« PreviousContinue »
have her wound attended to before he took his leave. But it is important to state that he asked permission to call next day to inquire after her.
Miss Maine ought, no doubt, to have been pale and hysterical on the occasion, but she was not. She was in fact very red, and did not look quite straight at Ned Eoberts as she thanked him for his timely service. Ned, strolling away and bound for a pleasant little supper with some choice spirits, thought what an intelligent, agreeable girl Patty was,—very nice-looking, too—and so grateful for the service he had rendered. He wondered why he had never particularly noted her before .
Patty, for her part, went over the story of the adventure again and again to her mother with twice as much eloquence the second time as she had used at first, and lauding Ned more warmly behind his back than she could have done before his face. If Patty had had to choose her champion, Ned Eoberts was the man she would have picked out of ten thousand. He hardly ever looked at her, and perhaps that had not rendered her less ready to choose him. In her early teens she admired Ned Eoberts, before she knew what he was like, for his generous, chivalrous behaviour in the quarrel with George Bateman. When she saw him she admired him more than ever. And every time that Ned increased his reputation for knightly qualities, she esteemed him the more, and felt the more justified in her preference. Of course, in a little place like Gritvale, they became acquainted as they grew up, but Ned had never seemed to care for improving the acquaintance.
"Isn't he nice ?" said Patty for the hundredth time before they went to bed.
"Isn't he?" echoed Mrs Maine, who had got tired of assenting to this proposition. "And isn't somebody else grateful? I never, my love, heard you say so much in praise of a young man in my life."
Patty laughed. She wasn't one of your conscious simpering sort. "I do like him," she replied. This was plain speaking; indeed, plain speaking, and honest, ingenuous acting, were two of Patty's characteristics. She was a shrewd, sensible, active girl, too. How, then, did she so easily admire and esteem Ned Eoberts? How, indeed! "Well, the wisest and noblest of us have weak points somewhere. It was Patty Maine's infirmity that
she chose to make a hero of Ned Eoberts. She did it wittingly and willingly, perhaps with a latent suspicion that she might be over-generous. If so, she chose to permit herself this indulgence in compensation for her generally keeping clear of frivolity and folly.
NED EOBEETS'S COURTSHIP.
Ned paid his visit of inquiry in the evening, and accepted an invitation to stay and have tea. It was a highly agreeable evening to the whole party. Patty was delighted—we know why. Mrs Maine was delighted to find that Patty's good opinion was so well deserved. And Eoberts was pleased because he had got the suffrages of these two— added, as he used to say to himself, two to his constituents. It is not known that he made the visit with any design whatever; but it was his nature, or his habit, to improve occasions of this kind, and he had, perhaps without being aware of what he was doing, found out a good many of Mrs Maine's fancies. He understood when he came away what the mother principally valued Patty for. And he knew pretty well what was her leaning in respect to religion, politics, and some social questions. For it was to be observed in her house that the two ladies were not content to be excused all thought and to accept the doctrines of their male friends, but had a few views of their own, though they were not prone to put them forward. It is probable that her independence of mind was rather against Patty Maine in Ned Eoberts's estimate of her. He did not like people who were given to looking below the surface; and of course he did not know that in his particular favour Patty had decided not to exercise any power of penetration, but to take him for what he seemed to be. This visit not unnaturally led to other visits. Ned knew that he would find a welcome whenever he chose to present himself, and he chose to go as often as was practicable without neglecting anybody else whose goodwill it was desirable to cultivate.
It was not Eoberts's way to have concealments where there was no particular necessity for them. If it had been his way, where would have been the frankness and sincerity for which he had so much credit, and which were so entirely in harmony with his looks? So he made no secret of his being not well off, nor of being obliged to forego a good deal of