“Well, mebbe you can; but I declare I shouldn’t scarcely think you needed another. I shouldn’t think your carpet would wear out till the day of judgment. What made you have them mats all jest alike?”
“I like ’em better so,” replied Amanda, with dignity.
“Well, of course, if you do there ain’t nothin’ to say; it’s your carpet an’ your mats,” returned Mrs. Babcock, with grim apology.
There were two curious features about Amanda Pratt’s parlor: one was a gentle monotony of details; the other, a certain savor of the sea. It was like holding a shell to one’s ear to enter Amanda’s parlor. There was a faint suggestion of far-away sandy beaches, the breaking of waves, and the rush of salt winds. In the centre of the mantel-shelf stood a stuffed sea-gull; on either side shells were banked. The fire-place was flanked by great branches of coral, and on the top of the air-tight stove there stood always in summer-time, when there was no fire, a superb nautilus shell, like a little pearl vessel. The corner what-not, too, had its shelves heaped with shells and coral and choice bits of rainbow lava from volcanic islands. Between the windows, instead of the conventional mahogany cardtable, stood one of Indian lacquer, and on it was a little inlaid cabinet that was brought from over seas. The whole room in this little inland cottage, far beyond the salt fragrance of the sea, seemed like one of those marine fossils sometimes found miles from the coast. It indicated the presence of the sea in the lives of Amanda’s race. Her grandfather had been a seafaring man, and so had her father, until late in life, when he had married an inland woman, and settled down among waves of timothy and clover on her paternal acres.
Amanda was like her mother, she had nothing of the sea tastes in her nature. She was full of loyal conservatism toward the marine ornaments of her parlor, but she secretly preferred her own braided rugs, and the popular village fancy-work, in which she was quite skilful. On each of her chairs was a tidy, and the tidies were all alike; in the corners of the room were lambrequins, all worked after the same pattern in red worsted and beads. On one wall hung a group of pictures framed in cardboard, four little colored prints of crosses twined with flowers, and they were all alike. “Why didn’t you get them crosses different?” many a neighbor had said to her—these crosses, with some variation of the entwining foliage, had been very popular in the rural neighborhood—and Amanda had replied with quick dignity that she liked them better the way she had them. Amanda maintained the monotony of her life as fiercely as her fathers had pursued the sea. She was like a little animal born with a rebound to its own track, from whence no amount of pushing could keep it long.
Mrs. Babcock glanced sharply around the room as she sewed; she was anxious to divert Amanda’s mind from the mats. “Don’t the moths ever git into that stuffed bird over there?” she asked suddenly, indicating the gull on the shelf with a side-wise jerk of her head.