“I don’t think much of her for going, anyway,” said Mrs. Anderson. “Leaving her husband all alone. I don’t care what he had done, he was her husband, and I dare say he cheated on her account, mostly. She ought not to have gone.”
“They wanted her to go; she is not very strong; and the sister is really ill,” said Anderson, “and so the daughter planned it. She went as far as Lancaster, then she got off the train.”
“Why, I should think her mother would be crazy?”
“She sent word back, a letter by Eddy. He got off the train with her; the train stopped there a few minutes.”
“Then she came back?”
“And she is going to stay with her father?”
“Oh!” said Mrs. Anderson.
After dinner Anderson sat beside the sitting-room window with his noon mail, as was his custom, for a few minutes before returning to the store, and his mother came up behind him. She stroked his hair, which was thick and brown, and only a little gray on the temples.
“She is a very pretty girl, and I think she is a dear child to come back and not leave her father alone,” she said.
Anderson did not look up, but he leaned his head caressingly towards his mother.
“I have been thinking,” said she. “I am a good deal older; she is only a little, young girl, and I am an old lady, and I have never called there. You know I never call on new people nowadays, but she must be very lonely, all alone there. I think I shall go up there and call on her some afternoon this week, if it is pleasant. I have some other calls I want to make on the way there, and I might as well.”
“I will order the coach for you any afternoon you say, mother,” replied Anderson.
It was the next day but one that Mrs. Anderson, arrayed in her best, seated in state in the Rawdy coach, was driven into the grounds of the Carroll house. Charlotte answered her ring. The elder woman’s quick eye saw, with both pity and disapproval, that the girl was unsuitably arrayed for housework in a light cloth dress, which was necessarily stained and spotted.
“She had on no apron,” she told her son that night. “I don’t suppose the poor child owns one, and of course she could not help getting her dress spotted. Her little hands were clean, though, and I think she tries hard. The parlor was all in a whirl of dust. She had just been sweeping, and flirting her broom as people always do who don’t know how to sweep. The poor child’s hair was white with dust, and I sat down in a heap of it, with my best black silk dress, but of course I wouldn’t have seemed to notice it for anything. I brushed it off when I got in the carriage. I said, ‘You are doing your work?’ And she said, ‘Yes, Mrs. Anderson.’ She laughed, but she looked sort of pitiful. The poor little thing is tired. She isn’t cut out for such work. I said her hands and arms didn’t look as if she could sweep very easily, but she bristled right up and said she was very strong, very much stronger than she looked, and papa wanted to get a maid for her, but she preferred doing without one. She wanted the exercise. The way she said preferred! I didn’t try to pity her any more, for that. Randolph—”