Mrs. Farrell

by William Dean Howells

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Chapter VI

IT was much later than his wonted hour when Easton woke next morning, and found a scrap of paper stuck between the mirror and its frame, on which Gilbert had written: “Off for the trout brooks. See you at dinner.” This gave him a moment’s pause, and then he went on dressing. He had a lover’s single purpose of seeing her he loved, and a lover’s insensibility to questions of ways and means; and after breakfast he walked away toward the farm, thinking what he should say and do when he met Mrs. Farrell.

At Woodward farm there was no organization for the reception of callers upon the guests. There was no bell, and there would have been no one to answer it if there was a bell. But in a house where there was so much leisure and so much curiosity, this was ordinarily a small deprivation. Some of the ladies were always looking out, and if they saw any of their friends coming they ran forth to meet them with a great deal of pleasant twitter, having shouted a voluble welcome to them from the time they came in sight. If it was some one whom the lookers-out recognized as the friend of another lady, they went to alarm her in ample season, and by the time the visitor ascended the piazza steps the lady was at{83} the door. Besides, some one or other was always sitting about outdoors, and if unknown visitors approached, it was a grateful little excitement to ask them, when they had vainly inspected the door frame for a bell, if one could call her whom they wished to see.

But when Mr. Easton was descried approaching, people were quite undecided what to do, and he was on the piazza before he had himself perceived that he had something to do besides walking up to Mrs. Farrell and telling her that he loved her. It appeared to him impossible that she should not be there to receive him; he had been so rapt in his meditation upon her that he had not believed but he must meet her as soon as he reached the door; and now she was not there! Several heads were decently taken in from the upper windows, and the broad piazza was empty but for the two young ladies whom he had walked home with yesterday; they sat half in the sunlight at the corner, and one was looking down upon the work in her hand, and the other looking down upon the book she was reading aloud, and he fancied himself unperceived by them. A mighty disappointment fell upon him; he had stormed the fortress, to find it empty and equipped with Quaker guns. As he stood there helpless, the young girl who was reading discreetly chanced to look round, and to her evident great surprise discovered him. She gave him a friendly little nod, and as he came toward her she rose with a pretty air and offered her hand, and the other did the same. They talked excitedly for a minute or{84} two, and then the conversation began to flag, and Easton uneasily shifted his attitude. No doubt they would have liked to keep him with them for a little while, but perhaps they did not know how, or thought they ought to give him a chance to get away if he wanted; or perhaps she who spoke was quite sincere in asking, with a bright smile, “Did you want to see Mrs.”—his heart began to beat in his ears—“Gilbert?”

“Yes,” Said Easton, stupidly.

“I will go and tell her,” said the young girl, laying her book down open, and lightly turning away.

“Thanks— I’m very sorry to trouble you,” said Easton; and neither he nor she with whom he was left contrived to speak one word more while the other was gone. When she came back she said, with some trepidation: “Mrs. Gilbert is very, very sorry. She has one of her bad headaches, and she can’t see any one. She’s so sorry to miss your call.”

“Oh, no matter—no matter,” answered Easton. “I’m sorry she’s not well; please give her my—please say I was sorry. Good morning!” he added, abruptly, and cast a wistful, despairing look at the front of the house, and could not go. “Is—is Mrs. Farrell at home?” he asked, desperately.

The young girl cruelly smiled, and her companion cruelly cast down her eyes, and then they both blushed.

“No,” said the first, “she isn’t at home. She said she was going with Miss Rachel to help pick peas.{85}”

“Oh!” was all that Easton could say; and as he turned away the girls said it was a perfect shame, and they were rude girls, too flat for anything.

Easton forgot them both, and walked back toward his hotel. On the way down the slope from the house he looked in the direction of the vegetable garden, and faltered. Mrs. Farrell’s voice floated over to him in a gay laugh from the ranks of the pea vines, and an insane longing to behold her filled him to the throat. But he could not go and tell her he loved her, there among the pea pods; even he felt that. He twisted his mustache into the corner of his mouth, beat the ground with his stick, and hurried away, hurt, tormented, but not at all daunted or moved from his mind to have speech with her as soon as ever he could.

When she had finished her part of the work, which was to gather peas with fitful intensity and then to talk for long intervals to Rachel’s taciturn perseverance, she emptied her small harvest into the basket that one of the Woodward boys carried, and walked picturesquely back to the house under her broad hat, which dropped its shade just across her lips like a grace veil, and left her dark eyes to glow, starlike, from its depths. In this becoming effect she sat down on the kitchen threshold, with the wide doors open round her, and took some of the peas into her lap and shelled them with a lazy ease, moving her arms from the elbows resting on her knees, and managing chiefly with her flexile wrists, and went on talking with Rachel of a picnic excursion to the mountain which she wished to{86} plan. “We shall not want any one along but the youngest Miss Jewett and Jenny Alden and Ben, and we can have a splendid time. It’s just the right season, now. Come, Mrs. Woodward,” she called into the kitchen, “are you going to let me go?”

“You mostly do what you like, Mrs. Farrell,” answered Mrs. Woodward’s voice, “and the only way I get any obedience out of you is to forbid you to do what you don’t like. Yes, go. All I ask is that you don’t take me.”

“Now, then, Miss Prim,” said Mrs. Farrell to Rachel, “you see you’re commanded to go. What had we better wear?”

“Oh, wear all your worst things,” said Mrs. Woodward.

“Yes, but I’m one of those poor people who can’t afford to have any but best things. I’m going to get you to lend me some of your worst, Mrs. Woodward, and I’m going to borrow Ben’s hat. Will you lend it to me, Ben?” she tenderly asked of the grave young fellow who stood near, and who had to shift himself from one foot to the other and turn his face away before he could assent. She laughed at his trepidation, as if she knew the reason of it. But by the time he could confront Mrs. Farrell again, she apparently did not care for his answer. Her eyes were fixed upon the figure of Gilbert as he came up the road toward the house. He came in sight suddenly, as if he had climbed the wall from one of the birch-bordered meadows. He was better worth looking at than Ben Woodward, being very{87} brave in his high boots and his straw hat, with his bundled rod and his trout basket, a strong, sinewy shape, and a face very handsome in its fashion. As he drew nearer, he turned aside and slanted his course toward the door where Mrs. Farrell sat. Before he came up to her place Rachel had silently vanished within, and Mrs. Farrell sat there alone.

“Good morning,” he called out, taking off his hat.

“Good morning,” returned Mrs. Farrell, without changing her posture. “Don’t you want to stop and help shell peas?”

Either their acquaintance had prospered rapidly after Easton had left them together the afternoon before, or else this was Mrs. Farrell’s indifference to social preliminaries.

“No, thanks,” said Gilbert, tranquilly, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief. “My domestic gifts are small. But I was thinking, as I came along, that I would give you people my trout.”

“Really? How very handsome of you!”

“Yes, there’s nothing mean about me. They sometimes object to cooking them at the hotel, and I don’t quite like to throw them away.”

“Why, this is true charity! If I’m to accept them in the name of the farm, I must see them first.”

Gilbert took off his basket and laid it at her feet; she opened it and cried out, “What beauties! Like flowers! But”—she gave ever so little a pretty grimace—“not exactly the same perfume!”

“No,” said he, “they can’t very well help that. But they improve with frying.{88}”

“That’s true,” said Mrs. Farrell. “Well, we’ll take them. And you must get Mrs. Gilbert to ask you to supper. I can’t do it.”

“No,” answered Gilbert, “my generosity shall be unblemished. I never eat the trout I’ve taken, any more. Easton’s religion has had that much effect upon me.”

“Easton’s religion?”

“Yes; he thinks it’s atrocious to kill anything for the pleasure of it.”

“How very droll! And you’re able to behave so nobly with your fish because you couldn’t get them cooked, and wouldn’t eat them if you could!” Gilbert had been standing beside the pile of maple firewood which flanked the kitchen door and sent up a pleasant odor in the sun; Mrs. Farrell said, “Sit down,” and he sat down on a broad block used for splitting kindling. “I wonder what Mr. Easton would have had to say to some of the apostles on the subject of fishing.”

“That’s what I asked him once; but he says they didn’t fish for fun.”

“He distinguishes! Well, but what about the clergymen who make it their diversion, and then boast about their prowess in books?”

“Ask Easton for his opinion. I can assure you it’s worth hearing—if you like contempt red hot.”

“I don’t believe I do! I’d rather ask you. Is that his whole creed, anti-trouting?”

“No; hardly. He has a kindness for most of the human race as well as the lower animals. The only creature he really hates is the horse,” said Gilbert,{89} with a laugh as of recollected mirth; and in fact Easton had been known in his army days for his antipathy to his chargers. He always got full service out of them by sheer force of will; but he never liked them, and never professed to understand them; the horse, he contended, was unfitted for a gentleman’s society by the blackguard company he habitually kept. “But I don’t think he’d do even a horse a wanton injury,” concluded Gilbert.

“Yes?” said Mrs. Farrell. “And the rest of his opinions?”

“Why, there are very few things that Easton hadn’t an opinion upon. It’s rather odd, don’t you think, to find a man in our age and country really caring enough for matters in general to make up his mind about them?”

“Very,” said Mrs. Farrell, twisting her slim shape round to take a handful of peas out of the basket behind her and putting them into her lap. “Go on.”

“That was all I had to say,” returned Gilbert, with a mocking light in his eyes.

“Oh, how can you be so cruel?—when I had just got ready to listen! Do go on!”

“Why, I was thinking—” began Gilbert.

“Yes, yes!” eagerly prompted Mrs. Farrell, “thinking (really thinking! Of course you can’t have been doing it long!)—thinking—”

“That it was a very inconvenient practice to inquire into the right and wrong of many things,” proceeded Gilbert, in solid indifference to her light impertinences; whereupon she seemed to suffer{90} some evanescent confusion. “It gives you no sort of moral leeway. Suppose you want to do something—anything—out of the ordinary line of things that you do or don’t do; well, if you haven’t considered too impertinently of right and wrong in general, you do it without once thinking whether you ought or oughtn’t, and there you are on the safe side, anyway.”

“Oh, what a beautiful philosophy!” moaned Mrs. Farrell, clasping her hands together without moving her elbows from their careless pose. She rested her cheek a moment on her folded hands; then she asked with a voice full of mock emotion, “Do you think it would do for Woman, Mr. Gilbert? It seems just made for her!”

“I hadn’t thought about Woman,” said Gilbert; “that’s a matter still to be considered. You must give me time.”

“Oh yes, we will be patient—patient!” and Mrs. Farrell began to shell the peas with an air of tragical endurance. “Take any length of time you wish. But in the meanwhile, can’t you state the Eastonian principle more fully?”

“Only by saying that it’s the opposite of the system you admire and covet. Easton isn’t a man to formulate his ideas very freely. You’re astounded every now and then by some extraordinary piece of apparently quite uncalled-for uprightness, and then you find that he had long contemplated some such exigency, and had his conscience in perfect training.”

“How very droll!” said Mrs. Farrell. Then she{91} said, looking at him through her eyelashes, “It’s quite touching to see such attached friends.”

Gilbert stirred uneasily on his block, and answered, “It’s a great honor to form part of a spectacle affecting to you, Mrs. Farrell—if you mean Easton and me.”

“Yes, I do. Don’t scoff at my weak impressibility. You must see that it’s a thing calculated to rouse a woman’s curiosity. You seem so very different!”

“Men and women are very different, in some respects,” calmly responded Gilbert, “but there have been quite strong attachments between them.”

“True,” rejoined Mrs. Farrell with burlesque thoughtfulness. “But in this case they’re both men.”

“Nothing escapes you, Mrs. Farrell,” said Gilbert, bowing his head.

“You praise me more than I deserve. I didn’t take all your meaning. One of you is so mightily, so heroically manly, that the other necessarily womanizes in comparison. Isn’t that it? But which is which?”

“Modesty forbids me to claim either transcendent distinction.”

“Oh, I know! Mr. Easton is your ideal man. But I should want my ideal man to do something in the world, to devote himself to some one great object. That’s what I should do, if I were a man.”

“Of course. How do you know Easton doesn’t?”

“I merely have his word for it.”

Gilbert looked surprised and perplexed. At{92} length he said, rather dryly: “I congratulate you on getting Easton to talk about himself. Not many people have succeeded.”

“Oh, is he so reticent?” asked Mrs. Farrell. “I didn’t find him so. He was quite free in mentioning his little pursuits, as he called it.”

“His book!” cried Gilbert. “Did he talk to you about that, already?”

“Why, it seems that you don’t know your friend very well, after all!” mocked Mrs. Farrell with a laugh of triumph. “Why shouldn’t he talk to me about his book? He knew I would be interested in the subject; any woman would.”

“Upon my word, I don’t see what should particularly interest you in a history of heroism.”

Mrs. Farrell celebrated her fresh advantage with another laugh. “Why not?” she asked, taking some of the peas up in her hand and letting them drop through her fingers. “We’re all heroes till we’ve been tried, and I haven’t been tried. He’s going to put me into it. Do tell me his plan in writing it,” she entreated.

“Look here, Mrs. Farrell,” said Gilbert, bending forward and looking keenly at her, “do you mean to tell me that Easton has actually been talking to you about his book, which I now perceive I mentioned first?”

“Look here, Mr. Gilbert,” said she, with an audaciously charming caricature of his attitude and manner, “do you mean to tell me that you doubt my word?”

“Well,” said Gilbert, with a laugh, “I own my{93}self beaten. Did you ever hear of Miss Lillian— I forget her name—the St. Louis lawyeress? Why don’t you study our profession? At a cross-examination no witness could resist you, if I may judge from my own experience in helplessly blabbing what you never would have known otherwise. Come, Mrs. Farrell, you have triumphed so magnificently that you can afford to be frank; own, now, that all you know of Easton’s book is what I’ve told.”

He rose and stood looking down admiringly upon her uplifted face.

“No,” she answered, “I shall not do that, Colonel—I beg your pardon; I mean Major—Gilbert. Mr. Easton’s the colonel,” she added, parenthetically. “What was the reason,” she continued with well-studied innocence, “that he came out a colonel and you came out only a major, when you had so much the advantage of him at first?”

Gilbert’s face had hardened in the lines of a smile, and it kept the shape of a smile while all mirth died out of it, and he stared into the eyes of Mrs. Farrell, from which a sudden panic looked.

“Oh, dear me!” she said, naturally. “Don’t—don’t mind. I didn’t mean to do anything. What have I done? Oh, I wish—don’t answer, please!” she implored.

But Gilbert gravely responded, “Because he was a better soldier. I am sorry if I alarm you by the statement of the fact. Did you experience any fright when Mr. Easton told you?”

“Oh, he never told me that he was braver than{94} you. I don’t think he meant to talk of the matter at all.”

“I can believe that,” replied Gilbert; “neither do I.”

Mrs. Farrell made no comment, but, taking a fresh handful of the peas, shelled them, with such downcast eyes that it was impossible to say whether she was looking at Gilbert through her lashes or not. Nor could one tell with just what feeling the corners of her mouth trembled, but his sternness seemed to have frightened and silenced her. Gilbert breathed quickly as he regarded her, but after waiting awhile, irresolute, he gave a short, sardonic laugh and rose. “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” returned Mrs. Farrell, woundedly, and meekly added, “Thank you for the fish,” to which he bowed his reply and then walked round the house.

He knocked at Mrs. Gilbert’s door, and received from her own lips the same answer which had already turned Easton away, and so went quickly down the road in the direction of the hotel. In the meantime Easton had not been able to turn his steps far from the farm; whichever way he went they tended indirectly thither, and at last he started boldly back. At the moment he mounted the front piazza steps Mrs. Farrell, having finished or relinquished her domestic task, came round the gallery from the side of the house and met him.

“Good morning, Mr. Easton,” she said, pensively. “Did you want to see Mrs. Gilbert? I believe she has a very bad headache to-day.{95}”

“No, I didn’t want to see Mrs. Gilbert. I came to see you.”

“Oh! Then will you sit down here?” she asked, and took her place where the two young girls, who were now away in the fields, had been sitting.

“I came here some time ago,” said Easton, “and, not finding you, I tried to find that place where we got the ferns yesterday.”

Mrs. Farrell’s broad hat-brim thrust uncomfortably against the house where she sat on the settle beside the wall, and she took her hat off; a mass of her dark hair tumbled in a rich disorder on her back. She laid her hat in her lap and waited.

“I went there,” pursued Easton, “because I had a stupid hope that the place might inspire me with some faint shadow of reason, of excuse, for—”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Farrell, interpreting his hesitation with candid reproachfulness; “it was not fair, and, considering all things, Mr. Easton, I don’t think it was quite kind.”

“Kind? Kind!” cried Easton, with an inexpressible pang. Then after a moment’s thought he added: “No, it was not kind; it was base, tyrannical, brutal! It was worthy of a savage!”

Mrs. Farrell turned her face slightly away, and if she had been acting wounded innocence she could hardly have known it.

“There was no excuse for such a thing but the one thing in the world which it is least like. That is its excuse to me; it seems an insolent affront to suppose that it can atone for it to you.”

“I suppose,” said Mrs. Farrell, demurely, “that{96} women’s actions are often misconstrued. Indeed, I ought to know it from bitter experience in my own case. I ought to remember that men seem even eager to misinterpret any confidence put in them; but yesterday—I—I couldn’t!”

There was a sort of passionate reproach, a tacit confession that she had singularly trusted him to her hurt, in the close of this speech, which went to Easton’s heart. “No, there is nothing for me to say in extenuation. Even if I tell you—”

“‘Sh!” cried Mrs. Farrell, putting her hand down at her side and electrically touching that wrist of his next to her; “I thought somebody was coming. Yes, I know. Even if you tell me that you meant no harm—and I don’t believe you did—still, don’t you know— Oh!” she broke off, “why is it that there isn’t some common ground for men and women to meet on, and be helpful to each other? Must they always be either lovers or enemies? Yes, enemies; it’s really a state of almost warfare; there can’t be any kindness, any freedom, any sincerity. And yet there are times in every woman’s life when she does long so for the intelligence as well as the sympathy of some good man; and she can’t have it unless she’s married or engaged. She often wants to see how some action of her own looks through a man’s eyes, and the wisest woman can’t tell her! Every new disappointment that she meets with is harder to bear. I didn’t mind your kissing my hand; that’s nothing; it might even be something that a woman would be proud of; but by the way you did it you shocked and frightened{97} me; I saw that you had misunderstood me, and I—I was afraid you didn’t—respect me.”

Mrs. Farrell’s grieving mood was so admirably represented in the outline of her cheek, the downward curve of the corner of her mouth, the low sweep of her long eyelash, and at the same time it was so discreetly felt, so far from overcharged or exaggerated, that even an indifferent spectator must have been affected with reverent sympathy. Easton’s heart was wrung with unspeakable tenderness and regret and shame. He could not break the silence that followed her words for some moments. At last he said, “I see how it must have appeared to you; but it was not so. I have as little hope as I deserve to have when I say—”

“There! Don’t speak of it any more,” Mrs. Farrell interrupted, with signs of returning cheerfulness, but with beams not too speedily tricked. “Let’s not think of it. I know there must have been something to blame in me. I have a way,” she continued regretfully, “which I’m sure no one feels the disadvantage of more than I do—a sort of perverse impulse; I don’t know what else to call it—that leads me to try people’s patience, and see how far I can go with them; and I’m afraid I must have abused your good-nature yesterday in speaking as I did of your friend.”

“You said nothing against him that I remember.”

“I ought to be very grateful, then. I thought I was wrong in asking you about your military rank and his, when I saw that you were avoiding the subject. I couldn’t help it, and yet I meant no harm.{98}”

“I know you meant none. I won’t deny that I was trying to avoid the subject. It was placing me in the ugly light of seeming to boast at the expense of my friend.”

“Yes, yes; I knew that; and I suppose it was just that which made me keep on; I liked to see your modesty put to the blush. It was wrong; but you don’t think I had any very bad motive in it?”

“No, none!” said Easton, quickly.

“I am so glad. I know Mr. Gilbert isn’t so generous!” Easton looked at her inquiringly, and “Oh, Mr. Easton,” she broke out, “what have I been doing? It must really look very black to you. Mr. Gilbert has just been here, and I have been talking to him about it—I don’t know why I did; and he went away very angry. It seems just as if I had been trying to make a quarrel between you!” She hid her face in her hands, while Easton remained gravely silent. “Why don’t you speak to me?” she implored him, without taking away her hands. “It will kill me if you don’t. Say something, anything; blame me, scold me! You know you think I’ve behaved very wickedly. You do!”

“No, I don’t think so,” replied Easton, seriously. He looked at her hopeless face, from which she had now withdrawn her hands, and he seemed to be losing his fast hold upon things, upon truth and right and wrong. Two days ago he had not seen this face or known that it was in the world; now it was so heavenly dear to him that it seemed to describe all knowledge and being. It was not a ques{99}tion whether she had a right to violate the secrecy to which Gilbert’s silence and his own had consigned the fact she had so recklessly played with; rightly or wrongly she had done this, and he had now to ask himself whether he could forgive her error to her penitence. Yet he did not ask himself that; she had done it; and he loved her; and there was an end. How could he believe ill of her? What oblique motive could he attribute to her that his heart’s tenderness would suffer?

“Ah,” she broke out again, “you can never forgive me—and I can never forgive myself. Why did you come here to make me so unhappy!”

“Don’t—don’t say that!” the young man implored. “There is no harm done. I was to blame for ever talking with you about the matter. How could I expect you to treat it with seriousness or secrecy? You couldn’t know that it had ever been a sore affair with us. Don’t be troubled. Gilbert’s friendship isn’t built upon such a slight basis that it can’t bear—” A stifling recollection of the delicacy, passing the love of women, with which they had always treated each other smote upon him: what could Gilbert think of his delicacy now? “I can make it all right with him,” he continued, as soon as he could get breath.

“With him?” murmured Mrs. Farrell. “Then you forgive me?”

“I had nothing to forgive,” said Easton, with all his love in his face; so that she looked away and blushed. “Don’t think of it any more; it’s nothing.”

“How generous you are! Oh, women couldn’t be like that! How shall I thank you? I’ll never forgive myself in the world—that’s how,” she said, a faint smile dawning on her contrite face.

“That would be a poor way. I want you to be friends with those I—like.”

“Do you mean Mr. Gilbert?”

“No, I don’t mean Gilbert.”

Mrs. Farrell cast down her eyes. Then she bravely lifted them. “I will do whatever you say,” she breathed, and a radiant light came from her face as she rose and stood fronting him. “After what I’ve done you have a right to command me. But now you must let me go. I have some things to do. You’ve made me so happy.”

“And you me!” he said, and he took her hand, which he dropped after a moment, and walked away, giddy with his insensate joy. All his soul was flattered by the far-hinting sweetness with which she had used him, and he was contented in every pulse. When he despaired he had felt that he must tell her he loved her, and let any effect follow that would, but now he was patient with the hope which he hoped she had given him; for his confidence did not go beyond this. He loved too much to believe himself loved or to perceive that he was encouraged. To the supreme modesty of his passion her kindness was but leave to live; and he was abjectly grateful for it. He lifted his thoughts to her with worshiping reverence; it was heaven to dwell in the beauty of her looks, her attitudes, her movements; the sense of her self-{101}reproachful meekness possessed him with the tenderest rapture. How could he expose this to the harsh misconception of his friend? How could he explain her blamelessness as he felt it? He knew the sort of sarcastic quiet that Gilbert would keep when he should set about making him understand that he, Easton, was alone guilty in any wrong done him; that he, Easton, had given her the clue which she had afterward followed up, from an ignorant caprice, in her talk with Gilbert; that she had bitterly upbraided herself for her error, and had dreaded its effects with a terror that he had hardly known how to appease. When he thought of Gilbert’s incredulity, his heart beat fiercely; and he felt that he could not suffer it. Yet the thing could not go without some effort on his part to assure his friend that he had not been disloyal, and how to give him this assurance he did not see. No, he could not speak of it; and yet he must. A veritable groan burst from his lips as he mounted a little hillock in the road and took off his hat to wipe away the drops of sweat from his forehead. Whither had all his bliss vanished? A thrush sat in the elm tree over him and sang long and sweet, and his heart ached in time with the pulses of that happy music. A little way off, under the shadow of this tree, Gilbert lay upon the grass, with his face up to the sky; and it was to Easton, when directly he caught sight of him, as if he had laid him there dead. He fearfully made a little noise, and Gilbert opened his eyes, and, looking at him, sat up. “I was waiting for you,” he said, gravely and not un{102}kindly. “I supposed you had gone over to the farm, for I did not find you at the hotel. Easton,” he continued, “I saw Mrs. Farrell a little while ago. Perhaps you’ve just come from seeing her?”

“Yes,” answered Easton.

“Perhaps you don’t know what we talked of?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I suppose it was her use of what you told her that annoyed me; but I can’t understand how you came to mention the matter to her at all; much less to go into particulars, as you seem to have done.”

Easton colored, but did not speak.

“Have you anything to say to me, Easton? I can’t bear to have the slightest thing between us.”

“Not—not now.”

They were both silent; and Easton doggedly cast down his eyes.

“Very well, Easton,” said Gilbert, rising and going toward him, “if you intend to say something by and by, and can justify yourself to yourself in making me wait, it’s all right; I can wait.”

He held out his hand, and Easton yearned to grasp it as it was offered, but his cold clasp relaxed upon it, and the severed friends trudged silently on through the dust toward the hotel.

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