“Oh, I thought mebbe she had a black dress on because they’re stylish. She did look awful pretty in it, with her arms and neck showing through. I like black myself; but mourning—that’s different. Poor young thing, I wonder who it was. Her father, mebbe, or her mother. You didn’t happen to hear her say, did you, Phoebe?”
Mrs. Solomon Black compressed her lips tightly. She paused at her own gate with majestic dignity.
“I guess I’ll have to hurry right in, Abby,” said she. “I have my bread to set.”
Mrs. Solomon Black had closed her gate behind her, noticing as she did so that Wesley Elliot and Lydia Orr had disappeared from the piazza where she had left them. She glanced at Mrs. Daggett, lingering wistfully before the gate.
“Goodnight, Abby,” said she firmly.
Mrs. Maria Dodge sifted flour over her molding board preparatory to transferring the sticky mass of newly made dough from the big yellow mixing bowl to the board. More flour and a skillful twirl or two of the lump and the process of kneading was begun. It continued monotonously for the space of two minutes; then the motions became gradually slower, finally coming to a full stop.
“My patience!” murmured Mrs. Dodge, slapping her dough smartly. “Fanny ought to be ready by now. They’ll be late—both of ’em.”
She hurriedly crossed the kitchen to where, through a partly open door, an uncarpeted stair could be seen winding upward.
“Fanny!” she called sharply. “Fanny! ain’t you ready yet?”
A quick step in the passage above, a subdued whistle, and her son Jim came clattering down the stair. He glanced at his mother, a slight pucker between his handsome brows. She returned the look with one of fond maternal admiration.
“How nice you do look, Jim,” said she, and smiled up at her tall son. “I always did like you in red, and that necktie—”
Jim Dodge shrugged his shoulders with a laugh.
“Don’t know about that tie,” he said. “Kind of crude and flashy, ain’t it, mother?”
“Flashy? No, of course it ain’t. It looks real stylish with the brown suit.”
“Stylish,” repeated the young man. “Yes, I’m a regular swell—everything up to date, latest Broadway cut.”
He looked down with some bitterness at his stalwart young person clad in clothes somewhat shabby, despite a recent pressing.
Mrs. Dodge had returned to her bread which had spread in a mass of stickiness all over the board.
“Where’s Fanny?” she asked, glancing up at the noisy little clock on the shelf above her head. “Tell her to hurry, Jim. You’re late, now.”
Jim passed his hand thoughtfully over his clean-shaven chin.
“You might as well know, mother; Fan isn’t going.”
“Not going?” echoed Mrs. Dodge, sharp dismay in voice and eyes. “Why, I did up her white dress a-purpose, and she’s been making up ribbon bows.”