Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/137

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19
THE READING-CLUB.

I soon saw what use I could make of this. I went down into the kitchen when she wasn't busy,—I knew it would be rather too hot other times,—and I got talking about Bessie. "It's strange," I says, "that a fine-looking girl like that shouldn't have a sweetheart. Things was different when you was younger, I'll be bound."

"As for that," says she, "Bessie has a sweetheart; but I don't approve of him. He's not exactly the sort of man I expected for her."

"But, lor'," I says, "you wouldn't go and keep that girl single ! Think what harm you may do yourself. You can't be so cruel as to give up all idea of marrying agin! Why, you don't look forty." That wasn't an untruth, for she looked fifty. She tossed her head, and told me to go along. I didn't go along. I says, "There's no doubt lots of young-fellows 'ud be glad enough of a good-looking wife like you, but mightn't care for a daughter as old as Miss Bessie." This seemed to strike her very much. I followed it up, got talking to her day after day, and always led the conversation to the same point. At last one day when I came home from work, she says, "It's all settled. Bessie's going to be married, and her Tom's coming here this evening." Then I went up to my own room, and laughed till I cried. Presently I heard the little girl run up-stairs as she hadn't run for many a long day, and I knew she'd gone to put on a smart ribbon for Tom's sake. She tapped at my door as she passed. Would I come down? somebody was there, and wanted to know me. I called out that I was busy, and couldn't come; and she went away. But after about an hour she came again. I was sitting in the dark, thinking of a good many things ; and before I had time to speak she was down on her knees beside me, and hiding her face.

"You told me you were busy," she said; "and here you are all in the dark and cold, and I can't bear any one to be dull or lonely to-night, because I'm so very, very happy. And I know it's all through you. Mother would never have given in of her own accord. You've always been my friend when I wanted one very badly; and now you must be angry with me, or you wouldn't stay away to-night. And you won't even speak to me. Oh, whatever I've done to vex you, don't think of it any more!"

She nestled up to me so close that her hair touched my coat-sleeve, and her pretty eyes looked up all swimming