But when Mrs. Field finally called them out to partake of the meal which she had prepared, there was little to satisfy an eager appetite. Nothing but the berries for which she had toiled so hard, a few thin slices of bread, no butter, and no tea, so little sugar in the bowl that the guests sprinkled it sparingly on their berries.
“I’ll tell you what ’tis,” Mrs. Babcock whispered when they were upstairs in their chambers that night, “Mis’ Field has grown tight since she got all that money. Sometimes it does work that way. I believe we should starve to death if we stayed here long. If it wa’n’t for gittin’ my money’s worth, I should be for goin’ home to-morrow. No butter an’ no tea after we’ve come that long journey. I never heard of such a thing.”
“I don’t care anything about the butter and the tea,” rejoined Amanda, “but I ’most feel as if I’d better go home to-morrow.”
“If,” said Mrs. Babcock, “you want to go home instead of gittin’ the good of that excursion ticket, that you can stay a week on, you can, Amanda Pratt. I’m goin’ to stay now, if it kills me.”
The three women from Green River had been six days in Elliot, they were going to leave the next morning, and Mrs. Field’s secret had not been discovered. Nothing but her ill favor in the village had saved her. Nobody except Mrs. Jane Maxwell had come to call. Mrs. Babcock talked and wondered about it a great deal to Mrs. Green and Amanda.
“It’s mighty queer, seems to me, that there ain’t a soul but that one old woman set foot inside this house since we’ve been here,” said she. “It don’t look to me as if folks here thought much of Mis’ Field. I know one thing: there couldn’t three strange ladies come visitin’ to Green River without I should feel as if I’d ought to go an’ call an’ find out who they was, an’ pay ’em a little attention, if I thought anything at all of the folks they was visitin’. There’s considerable more dress here, but I guess, on the whole, it ain’t any better a place to live in than Green River.”
The three women had not had a very lively or pleasant visit in Elliot. Jane Field, full of grim defiance of her own guilt and misery and of them, was not a successful entertainer of guests. She fed them as best she could with her scanty resources, and after her house-work was done, took her knitting-work and sat with them in her gloomy sitting-room, while they also kept busy at the little pieces of handiwork they had brought with them.
They talked desperately of Green River and the people there; they told Mrs. Field of this one and that one whom she had known, and in whom she had been interested; but she seemed to have forgotten everybody and everything connected with her old life.
“Ida Starr is goin’ to marry the minister in October,” Mrs. Babcock had said the day but one after their arrival. “You know there was some talk about it before you went away, Mis’ Field. You remember hearin’ about it, don’t you?”