He wouldn’t tell me at first, though I could see he was dying to do it, but after a while he said Miss Susanna was the sort that found life of the present day a hard thing to accept, and, fanning himself with his palm leaf, he looked at me as if I were one of the reasons she found life hard. “Miss Susanna,” he said, “is a lady of the old school where love and honor were placed above riches and mere material things, and it was a blow to her to find how readily young people could change their affections and break their plighted vows and be blind to their best interests, which was to keep along the same path and not be tempted out of it by passing people and worldly ambitions.” And as he talked in his fine little cambric-needle voice that sounded as if it came out of a squeaky cabinet, I knew he was meaning more than he was saying, and I sat up and listened until he stopped for breath.
“Is that all?” I asked, and got up to go in, “for if it is I don’t think Miss Susanna need worry herself. People in one generation aren’t very different from people in another where self-interest is concerned. Everybody knows Mrs. Loraine married her husband for his money, though loving Mr. Spence, and Miss Susanna was one of her bridesmaids; and if Elizabeth prefers to marry a rich man to a poor one, I don’t see anything new about that.” And also I said it wasn’t likely that love and honor were ever going to die out, and a few other things would live a long time yet, and he need not bother any more than Miss Susanna concerning present-day young people; and then to my surprise he asked me to sit down and told me what he enjoyed telling very much.
“Everybody has been talking about the way Whythe Eppes has been rushing you,” he began, fanning as hard as he could fan, “and several people have been to see Miss Susanna and told her they thought your parents ought to know—”
He didn’t get any further. I stopped him. It was silly in me to get hot, but I got hot all right, and in all my life I never wanted anybody as I wanted Billy right then at my side. He doesn’t get mad the way I do. He would see that talk he did not like was stopped in two minutes, but I was too fighting angry to stop my own tongue, and I said things to fat Miss Nancy Willie Prince I oughtn’t to have said. Among them that my parents would not have permitted me to come to this town or any other if not perfectly certain I knew how to behave myself wherever I went, and that whatever was advisable for them to know concerning me they would know without the assistance of Miss Bettie Simcoe or Mrs. Caperton (she is a frisky little widow who has no use for young girls) or any other Twickenham-Towner. And then, perhaps because he was so flustered he didn’t know what he was saying, he told me riches were a great temptation to any young man, and everybody, of course, knew my father was wealthy, though he must say it had not been learned from the family. And that Whythe, being poor from a money standpoint, had naturally been tempted, especially as his engagement had been so recently broken with a girl he had been in love with since childhood, and I, being young, didn’t understand and was under the impression that young men meant all they said, and—