I. The maternal feminine 3
II. April 25th, as usual 36
III. Old lady Mandle 76
IV. You’ve got to be selfish 113
V. Long distance 148
VI. Un morso doo pang 157
VII. One hundred per cent 201
VIII. Farmer in the Dell 230
IX. The dancing girls 280
THE MATERNAL FEMININE
Called upon to describe Aunt Sophy you would have to coin a term or fall back on the dictionary definition of a spinster. “An unmarried woman,” states that worthy work, baldly, “especially when no longer young.” That, to the world, was Sophy Decker. Unmarried, certainly. And most certainly no longer young. In figure she was, at fifty, what is known in the corset ads as a “stylish stout.” Well dressed in blue serge, with broad-toed health shoes and a small, astute hat. The blue serge was practical common sense. The health shoes were comfort. The hat was strictly business. Sophy Decker made and sold hats, both astute and ingenuous, to the female population of Chippewa, Wisconsin. Chippewa’s East-End set bought the knowing type of hat, and the mill hands and hired girls bought the naive ones. But whether lumpy or possessed of that indefinable thing known as line, Sophy Decker’s hats were honest hats.
The world is full of Aunt Sophys, unsung. Plump, ruddy, capable women of middle age. Unwed, and rather looked down upon by a family of married sisters and tolerant, good-humoured brothers-in-law, and careless nieces and nephews.
“Poor Aunt Soph,” with a significant half smile. “She’s such a good old thing. And she’s had so little in life, really.”
She was, undoubtedly, a good old thing—Aunt Soph. Forever sending a spray of sweeping black paradise, like a jet of liquid velvet, to this pert little niece in Seattle; or taking Adele, sister Flora’s daughter, to Chicago or New York, as a treat, on one of her buying trips. Burdening herself, on her business visits to these cities, with a dozen foolish shopping commissions for the idle women folk of her family. Hearing without partisanship her sisters’ complaints about their husbands, and her sisters’ husbands’ complaints about their wives. It was always the same.
“I’m telling you this, Sophy. I wouldn’t breathe it to another living soul. But I honestly think, sometimes, that if it weren’t for the children—”