After all my castle building what was I come to?
I heard my door open presently, and then I lifted my head. Uncle Eb stood near me in his stocking feet and shirt-sleeves.
‘In trouble,’ he whispered.
‘In trouble,’ I said.
‘It’s about Hope.’
‘Don’t be hasty. Hope’ll never go back on you,’ he whispered. ’She doesn’t love me,’ I said impulsively. ’She doesn’t care the snap of her finger for me.
‘Don’t believe it,’ he answered calmly. ’Not a single word of it. Thet woman — she’s tryin’ t’ keep her away from ye — but ’twon’t make no differ’nce. Not a bit.
‘I must try to win her back — someway — somehow,’ I whispered.
‘Gi n ye the mitten?’ he asked.
‘That’s about it,’ I answered, going possibly too far in the depth of my feeling.
‘Whew w!’ he softly whistled. ’Wall, it takes two mittens t’make a pair — ye’ll hev t’ask her ag in.
‘Yes I cannot give her up,’ I said decisively, ’I must try to win her back. It isn’t fair. I have no claim upon her. But I must do it.
‘Consarn it! women like t’be chased,’ he said. ‘It’s their natur’. What do they fix up so fer — di’mon’s an’ silks an’ satins — if ’tain’t t’set men a chasm ’uv ’em? You’d otter enjoy it. Stick to her — jes’ like a puppy to a root. Thet’s my advice.’
‘Hope has got too far ahead of me,’ I said. ’She can marry a rich man if she wishes to, and I don’t see why she shouldn’t. What am I, anyhow, but a poor devil just out of college and everything to win? It makes me miserable to think here in this great house how small I am.’
‘There’s things goin’ if happen,’ Uncle Eb whispered. ’I can’t tell ye what er when but they’re goin’ if happen an’ they’re goin’ if change everything.
We sat thinking a while then. I knew what he meant — that I was to conquer the world, somehow, and the idea seemed to me so absurd I could hardly help laughing as melancholy as I felt.
‘Now you go if bed,’ he said, rising and gently touching my head with his hand. ‘There’s things goin’ t’happen, boy — take my word fer it.
I got in bed late at night but there was no sleep for me. In the still hours I lay quietly, planning my future, for now I must make myself worth having and as soon as possible.
Some will say my determination was worthy of a better lover but, bless you! I have my own way of doing things and it has not been always so unsuccessful.
Hope was not at breakfast with us.
‘The child is worn out,’ said Mrs Fuller. ’I shall keep her in bed a day or two.
‘Couldn’t I see her a moment?’ I enquired.