Kilmeny of the Orchard
IV. A Tea Table Conversation
The Williamson place, where Eric boarded, was on the crest of the succeeding hill. He
liked it as well as Larry West had prophesied that he would. The Williamsons, as well as
the rest of the Lindsay people, took it for granted that he was a poor college student
working his way through as Larry West had been doing. Eric did not disturb this belief,
although he said nothing to contribute to it.
The Williamsons were at tea in the kitchen when Eric went in. Mrs. Williamson was the
"saint in spectacles and calico" which Larry West had termed her. Eric liked her greatly.
She was a slight, gray-haired woman, with a thin, sweet, high-bred face, deeply lined
with the records of outlived pain. She talked little as a rule; but, in the pungent country
phrase she never spoke but she said something. The one thing that constantly puzzled
Eric was how such a woman ever came to marry Robert Williamson.
She smiled in a motherly fashion at Eric, as he hung his hat on the white-washed wall
and took his place at the table. Outside of the window behind him was a birch grove
which, in the westering sun, was a tremulous splendour, with a sea of undergrowth
wavered into golden billows by every passing wind.
Old Robert Williamson sat opposite him, on a bench. He was a small, lean old man, half
lost in loose clothes that seemed far too large for him. When he spoke his voice was as
thin and squeaky as he appeared to be himself.
The other end of the bench was occupied by Timothy, sleek and complacent, with a
snowy breast and white paws. After old Robert had taken a mouthful of anything he
gave a piece to Timothy, who ate it daintily and purred resonant gratitude.
"You see we're busy waiting for you, Master," said old Robert. "You're late this evening.
Keep any of the youngsters in? That's a foolish way of punishing them, as hard on
yourself as on them. One teacher we had four years ago used to lock them in and go
home. Then he'd go back in an hour and let them out--if they were there. They weren't
always. Tom Ferguson kicked the panels out of the old door once and got out that way.
We put a new door of double plank in that they couldn't kick out."
"I stayed in the schoolroom to do some work," said Eric briefly.
"Well, you've missed Alexander Tracy. He was here to find out if you could play
checkers, and, when I told him you could, he left word for you to go up and have a
game some evening soon. Don't beat him too often, even if you can. You'll need to
stand in with him, I tell you, Master, for he's got a son that may brew trouble for you
when he starts in to go to school. Seth Tracy's a young imp, and he'd far sooner be in
mischief than eat. He tries to run on every new teacher and he's run two clean out of the
school. But he met his match in Mr. West. William Tracy's boys now--you won't have a