Then, as she manoeuvred him through the little crowd about the wagon, with a soft push this way and a gentle pull that, and hurried him up the improvised steps and found a place where there was room for them to sit, Ramsey had another breathless sensation heretofore unknown to him. He found himself taken under a dovelike protectorship; a wonderful, inexpressible Being seemed to have become his proprietor.
“Isn’t this just perfectly lovely?” she said cozily, close to his ear.
He swallowed, but found no words, for he had no thoughts; he was only an incoherent tumult. This was his first love.
“Isn’t it, Ramsey?” she urged. The cozy voice had just the hint of a reproach. “Don’t you think it’s just perfectly lovely, Ramsey?”
The next morning Ramsey came into his father’s room while Mr. Milholland was shaving, an hour before church time, and it became apparent that the son had someting on his mind, though for a while he said nothing.
“Did you want anything, Ramsey?”
“Didn’t want to borrow my razors?”
Mr. Milholland chuckled. “I hardly supposed so, seriously! Shaving is a great nuisance and the longer you keep away from it, the better. And when you do, you let my razors alone, young feller!”
“Yes, sir.” (Mr. Milholland’s razors were safe, Ramsey had already achieved one of his own, but he practised the art in secret.) He passed his hand thoughtfully over his cheeks, and traces of white powder were left upon his fingers, whereupon he wiped his hand surreptitiously, and stood irresolutely waiting.
“What is it you really want, Ramsey?”
“I guess I don’t want anything.”
“No, sir. You gay’ me some Friday.”
Mr. Milholland turned from his mirror and looked over the edge of a towel at his son. In the boy’s eyes there was such a dumb agony of interrogation that the father was a little startled.
“Why, what is it, Ramsey? Have you—” He paused, frowning and wondering. “You haven’t been getting into some mess you want to tell me about, have you?”
His tone was meek, but a mute distress lurked within it, bringing to the father’s mind disturbing suspicions, and foreshadowings of indignation and of pity. “See here, Ramsey,” he said, “if there’s anything you want to ask me, or to tell me, you’d better out with it and get it over. Now, what is it?”
“Well—it isn’t anything.”
“Are you sure?”
Ramsey’s eyes fell before the severe and piercing gaze of his father. “Yes, sir.”
Mr. Milholland shook his head doubtfully; then, as his son walked slowly out of the room, he turned to complete his toilet in a somewhat uneasy frame of mind. Ramsey had undoubtedly wanted to say something to him and the boy’s expression had shown that the matter in question was serious, distressing, and, it might be, even critical.