And, after I had smoked thoughtfully awhile, I sighed.
“Yes, I fear I may seem so.”
“Oh, I forgive you!”
“Though you needn’t be so annoyingly humble about it,” said she, and frowned, and, even while she frowned, laughed and shook her head.
“And pray, why do you laugh?”
“Because—oh, Peter, you are such a—boy!”
“So you told me once before,” said I, biting my pipe-stem viciously.
“Did I, Peter?”
“You also called me a—lamb, I remember—at least, you suggested it.”
“Did I, Peter?” and she began to laugh again, but stopped all at once and rose to her feet.
“Peter!” said she, with a startled note in her voice, “don’t you hear something?”
“Yes,” said I.
“Some one is coming!”
“And—they are coming this way!”
“Oh—how can you sit there so quietly? Do you think—“she began, and stopped, staring into the shadows with wide eyes.
“I think,” said I, knocking the ashes from my pipe, and laying it on the bench beside me, “that, all things considered, you were wiser to go into the cottage for a while.”
“No—oh, I couldn’t do that!”
“You would be safer, perhaps.”
“I am not a coward. I shall remain here, of course.”
“But I had rather you went inside.”
“And I much prefer staying where I am.”
“Then I must ask you to go inside, Charmian.”
“No, indeed, my mind is made up.”
“Then I insist, Charmian.”
“Mr. Vibart!” she exclaimed, throwing up her head, “you forget yourself, I think. I permit no one to order my going and coming, and I obey no man’s command.”
“Then—I beg of you.”
“And I refuse, sir—my mind is made up.”
“And mine also!” said I, rising.
“Why, what—what are you going to do?” she cried, retreating as I advanced towards her.
“I am going to carry you into the cottage.”
“You would not dare!”
“If you refuse to walk, how else can you get there?” said I.
Anger, amazement, indignation, all these I saw in her eyes as she faced me, but anger most of all.
“Oh—you would—not dare!” she said again, and with a stamp of her foot.
“Indeed, yes,” I nodded. And now her glance wavered beneath mine, her head drooped, and, with a strange little sound that was neither a laugh nor a sob, and yet something of each, she turned upon her heel, ran into the cottage, and slammed the door behind her.
A PEDLER IN ARCADIA
The cottage, as I have said, was entirely hidden from the chance observer by reason of the foliage: ash, alder, and bramble flourished luxuriantly, growing very thick and high, with here and there a great tree; but, upon one side, there was a little grassy glade, or clearing rather, some ten yards square, and it was towards this that my eyes were directed as I reseated myself upon the settle beside the door, and waited the coming of the unknown.