“Here,” said she, “take this broom an’ sweep, an’ it might as well be done to-night as any time. Of course you ’ain’t got your spring cleanin’ done, none of it, Ann?”
“No,” replied Mrs. Edwards; “I was goin’ to begin next week.”
“Well,” said Paulina Maria, “if this house has got to be all cleaned, an’ cookin’ done, in time for the funeral, somebody’s got to work. I s’pose you expect some out-of-town folks, Ann?”
“I dare say some ’ll come from the West Corners. I thought I wouldn’t try to get word to Westbrook, it’s so far; but mebbe I’d send to Granby—there’s some there that might come.”
“Well,” said Paulina Maria, “I shouldn’t be surprised if as many as a dozen came, an’ supper ’ll have to be got for ’em. What are you goin’ to do about black, Ann?”
“I thought mebbe I could borrow a black bonnet an’ a veil. I guess my black bombazine dress will do to wear.”
“Mis’ Whitby had a new one when her mother died, an’ didn’t use her mother’s old one. I don’t believe but what you can borrow that,” said Paulina Maria. She was moving about the kitchen, doing this and that, waiting for no commands or requests. Jerome and Elmira kept well back out of her way, although she had not half the fierce impetus that their mother sometimes had when hitching about in her chair. Paulina Maria, in her limited field of action, had the quick and unswerving decision of a general, and people marshalled themselves at her nod, whether they would or no. She was an example of the insistence of a type. The prevailing traits of the village women were all intensified and fairly dominant in her. They kept their houses clean, but she kept hers like a temple for the footsteps of divinity. Marvellous tales were told of Paulina Maria’s exceeding neatness. It was known for a fact that the boards of her floors were so arranged that they could be lifted from their places and cleaned on their under as well as upper sides. Could Paulina Maria have cleaned the inner as well as the outer surface of her own skin she would doubtless have been better satisfied. As it was, the colorless texture of her thin face and hands, through which the working of her delicate jaws and muscles could be plainly seen, gave an impression of extreme purity and cleanliness. “Paulina Maria looks as ef she’d been put to soak in rain-water overnight,” Simon Basset said once, after she had gone out of the store. Everybody called her Paulina Maria—never Mrs. Judd, nor Mrs. Adoniram Judd.
The village women were, as a rule, full of piety. Paulina Maria was austere. She had the spirit to have scourged herself had she once convicted herself of wrong; but that she had never done. The power of self-blame was not in her. Paulina Maria had never labored under conviction of sin; she had had no orthodox conversion; but she set her slim unswerving feet in the paths of righteousness, and walked there with her head up. In her the uncompromising spirit