Ann poured out his beer. Christa looked at him with eyes full of reproach. Then she got up and went away to the doorstep, and stood looking out. To the surprise of both of them, David did not follow her there. He stood still near Ann.
“It’s hard on Christa,” said Ann with a sigh; “she has been crying all day. Every one will desert us now, and we shall have to live alone without friends.”
“Oh no” (abruptly); “nobody blames you.”
“I don’t mind for myself so much; I don’t care so much about what people think, or how they treat me.” She lifted her head proudly as she spoke. “But” (with pathos) “it’s hard on Christa.”
“No; you never think of yourself, do you?” David giggled a little as he said it, betraying that he felt his words to be unusually personal. Ann wondered for a minute what could be the cause of this giggle, and then she returned to the subject of Christa’s suffering.
“Look here,” he interrupted, “if there’s any little thing I can do to help you, like lending you money if you’re left hard up, or anything of that sort, you know” (he was blushing furiously now), “it’s for you I’d do it,” he blurted out. “I don’t care about Christa.”
“The silly fellow!” thought Ann. She was six years older than he, and she felt herself to be twenty years older. She entirely scorned his admiration in its young folly; but she did not hesitate a moment to make use of it. All her life had been a long training in that thrift which utilised everything for family gain. She was a thorough woman of society, this girl who sat in her backwoods cottage selling beer.
She looked at the boy, and a sudden glow of sensibility appeared in her face. “Oh, David!” she said; “I thought it was Christa.”
“But it isn’t Christa,” he stammered, grinning. He was hugely pleased with the idea that she had accepted his declaration of courtship.
Half an hour later and Ann had the secret of the new track through the north of the drowned forest, and Brown had the wit not to ask her what she wanted to do with it. He had done more—he had offered to row her boat for her, but this Ann had refused.
It was a curious thing, this refusal. It arose purely from principle on her part; she had come to the limit which the average mind sets to the evil it will commit. She deceived and cajoled the boy without scruple, but she did not allow him to break the law. She remembered that he had parents who valued his good name more than he had as yet learned to value it. He was young; he was in her power; and she declined his further help.
Christa had wandered down the grass to the river-side and stood there pouting meanwhile.