"Truly, Si? Well, I'm satisfied," said Mrs. Lapham, with a deep tremulous breath. "The Lord has been good to you, Silas," she continued solemnly. "You may laugh if you choose, and I don't know as I believe in his interfering a great deal; but I believe he's interfered this time; and I tell you, Silas, it ain't always he gives people a chance to make it up to others in this life. I've been afraid you'd die, Silas, before you got the chance; but he's let you live to make it up to Rogers."
"I'm glad to be let live," said Lapham stubbornly, "but I hadn't anything to make up to Milton K. Rogers. And if God has let me live for that — — "
"Oh, say what you please, Si! Say what you please, now you've done it! I shan't stop you. You've taken the one spot — the one SPECK — off you that was ever there, and I'm satisfied."
"There wa'n't ever any speck there," Lapham held out, lapsing more and more into his vernacular; "and what I done I done for you, Persis."
"And I thank you for your own soul's sake, Silas."
"I guess my soul's all right," said Lapham.
"And I want you should promise me one thing more."
"Thought you said you were satisfied?"
"I am. But I want you should promise me this: that you won't let anything tempt you — anything! — to ever trouble Rogers for that money you lent him. No matter what happens — no matter if you lose it all. Do you promise?"
"Why, I don't ever EXPECT to press him for it. That's what I said to myself when I lent it. And of course I'm glad to have that old trouble healed up. I don't THINK I ever did Rogers any wrong, and I never did think so; but if I DID do it — IF I did — I'm willing to call it square, if I never see a cent of my money back again."
"Well, that's all," said his wife.
They did not celebrate his reconciliation with his old enemy — for such they had always felt him to be since he ceased to be an ally — by any show of joy or affection. It was not in their tradition, as stoical for the woman as for the man, that they should kiss or embrace each other at such a moment. She was content to have told him that he had done his duty, and he was content with her saying that. But before she slept she found words to add that she always feared the selfish part he had acted toward Rogers had weakened him, and left him less able to overcome any temptation that might beset him; and that was one reason why she could never be easy about it. Now she should never fear for him again.
This time he did not explicitly deny her forgiving impeachment. "Well, it's all past and gone now, anyway; and I don't want you should think anything more about it."
He was man enough to take advantage of the high favour in which he stood when he went up to town, and to abuse it by bringing Corey down to supper. His wife could not help condoning the sin of disobedience in him at such a time. Penelope said that between the admiration she felt for the Colonel's boldness and her mother's forbearance, she was hardly in a state to entertain company that evening; but she did what she could.
Irene liked being talked to better than talking, and when her sister was by she was always, tacitly or explicitly, referring to her for confirmation of what she said. She was content to sit and look pretty as she looked at the young man and listened to her sister's drolling. She laughed and kept glancing at Corey to make sure that he was understanding her. When they went out on the veranda to see the moon on the water, Penelope led the way and Irene followed.
They did not look at the moonlight long. The young man perched on the rail of the veranda, and Irene took one of the red-painted rocking-chairs where she could conveniently look at him and at her sister, who sat leaning forward lazily and running on, as the phrase is. That low, crooning note of hers was delicious; her face, glimpsed now and then in the moonlight as she turned it or lifted it a little, had a fascination which kept his eye. Her talk was very unliterary, and its effect seemed hardly conscious. She was far from epigram in her funning. She told of this trifle and that; she sketched the characters and looks of people who had interested her, and nothing seemed to have escaped her notice; she mimicked a little, but not much; she suggested, and then the affair represented itself as if without her agency. She did not laugh; when Corey stopped she made a soft cluck in her throat, as if she liked his being amused, and went on again.
The Colonel, left alone with his wife for the first time since he had come from town, made haste to take the word. "Well, Pert, I've arranged the whole thing with Rogers, and I hope you'll be satisfied to know that he owes me twenty thousand dollars, and that I've got security from him to the amount of a fourth of that, if I was to force his stocks to a sale."
"How came he to come down with you?" asked Mrs. Lapham.
"Corey? Oh!" said Lapham, affecting not to have thought she could mean Corey. "He proposed it."
"Likely!" jeered his wife, but with perfect amiability.