“That’s the principal thing,” said Mrs. Green, in a solemn trembling voice.
Amanda said nothing. She thought of her will; a vision of the nicely ordered rooms she had left seemed to show out before her in the flare of the lightning; in spite of her terror it was a comfort to her.
“We’d ought to be thankful in a time like this that we ain’t any of us got any great wickedness on our consciences,” said Mrs. Babcock. “It must be terrible for them that have, thinkin’ they may die any minute when the next flash comes. I don’t envy ’em.”
“It must be terrible,” assented Mrs. Green, like an amen.
“It’s bad enough with the sins we’ve got on all our minds, the best of us,” continued Mrs. Babcock. “Think how them that’s broken God’s commandments an’ committed murders an’ robberies must feel. I shouldn’t think they could stan’ it, unless they burst right out an’ confessed to everybody—should you, Mis’ Field?”
“I guess so,” said Mrs. Field, in a hard voice.
Mrs. Babcock said no more; somehow she and the others felt repelled. They all sat in silence except for awed ejaculations when now and then came a louder crash of thunder. All at once, after a sharp flash, there was a wild clamor in the street; a bell clanged out.
“It’s struck! it’s struck!” shrieked Mrs. Babcock.
“Oh, it ain’t this house, is it?” Amanda wailed.
They all rushed to the windows and flung open the blinds; a red glare filled the room; a large barn nearly opposite was on fire. They clutched each other, and watched the red gush of flame. The barn burned as if lighted at every corner.
“Are there any cows or horses in it?” panted Mrs. Babcock. “Oh, ain’t it dreadful? Are there any, Mis’ Field?”
“I dunno,” said Mrs. Field.
She stood like a grim statue, the red light of the fire in her face. Lois was sobbing. Mrs. Green had put an arm around her.
“Don’t, Lois, don’t,” she kept saying, in a solemn, agitated voice. “The Lord will overrule it all; it is He speakin’ in it.”
The women watched while the street filled with people, and the barn burned down. It did not take long. The storm began to lull rapidly. The thunder came at long intervals, and the hail turned into a gentle rain. Finally Mrs. Field went out into the kitchen to prepare supper, and Lois followed her.
“I never see anything like the way she acts,” said Mrs. Babcock cautiously.
“She always was kind of quiet,” rejoined Mrs. Green.
“Quiet! She acts as if she’d had thunder an’ lightnin’ an’ hail an’ barns burnt down every day since she’s been here. I never see anybody act so queer.”
“I ’most wish I’d stayed to home,” said Amanda.
“Well, I wouldn’t be backin’ out the minute I’d got here, if I was you,” returned Mrs. Babcock sharply. “It’s comin’ cooler, that’s one thing, an’ you won’t need that white sacque. I should think you’d feel kinder glad of it, for them shoulder seams did look pretty long to what they wear ’em. An’ I dare say folks here are pretty dressy. I declare I shall be kinder glad when supper’s ready. I feel real faint to my stomach, as if I’d like somethin’ hearty. I should have gone into one of them places in Boston if things hadn’t been so awful dear.”