“Of course you can spoil my life if you like, Mr. Bates, but I’ve come to ask you not. Someone’s told me there’s a mine found on our clearin’—well, when I took your aunt’s gold pieces I meant to leave you the land for them. I’m too proud to go back on that now, far too proud; you can keep the money if you want to, or you can give me some of it if you want to. I’d like to be rich better than anything, but I’d rather be poor as a church mouse, and free to get on my own way, than have you to say what I ought to do every touch and turn, thinking I’d only be good and sensible so long as I did what you told me” (there was derision in her voice). “But now, as I say, you have the chance to make me miserable if you choose; but I’ve come to ask you not to, although if you do, I dare say I can live it down.”
He looked at her bewildered. A few moments since and all the joy bells of his life had been a-chime; they were still ringing, but jangling confusedly out of tune, and—now she was asking him to conceal the cause of his joy, that he had found her. He could not understand fully; his mind would not clear itself.
“I won’t do anything to make you miserable, Sissy,” he said, faintly.
“You won’t tell that you’ve seen me, or who I am, or anything?” she insisted, half pleading, half threatening.
He turned his face from her to hide the ghastly faintness that was coming over him. “I—I oughtn’t to have tried to keep you, when I did,” he said.
“No, you oughtn’t to,” she assented, quickly.
“And I won’t speak of you now, if that’s what you want.”
“Thank you,” she said, wondering what had made him turn his back to her. “You aren’t very ill, are you, Mr. Bates?”
“No—you—I only can’t get my breath. You’d better go, perhaps.”
“Yes, I think I had,” she replied.
And she went.
There are many difficulties in this world which, if we refuse to submit to them, will in turn be subdued by us, but a sprained ankle is not one of them. Robert Trenholme, having climbed a hill after he had twisted his foot, and having, contrary to all advice, used it to some extent the next day, was now fairly conquered by the sprain and destined to be held by this foot for many long days. He explained to his brother who the lady was whom he had taken up the hill, why he himself had first happened to be with her, and that he had slipped with one foot in a roadside ditch, and, thinking to catch her up, had run across a field and so missed the lane in the darkness. This was told in the meagre, prosaic way that left no hint of there being more to tell.
“What is she like?” asked Alec, for he had confessed that he had talked to the lady.
“Like?” repeated Robert, at a loss; “I think she must be like her own mother, for she is like none of the other Rexfords.”