NOTHING more was said about the musicales, and the afternoon and evening wore away without general talk of any sort. Each seemed willing to keep apart from the rest. Dunham even suffered Lydia to come on deck alone after tea, and Staniford found her there, in her usual place, when he went up some time later. He approached her at once, and said, smiling down into her face, to which the moonlight gave a pale mystery, “Miss Blood, did you think I was very wicked to-day at dinner? ”
Lydia looked away, and waited a moment before she spoke. “ I don’t know,” she said. Then, impulsively, “ Did you? ” she asked.
“No, honestly, I don’t think I was,” answered Staniford with a laugh. “ But I seemed to leave that impression on the company. I felt a little nasty, that was all; and I tried to hurt Mr. Dunham’s feelings. But I shall make it right with him before I sleep; he knows that. He’s used to having me repent at leisure. Do you ever walk Sunday night? ”
“Yes, sometimes,” said Lydia, interrogatively.
“ I’m glad of that. Then T shall not offend against your scruples if I ask you to join me in a little ramble, and you will refuse from purely personal considerations. Will you walk with me? ”
“Yes.” Lydia rose.
“ And will you take my arm ? ” asked Staniford, a little surprised at her readiness.
“ Thank you.”
She put her hand upon his arm, confidently enough, and they began to walk up and down the stretch of open deck together.
“Well,” said Staniford, “did Mr. Dunham convince you all ? ”
“I think he talks beautifully about it,” replied Lydia, with quaint stiffness.
“ I am glad you see what a very good fellow he is. I have a real affection for Dunham.”
“Oh, yes, he’s good. At first it surprised me. I mean ” —
“ No, no,” Staniford quickly interrupted, “ why did it surprise you to find Dunham good ? ”
“ I don’t know. You don’t expect person to be serious who is so — so ” —
“ Handsome? ”
“No,—so — I don’t know just how to say it: fashionable.”
Staniford laughed. “ Why, Miss Blood, you ’re fashionably dressed yourself, not to go any farther, and you’re serious. ”
“It’s different with a man,” the girl explained.
“ Well, then, how about me? ” asked Staniford. “ Am I too well dressed to be expected to be serious? ”
“ Mr. Dunham always seems in earnest,” Lydia answered, evasively.
“ And you think one can’t be in earnest without being serious? ” Lydia suffered one of those silences to ensue in which Staniford had already found himself helpless. He knew that he should be forced to break it; and he said, with a little spiteful mocking, “ I suppose the young men of South Bradfield are both serious and earnest.”
“ How? ” asked Lydia.
“ The young men of South Bradfield.”
“ I told you that there were none. They all go away.”
“ Well, then, the young men of Springfield, of Keene, of Greenfield.”
“I can’t tell. I am not acquainted there.”
Staniford had begun to have a disagreeable suspicion that her ready consent to walk up and down with a young man in the moonlight might have come from a habit of the kind, But it appeared that her fearlessness was like that of wild birds in those desert islands where man has never come. The discovery gave him pleasure out of keeping with its importance, and he paced back and forth in a silence that no longer chafed. Lydia walked very well, and kept his step with rhythmic unison, as if they were walking to music together. “ That’s the time in her pulses,”he thought, and then he said: “ Then you don’t have a great deal of social excitement, I suppose,—dancing, and that kind of thing? Though perhaps you don’t approve of dancing? ”
“ Oh, yes, I like it. Sometimes the summer boarders get up little dances at the hotel.”
“ Oh, the summer boarders!” Staniford had overlooked them. “ The young men get them up, and invite the ladies? ” he pursued.
“ There are no young men, generally, among the summer boarders. The ladies dance together. Most of the gentlemen are old, or else invalids.”
“ Oh ! ” said Staniford.
“ At the Mill Village, where I’ve taught two winters, they have dances sometimes, —the mill hands do.”
“ And do you go? ”
“No. They are nearly all French Canadians and Irish people.”
“ Then you like dancing because there are no gentlemen to dance with ? ”
“There are gentlemen at the picnics.”
“ The picnics? ”
“ The teachers’ picnics. They have them every summer, in a grove by the pond.”
There was, then, a high-browed, dyspeptic high-school principal, and the desert - island theory was probably all wrong. It vexed Staniford, when he had so nearly got the compass of her social life, to find this unexplored corner in it.
“ And I suppose you are leaving very agreeable friends among the teachers ? ”
“ Some of them are pleasant. But I don’t know them very well. I’ve only been to one of the picnics.”
Staniford drew a long, silent breath. After all, he knew everything. He mechanically dropped a little the arm on which her hand rested, that it might slip farther within. Her timid remoteness had its charm, and he fell to thinking, with amusement, how she who was so subordinate to him was, in the dimly known sphere in which he had been groping to find her, probably a person of authority and consequence. It satisfied a certain domineering quality in him to have reduced her to this humble attitude, while it increased the protecting tenderness he was beginning to have for her. His mind went off further upon this matter of one’s different attitudes toward different persons; he thought of men, and women too, before whom he should iustantly feel like a boy, if he could be confronted with them, even in his present lordliness of mood. In a fashion of his when he convicted himself of anything, he laughed aloud. Lydia shrank a little from him, in question. “ I beg your pardon,” he said. “ I was laughing at something I happened to think of. Do you ever find yourself struggling very hard to be what you think people think you are? ”
“ Oh, yes,” replied Lydia. “But I thought no one else did.”
“Everybody does the thing that we think no one else does,” remarked Staniford, sententiously.
“ I don’t know whether I quite like it,” said Lydia. “ It seems like hypocrisy. It used to worry me. Sometimes I wondered if I had any real self. I seemed to be just what people made me, and a different person to each.”
“ I’m glad to hear it, Miss Blood. We are companions in hypocrisy. As we are such nonentities we shall not affect each other at all.”Lydia laughed. “Don’t you think so? What are you laughing at? I told you what I was laughing at! ”
“ But I did n’t ask you.”
“ You wished to know.”
“ Yes, I did.”
“Then you ought to tell me what I wish to know.”
“It’s nothing,” said Lydia. “I thought you were mistaken in what you said.”
“Oh! Then you believe that there’s enough of you to affect me? ”
“ The other way, then? ”
She did not answer.
“I’m delighted!” exclaimed Staniford. “ I hope I don’t exert an uncomfortable influence. I should be very unhappy to think so.” Lydia stooped sidewise, away from him, to get a fresh hold of her skirt, which she was carrying in her right hand, and she hung a little more heavily upon his arm. “ I hope I make you think better of yourself, — very self-satisfied, very conceited even.”
“No,” said Lydia.
“ You pique my curiosity beyond endurance. Tell me how I make you feel.”
She looked quickly round at him, as if to see whether he was in earnest. “ Why, it’s nothing,” she said. “ You made me feel as if you were laughing at everybody.”
It flatters a man to be accused of sarcasm by the other sex, aud Staniford was not superior to the soft pleasure of the reproach. “ Do you think I make other people feel so, too? ”
“ Mr. Dunliam said ” —
“ Oh! Mr. Dunham has been talking me over with you, has he? What did he tell you of me? There is nobody like a true friend for dealing an underhand blow at one’s reputation. Wait tilt you hear my account of Dunham! What did he say ?”
“ He said that was only your way of laughing at yourself.”
“ The traitor! What did you say? ”
“ I don’t know that I said anything.”
“ You were reserving your opinion for my own hearing ? ”
“ Why don’t you tell me what you thought? It might be of great use to me. I'm in earnest, now; I’m serious. Will you tell me? ”
“ Yes, some time,” said Lydia, who was both amused and mystified at this persistence.
“ When? To-morrow?”
“ Oh, that’s too soon. When I get to Venice! ”
“Ah! That’s a subterfuge. You know we shall part in Trieste.”
“ I thought,” said Lydia, “ you were coming to Venice, too.”
“ Oh, yes, but I should n’t be able to see you there.”
“ Why not? ”
“ Why not ? Why, because ” — He was near telling the young girl who hung upon his arm, and walked up and down with him in the moonlight, that in the wicked Old World towards which they were sailing young people could not meet save in the sight and hearing of their elders, and that a confidential analysis of character would he impossible between them there. The wonder of her being where she was, as she was, returned upon him with a freshness that it had been losing through the custom of the week past. “Because you will be so much taken up with your friends,” he said, lamely. He added quickly, “ There’s one thing I should like to know, Miss Blood: did you hear what Mr. Dunham and I were saying, last night, when we stood in the gangway and kept you from coming up? ”
Lydia waited a moment. Then she said, “Yes. I couldn’t help hearing it.”
“ That’s all right. I don’t care for your hearing what I said. But— I hope it was n’t true ? ”
“ I could n’t understand what you meant by it,” she answered, evasively, but rather faintly.
“ Thanks,” said Staniford, “ I did n’t mean anything. It was merely the guilty consciousness of a generally disagreeable person.” They walked up and down many turns without saying anything. She could not have made any direct protest, and it pleased him that she could not frame any flourishing generalities. “Yes,” Staniford resumed, “ I will try to see you as I pass through Venice. Mr. Dunham and I will call. And we will come to hear you sing when you come out at Milan.”
“ Come out? At Milan? ”
“ Why, yes! You are going to study at the conservatory in Milan? ”
“ How did you know that ? ” demanded Lydia.
“From hearing you to-day. May I tell you how much I liked your singing ? ”
“ My aunt thought I ought to cultivate my voice. But I would never go upon the stage. I would rather sing in a church. I should like that better than teaching.”
“ I think you ’re quite right,” said Staniford, gravely. “ It’s certainly much better to sing in a church than to sing in a theatre. Though I believe the theatre pays best.”
“ Oh, I don’t care for that. All I should want would be to make a living.”
The reference to her poverty touched him. It was a confidence, coming from one so reticent, that was of value, and he would not abuse it by seeming to have noticed it. He said, “It’s surprising how well we keep our footing here, is n’t it? There’s hardly any swell, but the ship pitches, I think we walk better together than alone.”
“Yes,” answered Lydia, “I think we do.”
“ You must n’t let me tire you. I ’m indefatigable.”
“ Oh, I’m not tired. I like it,— walking.”
“ Do you walk much at home? ”
“ Not much. It’s a pretty good walk to the school-house.”
“ Oh! Then you like walking at sea better than you do on shore ? ”
“ It is n’t the custom, much. If there were any one else, I should have liked it there. But it’s rather dull, going by yourself.”
“ Yes, I understand how that is,” said Staniford, dropping his teasing tone. “ It’s stupid. And I suppose it’s pretty lonesome at South Bradfield every way. ”
“ It is, —winters,” admitted Lydia. “ In the summer you see people, at any rate, but in winter there are days and days when hardly any one passes. The snow is banked up everywhere.”
He felt her give an involuntary shiver; and he began to talk to her about the climate to which she was going. It was all stranger to her than he could have realized, and less intelligible. Her Californian memories were very dim, and she had no experience by which she could compare and adjust his facts. He made her walk up and down more and more swiftly, as he lost himself in the coinfort of his own talking and of her listening, and he failed to note the little falterings with which she expressed her weariness. All at once he halted, and said, “ Why, you ’re out of breath! I beg your pardon. You should have stopped me. Let us sit down.” He wished to walk across the deck to where the seats were, but she just perceptibly withstood his motion, and he forbore.
“I think I won’t sit down,” she said. “ I will go down-stairs.” And she began withdrawing her hand from his arm. He put his right hand upon hers, and when it came out of his arm it remained in his hand.
“ I’m afraid you won’t walk with me again,” said Staniford. “I’ve tired you shamefully.”
“ Oh, not at all! ”
“ And you will ? ”
“ Thanks. You ’re very amiable.” He still held her hand. He pressed it. The pressure was not returned, but her hand seemed to quiver and throb in his like a bird held there. For the time neither of them spoke, and it seemed a long time. Staniford found himself carrying her hand towards his lips; and she was helplessly, trustingly, letting him.
He dropped her hand, and said, abruptly, “ Good-night.”
“ Good-night,” she answered, and ceased from his side like a ghost.
Staniford sat in the moonlight, and tried to think what the steps were that had brought him to this point; but there were no steps of which he was sensible. He remembered thinking the night before that the conditions were those of flirtation; to-night this had not occurred to him. The talk had been of the dullest common-places; yet he had pressed her hand and kept it in his, and had been about to kiss it. He bitterly considered the disparity between his present attitude and the stand he had taken when he declared to Dunham that it rested with them to guard her peculiar isolation from anything that she could remember with pain or humiliation when she grew wiser in the world. He recalled his rage with Hicks, and the insulting condemnation of his bearing towards him ever since; and could Hicks have done worse? He had done better: he had kept away from her ; he had let her alone.
That night Staniford slept badly, and woke with a restless longing to see the girl, and to read in her face whatever her thought of him had been. But Lydia did not come out to breakfast. Thomas reported that she had a headache, and that he had already carried her the tea and toast she wanted.
“ Well, it seems kind of lonesome without her,” said the captain. “ It don’t seem as if we could get along.”
It seemed desolate to Staniford, who let the talk flag and fail round him without an effort to rescue it. All the morning he lurked about, keeping out of Dunham’s way, and fighting hard through a dozen pages of a book, to which he struggled to nail his wandering mind. A headache was a little matter, but it might be even less than a headache. He belated himself purposely at dinner, and entered the cabin just as Lydia issued from her state-room door.
She was pale, and looked heavy-cyed. As she lifted her glance to him, she blushed; and he felt the answering red stain his face. They made a great deal of her return to the table, and the hearty kindness for her that every one felt expressed itself in various homages. The captain patted her on the shoulder with his burly right hand, and said he could not navigate the ship if she got sick. He pressed her to eat of this and that; and when she would not, he said, well, there was no use trying to force an appetite, and that she would be better all the sooner for dieting. Hicks disappeared in his state-room, and came out with a box of guava jelly, from his private stores, and won a triumph enviable in all eyes when Lydia consented to like it with the chicken. Dunham plundered his own and Staniford’s common stock of dainties for her dessert; the first officer agreed and applauded right and left; Staniford alone sat taciturn and inoperative, watching her face furtively. Once her eyes wandered to the side of the table where he and Dunham sat; then she colored, and dropped her glance.
He took his book again after dinner, and with his finger between the leaves, at the last-read, unintelligible page, he went out to the bow, and crouched down there to renew the conflict of the morning. It was not long before Dunham followed. He stooped over to lay a hand on either of Staniford’s shoulders.
“ What makes you avoid me, old man?” he demanded, looking into Staniford’s face with his frank, gentle eyes.
“And I avoid you?” asked Staniford.
“Yes; why? ”
“ Because I feel rather shabby, I suppose. I knew I felt shabby, but I did n’t know I was avoiding you.”
“ Well, no matter. If you feel shabby, it’s all right; but I hate to have you feel shabby.” He got his left hand down into Staniford’s right, and a tacit reconciliation was transacted between them. Dunham looked about for a seat, and found a stool, which he planted in front of Staniford. “ Was n’t it pleasant to have our little lady back at table, again ? ”
“ Very,” said Staniford.
“ I could n’t help thinking how droll it was that a person whom we all considered a sort of incumbrance and superfluity at first should really turn out an object of prime importance to us all. Is n’t it amusing? ”
“ Very droll.”
“ Why, we were quite lost without her, at breakfast. I could n’t have imagined her taking such a hold upon us all, in so short a time. But she’s a pretty creature, and as good as she ’s pretty. ”
“I remember agreeing with you on those points before.”Staniford feigned to suppress fatigue.
Dunham observed him. “ I know you don’t take so much interest in her as — as the rest of us do, and I wish you did. You don’t know what a lovely nature she is.”
“ No; and I’m sure you ’d like her.”
“Is it important that I should like her ? Don’t let your enthusiasm for the sex carry you beyond bounds, Dunham.”
“No, no. Not important, but very pleasant. And I think acquaintance with such a girl would give you some new ideas of women.”
“ Oh, my old ones are good enough. Look here, Dunham,” said Staniford, sharply, “ what are you after? ”
“What makes you think I’m after anything ? ”
“ Because you ’re not a humbug, and because I am. My depraved spirit instantly recognized the dawning duplicity of yours. But you’d better be honest. You can’t make the other thing work. What do you want? ”
“ I want your advice. I want your help, Staniford.”
“ I thought so! Coming and forgiving me in that — apostolic manner.”
“ Don’t! ”
“ Well. What do you want my help for? What have you been doing?” Staniford paused, and suddenly added: “Have you been making love to Lurella?” He said this in his ironical manner, but his smile was rather ghastly.
“ For shame, Staniford! ” cried Dunham. But he reddened violently.
“Then it is n’t with Miss Hibbard that you want my help. I’m glad of that. It would have been awkward. I’m a little afraid of Miss Hibbard. It is n’t every one has your courage, my dear fellow.”
“I have n’t been making love to her,” said Dunham, “but — I” —
“But you what? ” demanded Staniford sharply again. There had been less tension of voice in his joking about Miss Hibbard.
“Staniford,” said his friend, “I don’t know whether you noticed her, at dinner, when she looked across to our own side?”
“ What did she do? ”
“ Did you notice that she — well, that she blushed a little ?”
Staniford waited a while before he answered, after a gulp, “ Yes, I noticed that.”
“Well, I don’t know how to put it exactly, but I’m afraid that I have unwittingly wronged this young girl.”
“ Wronged her? What the devil do you mean, Dunham? ” cried Staniford, with bitter impatience.
“I’m afraid — I’m afraid— Why, it’s simply this: that in trying to amuse her, and make the time pass agreeably, and relieve her mind, and all that, don’t you know, I’ve given her the impression that I’m — well—interested in her, and that she may have allowed herself, — insensibly, you know — to look upon me in that light, and that she may have begun to think — that she may have become " —
“Interested in you?” interrupted Staniford rudely.
“Well—ah — well, that is —ah — well— Yes! ” cried Dunham, as if bracing himself to sustain a shout of ridicule. But Staniford did not laugh, and Dunham had courage to go on. “ Of course, it sounds rather conceited to say so, but the circumstances are so peculiar that I think we ought to recognize even any possibilities of that sort.”
“ Oh, yes,” said Staniford, gravely. “ Most women, I believe, are so innocent as to think a man in love when he behaves like a lover. And this one,” he added ruefully, “ seems more than commonly ignorant of our ways,—of our infernal shilly-shallying, purposeless nomindedness. She couldn’t imagine a man - a gentleman — devoting himself to her by the hour, and trying by every art to show his interest and pleasure in her society, without imagining that he wished her to like him, — love him; there’s no half-way about it. She could n’t suppose him the shallow, dawdling, soulless, senseless ape he really was.” Staniford was quite in a heat by this time, and Dunham listened in open astonishment.
“ You are hard upon me,” he said.
“ Of course, I have been to blame; I know that, I acknowledge it. But my motive, as you know well enough, was never to amuse myself with her, but to contribute in any way I could to her enjoyment and happiness. I ” —
“You !” cried Staniford. “What are you talking about? ”
“ What are you talking about ? ” demanded Dunham, in his turn.
Staniford recollected himself. “ I was speaking of abstract flirtation. I was firing into the air.”
“In my case. I don’t choose to call it flirtation,” returned Dunham. “ My purpose, I am bound to say, was thoroughly unselfish and kindly.”
“My dear fellow,” said Staniford, with a bitter smile, “ there can be no unselfishness and no kindliness between us and young girls, unless we mean business, —love-making. You may be sure that they feel it so, if they don’t understand it so.”
“ I don’t agree with you. I don’t believe it. My own experience is that the sweetest and most generous friendships may exist between us, without a thought of anything else. And as to making love, I must beg you to remember that my love has been made once for all. I never dreamt of showing Miss Blood anything but polite attention.”
“ Then what are you troubled about? ” “ I am troubled ” — Dunham stopped helplessly, and Staniford laughed in a challenging, disagreeable way, so that the former perforce resumed: “I’m troubled about— about her possible misinterpretation.”
“ Oh! Then in this case of sweet and generous friendship the party of the second part may have construed the sentiment quite differently! Well, what do want me to do? Do you want me to take the contract off your hands? ”
“ You put it grossly,” said Dunham. “And you put it offensively! ” cried the other. “ My regard for the young lady is as reverent as yours. You have no right to miscolor my words.”
“ Staniford, you are too bad!” said Dunham, hurt even more than angered. “ If I ’ve come to you in the wrong moment— if you are vexed at anything, I ’ll go away, and beg your pardon for boring you.”
Staniford was touched; he looked cordially into his friend’s face. “I was vexed at something, but you never can come to me at the wrong moment, old fellow. I beg your pardon. I see your difficulty plainly enough, and I think you ’re quite right in proposing to hold up,—for that’s what you mean, I take it?”
“ Yes,” said Dunham, “ it is. And I don’t know how she will like it. She will be puzzled and grieved by it. I had n’t thought seriously about the matter till this morning, when she did n’t come to breakfast. You know I’ve been in the habit of asking her to walk with me every night after tea; but Saturday evening you were with her, and last night I felt sore about the affairs of the day, and rather dull, and I did n’t ask her. I think she noticed it. I think she was hurt.”
“ You think so ? ” said Staniford, peculiarly.
“I might not have thought so,” continued Dunham, “ merely because she did not come to breakfast ; but her blushing when she looked across at dinner really made me uneasy.”
“ Very possibly you ’re right.” Staniford mused a while before he spoke again. “ Well, what do you wish me to do? ”
“ I must hold up, as you say, and of course she will feel the difference. I wish — I wish at least you would n’t avoid her, Staniford. That’s all. Any little attention from you — I know it bores you — would not only break the loneliness, but it would explain that — that my — attentions, did n’t — ah — had n’t meant anything.”
“ Oh! ”
“ Yes; that it’s common to offer them. And she’s a girl of so much force of character that when she sees the affair in its true light — I suppose I’m to blame ! Yes, I ought to have told her at the beginning that I was engaged. But you can’t force a fact of that sort upon a new acquaintance: it looks silly. ” Dunham hung his head in selfreproach.
“ Well? ” asked Staniford.
“Well, that’s all ! No, it is n't all, either. There ’s something else troubles me. Our poor little friend is a blackguard, I suppose? ”
“ You have invited him to be the leader of your orchestra, have n’t you? ”
“Oh, don't, Staniford!” cried Dunham in his helplessness. “ I should hate to see her dependent in any degree upon that little cad for society.” Cad was the last English word which Dunham had got himself used to. “ That was why I hoped that you would n’t altogether neglect her. She’s here, and she’s no choice but to remain. We can’t leave her to herself without the danger of leaving her to Hicks. You see?”
“Well,” said Staniford gloomily, “I’m not sure that you could n’t leave her to a worse cad than Hicks.” Dunham looked up in question. “To me, for example.”
“ Oh, hallo! ” cried Dunham.
“ 1 don’t see how I ’m to be of any use,” continued the other. “ I ’m not a squire of dames; I should merely make a mess of it.”
“ You ’re mistaken, Staniford, — I 'm sure you are, — in supposing that she dislikes you,” urged his friend.
“ Oh, very likely.”
“ I know that she ’s simply afraid of you.”
“ Don’t flatter, Dunham. Why should I care whether she fears me or affects me? No, my dear fellow. This is irretrievably your own affair. I should be glad to help you out if I knew how. But I don’t. I refer you to the consolations of religion. In the mean time your duty is plain, whatever happens. Yon can’t overdo the sweet and the generous in this wicked world without paying the penalty.”
Staniford smiled at the distress in which Dunham went his way. He knew very well that it was not vanity, but the liveliness of a sensitive conscience, that had made Dunham search his conduct for the offense against the young girl’s peace of heart which he believed he had committed, and it was the more amusing because he was so guiltless of harm. Staniford knew wko was to blame for the headache and the blush. He knew that Dunham had never gone so far; that his chivalrous pleasure in her society might continue for years free from flirtation. But in spite of this conviction a little poignant doubt made itself felt, and suddenly became his whole consciousness. “Confound him!” he mused. “ I wonder if she really could care anything for him! ” He shut his book, and rose to his feet with such a burning in his heart that he could not have believed himself capable of the greater rage he felt at what he just then saw. It was Lydia and Hicks seated together in the place where he had sat with her. She leaned with one arm upon the rail, in an attitude that brought all her slim young grace into evidence. She seemed on very good terms with him, and he was talking and making her laugh as Staniford had never heard her laugh before— so freely, so heartily.
The atoms that had been tending in Staniford’s being toward a certain form suddenly arrested and shaped themselves anew at the vibration imparted by this laughter. He no longer felt himself Hicks’s possible inferior, but vastly better in every way, and out of the turmoil of his feelings in regard to Lydia was evolved the distinct sense of having been trifled with. Somehow, an advantage had been taken of his sympathies and purposes, and his forbearance had been treated with contempt.
The conviction was neither increased nor diminished by the events of the evening, when Lydia brought out some music from her state-room, and Hicks appeared, flute in hand, from his, and they began practicing one of the pieces together. It was a pretty enough sight. Hicks had been gradually growing a better-looking fellow; he had an undeniable picturesqueness, as he bowed his head over the music towards hers; and she, as she held the sheet with one hand for him to see, while she noiselessly accompanied herself on the table with the fingers of the other, and tentatively sang now this passage and now that, was divine. The picture seemed pleasing to neither Staniford nor Dunham; they went on deck together, and sat down to their cigarettes in their wonted place. They did not talk of Lydia, or of any of the things that had formed the basis of their conversation hitherto, but Staniford returned to his Colorado scheme, and explained at length the nature of his purposes and expectations. He had discussed these matters before, but he had never gone into them so fully, nor with such cheerful earnestness. He said he should never marry, — he had made up his mind to that; but he hoped to make money enough to take care of his sister’s boy Jim handsomely, as the little chap had been named for him. He had been thinking the matter over, and he believed that he should get back by rail and steamer as soon as he could after they reached Trieste. He was not sorry he had come; but he could not afford to throw away too much time on Italy, just then.
Dunham, on his part, talked a great deal of Miss Hibbard, and of some curious psychological characteristics of her dyspepsia. He asked Staniford whether he had ever shown him the photograph of Miss Hibbard taken by Sarony when she was on to New York the last time: it was a three-quarters view, and Dunham thought it the best she had had done. He spoke of her generous qualities, and of the interest she had always had in the Diet Kitchen, to which, as an invalid, her attention had been particularly directed; and he said that in her last letter she had mentioned a project for establishing a diet kitchen in Rome, on the Boston plan. When their talk grew more impersonal and took a wider range, they gathered suggestion from the situation, and remarked upon the immense solitude of the sea. They agreed that there was something weird in this long continuance of fine weather, and that the moon had a strange look. They spoke of the uncertainty of life. Dunham regretted, as he had often regretted before, that his friend had no fixed religions belief; and Staniford gently accepted his solicitude, and said that he had at least a conviction if not a creed. He then begged Dunham’s pardon in set terms for trying to wound his feelings the day before; and in the silent handclasp that followed they renewed all the cordiality of their friendship. From time to time, as they talked, the music from below came up fitfully, and once they had to pause as Lydia sang through the song that she and Hicks were practicing.
Their common interest in the art now brought Hicks and the young girl almost constantly together, and the sound of their concerting often filled the ship. The musicales, less formal than Dunham had intended, and perhaps for that reason a source of rapidly diminishing interest with him, superseded both ringtoss and shuffle-board, and Seemed even more acceptable to the ship’s company as an entertainment. One evening, when the performers had been giving a piece of rather more than usual excellence and difficulty, one of the sailors, apparently deputed by his mates, came aft, with many clumsy shows of deference, and asked them to give Marching through Georgia. Hicks found this out of his repertory, but Lydia sang it. Then the group at the forecastle shouted with one voice for Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching, and so beguiled her through the whole list of the war-songs. She ended with one unknown to her listeners, but better than all the rest in words and music, and The Flag’s come back to Tennessee was received with the silence and the low murmur that witness the effect of a tender and pathetic song. The spokesman of the sailors came aft again, to thank her for his mates, and to say they would not spoil that last song by asking for anything else. It was a charming little triumph for her, as she sat surrounded by her usual court: the captain was there to countenance the freedom the sailors had taken, and Dunham and Staniford stood near, but Hicks, at her right hand, held the place of honor.
The next night Staniford found her alone in the waist of the ship, and drew up a stool beside the rail where she sat.
“ We all enjoyed your singing so much, last night, Miss Blood. I think Mr. Hicks plays charmingly, but I believe I prefer to hear your voice alone.”
“Thank you,” said Lydia, looking down, demurely.
“It must be a great satisfaction to feel that you can give so much pleasure.”
“ I don’t know,” she said, passing the palm of one hand over the back of the other.
“ When you are a prima donna you must n’t forget your old friends of the Aroostook. We shall all take vast pride in you.”
This was not a question, and Lydia answered nothing. Staniford, who had rather obliged himself to this advance, with some dim purpose of showing that nothing had occurred to alienate them since the evening of their promenade, without having proved to himself that it was necessary to do this, felt that he was growing angry. It irritated him to have her sit as unmoved after his words as if he had not spoken, and he found that of all forms of rustic uncouthness this was the most offensive.
“ Miss Blood,” he said, “ I envy you your gift of snubbing people.”
Lydia looked at him. “ Snubbing people ?" she echoed.
“ Yes; your power of remaining silent when you wish to put down some one who has been wittingly or unwittingly impertinent. ”
“ I don’t know what you mean,” she said, in a sort of breathless way.
“ And you did n’t intend to mark your displeasure at my planning your future? ”
“ No! We had talked of that. I ” —
“ And you were not vexed with me for anything? I have been afraid that I — that you ” — Staniford found that he was himself getting short of breath. They sat staring into each other’s eyes. He had begun with the intention of mystifying her, but matters had suddenly taken another course, and he was really anxious to know whether any disagreeable associations with that night lingered in her mind. With this longing came a natural inability to find the right word. “I was afraid” — he repeated, and then he stopped again. Clearly, he could not tell her that be was afraid he had gone too far; but this was what he meant. “ You don’t walk with me, any more, Miss Blood,” he concluded, with an air of burlesque reproach.
“You haven’t asked me — since,” she said.
He felt a singular value and significance in this word, since. It showed that her thoughts had been running parallel with his own; it permitted, if it did not signify, that he should resume the mood of that time, where their parting had interrupted it. He enjoyed the fact to the utmost, but he was not sure that he wished to do what he was permitted. “Then I didn’t tire you?” he merely asked. He was not sure, now he came to think of it, that he liked her willingness to recur to that time. He liked it, but not quite in the way he would have liked to like it.
“ No,” she said.
“ The fact is,” he went on aimlessly, “that I thought I had rather abused your kindness. Besides,” he added, veering off, " I was afraid I should be an interruption to the musical exercises.”
“Oh, no,” said Lydia. “Mr. Dunham has n’t arranged anything yet.” Staniford thought this uncandid. It was fighting shy of Hicks, who was the person in his own mind; and it reawakened a suspicion which was lurking there. “ Mr. Dunham seems to have lost his interest. ”
This struck Staniford as an expression of pique; it reawakened quite another suspicion. It was evident that she had really cared for Dunham, and that she was hurt at the cessation of his attentions. He was greatly minded to say that Dunham was a fool, but he ended by saying, with sarcasm, “ I suppose he saw that he was superseded.”
“ Mr. Hicks plays well,” said Lydia, judicially, “ but he does n’t really know so much of music as Mr. Dunham.”
“ No? ” responded Staniford, with irony. “ I will tell Dunham. No doubt he’s been suffering the pangs of professional jealousy. That must be the reason why he keeps away.”
“ Keeps away? ” asked Lydia.
“ Now I’ve made an ass of myself! ” thought Staniford. “ You said that he seemed to have lost his interest,” he answered her.
“Oh! Yes!” assented Lydia. And then she remained rather distraught, pulling at the ruffling of her dress.
“ Dunham is a very accomplished man,” said Staniford, finding the usual satisfaction in pressing his breast against the thorn. “ He’s a great favorite in society. He ’s up to no end of things.” Staniford uttered these praises in a curiously bitter tone. “ He’s a capital talker. Don’t you think he talks well ? ”
“ I don’t know; I suppose I have n’t seen enough people to be a good judge.”
“ Well, you’ve seen enough people to know that he’s very good looking? ”
“ Yes? ”
“You don’t mean to say you don't think him good looking? ”
“No, — oh, no, I mean—that is—I don’t know anything about his looks. But he resembles a lady who used to come from Boston, summers. I thought he must be her brother.”
“ Oh, then you think he looks effeminate! ” cried Staniford, with inner joy. “ I assure you,” he added with solemnity, “Dunham is one of the manliest fellows in the world! ”
“Yes?” said Lydia.
Staniford rose. He was smiling gayly as he looked over the broad stretch of empty deck, and down into Lydia’s eyes. “ Would n’t you like to take a turn, now? ”
“ Yes,” she said promptly, rising and arranging her wrap across her shoulders, so as to leave her hands free. She laid one hand in his arm and gathered her skirt with the other, and they swept round together for the start and confronted Hicks.
“ Oh! ” cried Lydia, with what seemed dismay, “ I promised Mr. Hicks to practice a song with him.” She did not try to release her hand from Staniford’s arm, but was letting it linger there with apparent irresolution.
Staniford dropped his arm, and let her hand fall. He bowed with icy stiffness, and said, with a courtesy so fierce that Mr. Hicks, on whom he glared as he spoke, quailed before it, “ I yield to your prior engagement.”
It was nothing to Staniford that she should have promised Hicks to practice a song with him, and no process of reasoning could have made if otherwise. The imaginary opponent with whom he scornfully argued the matter had not a word for himself. Neither could the young girl answer anything to the cutting speeches which he mentally made her as he sat alone chewing the end of his cigar; and he was not moved by the imploring looks which his fancy painted in her face, when he made believe that she had meekly returned to offer him some sort of reparation. Why should she excuse herself? he asked. It was he who ought to excuse himself for having been in the way. The dialogue went on at length, with every advantage to the inventor.
He was finally aware of some one standing near and looking down at him. It was the second mate, who supported himself in a conversational posture by the hand which he stretched to the shrouds above their heads. “ Are you a good sailor, Mr. Staniford?” he inquired. He and Staniford were friends in their way, and had talked together before this.
“ Do you mean seasickness? Why? ” Staniford looked up at the mate’s face.
“ Well, we 're going to get it, I guess, before long. We shall soon be off the Spanish coast. We’ve had a great run so far.”
“ if it comes we must stand it. But I make it a rule never to be seasick beforehand.”
“ Well, I ain’t one to borrow trouble, either. It don’t run in the family. Most of us like to chance things. I chanced it for the whole war, and I come out all right. Sometimes it don't work so well.”
“Ah?” said Staniford, who knew that this was a leading remark, but forbore, as he knew Mason wished, to follow it up directly.
“ One of us chanced it once too often, and of course it was a woman.”
“ The risk? ”
“Not the risk. My oldest sister tried tamin’ a tiger. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a tiger won’t tame worth a cent. But her pet was such a lamb most of the while that she guessed she’d chance it. It did n’t work. She’s at home with mother now, — three children, of course, — and he’s in hell, I s’pose. He was killed ’long-side o’ me at Gettysburg. Ike was a good fellow when he was sober. But my souls, the life he led that poor girl! Yes, when a man’s got that tiger in him, there ought to be some quiet little war round for puttin’ him out of his misery.” Staniford listened silently, waiting for the mate to make the application of his grim allegory. “ I s’pose I ’m prejudiced; but I do hate a drunkard; and when I see one of ’em makin’ up to a girl, I want to go to her, and tell her she’d better take a real tiger out the show, at once.”
The juxtaposition which these words suggested sent a thrill to Staniford’s heart, but he continued silent, and the mate went on, with the queer smile, which could be inferred rather than seen, working under his mustache and the humorous twinkle of his eyes evanescently evident under his cap peak.
“ I don’t go round criticisin’ my superior officers, and / don’t say anything about the responsibility the old man took. The old man’s all right, accordin’ to his lights; he ain’t had a tiger in the family. But if that young fellow was to fall overboard, — well, I don’t know how long it would take to lower a boat, if I was to listen to my conscience. There ain’t really any help for him. He ’s begun too young ever to get over it. He won’t be ashore at Try-East an hour before he’s drunk. If our men had any spirits amongst ’em that could be begged, bought, or borrowed, he ’d be drunk now, right along. Well, I ’m off watch,” said the mate, at the tap of bells. “ Guess we’ll get our little gale pretty soon.”
“ Good-night,” said Staniford, who remained pondering, but presently rose, and walked up and down the deck. He could hear Lydia and Hicks trying that song: now the voice, and now the flute; then both together; and presently a burst of laughter. He began to be angry with her ignorance and inexperience. It became intolerable to him that a woman should be going about with no more knowledge of the world than a child, and entangling herself in relations with all sorts of people. It was shocking to think of that little sot, who had now made his infirmity known to all the ship’s company, admitted to association with her which looked to common eyes like courtship. From the mate’s insinuation that she ought to be warned, it was evident that they thought her interested in Hicks; and the mate had come, like Dunham, to leave the responsibility with Staniford. It only wanted now that Captain Jenness should appear with his appeal, direct or indirect.
While Staniford walked up and down, and scorned and raged at the idea that he had anything to do with the matter, the singing and fluting came to a pause in the cabin ; and at the end of the next turn, which brought him to the head of the gangway stairs, he met Lydia emerging. He stopped and spoke to her, having instantly resolved, at sight of her, not to do so.
“ Have you come up for breath, like a mermaid? ” he asked. “ Not that I’m sure mermaids do.”
“Oh, no,” said Lydia. “I think I dropped my handkerchief where we were sitting.”
Staniford suspected, with a sudden return to a theory of her which he had already entertained, that she had not done so. But she went lightly by him, where he stood stolid, and picked it up; and now he suspected that she had dropped it there on purpose.
“You have come back to walk with me? ”
“ No! ” said the girl, indignantly. “ I have not come back to walk with you!” She waited a moment; then she burst out with, “ How dare you say such a thing to me? What right have you to speak to me so? What have I done to make you think that I would come back to”— She stopped.
The fierce vibration in her voice made him know that her eyes were burning upon him and her lips trembling. He shrank before her passion as a man must before the justly provoked wrath of a woman, or even of a small girl.
“ I stated a hope, not a fact,” he said in meek uncandor. “ Don’t you think you ought to have done so? ”
“ I don’t — I don’t understand you,” panted Lydia, arresting her bolts in mid-course, and looking confusedly at him.
Staniford pursued his guilty advantage; it was his only chance. “ I gave way to Mr. Hicks when you had an engagement with me. I thought — you would come back to keep your engagement.” He was still very meek.
Excuse me,” she said, with selfreproach that would have melted the heart, of any one but a man who was in the wrong, and was trying to get out of it at all hazards. “ I did n’t know what you meant — I ” —
“ If I had meant what you thought,” interrupted Staniford nobly, for he could now afford to be generous, “ I should have deserved much more than you said. But I hope you won’t punish my awkwardness by refusing to walk with me.”
Lydia looked at him earnestly for a moment; then she said, “ I must get my shawl and hat.”
“ Let me go! ” he entreated.
“ You could n’t find them,” she answered, as she vanished past him. She returned, and promptly laid her hand in his proffered arm; it was as if she were eager to make him amends for her harshness.
Staniford took her hand out, and held it while he bowed low toward her. “ I declare myself satisfied.”
“ I don’t understand,” said Lydia, in alarm and mortification.
“ When a subject has been personally aggrieved by his sovereign, his honor is restored if they merely cross swords.”
The girl laughed her delight in the extravagance. She must have been more or less than woman not to have found his flattery delicious. “ But we are republicans! ” she said, in evasion.
“ To be sure, we are republicans. Well, then, Miss Blood, answer your free and equal one thing: is it a case of conscience? ”
“How?” she asked, and Staniford did not recoil at the rusticity. This how for what, and the interrogative yes, still remained. Since their first walk, she had not wanted to know, in however great surprise she found herself.
“ Are you going to walk with me because you had promised? ”
“ Why, of course,” faltered Lydia.
“ That is n’t enough.”
“ Not enough? ”
“Not enough. You must walk with me because you like to do so.”
Lydia was silent.
“ Do you like to do so? ”
“ I can’t answer you,” she said, releasing her hand from him.
“ It was not fair to ask you. What I wish to do is to restore the original status. You have kept your engagement to walk with me, and your conscience is clear. Now, Miss Blood, may I have your company for a little stroll over the deck of the Aroostook? ” He made her another very low bow.
“What must I say?” asked Lydia; joyously.
“That depends upon whether you consent. If you consent, you must say,
‘ I shall be very glad.’ ”
“ And if I don’t ? ”
“ Oh, I can’t put any such decision into words.”
Lydia mused a moment. “ I shall be very glad,”she said, and put her hand again into the arm he offered.
As happens after such a passage they were at first silent, while they walked up and down.
“If this fine weather holds,” said Staniford, “ and you continue as obliging as you are to-night, you can say, when people ask you how you went to Europe, that you walked the greater part of the way. Shall you continue so obliging ? Will you walk with me every fine night? ” pursued Staniford.
“ Do you think I ’d better say so? ” she asked, with the joy still in her voice.
“ Oh, I can’t decide for you. I merely formulate your decisions after you reach them, — if they ’re favorable.”
“ Well, then, what is this one ? ”
“ Is it favorable? ”
“ You said you would formulate it.” She laughed again, and Staniford started as one does when a nebulous association crystallizes into a distinctly remembered fact.
“What a curious laugh you have!” he said. “ It’s like a nun’s laugh. Once in France I lodged near the garden of a convent where the nuns kept a girls’ school, and I used to hear them laugh. You never happened to be a nun, Miss Blood?”
“No, indeed!” cried Lydia, as if scandalized.
“ Oh, I merely meant in some previous existence. Of course, I did n’t suppose there was a convent in South Bradfield.” He felt that the girl did not quite like the little slight his irony cast upon South Bradfield, or rather upon her for never having been anywhere else. He hastened to say: “I’m sure that in the life before this you were of the South somewhere.”
“Yes?” said Lydia, interested and pleased again, as one must be in romantic talk about one’s self. “ Why do you think so ? ”
He bent a little over toward her, so as to look into the face she instinctively averted, while she could not help glancing at him from the corner of her eye. “ You have the color and the light of the South,” he said. “ When you get to Italy, you will live in a perpetual mystification. You will go about in a dream of some self of yours that was native there in other days. You will find yourself retrospectively related to the olive faces and the dark eyes you meet; you will recognize sisters and cousins in the patrician ladies when you see their portraits in the palaces where you used to live in such state.”
Staniford spiced his flatteries with open burlesque; the girl entered into his fantastic humor. “ But if I was a nun?” she asked, gayly.
“ Oh, I forgot. You were a nun. There was a nun in Venice once, about two hundred years ago, when you lived there, and a young English lord who was passing through the town was taken to the convent to hear her sing; for she was not only of ‘ an admirable beauty,’ as he says, but sang 'extremely well.’ She sang to him through the grating of the convent, and when she stopped he said, 'Die whensoever you will, you need to change neither voice nor face to be an angel!’ Do you think — do you dimly recollect anything that makes you think — it might — Consider carefully: the singing extremely well, and the ” — He leant over again, and looked up into her face, which again she could not wholly withdraw.
“No, no!” she said, still in his mood.
“Well, you must allow it was a pretty speech.”
“Perhaps,” said Lydia, with sudden gravity, in which there seemed to Staniford a tender insinuation of reproach, “he was laughing at her.”
“If he was, he was properly punished. He went on to Rome, and when he came back to Venice the beautiful nun was dead. He thought that his words ’seemed fatal.' Do you suppose it would kill you now to be jested with? ”
“I don’t think people like it generally.”
“ Why, Miss Blood, you are intense! ”
“ I don’t know what you mean by that,” said Lydia.
“You like to take things seriously. You can’t bear to think that people are not the least in earnest, even when they least seem so.”
“Yes,” said the girl, thoughtfully, “ perhaps that’s true. Should you like to be made fun of yourself? ”
“ I should n’t mind it, I fancy, though it would depend a great deal upon who made fun of me. I suppose that women always laugh at men, — at their clumsiness, their want of tact, the fit of their clothes.”
“ I don’t know. I should not do that with any one I ” —
“ You liked ? Oh, none of them do! ” cried Staniford.
“ I was not going to say that,” faltered the girl.
“ What were you going to say ? ”
She waited a moment. “Yes, I was going to say that,” she assented with a sigh of helpless veracity. “ What makes you laugh ? ” she asked, in distress.
“Something I like. I’m different from you : I laugh at what I like; I like your truthfulness, — it’s charming.”
“I didn’t know that truth need be charming.”
“It had better be, in women, if it’s to keep even with the other thing.” Lydia seemed shocked; she made a faint, involuntary motion to withdraw her hand, but he closed his arm upon it. “ Don’t condemn me for thinking that fibbing is charming. I shouldn’t like it at all in you. Should you in me? ”
“ I should n’t in any one,” said Lydia.
“ Then what is it you dislike in me? ” he suddenly demanded.
“I didn’t say that I disliked anything in you.”
“But you have made fun of something in me? ”
“ Then it was n’t the stirring of a guilty conscience when you asked me whether I should like to he made fun of? I took it for granted you 'd been doing it.”
“ You are very suspicious.”
“ Yes? And what else? ”
“Oh, you like to know just what every one thinks and feels.”
“Go on!” cried Staniford. “Analyze me, formulate me! ”
“ That’s all.”
“ All I come to? ”
“ All I have to say.”
“That’s very little. Now, I’ll begin on you. You don’t care what people think or feel.”
“ Oh, yes, I do. I care too much.”
“ Do you care what I think? ”
“ Then I think you ’re too unsuspicious.”
“ Ought I to suspect somebody ? ” she asked, lightly.
“ Oh, that ’s the way with all your sex. One asks you to be suspicious, and you ask whom you shall suspect. You can do nothing in the abstract. I should like to be suspicious for you. Will you let me? ”
“ Oh, yes, if you like to be.”
“ Thanks. I shall be terribly vigilant, — a perfect dragon. And you really invest me with authority? ”
“ That’s charming.” Staniford drew a long breath. After a space of musing, he said, “I thought I should be able to begin by attacking some one else, but I must commence at home, and denounce myself as quite unworthy of walking to and fro, and talking nonsense to you. You must beware of me, Miss Blood.”
“ Why ? ” asked the girl.
“ I am very narrow-minded and prejudiced, and I have violent antipathies. I shouldn’t be able to do justice to any one I disliked.”
“ I think that’s the trouble with all of us,” said Lydia.
“ Oh, but only in degree. I should not allow, if I could help it, a man whom I thought shabby, and coarse at heart, the privilege of speaking to any one I valued, — to my sister, for instance. It would shock me to see her have any taste in common with such a man, or amused by him. Don’t you understand ? ”
“Yes,” said Lydia. It seemed to him, as if by some infinitely subtle and unconscious affinition, she relaxed toward him as they walked. This was incomparably sweet and charming to Staniford, — too sweet as recognition of his protecting friendship to be questioned as anything else. He felt sure that she had taken his meaning, and he rested content from all further trouble in regard to what it would have been impossible to express. Her tacit confidence touched a kindred spring in him, and he began to talk to her of himself: not of his character or opinions, — they had already gone over them, —but of his past life, and his future. Their strangeness to her gave certain well-worn topics novelty, and the familiar project of a pastoral career in the far West invested itself with a color of romance which it had not worn before. She tried to remember, at his urgence, something about her childhood in California; and she told him a great deal more about South Bradfield. She described its characters and customs, and, from no vantage-ground or stand-point but her native feeling of their oddity, made him see them as one might whose life had not been passed among them. Then they began to compare their own traits, and amused themselves to find how many they had in common. Staniford related a singular experience of his on a former voyage to Europe, when he dreamed of a collision, and woke to hear a great trampling and uproar on deck, which afterwards turned out to have been caused by their bare escape from running into an iceberg. She said that she had had strange dreams, too, but mostly when she was a little girl; once she had had a presentiment that troubled her, but it did not come true. They both said they did not believe in such things, and agreed that it was only people’s love of mystery that kept them noticed. He permitted himself to help her, with his disengaged hand, to draw her shawl closer about the shoulder that was away from him. He gave the action a philosophical and impersonal character by saying immediately afterwards: “ The sea is really the only mystery left us, and that will never be explored. They circumnavigate the whole globe,”—here he put the gathered shawl into the fingers which she stretched through his arm to take it, and she said, “ Oh, thank you!” — “but they don’t describe the sea. War and plague and famine submit to the ameliorations of science,” — his mind wandered; he hardly knew what he was saying, — “ but the one utterly inexorable calamity—the same now as when the first sail was spread — is a shipwreck.”
“Yes,” she said, with a deep inspiration. And now they walked back and forth in silence broken only by a casual word or desultory phrase. Once Staniford had thought the conditions of these promenades perilously suggestive of flirtation ; another time he had blamed himself for not thinking of this; now he neither thought nor blamed himself for not thinking. The fact justified itself, as if it had been the one perfectly right and wise thing in a world where all else might be questioned.
“Isn’t it pretty late?” she asked, at last.
“ If you ’re tired, we ’ll sit down,” he said.
“ What time is it? ” she persisted.
“Must I look?” he pleaded. He took out his watch and sprang the case open. “ Look! ” he said. “ I sacrifice myself on the altar of truth.” They bent their heads low together over the watch; it was not easy to make out the time. “ It’s nine o’clock,” said Staniford.
“ It can’t be; it was half past when I came up,” answered Lydia.
“ One hand ’s at twelve and the other at nine,” he said, conclusively.
“ Oh, then it’s a quarter to twelve.” She caught away her hand from his arm, and fled to the gangway. “ I did n’t dream it was so late.”
The pleasure which her confession brought to his face faded at sight of Hicks, who was turning the last pages of a novel by the cabin lamp, as he followed Lydia in. It was the book that Staniford had given her.
“ Hullo!” said Hicks, with companionable ease, looking up at her. “ Been having quite a tramp.”
She did not seem troubled by the familiarity of an address that incensed Staniford almost to the point of taking Hicks from his seat, and tossing him to the other end of the cabin. “ Oh, you’ve finished my book,” she said. “ You must tell me how you like it, tomorrow.”
“ I doubt it,” said Hicks, “ I ’m going to be seasick to-morrow. The captain ’s been shaking his head over the barometer and powwowing with the first officer. Something ’s up, and I guess it’s a gale. Good-by; I shan't see you again for a week or so.”
He nodded jocosely to Lydia, and dropped his eyes again to his book, ignoring Staniford’s presence. The latter stood a moment breathing quick; then he controlled himself and went into his room. His coming roused Dunham, who looked up from his pillow. “What time is it?” he asked, stupidly.
“ Twelve,” said Staniford.
“ Had a pleasant walk? ”
“ If you still think,” said Staniford, savagely, “that she’s painfully interested in you, you can make your mind easy. She does n’t care for either of us. ”
“ Either of us? ” echoed Dunham. He roused himself.
“ Oh, go to sleep; go to sleep! ” cried Staniford.
W. D. Howells.