Dear Hal and his art rose before me, and pity and love caused me to say:
“Oh, come back, Mr. Benton! Hal needs you.”
“We will consider then that we are friends, Emily?”
“Certainly,” I said, glad enough to pass out of this door. Would it had been wider!
Advancing to me he took my hand, and said:
“My friend always, if I may never hope for more. I leave to-morrow morning, let us say good-bye here.”
This was a strange scene for a plain country girl like Emily Minot. Don’t blame me if I was bewildered, and if I failed for a moment to think of the snake I had dreamed about: neither wonder that in this last act in Mr. Benton’s drama, he seemed to have gained some power over me. He knew, for I was no adept at concealing, that he had won some vantage ground, and that I blamed myself and pitied him.
Morning came, and he left us, and Aunt Hildy said: “Gone with his great eyes that allus remind me that still water runs deep. Can’t see how Halbert and that man can be so thick together.”
Matthias, who was there early, ready to go to work, said to himself as the stage rolled away: “De Lord bless me, if dat man don’t mos’ allus set me on de thinkin’ groun. Pears like he’s got two sides to hisself, um, um.”
I heard this absent talk of Matthias’, and also Aunt Hildy’s words, and I marvelled, saying in my heart, “Emily Minot, what will be done next?”
We were all glad to see mother, and she had enjoyed her visit, which had improved her much.
“Hope you haint done any work?” said Aunt Hildy.
Mother said nothing, but when her trunk was unpacked she brought forth, in triumph, a specimen of her handiwork.
“Aunt Hildy,” I called, “come and give her a scolding.”
She came, and with Clara and myself, was soon busy in trying to find out how the mat—for this was the name of the article—was made.
“How on airth did you do it, and what with?”
“Why don’t you find out?” said mother.
“For only one reason, I can’t,” said Aunt Hildy.
“It is made of pieces of old flannel and carpet that Phebe got hold of somehow. We cut them bias and sewed them on through the middle, the foundation being a canvas bag, leaving the edges turned up.”
“Well, I declare,” said Aunt Hildy; “but you had no right to work.”
My mind was sorely troubled, and when, in about a week after Mr. Benton’s departure, I received a long letter from him, I felt worse than before. I blamed myself greatly, and still these wrong steps I had taken were all only sins of omission. It was for Clara’s sake; for Hal’s sake; and last, but not least, I could not say to Mr. Benton, as I would have wished to, that my love was in Louis’ keeping, for you remember I had met Louis’ advances with fear, and he had said, “I will wait one year.” How could I then say positively what I did not know? Louis was growing older, and my fears might prove all real, and I should only subject myself to mortification, and at the same time, as I really believed, cause Mr. Benton sorrow.