“And I am going to run now,” said Becky. “Randy, there’s a raincoat under that seat. I’ll put it on if you will hand it out to me.”
“You are going to ride up, my dear child. Drive on, Jefferson.”
“Randy, please, your mother is waiting. She didn’t come down to the station because she said that if she wept on your shoulder, she would not do it before the whole world. But she is waiting—— And it isn’t fair for me to hold you back a minute.”
He yielded at last reluctantly. “Remember, you are to act as if you had never met me,” she said to Major Prime as she gave him her hand at parting, “when you see me to-night.”
“Becky,” Randy asked, in a sudden panic, “are the boarders to be drawn up in ranks to welcome me?”
“No, your mother has given you and Major Prime each two rooms in the Schoolhouse, and we are to dine out there, in your sitting-room—our families and the Major. And there won’t be a soul to see you until morning, and then you can show yourself off by inches.”
“Until to-night then,” said Randy, and opened the gate for her.
“Until to-night,” she watched them and waved her hand as they drove off.
“A beautiful child,” the Major remarked from the shadow of the back seat.
“She’s more than beautiful,” said Randy, glowing, “oh, you wait till you really know her, Major.”
The Schoolhouse at King’s Crest had been built years before by one of the Paines for two sons and their tutor. It was separated from the old brick mansion by a wide expanse of unmowed lawn, thick now in midsummer with fluttering poppies. There was a flagged stone walk, and an orchard at the left, beyond the orchard were rolling fields, and in the distance one caught a glimpse of the shining river.
On the lower floor of the Schoolhouse were two ample sitting-rooms with bedrooms above, one of which was reached by outside stairs, and the other by an enclosed stairway. Baths had been added when Mrs. Paine had come as a widow to King’s Crest with her small son, and had chosen the Schoolhouse as a quiet haven. Later, on the death of his grandparents, Randy had inherited the estate, and he and his mother had moved into the mansion. But he had kept his rooms in the Schoolhouse, and was glad to know that he could go back to them.
Major Prime had the west sitting-room. It was lined with low bookcases, full of old, old books. There was a fireplace, a winged chair, a broad couch, a big desk of dark seasoned mahogany, and over the mantel a steel engraving of Robert E. Lee. The low windows at the back looked out upon the wooded green of the ascending hill; at the front was a porch which gave a view of the valley.
Randolph’s arrival had had something of the effect of a triumphal entry. Jefferson had driven him straight to the Schoolhouse, but on the way they had encountered old Susie, Jefferson’s mother, who cooked, and old Bob, who acted as butler, and the new maid who waited on the table. These had followed the surrey as a sort of ecstatic convoy. Not a boarder was in sight but behind the windows of the big house one was aware of watching eyes.