“Perhaps—if he really wants me to,” said Rosemary, blushing again.
“I’m glad—I’m glad,” said Una bravely. Then she looked up, with quivering lips. “Oh, Miss West, you won’t turn father against us—you won’t make him hate us, will you?” she said beseechingly.
Rosemary stared again.
“Una Meredith! Do you think I would do such a thing? Whatever put such an idea into your head?”
“Mary Vance said stepmothers were all like that—and that they all hated their stepchildren and made their father hate them—she said they just couldn’t help it—just being stepmothers made them like that”—
“You poor child! And yet you came up here and asked me to marry your father because you wanted to make him happy? You’re a darling—a heroine—as Ellen would say, you’re a brick. Now listen to me, very closely, dearest. Mary Vance is a silly little girl who doesn’t know very much and she is dreadfully mistaken about some things. I would never dream of trying to turn your father against you. I would love you all dearly. I don’t want to take your own mother’s place—she must always have that in your hearts. But neither have I any intention of being a stepmother. I want to be your friend and helper and CHUM. Don’t you think that would be nice, Una—if you and Faith and Carl and Jerry could just think of me as a good jolly chum—a big older sister?”
“Oh, it would be lovely,” cried Una, with a transfigured face. She flung her arms impulsively round Rosemary’s neck. She was so happy that she felt as if she could fly on wings.
“Do the others—do Faith and the boys have the same idea you had about stepmothers?”
“No. Faith never believed Mary Vance. I was dreadfully foolish to believe her, either. Faith loves you already—she has loved you ever since poor Adam was eaten. And Jerry and Carl will think it is jolly. Oh, Miss West, when you come to live with us, will you—could you—teach me to cook—a little—and sew—and— and—and do things? I don’t know anything. I won’t be much trouble—I’ll try to learn fast.”
“Darling, I’ll teach you and help you all I can. Now, you won’t say a word to anybody about this, will you—not even to Faith, until your father himself tells you you may? And you’ll stay and have tea with me?”
“Oh, thank you—but—but—I think I’d rather go right back and take the letter to father,” faltered Una. “You see, he’ll be glad that much SOONER, Miss West.”
“I see,” said Rosemary. She went to the house, wrote a note and gave it to Una. When that small damsel had run off, a palpitating bundle of happiness, Rosemary went to Ellen, who was shelling peas on the back porch.
“Ellen,” she said, “Una Meredith has just been here to ask me to marry her father.”
Ellen looked up and read her sister’s face.
“And you’re going to?” she said.
“It’s quite likely.”