Mrs. Field got up. “Oh, it’s you, Lois,” she said, calmly. “You thought you’d come too, didn’t you?”
Lois gasped out something.
Her mother turned to the lawyer. “I’ll make you acquainted with Miss Lois Field,” said she. “Lois, I’ll make you acquainted with Mr. Tuxbury.”
The lawyer was looking surprised, but he rose briskly to the level of the situation, and greeted the young girl with ready grace. “Your sister’s daughter, I conclude,” he said, smilingly, to Mrs. Field.
Mrs. Field set her mouth hard. She looked defiantly at him and said not one word. There was a fierce resolve in her heart that, come what would, she would not tell this last lie, and deny her daughter before her very face.
But the lawyer did not know she was silent. Not having heard any response, with the vanity of a deaf man, he assumed that she had given one, and so concealed his uncertainty.
“Yes, so I thought,” said he, and went on flourishingly in his track of gracious reception.
Lois kept her eyes fixed on his like some little timid animal which suspects an enemy, and watches his eyes for the first impetus of a spring. Once or twice she said, “Yes, sir,” faintly.
“Your niece does not look very strong,” Mr. Tuxbury said to Mrs. Field.
“She ain’t been feelin’ very well this spring. I’ve been considerable worried about her,” she answered, with harsh decision.
“Ah, I am very sorry to hear that. Well, she will soon recuperate if she stays here. Elliot is considered a very healthy place. We shall soon have her so hearty and rosy that her old friends won’t be able to recognize her.” He bowed with a smiling flourish to Lois.
Her lips trembled with a half-smile in response, but she looked more frightened than ever.
“Now, Mrs. Maxwell,” said the lawyer, “you and your niece must positively remain and dine with us to-day, can’t you?”
“I’m afraid it will put your sister out.”
“Oh, no, indeed.” The lawyer, however, had a slightly nonplussed expression. “She will be delighted. I will run over to the house, then, and tell her that you will stay, shall I not?”
“I hate to make her extra work,” said Mrs. Field. That was her rural form of acceptance.
“You will not, I assure you. Don’t distress yourself about that, Mrs. Maxwell.”
Nevertheless, he was quite ill at ease as he traversed the yard. In his life with his sister there were exigencies during which he was obliged to descend from his platform of superiority. He foresaw the approach of one now.
Dinner was already served when he entered the dining-room, and his sister was setting the chairs around the table. They kept no servant.
“They are going to stay to dinner, I expect,” he remarked, in a appealingly confidential tone.
His sister faced him with a jerk. She was very red from bending over the kitchen fire. “Who’s goin’ to stay? What do you mean, Daniel?”