“And now, Freddy, I tell you again, that all depends upon you. If I’m to stay here—and I want to do that, for a time any way, for although Aunt Keswick is so awfully queer, she’s my own aunt, and that’s more than I can say for anybody else in the world—you must stiffen up, and stand by me. It won’t do to give way for a minute. If necessary you must take tonics, and have a steel rod down your back, if you can’t keep yourself erect without it. You must have your legs padded, and your chest thrown out; and you must stand up very strong and sturdy, Freddy, and not let them push you an inch this way or that. And now that we have made up our minds on this subject, we’ll go down, for it’s getting a little cool on the top of this hill.”
On the morning of her uncle’s departure from Midbranch, Roberta came out on the porch, and took her seat in a large wooden arm-chair, putting down her key basket on the floor beside her. The day was bright and sunny, and the shadows of two or three turkey buzzards, who were circling in the air, moved over the field in front of the house. In this field also moved, not so fast, nor so gracefully as the shadows, two ploughs, one near by, and the other at quite a distance. The woods which shut out a great part of the horizon showed many a bit of color, but the scene, although bright enough in some of its tones, was not a cheering one to Roberta; and she needed cheering.
Had it not been for the delay of her father in making his winter visit to New York, she would now be in that city, but if things had gone on as she expected they would, she would have been perfectly satisfied to remain several weeks longer at Midbranch. Junius Keswick, who had not visited the house for a long time, had come to them again; and, now that the subject of love and marriage had been set aside, it was charming to have him there as a friend. They not only walked in the woods, but they took long rides over the country, Mr Brandon having waived his objections in regard to his niece riding about with gentlemen. She had even been pleased with the unexpected return of Lawrence Croft, for, for reasons of her own, she wished very much to have a talk with him. But he had not fulfilled his promise to her, and had gone away in a very unsatisfactory manner.
This morning she felt a little lonely, too, for Junius had left the place before breakfast, and she did not know where he had gone; and her uncle had actually ridden away to see that horrible widow Keswick, merely stating that his errand was a business one, and that he would be back the next day. Roberta knew that there had been a great deal of business, particularly that of an unpleasant kind, between the two families, but she did not believe that there was any ordinary affair concerning dollars and cents which would require the presence of her uncle at the house of his old enemy. She was very much afraid that he had gone there to try to smooth up matters in regard to Junius and herself. The thought of this made her indignant. She did not know what her uncle would say, and she did not want him to say anything. He could not make the horrible old creature change her mind in regard to the marriage, and if this was not done, there was no use discussing the matter at all, and she did not wish people to think she was anxious for the match.