Miss Shott was about to say something here, but Mrs. Hembold touched her on the arm, and she waited.
“It grieves us very much,” continued the minister’s wife, “to think that our dear friend and neighbor should come home from her wanderings and perils and privations, and find herself in what must be, although we do not wish to pry into your private affairs, something of an embarrassed condition. We have all stayed at home with our friends and our families, and we have had no special prosperity, but neither have we met with losses, and it grieves us to think that you, who were once as prosperous as any of us, should now feel—I should say experience—in any manner the pressure of privation.”
“I don’t understand,” said Mrs. Cliff, sitting up very straight in her chair. “Privation? What does that mean?”
“It may not be exactly that,” said Mrs. Perley, quickly, “and we all know very well, Mrs. Cliff, that you are naturally sensitive on a point like this. But you have come back shipwrecked and disappointed in your business, and we want to show you that, while we would not hurt your feelings for anything in the world, we would like to help you a little, if we can, just as we would hope you would help us if we were in any embarrassment.”
“I must say, however—” remarked Miss Shott; but she was again silenced by Mrs. Hembold, and the minister’s wife went on.
“To come straight to the point,” said she, “for a good while we have been wanting to do something, and we did not know what to do. But a few days ago we became aware, through Miss Willy Croup, that what was most needed in this house is blankets. She said, in fact, that the blankets you had were the same you bought when you were first married, that some of them had been worn out and given to your poorer neighbors, and that now you were very short of blankets, and, with cold weather coming on, she did not consider that the clothing on your own bed was sufficient. She even went so far as to say that the blankets she used were very thin, and that she did not think they were warm enough for winter. So, some of us have agreed together that we would testify our friendship and our sympathy by presenting you with a pair of good, warm blankets for your own bed; then those you have could go to Willy Croup, and you both would be comfortable all winter. Of course, what we have done has not been upon an expensive scale. We have had many calls upon us,—poor old Mrs. Bradley, for one,—and we could not afford to spend much money. But we have bought you a good pair of blankets, which are warm and serviceable, and we hope you will not be offended, and we do not believe that you will be, for you know our motives, and all that we ask is that when you are warm and comfortable under our little gift, you will sometimes think of us. The blankets are out in the hall, and I have no doubt that Miss Willy Croup will bring them in.”
Mrs. Cliff’s eyes filled with tears. She wanted to speak, but how could she speak! But she was saved from further embarrassment, for when Willy, who had been standing in the doorway, had gone to get the blankets, Miss Shott could be restrained no longer.