There never were any contrary minded when Mrs. Jere Burbank was in the chair. Public sentiment in Edgewood was swayed by the Dorcas Society, but Mrs. Burbank swayed the Dorcases themselves as the wind sways the wheat.
The old Meeting House wore an animated aspect when
the eventful Friday came, a cold, brilliant, sparkling
December day, with good sleighing, and with energy
in every breath that swept over the dazzling snowfields.
The sexton had built a fire in the furnace on the
way to his morning work—a fire so economically
contrived that it would last exactly the four or five
necessary hours, and not a second more. At eleven
o’clock all the pillars of the society had assembled,
having finished their own household work and laid
out on their respective kitchen tables comfortable
luncheons for the men of the family, if they were fortunate
enough to number any among their luxuries. Water
was heated upon oil-stoves set about here and there,
and there was a brave array of scrubbing-brushes,
cloths, soap, and even sand and soda, for it had been
decided and manifested-by-the-usual-sign-and-no-contrary-min
ded-and-it-was-a-vote that the dirt was to come off, whether the paint came with it or not. Each of the fifteen women present selected a block of seats, preferably one in which her own was situated, and all fell busily to work.
“There is nobody here to clean the right-wing pews,” said Nancy Wentworth, “so I will take those for my share.”
“You’re not making a very wise choice, Nancy,” and the minister’s wife smiled as she spoke. “The infant class of the Sunday-school sits there, you know, and I expect the paint has had extra wear and tear. Families don’t seem to occupy those pews regularly nowadays.”
“I can remember when every seat in the whole church was filled, wings an’ all,” mused Mrs. Sargent, wringing out her wascloth in a reminiscent mood. “The one in front o’ you, Nancy, was always called the ‘deef pew’ in the old times, and all the folks that was hard o’ hearin’ used to congregate there.”
“The next pew hasn’t been occupied since I came here,” said the minister’s wife.
“No,” answered Mrs. Sargent, glad of any opportunity to retail neighbourhood news. “’Squire Bean’s folks have moved to Portland to be with the married daughter. Somebody has to stay with her, and her husband won’t. The ’Squire ain’t a strong man, and he’s most too old to go to meetin’ now. The youngest son has just died in New York, so I hear.”
“What ailed him?” inquired Maria Sharp.
“I guess he was completely wore out takin’ care of his health,” returned Mrs. Sargent. “He had a splendid constitution from a boy, but he was always afraid it wouldn’t last him.—The seat back o’ ’Squire Bean’s is the old Peabody pew—ain’t that the Peabody pew you’re scrubbin’, Nancy?”
“I believe so,” Nancy answered, never pausing in her labours. “It’s so long since anybody sat there, it’s hard to remember.”