“Please, mother, I don’t see the use of bothering with little half-way things.”
“I do, Hilary, when they are the only ones within reach.”
The girl moved restlessly, settling her hammock cushions; then she lay looking out over the sunny garden with discontented eyes.
It was a large old-fashioned garden, separated on the further side by a low hedge from the old ivy-covered church. On the back steps of the church, Sextoness Jane was shaking out her duster. She was old and gray and insignificant looking; her duties as sexton, in which she had succeeded her father, were her great delight. The will with which she sang and worked now seemed to have in it something of reproach for the girl stretched out idly in the hammock. Nothing more than half-way things, and not too many of those, had ever come Sextoness Jane’s way. Yet she was singing now over her work.
Hilary moved impatiently, turning her back on the garden and the bent old figure moving about in the church beyond; but, somehow, she couldn’t turn her back on what that bent old figure had suddenly come to stand for.
Fifteen minutes later, she sat up, pushing herself slowly back and forth. “I wish Jane had chosen any other morning to clean the church in, Mother Shaw!” she protested with spirit.
Her mother looked up from her mending. “Why, dear? It is her regular day.”
“Couldn’t she do it, I wonder, on an irregular day! Anyhow, if she had, I shouldn’t have to go to The Maples this afternoon. Must I take a trunk, mother?”
“Hilary! But what has Jane to do with your going?”
“Pretty nearly everything, I reckon. Must I, mother?”
“No, indeed, dear; and you are not to go at all, unless you can do it willingly.”
“Oh, I’m fairly resigned; don’t press me too hard, Mother Shaw. I think I’ll go tell Paul now.”
“Well,” Pauline said, “I’m glad you’ve decided to go, Hilary. I—that is, maybe it won’t be for very long.”
That afternoon Pauline drove Hilary out to the big, busy, pleasant farm, called The Maples.
As they jogged slowly down the one principal street of the sleepy, old town, Pauline tried to imagine that presently they would turn off down the by-road, leading to the station. Through the still air came the sound of the afternoon train, panting and puffing to be off with as much importance as the big train, which later, it would connect with down at the junction.
“Paul,” Hilary asked suddenly, “what are you thinking about?”
Pauline slapped the reins lightly across old Fanny’s plump sides. “Oh, different things—traveling for one.” Suppose Uncle Paul’s letter should come in this afternoon’s mail! That she would find it waiting for her when she got home!
“So was I,” Hilary said. “I was wishing that you and I were going off on that train, Paul.”