It was evident at breakfast that Hawker's sisters had achieved information. "What's the matter with you this morning?" asked one. "You look as if you hadn't slep' well."
"There is nothing the matter with me," he rejoined, looking glumly at his plate.
"Well, you look kind of broke up."
"How I look is of no consequence. I tell you there is nothing the matter with me."
"Oh!" said his sister. She exchanged meaning glances with the other feminine members of the family. Presently the other sister observed, "I heard she was going home to-day."
"Who?" said Hawker, with a challenge in his tone.
"Why, that New York girl--Miss What's-her-name," replied the sister, with an undaunted smile.
"Did you, indeed? Well, perhaps she is."
"Oh, you don't know for sure, I s'pose."
Hawker arose from the table, and, taking his hat, went away.
"Mary!" said the mother, in the sepulchral tone of belated but conscientious reproof.
"Well, I don't care. He needn't be so grand. I didn't go to tease him. I don't care."
"Well, you ought to care," said the old man suddenly. "There's no sense in you wimen folks pestering the boy all the time. Let him alone with his own business, can't you?"
"Well, ain't we leaving him alone?"
"No, you ain't--'cept when he ain't here. I don't wonder the boy grabs his hat and skips out when you git to going."
"Well, what did we say to him now? Tell us what we said to him that was so dreadful."
"Aw, thunder an' lightnin'!" cried the old man with a sudden great snarl. They seemed to know by this ejaculation that he had emerged in an instant from that place where man endures, and they ended the discussion. The old man continued his breakfast.
During his walk that morning Hawker visited a certain cascade, a certain lake, and some roads, paths, groves, nooks. Later in the day he made a sketch, choosing an hour when the atmosphere was of a dark blue, like powder smoke in the shade of trees, and the western sky was burning in strips of red. He painted with a wild face, like a man who is killing.
After supper he and his father strolled under the apple boughs in the orchard and smoked. Once he gestured wearily. "Oh, I guess I'll go back to New York in a few days."
"Um," replied his father calmly. "All right, William."
Several days later Hawker accosted his father in the barnyard. "I suppose you think sometimes I don't care so much about you and the folks and the old place any more; but I do."
"Um," said the old man. "When you goin'?"
"Where?" asked Hawker, flushing.
"Back to New York."
"Why--I hadn't thought much about---- Oh, next week, I guess."
"Well, do as you like, William. You know how glad me an' mother and the girls are to have you come home with us whenever you can come. You know that. But you must do as you think best, and if you ought to go back to New York now, William, why--do as you think best."
"Well, my work----" said Hawker.
From time to time the mother made wondering speech to the sisters. "How much nicer William is now! He's just as good as he can be. There for a while he was so cross and out of sorts. I don't see what could have come over him. But now he's just as good as he can be."
Hollanden told him, "Come up to the inn more, you fool."
"I was up there yesterday."
"Yesterday! What of that? I've seen the time when the farm couldn't hold you for two hours during the day."
"Go to blazes!"
"Millicent got a letter from Grace Fanhall the other day."
"Yes, she did. Grace wrote---- Say, does that shadow look pure purple to you?"
"Certainly it does, or I wouldn't paint it so, duffer. What did she write?"
"Well, if that shadow is pure purple my eyes are liars. It looks a kind of slate colour to me. Lord! if what you fellows say in your pictures is true, the whole earth must be blazing and burning and glowing and----"
Hawker went into a rage. "Oh, you don't know anything about colour, Hollie. For heaven's sake, shut up, or I'll smash you with the easel."
"Well, I was going to tell you what Grace wrote in her letter. She said----"
"Gimme time, can't you? She said that town was stupid, and that she wished she was back at Hemlock Inn."
"Oh! Is that all?"
"Is that all? I wonder what you expected? Well, and she asked to be recalled to you."
"And that's all. 'Gad, for such a devoted man as you were, your enthusiasm and interest is stupendous."
* * * * * * *
The father said to the mother, "Well, William's going back to New York next week."
"Is he? Why, he ain't said nothing to me about it."
"Well, he is, anyhow."
"I declare! What do you s'pose he's going back before September for, John?"
"How do I know?"
"Well, it's funny, John. I bet--I bet he's going back so's he can see that girl."
"He says it's his work."
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