“Yes; you know that I abused your confidence at luncheon; and until I know whether the wrong involved any one else—” He looked at her with hovering laughter in his eyes which took wing at the reproach in hers. “But if we are to be serious—”
“Oh no,” she said, “it isn’t a serious matter.” But in the helplessness of her sincerity she could not carry it off lightly, or hide from him that she was disappointed.
He tried to make talk about other things. She responded vaguely, and when she had given herself time she said she believed she would go to Lottie; she was quite sure she could get down the stairs alone. He pursued her anxiously, politely, and at the head of her corridor took leave of her with a distinct sense of having merited his dismissal.
“I see what you mean, Lottie,” she said, “about Mr. Breckon.”
Lottie did not turn her head on the pillow. “Has it taken you the whole day to find it out?”
The father and the mother had witnessed with tempered satisfaction the interest which seemed to be growing up between Ellen and the young minister. By this time they had learned not to expect too much of any turn she might take; she reverted to a mood as suddenly as she left it. They could not quite make out Breckon himself; he was at least as great a puzzle to them as their own child was.
“It seems,” said Mrs. Kenton, in their first review of the affair, after Boyne had done a brother’s duty in trying to bring Ellen under their mother’s censure, “that he was the gentleman who discussed the theatre with Boyne at the vaudeville last winter. Boyne just casually mentioned it. I was so provoked!”
“I don’t see what bearing the fact has,” the judge remarked.
“Why, Boyne liked him very much that night, but now he seems to feel very much as Lottie does about him. He thinks he laughs too much.”
“I don’t know that there’s much harm in that,” said the judge. “And I shouldn’t value Boyne’s opinion of character very highly.”
“I value any one’s intuitions—especially children’s.”
“Boyne’s in that middle state where he isn’t quite a child. And so is Lottie, for that matter.”
“That is true,” their mother assented. “And we ought to be glad of anything that takes Ellen’s mind off herself. If I could only believe she was forgetting that wretch!”
“Does she ever speak of him?”
“She never hints of him, even. But her mind may be full of him all the time.”
The judge laughed impatiently. “It strikes me that this young Mr. Breckon hasn’t much advantage of Ellen in what Lottie calls closeness!”
“Ellen has always been very reserved. It would have been better for her if she hadn’t. Oh, I scarcely dare to hope anything! Rufus, I feel that in everything of this kind we are very ignorant and inexperienced.”