“I guess I ought to be written down near the front,” said she, “seeing I’m full as much to blame, and like that, as most anybody.”
“Come on you, Lute Parsons!” roared the Judge, while a group of matrons meekly subscribed their signatures. “We want some live men-folks on this document.... Aw, never mind, if you did! We all know you wa’n’t yourself that night, Lucius.... That’s right; come right forward! We want the signature of every man that went out there that night, full of cussedness and bad whiskey.... That’s the ticket! Come on, everybody! Get busy!”
Nobody had attended the door for the last hour, Joe Whittle being a spellbound witness of the proceedings; and so it chanced that nobody saw two persons, a man and a woman who entered quietly—one might almost have said timidly, as if doubtful of a welcome in the crowded place. It was Abby Daggett who caught sight of the girl’s face, shining against the soft dark of the summer night like a pale star.
“Why, my sakes alive!” she cried, “if there ain’t Lyddy Bolton and Jim Dodge, now! Did you ever!”
As she folded the girl’s slight figure to her capacious breast, Mrs. Daggett summed up in a single pithy sentence all the legal phraseology of the Document, which by now had been signed by everybody old enough to write their names:
“Well! we certainly are glad you’ve come home, Lyddy; an’ we hope you’ll never leave us no more!”
“Fanny,” said Ellen suddenly; “I want to tell you something.”
Mrs. Wesley Elliot turned a complacently abstracted gaze upon her friend who sat beside her on the vine-shaded piazza of the parsonage. She felt the sweetest sympathy for Ellen, whenever she thought of her at all:
“Do you remember my speaking to you about Jim— Oh, a long time ago, and how he—? It was perfectly ridiculous, you know.”
Fanny’s blue eyes became suddenly alert.
“You mean the time Jim kissed you,” she murmured. “Oh, Ellen, I’ve always been so sorry for—”
“Well; you needn’t be,” interrupted Ellen; “I never cared a snap for Jim Dodge; so there!”
The youthful matron sighed gently: she felt that she understood poor dear Ellen perfectly, and in token thereof she patted poor dear Ellen’s hand.
“I know exactly how you feel,” she warbled.
Ellen burst into a gleeful laugh:
“You think you do; but you don’t,” she informed her friend, with a spice of malice. “Your case was entirely different from mine, my dear: You were perfectly crazy over Wesley Elliot; I was only in love with being in love.”
Fanny looked sweetly mystified and a trifle piqued withal.
“I wanted to have a romance—to be madly in love,” Ellen explained. “Oh, you know! Jim was merely a peg to hang it on.”
The wife of the minister smiled a lofty compassion.