“You’ve been sewing too steady lately, perhaps?” suggested Martha.
“Perhaps I have,” assented Rachel.
“You ought to spare yourself. You can’t stand work as well as when you were younger,” said Martha, innocently.
“A body’d think I was a hundred by the way you talk,” said Rachel, sharply.
“I didn’t mean to offend you, Rachel. I thought you might feel as I do. I get tired easier than I used to.”
“I guess I’ll go upstairs,” said Rachel, in the same tone. “There isn’t anybody there to tell me how old I am gettin’.”
“It’s hard to make Rachel out,” thought Mrs. Harding. “She takes offense at the most innocent remark. She can’t look upon herself as young, I am sure.”
Upstairs Rachel took out the letter again, and read it through once more. “I wonder what sort of a man Daniel is,” she said to herself. “I wonder if I have ever noticed him. How little we know what others think of us! If he’s a likely man, maybe it’s my duty to marry him. I feel I’m a burden to Timothy. His income is small, and it’ll make a difference of one mouth. It may be a sacrifice, but it’s my duty.”
In this way Rachel tried to deceive herself as to the real reason which led her to regard with favoring eyes the suit of this supposed lover whom she had never seen, and about whom she knew absolutely nothing.
Jack came home from school at half-past two o’clock. He looked roguishly at his aunt as he entered. She sat knitting in her usual corner.
“Will she go?” thought Jack. “If she doesn’t there won’t be any fun.”
But Jack, whose trick I am far from defending, was not to be disappointed.
At three o’clock Rachel rolled up her knitting, and went upstairs. Fifteen minutes later she came down dressed for a walk.
“Where are you going, Aunt Rachel?” asked Jack.
“Out for a walk,” she answered, shortly.
“May I go with you?” he asked, mischievously.
“No; I prefer to go alone,” she said, curtly.
“Your aunt has taken a fancy to walking,” said Mrs. Harding, when her sister-in-law had left the house. “She was out this forenoon. I don’t know what has come over her.”
“I do,” said Jack to himself.
Five minutes later he put on his hat and bent his steps also to Washington Park.
MISS HARDING’S MISTAKE
Miss Rachel Harding kept on her way to Washington Park. It was less than a mile from her brother’s house, and though she walked slowly, she got there a quarter of an hour before the time.
She sat down on a seat near the center of the park, and began to look around her. Poor Rachel! her heart beat quicker than it had done for thirty years, as she realized that she was about to meet one who wished to make her his wife.
“I hope he won’t be late,” she murmured to herself, and she felt of the blue ribbon to make sure that she had not forgotten it.