“They will do more harm than good,” she told herself positively. To such young men as Ralph, for instance, what could he possibly want with one of them, save to make it a subject of ridicule when he got with some of his wild companions. But it transpired that his designs were not so very wicked after all; for as they left the store he took the little card from his pocket, and handed it to Abbie with a quiet: “Sis, here is something that you will like.”
And Abbie read it and said: “How solemn that is. Did you get it for me, Ralph? Thank you.” And Ralph bowed and smiled on her, a kind, almost tender smile, very unlike the roguish twinkle that had shone in his eyes while he talked with Ester.
All through the busy day that silent, solemn card haunted Ester. It pertinaciously refused to be lost. She dropped it twice in their transit from store to store, but Ralph promptly returned it to her. At home she laid it on her dressing-table, but piled scarfs and handkerchiefs and gloves over it as high as she might, it was sure to flutter to the floor at her feet, as she sought hurriedly in the mass of confusion for some missing article. Once she seized and flung it from the window in dire vexation, and was rewarded by having Maggie present it to her about two minutes thereafter, as a “something that landed square on my head, ma’am, as I was coming around the corner.” At last she actually grew nervous over it, felt almost afraid to touch it, so thoroughly had it fastened itself on her conscience. These great black letters in that first sentence seemed burned into her brain: “I solemnly agree, as God shall help me.”
At last she deposited the unwelcome little monitor at the very bottom of her collar-box, under some unused collars, telling herself that it was for safe keeping, that she might not lose it again; not letting her conscience say for a moment that it was because she wanted to bury the haunting words out of her sight.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Ester stood before her mirror, arranging some disordered braids of hair. She had come up from the dining-room for that purpose. It was just after dinner. The family, with the addition of Mr. Foster, were gathered in the back parlor, whither she was in haste to join them.
“How things do conspire to hinder me!” she exclaimed impatiently as one loose hair-pin after another slid softly and silently out of place. “This horrid ribbon doesn’t shade with the trimming on my dress either. I wonder what can have become of that blue one?” With a jerk Sadie’s “finery-box” was produced, and the contents tumbled over. The methodical and orderly Ester was in nervous haste to get down to that fascinating family group; but the blue ribbon, with the total depravity of all ribbons, remained a silent and indifferent spectator of her trials, snugged back in the corner of a half open drawer. Ester had set her heart on finding it, and the green collar-box came next under inspection, and being impatiently shoved back toward its corner when the quest proved vain, took that opportunity for tumbling over the floor and showering its contents right and left.