“If you try to go so fast,” she said, “you will fall.”
“I was only seeking to shorten your ordeal, but for obvious reasons must go slowly;” and he began feeling his way.
“Mr. Scofield, am I not very heavy?” she asked softly.
“Not as heavy as my heart, and you know it.”
“I’m sure I—”
“No, you are not to blame. Moths have scorched their wings before now, and will always continue to do so.”
Her head rested slightly against his shoulder; her breath fanned his cheek; her eyes, soft and lustrous, sought his. But he looked away gloomy and defiant, and she felt his grasp tighten vise-like around her. “I shall not affect any concealment of the feelings which she has recognized so often, nor shall I ask any favors,” he thought. “There,” he said, as he placed her in his boat, “you are safe enough now. Now go aft while I push off.”
When she was seated he exerted himself almost as greatly as before, and the boat gradually slid into the water. He sprang in and took the oars.
“Aren’t you going to put on your shoes and stockings?”
“Certainly, when I put you ashore.”
“Won’t that be a pretty certain way of revealing the plight in which you found me?”
“Pardon my stupidity; I was preoccupied with the thought of relieving you from the society which you have hitherto avoided so successfully;” and bending over his shoes he tied them almost savagely.
There was a wonderful degree of mirth and tenderness in her eyes as she watched him. They had floated by a little point; and as he raised his head he saw a form which he recognized as Mr. Merriweather rowing toward them. “There comes one of your shadows,” he said mockingly. “Be careful how you exchange boats when he comes along-side. I will give you no help in such a case.”
She looked hastily over her shoulder at the approaching oarsman. “I think it will be safer to remain in your boat,” she said.
“Oh, it will be entirely safe,” he replied bitterly.
“Mr. Merriweather must have seen you carrying me.”
“That’s another thing which I can’t help.”
“Mr. Scofield,” she began softly.
He arrested his oars, and turned wondering eyes to hers. They were sparkling with mirth as she continued, “Are you satisfied that a certain young woman whom you once watched very narrowly is entirely to your mind?”
He caught her mirthful glance and misunderstood her. With dignity he answered, “I’m not the first man who blundered to his cost, though probably it would have made no difference. You must do me the justice, however, to admit that I did not maintain the role of observer very long—that I wooed you so openly that every one was aware of my suit. Is it not a trifle cruel to taunt me after I had made such ample amends?”
“I was thinking of Mr. Merriweather—”
“Since he has seen me with my arm around your neck—you know I couldn’t help it—perhaps he might row the other way if—if—well, if he saw you—what shall I say—sitting over here—by me—or— Somehow I don’t feel very hungry, and I wouldn’t mind spending another hour—”