On the back porch, Sextoness Jane—called in for an extra half-day—was ironing the white dresses to be worn that afternoon. And presently, Patience, her basket quite full and stowed away in the trap waiting before the side door, strolled around to interview her.
“I suppose you’re going this afternoon?” she asked.
Jane looked up from waxing her iron. “Well, I was sort of calculating on going over for a bit; Miss Shirley having laid particular stress on my coming and this being the first reg’lar doings since I joined the club. I told her and Pauline they mustn’t look for me to go junketing ’round with them all the while, seeing I’m in office—so to speak—and my time pretty well taken up with my work. I reckon you’re going?”
“I—” Patience edged nearer the porch. Behind Jane stood the tall clothes-horse, with its burden of freshly ironed white things. At sight of a short, white frock, very crisp and immaculate, the blood rushed to the child’s face, then as quickly receded.—After all, it would have had to be ironed for Sunday and—well, mother certainly had been very non-committal the past few days—ever since that escapade with Bedelia, in fact—regarding her youngest daughter’s hopes and fears for this all-important afternoon. And Patience had been wise enough not to press the matter.
“But, oh, I do wonder if Hilary has—” Patience went back to the side porch. Hilary was there talking to Bedelia. “You—you have fixed it up?” the child inquired anxiously.
Hilary looked gravely unconscious. “Fixed it up?” she repeated.
“About this afternoon—with mother?”
“Oh, yes! Mother’s going; so is father.”
Patience repressed a sudden desire to stamp her foot, and Hilary, seeing the real doubt and longing in her face, relented. “Mother wants to see you, Patty. I rather think there are to be conditions.”
Patience darted off. From the doorway, she looked back—“I just knew you wouldn’t go back on me, Hilary! I’ll love you forever’n’ ever.”
Pauline came out a moment later, drawing on her driving gloves. “I feel like a story-book girl, going driving this time in the morning, in a trap like this. I wish you were coming, too, Hilary.”
“Oh, I’m like the delicate story-book girl, who has to rest, so as to be ready for the dissipations that are to come later. I look the part, don’t I?”
Pauline looked down into the laughing, sun-browned face. “If Uncle Paul were to see you now, he might find it hard to believe I hadn’t—exaggerated that time.”
“Well, it’s your fault—and his, or was, in the beginning. You’ve a fine basket of flowers to take; Patience has done herself proud this morning.”
“It’s wonderful how well that young lady can behave—at times.”
“Oh, she’s young yet! When I hear mother tell how like her you used to be, I don’t feel too discouraged about Patty.”