“I suppose that old stick of a woman will be in pretty soon,” he had remarked to his sister at breakfast-time.
“Well, you’ll keep on the right side of her, if you know which side your bread is buttered,” she retorted. “You don’t want her goin’ to Sam Totten’s.”
Totten was the other lawyer of Elliot.
“I think I am quite aware of all the exigencies of the case,” Daniel Tuxbury had replied, lapsing into stateliness, as he always did when his sister waxed too forcible in her advice.
But when Mrs. Field entered his office, every trace of his last night’s impatience had vanished. He inquired genially if she had passed a comfortable night, and on being assured that she had, pressed her to drink a cup of coffee which he had requested his sister to keep warm. This declined, with her countrified courtesy, so shy that it seemed grim, he proceeded, with no chill upon his graciousness, to business.
Through the next two hours Mrs. Field sat at the lawyer’s desk, and listened to a minute and wearisome description of her new possessions. She listened with very little understanding. She did not feel any interest in it. She never opened her mouth except now and then for a stiff assent to a question from the lawyer.
A little after twelve o’clock he leaned back in his chair with a conclusive sigh, and fixed his eyes reflectively upon the ceiling. “Well, Mrs. Maxwell,” said he, “I think that you understand pretty well now the extent and the limitations of your property.”
“Yes, sir,” said she.
“It is all straight enough. Maxwell was a good business man; he kept his affairs in excellent order. Yes, he was a very good business man.”
Suddenly the lawyer straightened himself, and fixed his eyes with genial interest upon his visitor; business over, he had a mind for a little personal interview to show his good-will. “Let me see, Mrs. Maxwell, you had a sister, did you not?” said he.
“Is she living?”
“No, sir.” Mrs. Field said it with a gasping readiness to speak one truth.
“Let me see, what was her name?” asked the lawyer. “No; wait a moment; I’ll tell you. I’ve heard it.” He held up a hand as if warding off an answer from her, his face became furrowed with reflective wrinkles. “Field!” cried he, suddenly, with a jerk, and beamed at her. “I thought I could remember it,” said he. “Yes, your sister’s name was Field. When did she die, Mrs. Maxwell?”
“Two years ago.”
There was a strange little smothered exclamation from some one near the office door. Mrs. Field turned suddenly, and saw her daughter Lois standing there.
There Lois stood. Her small worn shoes hesitated on the threshold. She was gotten up in her poor little best—her dress of cheap brown wool stuff, with its skimpy velvet panel, her hat trimmed with a fold of silk and a little feather. She had curled her hair over her forehead, and tied on a bit of a lace veil. Distinct among all this forlorn and innocent furbishing was her face, with its pitiful, youthful prettiness, turning toward her mother and the lawyer with a very clutch of vision.