Fledra sank down at the table, by effort repressing her breath. She heard the door open, and when Miss Shellington entered her red face was bent low over the grammar.
A few seconds before, when Miss Shellington had entered the house, she had seen Everett’s shadow on the drawing-room curtain; but for the moment her habitual concern for Floyd overrode her eagerness to be with her lover, and she hurried to the sickroom. As was her custom, she took the boy’s hand in hers and examined him closely. With her daily observance of him, she had learned to detect the slightest change in his appearance. Now his flushed cheeks and racing pulse told her he was laboring under great excitement.
“Floyd,” she exclaimed in dismay, “you’ve been talking too much! Your face is awfully red!... Why, Fledra, I’ve cautioned you many times—”
At the girl’s apparent unconcern, Miss Shellington left the reproach unfinished. She perceived the scarlet cheeks and flashing eyes peering at her over the open book.
“Is there anything the matter, Fledra?”
The girl let her gaze fall.
“You haven’t been quarreling with Floyd?”
“Nope, Sister Ann; Flukey and me never have words.”
“I should hope not,” Ann replied sincerely; “but, Fledra dear, when I speak to you, please look at me.”
With a shake of the black curls, Fledra lifted her face.
“Tell me what is the matter with you,” said Ann.
A glint of steel shown in the gray eyes. Flea’s lips opened to speak, and for one moment Ann’s happiness was threatened with destruction. The girl was on the point of telling her about Everett—then Brimbecomb’s voice rang out from the reception-room.
“Ann, dear! Aren’t you ever coming?”
Fledra noticed Miss Shellington’s face change as if by magic, and saw a lovelight grow in her eyes.
In silence, she received Ann’s sorrowful kiss.
“Little sister, I really wasn’t scolding you. I was only thinking of how careful we have to be of Floyd. I—I wish you would be kind to me!”
During the painful constraint that followed, Fledra allowed Ann to leave the room; but before she had more than closed the door the girl rose and bounded after her. Impulsively she grasped Miss Shellington’s arm and thrust herself in front.
“Sister Ann,” she whispered, “I lied to ye! I was mad at Floyd, as mad as—”
Ann placed her finger on the trembling lips.
“Don’t say what you were going to, Dear—and remember it is as great a sin to get into such a temper as it is to tell a story.”
“Ye won’t tell anyone that I fibbed, will ye—Flukey or yer brother, either?”
Everett’s voice called Ann again, and she replied that she was coming.
Softly kissing the girl, she said:
“If I loved you less, Fledra dear, I should not be so anxious about you. But I’m so fond of you, child! Now, then, smile and kiss me!”