Quincy avoided this direct question and replied, “Uncle Ike has been equally kind in speaking of his niece, Miss Pettengill, so that I feel acquainted with her even without this,—I was going to say formal introduction,—but I think that we must both confess it was rather informal.”
Alice laughed merrily. “Won’t you sit down, Mr. Sawyer? I have been alone nearly all day, and have really been very lonesome.”
She turned and groped, as if feeling for a chair. Quincy sprang forward, placed a large rocking chair before the fire, then, taking her hand, saw her safely ensconced in it. He then took a seat in a large armchair at the end of the fireplace nearest the door.
“Thank you, Mr. Sawyer,” said Alice. “Everybody has been so kind to me since I have had this trouble with my eyes. Of course ’Zekiel has told you about it.”
“Yes,” assented Quincy.
He really did not care to talk. He was satisfied to sit and look at her, and he could do this with impunity, for she could not see his earnest gaze fixed upon her.
“I have been used to an active life,” said Alice. “I have had my business to attend to every day, and evenings I had my books, papers, pictures, and music. At first it seemed so hard to be shut out from them all, but years ago Uncle Ike taught me to be a philosopher and to take life as it came, without constantly fretting or finding fault. Uncle Ike says, ‘It is not work but worry that wears men out,’ That’s why he came down here to live in the woods. He said they wouldn’t let him work and so he worried all the time, but when he came here he had plenty to do, and in his work he found happiness.”
“I am learning a good lesson,” said Quincy with a laugh. “I have studied much, but I actually never did a day’s work in all my life, Miss Pettengill.”
“Then you are to be pitied,” said Alice frankly; “but I see I should not blame you, you are studying now and getting ready to work.”
“Perhaps so,” Quincy remarked. “My father wishes me to be a lawyer, but I detest reading law, and have no inclination to follow in my father’s footsteps.”
“Perhaps you are too young,” said Alice, “to settle upon your future career. I cannot see you, you know, and Uncle Ike did not say how old you were.”
Quincy smiled. “I am in my twenty-fourth year,” said he. “I graduated at Harvard two years ago.”
“So old!” exclaimed Alice; “why, I am not twenty-one until next June, and I have been working for my living since I was sixteen.”
Quincy said, “I wish I had as honorable a record.”
“Now you are vexed with me for speaking so plainly,” said Alice.
“Not at all,” Quincy replied. “I thank you for it. I have learned from Uncle Ike that frankness of speech and honesty of heart are Pettengill characteristics.”