Fanny compressed her lips.
“I’m sure I don’t know,” she replied, her eyes and fingers busy with an unruly heart, which declined to adjust itself to requirements. “What are they going to do with this silly patchwork, anyway?”
“Make an autograph quilt for the minister’s birthday; didn’t you know?”
Fanny dropped her unfinished work.
“I never heard of anything so silly!” she said sharply.
“Everybody is to write their names in pencil on these hearts,” pursued Ellen mischievously; “then they’re to be done in tracing stitch in red cotton. In the middle of the quilt is to be a big white square, with a large red heart in it; that’s supposed to be Wesley Elliot’s. It’s to have his monogram in stuffed letters, in the middle of it. Lois Daggett’s doing that now. I think it’s a lovely idea—so romantic, you know.”
Fanny did not appear to be listening; her pretty white forehead wore a frowning look.
“Ellen,” she said abruptly, “do you ever see anything of Jim nowadays?”
“Oh! so you thought you’d pay me back, did you?” cried Ellen angrily. “I never said I cared a rap for Jim Dodge; but you told me a whole lot about Wesley Elliot: don’t you remember that night we walked home from the fair, and you—”
Fanny suddenly put her hand over her friend’s.
“Please don’t talk so loud, Ellen; somebody will be sure to hear. I’d forgotten what you said—truly, I had. But Jim—”
“Well?” interrogated Ellen impatiently, arching her slender black brows.
“Let’s walk down in the orchard,” proposed Fanny. “Somebody else can work on these silly old hearts, if they want to. My needle sticks so I can’t sew, anyway.”
“I’ve got to help mother cut the cake, in a minute,” objected Ellen.
But she stepped down on the parched grass and the two friends were soon strolling among the fallen fruit of a big sweet apple tree behind the house, their arms twined about each other’s waists, their pretty heads bent close together.
“The reason I spoke to you about Jim just now,” said Fanny, “was because he’s been acting awfully queer lately. I thought perhaps you knew—I know he likes you better than any of the other girls. He says you have some sense, and the others haven’t.”
“I guess that must have been before Lydia Orr came to Brookville,” said Ellen, in a hard, sweet voice.
“Yes; it was,” admitted Fanny reluctantly. “Everything seems to be different since then.”
“What has Jim been doing that’s any queerer than usual?” inquired Ellen, with some asperity.
“You won’t tell?”
“Of course not, if it’s a secret.”
“Cross your heart an’ hope t’ die?” quoted Fanny from their childhood days.
“Cross m’ heart an’ hope t’ die,” she repeated.