“When he give up the nuts,” pursued Mrs. Trapes, draining the teapot and sighing, “he tells me some fool tale of makin’ a deal in real estate, an’ I—ha, real estate!” Mrs. Trapes put down the teapot with a jerk. “A deal in real estate!” she repeated, and thereafter fell to such unintelligible mutterings as “Record price! Fab’lous! No, it couldn’t be! An’ yet—silk socks! ‘On an’ after above date all tenants soever residin’—will be re-dooced by fifty per cent!’” Suddenly Mrs. Trapes sat bolt upright. “My land!” she ejaculated, “oh, dear land o’ my fathers—if sech could be!”
“Why, Ann,” exclaimed Hermione, roused from her reverie, “whatever is the matter?”
“My dear,” said Mrs. Trapes, laying gentle hand on Hermione’s blooming cheek, “nothin’—nothin’ ‘t all! I’m jest goin’ over in my mind sich small matters as silk socks an’ toothbrushes, that’s all.”
“But you do mean something—you always do.”
“Well—if I do this time, my dear, I’m crazy—but the Bowkers have gone, mind that! An’ him s’ fond o’ little Hazel!” Here Mrs. Trapes nodded almost triumphantly.
“The Bowkers? Why, yes—I’ve been wondering—”
“I guess you know he went t’ O’Rourke’s an’ give that M’Ginnis the thrashin’ of his dirty life?” said Mrs. Trapes rather hastily. “Nigh killed the loafer, Spider Connolly told me.”
“He’s so strong,” said Hermione softly, her eyes shining. “But, Ann, what did you mean about—about toothbrushes and socks?”
“Mean? Why, socks an’ toothbrushes, o’ course. An’ my land! here’s me guzzlin’ tea, an’ over in my kitchen th’ finest shin o’ beef you ever saw a-b’ilin’ f’r his supper. But now the question as burns is, if a married man this night, will he be here t’ eat? An’ if him—then you? An’ if man an’ wife suppin’ in my parlour—where will ye sleep?”
“I—oh, Ann—I don’t know. His letter just said that when I came home it would be our—wedding night!”
“Why, then it sure will be. An’ f’r a weddin’ supper, y’ couldn’t have nothin’ better ‘n shin o’ beef. I’ll go an’ watch over that stoo with care unfailin’, my dear; believe me, that stoo’s goin’ t’ be a stoo as is a stoo! What, half after five? Land sakes, how time flies!”
IN WHICH HERMIONE MAKES A FATEFUL DECISION
When Mrs. Trapes was gone, Hermione stood a long time to look at herself in her little mirror, viewing and examining each feature of her lovely, intent face more earnestly than she had ever done before; and sometimes she smiled, and sometimes she frowned, and all her thought was:
“Shall I make him happy, I wonder? Can I be all he wants—all he thinks I am?”
So, after some while, she combed and brushed out her glorious hair, shyly glad because of its length and splendour; and, having crowned her shapely head with it, viewed the effect with cold, hypercritical eyes.