“You mean Martha? I—I’m not sure. She was a servant in my uncle’s home for years. She wanted to live with me, so I sent for her. I never spoke to her about—father. She seems devoted to me. I have thought it would be necessary to tell her—before— He is coming in September. Everything will be finished by then.”
His eyes were fixed blankly on the hedge; something—a horse’s ears, perhaps—was bobbing slowly up and down; a faint rattle of wheels came to their ears.
“Don’t tell anyone, yet,” he urged, and stepped down from the veranda, his unseeing gaze still fixed upon the slow advance of those bobbing ears.
“Someone is coming,” she said.
He glanced at her, marveling at the swift transition in her face. A moment before she had been listless, sad, disheartened by his apparent disapproval of her plans. Now all at once the cloud had vanished; she was once more cheerful, calm, even smiling.
She too had been looking and had at once recognized the four persons seated in the shabby old carryall which at that moment turned in at the gate.
“I am to have visitors,” she said tranquilly.
His eyes reluctantly followed hers. There were four women in the approaching vehicle.
As on another occasion, the young man beat a swift retreat.
“I am sure I don’t know what you’ll think of us gadding about in the morning so,” began Mrs. Dix, as she caught sight of Lydia.
Mrs. Dix was sitting in the back seat of the carryall with Mrs. Dodge. The two girls were in front. Lydia noticed mechanically that both were freshly gowned in white and that Fanny, who was driving, eyed her with haughty reserve from under the brim of her flower-laden hat. Ellen Dix had turned her head to gaze after Jim Dodge’s retreating figure; her eyes returned to Lydia with an expression of sulky reluctance.
“I’m so glad to see you,” said Lydia. “Won’t you come in?”
“I should like to,” said Mrs. Dodge. “Jim has been telling us about the improvements, all along.”
“It certainly does look nice,” chimed in Mrs. Dix. “I wouldn’t have believed it possible, in such a little time, too. Just cramp that wheel a little more, Fanny.”
The two older women descended from the carryall and began looking eagerly around.
“Just see how nice the grass looks,” said Mrs. Dodge. “And the flowers! My! I didn’t suppose Jim was that smart at fixing things up.... Aren’t you going to get out, girls?”
The two girls still sat on the high front seat of the carryall; both were gazing at Lydia in her simple morning frock. There were no flowers on Lydia’s Panama hat; nothing but a plain black band; but it had an air of style and elegance. Fanny was wishing she had bought a plain hat without roses. Ellen tossed her dark head:
“I don’t know,” she said. “You aren’t going to stay long; are you, mother?”