She was a good and conscientious woman, practicing what she preached, and believing more in the inner than the outer adorning; but she looked very neat this afternoon in her purple calico, with a motherly white apron tied around her waist, and her soft, silvery hair combed smoothly back from her forehead and twisted in a knot behind, about the size of a half dollar. This knot however, was hidden by the headdress which Melinda had made from bits of black lace and purple ribbon, and which, though not at all like Aunt Barbara’s Boston caps, was still very respectable, and even tasteful-looking. Almost too tasteful, Mrs. Markham thought, as she glanced at the tiny artificial flower tucked in among the bows of ribbon. But Mrs. Markham did not remove the flower, for it was a daisy, and it made her think of the Daisy who died fourteen years ago, and who, had she lived till now, would have been twenty-eight.
“A married woman, most likely, and I might have been grandmother,” Mrs. Markham sighed, and then, as she heard in fancy the patter of little feet at her side, and saw before her little faces with a look like Daisy in them, her thoughts went softly out to Richard’s bride, through whom this coveted blessing might come to her quiet household, and her heart throbbed with a quick sudden yearning for the young daughter-in-law, now just alighting at the Olney station, for the Eastern train had come, and James was there with the democrat-wagon to meet it.
Olney was a thriving, busy little town, numbering five hundred inhabitants or thereabouts. It had its groceries, its dry goods stores, and its two houses for public worship—the Methodist and Presbyterian—while every other Sunday a little band of Episcopalians met for their own service in what was called the Village Hall, where, during week days, a small, select school was frequently taught by some Yankee schoolmistress. It had its post office, too; and there was also talk of a bank after the railroad came that way, and roused the people to a state of still greater activity. On the whole, it was a pretty town, though different from Chicopee, where the houses slept so aristocratically under the shadow of the old elms, which had been growing there since the day when our national independence was declared.
At home Ethelyn’s pride had all been centered in Boston, and she had sometimes thought a little contemptuously of Chicopee and its surroundings; but the farther she traveled west the higher Chicopee rose in her estimation, until she found herself comparing every prairie village with that rural town among the hills, which seemed to give it dignity, and made it so greatly superior to the dead levels of which she was getting so weary. She had admired the rolling prairies at first, but, tired and jaded with her long journey, nothing looked well to her now—nothing was like Chicopee—certainly not Olney, where the dwellings looked so new and the streets were minus sidewalks.