She was wearing a large diamond, surrounded by topazes. Bert knew that he had never seen this ring before, although it did not look like a new one. However, the age of the ring signified nothing. He wondered if Clark Belknap’s mother had ever worn it, and if Clark had just given it to Nancy...
She was full of heavenly interest and friendliness. But when they were walking home she told him that she was so sorry—she couldn’t ask him to dine, because she was going out. She asked him for the next day, but his board of directors was having a monthly meeting that night, and he had to be there. How about Saturday?
Saturday she was going out of town, a special meeting of the Red Cross. They hung there. Nancy was perhaps ashamed to go on through the list of days, Bert would not ungenerously force her. He left her, thrilled and yet dissatisfied. He looked back almost with envy to his state of a few hours earlier, when he had been hoping that he might meet her.
The week dragged by. The undercurrent of longing to see Nancy flowed on and on. Bert wanted nothing else—just Nancy. He had been spending the summer with a friend, at the friend’s uptown house, but now he thought he would go out to the Venables, and show some interest in his newly-papered room and hear them speak of her.
He rang their bell with a thumping heart. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. She might even be here! Or they might tell him she was engaged to Clark Belknap of Maryland. ... Bert felt so sick at the thought that it seemed a fact. He wanted to run away.
Miss Augusta, red-eyed, opened the door. Beyond her he was somehow vaguely aware of darkness, and weeping, and the subdued rustling of gowns. Po’ Nancy Barrett was here—he knew that? Well, didn’t he know that the dea’ old Colonel had passed away suddenly—Miss Augusta’s tears flowed afresh. Nancy had come in unexpectedly to lunch, and the telegram from her aunt had come while she was there. “Tell Nancy Brother Edward passed on at five o’clock. Come home at once.”
Bert listened dazedly, in the shabby old parlour with the scrolled flowery carpet, and the statues, and the square piano. He comforted Miss Augusta, he even put one arm about her. Was there something he could do?—he asked the forlorn, empty question merely as a matter of course.
“I don’t suppose yo’ could send some telegrams...” Miss Augusta said, blowing her nose damply. “Po’ child, she hasn’t got a brother, nor anyone to depend on now in the hour of her bitteh need!”
Bert’s heart leaped.
“Just tell me!” he begged. “And what about trains, and arrangements? Will she go down? And clothes?—would she need something—”
This last item had been attended. Mama and Sis’ Sally Anne had gone down town, po’ child, she didn’t want much. And yes, she was going down, to-morrow—that night, if it could be managed.