“Especially,” said Barbara, without much mercy, “when she always will do it at dinner-time.”
“It’s the betwixt and between that I can’t bear,” said Rose. “To have to do with people like the Penningtons and the Marchbankses, and to see their ways; to sit at tables where there is noiseless and perfect serving, and to know that they think it is the ‘mainspring of life’ (that’s just what Mrs. Van Alstyne said about it the other day); and then to have to hitch on so ourselves, knowing just as well what ought to be as she does,—it’s too bad. It’s double dealing. I’d rather not know, or pretend any better. I do wish we belonged somewhere!”
Ruth felt sorry. She always did when Rosamond was hurt with these things. She knew it came from a very pure, nice sense of what was beautiful, and a thoroughness of desire for it. She knew she wanted it every day, and that nobody hated shams, or company contrivances, more heartily. She took great trouble for it; so that when they were quite alone, and Rosamond could manage, things often went better than when guests came and divided her attention.
Ruth went over to where she sat.
“Rose, perhaps we do belong just here. Somebody has got to be in the shading-off, you know. That helps both ways.”
“It’s a miserable indefiniteness, though.”
“No, it isn’t,” said Barbara, quickly. “It’s a good plan, and I like it. Ruth just hits it. I see now what they mean by ‘drawing lines.’ You can’t draw them anywhere but in the middle of the stripes. And people that are right in the middle have to ‘toe the mark.’ It’s the edge, after all. You can reach a great deal farther by being betwixt and between. And one girl needn’t always be black-leaded, nor drop all the spoons.”
Rosamond’s ship-coil party was a great success. It resolved itself into Rosamond’s party, although Barbara had had the first thought of it; for Rosamond quietly took the management of all that was to be delicately and gracefully arranged, and to have the true tone of high propriety.
Barbara made the little white rolls; Rosamond and Ruth beat up the cake; mother attended to the boiling of the tongues, and, when it was time, to the making of the delicious coffee; all together we gave all sorts of pleasant touches to the brown room, and set the round table (the old cover could be “shied” out of sight now, as Stephen said, and replaced with the white glistening damask for the tea) in the corner between the southwest windows that opened upon the broad piazza.
The table was bright with pretty silver—not too much—and best glass and delicate porcelain with a tiny thread of gold; and the rolls and the thin strips of tongue cut lengthwise, so rich and tender that a fork could manage them, and the large raspberries, black and red and white, were upon plates and dishes of real Indian, white and golden brown.