“That is right, Ellen,” her mother said. “You need rest after your long tramp.”
“I’m not tired. We were sitting down a good deal. I didn’t think how late it was. I’m ever so much better. Where’s Lottie?”
“Off somewhere with that young Englishman,” said Mrs. Kenton, as if that were of no sort of consequence. “Ellen,” she added, abruptly, trying within a tremulous smile to hide her eagerness, “what is this that Mr. Breckon wants to talk with your father about?”
“Mr. Breckon? With poppa?”
“Yes, certainly. You told him this morning that Mr. Breckon—”
“Oh! Oh yes!” said Ellen, as if recollecting something that had slipped her mind. “He wants poppa to advise him whether to go back to his congregation in New York or not.”
Mrs. Kenton sat in the corner of the sofa next the door, looking into the girl’s face on the pillow as she lay with her arms under her head. Tears of defeat and shame came into her eyes, and she could not see the girl’s light nonchalance in adding:
“But he hasn’t got up his courage yet. He thinks he’ll ask him after dinner. He says he doesn’t want poppa to think he’s posing. I don’t know what he means.”
Mrs. Kenton did not speak at once. Her bitterest mortification was not for herself, but for the simple and tender father-soul which had been so tried already. She did not know how he would bear it, the disappointment, and the cruel hurt to his pride. But she wanted to fall on her knees in thankfulness that he had betrayed himself only to her.
She started in sudden alarm with the thought. “Where is he now —Mr. Breckon?”
“He’s gone with Boyne down into the baggage-room.”
Mrs. Kenton sank back in her corner, aware now that she would not have had the strength to go to her husband even to save him from the awful disgrace of giving himself away to Breckon. “And was that all?” she faltered.
“That he wanted to speak to your father about?”
She must make irrefragably sure, for Kenton’s sake, that she was not misunderstanding.
“Why, of course! What else? Why, momma! what are you crying about?”
“I’m not crying, child. Just some foolishness of your father’s. He understood—he thought—” Mrs. Kenton began to laugh hysterically. “But you know how ridiculous he is; and he supposed—No, I won’t tell you!”
It was not necessary. The girl’s mind, perhaps because it was imbued already with the subject, had possessed itself of what filled her mother’s. She dropped from the elbow on which she had lifted herself, and turned her face into the pillow, with a long wail of shame.