It was a hot afternoon in August. Amanda Pratt had set all her windows wide open, but no breeze came in, only the fervid breath of the fields and the white road outside.
She sat at a front window and darned a white stocking; her long, thin arms and her neck showed faintly through her old loose muslin sacque. The muslin was white, with a close-set lavender sprig, and she wore a cameo brooch at her throat. The blinds were closed, and she had to bend low over her mending in order to see in the green gloom.
Mrs. Babcock came toiling up the bank to the house, but Amanda did not notice her until she reached the front door. Then she fetched a great laboring sigh.
“Oh, hum!” said she, audibly, in a wrathful voice; “if I’d had any idea of it, I wouldn’t have come a step.”
Then Amanda looked out with a start. “Is that you, Mis’ Babcock?” she called hospitably through the blind.
“Yes, it’s me—what’s left of me. Oh, hum! Oh, hum!”
Amanda ran and opened the door, and Mrs. Babcock entered, panting. She had a green umbrella, which she furled with difficulty at the door, and a palm-leaf fan. Her face, in the depths of her scooping green barege bonnet, was dank with perspiration, and scowling with indignant misery. She sank into a chair, and fanned herself with a desperate air.
Amanda set her umbrella in the corner, then she stood looking sympathetically at her. “It’s a pretty hot day, ain’t it?” said she.
“I should think ’twas hot. Oh, hum!”
“Don’t you want me to get you a tumbler of water?”
“I dunno. I don’t drink much cold water; it don’t agree with me very well. Oh, dear! You ain’t got any of your beer made, I s’pose?”
“Oh, no, I ain’t. I’m dreadful sorry. Don’t you want a swaller of cold tea?”
“Well, I dunno but I’ll have jest a swaller, if you’ve got some. Oh, dear me, hum!”
Amanda went out hurriedly, and returned with a britannia teapot and a tumbler. She poured out some tea, and Mrs. Babcock drank with desperate gulps.
“I think cold tea is better for anybody than cold water in hot weather,” said Amanda. “Won’t you have another swaller, Mis’ Babcock?”
Mrs. Babcock shook her head, and Amanda carried the teapot and tumbler back to the kitchen, then she seated herself again, and resumed her mending. Mrs. Babcock fanned and panted, and eyed Amanda.
“You look cool enough in that old muslin sacque,” said she, in a tone of vicious injury.
“Yes, it is real cool. I’ve kept this sacque on purpose for a real hot day.”
“Well, it’s dreadful long in the shoulder seams, ‘cordin’ to the way they make ’em now, but I s’pose it’s cool. Oh, hum! I ruther guess I shouldn’t have come out of the house, if I’d any idea how hot ’twas in the sun. Seems to me it’s hot as an oven here. I should think you’d air off your house early in the mornin’, an’ then shut your windows tight, an’ keep the heat out.”