But Mr. Jenney was hitching the horse and throwing a blanket over him. Suddenly, before they realized it, the farmer had vanished into the storm, and this unexplained desertion of their host gave rise to an awkward silence between them, which each for a while strove vainly to break. In the great moments of life, trivialities become dwarfed and ludicrous, and the burden of such occasions is on the woman.
"So you've taken to farming," she said,-"isn't it about haying time?"
"We begin next week. And you--you've come back in season for it. I hope that your mother is better."
"Yes," replied Victoria, simply, "the baths helped her. But I'm glad to get back,--I like my own country so much better,--and especially this part of it," she added. "I can bear to be away from New York in the winter, but not from Fairview in the summer."
At this instant Mr. Jenney appeared at the barn door bearing a huge green umbrella.
"Come over to the house--Mis' Jenney is expectin' you," he said.
Victoria hesitated. To refuse would be ungracious; moreover, she could risk no misinterpretation of her acts, and she accepted. Mrs. Jenney met her on the doorstep, and conducted her into that sanctum reserved for occasions, the parlour, with its Bible, its flat, old-fashioned piano, its samplers, its crayon portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Jenney after their honeymoon; with its aroma that suggested Sundays and best manners. Mrs. Jenney, with incredible rapidity (for her figure was not what it had been at the time of the crayon portrait), had got into a black dress, over which she wore a spotless apron. She sat in the parlour with her guest until Mr. Jenney reappeared with shining face and damp hair.
"You'll excuse me, my dear," said Mrs. Jenney, "but the supper's on the stove, and I have to run out now and then."