A quick lump came into the girl’s throat. Life had seemed so bright and full of untried possibilities only that very morning, up there on Meeting-House Hill, with the wind in one’s face; and then had come that woman, following the doctor down from the path. Life was surely anything but bright for her this crisp August day—and now here was Jane. And presently—at the moment it seemed very near indeed to Hilary—she and Paul and all of them would be old and, perhaps, unhappy. And then it would be good to remember—that they had tried to share the fun and laughter of this summer of theirs with others.
Hilary thought of the piece of old tapestry hanging on the studio wall over at the manor—of the interwoven threads—the dark as necessary to the pattern as the bright. Perhaps they had need of Sextoness Jane, of the interweaving of her life into theirs—of the interweaving of all the village lives going on about them—quite as much as those more sober lives needed the brightening touch of theirs.
“Hilary! O Hilary!” Pauline called.
“I’m coming,” Hilary answered, and went slowly down to where the others were waiting on the porch.
“Has anything happened?” Pauline asked.
“I’ve been having a think—and I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re a selfish, self-absorbed set.”
“Mother Shaw!” Pauline went to the study window, “please come out here. Hilary’s calling us names, and that isn’t polite.”
Mrs. Shaw came. “I hope not very bad names,” she said.
Hilary swung slowly back and forth in the hammock. “I didn’t mean it that way—it’s only—” She told what Patience had said about Jane’s joining the club, and then, rather reluctantly, a little of what she had been thinking.
“I think Hilary’s right,” Shirley declared. “Let’s form a deputation and go right over and ask the poor old soul to join here and now.”
“I would never’ve thought of it,” Bell said. “But I don’t suppose I’ve ever given Jane a thought, anyway.”
“Patty’s mighty cute—for all she’s such a terror at times,” Pauline admitted. “She knows a lot about the people here—and it’s just because she’s interested in them.”
“Come on,” Shirley said, jumping up. “We’re going to have another honorary member.”
“I think it would be kind, girls,” Mrs. Shaw said gravely. “Jane will feel herself immensely flattered, and I know of no one who upholds the honor of Winton more honestly or persistently.”
“And please, Mrs. Shaw,” Shirley coaxed, “when we come back, mayn’t Patience Shaw, H. M., come down and have tea with us?”
“I hardly think—”
“Please, Mother Shaw,” Hilary broke in; “after all—she started this, you know. That sort of counterbalances the other, doesn’t it?”
“Well, we’ll see,” her mother laughed.
Pauline ran to get one of the extra badges with which Shirley had provided her, and then the four girls went across to the church.