“Met him—why I’ve known Mr. Randall for years! It seems mighty good to think I’m going to see the dear fellow again. Well, that is good news—dear old Jack!”
They were standing in the open doorway of the cabin. Holcomb thought he had never seen her look prettier than she did this sunny morning without her hat—dressed as she was in a simple frock of some soft white fabric cut low about her plump brown throat.
“May I come inside,” she asked timidly, as she peeped into the new interior.
“Why, certainly. Come in and sit down; you are really the only visitor I’ve had except your father—sit down—won’t you?” He drew a chair up to his freshly scrubbed deal table.
Margaret looked up into his eyes—half seriously for a moment, as she stood by the proffered chair.
“You are coming to dine with us while he’s here,” she said in her frank way. “Father says you must.”
Billy’s embarrassment was evident. “That’s really kind of him,” he replied, “but don’t you think I’d better wait until—”
“There—you’re going to refuse; I was half afraid you would. But you will come—won’t you? Please, Mr. Holcomb!” She seated herself opposite him, resting her adorable little chin in her hands, her eyes again looking into his own.
“I mean I’d rather your mother had asked me,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m afraid Mrs. Thayor would be better pleased if I did not come, much as I’d like to.”
The brown eyes were lowered and the corners of the young mouth quivered; she lifted her head and he saw the eyes were dim with two big tears.
“You’ll come, won’t you?” she faltered, trying hard to smile. He started to rise, looking helplessly about him as a man who casts about him for a remedy in an emergency.
“There, I shouldn’t have said what I did,” he explained as she brushed away the tears. “I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“You haven’t hurt me,” she said; “you couldn’t.”
There was an awkward pause during which she buried her face in her dimpled brown hands. Holcomb breathed heavily.
“You don’t understand,” she resumed bravely, trying to clear the quaver in her voice, “and it’s so hard for me to explain—and I want you to understand—about—mother, I mean. Mother is dreadfully rude to people at times—she is that way to nearly everyone whom she does not consider smart people.” Her young voice grew steadier. “I mean whom she likes and are in her own set. It makes me feel so ashamed sometimes I could cry.”
“Come,” coaxed Holcomb, “you mustn’t feel badly about it. People are all different, anyway. It’s just Mrs. Thayor’s way, I suppose, just as it’s your way, and your father’s way, to be kind to everyone,” he said tenderly. He saw the colour flush to her cheeks.