Imogen and Sarah Lawson, the two elderly single sisters whom Elmira Edwards sought in Granby that day, were in a way happier than she, all flushed with her hope of young love, for they held in certain tenure that which they had. They were sitting stitching on fine linen shirts in the little kitchen of the cottage house in which they had been born. There was a broad slant of sunlight athwart the floor, a great cat purred in a rocking-chair, the clock ticked, a pot of greens boiled over the fire. They seemed to look out of a little secure home radiance of peace at Elmira when she entered, all glowing and tremulous with sweet excitement which she strove hard to conceal.
No romances had there been in the lives of the Lawson sisters, and no repining over the lack of them. They had, in their youth, speculated as to what husbands the Lord might provide for them, and looked about for them with furtive alertness. When He provided none, they stopped speculating, and went on as sharply askant as hens at any smaller good pecks life might have for them.
The Lawson sisters had always been considered dressy. They owned their house and garden, also several acres which yielded fair crops of hay, and some good woodland. They earned considerable money making fine shirts for a little Jew peddler who let out work in several neighboring villages, and were enabled to devote the greater part of that to their wardrobes. They were said to always buy everything of the best—the finest muslins, the stiffest silks, the richest ribbons. Each of the sisters possessed several silk gowns, a fine cashmere shawl, and a satin pelisse; each had two beautiful bonnets, one for winter and one for summer, and each possessed the value of her fine apparel to the uttermost, and realized from it a petty, perhaps, but no less comforting, illumination of spirit. Many of the lights of happiness of this world are feeble and even ignoble, but one must see to live, and even a penny dip is exalted if it save one from the darkness of despair. It is not given to every one to light his way with a sun, or a full moon, or even a star.
The two Lawson sisters, Imogen and Sarah, greeted Elmira with a shrill feminine clamor of hospitality, as was their wont, examined her mother’s wedding silk with critical eyes and fingers, and pronounced it well worth making over. “It’s best to buy a good thing while you’re about it, if it does cost a little more,” said Imogen.
“Yes, that’s true,” assented her sister. “Now I shouldn’t be a mite surprised if Ann paid as much as one an’ sixpence for this silk when ’twas new; but look at it now—there ain’t a break in it. It’s as good as your blue-and-yellow changeable silk, Imogen.”
“Dun’no’ but ’tis,” said Imogen, reflectively.
Sarah went with Elmira to the mantua-maker’s, who lived in the next house, to get the dress cut, while Imogen prepared the dinner. In the afternoon the two sisters gave Elmira an hour’s work on her new gown, one stitching up the body, the other sewing breadths; then they borrowed the neighbor’s horse and wagon and drove her home to Upham.