A girl in the merry party speeding along at the foot of the hill glanced around just then; she turned again, blushing hotly, and touched a girl near her, who also glanced around. Then their two blushing faces confronted each other with significant half-shamed smiles of innocent young girlhood.
They locked arms, and whispered as they went on. “Did you see?” “Yes.” “His head?” “Yes.” “Her arms?” “Yes.” Neither had ever had a lover.
But the two lovers at the top of the hill paid no heed. The party were all out of sight when they went slowly down in the gathering twilight. William left Rebecca when they came opposite her house.
When Rebecca entered the house, her mother was standing over the stove, making milk-toast for supper. The boiling milk steamed up fiercely in her face. “What makes you so long behind the others?” she demanded, without turning, stirring the milk as she spoke.
“I guess I ain’t much, am I?” Rebecca said, evasively. She tried to make her voice sound as it usually did, but she could not. It broke and took on faltering cadences, as if she were intoxicated with some subtle wine of the spirit.
Her mother looked around at her. Rebecca’s face was full of a strange radiance which she could not subdue before her mother’s hard, inquiring gaze. Her cheeks burned with splendid color, her lips trembled into smiles in spite of herself, her eyes were like dark fires, shifting before her mother’s, but not paling.
“Ephraim see ’em all go by half an hour ago,” said her mother.
Rebecca made no reply.
“If,” said her mother, “you stayed behind to see William Berry, I can tell you one thing, once for all: you needn’t do it again.”
“I had to see him about something,” Rebecca faltered.
“Well, you needn’t see him again about anything. You might jest as well understand it first as last: if you’ve got any idea of havin’ William Berry, you’ve got to give it up.”
“Mother, I’d like to know what you mean!” Rebecca cried out, blushing.
“Look ’round here at me!” her mother ordered, suddenly.
“Look at me!”
Rebecca lifted her face perforce, and her mother eyed her pitilessly. “You ain’t been tellin’ of him you’d have him, now?” said she. “Why don’t you speak?”
“Then you needn’t.”
“You needn’t talk. You can jest make up your mind to it. You ain’t goin’ to marry William Berry. Your brother has had enough to do with that family.”
“Mother, you won’t stop my marrying William because Barney won’t marry his cousin Charlotte? There ain’t any sense in that.”
“I’ve got my reasons, an’ that’s enough for you,” said Deborah. “You ain’t goin’ to marry William Berry.”
“I am, if you haven’t got any better reason than that. I won’t stand it, mother; it ain’t right!” Rebecca cried out.