Kathleen nodded in reply. She also felt excited and pleased and completely carried out of herself.
Susy ushered her visitors with great pride and pomp into Mrs. Church’s little sitting-room. Really she felt herself quite rising in the social scale as she saw her old relative dressed in her best, with the manners she used to wear when she was housekeeper at Lord Henshel’s, and with that most appetizing, most recherche tea on the table.
“I will be back in a minute,” said Susy.—“Aunt Church, here they are, and I know you will give them welcome.”
“I am proud to do that,” said Mrs. Church. “I presume I am talking to Miss O’Flynn? Will you take a chair here by the fire, miss? I’m afraid the night is a little bit chilly.—Miss Kathleen, I wish I could get up and offer you a seat, but as it is—”
“Oh, nonsense!” said Kathleen. “What are young legs for if not to wait on old legs? Oh, what a heavenly, delicious tea! What is that I see? Honey! Oh, don’t I just adore honey? Don’t you, Aunt Katie?”
“That I do,” said Miss O’Flynn; “and I eat it comb and all. It never yet disagreed with me; but then I’ve got the digestion of an ostrich.”
“Indeed, then, madam, I think you are rather silly to eat the comb,” said Mrs. Church; “and you ought always to put butter on your bread when you eat honey. My poor mother told me so, and I have always followed in her steps. If you butter your bread and don’t eat the comb, honey agrees with you as well as anything else.”
“Mrs. Church,” said Kathleen, “you are perfectly sweet, and I can’t tell you how grateful we are; but we are in something of a hurry, so perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling the rest of that story about butter and honey to Aunt Katie when you are in Ireland. Have you made the tea, Mrs. Church? Shall I make it?”
“The tea is in that little brown caddy,” said Mrs. Church, “and there’s a measuring spoon close to it. I allow—”
“Oh, I know,” said Kathleen.
She began to ladle out spoonful after spoonful and put it into the little brown teapot, which she then filled up with hot water. Mrs. Church looked on with a mingled feeling of approval and disapproval. She was being carried completely off her feet. She to give up her dear little neat house in this reckless way; she to give up her most precious tea to be absolutely wasted and practically lost—for Kathleen put in quite three times too much tea into the little teapot; she to forgive Susy’s mother two months of that debt which she owed her. Oh, what did it mean? She was going to be ruined in her old age!
“I’d just like to say, miss,” she said, looking at Miss O’Flynn and then at Kathleen—“I’d like to say that I am willing to help the young ladies, and the old ladies too for that matter, but I want to know if it is settled that I am to have the almshouse and six shillings a week. I am a plain-spoken body and I’d like to know it; for if so it can be done, I ought to give notice to the landlord of this little house, where I have lived in peace and comfort for over twelve years. I’d like to know, and as soon as possible.”