They had come to the bank of the river, whose current quivered at that point in a scaly ripple in the moonlight. At her words Gregory suddenly pulled the box from under his arm, and flung it into the stream as far as he could. It caught upon a shallow of the ripple, hung there a moment, then loosed itself, and swam swiftly down the stream.
“Oh!” Clementina moaned.
“Do you want them back?” he demanded. “I will go in for them!”
“No, no! No. But it seemed such a—waste!”
“Yes, that is a sin, too.” They climbed silently to the hotel. At Mrs. Atwell’s door, he spoke. “Try to forget what I said, and forgive me, if you can.”
“Yes—yes, I will, Mr. Gregory. You mustn’t think of it any moa.”
Clementina did not sleep till well toward morning, and she was still sleeping when Mrs. Atwell knocked and called in to her that her brother Jim wanted to see her. She hurried down, and in the confusion of mind left over from the night before she cooed sweetly at Jim as if he had been Mr. Gregory, “What is it, Jim? What do you want me for?”
The boy answered with the disgust a sister’s company manners always rouse in a brother. “Motha wants you. Says she’s wo’ked down, and she wants you to come and help.” Then he went his way.
Mrs. Atwell was used to having help snatched from her by their families at a moment’s notice. “I presume you’ve got to go, Clem,” she said.
“Oh, yes, I’ve got to go,” Clementina assented, with a note of relief which mystified Mrs. Atwell.
“You tied readin’ to Mr. Milray?”
“Oh, no’m-no, I mean. But I guess I betta go home. I guess I’ve been away long enough.”
“Well, you’re a good gul, Clem. I presume your motha’s got a right to have you home if she wants you.” Clementina said nothing to this, but turned briskly, and started upstairs toward her room again. The landlady called after her, “Shall you speak to Mis’ Milray, or do you want I should?”
Clementina looked back at her over her shoulder to warble, “Why, if you would, Mrs. Atwell,” and kept on to her room.
Mrs. Milray was not wholly sorry to have her go; she was going herself very soon, and Clementina’s earlier departure simplified the question of getting rid of her; but she overwhelmed her with reproaches which Clementina received with such sweet sincerity that another than Mrs. Milray might have blamed herself for having abused her ingenuousness.
The Atwells could very well have let the girl walk home, but they sent her in a buckboard, with one of the stablemen to drive her. The landlord put her neat bundle under the seat of the buckboard with his own hand. There was something in the child’s bearing, her dignity and her amiability, which made people offer her, half in fun, and half in earnest, the deference paid to age and state.