“Will you kindly read that passage over again?” Milray asked as Clementina paused at the end of a certain paragraph. She read it, while he listened attentively. “Could you tell me just what you understand by that?” he pursued, as if he really expected Clementina to instruct him.
She hesitated a moment before she answered, “I don’t believe I undastand anything at all.”
“Do you know,” said Milray, “that’s exactly my own case? And I’ve an idea that the author is in the same box,” and Clementina perceived she might laugh, and laughed discreetly.
Milray seemed to feel the note of discreetness in her laugh, and he asked, smiling, “How old did you tell me you were?”
“I’m sixteen,” said Clementina.
“It’s a great age,” said Milray. “I remember being sixteen myself; I have never been so old since. But I was very old for my age, then. Do you think you are?”
“I don’t believe I am,” said Clementina, laughing again, but still very discreetly.
“Then I should like to tell you that you have a very agreeable voice. Do you sing?”
“No’m—no, sir—no,” said Clementina, “I can’t sing at all.”
“Ah, that’s very interesting,” said Milray, “but it’s not surprising. I wish I could see your face distinctly; I’ve a great curiosity about matching voices and faces; I must get Mrs. Milray to tell me how you look. Where did you pick up your pretty knack at reading? In school, here?”
“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?”