With the precious burden under his arm, Sandy hastened home. He spread the two coats on the bed, placing a white shirt inside each, and a necktie about each collar. Then he stood back and admired.
“It’s meself I can see in them both this minute!” he exclaimed with delight.
His shoes were polished until they were resplendent, but they lost much of their glory during subsequent practising of steps before the mirror. He even brushed and cleaned his old clothes, for he foresaw the pain of laying aside the raiment of Solomon for dingy every-day garments.
Toward noon he went down-stairs to continue his zealous efforts in the kitchen. This met with Aunt Melvy’s instant disapproval.
“For mercy sake, git out ob my way!” she cried, as she squeezed past the ironing-board to get to the stove. “I’ll press yer pants, ef you’ll jus’ take yourself outen de kitchen. Be sure don’t burn ’em? Look a-heah, chile; I was pressin’ pants ‘fore yer paw was wearin’ ’em!”
Aunt Melvy’s temper was a thing not to be trifled with when a “protracted meeting” was in session. For years she had been the black sheep in the spiritual fold. Her earnest desire to get religion and the untiring efforts of the exhorters had alike proved futile. Year after year she sat on the mourners’ bench, seeking the light and failing each time to “come th’u’.”
This discouraging condition of affairs sorely afflicted her, and produced a kind of equinoctial agitation in the Hollis kitchen.
Sandy went on into the dining-room, but he found no welcome there. Mrs. Hollis was submerged in pastry. The county fair was her one dissipation, and her highest ambition was to take premiums. Every year she sent forth battalions of cakes, pies, sweet pickles, beaten biscuit, crocheted doilies, and crazy-quilts to capture the blue ribbon.
“Don’t put the window up!” she warned Sandy. “I know it’s stifling, but I can’t have the dust coming in. Why don’t you go on in the house?”
Mrs. Hollis always spoke of the kitchen and dining-room as if they were not a part of the house.
“Can’t ye tell me something that’s good for the sunburn?” asked Sandy, anxiously. “It’s a dressed-up shooting-cracker I’ll be resembling the morrow, in spite of me fine clothes.”
“Buttermilk and lemon-juice,” recommended Mrs. Hollis, as she placed the last marshmallow on the roof of a four-story cake.
Sandy would have endured any discomfort that day in order to add one charm to his personal appearance. He used so many lemons there were none left for the judge’s lemonade when he came home for dinner.
“Just home from the post-office?” he asked when he saw Sandy enter the dining-room with his hat on.
“Jimmy Reed’s doing my work to-day,” Sandy said apologetically. “And if you please, sir, I’ll be keeping my hat on. I have just washed my hair, and I want it to dry straight.”