The thought gave her courage to speak, though the pale lips struggled pitifully to frame the words.
“Squire, suppose that when I came to you that day last June you had been right—I am only saying this for the sake of argument, Squire—but suppose that I had been a deceived girl, that I had come here to begin all over again; to live down the injustice, the scandal and all the other things that unfortunate woman have to live down, would you still have felt the same?”
“Why, Anna, I never heard you talk like this before; of course I should have felt the same; if a commandment is broke, it’s broke; nothing can alter that, can it?”
“But, Squire, is there no mercy, no chance held out to the woman who has been unfortunate?”
“Anna, these arguments don’t sound well from a proper behaving young woman like you. I know it’s the fashion nowadays for good women to talk about mercy to their fallen sisters, but it’s a mistake. When a woman falls, she loses her right to respect, and that’s the end of it.”
She turned her face to the storm and the softly falling flakes were no whiter than her face.
As Anna turned to leave the room on some pretext, she saw Kate coming in with a huge bunch of Jacqueminot roses in her hand. Of course, Sanderson had sent them. The perfume of them sickened Anna, as the odor of a charnel house might have done. She tried to smile bravely at Kate, who smiled back triumphantly as she went in to show her uncle the flowers. But the sight of them was like the turning of a knife in a festering wound.
Anna made her way to the kitchen. Dave was sitting there smoking. Anna found strength and sustenance in his mere presence, though she did not say a word to him, but he was such a faithful soul. Good, honest Dave.
THE VILLAGE GOSSIP SNIFFS SCANDAL.
“Flavia, most tender of her own
Is rather careless of her sister’s fame!
Her superfluity the poor supplies,
But if she touch a character it dies.”—Cowper.
It was characteristic of Marthy Perkins and her continual pursuit of pleasure, that she should wade through snowdrifts to Squire Bartlett’s and ask for a lift in his sleigh. The Squire’s family were going to a surprise party to be given to one of the neighbor’s, and Marthy was as determined about going as a debutante.
She came in, covered with snow, hooded, shawled and coated till she resembled a huge cocoon. The Squire placed a big armchair for her near the fire, and Marshy sat down, but not without disdaining Anna’s offers to remove her wraps. She sniffed at Anna—no other word will express it—and savagely clutched her big old-fashioned muff when Anna would have taken it from her to dry it of the snow.
The sleighbells jingled merrily as the different parties drove by, singing, whistling, laughing, on their way to the party. The church choir, snugly installed in “Doc” Wiggins’ sleigh, stopped at the Squire’s to “thaw out,” and try a step or two; Rube Whipple, the town constable, giving them his famous song, “All Bound ’Round with a Woolen String.”