It was two miles Boston-ward from Z—— centre, where the down trains stopped first; that was five minutes gained in the time between it and the city. Land was cheap at first, and sure to come up in value; so there were some streets laid out at right angles, and a lot of houses put up after a pattern, as if they had all been turned out of blanc-mange moulds, and there was “East Square.” Then people began by-and-by to build for themselves, and a little variety and a good deal of ambition came in. They had got to French roofs now; this was just before the day of the multitudinous little paper collar-boxes with beveled covers, that are set down everywhere now, and look as if they could be lifted up by the chimneys, any time, and be carried off with a thumb and finger. Two and a half story houses, Mansarded, looked grand; and the East Square people thought nothing slight of themselves, though the “old places” and the real Z—— families were all over on West Hill.
Mrs. Megilp boarded in And for the summer.
“Since Oswald had been in business she couldn’t go far from the cars, you know; and Oswald had a boat on the river, and he and Glossy enjoyed that so much. Besides, she had friends in Z——, which made it pleasant; and she was tired, for her part, of crowds and fashion. All she wanted was a quiet country place. She knew the Goldthwaites and the Haddens; she had met them one year at Jefferson.”
Mrs. Megilp had found out that she could get larger rooms in And than she could have at the mountains or the sea-shore, and at half the price; but this she did not mention. Yet there was nothing shabby in it, except her carefully not mentioning it.
Mrs. Megilp was Mrs. Grant Ledwith’s chief intimate and counselor. She was a good deal the elder; that was why it was mutually advantageous. Grant Ledwith was one of the out-in-the-world, up-to-the-times men of the day; the day in which everything is going, and everybody that is in active life has, somehow or other, all that is going. Grant Ledwith got a good salary, an inflated currency salary; and he spent it all. His daughters were growing up, and they were stylish and pretty; Mrs. Megilp took a great interest in Agatha and Florence Ledwith, and was always urging their mother to “do them justice.” “Agatha and Florence were girls who had a right to every advantage.” Mrs. Megilp was almost old enough to be Laura Ledwith’s mother; she had great experience, and knowledge of the world; and she sat behind Laura’s conscience and drove it tandem with her inclination.
Per contra, it was nice for Mrs. Megilp, who was a widow, and whose income did not stretch with the elasticity of the times, to have friends who lived like the Ledwiths, and who always made her welcome; it was a good thing for Glossy to be so fond of Agatha and Florence, and to have them so fond of her. “She needed young society,” her mother said. One reason that Glossy Megilp needed young society might be in the fact that she herself was twenty-six.