The front piazza belonged in a measure to the general public, there were too many people coming and going to make it private enough for a family gathering place. But the side porch was different, broad and square, only two or three steps from the ground; it was their favorite gathering place all through the long, hot summers.
With a strip of carpet for the floor, a small table resurrected from the garret, a bench and three wicker rockers, freshly painted green, and Hilary’s hammock, rich in pillows, Pauline felt that their porch was one to be proud of. To Patience had been entrusted the care of keeping the old blue and white Canton bowl filled with fresh flowers, and there were generally books and papers on the table. And they might have done it all before, Pauline thought now, if they had stopped to think.
“Have you decided?” Hilary asked her, glancing at the sober face bent over the samples.
“I believe I’d forgotten all about them; I think I’ll choose this—” Pauline held up a sample of blue and white striped dimity.
“That is pretty.”
“You can have it, if you like.”
“Oh, no, I’ll have the pink.”
“And the lavender dot, for Mother Shaw?”
“Yes,” Hilary agreed.
“Patience had better have straight white, it’ll be in the wash so often.”
“Why not let her choose for herself, Paul?” Hilary suggested.
“Hilary! Oh, Hilary Shaw!” Patience called excitedly, at that moment from downstairs.
“Up here!” Hilary called back, and Patience came hurrying up, stumbling more than once in her eagerness. The next moment, she pushed wide the door of the “new room.” “See what’s come! It’s addressed to you, Hilary—it came by express—Jed brought it up from the depot!” Jed was the village expressman.
She deposited her burden on the table beside Hilary. It was a good-sized, square box, and with all that delightful air of mystery about it that such packages usually have.
“What do you suppose it is, Paul?” Hilary cried. “Why, I’ve never had anything come unexpectedly, like this, before.”
“A whole lot of things are happening to us that never’ve happened before,” Patience said. “See, it’s from Uncle Paul!” she pointed to the address at the upper left-hand corner of the package. “Oh, Hilary, let me open it, please, I’ll go get the tack hammer.”
“Tell mother to come,” Hilary said.
“Maybe it’s books, Paul!” she added, as Patience scampered off.
Pauline lifted the box. “It doesn’t seem quite heavy enough for books.”
“But what else could it be?”
Pauline laughed. “It isn’t another Bedelia, at all events. It could be almost anything. Hilary, I believe Uncle Paul is really glad I wrote to him.”
“Well, I’m not exactly sorry,” Hilary declared.
“Mother can’t come yet,” Patience explained, reappearing. “She says not to wait. It’s that tiresome Mrs. Dane; she just seems to know when we don’t want her, and then to come—only, I suppose if she waited ’til we did want to see her, she’d never get here.”