“Do you ever think of me, Miss Winslow?” asked Rollin after a pause.
“Oh, yes, quite often!” said Rachel with a smile.
“Are you thinking of me now?”
“Yes. That is—yes—I am.”
“Do you want me to be absolutely truthful?”
“Then I was thinking that I wished you were not here.” Rollin bit his lip and looked gloomy.
“Now look here, Rachel—oh, I know that’s forbidden, but I’ve got to speak some time!—you know how I feel. What makes you treat me so? You used to like me a little, you know.”
“Did I? Of course we used to get on very well as boy and girl. But we are older now.”
Rachel still spoke in the light, easy way she had used since her first annoyance at seeing him. She was still somewhat preoccupied with her plan which had been disturbed by Rollin’s sudden appearance.
They walked along in silence a little way. The avenue was full of people. Among the persons passing was Jasper Chase. He saw Rachel and Rollin and bowed as they went by. Rollin was watching Rachel closely.
“I wish I was Jasper Chase. Maybe I would stand some chance then,” he said moodily.
Rachel colored in spite of herself. She did not say anything and quickened her pace a little. Rollin seemed determined to say something, and Rachel seemed helpless to prevent him. After all, she thought, he might as well know the truth one time as another.
“You know well enough, Rachel, how I feel toward you. Isn’t there any hope? I could make you happy. I’ve loved you a good many years—”
“Why, how old do you think I am?” broke in Rachel with a nervous laugh. She was shaken out of her usual poise of manner.
“You know what I mean,” went on Rollin doggedly. “And you have no right to laugh at me just because I want you to marry me.”
“I’m not! But it is useless for you to speak, Rollin,” said Rachel after a little hesitation, and then using his name in such a frank, simple way that he could attach no meaning to it beyond the familiarity of the old family acquaintance. “It is impossible.” She was still a little agitated by the fact of receiving a proposal of marriage on the avenue. But the noise on the street and sidewalk made the conversation as private as if they were in the house.
“Would that is—do you think—if you gave me time I would.”
“No!” said Rachel. She spoke firmly; perhaps, she thought afterward, although she did not mean to, she spoke harshly.
They walked on for some time without a word. They were nearing Rachel’s home and she was anxious to end the scene.
As they turned off the avenue into one of the quieter streets Rollin spoke suddenly and with more manliness than he had yet shown. There was a distinct note of dignity in his voice that was new to Rachel.
“Miss Winslow, I ask you to be my wife. Is there any hope for me that you will ever consent?”