Lois, before her own glass, twisted up her pretty hair carefully; she pulled a few curly locks loose on her temples, thinking half indignantly and shamefacedly how she should see that young man again. Lois was bewildered and terrified, borne down by reflected guilt, almost as if it were her own. She had a wild dread of this going out to tea, meeting more strangers, and seeing her mother act out a further lie; but she could not help being a young girl, and arranging those little locks on her forehead for Francis Arms to see.
When she and her mother stepped out of the door, a strong wind came in their faces.
“Wait a minute,” said Mrs. Field. She went back into the house and got Lois’s sack. “Put this on,” said she.
And Lois put it on.
The wind was from the east, and had the salt smell of the sea. All the white-flowering bushes in the yards and the fruit trees bowed toward the west. There was a storm of white petals. Lois, as she and her mother walked against the wind, kept putting her hand to her hair, to keep it in place.
Mrs. Maxwell’s house was a large cottage with a steep Gothic roof jutting over a piazza on each side. The house was an old one, and originally very simple in its design; but there had been evidently at some time a flood-tide of prosperity in the fortunes of its owner, which had left marks in various improvements. There was a large ornate bay-window in front, which contrasted oddly with the severe white peak of wall above it; the piazzas had railings in elaborate scroll-work; and the windows were set with four large panes of glass, instead of the original twelve small ones. The front yard was inclosed by a fine iron fence. But the highest mark was shown by a little white marble statue in the midst of it. There was no other in the village outside of the cemetery. Mrs. Jane Maxwell’s house was always described to inquiring strangers as the one with the statue in front of it.
Lois, as they went up the walk, looked wonderingly at this marble girl standing straight and white in the midst of a votive circle of box. The walk, too, was bordered with box, and there was a strange pungent odor from it.
Mrs. Field rang the door-bell, and she and Lois stood waiting. Nobody came.
Mrs. Field rang again and again. “I’m goin’ round to the other door,” she announced finally. “Mebbe they don’t use this one.”
Lois followed her mother around to the other side of the house to the door opening on the south piazza. Mrs. Field rang again, and they waited: then she gave a harder pull. A voice sounded unexpectedly close to them from behind the blinds of a window:
“You jest walk right in,” said the voice, which was at once flurried and ceremonious. “Open the door an’ go right in, an’ turn to the right, an’ set down in the parlor. I’ll be in in jest a minute. I ain’t quite dressed.”