“I didn’t say so.”
“Lois, do you? Answer me quick.”
She hid her face again.
“Lois, you must answer me now.”
“I like you well enough, but I can’t marry you.”
“Lois, is there any fellow in Green River that wants you? Is that the reason?”
She shook her head. “I can’t ever marry anybody,” she said, and her voice was suddenly quite firm. She wiped her eyes.
Francis sat down beside her. “O Lois, you do love me, after all?”
“I can’t marry you,” said she.
“Why not, dear?”
“I can’t. You mustn’t ask me why.”
Francis looked down at her half laughing. “Some dreadful obstacle in the way?”
She nodded solemnly.
Francis put his arm around her. “Oh, my dear,” he said, “don’t you know obstacles go for nothing if you do like me, after all? Wait a little and you’ll find out. O Lois, are you sure you do like me? You are so pretty.”
“I can’t,” repeated Lois, trembling.
“Suppose this obstacle were removed, dear, you would then?”
“It never can be.”
“But if it were, you would? Yes, of course you would. Then I shall remove it, you depend upon it, I shall, dear. Lois, I liked you the minute I saw you, and, it’s terribly conceited, but I do believe you liked me a little. Dear, if it ever can be, I’ll take care of you all my life.”
The two sat there together, and the long summer afternoon passed humming and singing with bees and birds, and breathing sweetly through the pine branches. They themselves were as a fixed heart of love in the midst of it, and all around them in their graves lay the dead who had known and gone beyond it all, but nobody could tell if they had forgotten.
When Lois left home that afternoon her mother had been in her bedroom changing her dress. When she came out she had on her best black dress, her black shawl and gloves, and her best bonnet. The three women stared at her. She stood before them a second without speaking. The strange look, for which Lois had watched her face, had appeared.
“Why, what is the matter, Mis’ Field?” cried Mrs. Babcock. “Where be you going?”
“I’m goin’ out a little ways,” replied Mrs. Field. Then she raised her voice suddenly. “I’ve got something to say to all of you before I go,” said she. “I’ve been deceivin’ you, and everybody here in Elliot. When I came down here, they all took me for my sister, Esther Maxwell, and I let them think so. They’ve all called me Esther Maxwell here. That’s how I got the money. Old Mr. Maxwell left it to Flora Maxwell if my sister didn’t outlive him. I shouldn’t have had a cent. I stole it. I thought my daughter would die if we didn’t have it an’ get away from Green River; but that wa’n’t any excuse. Edward Maxwell had that fifteen hundred dollars of my husband’s,