“I s’pose so,” said Mrs. Whittle in a thick voice. She and many others looked fairly pale and shocked.
Mrs. Solomon Black, the girl and the minister went out.
The hush continued for a few seconds. Then Mrs. Whittle spoke. “There’s something wrong about that girl,” said she. Other women echoed her. The room seemed full of feminine snarls.
Jim Dodge turned on them, and his voice rang out. “You are a lot of cats,” said he. “Come on home, mother and Fanny, I am mortal shamed for the whole of it. That girl’s buying to help, when she can’t want the things, and all you women turning on her for it!”
After the Dodges had gone there was another hush. Then it was broken by a man’s voice, an old man’s voice with a cackle of derision and shrewd amusement in it. “By gosh!” said this voice, resounding through the whole room, “that strange young woman has bought the whole church fair!”
“There’s something wrong,” said Mrs. Whittle again.
“Ain’t you got the money?” queried the man’s voice.
“Then for God’s sake hang onto it!”
After Jim Dodge had taken his mother and sister home, he stole off by himself for a solitary walk. The night was wonderful, and the young man, who was in a whirl of undefined emotion, unconsciously felt the need of a lesson of eternal peace. The advent of the strange girl, and her unprecedented conduct had caused in him a sort of masculine vertigo over the whole situation. Why in the name of common sense was that girl in Brookville, and why should she have done such a thing? He admired her; he was angry with her; he was puzzled by her.
He did not like the minister. He did not wonder that Elliot should wish for emolument enough to pay his way, but he had a little contempt for him, for his assumption of such superior wisdom that he could teach his fellow men spiritual knowledge and claim from them financial reward. Aside from keeping those he loved in comfort, Jim had no wish for money. He had all the beauty of nature for the taking. He listened, as he strolled along, to the mysterious high notes of insects and night-birds; he saw the lovely shadows of the trees, and he honestly wondered within himself why Brookville people considered themselves so wronged by an occurrence of years ago, for which the perpetrator had paid so dearly. At the same time he experienced a sense of angry humiliation at the poverty of the place which had caused such an occurrence as that church fair.
When he reached Mrs. Solomon Black’s house, he stared up at its glossy whiteness, reflecting the moonlight like something infinitely more precious than paint, and he seemed to perceive again a delicate, elusive fragrance which he had noticed about the girl’s raiment when she thanked him for his fox skin.
“She smelled like a new kind of flower,” Jim told himself as he swung down the road. The expression was not elegant, but it was sincere. He thought of the girl as he might have thought of an entirely new species of blossom, with a strictly individual fragrance which he had encountered in an expedition afield.