The minister was an elderly man with a dull benignity of manner; he had not said much; his wife, who was portly and full of gracious volubility, had done most of the talking. Now she immediately sank down upon her knees with a wide flare of her skirts, and her husband then twisted himself out of his chair, clearing his throat impressively. Mrs. Field stood up, and got down on her stiff knees with an effort. Lois slid down from the sofa and went out of the room. She stole through her mother’s into her own bedroom, and locked herself in as usual, then she lay down on her bed. She could hear the low rumble of the minister’s voice for some time; then it ceased. She heard the chairs pushed back; then the minister’s wife’s voice in the gracious crescendo of parting; then the closing of the front door. Shortly afterward she heard a door open, and another voice, which she recognized as Mrs. Maxwell’s. The voice talked on and on; once in a while she heard her mother’s in brief reply. It grew dark; presently she heard heavy shuffling steps on the stairs; something knocked violently against the wall; the side door, which was near her room, was opened. Lois got up and peered out of the window; her mother and Mrs. Maxwell went slowly and painfully down the driveway, carrying a bureau between them.
Mrs. Maxwell had invited Mrs. Field and Lois to take tea with her the next afternoon, and had hinted there might be other company. “There’s a good many I should like to ask,” she had said, “but I ain’t situated so I can jest now, an’ it’s a dreadful puzzle to know who to leave out without offendin’ them. I’m goin’ to have the minister an’ his wife anyhow, an’ Lawyer Tuxbury an’ his sister. I should ask Flora, but if she comes the children have got to, an’ I can’t have them anyhow; they’re the worst-actin’ young ones at the table I ever saw in my life. There’s two or three men I’m goin’ to ask. Now you an’ Lois come real early, Esther.”
Mrs. Field’s ideas of early, when invited to spend the afternoon and take tea, were primitive. Directly after the dinner dishes were put away, about one o’clock, she spoke to Lois in the harsh, defiant tone she now used toward her. “You’d better go an’ get ready,” said she. “She wanted us to come early.”
A stubborn look came into Lois’s face. “I ain’t going,” said she, in an undertone.
“What did you say?”
“I ain’t going.”
“Then you can stay to home, if you want to get your mother into trouble an’ make folks think we’re guilty of somethin’.”
Mrs. Field went into her bedroom to get ready. Presently Lois went softly through on her way to her own. Jane Field stood before her little mirror, brushed her gray hair in smooth curves around her ears, and pinned her black woollen dress with a gold-rimmed brooch containing her dead sister’s and her husband’s hair.