“Well, what kind of a washerwoman does this one turn out to be?” he asked, after they were seated, and he had invoked a blessing and was cutting vigorously into the meat.
“Oh, so-so,” replied Alice; “she seems to be particular, but she’s mortal slow. If I hadn’t stood right over her, we shouldn’t have had the clothes out till goodness knows when. And of course she’s Irish!”
“Well, what of that?” asked the minister, with a fine unconcern.
Alice looked up from her plate, with knife and fork suspended in air. “Why, you know we were talking only the other day of what a pity it was that none of our own people went out washing,” she said. “That Welsh woman we heard of couldn’t come, after all; and they say, too, that she presumes dreadfully upon the acquaintance, being a church member, you know. So we simply had to fall back on the Irish. And even if they do go and tell their priest everything they see and hear, why, there’s one comfort, they can tell about us and welcome. Of course I see to it she doesn’t snoop around in here.”
Theron smiled. “That’s all nonsense about their telling such things to their priests,” he said with easy confidence.
“Why, you told me so yourself,” replied Alice, briskly. “And I’ve always understood so, too; they’re bound to tell everything in confession. That’s what gives the Catholic Church such a tremendous hold. You’ve spoken of it often.”
“It must have been by way of a figure of speech,” remarked Theron, not with entire directness. “Women are great hands to separate one’s observations from their context, and so give them meanings quite unintended. They are also great hands,” he added genially, “or at least one of them is, at making the most delicious dumplings in the world. I believe these are the best even you ever made.”
Alice was not unmindful of the compliment, but her thoughts were on other things. “I shouldn’t like that woman’s priest, for example,” she said, “to know that we had no piano.”
“But if he comes and stands outside our house every night and listens—as of course he will,” said Theron, with mock gravity, “it is only a question of time when he must reach that conclusion for himself. Our only chance, however, is that there are some sixteen hundred other houses for him to watch, so that he may not get around to us for quite a spell. Why, seriously, Alice, what on earth do you suppose Father Forbes knows or cares about our poor little affairs, or those of any other Protestant household in this whole village? He has his work to do, just as I have mine—only his is ten times as exacting in everything except sermons—and you may be sure he is only too glad when it is over each day, without bothering about things that are none of his business.”
“All the same I’m afraid of them,” said Alice, as if argument were exhausted.