And her heart warmed somewhat, too, the while. One day a friend overheard a conversation like this:-- and naturally came and told her all about it:
"Ned, they say you don't go there any more. How is that?"
"Well, I don't; but I tell you it's not because I don't want to and it's not because I think it is any matter who her father was or who he wasn't, either; it's only on account of this talk, talk, talk. I think she is a fine girl every way, and so would you if you knew her as well as I do; but you know how it is when a girl once gets talked about--it's all up with her--the world won't ever let her alone, after that."
The only comment Laura made upon this revelation, was:
"Then it appears that if this trouble had not occurred I could have had the happiness of Mr. Ned Thurston's serious attentions. He is well favored in person, and well liked, too, I believe, and comes of one of the first families of the village. He is prosperous, too, I hear; has been a doctor a year, now, and has had two patients--no, three, I think; yes, it was three. I attended their funerals. Well, other people have hoped and been disappointed; I am not alone in that. I wish you could stay to dinner, Maria--we are going to have sausages; and besides, I wanted to talk to you about Hawkeye and make you promise to come and see us when we are settled there."
But Maria could not stay. She had come to mingle romantic tears with Laura's over the lover's defection and had found herself dealing with a heart that could not rise to an appreciation of affliction because its interest was all centred in sausages.
But as soon as Maria was gone, Laura stamped her expressive foot and said:
"The coward! Are all books lies? I thought he would fly to the front, and be brave and noble, and stand up for me against all the world, and defy my enemies, and wither these gossips with his scorn! Poor crawling thing, let him go. I do begin to despise thin world!"
She lapsed into thought. Presently she said:
"If the time ever comes, and I get a chance, Oh, I'll----"
She could not find a word that was strong enough, perhaps. By and by she said:
"Well, I am glad of it--I'm glad of it. I never cared anything for him anyway!"
And then, with small consistency, she cried a little, and patted her foot more indignantly than ever.
Two months had gone by and the Hawkins family were domiciled in Hawkeye. Washington was at work in the real estate office again, and was alternately in paradise or the other place just as it happened that Louise was gracious to him or seemingly indifferent--because indifference or preoccupation could mean nothing else than that she was thinking of some other young person. Col. Sellers had asked him several times, to dine with him, when he first returned to Hawkeye, but Washington, for no particular reason, had not accepted. No particular reason except one which he preferred to keep to himself--viz. that he could not bear to be away from Louise. It occurred to him, now, that the Colonel had not invited him lately--could he be offended? He resolved to go that very day, and give the Colonel a pleasant surprise. It was a good idea; especially as Louise had absented herself from breakfast that morning, and torn his heart; he would tear hers, now, and let her see how it felt.
The Sellers family were just starting to dinner when Washington burst upon them with his surprise. For an instant the Colonel looked nonplussed, and just a bit uncomfortable; and Mrs. Sellers looked actually distressed; but the next moment the head of the house was himself again, and exclaimed:
"All right, my boy, all right--always glad to see you--always glad to hear your voice and take you by the hand. Don't wait for special invitations--that's all nonsense among friends. Just come whenever you can, and come as often as you can--the oftener the better. You can't please us any better than that, Washington; the little woman will tell you so herself. We don't pretend to style.