If Wynkoop answered, his words were indistinguishable, but Hampton remained standing in the open door watching the missionary go down the narrow stairs.
“Nervy little devil,” he acknowledged slowly to himself. “And maybe, after all, that would be the best thing for the Kid.”
“To be or not to be”
They were seated rather close together upon the steep hillside, gazing silently down upon squalid Glencaid. At such considerable distance all the dull shabbiness of the mining town had disappeared, and it seemed almost ideal, viewed against the natural background of brown rocks and green trees. All about them was the clear, invigorating air of the uplands, through which the eyes might trace for miles the range of irregular rocky hills, while just above, seemingly almost within touch of the extended hand, drooped the blue circling sky, unflecked by cloud. Everywhere was loneliness, no sound telling of the labor of man reached them, and the few scattered buildings far below resembling mere doll-houses.
They had conversed only upon the constantly changing beauty of the scene, or of incidents connected with their upward climb, while moving slowly along the trail through the fresh morning sunshine. Now they sat in silence, the young girl, with cheeks flushed and dreamy eyes aglow, gazing far off along the valley, the man watching her curiously, and wondering how best to approach his task. For the first time he began to realize the truth, which had been partially borne in upon him the previous evening by Wynkoop, that this was no mere child with whom he dealt, but a young girl upon the verge of womanhood. Such knowledge began to reveal much that came before him as new, changing the entire nature of their present relationship, as well as the scope of his own plain duty. It was his wont to look things squarely in the face, and unpleasant and unwelcome as was the task now confronting him, during the long night hours he had settled it once for all—the preacher’s words were just.
Observing her now, sitting thus in total unconsciousness of his scrutiny, Hampton made no attempt to analyze the depth of his interest for this waif who had come drifting into his life. He did not in the least comprehend why she should have touched his heart with generous impulses, nor did he greatly care. The fact was far the more important, and that fact he no longer questioned. He had been a lonely, unhappy, discontented man for many a long year, shunned by his own sex, who feared him, never long seeking the society of the other, and retaining little real respect for himself. Under such conditions a reaction was not unnatural, and, short as the time had been since their first meeting, this odd, straightforward chit of a girl had found an abiding-place in his heart, had furnished him a distinct motive in life before unknown.