When Miss Roberta went into the store-room, it was Peggy, who, under the supervision of her mistress, measured out the fine white flour for the biscuits for supper. Peggy was being educated to do these things properly, and she knew exactly how many times the tin scoop must fill itself in the barrel for the ordinary needs of the family. Miss Roberta stood, her eyes contemplatively raised to the narrow window, through which she could see a flush of sunset mingling itself with the outer air; and Peggy scooped once, twice, thrice, four times; then she stopped, and, raising her head, there came into the far-away gloom of her eyes a quick sparkle like a flash of black lightning. She made another and entirely supplementary scoop, and then she stopped, and let the tin utensil fall into the barrel with a gentle thud.
“That will do,” said Miss Roberta.
That night, when she should have been in her bed, Peggy sat alone by the hearth in Aunt Judy’s cabin, baking a cake. It was a peculiar cake, for she could get no sugar for it, but she had supplied this deficiency with molasses. It was made of Miss Roberta’s finest white flour, and eggs there were in it and butter, and it contained, besides, three raisins, an olive, and a prune. When the outside of the cake had been sufficiently baked, and every portion of it had been scrupulously eaten, the good little Peggy murmured to herself: “It’s pow’ful comfortin’ for Miss Rob to have sumfin’ on her min’.”
About a week after Mr Lawrence Croft had had his conversation with Miss March on the stile steps at Midbranch, he was obliged to return to his home in New York. He was not a man of business, but he had business; and, besides this, he considered if he continued much longer to reside in the utterly attractionless cottage at the Green Sulphur Springs, and rode over every day to the very attractive house at Midbranch, that the points mentioned in the previous chapter might get themselves reversed. He was a man who was proud of being, under all circumstances, frank and honest with himself. He did not wish, if it could be avoided, to deceive other people, but he was prudent and careful about exhibiting his motives and intended course of action to his associates. Himself, however, he took into his strictest confidence. He was fond of the idea that he went into the battle of life covered and protected by a great shield, but that the inside of the shield was a mirror in which he could always see himself. Looking into this mirror, he now saw that, if he did not soon get away from Miss Roberta, he would lay down his shield and surrender, and it was his intent that this should not happen until he wished it to happen.