“Law, now, Miss Grace, ’taint worth a while to take on so. Like ‘nough he’ll be cured—mebby it’s nothin’ but them fetch-ed water-falls—cat-A-rats, that’s it—and he can have ’em cut out. I wouldn’t go to actin’ like I was love-sick for a man I ’scarded oncet.”
Grace was far too proud to suffer even her faithful Rachel thus to address her, and turning her flashing eyes upon the old woman, she said haughtily,
“How dare you talk to me in this way—don’t you know I won’t allow it? Besides, what reason have you for asserting what you have?”
“What reason has I? Plenty reason—dis chile ain’t a fool if she is a nigger, raised in Georgy, and a born slave till she was turned of thirty. Your poor marm who done sot me free, would never spoke to me that way. What reason has I? I’se got good mem’ry—I ’members them letters I used to tote forrid and back, over thar in England; and how you used to watch by the winder till you seen him comin’, and then, gal-like, ran off to make him think you wasn’t particular ‘bout seein’ him. But, it passes me, what made you have ole money bags. I never could see inter that, when I knowd how you hated his shiny bald head, and slunk away if he offered to tache you with his old, soft, flappy hands. You are glad he’s in Heaven, yon know you be; and though I never said nothin’, I knowd you was glad that Squire Herrin’ton was come back to Collingwood, just as I knowd what made you choke like a chicken with the pip when Edith tole you he was blind. Can’t cheat dis chile,” and adjusting her white turban with an air of injured dignity, Rachel left her mistress, and returned to the kitchen.
“What ails Mrs. Atherton?” asked Edith, fancying it must be something serious which could keep the old negress so long from her bread.
On ordinary occasions the tolerably discreet African would have made some evasive reply, but with her feathers all ruffled, she belched out, “The upshot of the matter is, she’s in love?”
“In love? Who does Mrs. Atherton love?”
“Him—the blind man,” returned Rachel, adding fiercely, “but if you ever let her know I told you, I’ll skin you alive—do you hear? Like enough she’ll be for sendin’ you up thar with more posies, an’ if she does, do you hold your tongue and take ’em along.”
Edith had no desire to betray Rachel’s confidence, and slipping one shoulder out of her low dress she darted off after a butterfly, wondering to herself if it made everybody faint and sick at their stomach to be in love! It seemed very natural that one as rich and beautiful as Grace should love Richard Harrington, and the fact that she did, insensibly raised in her estimation the poor, white-faced woman, who, in the solitude of her chamber was weeping bitterer tears than she had shed before in years.
Could it he so? She hoped there was some mistake—and when an hour later she heard Kitty Maynard’s cheerful voice in the lower hall her heart gave a bound as she thought, “She’ll know—she’s heard of it by this time.”