“What infernal luck,” he groaned inwardly; “I suppose the next time I see that girl I’ll be collecting garbage from her back door.” And then, with his eyes straight to the front, he stepped aside to let the two pass.
It was Harriet Holden who recognized him first, and stopped with a little exclamation of surprise. Jimmy stopped, too. There was nothing else that a gentleman might do, although he would have given his right hand to have been out of the yard.
“You never came to the house as I asked you to,” said Miss Holden reproachfully. “We wanted so much to do something to repay you for your protection that night.”
“There was no use in my coming,” said Jimmy, “for, you see, I couldn’t have accepted anything for what I did—I couldn’t very well have done anything else, could I, under the circumstances?”
“There were many other men in the place,” replied Harriet, “but you were the only one who came to our help.”
“But the others were not—–” Jimmy been upon the point of saying gentlemen, but then he happened to think that in the eyes of these two girls, and according to their standard, he might not be a gentleman, either. “Well, you see,” he continued lamely, “they probably didn’t know who you were.”
“Did you?” asked Elizabeth.
“No,” Jimmy admitted, “of course, I didn’t know who you were, but I knew what you were not, which was the thing that counted most then.”
“I wish,” said Harriet, “that you would let us do something for you.”
“Yes,” said Elizabeth, “if a hundred dollars would be of any use to you—” Harriet laid a hand quickly on her friend’s arm.
“I wasn’t thinking of money,” she said to Jimmy. “One can’t pay for things like that with money, but we know so many people here we might help you in some way, if you are not entirely satisfied with your present position.”
Out of the corner of his eye Jimmy could not help but note that Elizabeth was appraising him critically from head to foot and he felt that he could almost read what was passing through her mind as she took stock of his cheap cotton uniform and his cap, with the badge of his employer above the vizor. Involuntarily Jimmy straightened his shoulders and raised his chin a trifle.
“No, thank you,” he said to Harriet “it is kind of you, but really I am perfectly satisfied with my present job. It is by far the best one I have ever held,” and touching his cap, he continued his interrupted way to his wagon.
“What a strange young man,” exclaimed Harriet. “He is like many of his class,” replied Elizabeth, “probably entirely without ambition and with no desire to work any too hard or to assume additional responsibilities.”
“I don’t believe it,” retorted Harriet. “Unless I am greatly mistaken, that man is a gentleman. Everything about him indicates it; his inflection even is that of a well-bred man.”
“How utterly silly,” exclaimed Elizabeth. “You’ve heard him speak scarcely a dozen words. I venture to say that in a fifteen-minute conversation he would commit more horrible crimes against the king’s English than even that new stable-boy of yours. Really, Harriet, you seem very much interested in this person.”