Angie Hatton was Old Man Hatton’s daughter. Any one in the Fox River Valley could have told you who Old Man Hatton was. You saw his name at the top of every letterhead of any importance in Chippewa, from the Pulp and Paper Mill to the First National Bank, and including the watch factory, the canning works, and the Mid-Western Land Company. Knowing this, you were able to appreciate Tessie’s sarcasm. Angie Hatton was as unaware of Tessie’s existence as only a young woman could be whose family residence was in Chippewa, Wis., but who wintered in Italy, summered in the mountains, and bought (so the town said) her very hairpins in New York. When Angie Hatton came home from the East the town used to stroll past on Mondays to view the washing on the Hatton line. Angie’s underwear, flirting so audaciously with the sunshine and zephyrs, was of voile and silk and crepe de Chine and satin—materials that we had always thought of heretofore as intended exclusively for party dresses and wedding gowns. Of course two years later they were showing practically the same thing at Megan’s dry-goods store. But that was always the way with Angie Hatton. Even those of us who went to Chicago to shop never quite caught up with her.
Delivered of this ironic thrust, Tessie would walk toward the screen door with a little flaunting sway of the hips. Her mother’s eyes, following the slim figure, had a sort of grudging love in them. A spare, caustic, wiry little woman, Tessie’s mother. Tessie resembled her as a water colour may resemble a blurred charcoal sketch. Tessie’s wide mouth curved into humour lines. She was the cut-up of the escapement department at the watch factory; the older woman’s lips sagged at the corners. Tessie was buoyant and colourful with youth. The other was shrunken and faded with years and labour. As the girl minced across the room in her absurdly high-heeled white kid shoes the older woman thought: “My, but she’s pretty!” But she said aloud: “Them shoes could stand a cleaning. I should think you’d stay home once in a while and not be runnin’ the streets every night.”
“Time enough to be sittin’ home when I’m old like you.”
And yet between these two there was love, and even understanding. But in families such as Tessie’s demonstration is a thing to be ashamed of; affection a thing to conceal. Tessie’s father was janitor of the Chippewa High School. A powerful man, slightly crippled by rheumatism, loquacious, lively, fond of his family, proud of his neat gray frame house, and his new cement sidewalk, and his carefully tended yard and garden patch. In all her life Tessie had never seen a caress exchanged between her parents.
Nowadays Ma Golden had little occasion for finding fault with Tessie’s evening diversion. She no longer had cause to say: “Always gaddin’ downtown, or over to Cora’s or somewhere, like you didn’t have a home to stay in. You ain’t been in a evening this week, ’cept when you washed your hair.”