“I don’t know,” said Red, more dejected. “It’s”—a little pause—“it’s the sort of thing they do.”
Sophia drew in her breath with an effort not to laugh, and managed to sigh instead. “I think you are the silliest girls of your age!”
“Well, I don’t care,” cried Blue, falling from bashfulness into a pout, and from a pout into tears. “I don’t care, so now. I think he was much nicer—much nicer than—” She sat upon a chair and kicked her little toes upon the ground. Red’s dimpled face was flushing with ominous colour about the eyes.
“Really!” cried Sophia, and then she stopped, arrested by her own word. How was it possible to present reality to eyes that looked out through such maze of ignorance and folly; it seemed easier to take up a sterner theme and comment upon the wickedness of disobedience and secrecy. Yet all the time her words missed the mark, because the true sin of these two pretty criminals was utter folly. Surely if the world, and their fragment of it, had been what they thought—the youth a hero, and their parents wrongly proud—their action had not been so wholly evil! But how could she trim all the thoughts of their silly heads into true proportion?
“I shall have to tell papa, you know; I couldn’t take the responsibility of not telling him; but I won’t speak till this press of work is over, because he is so tired, so you can be thinking how you will apologise to him.”
Both Blue and Red were weeping now, and Sophia, feeling that she had made adequate impression, was glad to pause.
Red was the first to withdraw her handkerchief from dewy eyes. Her tone and attitude seemed penitent, and Sophia looked at her encouragingly.
“Sister Sophia”—meekly—“does he say in his letter where he is, or—or”—the voice trembled—“if he’s ever coming back?”
For such disconsolate affection Sophia felt that the letter referred to was perhaps the best medicine. “I will read you all that he says.” And she read it slowly and distinctly, as one reads a lesson to children.
“He didn’t think she was ‘dear’” pouted Blue. “He told us she was ’real horrid.’”
Sophia read on from the crumpled sheet with merciless distinctness.
“Come to think of it, when I was coming off I threw all my bills and letters and things down in a heap in the back kitchen at Harmon’s; and there were some letters there that those ’cute little Rexford girls wrote to me. They were real spoony on me, but I wasn’t spoony on them one bit, Eliza, at least, not in my heart, which having been given to you, remained yours intact; but I sort of feel a qualm to think how their respected pa would jaw them if those billets-doux were found and handed over. You can get in at the kitchen window quite easy by slipping the bolt with a knife; so as I know you have a hankering after the Rexfords, I give you this chance to crib those letters if