This letter reached Miss Rachel just before Jack went to school one morning. She read it through, first in surprise, then with an appearance of pleasure.
“Who’s your letter from, Aunt Rachel?” asked Jack, innocently.
“Children shouldn’t ask questions about what don’t concern ’em,” said his aunt.
“I thought maybe it was a love letter,” said he.
“Don’t make fun of your aunt,” said his father, reprovingly.
“Jack’s question is only a natural one,” said Rachel, to her brother’s unbounded astonishment. “I suppose I ain’t so old but I might be married if I wanted to.”
“I thought you had put all such thoughts out of your head long ago, Rachel.”
“If I have, it’s because the race of men are so shiftless,” said his sister. “They ain’t worth marrying.”
“Is that meant for me?” asked the cooper, good-naturedly.
“You’re all alike,” said Rachel, tossing her head.
She put the letter carefully into her pocket, without deigning any explanation.
“I suppose it’s from some of her old acquaintances,” thought her brother, and he dismissed the subject.
As soon as she could, Rachel took refuge in her room. She carefully locked the door, and read the letter again.
“Who can he be?” thought the agitated spinster. “Do I know anybody of the name of Daniel? It must be some stranger that has fallen in love with me unbeknown. What shall I do?”
She sat in meditation for a short time. Then she read the letter again.
“He will be very unhappy if I frown upon him,” she said to herself, complacently. “It’s a great responsibility to make a fellow being unhappy. It’s a sacrifice, I know, but it’s our duty to deny ourselves. I don’t know but I ought to go and meet him.”
This was Rachel’s conclusion.
The time was close at hand. The appointment was for that very afternoon.
“I wouldn’t have my brother or Martha know it for the world,” murmured Rachel to herself, “nor that troublesome Jack. Martha’s got some blue ribbon, but I don’t dare to ask her for it, for fear she’ll suspect something. No, I must go out and buy some.”
“I’m goin’ to walk, Martha,” she said, as she came downstairs.
“Going to walk in the forenoon! Isn’t that something unusual?”
“I’ve got a little headache. I guess it’ll do me good,” said Rachel.
“I hope it will,” said her sister-in-law, sympathetically.
Rachel went to the nearest dry-goods store, and bought a yard of blue ribbon.
“Only a yard?” inquired the clerk, in some surprise.
“That will do,” said Rachel, nervously, coloring a little, as though the use which she designed for it might be suspected.
She paid for the ribbon, and presently returned.
“Does your head feel any better, Rachel?” asked Mrs. Harding.
“A little,” answered Rachel.