The girls began to recede. The grass grew so thin and dry that they did little harm by passing through it. It sprang up in front of their feet as they moved backwards in their white dresses. All colour had passed from the earth. The ripple of the river and the cry of the whip-poor-will rose amid the murmur of the night insects.
“Do you sometimes come down here of an evening?” asked the young man. “At sunset it’s real pleasant.”
“Sometimes,” answered Blue. Her soft voice only just reached him.
So the days wore on till August. One morning Cyril Harkness lay in wait for Eliza. It was early; none of the boarders at the hotel were down yet. Eliza, who was always about in very good time, found him in the corridor on the first floor. He did not often attempt to speak to her now.
“Say,” said he, gloomily, “come into my office. I’ve something to tell.”
The gloom of his appearance, so unusual to him, gave her a presage of misfortune. She followed him into the room of dental appliances.
He told her to sit down, and she did so. She sat on a stiff sofa against the wall. He stood with one elbow on the back of the adjustable chair. Behind him hung a green rep curtain, which screened a table at which he did mechanical work. They were a handsome pair. The summer morning filled the room with light, and revealed no flaw in their young comeliness.
“Look here! It’s January, February, March”—he went on enumerating the months till he came to August—“that I’ve been hanging on here for no other earthly reason than to inspire in you the admiration for me that rises in me for you quite spontaneous.”
“Is that all you have to say?”
“Isn’t that enough—eight months out of a young man’s life?”
“It’s not enough to make me waste my time at this hour in the morning.”
“Well, it’s not all, but it’s what I’m going to say first; so you’ll have to listen to it for my good before you listen to the other for your own. I’ve done all I could, Miss White, to win your affection.”
He paused, looking at her, but she did not even look at him. She did appear frightened, and, perceiving this, he took a tone more gentle and pliant.
“I can’t think why you won’t keep company with me. I’m a real lovable young man, if you’d only look at the thing fairly.”
He had plenty of humour in him, but he did not seem to perceive the humour of acting as showman to himself. He was evidently sincere.
“Why, now, one of my most lovable qualities is just that when I do attach myself I find it awful hard to pull loose again. Now, that’s just what you don’t like in me; but if you come to think of it, it’s a real nice characteristic. And then, again, I’m not cranky; I’m real amiable; and you can’t find a much nicer looking fellow than me. You’ll be sorry, you may believe, if you don’t cast a more favourable eye toward me.”