“I do not think that our acquaintance is of such long standing that you are warranted in asking me so personal a question,” replied Quincy.
“Perhaps not,” said Lindy, “but as I happened to know, though not from your telling, that she is to be my mother’s heiress, I had a little curiosity to learn whether you had already proposed or were going—”
“Miss Putnam,” said Quincy sternly, “do not complete your sentence. Do not make me think worse of you than I already do. I beg your pardon for intruding upon you. I certainly should not have done so had I anticipated such an interview.”
Lindy burst into a flood of tears. Her grief seemed uncontrollable. Quincy closed the parlor door, thinking that if her cries and sobs were heard upstairs it would require a double explanation, which it might be hard for him to give.
He stood and looked at the weeping girl. She had evidently known all along who her mother’s heiress was. She had been fooling him, but for what reason? Was she in love with him? No, he did not think so; if she had been she would have confided in him rather than have sought to force him to confide in her. What could be the motive for her action? Quincy was nonplussed. He had had considerable experience with society girls, but they either relied upon languid grace or light repartee. They never used tears either for offence or defence.
A surprise was in store for Quincy. Lindy rose from her chair and came towards him, her eyes red with weeping.
“Why do you hate me so, Mr. Sawyer?” she asked. “Why will you not be a friend to me, when I need one so much? What first turned you against me?”
Quincy replied, “I will tell you, Miss Putnam. They told me you were ashamed of your father and mother because they were old-fashioned country people and did not dress as well or talk as good English as you did.”
“Who told you so?” asked Lindy.
“It was common talk in the village,” he replied.
“I should think you had suffered enough from village gossip, Mr. Sawyer, not to believe that all that is said is true.”
Quincy winced and colored. It was a keen thrust and went home.
“Where there is so much smoke there must be some fire,” he answered, rather lamely, as he thought, even to himself.
“Mr. Sawyer, when I asked you to tell me a little secret you had in your possession, you refused. I wanted a friend, but I also wanted a proven friend. No doubt I took the wrong way to win your friendship, but I am going to tell you something, Mr. Sawyer, if you will listen to me, that will at least secure your pity for one who is rich in wealth but poor in that she has no friends to whom she can confide her troubles.”
Quincy saw that he was in for it, and like a gentleman, determined to make the best of it, so he said, “Miss Putnam, I will listen to your story, and if, after hearing it, I can honorably aid you I will do so with pleasure.”