At this point in the proceedings the door opened and Mandy entered, bringing a large dish of big red apples and another full of cracked shellbarks. She left the room and returned almost immediately with a large dish full of popcorn.
“Have an apple?” said Ezekiel. “Help yourselves; we don’t pass anything round here. We put the things on the table and each one helps himself.”
Mandy came in again, bringing a large pitcher of cider and some glasses, which she placed upon the table.
While the three men were discussing their country evening lunch in silence, an animated conversation was taking place in the kitchen, the participants being Mandy, Mrs. Bridget Crowley, and Hiram, who always dropped in during the evening to get his glass of cider, a luxury that was not dispensed at Deacon Mason’s.
“Well,” said Mandy, “I think it’s wasteful extravagance for you Irish folks to spend so much money on carriages when one of your friends happens to die. As you just said, when you lived in Boston you own up you spent fourteen dollars in one month going to funerals, and you paid a dollar a seat each time.”
“I did that,” said Mrs. Crowley, “and I earned every bit of it doing washing, for Pat, bless his sowl, was out of work at the time.”
“Just think of that!” said Mandy, turning to Hiram.
“Well, it can’t be helped,” said Mrs. Crowley, obstinately. “Shure and if I don’t go to folks’ funerals they won’t come to mine.”
This was too much for Mandy and Hiram, and they began laughing, which so incensed Mrs. Crowley that she trudged off to her little room in the ell, which departure just suited Mandy and Hiram.
[Illustration: “Mandy Skinner,” As she appears in the play.]
“Have you got any soft soap here in the kitchen?” asked Hiram.
“No,” said Mandy, “I used the last this afternoon. I shall have to go out in the shed to-morrow morning and get some.”
“You wouldn’t be likely to go out to-night for any?” asked Hiram.
“I guess not,” said Mandy. “Why, there is rats out in that shed as big as kittens. Did you want to use some?”
“No,” said Hiram, “but I didn’t want you to have any ’round handy, for I am bound to tell you I heard Strout telling the minister’s son that Lindy Putnam writ a letter to Mr. Sawyer and mailed it at Mason’s Corner post office this mornin’, and it was directed to Eastborough Centre, and Strout said it looked as though they were keeping up correspondence. I tell you that made ’Manuel Howe mad, for he’s gone on Lindy Putnam himself, and then Strout said that probably all the fellers in town would have to put off getting married until that city chap had decided which one of the girls he wanted himself. And now, hang it,” said Hiram, “he has come to live in this house, and I sha’n’t have any peace of mind.”
Hiram dodged the first apple Mandy threw at his head, but the second one hit him squarely, and he gave a loud “Oh!”