“What is your name, anyway?” said Roberta, when the story had been told.
“My name,” said the other, “is Annie Peyton.”
“And now, do you know, Annie Peyton,” said Roberta, passing her fingers gently among the short, light-brown curls on her companion’s forehead, “that I think you must have a very, very kindly recollection of the boy who used to come down to the lowest branches of the tree to drop apples into your apron.”
Shortly after Peggy arrived with her mistress at the Keswick residence, her mind began to be a good deal disturbed. She had been surprised, when the carriage drew up to the door, that “Mahs’ Junius” had not rushed down to meet his intended bride, and when she found he was not in the house, and had, indeed, gone away from home, she did not at all know what to make of it. If Miss Rob took the trouble to travel all the way to the home of the man that the Midbranch people had decided she should marry, it was a very wonderful thing, indeed, that he should not be there to meet her. And while these thoughts were turning themselves over in the mind of this meditative girl of color, and the outgoing look in her eyes was extending itself farther and farther, as if in search of some solution of the mystery, up rode Mr Croft.
“Dar he!” exclaimed Peggy, as she stood at the corner of the house where she had been pursuing her meditations. “He!” she continued in a voice that would have been quite audible to any one standing near. “Upon my libin’ soul, wot brung him h’yar? Miss Rob don’ wan’ him round, nohow. I done druv him off wunst. Upon my libin’ soul, he’s done brung his bag behin’ him on de saddle, an’ I reckon he’s gwine to stay.”
As Mr Croft dismounted and went into the house, Peggy glowered at him; sundry expressions, sounding very much like odds and ends of imprecations which she had picked up in the course of a short but investigative existence, gurgling from her lips. “I wish dat ole Miss Keswick kunjer him. Ef she knew how Miss Rob hate him, she curl he legs up, an’ gib him mis’ry spranglin’ down he back.”
The hope of seeing this intruder well “kunjered” by the old lady was the only thing that gave a promise of peace to the mind of Peggy; and though her nature was by no means a social one, she determined to make the acquaintance of some one or other in the house; hoping to find out how Mrs Keswick conducted her conjurations; at what time of day or night they were generally put into operation; and how persons could be brought under their influence.
The breakfast hour in the Keswick house was a variable one. Sometimes the mistress of the establishment rose early and wanted her morning meal before she went out of doors; at other times she would go off to some distant point on the farm to see about something that was doing or ought to be done, and breakfast would be kept waiting for her. The delays, however, were not all due to the old lady’s irregular habits. Very often Letty would come up stairs with the information that the “bread ain’t riz;” and as a Virginia breakfast without hot bread would be an impossibility, the meal would be postponed until the bread did conclude to rise, or until some substitute, such as “beaten biscuit” had been provided.