“Ah yes,” she cut him off, “it is of yourself that you want to speak, after all—not of me!”
“Look here,” he vociferated; “are you going to marry that Joe Louden? I want to know whether you are or not. He gave me this—and this to-day!” He touched his bandaged hand and plastered forehead. “He ran into me—over me—for nothing, when I was not on my guard; struck me down—stamped on me—”
She turned upon him, cheeks aflame, eyes sparkling and dry.
“Mr. Bantry,” she cried, “he did a good thing! And now I want you to go home. I want you to go home and try if you can discover anything in yourself that is worthy of Mamie and of what she showed herself to be this morning! If you can, you will have found something that I could like!”
She went rapidly toward the house, and he was senseless enough to follow, babbling: “What do you think I’m made of? You trample on me—as he did! I can’t bear everything; I tell you—”
But she lifted her hand with such imperious will that he stopped short. Then, through the window of the sick-room came clearly the querulous voice:
“I tell you it was; I heard him speak just now— out there in the yard, that no-account step-brother of Joe’s! What if he is a hired hand on the Tocsin? He’d better give up his job and quit, than do what he’s done to help make the town think hard of Joe. And what is he? Why, he’s worse than Cory. When that Claudine Fear first came here, ‘Gene Bantry was hangin’ around her himself. Joe knew it and he’d never tell, but I will. I saw ’em buggy-ridin’ out near Beaver Beach and she slapped his face fer him. It ought to be told!”
“I didn’t know that Joe knew—that!” Eugene stammered huskily. “It was—it was—a long time ago—”
“If you understood Joe,” she said, in a low voice, “you would know that before these men leave this house, he will have their promise never to tell.”
His eyes fell miserably, then lifted again; but in her clear and unbearable gaze there shone such a flame of scorn as he could not endure to look upon. For the first time in his life he saw a true light upon himself, and though the vision was darkling, the revelation was complete.
“Heaven pity you!” she whispered.
Eugene found himself alone, and stumbled away, his glance not lifted. He passed his own home without looking up, and did not see his mother beckoning frantically from a window. She ran to the door and called him. He did not hear her, but went on toward the Tocsin office with his head still bent.
Norbert Waits for Joe: