I had risen, for along the path some people were coming. Jerry and Una, their backs being turned, were so absorbed in their conversation that they did not hear the rustle of footsteps, but when I rose they glanced at me and saw my face. I would have liked to have spirited them away, but it was too late. I made out the visitors now, Marcia, Phil Laidlaw, Sarah Carew and Channing Lloyd. I saw a change come in Jerry’s face, as though a gray cloud had passed over it. Una started up, butterfly-net in hand, and glanced from one to the other of us, a question in her eyes, her face a trifle set.
“Oh, here you are,” Marcia’s soft voice was saying. “It seemed ages getting here.”
Jerry took charge of the situation with a discretion that did the situation credit.
“Marcia, you know Miss Habberton—Miss Van Wyck.”
“Of course,” they both echoed coolly. Marcia examining Una impertinently, Una cheerfully indifferent.
“Miss Habberton and I were after butterflies,” said Jerry, “but she has promised to stop for tea.”
“I really ought to be going, Jerry,” said Una.
“But you can’t, you know, after promising,” said Jerry with a smile.
The introductions made, the party moved on toward the cabin, Miss Habberton and I bringing up the rear.
“I could kill you for this,” she whispered to me and the glance she gave me half-accomplished her wish.
“It isn’t my fault,” I protested. “I didn’t know they were coming until yesterday—and you know you said—”
“Well, you ought to have warned me. I’ve no patience with you—none.”
“But, my dear child—”
“I feel like a fool—and it’s your fault.”
“But how could I—?”
“You ought to have known.”
Women I knew were not reasonable beings, but I expected better things than this of Una. I followed meekly, aware of my insufficiency. I felt sorry if Una was uncomfortable, but I had seen enough of her to know that she was quite able to cope with any situation in which she might be placed. Marcia with Jerry had gone on ahead and I saw that, while the girl was talking up at him, Jerry walked with his head very erect. The situation was not clear to Marcia. I will give her the credit of saying that she had a sense of divination which was little short of the miraculous. It must have puzzled her to find Una here if, as I suspected. Jerry made her the confidante of all his plans, present and future—Una Habberton, the girl who had ventured alone within the wall, the account of whose visit had once caused a misunderstanding between them. The thought of Una’s visit I think must have always been a thorn in Marcia’s side, for Jerry’s strongest hold on Marcia’s imagination was nurtured by the thought that she, Marcia, was the first, the only woman that Jerry had ever really known. And here was her forgotten and lightly esteemed predecessor sporting with Jerry in the shade!