“And you certainly can’t say, my dear, that he hasn’t been very kind—very useful to you, in that matter.”
“And so I ought to have said yes out of gratitude? Thank you, mamma! I didn’t know you held me so cheap.”
“You know whether I hold you cheap or not, Alma. I don’t want you to cheapen yourself. I don’t want you to trifle with any one. I want you to be honest with yourself.”
“Well, come now, mamma! Suppose you begin. I’ve been perfectly honest with myself, and I’ve been honest with Mr. Beaton. I don’t care for him, and I’ve told him I didn’t; so he may be supposed to know it. If he comes here after this, he’ll come as a plain, unostentatious friend of the family, and it’s for you to say whether he shall come in that capacity or not. I hope you won’t trifle with him, and let him get the notion that he’s coming on any other basis.”
Mrs. Leighton felt the comfort of the critical attitude far too keenly to abandon it for anything constructive. She only said, “You know very well, Alma, that’s a matter I can have nothing to do with.”
“Then you leave him entirely to me?”
“I hope you will regard his right to candid and open treatment.”
“He’s had nothing but the most open and candid treatment from me, mamma. It’s you that wants to play fast and loose with him. And, to tell you the truth, I believe he would like that a good deal better; I believe that, if there’s anything he hates, it’s openness and candor.” Alma laughed, and put her arms round her mother, who could not help laughing a little, too.
The winter did not renew for Christine and Mela the social opportunity which the spring had offered. After the musicale at Mrs. Horn’s, they both made their party-call, as Mela said, in due season; but they did not find Mrs. Horn at home, and neither she nor Miss Vance came to see them after people returned to town in the fall. They tried to believe for a time that Mrs. Horn had not got their cards; this pretence failed them, and they fell back upon their pride, or rather Christine’s pride. Mela had little but her good-nature to avail her in any exigency, and if Mrs. Horn or Miss Vance had come to call after a year of neglect, she would have received them as amiably as if they had not lost a day in coming. But Christine had drawn a line beyond which they would not have been forgiven; and she had planned the words and the behavior with which she would have punished them if they had appeared then. Neither sister imagined herself in anywise inferior to them; but Christine was suspicious, at least, and it was Mela who invented the hypothesis of the lost cards. As nothing happened to prove or to disprove the fact, she said, “I move we put Coonrod up to gittun’ it out of Miss Vance, at some of their meetun’s.”
“If you do,” said Christine, “I’ll kill you.”
Christine, however, had the visits of Beaton to console her, and, if these seemed to have no definite aim, she was willing to rest in the pleasure they gave her vanity; but Mela had nothing. Sometimes she even wished they were all back on the farm.