“Do you ever see Mary Spence nowadays?” she inquired, as she unfolded her napkin, addressing Mrs. Schofield. Penrod abruptly set down his soup-spoon and gazed at his aunt with flattering attention.
“Yes; sometimes,” said Mrs. Schofield. “She’s Penrod’s teacher.”
“Is she?” said Mrs. Farry. “Do you—” She paused. “Do people think her a little—queer, these days?”
“Why, no,” returned her sister. “What makes you say that?”
“She has acquired a very odd manner,” said Mrs. Farry decidedly. “At least, she seemed odd to me. I met her at the corner just before I got to the house, a few minutes ago, and after we’d said howdy-do to each other, she kept hold of my hand and looked as though she was going to cry. She seemed to be trying to say something, and choking——”
“But I don’t think that’s so very queer, Clara. She knew you in school, didn’t she?”
“And she hadn’t seen you for so many years, I think it’s perfectly natural she——”
“Wait! She stood there squeezing my hand, and struggling to get her voice—and I got really embarrassed—and then finally she said, in a kind of tearful whisper, ‘Be of good cheer—this trial will pass!’”
“How queer!” exclaimed Margaret.
Penrod sighed, and returned somewhat absently to his soup.
“Well, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Schofield thoughtfully. “Of course she’s heard about the outbreak of measles in Dayton, since they had to close the schools, and she knows you live there——”
“But doesn’t it seem a very exaggerated way,” suggested Margaret, “to talk about measles?”
“Wait!” begged Aunt Clara. “After she said that, she said something even queerer, and then put her handkerchief to her eyes and hurried away.”
Penrod laid down his spoon again and moved his chair slightly back from the table. A spirit of prophecy was upon him: he knew that someone was going to ask a question which he felt might better remain unspoken.
“What was the other thing she said?” Mr. Schofield inquired, thus immediately fulfilling his son’s premonition.
“She said,” returned Mrs. Farry slowly, looking about the table, “she said, ‘I know that Penrod is a great, great comfort to you!’”
There was a general exclamation of surprise. It was a singular thing, and in no manner may it be considered complimentary to Penrod, that this speech of Miss Spence’s should have immediately confirmed Mrs. Farry’s doubts about her in the minds of all his family.
Mr. Schofield shook his head pityingly.
“I’m afraid she’s a goner,” he went so far as to say.
“Of all the weird ideas!” cried Margaret.
“I never heard anything like it in my life!” Mrs. Schofield exclaimed. “Was that all she said?”