Lucia went over to the window, so that she would not face the invalid.
“Not as rich as yourn, of course,” Uncle Henry pursued; “but rich for him—and he won’t do it.” He waited for her to say something; but she did not speak. There was a pause. Lucia looked out at the baking valley, and off to the far mountains, and the ticking of the clock could be heard like steady rain in a cistern. Then she went over to the table near the alcove, where a few books were scattered about. She opened one, and pretended to read. All the time Uncle Henry’s eyes never left her. And she knew he was searching her thoughts.
“He won’t?” she finally said.
“No—the gol darn fool!” the old fellow screamed again.
“Does he—does he love her?” Lucia brought herself to ask.
Quick as a flash Uncle Henry came back: “Sure he does! It’s the only thing for him to do. He ain’t got no right to be livin’ alone. All he don’t get skinned out of he gives away. Never gets nothin’ to eat. If ever a feller needed a nice, sensible wife to take care of him, it’s Gil. I know. Ain’t I his uncle?”
“You think she would—make him—a good wife?” Lucia Pell got the words out somehow, never lifting her eyes from the printed page.
“The finest in the world!” Uncle Henry affirmed. “Now, looky here, Mis’ Pell: He won’t listen to me—funny the way folks are about their relatives. But I was thinkin’ that mebbe if you was to ask him—”
Lucia was startled. “I?” she said.
The wheel chair bobbed about. “Yes. You and him bein’ old friends that way, mebbe he’d pay some attention to you. Make him see what a gol darn fool he is and give him h——. Give it to him good! It’s a wonderful chance. He’ll never get another. Darned if I see how he ever got this. But he has. And what we gotter do is to make him take it.” He paused; but she said nothing. He waited a moment. Then,—“What do you say? Will you?”
“You—think he should?”
“I know darn well he should!”
Lucia closed the book and put it down. She looked straight at Uncle Henry. “I should think he would see it for himself.”
Uncle Henry showed his disgust—not for her, but for his nephew. “Aw, he’s always been like this. I remember five or six years ago, he told me then he wouldn’t ask no woman to marry him until he got a lot of money. False pride, I call it. What’d the world come to if everybody felt like that?”
“You think it’s only pride that’s keeping him from it?” Her voice was very low.
“Well, what else could it be, I’d like to know.”
“Maybe it’s because he hasn’t a lot of money. He may be honest in that.”
“Well, mebbe you’re right. That may be it. What do you say?”
“All right,” Lucia Pell said. But she turned away.
Uncle Henry was delighted. “That’s the idee! Hooray!” Had he been able to stand, he would have risen and given three rousing cheers. He hadn’t been so happy in years. “We’ll put it over yet, by heck!”