“What’s wanted, Miss Claxon?” he asked, with his hopeless respectfulness. “Anything I can do for you?”
She did not answer, but looked him solemnly in the eyes and laid the parcel down on the open register, and then went out.
He looked at the address on the parcel, and when he untied it, the box fell open and the shoes fell out of it, as they had with Clementina. He ran with them behind the letter-box frame, and held them up before Gregory, who was seated there on the stool he usually occupied, gloomily nursing his knee.
“What do you suppose this means, Frank?”
Gregory looked at the shoes frowningly. “They’re the slippers she got to-day. She thinks you sent them to her.”
“And she wouldn’t have them because she thought I sent them! As sure as I’m standing here, I never did it,” said the clerk, solemnly.
“I know it,” said Gregory. “I sent them.”
“What’s so wonderful?” Gregory retorted. “I saw that she wanted them that day when the shoe peddler was here. I could see it, and you could.”
“I went across into the woods, and the man overtook me with his wagon. I was tempted, and I bought the slippers of him. I wanted to give them to her then, but I resisted, and I thought I should never give them. To-day, when I heard that she was going to that dance, I sent them to her anonymously. That’s all there is about it.”
The clerk had a moment of bitterness. “If she’d known it was you, she wouldn’t have given them back.”
“That’s to be seen. I shall tell her, now. I never meant her to know, but she must, because she’s doing you wrong in her ignorance.”
Gregory was silent, and Fane was trying to measure the extent of his own suffering, and to get the whole bearing of the incident in his mind. In the end his attempt was a failure. He asked Gregory, “And do you think you’ve done just right by me?”
“I’ve done right by nobody,” said Gregory, “not even by myself; and I can see that it was my own pleasure I had in mind. I must tell her the truth, and then I must leave this place.”
“I suppose you want I should keep it quiet,” said Fane.
“I don’t ask anything of you.”
“And she wouldn’t,” said Fane, after reflection. “But I know she’d be glad of it, and I sha’n’t say anything. Of course, she never can care for me; and—there’s my hand with my word, if you want it.” Gregory silently took the hand stretched toward him and Fane added: “All I’ll ask is that you’ll tell her I wouldn’t have presumed to send her the shoes. She wouldn’t be mad at you for it.”