‘It is a letter for you, Mr. Fairchild,’ she said. ’Mr. Redding asked my brother to give it to you. It is from pa—from Mr. Vane.’
‘But I don’t know if there is any answer,’ said Rough. ’Redding didn’t say. Please see, will you?’
Rosalys and Randolph and Jane in the doorway stood waiting while he read. But Biddy’s eyes were hard at work. She caught Celestina as she was disappearing through an inner door.
‘Oh, please,’ she said, ’don’t go away. Won’t you show me your dolls? And oh, please, what is that funny little window up there in the wall? I would so like to look through it.’
THE WINDOW IN THE WALL
‘Will you step into
The Spider and the Fly.
Celestina hesitated. She was anxious to be friendly to Bridget, and she had a strong instinct of hospitality, but the little girl rather took away her breath. Just at that moment, luckily, the door between the shop and the parlour—a door in the corner behind the counter—opened, just a little, enough to admit Mrs. Fairchild, who came in quietly. She had heard voices in the shop, and thought she was probably needed there, though at this time of the morning, especially when Celestina was out, she had to be sometimes in the kitchen.
‘Celestina,’ she exclaimed, surprised and not quite sure if she should be pleased, ’what are you doing? You should have come in at once. I have been expecting you.’
Then her eyes fell on the three—or four—three and a half, one might say, to be very correct—strangers in the shop, for Jane was still wavering on the doorstep, one foot on the pavement outside and one inside.
‘Won’t you come in?’ said Mrs. Fairchild to her civilly; ’it is a cold morning—and then I could shut the door.’
Jane moved inwards, though without speaking, and Rough darted forward and shut the door carefully.
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Mrs. Fairchild, with a little smile that lighted up her whole face. She gave a half unconscious glance at her delicate-looking husband, which explained her anxiety. Bridget drew near her and looked up in her face. Somehow since Mrs. Fairchild had come in every one seemed more friendly and at ease.
‘Are you Ce—Cel—the little-girl-in-the-bazaar’s mamma?’ asked Biddy.
Mrs. Fairchild smiled again.
‘Yes,’ she said, touching Celestina on the shoulder, ’I am her mother. Did you see her at the bazaar?’
‘She was buying chairs, and that made me buy one too,’ replied Biddy rather vaguely.
’The young ladies met me after that in the street and asked me the way here. I showed them. That was why I was in the shop,’ explained Celestina, on whose brow a little wrinkle of uneasiness had remained till she could tell her mother the reason of her moment’s lingering.
‘I see,’ said Mrs. Fairchild, who would indeed have found it difficult to believe that Celestina had been careless or disobedient; and at the words Celestina’s face recovered its usual quiet, thoughtful, but peaceful expression.