Uncle Peter came out, none the worse for his cold plunge, and sat down near me.
“Ah, my boy, isn’t this delightful!” he cried, drinking in the air. “There’s nothing like the country, I tell you! Look at that view! Isn’t it grand? John, to be frank with you, up until I saw this place I didn’t have much faith in your ability as a business man, but now I certainly admire your wisdom in selecting a spot like this—what did it cost you?”
Cost me! so far it had cost me an attack of nervous prostration, but I couldn’t tell him that. I hesitated for the simple reason that I hadn’t the faintest idea what the place had cost Bunch. I had been too busy to ask him.
“It’s all right, John,” the old fellow went on; “don’t think me inquisitive. A rubberneck is the root of all evil. It’s only because I’ve been watching you rather closely since we came out here and you seem to be nervous about something. I had an idea maybe it took all your ready money to buy the place, and possibly you regret spending so much—but don’t you do it! The best day’s work you ever did was when you bought this place!”
“Yes, I believe you!” I sighed, wearily, as I turned to look down the road.
I stiffened in the chair for I saw my finish in the outward form of two women rapidly approaching the house,
“It’s Bunch’s sister and her daughter,” I moaned to myself. “Well, I’ll be generous and let the blow fall first on Uncle Peter!” Accordingly, I made a quick exit,
In the kitchen I found Clara J., her headache forgotten, busily preparing to cook the dinner.
She’s a foxy little bundle of peaches, that girl is; and I was wise to the fact that her suspicion factory was still working over-time, turning out material for the undersigned.
I felt it in my bones that the steer I gave her about Aunt Eliza had been placed in cold storage for safe keeping.
Her brain was busy running to the depot to meet the scandal Bunch’s telegram hinted at, but she pretended to catch step and walk along with me.
“John,” she said, “I certainly do hope your relatives won’t come out for some little time, because we really aren’t ready for visitors, now are we, dear?”
“Indeed we are not,” I groaned.
“I can’t help thinking it awfully strange that you should be notified of their coming by Mr. Jefferson, and in such peculiar language,” she said, after a pause.
“Didn’t I tell you Bunch is a low comedian,” I said, weakly. “Besides, he knows them very well. Aunt Fanny is very fond of Bunch.”
“Aunt Fanny,” she repeated, dropping a tin pan to the floor with a crash; “I thought you said her name was Eliza?”
“Sure thing!” I chortled; while my heart fell off its perch and dropped in my shoes. “Her name is Eliza Fanny; some of us call her Aunt Eliza, some Aunt Fanny—see?”
She hadn’t time to see, for at that moment Tacks rushed in, exclaiming, “Say, sister, they’s two strange women on the piazza talking to Uncle Peter, and maybe when they go one of them will fall down the steps if I put some more soap there!”