“Take the cats away, ’Liza,” said Miss Camilla.
Old ’Liza advanced grinning upon the cats, gathered them up, two under each arm, and bore them away, moving out of sight between the box borders like some queer monster, with her wide humping flanks of black bombazine enhanced by four angrily waving yellow cat tails, which gave an effect of grotesque wrath to the retreat.
Lucina looked, in spite of her manners, at the tray when it was on the table before her very face and eyes. It was covered with a napkin of finest damask, whose flower pattern glistened like frostwork, and upon it were ranged little cups and saucers of pink china as thin and transparent as shells, a pink sugar-bowl to match, a small silver teapot under a satin cozy, a silver cream-jug, a plate of delicate bread-and-butter, and one of fruit-cake.
“You will have a cup of tea, will you not, dear?” said Aunt Camilla.
“If you please; thank you, ma’am,” replied Lucina, striving to look decorously pleased and not too delighted at the prospect of the fruit-cake. Tea and bread-and-butter presented small attractions to her, but she did love old ’Liza’s fruit-cake, made after a famous receipt which had been in the Merritt family for generations.
Miss Camilla removed the cozy and began pouring the tea. Lucina took a napkin, being so bidden, spread it daintily over her lap, and tucked a corner in her neck. The feast was about to commence, when a loud, jovial voice was heard in the direction of the house:
“Camilla! Camilla! Lucina, where are you all?”
“That’s father!” cried Lucina, brightening, and immediately Squire Eben Merritt came striding down between the box-ridges, and Jerome Edwards was at his heels.
“Well, how are you, sister?” Squire Eben cried, merrily; and in the same breath, “I have brought another guest to your tea-drinking, sister.”
Jerome bobbed his head, half with defiant dignity, half in utter shyness and confusion at the sight of this fine, genteel lady and her wonderful tea equipage. But Miss Camilla, having welcomed her brother with gentle warmth, greeted this little poor Jerome with as sweet a courtesy as if he had been the Governor, and bade Lucina run to the house and ask ’Liza to fetch two more cups and saucers and two plates, and motioned both her guests to be seated on the arbor bench.
Squire Eben laughed, and glanced at his great mud-splashed boots, his buckskin, his fishing-tackle, and a fine string of spotted trout which he bore. “A pretty knight for a lady’s bower I am!” said he.
“A lady never judges a knight by his outward guise,” returned Camilla, with soft pleasantry. She adored her brother.
Eben laughed, deposited his fish and tackle on the bench near the door, and flung himself down opposite them, at a respectful distance from his sister’s silken flounces, with a sigh of comfort. “I have had a hard tramp, and would like a cup of your tea,” he admitted. “I’ve been lucky, though. ’Twas a fine day for trout, though I would not have thought it. I will leave you some for your breakfast, sister; have ’Liza fry them brown in Indian meal.”