Where could we go that disgrace would not follow us? Let us then accept the judge’s offer. I am the more inclined to do this because of the possible hope that some day he may come to care for me and allow me to make life a little brighter for him. The fact that for some mysterious reason he feels himself cut off from all intercourse with his son, may prove a bond of sympathy between us. I, too, am cut off from all companionship with Oliver. Between us also a wall is raised. Do not mind that tear-drop, mamma. It is the last.
Kisses for my comforter. Come soon.
Over this letter Deborah Scoville sat for two hours, then she rang for Mrs. Yardley.
The maid who answered her summons surveyed her in amazement. It was the first time that she had seen her uncovered face.
Mrs. Yardley was not long in coming up.
“Mrs. Averill—” she began in a sort of fluster, as she met her strange guest’s quiet eye.
But she got no further. That guest had a correction to make.
“My name is not Averill,” she protested. “You must excuse the temporary deception. It is Scoville. I once occupied your present position in this house.”
Mrs. Yardley had heard all about the Scovilles; and, while a flush rose to her cheeks, her eyes snapped with sudden interest.
“Ah!” came in quick exclamation, followed, however, by an apologetic cough and the somewhat forced and conventional remark: “You find the place changed, no doubt?”
“Very much so, and for the better, Mrs. Yardley.” Then, with a straightforward meeting of the other’s eye calculated to disarm whatever criticism the situation might evoke, she quietly added, “You need no longer trouble yourself with serving me my meals in my room. I will eat dinner in the public dining-room to-day with the rest of the boarders. I have no further reason for concealing who I am or what my future intentions are. I am going to live with Judge Ostrander, Mrs. Yardley;—keep house for him, myself and daughter. His man is dead and he feels very helpless. I hope that I shall be able to make him comfortable.”
Mrs. Yardley’s face was a study. In all her life she had never heard news that surprised her more. In fact, she was mentally aghast. Judge Ostrander admitting any one into his home, and this woman above all! Yet, why not? He, certainly, would have to have some one. And this woman had always been known as a notable housekeeper. In another moment, she had accepted the situation, like the very sensible woman she was, and Mrs. Scoville had the satisfaction of seeing the promise of real friendly support in the smile with which Mrs. Yardley remarked:
“It’s a good thing for you and a very good thing for the judge. It may shake him out of his habit of seclusion. If it does, you will be the city’s benefactor. Good luck to you, madam. And you have a daughter, you say?”