Clementina began again, and again Milray stopped her. “You mustn’t bear malice. I can hear the grudge in your voice; but I didn’t mean to laugh at you. You don’t like being made fun of, do you?”
“I don’t believe anybody does,” said Clementina.
“No, indeed,” said Milray. “If I had tried such a thing I should be afraid you would make it uncomfortable for me. But I haven’t, have I?”
“I don’t know,” said Clementina, reluctantly.
Milray laughed gleefully. “Well, you’ll forgive me, because I’m an old fellow. If I were young, you wouldn’t, would you?”
Clementina thought of the clerk; she had certainly never forgiven him. “Shall I read on?” she asked.
“Yes, yes. Read on,” he said, respectfully. Once he interrupted her to say that she pronounced admirable, but he would like now and then to differ with her about a word if she did not mind. She answered, Oh no, indeed; she should like it ever so much, if he would tell her when she was wrong. After that he corrected her, and he amused himself by studying forms of respect so delicate that they should not alarm her pride; Clementina reassured him in terms as fine as his own. She did not accept his instructions implicitly; she meant to bring them to the bar of Gregory’s knowledge. If he approved of them, then she would submit.
Milray easily possessed himself of the history of her life and of all its circumstances, and he said he would like to meet her father and make the acquaintance of a man whose mind, as Clementina interpreted it to him, he found so original.
He authorized his wife to arrange with Mrs. Atwell for a monopoly of Clementina’s time while he stayed at Middlemount, and neither he nor Mrs. Milray seemed surprised at the good round sum, as the landlady thought it, which she asked in the girl’s behalf.
The Milrays stayed through August, and Mrs. Milray was the ruling spirit of the great holiday of the summer, at Middlemount. It was this year that the landlords of the central mountain region had decided to compete in a coaching parade, and to rival by their common glory the splendor of the East Side and the West Side parades. The boarding-houses were to take part, as well as the hotels; the farms where only three or four summer folks were received, were to send their mountain-wagons, and all were to be decorated with bunting. An arch draped with flags and covered with flowers spanned the entrance to the main street at Middlemount Centre, and every shop in the village was adorned for the event.
Mrs. Milray made the landlord tell her all about coaching parades, and the champions of former years on the East Side and the West Side, and then she said that the Middlemount House must take the prize from them all this year, or she should never come near his house again. He answered, with a dignity and spirit he rarely showed with Mrs. Milray’s class of custom, “I’m goin’ to drive our hossis myself.”