“My mother!” and Annie was up and out of the parlor in a twinkling, followed by all the ladies of the Kinzer family. It was really quite a procession.
Now, if Mrs. Foster was in any degree surprised by her daughter’s sudden appearance, or by her getting to the Kinzer house first instead of to her own, it was a curious fact that she did not say so by a word or a look.
Not a breath of it. But, for all the thorough-bred self-control of the city lady, Mrs. Kinzer knew perfectly well there was something odd and unexpected about it all. If Samantha had noticed this fact, there might have been some questions asked possibly; but one of the widow’s most rigid rules in life was to “mind her own business.”
The girls, indeed, were quite jubilant over an occurrence which made them at once so well acquainted with their very attractive new neighbor; and they might have followed her even beyond the gate in the north fence, if it had not been for their mother. All they were allowed to do was to go back to their own parlor, and hold “a council of war,” in the course of which Annie Foster was discussed, from her bonnet to her shoes.
Mrs. Foster had been abundantly affectionate in greeting her daughter; but, when once they were alone in the wee sitting-room of the old Kinzer homestead, she put her arms around her, saying,—
“Now, my darling, tell me what it all means.”
“Why, mother, it was partly my mistake, and partly the flagman’s and the driver’s; and I’m sure Mrs. Kinzer was kind. She knew me before I said a word, by my resemblance to you.”
“Oh, I don’t mean that! How is it you are here so soon? I thought you meant to make a long visit at your uncle Hart’s.”
“So I would, mother, if it had not been for those boys.”
“Your cousins, Annie?”
“Cousins, mother! You never saw such young bears in all your life. They tormented me from morning till night.”
“But, Annie, I hope you have not offended”—
“Offended, mother? Aunt Maria thinks they’re perfect, and so does uncle Joe. They’d let them pull the house down over their heads, you’d think.”
“But, Annie, what did they do? and what did you say?”
“Do, mother? I couldn’t tell you in all day; but when they poured ink over my cuffs and collars, I said I would come home. I had just one pair left white to wear home, and I travelled all night.”
Poor Mrs. Foster! A cold shudder went over her at the idea of that ink among the spotless contents of her own collar-box.
“What boys they must be! but, Annie, what did your aunt say?”
“Uncle Joe laughed till he cried; and Aunt Maria said, ’Boys will be boys;’ and I half believe they were sorry; but that was only a sort of a winding-up, I wouldn’t stay there another day.”
Annie had other things to tell; and, long before she had finished her story, there was no further fault to be found with her for losing her temper. Still her mother said mildly,—