“It—can't be—Rob Fay?” she faltered.
He threw back his head and laughed and it was Rob Fay's laugh.
“Why of course it is!”
They clasped hands and stood a moment laughing delightedly.
“To think,” she said, “that you should have known me after all these years.”
“It is funny, isn't it? But there was something about the way your arm lay along the top of the seat of your hat and the tilt of your head, that took me back and aback, slam bang to the old bench out there by your father's pump house on the farm. You remember that old bench, don't you?”
She made a little deprecatory gesture. “Yes-s-s, of course! For years and years she had not remembered but she remembered now that Rob Fay had asked her to marry him there on that same old bench and had trembled forth his boyish despair at her refusal. “Well, well!” he repeated, gazing at her delightedly with his round, boyish blue eyes. “To think that here we sit talking after more than forty years! Ain't it forty years, Alvira, since I've seen you?”
“I guess it is. Let me se-e-e- I was married in--
“Never mind when you are married, Alvira. I was off to the war before that so that I needn't hear about it then and I don't want to hear now. I did hear all about it, though, down there that last year when things were getting ready to be settled up. I was mad to think the old war was over. There was nothing for me to come back to, you see.”
She laughed shamefacedly. “Oh dear, what fools boys do make of themselves! And didn't I hear you married down south?”
“Yes, I married down south, but not for ten years after that.”
He grew suddenly sober. He had pushed his hat back and a wisp of thick white hair showed matted against his brow.
“My wife was a widow with three girls of her own. We had one child—a boy--”
He paused and looking into the woman's face saw the interest, the sympathy there, and the masculine element of eternal childhood reached out for it.
I've had lots of trouble, Alvira—trouble and bad luck!”
“Oh!” she said sympathetically and waited for him to go on.
“Lily and I thought sickness, poverty and death were the greatest trials that could happen to a family but—that's where we got fooled. A dead trouble or a poor trouble ain't anything to a livin' wicked trouble. Our boy went wrong. I don't know but it was our fault. We pampered him a good deal---”
His voice trailed into silence and Alvira had the tact to be silent too.
“Yes,” he resumed after a moment as if in answer to an audible question, “they're all gone now—Lily and the girls. Lily didn't live a week after he was—after he died.