"Then I know he'll move heaven and earth to bring it about. I KNOW you won't be allowed to suffer for doing him a kindness, Silas. He CAN'T be so ungrateful! Why, why SHOULD he pretend to have any such parties in view when he hasn't? Don't you be down-hearted, Si. You'll see that he'll be round with them to-morrow."
Lapham laughed, but she urged so many reasons for her belief in Rogers that Lapham began to rekindle his own faith a little. He ended by asking for a hot cup of tea; and Mrs. Lapham sent the pot out and had a fresh one steeped for him. After that he made a hearty supper in the revulsion from his entire despair; and they fell asleep that night talking hopefully of his affairs, which he laid before her fully, as he used to do when he first started in business. That brought the old times back, and he said: "If this had happened then, I shouldn't have cared much. I was young then, and I wasn't afraid of anything. But I noticed that after I passed fifty I began to get scared easier. I don't believe I could pick up, now, from a regular knock-down."
"Pshaw! YOU scared, Silas Lapham?" cried his wife proudly. "I should like to see the thing that ever scared you; or the knockdown that YOU couldn't pick up from!"
"Is that so, Persis?" he asked, with the joy her courage gave him.
In the middle of the night she called to him, in a voice which the darkness rendered still more deeply troubled: "Are you awake, Silas?"
"Yes; I'm awake."
"I've been thinking about those English parties, Si — — "
"And I can't make it out but what you'd be just as bad as Rogers, every bit and grain, if you were to let them have the mills — — "
"And not tell 'em what the chances were with the G. L. & P.? I thought of that, and you needn't be afraid."
She began to bewail herself, and to sob convulsively: "O Silas! O Silas!" Heaven knows in what measure the passion of her soul was mired with pride in her husband's honesty, relief from an apprehended struggle, and pity for him.
"Hush, hush, Persis!" he besought her. "You'll wake Pen if you keep on that way. Don't cry any more! You mustn't."
"Oh, let me cry, Silas! It'll help me. I shall be all right in a minute. Don't you mind." She sobbed herself quiet. "It does seem too hard," she said, when she could speak again, "that you have to give up this chance when Providence had fairly raised it up for you."
"I guess it wa'n't Providence raised it up," said Lapham. "Any rate, it's got to go. Most likely Rogers was lyin', and there ain't any such parties; but if there were, they couldn't have the mills from me without the whole story. Don't you be troubled, Persis. I'm going to pull through all right." "Oh, I ain't afraid. I don't suppose but what there's plenty would help you, if they knew you needed it, Si."
"They would if they knew I DIDN'T need it," said Lapham sardonically.
"Did you tell Bill how you stood?"
"No, I couldn't bear to. I've been the rich one so long, that I couldn't bring myself to own up that I was in danger."
"Besides, it didn't look so ugly till to-day. But I guess we shan't let ugly looks scare us."