When she finally went up the brick walk, she thought once that she could not reach the bell with the strength left to pull it. She did, though, pressing with her two hands to her left side as she waited. The house was in the process of painting, too, still wet under a first wash of gray. The pergola, also.
The door swung back, and then a figure emerged full from a background of familiarly dim hallway and curve of banister. She was stout enough to be panting slightly, and above the pink-and-white-checked apron her face was ruddy, forty, and ever so inclined to smile.
Out from the hallway shot a cocker spaniel, loose-eared, yapping.
“Queenie, Queenie—come back. She won’t bite—Queenie—bad girl!—come back from that nasturtium-bed—bad girl!—all washed and combed so pretty for a romp with her favver when him come home so tired. Queenie!”
She caught her by a rear leg as she leaped back, wild to rollick, tucking her under one arm, administering three diminutive punishments on the shaggy ears.
“Aw, now, he ain’t! I sent him down by Gredel’s nurseries on his way home to-night, for some tulip-bulbs for my iron jardinieres. He ought to be back any minute if he ’ain’t stopped to brag with old man Gredel that our arbutus beats his.” Then, smiling and rubbing with the back of her free hand at a flour-streak across her cheek: “If—if it’s the lady from the orphan asylum come to see about the—the little kid we want—is there anything I can do for you? I’m his wife. Won’t you come in?”
“Oh no!” said Miss de Long, now already down two of the steps. “I—I—Oh no, no!—thank you! Oh no—no!—thank you!”
She walked swiftly, the purple veil blown back and her face seeming to look out of it whitely, so whitely that she became terrible.
Night was at hand, and Adalia was drawing down its front shades.
GET READY THE WREATHS
Where St. Louis begins to peter out into brick- and limestone-kilns and great scars of unworked and overworked quarries, the first and more unpretentious of its suburbs take up—Benson, Maplehurst, and Ridgeway Heights intervening with one-story brick cottages and two-story packing-cases—between the smoke of the city and the carefully parked Queen Anne quietude of Glenwood and Croton Grove.
Over Benson hangs a white haze of limestone, gritty with train and foundry smoke. At night the lime-kilns, spotted with white deposits, burn redly, showing through their open doors like great, inflamed diphtheretic throats, tongues of flame bursting and licking out.
Winchester Road, which runs out from the heart of the city to string these towns together, is paved with brick, and its traffic, for the most part, is the great, tin-tired dump-carts of the quarries and steel interurban electric cars which hum so heavily that even the windows of outlying cottages titillate.