They both recognized this fact and tried to disguise it and to relieve themselves from the appearance of making any undue advances by greater formality of address. In Jane's presence he had formed the habit of speaking to his wife as Mrs. Holcroft, and now he was invariably "Mr."
One evening in the latter part of June, he remarked at supper, "I must give half a day to hoeing the garden tomorrow. I've been so busy working out the corn and potatoes that it seems an age since I've been in the garden."
"She and me," began Jane, "I mean Mrs. Holcroft and I, have been in the garden."
"That's right, Jane, You're coming on. I think your improved talk and manners do Mrs. Holcroft much credit. I'd like to take some lessons myself." Then, as if a little alarmed at his words, he hastened to ask, "What have you been doing in the garden?"
"You'll see when you go there," replied Jane, her small eyes twinkling with the rudiments of fun.
Holcroft looked at the child as if he had not seen her for some time either. Her hair was neatly combed, braided, and tied with a blue ribbon instead of a string, her gown was as becoming as any dress could be to her, her little brown hands were clean, and they no longer managed the knife and fork in an ill-bred manner. The very expression of the child's face was changing, and now that it was lighted up with mirth at the little surprise awaiting him, it had at least attained the negative grace of being no longer repulsive. He sighed involuntarily as he turned away. "Just see what she's doing for that child that I once thought hideous! How much she might do for me if she cared as I do!"
He rose from the table, lighted his pipe, and went out to the doorstep. Alida looked at him wistfully. "He stood there with me once and faced a mob of men," she thought. "Then he put his arm around me. I would face almost any danger for even such a caress again." The memory of that hour lent her unwonted courage, and she approached him timidly and said, "Perhaps you would like to go and look at the garden? Jane and I may not have done everything right."
"Why, certainly. I forgot about the garden; but then you'll have to go with me if I'm to tell you."