Garrison eyed her in silence, the smile on his lips. She returned the look, her face flushed.
“You’ll have to call me Sue. You’re Billy; I’m Sue. That’s one of the minor penalties. Our prenatal engagement affords us this charming familiarity,” she interrupted scathingly.
“Sue, then. Sue,” continued Garrison quietly, “from your type, I thought you fashioned of better material. Now, don’t explode—yet a while. I mean property and parents’ blessing should not weigh a curse with you. Yes; I said curse—damn, if you wish. If you loved, this burlesque engagement should not stand in your way. You would elope with the man you love, and let property and parents’ blessings——”
“That would be a good way for you to get out of the muddle unscathed, wouldn’t it?” she flashed in. “How chivalrous! Why don’t you elope with some one—the dark, clinging girl—and let me free? You want me to suffer, not yourself. Just like you Yankees—cold-blooded icicles!”
Garrison considered. “I never thought of that, honestly!” he said, with a laugh. “I would elope quick enough, if I had only myself to consider.”
“Then your dark, clinging girl is lacking in the very virtues you find so woefully missing in me. She won’t take a risk. I cannot say I blame her,” she added, scanning the brooding Garrison.
He laughed good-humoredly. “How you must detest me! But cheer up, my sister in misery! You will marry the man you love, all right. Never fear.”
“Will I?” she asked enigmatically. Her eyes were half-shut, watching Garrison’s profile. “Will I, soothsayer?”
He nodded comprehensively, bitterly.
“You will. One of the equations of the problem will be eliminated, and thus will be found the answer.”
“Which?” she asked softly, heel tapping gravel.
“The unnecessary one, of course. Isn’t it always the unnecessary one?”
“You mean,” she said slowly, “that you will go away?”
“Of course,” she added, after a pause, “the dark, clinging girl is waiting?”
“Of course,” he bantered.
“It must be nice to be loved like that.” Her eyes were wide and far away. “To have one renounce relatives, position, wealth—all, for love. It must be very nice, indeed.”
Still, Garrison was silent. He had cause to be.
“Do you think it is right, fair,” continued the girl slowly, her brow wrinkled speculatively, “to break your uncle’s and aunt’s hearts for the sake of a girl? You know how they have longed for your home-coming. How much you mean to them! You are all they have. Don’t you think you are selfish—very selfish?”
“I believe the Bible says to leave all and cleave unto your wife,” returned Garrison.
“Yes. But not your intended wife.”
“But, you see, she is of the cleaving type.”
“And why this hurry? Aren’t you depriving your uncle and aunt unnecessarily early?”