The girl seemed neither surprised nor very greatly pleased; perhaps her pleasure had spent itself in that moment of triumphant expectation when she foresaw what was coming, or perhaps she was preoccupied in clearing the way in her own mind to a definite result.
“What do you say, Cynthia?” Jeff pursued, with more injury than misgiving in his voice at her delay in answering. “Don’t you-care for me?”
“Oh yes, I presume I’ve always done that—ever since we were boy and girl, as you say. But——”
“Well?” said Jeff, patiently, but not insecurely.
“Have I what?”
“Always cared for me.”
He could not find his voice quite as promptly as before. He cleared his throat before he asked: “Has Mr. Westover been saying anything about me?”
“I don’t know what you mean, exactly; but I presume you do.”
“Well, then—I always expected to tell you—I did have a fancy for that girl, for Miss Vostrand, and I told her so. It’s like something that never happened. She wouldn’t have me. That’s all.”
“And you expect me to take what she wouldn’t have?”
“If you like to call it that. But I should call it taking a man that had been out of his head for a while, and had come to his senses again.”
“I don’t know as I should ever feel safe with a man that had been out of his head once.”
“You wouldn’t find many men that hadn’t,” said Jeff, with a laugh that was rather scornful of her ignorance.
“No, I presume not,” she sighed. “She was beautiful, and I believe she was good, too. She was very nice. Perhaps I feel strangely about it. But, if she hadn’t been so nice, I shouldn’t have been so willing that you should have cared for her.”
“I suppose I don’t understand,” said Jeff, “but I know I was hard hit. What’s the use? It’s over. She’s married. I can’t go back and unlive it all. But if you want time to think—of course you do—I’ve taken time enough—”
He was about to lift the reins on the mare’s back as a sign to her that the talk was over for the present, and to quicken her pace, when Cynthia put out her hand and laid it on his, and said with a certain effect of authority: “I shouldn’t want you should give up your last year in Harvard.”
“Just as you say, Cynthy;” and in token of intelligence he wound his arm round her neck and kissed her. It was not the first kiss by any means; in the country kisses are not counted very serious, or at all binding, and Cynthia was a country girl; but they both felt that this kiss sealed a solemn troth between them, and that a common life began for them with it.