“Hitty hadn’t got no earache, ’twas a bee sting on her cheek;” all this and much more had filled Mrs. Hodgkins’ mind so completely that she was amazed to find that eleven o’clock had arrived, and that she must turn about and hasten home if she wished to have dinner ready when the kitchen clock struck twelve.
“I’ll git something on the table when Joel gits in from the field, though land knows what it’ll be with only an hour ter git it in,” she muttered between short, puffing breaths, for Mrs. Hodgkins was stout, and she had already taken a long walk.
The dinner was indeed an odd one, made up from what were termed by Mrs. Hodgkins “odds and ends,” but Joel Hodgkins was a patient man, and his appetite was one which never needed tempting, so he partook of the viands which his wife offered him with an apparent relish, and was soon at work again in the field.
Then Mrs. Hodgkins donned a fresh apron preparatory to going out, remarking as she tied her sunbonnet strings with a twitch,
“I reely must go over to Almiry’s, it’s only a step er two, and what’s the use of havin’ a niece in the neighborhood ef not ter tell news ter, an’ what’s the use er hearin’ news an’ keepin’ it ter yourself?
“I’ll git home in time ter bake a batch er gingerbread fer tea,” she continued, “Joel’s paowerful fond er gingerbread an’ it’ll sort er pay him fer eatin’ such a dinner with such endurin’ patience.”
Almira Meeks lay back in the big old fashioned rocker, too tired, she declared, to care “whether school kept or not.”
Meek in name and in nature, there was not a day that she did not overwork, and when the forenoon’s tasks were completed, she would lie back exhausted in the big old chair, only to be reprimanded if her husband chanced to come in, for “havin’ so little energy.” It was with delight that she welcomed Aunt Sophrony, saying:
“Do tell me all the news. I’m nearly always too tired to go out and hear any.”
“Ye do look tuckered,” remarked Mrs. Hodgkins, “but hearin’ the things I’ve got ter tell will interest ye, an’ make ye feel reel perky. Ye needn’t feel ye’ve got ter talk, fer I kin talk ’nough fer two.
“When I started aout this morning, the fust pusson I see was Janie Clifton, an’ what on airth do ye think she’s been up to?”
Almira shook her head, to show her utter inability to guess what Janie’s latest notion might be.
“Well, she got an idee that we was all behind the times up here, an’ needed a leetle fixin’ up, an’ she wondered ef she could slip inter the chink an’ fill the place she thought she see a gapin’, an’ take in a leetle money at the same time.
“She’s ‘mazing sot when she gits her mind on a thing, an’ she talked it over ter hum and carried the day; and she’s been daown ter Boston these past few months a learnin’ dressmakin’, when we all thought she was a visitin’.
“Naow she’s set up fer herself, an’ any of us that has an idee of lookin’ spreuced up, and has a leetle cash ter go with the notion, can buy the goods fer a gaown at Barnes’, an’ go right up ter the room over his store and be measured by Janie fer a fashionable fit.