“He’s smaht,” said Mrs. Atwell, when they had left him—he held the dining-room door open for them, and bowed them out. “I don’t know but he worries almost too much. That’ll wear off when he gets things runnin’ to suit him. He’s pretty p’tic’la’. Now I’ll show you how they’ve made the office over, and built in a room for Mr. Atwell behind it.”
The landlord welcomed Clementina as if she had been some acceptable class of custom, and when the tall young clerk came in to ask him something, and Mrs. Atwell said, “I want to introduce you to Miss Claxon, Mr. Fane,” the clerk smiled down upon her from the height of his smooth, acquiline young face, which he held bent encouragingly upon one side.
“Now, I want you should come in and see where I live, a minute,” said Mrs. Atwell. She took the girl from the clerk, and led her to the official housekeeper’s room which she said had been prepared for her so that folks need not keep running to her in her private room where she wanted to be alone with her children, when she was there. “Why, you a’n’t much moa than a child youaself, Clem, and here I be talkin’ to you as if you was a mother in Israel. How old ah’ you, this summa? Time does go so!”
“I’m sixteen now,” said Clementina, smiling.
“You be? Well, I don’t see why I say that, eitha! You’re full lahge enough for your age, but not seein’ you in long dresses before, I didn’t realize your age so much. My, but you do all of you know how to do things!”
“I’m about the only one that don’t, Mrs. Atwell,” said the girl. “If it hadn’t been for mother, I don’t believe I could have eva finished this dress.” She began to laugh at something passing in her mind, and Mrs. Atwell laughed too, in sympathy, though she did not know what at till Clementina said, “Why, Mrs. Atwell, nea’ly the whole family wo’ked on this dress. Jim drew the patte’n of it from the dress of one of the summa boa’das that he took a fancy to at the Centa, and fatha cut it out, and I helped motha make it. I guess every one of the children helped a little.”
“Well, it’s just as I said, you can all of you do things,” said Mrs. Atwell. “But I guess you ah’ the one that keeps ’em straight. What did you say Mr. Landa said his wife wanted of you?”
“He said some kind of sewing that motha could do.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what! Now, if she ha’n’t really got anything that your motha’ll want you to help with, I wish you’d come here again and help me. I tuned my foot, here, two-three weeks back, and I feel it, times, and I should like some one to do about half my steppin’ for me. I don’t want to take you away from her, but if. You sha’n’t go int’ the dinin’room, or be under anybody’s oddas but mine. Now, will you?”
“I’ll see, Mrs. Atwell. I don’t like to say anything till I know what Mrs. Landa wants.”
“Well, that’s right. I decla’e, you’ve got moa judgment! That’s what I used to say about you last summa to my husband: she’s got judgment. Well, what’s wanted?” Mrs. Atwell spoke to her husband, who had opened her door and looked in, and she stopped rocking, while she waited his answer.