Just as they had finished, granny came out with the tea-tray, and spreading the table again with a tempting meal, drew it up before their visitor, and while Miss Grace ate and drank, they sat and talked to her, and presently Mrs. Dawson poured into her sympathetic ear all their difficulties about the school for Jessie. Miss Grace listened with the greatest attention, the matter seemed to interest her immensely, far more, in fact, than it did Jessie, indeed Jessie wished very much that they would talk of something else, for Miss Grace grew quite quiet and thoughtful, and ceased to notice the pretty things about her, or to talk of things that were interesting to Jessie, and Jessie was sorry. She became interested enough, though, presently, when Miss Grace, having finished her tea and risen to go, suddenly said—
“Well, Mrs. Dawson, I think you will have to let me solve the difficulty of Jessie’s education for you, and there is nothing I should like better. You see, our home is quite twenty minutes’ walk nearer you than the school-house, and if you will let Jessie come to me, instead of going to school, I will teach her to the best of my ability, and enjoy doing so. At any rate, while she is a little thing. You see, she would not have to come and go twice a day, in fact, she need hardly come every day—but we can arrange the details later, if you agree to it. Now think it over well, and we will talk about it again in a few days’ time. And don’t say ‘no,’ because you think it will be too much for me to do, for I should love to educate and train a little girl in the way I think she should be trained. It will be for me a most interesting experience. Now, Jessie, what do you say? Would you like to come to school with me?”
“Like it!” Neither Jessie nor her grandparents could find words to say how much they would like it, nor how grateful they were to Miss Barley; but at the same time they did feel it was too much for them to accept of her. Before, though, they had found words to express their feeling, or had stammered out half their thanks, the sound of the church bells came floating up across the fields, a signal to them all to part.
“I must fly,” cried Miss Grace. “Do you think I can run through the lanes without shocking any one? I must go home before I go to church, or my sister will be quite alarmed,” and away she hurried as fast as she could.
Patience had only time to carry in the tea-things, and leave them to wash on her return, for she had herself and Jessie to dress and get ready.
They were in time though, after all, for their feet kept pace with their happy thoughts and busy tongues, and there was no lingering on the way that evening.
Granp and granny did not hold out very long against Miss Grace Barley’s plan, and in a short time all arrangements were made, and it was settled that Jessie was to go to Miss Barley’s pretty house by the green every morning at ten, and to leave it at twelve, so that she might meet her grandfather as he went home to his dinner.