“That might be,” said his mother, “but we have no right to take such a view of it, and to impart it to his daughter. If he went away of his own accord, everything will doubtless be made right, and we shall know his reasons for what he has done. It is not for us to make up our minds that Major Bonnet and good Ben Greenway have been carried off by wicked men, for this would be sad indeed for that fair girl to believe. So remember, Dickory, that it is our duty always to think the best of everything. And now I will go through the underbrush to the house, and when you get there yourself you must tell your story as if you had not told it to me.”
Before Dickory had reached his mother’s cottage Mistress Kate Bonnet came running to meet him, and she did not seem to be the same girl he had left that morning. Her clothes had been dried and smoothed; even her hat, which had been found in the boat, had been made shapely and wearable, and its ribbons floated in the breeze. Dickory glanced at her feet, and as he did so, a thrill of strange delight ran through him. He saw his own Sunday shoes, with silver buckles, and he caught a glimpse of a pair of brown stockings, which he knew went always with those shoes.
“I am quite myself again,” she said, noticing his wide eyes, “and your mother has been good enough to lend me a pair of your shoes and stockings. Mine are so utterly ruined, and I could not walk barefooted.”
Dickory was so filled with pride that this fair being could wear his shoes, and that she was wearing them, that he could only mumble some stupid words about being so glad to serve her. And she, wise girl, said nothing about the quantities of soft cotton-wool which Dame Charter had been obliged to stuff into the toes before they would stay upon the small feet they covered.
“But my father,” cried Kate, “what of him? Where is he?”
Now Dame Charter was with them, her eyes hard fixed upon her son.
Dickory, mindful of those eyes, told her what he had to tell, saying as little as possible about Major Bonnet—because, of course, all that he knew about him was mere hearsay—but dilating with much vigour upon the shameful conduct of Madam Bonnet; for the young lady ought surely to know what sort of a woman her father’s wife really was, and what she might expect if she should return to her house. He could have said even more about the interview with the angry woman, but his mother’s eyes were upon him.
Kate heard everything without a word, and then she burst into tears.
“My father,” she sobbed, “carried away, or gone away, and one is as bad as the other!”
“Dickory,” said Dame Charter, “go cut some wood; there is none ready for the kitchen.”
Dickory went away, not sorry, for he did not know how to deport himself with a young lady whose heart was so sorely tried. He might have discovered a way, if he had been allowed to do so; but that would not have been possible with his mother present. But, in spite of her sorrow, his heart sang to him that she was wearing his shoes and stockings! Then he cheerfully brought down his axe upon the wood for the dinner’s cooking.