He stopped, as if he wished to be asked his business, and she entreated him, “Why, what is it, Mr. Osson? Is there something I can do? There isn’t anything I wouldn’t!”
A gleam, watery and faint, which still could not be quite winked away, came into his small eyes. “Why, the fact is, could you—ah—advance me about five dollars?”
“Why, Mr. Orson!” she began, and he seemed to think she wished to withdraw her offer of help, for he interposed.
“I will repay it as soon as I get an expected remittance from home. I came out on the invitation of Mrs. Lander, and as her guest, and I supposed—”
“Oh, don’t say a wo’d!” cried Clementina, but now that he had begun he was powerless to stop.
“I would not ask, but my landlady has pressed me for her rent—I suppose she needs it—and I have been reduced to the last copper—”
The girl whose eyes the tears of self pity so rarely visited, broke into a sob that seemed to surprise her visitor. But she checked herself as with a quick inspiration: “Have you been to breakfast?”
“Well—ah—not this morning,” Mr. Orson admitted, as if to imply that having breakfasted some other morning might be supposed to serve the purpose.
She left him and ran to the door. “Maddalena, Maddalena!” she called; and Maddalena responded with a frightened voice from the direction of the kitchen:
She hurried out with the coffee-pot in her hand, as if she had just taken it up when Clementina called; and she halted for the whispered colloquy between them which took place before she set it down on the table already laid for breakfast; then she hurried out of the room again. She came back with a cantaloupe and grapes, and cold ham, and put them before Clementina and her guest, who both ignored the hunger with which he swept everything before him. When his famine had left nothing, he said, in decorous compliment:
“That is very good coffee, I should think the genuine berry, though I am told that they adulterate coffee a great deal in Europe.”
“Do they?” asked Clementina. “I didn’t know it.”
She left him still sitting before the table, and came back with some bank-notes in her hand. “Are you sure you hadn’t betta take moa?” she asked.
“I think that five dollars will be all that I shall require,” he answered, with dignity. “I should be unwilling to accept more. I shall undoubtedly receive some remittances soon.”
“Oh, I know you will,” Clementina returned, and she added, “I am waiting for lettas myself; I don’t think any one ought to give up.”
The preacher ignored the appeal which was in her tone rather than her words, and went on to explain at length the circumstances of his having come to Europe so unprovided against chances. When he wished to excuse his imprudence, she cried out, “Oh, don’t say a wo’d! It’s just like my own fatha,” and she told him some things of her home which apparently did not interest him very much. He had a kind of dull, cold self-absorption in which he was indeed so little like her father that only her kindness for the lonely man could have justified her in thinking there was any resemblance.