“There is something I think I ought to tell you,” said Mary Vance mysteriously.
She and Faith and Una were walking arm in arm through the village, having foregathered at Mr. Flagg’s store. Una and Faith exchanged looks which said, “NOW something disagreeable is coming.” When Mary Vance thought she ought to tell them things there was seldom much pleasure in the hearing. They often wondered why they kept on liking Mary Vance—for like her they did, in spite of everything. To be sure, she was generally a stimulating and agreeable companion. If only she would not have those convictions that it was her duty to tell them things!
“Do you know that Rosemary West won’t marry your pa because she thinks you are such a wild lot? She’s afraid she couldn’t bring you up right and so she turned him down.”
Una’s heart thrilled with secret exultation. She was very glad to hear that Miss West would not marry her father. But Faith was rather disappointed.
“How do you know?” she asked.
“Oh, everybody’s saying it. I heard Mrs. Elliott talking it over with Mrs. Doctor. They thought I was too far away to hear, but I’ve got ears like a cat’s. Mrs. Elliott said she hadn’t a doubt that Rosemary was afraid to try stepmothering you because you’d got such a reputation. Your pa never goes up the hill now. Neither does Norman Douglas. Folks say Ellen has jilted him just to get square with him for jilting her ages ago. But Norman is going about declaring he’ll get her yet. And I think you ought to know you’ve spoiled your pa’s match and I think it’s a pity, for he’s bound to marry somebody before long, and Rosemary West would have been the best wife I know of for him.”
“You told me all stepmothers were cruel and wicked,” said Una.
“Oh—well,” said Mary rather confusedly, “they’re mostly awful cranky, I know. But Rosemary West couldn’t be very mean to any one. I tell you if your pa turns round and marries Emmeline Drew you’ll wish you’d behaved yourselves better and not frightened Rosemary out of it. It’s awful that you’ve got such a reputation that no decent woman’ll