He could not remember that he had ever been sick so long before, and he was so awed by his suffering, which was severe but not serious, that when his doctor said he thought a voyage to Europe would be good for him he submitted too meekly for Mrs. Kenton. Her heart smote her for her guilty joy in his sentence, and she punished herself by asking if it would not do him more good to get back to the comfort and quiet of their own house. She went to the length of saying that she believed his attack had been brought on more by homesickness than anything else. But the doctor agreed rather with her wish than her word, and held out that his melancholy was not the cause but the effect of his disorder. Then she took courage and began getting ready to go. She did not flag even in the dark hours when Kenton got back his courage with his returning strength, and scoffed at the notion of Europe, and insisted that as soon as they were in Tuskingum he should be all right again.
She felt the ingratitude, not to say the perfidy, of his behavior, and she fortified herself indignantly against it; but it was not her constant purpose, or the doctor’s inflexible opinion, that prevailed with Kenton at last a letter came one day for Ellen which she showed to her mother, and which her mother, with her distress obscurely relieved by a sense of its powerful instrumentality, brought to the girl’s father. It was from that fellow, as they always called him, and it asked of the girl a hearing upon a certain point in which, it had just come to his knowledge, she had misjudged him. He made no claim upon her, and only urged his wish to right himself with her because she was the one person in the whole world, after his mother, for whose good opinion he cared. With some tawdriness of sentiment, the letter was well worded; it was professedly written for the sole purpose of knowing whether, when she came back to Tuskingum, she would see him, and let him prove to her that he was not wholly unworthy of the kindness she had shown him when he was without other friends.
“What does she say?” the judge demanded.
“What do you suppose?” his wife retorted. “She thinks she ought to see him.”
“Very well, then. We will go to Europe.”
“Not on my account!” Mrs. Kenton consciously protested.
“No; not on your account, or mine, either. On Nelly’s account. Where is she? I want to talk with her.”
“And I want to talk with you. She’s out, with Lottie; and when she comes back I will tell her what you say. But I want to know what you think, first.”
It was some time before they arrived at a common agreement as to what Kenton thought, and when they reached it they decided that they must leave the matter altogether to Ellen, as they had done before. They would never force her to anything, and if, after all that her mother could say, she still wished to see the fellow, they would not deny her.