Linda’s home was a shingled brown eight-room house, built in the first years of the century, and consequently showing the simplicity and spaciousness that were unknown in the architecture of the eighties. It was exactly like a thousand other houses here in the Oranges, and like a million in the Union. There was a porch, with a half-glass door covered by a wire netting door, and a rusty mail box; there was a square entrance hall with a side window and an angled stairway; there was a kitchen back of the hall, and a square parlour with a green-tiled mantel to the left; a square dining room back of the parlour, with a window at the back and another at the side. The side window gave upon the neighbouring house, a duplicate of this house, forty feet away, and the back window commanded an oblong backyard in which clotheslines and bean poles and a dog house, and a small vegetable garden protected by collapsing chicken wire, and various pails and buckets appertaining to the kitchen, all had place.
But up the slope of meadow beyond this yard were the woods, and the Davenport children had always considered these woods as a part of their legitimate domain, combining thus, as their mother said, “the advantages of the country with all the conveniences of the city.” What the conveniences of the city were Harriet was unable to decide, but to Linda’s practical mind electric light, adequate plumbing, and a gas stove were all extremely important.
A chipped cement path led to Linda’s steps; there was no front fence. It was considered vaguely elegant, in the neighbourhood, to let the fifty-foot plots run together, as boundless estates might unite. So that the old prim charm of pickets and protected gardens, and protected babies playing in them, had long ago vanished from country homes, and although the lawns here were all well tended, there was a certain bareness and indefiniteness about the aspect that partly accounted for the little curl of distaste that touched Harriet’s mouth when she thought of Linda’s home.
She mounted the three cement steps from the sidewalk level, and the four shabby and peeling wooden ones that rose to the porch. On this hot summer afternoon the front door was open, and Harriet stepped into the odorous gloom of the hall, and let the screen door bang lightly behind her. There was a confused murmur of voices and the clinking of plates in the dining room, but these ceased instantly, and a hush ensued.
Immediately, in the open archway into the parlour, a girl of fifteen appeared, a pretty girl with blue eyes and brown hair, a shabby but fresh little shirtwaist belted by a shabby but clean white skirt, and a napkin dangling from her hand.
She made a round O of her mouth, and then gave a shout of pleasure.
“Oh, Mother—it’s Aunt Harriet! Oh, you darling—!”
Harriet, laughing as she put down her bag and divested herself of her hat and wraps, went from the child’s wild embrace into the arms of Linda herself, a tall, broadly built, pleasant-faced woman with none of Harriet’s own unusual beauty, but with a family resemblance to her younger sister nevertheless.