Gregory paid the money. “Please consider this as confidential,” he said, and he made swiftly away. Before the shoeman could lock the drawer that had held the slippers, and clamber to his perch under the buggy-hood, Gregory was running back to him again.
“Stop!” he called, and as he came up panting in an excitement which the shoeman might well have mistaken for indignation attending the discovery of some blemish in his purchase. “Do you regard this as in any manner a deception?” he palpitated.
“Why,” the shoeman began cautiously, “it wa’n’t what you may call a promise, exactly. More of a joke than anything else, I looked on it. I just said I’d keep ’em for her; but—”
“You don’t understand. If I seemed to disapprove—if I led any one to suppose, by my manner, or by—anything—that I thought it unwise or unbecoming to buy the shoes, and then bought them myself, do you think it is in the nature of an acted falsehood?”
“Lo’d no!” said the shoeman, and he caught up the slack of his reins to drive on, as if he thought this amusing maniac might also be dangerous.
Gregory stopped him with another question. “And shall—will you—think it necessary to speak of—of this transaction? I leave you free!”
“Well,” said the shoeman. “I don’t know what you’re after, exactly, but if you think I’m so shot on for subjects that I’ve got to tell the folks at the next stop that I sold a fellar a pair of slippas for his gul—Go ’long!” he called to his horse, and left Gregory standing in the middle of the road.
The people who came to the Middlemount in July were ordinarily the nicest, but that year the August folks were nicer than usual and there were some students among them, and several graduates just going into business, who chose to take their outing there instead of going to the sea-side or the North Woods. This was a chance that might not happen in years again, and it made the house very gay for the young ladies; they ceased to pay court to the clerk, and asked him for letters only at mail-time. Five or six couples were often on the floor together, at the hops, and the young people sat so thick upon the stairs that one could scarcely get up or down.
So many young men made it gay not only for the young ladies, but also for a certain young married lady, when she managed to shirk her rather filial duties to her husband, who was much about the verandas, purblindly feeling his way with a stick, as he walked up and down, or sitting opaque behind the glasses that preserved what was left of his sight, while his wife read to him. She was soon acquainted with a good many more people than he knew, and was in constant request for such occasions as needed a chaperon not averse to mountain climbing, or drives to other hotels for dancing and supper and return by moonlight, or the more boisterous sorts of charades; no sheet and pillow case party was complete without her; for welsh-rarebits her presence was essential. The event of the conflict between these social claims and her duties to her husband was her appeal to Mrs. Atwell on a point which the landlady referred to Clementina.