“Not the Coffinkeys, certainly,” said Mary; “but indeed, Carey, I myself was uncomfortable at that singing in the lanes at eleven at night.”
“It wasn’t eleven,” said Carey, perversely.
“But what was the possible harm in it?”
“None at all in itself, only remember the harm it may do to the children for you to be heedless of people’s opinion, and to get a reputation for flightiness and doing odd things.”
“I couldn’t be like the Coffinkey pattern any more than I could be tied down to a rope walk.”
“But you need not do things that your better sense must tell you may be misconstrued. Surely there was a wish that you should live near the Colonel and be guided by him.”
“Little knowing that his guidance would consist in being set at me by Ellen and the Coffinkeys!”
“Nonsense,” said Mary, vexed enough to resume their old school-girl manners. “You know I am not set on by anybody, and I tell you that if you do not pull up in time, and give no foundation for ill-natured comments, your children will never get over it in people’s estimation. And as for themselves, a little steadiness and regularity would be much better for their whole dispositions.”
“It is holiday time,” said Carey, in a tone of apology.
“If it is only in holiday time-”
“The country has always seemed like holiday. You see we used to go- all of us-to some seaside place, and be quite free there, keeping no particular hours, and being so intensely happy. I haven’t yet got over the feeling that it is only for a time, and we shall go back into the dear old home and its regular ways.” Then clasping her hands over her side as though to squeeze something back, she broke out, “O Mary, Mary, you mustn’t scold me! You mustn’t bid me tie myself to regular hours till this summer is over. If you knew the intolerable stab when I recollect that he is gone-gone-gone for ever, you would understand that there’s nothing for it but jumping up and doing the first thing that comes to hand. Walking it down is best. Oh! what will become of me when the mornings get dark, and I can’t get up and rush into those woods? Yes"-as Mary made some affectionate gesture-"I know I have gone on in a wild way, but who would not be wild who had lost him? And then they goad me, and think me incapable of proper feeling,” and she laughed that horrid little laugh. “So I am, I suppose; but feeling won’t go as other people think proper. Let me alone, Mary, I won’t damage the children. They are Joe’s children, and I know what he wanted and wished for them better than Robert or anybody else. But I must go my own way, and do what I can bear, and as I can, or-or I think my heart would break quite, and that would be worse for them than anything.”
Mary had tears in her eyes, drawn forth by the vehement passion of grief apparent in the whole tone of her poor little friend. She had no doubts of Carey’s love, sorrow, or ability, but she did seriously doubt of her wisdom and judgment, and thought her undisciplined. However, she could say no more, for Nita Ray and Janet were advancing on them.