THE SENTIMENTAL WIDOW 215
lane past the little house. But it was a face even less cheerful than before that tried to give him its usual smile through the window.
Instead of coming down to him to the gate, she just opened the cottage door and beckoned him. He came slowly up and she held out the cookie boy.
" Here's your cookie boy, love," she said.
William took it absently, and slipped it into his pocket. Then, " Is anything the matter ? " he asked.
" It's only—it's only Maggie and Bert," she said gloomily. " I can't keep it off any longer. It's comin' an' it's comin' to-day."
" What ? " said William.
" Her takin' him. What I've gone through this last week I couldn't tell you. She's flattered with him tellin' her that he's loved her all his life an' stuff like that. He always had a way with women—him and his yellow curls. It's no use. I've done my best all this week but I can't stop it. There isn't a woman born as can resist yellow curls. The way I've worked this last week—but I've got to the end."
" How have you worked ? " said William with interest.
" Goin' about with 'em," she said simply. " Never lettin' 'em have a minute alone. Sittin' with 'em. Goin' for walks with 'em. Fair wore me out, but it were worth it to me if I could stop him askin' her. If he'd got her alone one second all this week he'd have asked her. She's sure to see him as he is in time an' if I can only hold it off till she's seen him as he is. But to-day the end comes. Though I don't know why I'm tellin' all this to a child, I'm sure."
" Me ? " said William indignantly. " I'm not a child. Why does the end come to-day ? "
She heaved a deep sigh.
" They're goin' for a picnic to-day. On the river. They're walkin' down to the boathouse at Marleigh, an' they're goin' on the river. It's no use. I can't