It was to Mrs. Lancaster’s that Lois now took her way. Her greeting was a cordial one, and Lois was soon confiding to her her trouble; how she had met an old friend after many years, and then how a contretemps had occurred. She told of his writing her, and of her failure to answer his letters, and how her aunt had refused to allow him to come to Brookford to see them.
Mrs. Lancaster listened with interest.
“My dear, there was nothing in that. Yes, that was just one of Ferdy’s little lies,” she said, in a sort of reverie.
“But it was so wicked in him to tell such falsehoods about a man,” exclaimed Lois, her color coming and going, her eyes flashing.
Mrs. Lancaster shrugged her shoulders.
“Ferdy does not like Mr. Keith, and he does like you, and he probably thought to prevent your liking him.”
“I detest him.”
The telltale color rushed up into her cheeks as Mrs. Lancaster’s eyes rested on her, and as it mounted, those blue eyes grew a little more searching.
“I can scarcely bear to see him when he comes there,” said Lois.
“Has he begun to go there again?” Mrs. Lancaster inquired, in some surprise.
“Yes; and he pretends that he is coming to see me!” said the girl, with a flash in her eyes. “You know that is not true?”
“Don’t you believe him,” said the other, gravely. Her eyes, as they rested on the girl’s face, had a very soft light in them.
“Well, we must make it up,” she said presently. “You are going to Mrs. Wickersham’s?” she asked suddenly.
“Yes; Cousin Louise is going and says I must go. Mr. Wickersham will not be there, you know.”
“Yes.” She drifted off into a reverie.
THE DINNER AT MRS. WICKERSHAM’S
Keith quickly discovered that Rumor was busy with Ferdy Wickersham’s name in other places than gilded drawing-rooms. He had been dropped from the board of more than one big corporation in which he had once had a potent influence. Knowing men, like Stirling and his club friends, began to say that they did not see how he had kept up. But up-town he still held on-held on with a steady eye and stony face that showed a nerve worthy of a better man. His smile became more constant,—to be sure, It was belied by his eyes: that cold gleam was not mirth,—but his voice was as insolent as ever.
Several other rumors soon began to float about. One was that he and Mrs. Wentworth had fallen out. As to the Cause of this the town was divided. One story was that the pretty governess at Mrs. Wentworth’s was in some way concerned with it.