A fortnight later, the dress-maker was called in haste to Barly Farm, to sew coarse and fine linen, and a dress for Anna to be married in. But it all had to be done within the week, towels, sheets, pillow-cases, table-cloths, and aprons. “More than a body could sew in a month,” she declared. For Anna was going to have a baby. “Do what you can,” said Mrs. Barly, “and we’ll have to get along with that.” And so we find Miss Beal at the farm by eight each morning, wishing the day were longer, to enable her tongue to catch up to her fingers; for she thought that she knew a thing or two, and could see what was directly in front of her nose. “I’m nobody’s fool,” she said, as she guided the cloth, snapped the thread, and rocked the treadle of the sewing machine; and she sang to herself from morning to evening. As the only songs she knew were from the hymnal, she sang, with a heart overflowing with praise:
Ah how shall fallen man
Be just before his God?
If He contend in righteousness,
We sink beneath His rod. Amen.
Who place on Sion’s God their trust
Like Sion’s rock shall stand,
Like her immovable be fixed
By His almighty hand. Amen.
She was happy; it seemed to her that God, to whom she lifted up her prayers, was wise and active, watching every sparrow. She was satisfied that young folks were no better off than in her own day, but might expect to find themselves, if they fell from grace, as wretched as in the past. When Sara Barly had made the dress-maker comfortable in the spare room, she went down to the kitchen in search of Anna. But Anna was in the barn with Tabitha, the cat, whose new-born kittens filled her with glee. Mrs. Barly stood in the middle of the kitchen, as idle as her pots, and looked out through the window at the brown and yellow fields. When she had tied her apron on, she felt dull and tired; it seemed to her as if she were no longer virtuous, yet had not received anything in return for what she had given. And because she felt as if she had been cheated, she, also, lifted up her voice to God. “Oh, God,” she said, “all my life I never did anything like that.”
By way of answer, she heard the low hum of the sewing machine, and the alleluias of the dressmaker, singing as though she were in church.
Farmer Barly was down in the south pasture, with the schoolmaster’s friend, Mr. Tomkins; he wanted to put up a swinging gate between the south field and the road. But all at once he felt like saying: “I don’t want a gate at all; I want a fence to shut people out.” For when he thought of Anna, in the gay autumn weather, he felt old and moldy.
“A bad year,” said Mr. Tomkins; “still, I guess you’re not worrying. I understand you put a silo in your barn. But I suppose you have your own reasons for doing it. A good year for cows, what with the grass. I hear you’re thinking of buying Crabbe’s Jersey bull. A fine animal; I’d like him myself.”