Poor Amanda bemoaned herself over the changes that might come to her little home, and planned nervously her manner of living with Lois during the next week. Amanda had lived entirely alone for over twenty years; this admitting another to her own territory seemed as grave a matter to her as the admission of foreigners did to Japan. Indeed, all her kind were in a certain way foreigners to Amanda; and she was shy of them, she had so withdrawn herself by her solitary life, for solitariness is the farthest country of them all.
Amanda did not sleep much, and it was very early in the morning—she was standing before the kitchen looking-glass, twisting the rosettes of her front hair—when Mrs. Field came in to say good-by. Mrs. Field was gaunt and erect in her straight black clothes. She had her black veil tied over her bonnet to protect it from dust, and the black frame around her strong-featured face gave her a rigid, relentless look, like a female Jesuit. Lois came faltering behind her mother. She had a bewildered air, and she looked from her mother to Amanda with appealing significance, but she did not speak.
“Well, I’ve come to say good-by,” said Mrs. Field.
Amanda had one side of her front hair between her lips while she twisted the other; she took it out. “Good-by, Mis’ Field,” she said. “I’ll do the best I can for Lois. How soon do you s’pose you’ll be back?”
“It’s accordin’ to how I get along. I’ve been tellin’ Lois she ain’t goin’ to school to-day. She’s afraid Mr. Starr will put Ida in if she don’t; but there ain’t no need of her worryin’; mebbe a way will be opened. I want you to lookout she don’t go. There ain’t no need of it.”
“I’ll do the best I can,” said Amanda, with a doubtful glance at Lois.
Lois said nothing, but her pale little mouth contracted obstinately. She and Amanda followed her mother to the door. The departing woman said good-by, and went down the steps over the terraces. She never looked back. She went on out the gate, and turned into the long road. She had a mile walk to the railroad station.
Amanda and Lois went back into the sitting-room.
“When did she tell you she was going?” Lois asked suddenly.
“She didn’t tell me till this morning.”
Lois held her head high, but her eyes were surprised and pitiful, and the corners of her mouth drooped. She faced about to the window with a haughty motion, and watched her mother out of sight, a gaunt, dark old figure disappearing under low green elm branches.
It was many years since Mrs. Field had taken any but the most trivial journeys. Elliot was a hundred and twenty miles away. She must go to Boston; then cross the city to the other depot, where she would take the Elliot train. This elderly unsophisticated woman might very reasonably have been terrified at the idea of taking this journey alone, but she was not. She never thought of it.