“Let’s go where we went that first day,” said Francis; “it’s always pleasant there on the bank.”
Lois followed him without a word. They sat down on the grass at the edge of the terrace, and a cool breeze came in their faces from over the great hollow of the meadows below. The grass on them had been cut short, and now had dried and turned a rosy color in the sun. The two kept their eyes turned away from each other, and looked down into the meadow as into the rosy hollow of a cup; but they seemed to see each other’s faces there.
“It’s cool here, isn’t it?” said Francis.
“It always is on the hottest day. There is always a breeze here, if there isn’t anywhere else.”
Francis’s words were casual, but his voice was unsteady with a tender tone that seemed to overweight it.
Lois seemed to hear only this tone, and not the words. It was one of the primitive tones that came before any language was made, and related to the first necessities of man. Suddenly she had ears for that only. She did not say anything. Her hands were folded in her lap quietly, but her fingers tingled.
“Lois,” Francis began; then he stopped.
Lois did not look up.
“See here, Lois,” he went on, “I don’t know as there is much use in my saying anything. You’ve hardly noticed me lately. There was one spell when I thought maybe— But— Well, I’m going to ask you, and have it over with one way or the other. Lois, do you think—well, do you feel as if you could ever—marry me some time?”
Lois dropped her head down on her hands.
“Now don’t you go to feeling bad if you can’t,” said Francis. “It won’t be your fault. But if you’d just tell me, Lois.”
Lois did not speak.
“If you’d just tell me one way or the other, Lois.”
“I can’t. I can’t anyway!” cried Lois then, with a great sob.
“Well, if you can’t, don’t cry, little girl. There’s nothing to cry about. I can stand it. All the trouble is, it does seem to me that I could take care of you better than any other fellow on earth, but maybe that’s my conceit, and you’ll find somebody else that will do better than I. Now don’t cry.” Francis pulled her hat off gently, and patted her head. His face was quite white, but he tried to smile. “Don’t cry, dear,” he said again. “It was nothing you could help. I didn’t much suppose you liked me. There’s nothing much in me to like. I’m an ordinary kind of a fellow.”
Francis got up and walked off a little way.
Lois sobbed harder. Finally she stole a glance at him between her fingers. She could see his profile quite pale and stern as he stood on the edge of the terrace. She made a little inarticulate call, and he turned quickly.
“What is it, Lois?” he asked, coming toward her.
“I didn’t say—I—didn’t like you,” she whispered faintly.