“Enjoy!” repeated Ann Edwards, bitterly.
“I dun’no’ what you mean,” half whimpered Belinda.
“No, I don’t s’pose you do,” returned Ann. “There’s one thing about it—folks can always tell what you mean. You don’t mean nothin’, an’ never did. You couldn’t be put in a dictionary. Noah Webster couldn’t find any meanin’ fer you if he was to set up all night.” A nervous sob shook Mrs. Edwards’s little frame. She was almost hysterical that morning. Her black eyes were brightly dilated, her mouth tremulous, and her throat swollen.
Paulina Maria grasped Belinda by the shoulder. “You’d better get the broom an’ sweep out the wood-shed,” said she, and Belinda went out with a limp flutter of her cotton skirts and her curls.
Jerome rode the old white horse, that could only travel at a heavy jog, and he did not get home until noon—not much in advance of the funeral guests he had bidden. They had directly left all else, got out what mourning-weeds they could muster, and made ready.
When Jerome reached home, he was immediately seized by Paulina Maria. “Go right out and wash your face and hands real clean,” said she, “and then go up-stairs and change your clothes. I’ve laid them out on the bed. When you get to the neckerchief, you come down here, and I’ll tie it for you; it’s your father’s. You’ve got to wear somethin’ black, to be decent.”
Jerome obeyed. All the incipient masculine authority in him was overwhelmed by this excess of feminine strength. He washed his face and hands faithfully, and donned his little clean, coarse shirt and his poor best garments. Then he came down with the black silk neckerchief, and Paulina Maria tied it around his boyish neck.
“His father thought so much of that neckerchief,” said Mrs. Edwards, catching her breath. “It was ’most the only thing he bought for himself for ten year that he didn’t actually need.”
“Jerome is the one to have it,” said Paulina Maria, and she made the black silk knot tight and firm.
An hour before the time set for the funeral Ann Edwards was all dressed and ready. They had drawn her chair into the front parlor, and there she sat in state. She wore the borrowed black bonnet and veil. The decent black shawl and gown were her own. The doctor’s wife had sent over some black silk gloves, and she wore them. They were much too large. Ann crossed her tiny hands, wrinkled over with the black silk, with long, empty black silk fingers dangling in her lap, over a fine white linen handkerchief. She had laid her gloved hands over the handkerchief with a gesture full of resolution. “I sha’n’t give way,” she said to Paulina Maria. That meant that, although she took the handkerchief in obedience to custom, it would not be used to dry the tears of affliction.
Ann’s face, through the black gloom of her crape veil, revealed only the hard lines of resolution about her mouth and the red stain of tears about her eyes. She held now her emotions in check like a vise.