“Yes; just a little canter.”
“Alone?” Pell followed up.
“Oh, nothing—nothing at all.” There was a nasal tone in his voice always—a twang that grated on sensitive ears. He turned on Gilbert. “How about dinner?” he asked, almost as though the young fellow were a hotel clerk.
“It isn’t ready yet,” Jones answered. He disliked the other’s tone. After all, he was a guest in his, Gilbert’s, house. He hoped their wretched business would soon be settled, and Pell return to New York. He had had his fill of him.
Pell, seemingly oblivious of the bad impression he had made, started toward the door. He had not put the bag down. “Well, call me when dinner is ready, will you? I won’t be far away.”
“Where are you going?” Lucia ventured.
“Out,” was Pell’s curt reply; and he almost knocked Uncle Henry’s chair aside as he hurried into the yard.
There was an awkward silence at his departure. Everyone felt a little ashamed for him; but Gilbert was determined that Lucia should not read his thoughts. So he said, nonchalantly, “Well, Lucia, how did the pony behave?” just as though Pell had never been in the room.
“Splendidly!” the young wife replied, glad that the atmosphere was cleared once more. “Oh, Gil, it’s wonderful here—nothing but sky and the golden desert! What a miracle place!”
“You like it here?” Jones asked, knowing that she did. She had told him so every hour of her visit.
Lucia gave him a rapt look. “Like it, Gil? Um! I love it!” She clasped her hands to her breast; and Jones thought she had never looked lovelier, more desirable. How pink her cheeks were! Yet underneath her beauty there was a wistful sadness. Anyone could see that she was not happy.
“You really love it?” Uncle Henry asked, as though he could not believe he had heard what she said.
Lucia had forgotten his presence for a moment. Now she turned to him and smiled. “Of course. Don’t you?”
“It makes me sick!” was the unexpected reply.
Lucia was horrified; and she looked from Smith to Gilbert in utter confusion. “Why, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed.
“Beautiful!” Uncle Henry went on, repeating the word in derision. “What’s beautiful about it? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“The desert,” Lucia answered.
“A lot of gol darn sand!” the invalid whined.
“The sky, then!” Lucia affirmed.
But Uncle Henry merely repeated “The sky!” in whole-hearted disgust.
Lucia refused to be downed. “But think of the glorious colors—blue and gold and purple!”
“And no grass nor nothin’,” the invalid retorted. “Not even a place to go fishin’. And you call it beau—Say, was you ever in Bangor?”
Gilbert roared with laughter; but Lucia took the old boy seriously. “Bangor?” she repeated, wonderingly.