“I don’t know,” answered Clementina. “Do I read-the way you want?”
“Oh, perfectly. You let the meaning come through—when there is any.”
“Sometimes,” said Clementina ingenuously, “I read too fast; the children ah’ so impatient when I’m reading to them at home, and they hurry me. But I can read a great deal slower if you want me to.”
“No, I’m impatient, too,” said Milray. “Are there many of them,—the children?”
“There ah’ six in all.”
“And are you the oldest?”
“Yes,” said Clementina. She still felt it very blunt not to say sir, too, but she tried to make her tone imply the sir, as Mr. Gregory had bidden her.
“You’ve got a very pretty name.”
Clementina brightened. “Do you like it? Motha gave it to me; she took it out of a book that fatha was reading to her.”
“I like it very much,” said Milray. “Are you tall for your age?”
“I guess I am pretty tall.”
“You’re fair, of course. I can tell that by your voice; you’ve got a light-haired voice. And what are your eyes?”
“Blue!” Clementina laughed at his pursuit.
“Ah, of course! It isn’t a gray-eyed blonde voice. Do you think—has anybody ever told you-that you were graceful?”
“I don’t know as they have,” said Clementina, after thinking.
“And what is your own opinion?” Clementina began to feel her dignity infringed; she did not answer, and now Milray laughed. “I felt the little tilt in your step as you came up. It’s all right. Shall we try for our friend’s meaning, now?”
Clementina began again, and again Milray stopped her. “You mustn’t bear malice. I can hear the grudge in your voice; but I didn’t mean to laugh at you. You don’t like being made fun of, do you?”
“I don’t believe anybody does,” said Clementina.
“No, indeed,” said Milray. “If I had tried such a thing I should be afraid you would make it uncomfortable for me. But I haven’t, have I?”
“I don’t know,” said Clementina, reluctantly.
Milray laughed gleefully. “Well, you’ll forgive me, because I’m an old fellow. If I were young, you wouldn’t, would you?”
Clementina thought of the clerk; she had certainly never forgiven him. “Shall I read on?” she asked.
“Yes, yes. Read on,” he said, respectfully. Once he interrupted her to say that she pronounced admirable, but he would like now and then to differ with her about a word if she did not mind. She answered, Oh no, indeed; she should like it ever so much, if he would tell her when she was wrong. After that he corrected her, and he amused himself by studying forms of respect so delicate that they should not alarm her pride; Clementina reassured him in terms as fine as his own. She did not accept his instructions implicitly; she meant to bring them to the bar of Gregory’s knowledge. If he approved of them, then she would submit.