When poor little Elmira turned and stared, her pretty face quite pale, thinking her mother beside herself, she made a fierce, menacing gesture with her nervous elbow, and spoke again, in a whisper, lest the approaching guests hear: “Why don’t you start? Take this old cap and get my best one, quick!” And the little girl scuttled into the bedroom just as the first knock came on the door. Ann kept the three dignitaries waiting until she adjusted her cap to her liking, and the knocks had been several times repeated before she sent the trembling Elmira to admit them and usher them into the best parlor, whither she followed, hitching herself through the entry in her chair, and disdainfully refusing all offers of assistance. She even thrust out an elbow repellingly at the Squire, who had sprung forward to her aid.
“No, thank you, sir,” said she; “I don’t need any help; I always go around the house so. I ain’t helpless.”
Ann, when she had brought her chair to a stand, sat facing the three callers, each of whose salutations she returned with a curtly polite bow. She had a desperate sense of being at bay, and that the hands of all these great men, whose supremacy she acknowledged with the futile uprearing of any angry woman, were against her. She eyed the lawyer, Eliphalet Means, with particular distrust. She had always held all legal proceedings as a species of quagmire to entrap the innocent and unwary. She watched while the lawyer took some documents from his bag and laid them on the table. “I won’t sign a thing, nohow,” she avowed to herself, and shut her mouth tight.
Squire Merritt discovered that besides dealing with his own scruples he had to overcome his beneficiary’s.
It took a long time to convince Ann that she was not being overreached and cheated. She seemed absolutely incapable of understanding the transfer of the mortgage note from Doctor Prescott to Squire Merritt.
“I’ve signed one mortgage,” said she, firmly; “I put my name under my husband’s. I ain’t goin’ to sign another.”
“But nobody wants you to sign anything, Mrs. Edwards. The mortgage note is simply transferred to Squire Merritt here. We only want you to understand it,” said Lawyer Means. He had a curiously impersonal manner of dealing with women, being wont to say that only a man who expected good sense in womenkind was surprised when he did not find it.
“I ain’t goin’ to put two mortgages on this place,” said Ann, fronting him with the utter stupidity of obstinacy.
“Let me explain it to you, Mrs. Edwards,” said Eliphalet Means, with no impatience. He regarded a woman as so incontrovertibly a patience-tryer, from the laws of creation, that he would as soon have waxed impatient with the structural order of things. He endeavored to explain matters with imperturbable persistency, but Ann was still unconvinced.
“I ain’t goin’ to sign my name to any other mortgage,” said she.