d try to think o’ somethin’ else that ’ud suit her. He was mighty polite to Mat—give her some roses, and telled her to run in and out when she liked, till he got somethin’ fixed. Fact is, Mat is a first-rate scholar, and takes with them high-steppers, like fallin’ off a log.” Saul had begun to feel a certain pride in his daughter’s accomplishments which had so long been an affliction to him. The moment he saw a possibility of a money return, he even began to plume himself upon his liberality and sagacity in having educated her. “I’ve spared nothin’—Sam—in giving her a——” he searched an instant for a suitable adjective, “a commodious education.” The phrase pleased him so well that he smoked for awhile contemplatively, so as not to mar the effect of his point.
Sam had listened with, a whirling brain to the old man’s quiet story, which anticipated his own in every point. He could not tell whether he felt more relieved or disquieted by it. It all seemed clear and innocent enough; but he felt, with a sinking heart, that his own hopes were fading fast, in the flourishing prospects of his beloved. He hated Farnham not less in his attitude of friendly protection than in that which he had falsely attributed to him. His jealousy, deprived of its specific occasion, nourished itself on vague and torturing possibilities. He could not trust himself to talk further with Matchin, but went away with a growing fire in his breast. He hated himself for having prematurely spoken. He hated Maud for the beauty that she would not give him, and which, he feared, she was ready to give to another. He hated Saul, for his stolid ignorance of his daughter’s danger. He hated most of all Farnham, for his handsome face, his easy smile, his shapely hands, his fine clothes, his unknown and occult gifts of pleasing.
“’Tain’t in natur,” he growled. “She’s the prettiest woman in the world. If he’s got eyes, he knows it. But I spoke first, and he shan’t have her, if I die for it.”
A PROFESSIONAL REFORMER.
Sleeny walked moodily down the street, engaged in that self-torture which is the chief recreation of unhappy lovers. He steeped his heart in gall by imagining Maud in love with another. His passion stimulated his slow wits into unwonted action, until his mind began to form exasperating pictures of intimacies which drove him half mad. His face grew pale, and his fists were tightly clinched as he walked. He hardly saw the familiar street before him; he had a far clearer vision of Maud and Farnham by the garden gate: her beautiful face was turned up to the young man’s with the winning sweetness of a flower, and Sam’s irritated fancy supplied the kisses he had watched for in the shadow of the pear-trees. “I ’most wish’t he’d ‘a’ done it,” he growled to himself. “I had my hammer in my hand, and I could ‘a’ finished him then and had no more bother.”