Clementina did not know why she ought to feel affronted or injured by what he had said to her; but if Mr. Gregory thought it was wrong for him to have spoken so, it must be wrong. She did not wish him to feel badly, even if he had done wrong, but she had to take his view of what he had done. “Why, suttainly, Mr. Gregory,” she answered. “You mustn’t mind it.”
“But I do mind it. I have been very, very selfish, very thoughtless. We are both too young. I can’t ask you to wait for me till I could marry—”
The word really frightened Clementina. She said, “I don’t believe I betta promise.”
“Oh, I know it!” said Gregory. “I am going away from here. I am going to-morrow as soon as I can arrange—as soon as I can get away. Good-night—I”—Clementina in her agitation put her hands up to her face. “Oh, don’t cry—I can’t bear to have you cry.”
She took down her hands. “I’m not crying! But I wish I had neva seen those slippas.”
They had come to the bank of the river, whose current quivered at that point in a scaly ripple in the moonlight. At her words Gregory suddenly pulled the box from under his arm, and flung it into the stream as far as he could. It caught upon a shallow of the ripple, hung there a moment, then loosed itself, and swam swiftly down the stream.
“Oh!” Clementina moaned.
“Do you want them back?” he demanded. “I will go in for them!”
“No, no! No. But it seemed such a—waste!”
“Yes, that is a sin, too.” They climbed silently to the hotel. At Mrs. Atwell’s door, he spoke. “Try to forget what I said, and forgive me, if you can.”
“Yes—yes, I will, Mr. Gregory. You mustn’t think of it any moa.”
Clementina did not sleep till well toward morning, and she was still sleeping when Mrs. Atwell knocked and called in to her that her brother Jim wanted to see her. She hurried down, and in the confusion of mind left over from the night before she cooed sweetly at Jim as if he had been Mr. Gregory, “What is it, Jim? What do you want me for?”
The boy answered with the disgust a sister’s company manners always rouse in a brother. “Motha wants you. Says she’s wo’ked down, and she wants you to come and help.” Then he went his way.
Mrs. Atwell was used to having help snatched from her by their families at a moment’s notice. “I presume you’ve got to go, Clem,” she said.
“Oh, yes, I’ve got to go,” Clementina assented, with a note of relief which mystified Mrs. Atwell.
“You tied readin’ to Mr. Milray?”
“Oh, no’m-no, I mean. But I guess I betta go home. I guess I’ve been away long enough.”
“Well, you’re a good gul, Clem. I presume your motha’s got a right to have you home if she wants you.” Clementina said nothing to this, but turned briskly, and started upstairs toward her room again. The landlady called after her, “Shall you speak to Mis’ Milray, or do you want I should?”