It was a very hot afternoon, and I doubt if we should have had the meeting that day had it not been that we were anxious to get off a barrel as soon as possible to a missionary in Minnesota. The missionary had seven children, the youngest only six weeks old, and they were really suffering. Flora Clark did say that if it were as hot in Minnesota as it was in Linnville she would not thank anybody to send her clothes; she would be thankful for the excuse of poverty to go without them. But Mrs. Sim White would not hear to having the meeting put off; she said that a cyclone might come up any minute in Minnesota and cool the air, and then think of all those poor children with nothing to cover them. Flora Clark had the audacity to say that after the cyclone there might not be any children to cover, and a few of the younger members tittered; but we never took Flora’s speeches seriously. She always came to the sewing meeting, no matter how much she opposed it, and sewed faster than any of us. She came that afternoon and made three flannel petticoats for three of the children, though she did say that she thought the money would have been better laid out in palm-leaf fans.
We were astonished to see Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson come that very hot afternoon, for we knew that she considered herself delicate, and, besides, we wondered that she should feel interested in our sewing circle. Her daughter Harriet came with her; Madam Cobb, as I afterward learned, went, instead, to Mrs. Ketchum’s, and stayed all the afternoon, and kept her from going to the meeting at all.
Caroline Liscom came with her boarders, and I knew, the minute I saw her, that something was wrong. She had a look of desperation and defiance which I had seen on her face before. Thinks I to myself: “You are all upset over something, but you have made up your mind to hide it, whether or no.”
Mrs. Jameson had a book in her hand, and when she first came in she laid it on the table where we cut out our work. Mrs. Liscom went around the room with her, introducing her to the ladies whom she had not met before. I could see that she did not like to do it, and was simply swallowing her objections with hard gulps every time she introduced her.
Harriet walked behind her mother and Mrs. Liscom, and spoke very prettily every time she was addressed.
Harriet Jameson was really an exceedingly pretty girl, with a kind of apologetic sweetness and meekness of manner which won her friends. Her dress that afternoon was pretty, too: a fine white lawn trimmed with very handsome embroidery, and a white satin ribbon at the waist and throat. I understood afterward that Mrs. Jameson did not allow her daughters to wear their best clothes generally to our village festivities, but kept them for occasions in the city, since their fortunes were reduced, thinking that their old finery, though it might be a little the worse for wear, was good enough for our unsophisticated eyes. But that might not have been true; Harriet was very well dressed that afternoon, at all events.