As he hesitated, Lois drew nearer. She was walking very slowly as if in deep thought. She wore a simple white dress, and a light, broad-rimmed hat which partly shaded her face. To Jasper she seemed the very embodiment of grace and beauty as she moved toward him. In her all the charm of the glorious day, of bird and flower seemed to be combined. He was lifted out of himself, entranced, and by the time she was opposite the clump of trees he was standing by the side of the road, with hat in his hand, confused and abashed.
His sudden appearance startled Lois for an instant.
But when she saw who it was, she smiled, and held out her hand.
“I didn’t notice you,” she began, “as I was lost in thought. But I have wanted to see you to thank you for what you did for me yesterday. I shudder to think of what would have been the result if you had not been there. I hope you were not offended at Sammie’s words.”
“And you feel none the worse for your fall and wetting?” Jasper evasively replied.
“Oh, no, I am all right now. It takes more than that to knock me out. I was going over this morning to thank you, but——”
She paused, and looked thoughtfully across the fields.
“I know,” Jasper hastened to explain. “You didn’t like to come to my shack. It is only natural. It would have given people something to talk about.”
Lois looked at him for an instant and a sudden fire of resentment shone in her eyes, while her face flushed.
“Do you consider me such a weak person as that?” she demanded. “Do you imagine that I care what people might say? I never let the frills and shams of life interfere with me when I am in the way of duty.”
“Forgive me,” Jasper apologised, “if I have offended you. I spoke without due thought. But one hardly knows how to take people these days, and I am sorry that I judged you wrongly. I am so glad that you are not like others.”
“We will forget all about it,” Lois replied, with a smile. “Yes, I was going to see you this morning to thank you, no matter what people might say, but I was sent for by Mrs. Peterson who lives just back there, and I have been with her ever since. She is in great trouble, as her husband is an invalid, and she has no way of making a living. She is thinking of taking in summer boarders, and she wanted to talk to me about it.”
“And what did you advise?” Jasper questioned.
“Nothing,” was the emphatic reply. “It is a difficult problem, and I do not know what can be done. In the first place, the house is too small for more than two or three boarders, and she could not expect to have them for more than a few weeks at the most in the summer time. If she could have them all the year around it would be different. And besides, it would be very hard for Mrs. Peterson to look after them. It takes most of her time caring for her husband, who is quite weak, and not always very considerate, I am afraid.”