“William,” she said, sharply, “that man—is coming toward the house! If he asks for me—I am not—at home.”
“Nawm,” and William went down to answer the blows of the brass knocker.
We heard him open the door, we heard the crisp, quick voice. We heard William’s stately response. Then the quick voice said: “Will you tell your mistress that I shall wait?”
William came up with the message. “He’s settin’ on the po’ch, an’ he looks like he was makin’ out to set there all night.”
“Let him sit,” said Lady Crusoe inelegantly. “Lock all of the doors, William, and serve the tea.”
She sat there and drank a cup of it scalding hot, with her head in the air and her foot tapping the floor. But I couldn’t drink a drop. I was just sick with the thought of how he loved her, and of how she had hardened her heart.
At last I couldn’t stand it any longer. The tears rolled down my cheeks. Lady Crusoe set her cup on the tray and stared at me in amazement. “What’s the matter?”
“Oh, how can you—when he loves you?”
I don’t know how I dared say it, for her eyes were blazing in her white face, and my heart was thumping, but there was Robinson Crusoe crowing in his hooded cradle, and Robin’s father was on the front step, with the old oak door shut and barred against him.
She leaned forward, and I knew what was coming. “How did you know it was—my husband?”
My eyes met hers squarely. “He came to the store. He was looking for you.”
“And you told him that I was here?”
“No. I wanted to. But I had promised.”
For a little while neither of us spoke. The silence was broken by a thud, as if a flying squirrel had dropped from the roof to the balcony. A stick of wood fell apart in the grate, and the crow of the baby in the hooded cradle was answered by the baby on my lap.
Lady Crusoe hugged her knees with her white arms as if she were cold, although the room was hot with the blazing fire. “I think you might have told me. It would have been the friendly thing to have told me—”
“Billy thought it wasn’t best.”
“What had Billy to do with it?”
“Billy has everything to do with me. I talked it over with him—and—and Billy’s such a darling to talk things over—”
I broke down and sobbed and sobbed, and the tears dripped on Junior’s precious head. And at last she said, her face softened, “You silly little thing, what do you want me to do?”
“If it were Billy, I should ask him in—and show him—the baby—”
“If it were Billy, you would set your heart under his heel for him to step on. I am not like that—”
Another squirrel dropped to the balcony. The sun was setting, and between the velvet curtains I could see it blood-red behind the hills.
Lady Crusoe rose, pacing the room restlessly. The wind rising rattled the long windows. A shadow blotted out the sun.