When Junius had gone, Lawrence turned his face again toward the fireplace, where the last smouldering stick had just broken apart in the middle, and the two ends had wearily fallen over the andirons as if they wished it understood that they could do no more burning that night. Taking this as a hint, Lawrence prepared to retire. “Old Isham must have gone to bed long ago,” he said, “but as I have asked for so much assistance to-day, I think it is well that I should try to do some things for myself.”
It was, indeed, very late, but behind the partially closed shutters of a lower room of the house sat old Mrs Keswick, gazing at the light that was streaming from the window of the office, and wondering what those two men were saying to each other that was keeping them sitting up together until after midnight.
Annie Peyton, too, had not gone to bed, and looking through her chamber window at the office, she hoped that cousin Junius would come away before he lost his temper. Of course she thought he must have been very angry when he came home and found Mr Croft here at the only time that Roberta March had ever visited the house, and it was quite natural that he should go to his rival, and tell him what he thought about it. But he had been there a long, long time, and she did hope they would not get very angry with each other, and that nothing would happen. One thought comforted her very much. Mr Croft was disabled, and Junius would scorn to take advantage of a man in that condition.
At an upper window, at the other end of the house, sat Roberta March, ready for bed, but with no intention of going there until Junius Keswick had come out of the office. Knowing the two men as she did, she had no fear that any harm would come to either of them during this long conference, whatever its subject might be. That she, herself, was that subject she had not the slightest doubt, and although it was of no earthly use for her to sit there and gaze upon that light streaming into the darkness of the yard, but revealing to her no more of what was going on inside the room than if it had been the light of a distant star, still she sat and speculated. At last the office door opened, and Junius came out, turning to speak to the occupant of the room as he did so. The brief vision of him which the watchers caught, as he stood for a moment in the lighted doorway before stepping out into the darkness, showed that his demeanor was as quiet and composed as usual; and one of the three women went to bed very much relieved.
From breakfast time the next morning until ten o’clock in the forenoon, at which hour the Midbranch carriage arrived, Junius Keswick had been vainly endeavoring to get an opportunity to speak with Miss March. That lady had remained in her own room nearly all the morning, where his cousin had been with her; and his aunt, who had her own peculiar ways of speeding the parting guest, had retired to some distant spot on the estate, either to plan out some farming operation for the ensuing season, or to prevent her pent-up passion from boiling over in her own house.