As may reasonably be supposed, this letter greatly astonished Miss March, who carried it to her uncle, and asked him to explain, if he could, what it meant. The old gentleman was a good deal surprised when he read it; but it delighted him in a far greater degree. He perceived in it the first fruits of his diplomacy. Mrs Keswick saw that it would be to her interest, for a time at least, to make friends with him; and this was the way she took to do it. She would not come to Midbranch herself, and bring the niece, but she would have Roberta come to her. In the pathos and cordiality Mr Brandon believed not at all. What the old hypocrite probably wanted was to enlist his grateful sympathy in that ridiculous divorce case. But, whatever her motives might be, he would be very glad to have his niece go to her; for if anything could make an impression upon that time-hardened and seasoned old chopping-block of a woman, it was Roberta’s personal influence. If Mrs Keswick should come to know Roberta, that knowledge would do more than anything else in the world to remove her objections to the marriage he so greatly desired.
He said nothing of all this to his niece; but he most earnestly counselled her to accept the invitation and make a visit to the two ladies. Of course Roberta did not care to go, but as her uncle appeared to take the matter so much to heart, she consented to gratify him, and wrote an acceptance. She found, also, when she had thought more on the matter, that she had a good deal of curiosity to see this Mrs Keswick, of whom she had heard so much, and who had had such an important influence on her life.
On the afternoon of the day on which Mrs Keswick’s letter arrived at Midbranch, Peggy had great news to communicate to Aunt Judy, the cook: “Miss Rob’s gwine to Mahs’ Junius’ house in de kerridge, an’ I’s gwine ’long wid her to set in front wid Sam.”
“Mahs’ Junius aint got no house,” said Aunt Judy, turning around very suddenly. “Does you mean she gwine ter old Miss Keswick’s?”
“Yaas,” answered Peggy.
“Well, den, why don’ you say so? Dat aint Mahs’ Junius’ house nohow, though he lib dar as much as he lib anywhar. Wot she gwine dar fur?”
“Gwine to git married, I reckon,” said Peggy.
“Git out!” ejaculated Aunt Judy. “Wid you fur bride’maid?”
“Dunno,” answered Peggy. “She done tole me she didn’t think she’d have much use fur me, but Mahs’ Robert, he said it were too far fur her to go widout a maid; but ef she want me fur bride’maid I’ll do dat too.”
“You bawn fool!” shouted Aunt Judy. “You ain’t got sense ’nuf to hock the frocks ob de bridesmaids. An dat’s all fool talk about Miss Rob gwine dar to be married. When she an’ Mahs’ Junius hab de weddin’, dey’ll hab it h’yar, ob course. She gwine to see ole Miss Keswick, coz dat’s de way de fus’ fam’lies allus does afore dey