She lifted an amazed face from his shoulder then,
and stared at him.
“But how could you know? You couldn’t! How could you?”
He patted her shoulder then, gently. “I can always tell. When you have something on your mind you always take up a spoon of coffee, and look at it, and kind of joggle it back and forth in the spoon, and then dribble it back into the cup again, without once tasting it. It used to get me nervous when we were first married watching you. But now I know it just means you’re worried about something, and I wait, and pretty soon—”
“Oh, Orville!” she cried, then. “Oh, Orville!”
“Now, Terry. Just spill it, hon. Just spill it to daddy. And you’ll feel better.”
THE WOMAN WHO TRIED TO BE GOOD
Before she tried to be a good woman she had been a very bad woman—so bad that she could trail her wonderful apparel up and down Main Street, from the Elm Tree Bakery to the railroad tracks, without once having a man doff his hat to her or a woman bow. You passed her on the street with a surreptitious glance, though she was well worth looking at—in her furs and laces and plumes. She had the only full-length sealskin coat in our town, and Ganz’ shoe store sent to Chicago for her shoes. Hers were the miraculously small feet you frequently see in stout women.
Usually she walked alone; but on rare occasions, especially round Christmas time, she might have been seen accompanied by some silent, dull-eyed, stupid-looking girl, who would follow her dumbly in and out of stores, stopping now and then to admire a cheap comb or a chain set with flashy imitation stones—or, queerly enough, a doll with yellow hair and blue eyes and very pink cheeks. But, alone or in company, her appearance in the stores of our town was the signal for a sudden jump in the cost of living. The storekeepers mulcted her; and she knew it and paid in silence, for she was of the class that has no redress. She owned the House With the Closed Shutters, near the freight depot—did Blanche Devine. And beneath her silks and laces and furs there was a scarlet letter on her breast.
In a larger town than ours she would have passed unnoticed. She did not look like a bad woman. Of course she used too much perfumed white powder, and as she passed you caught the oversweet breath of a certain heavy scent. Then, too, her diamond eardrops would have made any woman’s features look hard; but her plump face, in spite of its heaviness, wore an expression of good-humoured intelligence, and her eyeglasses gave her somehow a look of respectability. We do not associate vice with eyeglasses. So in a large city she would have passed for a well-dressed prosperous, comfortable wife and mother, who was in danger of losing her figure from an overabundance of good living; but with us she was a town character, like Old Man Givins, the drunkard, or the weak-minded Binns girl. When she passed the drug-store corner there would be a sniggering among the vacant-eyed loafers idling there, and they would leer at each other and jest in undertones.