The Plows were asking something about Mexico. Dwight was wondering if it would let up raining at all. Di and Jenny came whispering into the room. But all these distractions Ninian Deacon swept aside.
“Miss Lulu,” he said, “I wanted you to hear about my trip up the Amazon, because I knew how interested you are in travels.”
He talked, according to his lights, about the Amazon. But the person who most enjoyed the recital could not afterward have told two words that he said. Lulu kept the position which she had taken at first, and she dare not change. She saw the blood in the veins of her hands and wanted to hide them. She wondered if she might fold her arms, or have one hand to support her chin, gave it all up and sat motionless, save for the rocking.
Then she forgot everything. For the first time in years some one was talking and looking not only at Ina and Dwight and their guests, but at her.
On a June morning Dwight Herbert Deacon looked at the sky, and said with his manner of originating it: “How about a picnic this afternoon?”
Ina, with her blank, upward look, exclaimed: “To-day?”
“First class day, it looks like to me.”
Come to think of it, Ina didn’t know that there was anything to prevent, but mercy, Herbert was so sudden. Lulu began to recite the resources of the house for a lunch. Meanwhile, since the first mention of picnic, the child Monona had been dancing stiffly about the room, knees stiff, elbows stiff, shoulders immovable, her straight hair flapping about her face. The sad dance of the child who cannot dance because she never has danced. Di gave a conservative assent—she was at that age—and then took advantage of the family softness incident to a guest and demanded that Bobby go too. Ina hesitated, partly because she always hesitated, partly because she was tribal in the extreme. “Just our little family and Uncle Ninian would have been so nice,” she sighed, with her consent.
When, at six o’clock, Ina and Dwight and Ninian assembled on the porch and Lulu came out with the basket, it was seen that she was in a blue-cotton house-gown.
“Look here,” said Ninian, “aren’t you going?”
“Me?” said Lulu. “Oh, no.”
“Oh, I haven’t been to a picnic since I can remember.”
“But why not?”
“Oh, I never think of such a thing.”
Ninian waited for the family to speak. They did speak. Dwight said:
“Lulu’s a regular home body.”
And Ina advanced kindly with: “Come with us, Lulu, if you like.”
“No,” said Lulu, and flushed. “Thank you,” she added, formally.
Mrs. Bett’s voice shrilled from within the house, startlingly close—just beyond the blind, in fact:
“Go on, Lulie. It’ll do you good. You mind me and go on.”