By this time Hannah had washed the dough from her hands, and taking the roast chicken from the oven she donned a clean apron and started to see the stranger for herself. Although a tolerably good woman, Hannah's face was not very prepossessing, and Mrs. Kennedy intuitively felt that 'twould be long before her former domestic's place was made good by the indolent African. It is true her obeisance was very low, and her greeting kindly enough, but there was about her an inquisitive, and at the same time, rather patronizing air which Mrs. Kennedy did not like, and she was glad when she at last left the parlor, telling them, as she did so, that "dinner was done ready."
Notwithstanding that the house itself was so large, the dining room was a small, dark, cheerless apartment, and though she was beginning to feel the want of food, Mrs. Kennedy could scarcely force down a mouthful, for the homesick feeling at her heart; a feeling which whispered to her that the home to which she had come was not like that which she had left. Dinner being over, she asked permission to retire to her chamber, saying she needed rest, and should feel better after she had slept. Nellie volunteered to lead the way, and as they left the dining room old Hannah, who was notoriously lazy, muttered aloud: "A puny, sickly thing. Great help she'll be to me; but I shan't stay to wait on more'n forty more."
Dr. Kennedy had his own private reason for wishing to conciliate Hannah. When he set her free he made her believe it was her duty to work for him for nothing, and though she soon learned better, and often threatened to leave, he had always managed to keep her, for, on the whole, she liked her place, and did not care to change it for one where her task would be much harder. But if the new wife proved to be sickly, matters would be different, and so she fretted, as we have seen, while the doctor comforted her with the assurance that Mrs. Kennedy was only tired--that she was naturally well and strong, and would undoubtedly be of great assistance when the novelty of her position had worn away.
While this conversation was taking place Mrs. Kennedy was examining her chamber and thinking many pleasant things of John, whose handiwork was here so plainly visible. All the smaller and more fanciful pieces of furniture which the house afforded had been brought to this room, whose windows looked out upon the lake and the blue hills beyond. A clean white towel concealed the marred condition of the washstand, while the bed, which was made up high and round, especially in the middle, looked very inviting with its snowy spread. A large stuffed rocking chair, more comfortable than handsome, occupied the center of the room, while better far than all, the table, the mantel, and the windows were filled with flowers, which John had begged from the neighboring gardens, and which seemed to smile a welcome upon the weary woman, who, with a cry of delight, bent down and kissed them through her tears.
"Did these come from your garden?" she asked of Nellie, who, child- like, answered, "We haint any flowers. Pa won't let John plant any. He told Aunt Kelsey the land had better be used for potatoes, and Aunt Kelsey said he was too stingy to live."
"Who is Aunt Kelsey?" asked Mrs. Kennedy, a painful suspicion fastening itself upon her that the lady's opinion might be correct.
"She is pa's sister Charlotte," answered Nellie, "and lives in Rochester, in a great big house, with the handsomest things; but she don't come here often, it's so heathenish, she says."
Here spying John, who was going with the oxen to the meadow, she ran away, followed by Maude, between whom and herself there was for the present a most amicable understanding. Thus left alone Mrs. Kennedy had time for thought, which crowded upon her so fast that, at last throwing herself upon the bed, she wept bitterly, half wishing she had never come to Laurel Hill, but was still at home in her own pleasant cottage. Then hope whispered to her of a brighter day, when things would not seem to her as they now did. She would fix up the desolate old house, she thought; the bare windows which now so stared her in the face should be shaded with pretty muslin curtains, and she would loop them back with ribbons. The carpet, too, on the parlor floor should be exchanged for a better one, and when her piano and marble table came, the only articles of furniture she had not sold, it would not seem so cheerless and so cold.