“Will this do, ma’am?” she inquired. “Is it the sort of thing you meant?”
“Ay, that will do, Rachel,” replied Mrs. Verner. “John, here’s a huswife for you!”
“A what?” asked John Massingbird, arresting his stamping.
“A needle-book to hold your needles and thread. Rachel has made it nicely. Sha’n’t you want a thimble?”
“Goodness knows,” replied John. “That’s it, Fred! that’s it! Give it a turn.”
Frederick Massingbird locked the box, and then left the room. His mother followed him, telling John she had a large steel thimble somewhere, and would try to find it for him. Rachel began filling the huswife with needles, and John went on with his packing.
“Hollo!” he presently exclaimed. And Rachel looked up.
“What’s the matter, sir?”
“I have pulled one of the strings off this green case. You must sew it on again, Rachel.”
He brought a piece of green baize to her and a broken string. It looked something like the cover of a pocket-book or of a small case of instruments.
Rachel’s nimble fingers soon repaired the damage. John stood before her, looking on.
Looking not only at the progress of the work, but at her. Mr. John Massingbird was one who had an eye for beauty; he had not seen much in his life that could match with that before him. As Rachel held the case up to him, the damage repaired, he suddenly bent his head to steal a kiss.
But Rachel was too quick for him. She flung his face away with her hand; she flushed vividly; she was grievously indignant. That she considered it in the light of an insult was only too apparent; her voice was pained—her words were severe.
“Be quiet, stupid! I was not going to eat you,” laughed John Massingbird. “I won’t tell Luke.”
“Insult upon insult!” she exclaimed, strangely excited. “You know that Luke Roy is nothing to me, Mr. Massingbird; you know that I have never in my life vouchsafed to give him an encouraging word. But, much as I despise him—much as he is beneath me—I would rather submit to have my face touched by him than by you.”
What more she would have said was interrupted by the reappearance of Mrs. Verner. That lady’s ears had caught the sound of the contest; of the harsh words; and she felt inexpressibly surprised.
“What has happened?” she asked. “What is it, Rachel?”
“She pricked herself with one of the needles,” said John, taking the explanation upon himself; “and then said I did it.”
Mrs. Verner looked from one to the other. Rachel had turned quite pale. John laughed; he knew his mother did not believe him.
“The truth is, mother, I began teasing Rachel about her admirer, Luke. It made her angry.”
“What absurdity!” exclaimed Mrs. Verner testily, to Rachel. “My opinion is, you would have done well to encourage Luke. He was steady and respectable; and old Roy must have saved plenty of money.”