“Oh, you devil!” said Dolly, laughing. “But honestly,” she added gaily to Susan, “’how you could put up with Em Saunders as long as you did was a mystery to me! It’s a lucky thing you’re not like me, Susan van Dusen, people all tell me I’m more like a boy than a girl,—when I think a thing I’m going to say it or bust! Now, listen, you’re coming down to me for a week—–”
Susan left the invitation open, to Isabel’s concern.
“Of course, as you say, you have a position, Sue,” said Isabel, when they were spinning over the country roads, in Peter’s car, “but, my dear, Dolly Ripley and Con Fox don’t speak now,—Connie’s going on the stage, they say!—–”
“‘A mother and child will be there’, all right!” said John Furlong, leaning back from the front seat. Isabel laughed, but went on seriously,
“—–and Dolly really wants someone to stay with her, Sue, and think what a splendid thing that would be!”
Susan answered absently. They had taken the Sausalito road, to get the cool air from the bay, and it flashed across her that if she could persuade them to drop her at the foot of the hill, she could be at home in five minutes,—back in the dear familiar garden, with Anna and Phil lazily debating the attractions of a walk and a row, and Betsey compounding weak, cold, too-sweet lemonade. Suddenly the only important thing in the world seemed to be her escape.
There they were, just as she had pictured them; Mrs. Carroll, gray-haired, dignified in her lacy light black, was in a deep chair on the lawn, reading aloud from the paper; Betsey, sitting at her feet, twisted and folded the silky ears of the setter; Anna was lying in a hammock, lazily watching her mother, and Billy Oliver had joined the boys, sprawling comfortably on the grass.
A chorus of welcome greeted Susan.
“Oh, Sue, you old duck!” said Betsey, “we’ve just been waiting for you to decide what we’d do!”
These were serene and sweet days for them all, and if sometimes the old sorrow returned for awhile, and there were still bitter longing and grieving for Josephine, there were days, too, when even the mother admitted to herself that some new tender element had crept into their love for each other since the little sister’s going, the invisible presence was the closest and strongest of the ties that bound them all. Happiness came back, planning and dreaming began again. Susan teased Anna and Betsey into wearing white again, when the hot weather came, Billy urged the first of the walks to the beach without Jo, and Anna herself it was who began to extend the old informal invitations to the nearest friends and neighbors for the tea-hour on Saturday. Susan was to have her vacation in August; Billy was to have at least a week; Anna had been promised the fortnight of Susan’s freedom, and Jimmy and Betsey could hardly wait for the camping trip they planned to take all together to the little shooting box in the mountains.