She did not answer. She was again considering the same old question that she had thrashed out a thousand times—should she tell Kate? How would she take it? Would the tragedy of her life be regarded as a little wild-oat sowing on the part of Sanderson and her own eternal disgrace?
The man was in no humor for her silence. He grasped her roughly by the arm, and his voice was raised loud in angry protest. “Tell me—do you, or do you not intend to interfere?”
In the excitement of the moment neither heard the outer door open, and neither heard David enter. He stood in his quiet way, looking from one to the other. Sanderson’s angry question died away in some foolish commonplace, but David had heard and Anna and Sanderson knew it.
DAVID CONFESSES HIS LOVE.
“Come live with me and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steep mountains, yield.”—Marlowe.
Sanderson, recovering his self-possession almost immediately, drawled out:
“Glad to see you, Dave. Came over thinking I might be in time to go over to Putnam’s with your people. They had gone, so I stopped long enough to get warm. I must be going now. Good-night, Miss—Miss”—(he seemed, to have great difficulty in recalling the name) “Moore.”
David paid no attention to him; his eyes were riveted on Anna, who had changed color and was now like ivory flushing into life. She trembled and fell to her knees, making a pretense of gathering up her knitting that had fallen.
“What brought Sanderson here, Anna? Is he anything to you—are you anything to him?”
She tried to assume a playful lightness, but it failed dismally. It was all her pallid lips could do to frame the words: “Why, Mr. David, what a curious question! What possible interest could the ‘catch’ of the neighborhood have in your father’s servant?”
The suggestion of flippancy that her words contained irritated the grave, quiet man as few things could have done. He turned from her and would have left the room, but she detained him.
“I am sorry I wounded you, Mr. David, but, indeed, you have no right to ask.”
“I know it, Anna, and you won’t give me the right; but how dared that cub Sanderson speak to you in that way?” He caught her hand, and unconsciously wrung it till she cried out in pain. “Forgive me, dear, I would not hurt you for the world; but that man’s manner toward you makes me wild.”
She looked up at him from beneath her long, dark lashes; he thought her eyes were like the glow of forest fires burning through brushwood. “We will never think of him again, Mr. David. I assure you that I am no more to Mr. Sanderson than he is to me, and that is—nothing.”
“Thank you for those words, Anna. I cannot tell you how happy they make me. But I do not understand you at all. Even a countryman like me can see that you have never been used to our rough way of living; you were never born to this kind of thing, and yet when that man Sanderson looks at you or talks to you, there is always an undertone of contempt in his look, his words.”