“Yes,” nodded Dan, “that finished it.”
Jabez groaned again in sheer misery. “I dunno, I’m sure, whatever made me take and do it. I’ve stood so much more from all of ’ee and never so much as opened my lips. I reckon ’twas the weather made me a bit peppery like—”
“It was fate,” interposed Kitty gravely. “It must have been something, for sure,” breathed Jabez, with a dreary shake of his head.
“Make haste and get Prue harnessed,” said Kitty, “or the storm will begin before we start, and then father won’t let me go;” and Jabez, with another gloomy shake of his head, rose from the upturned bucket and proceeded with his task.
A DRIVE AND A SLICE OF CAKE.
With one thing and another Jabez was so agitated as to be quite incapable of hurrying, and Kitty, who could harness or unharness a horse as well as any one, had to help him. She fastened the trace on one side, buckled up the girths, and finally clambered up into the carriage while Jabez was still fumbling with the bit and the reins. She caught the braid of her frock in the step as she mounted, and ripped down many inches of it, but that did not trouble her at all.
“Have you got a knife in your pocket, Dan?” she asked calmly; and Dan not only produced a knife, but hacked off the hanging braid for her and threw it away.
“I do wish I could go too,” said Betty wistfully. “I’d love to drive all over the downs at night, particularly if there was a storm coming. May I come too, Kitty?”
But Kitty, for several reasons, vetoed the suggestion. For one thing she wanted to be alone with her father, to try her powers of argument and persuasion against the summoning of Aunt Pike and Anna into their midst; for another, she felt that to be driving in the dark, and probably through a storm, was responsibility enough, without the care of Betty added; and she felt, too, that though her father might be induced to let one of them go with him, he would, under such circumstances, shrink from the pleasure of their united company.
“No, Bet,” she answered firmly, “you can’t come to-night. I—I want to talk things over with father; but,” with sudden inspiration, “I tell you what you can do, and it would be awfully sweet of you. You coax Fanny to get something very nice for supper by the time we come home, and see that Emily has the table properly laid, and that the glasses are clean, and that there are knives enough, and—oh, you know, all sorts of things.”
“I know,” said Betty, quite as delighted with the responsibility thrust on her as she would have been with permission to go for the drive.
Dr. Trenire came out presently with some letters in his hand, which he gave to Jabez. “Post those without fail,” he said, then mounted to his seat. He was so absorbed, or bothered, or tired, that he did not at first observe Kitty’s presence, or, at any rate, object to it; and when he did notice her, all he said was, “O Kitty, are you going to drive me? That is very good of you; but isn’t it rather late for you?”