“’T is exactly that which puzzles me.”
“Oh, Janice! He—Perhaps thee was right. He may be a villain who is trying to beguile thee.”
“For what could—Then why should he tell me about her?”
“That—well—’t is beyond me.”
“If’t had not been for coming away, I—that is—” The girl hesitated and then said, “Tibbie?”
“Dost think—I mean—” The girl drew her bedfellow closer, and in an almost inaudible voice asked, “Would it be right, think you—when I go back, you know—to—to encourage him—that is, to give him a chance to tell me—so as to find out?”
The referee of this important question was silent for long enough to give a quality of consideration to her opinion, and then decided, “I think thee shouldst. ’T is a question that thou hast a right to know about.” Having given the ruling, this most upright judge changed her manner from one conveying thought to one suggesting eagerness, and asked, “Oh, Janice, if he does—if thee finds out anything, wilt thee tell it me?”
“Ought I?” asked Janice, divided between the pleasure of monopolising a secret and the enjoyment of sharing it.
“Surely thee ought,” cried Tabitha. “After telling me so much, thou shouldst—for Charles’ sake. Otherwise I might misjudge him.”
“Then I’ll tell you everything,” cried Janice, clearly happy in the decision.
“And if he does love you, Jan?” suggestively remarked Tibbie.
“’T will be vastly exciting,” said Janice. “You know, Tibbie, it frightens me a little, for he’s just the kind of man to do something desperate.”
“And—and you would n’t—”
“Tibbie Drinker! A redemptioner!”
“But Janice, he must have been a gentle—”
“What he was, little matters,” interrupted the girl. “He’s a bond-servant now, and even if he were n’t, he’d have a bristly beard—Ugh!”
“Poor fellow,” sighed Tabitha. “’T is not his fault!”
“Nor is ’t mine,” retorted Janice.
A pause of some moments followed and then Janice asked: “Dost think I am promised to Mr. Evatt, Tibbie?”—for let it be confessed that every incident of what she had pledged herself not to tell had been poured out to her confidant.
“I think so,” whispered the girl, “and he being used to court ways would surely know.”
“He ’s—well, he’s a fine figure of a man,” owned Janice. “And tho’ I ne’er intended it, I’d rather ’t would be he than Philemon Hennion or the parson.”
“What if thy father and mother should not consent?” said Tabitha.
“’T would be lovely!” cried Janice, ecstatically. “Just like a romance, you know. And being court-bred, he’d know how to—well—how to give it eclat. Oh, Tibbie, think of making a runaway match and of going to court!”
Much as Tabitha loved her friend, the little green-eyed monster gained possession of her momentarily. “He may be deceiving thee,” she suggested. “Perhaps he never was there.”