Mr. Gridley gazed upon the innocent youth with a sweet wonder in his eyes that made him look like an angel, a little damaged in the features by time, but full of celestial feelings.
“It will cost you something to make this trip, Gifted. Have you the means to pay for your journey and your stay at a city hotel?”
Gifted blushed. “My mother has laid by a small sum for me,” he said. “She knows some of my poems by heart, and she wants to see them all in print.”
Master Gridley closed his eyes very firmly again, as if thinking, and opened them as soon as the foolish film had left them. He had read many a page of “Thoughts on the Universe” to his own old mother, long, long years ago, and she had often listened with tears of modest pride that Heaven had favored her with a son so full of genius.
“I ’ll tell you what, Gifted,” he said. “I have been thinking for a good while that I would make a visit to the city, and if you have made up your mind to try what you can do with the publishers, I will take you with me as a companion. It will be a saving to you and your good mother, for I shall bear the expenses of the expedition.”
Gifted Hopkins came very near going down on his knees. He was so overcome with gratitude that it seemed as if his very coattails wagged with his emotion.
“Take it quietly,” said Master Gridley. “Don’t make a fool of yourself. Tell your mother to have some clean shirts and things ready for you, and we will be off day after to-morrow morning.”
Gifted hastened to impart the joyful news to his mother, and to break the fact to Susan Posey that he was about to leave them for a while, and rush into the deliriums and dangers of the great city.
Susan smiled. Gifted hardly knew whether to be pleased with her sympathy, or vexed that she did not take his leaving more to heart. The smile held out bravely for about a quarter of a minute. Then there came on a little twitching at the corners of the mouth. Then. the blue eyes began to shine with a kind of veiled glimmer. Then the blood came up into her cheeks with a great rush, as if the heart had sent up a herald with a red flag from the citadel to know what was going on at the outworks. The message that went back was of discomfiture and capitulation. Poor Susan was overcome, and gave herself up to weeping and sobbing.
The sight was too much for the young poet. In a wild burst of passion he seized her hand, and pressed it to his lips, exclaiming, “Would that you could be mine forever!” and Susan forgot all that she ought to have remembered, and, looking half reproachfully but half tenderly through her tears, said, in tones of infinite sweetness, “O Gifted!”
The poet and the publisher.