“But that’s different. She’s very fashionable, and she’s taken up with her own set. But Mr. Beaton’s one of our kind.”
“Thank you. Papa wasn’t quite a tombstone-cutter, mamma.”
“That makes it all the harder to bear. He can’t be ashamed of us. Perhaps he doesn’t know where we are.”
“Do you wish to send him your card, mamma?” The girl flushed and towered in scorn of the idea.
“Why, no, Alma,” returned her mother.
“Well, then,” said Alma.
But Mrs. Leighton was not so easily quelled. She had got her mind on Mr. Beaton, and she could not detach it at once. Besides, she was one of those women (they are commoner than the same sort of men) whom it does not pain to take out their most intimate thoughts and examine them in the light of other people’s opinions. “But I don’t see how he can behave so. He must know that—”
“That what, mamma?” demanded the girl.
“That he influenced us a great deal in coming—”
“He didn’t. If he dared to presume to think such a thing—”
“Now, Alma,” said her mother, with the clinging persistence of such natures, “you know he did. And it’s no use for you to pretend that we didn’t count upon him in—in every way. You may not have noticed his attentions, and I don’t say you did, but others certainly did; and I must say that I didn’t expect he would drop us so.”
“Drop us!” cried Alma, in a fury. “Oh!”
“Yes, drop us, Alma. He must know where we are. Of course, Mr. Wetmore’s spoken to him about you, and it’s a shame that he hasn’t been near us. I should have thought common gratitude, common decency, would have brought him after—after all we did for him.”
“We did nothing for him—nothing! He paid his board, and that ended it.”
“No, it didn’t, Alma. You know what he used to say—about its being like home, and all that; and I must say that after his attentions to you, and all the things you told me he said, I expected something very dif—”
A sharp peal of the door-bell thrilled through the house, and as if the pull of the bell-wire had twitched her to her feet, Mrs. Leighton sprang up and grappled with her daughter in their common terror.
They both glared at the clock and made sure that it was five minutes after nine. Then they abandoned themselves some moments to the unrestricted play of their apprehensions.
“Why, Alma,” whispered the mother, “who in the world can it be at this time of night? You don’t suppose he—”
“Well, I’m not going to the door, anyhow, mother, I don’t care who it is; and, of course, he wouldn’t be such a goose as to come at this hour.” She put on a look of miserable trepidation, and shrank back from the door, while the hum of the bell died away, in the hall.
“What shall we do?” asked Mrs. Leighton, helplessly.