Clementina listened for a moment of temptation, and then shook her head. “It wouldn’t do, Mrs. Atwell; you know it wouldn’t,” she said, and Mrs. Atwell had too little faith in her suggestion to make it prevail. She went away to carry Clementina’s message to Mrs. Milray, and her task was greatly eased by the increasing difficulty Mrs. Milray had begun to find, since the way was perfectly smoothed for her, in imagining the management of Clementina at the dance: neither child nor woman, neither servant nor lady, how was she to be carried successfully through it, without sorrow to herself or offence to others? In proportion to the relief she felt, Mrs. Milray protested her irreconcilable grief; but when the simpler Mrs. Atwell proposed her going and reasoning with Clementina, she said, No, no; better let her alone, if she felt as she did; and perhaps after all she was right.
Clementina listened to the music of the dance, till the last note was played; and she heard the gay shouts and laughter of the dancers as they issued from the ball room and began to disperse about the halls and verandas, and presently to call good night to one another. Then she lighted her lamp, and put the slippers back into the box and wrapped it up in the nice paper it had come in, and tied it with the notched ribbon. She thought how she had meant to put the slippers away so, after the dance, when she had danced her fill in them, and how differently she was doing it all now. She wrote the clerk’s .name on the parcel, and then she took the box, and descended to the office with it. There seemed to be nobody there, but at the noise of her step Fane came round the case of letter-boxes, and advanced to meet her at the long desk.
“What’s wanted, Miss Claxon?” he asked, with his hopeless respectfulness. “Anything I can do for you?”
She did not answer, but looked him solemnly in the eyes and laid the parcel down on the open register, and then went out.
He looked at the address on the parcel, and when he untied it, the box fell open and the shoes fell out of it, as they had with Clementina. He ran with them behind the letter-box frame, and held them up before Gregory, who was seated there on the stool he usually occupied, gloomily nursing his knee.
“What do you suppose this means, Frank?”
Gregory looked at the shoes frowningly. “They’re the slippers she got to-day. She thinks you sent them to her.”
“And she wouldn’t have them because she thought I sent them! As sure as I’m standing here, I never did it,” said the clerk, solemnly.
“I know it,” said Gregory. “I sent them.”
“What’s so wonderful?” Gregory retorted. “I saw that she wanted them that day when the shoe peddler was here. I could see it, and you could.”
“I went across into the woods, and the man overtook me with his wagon. I was tempted, and I bought the slippers of him. I wanted to give them to her then, but I resisted, and I thought I should never give them. To-day, when I heard that she was going to that dance, I sent them to her anonymously. That’s all there is about it.”