“God bless my soul!” cried Mr. Peters. “How these youngsters to run away with us. And are you the most beautiful young man at Bates Corners, Henry?”
“I’m beautiful enough that Polly will put her arms around my neck and kiss me, anyway,” blurted Henry. “So you and Ma can get ready for a wedding as soon as Polly says the word. I’m ready, right now.”
“So am I,” said Mr. Peters, “and from the way Ma complains about the work I and you boys make her, I don’t think she will object to a little help. Polly is a good, steady worker.”
Polly ran, but she simply could not light the fire, set the table, and get things cooked on time, while everything she touched seemed to spill or slip. She could not think what, or how, to do the usual for the very good reason that Henry Peters was a Prince, and a Knight, and a Lover, and a Sweetheart, and her Man; she had just agreed to all this with her soul, less than an hour ago under the red haw. No wonder she was late, no wonder she spilled and smeared; and red of face she blundered and bungled, for the first time in her life. Then in came Kate. She must lose no time, the corn must be finished before it rained. She must hurry — for the first time dinner was late, while Polly was messing like a perfect little fool.
Kate stepped in and began to right things with practised hand. Disaster came when she saw Polly, at the well, take an instant from bringing in the water, to wave in the direction of the Peters farm. As she entered the door, Kate swept her with a glance.
“Have to upset the bowl, as usual?” she said, scathingly. “Just as I think you’re going to make something of yourself, and be of some use, you begin mooning in the direction of that big, gangling Hank Peters. Don’t you ever let me see you do it again. You are too young to start that kind of foolishness. I bet a cow he was hanging around here, and made you late with dinner.”
“He was not! He didn’t either!” cried Polly, then stopped in dismay, her cheeks burning. She gulped and went on bravely: “That is, he wasn’t here, and he didn’t make me late, any more than I kept him from his work. He always watches when there are tramps and peddlers on the road, because he knows I’m alone. I knew he would be watching two men who stopped to see you, so I just went as far as the haw tree to tell him I was all right, and we got to talking —”
If only Kate had been looking at Polly then! But she was putting the apple butter and cream on the table. As she did so, she thought possibly it was a good idea to have Henry Peters seeing that tramps did not frighten Polly, so she missed dawn on the face of her child, and instead of what might have been, she said: “Well, I must say that is neighbourly of him; but don’t you dare let him get any foolish notions in his head. I think Aunt Nancy Ellen will let you stay at her house after this, and go to the Hartley High School in winter, so you can come out of that much better prepared to teach than I ever was. I had a surprise planned for you to-night, but now I don’t know whether you deserve it or not. I’ll have to think.”