“Darn it, I won’t give up going to the Methodist prayer meeting,” cried Jerry. “It’s ten times more fun than ours is.”
“You said a naughty word,” cried Faith. “Now, you’ve got to punish yourself.”
“Not till it’s all down in black and white. We’re only talking the club over. It isn’t really formed until we’ve written it out and signed it. There’s got to be a constitution and by-laws. And you know there’s nothing wrong in going to a prayer meeting.”
“But it’s not only the wrong things we’re to punish ourselves for, but anything that might hurt father.”
“It won’t hurt anybody. You know Mrs. Elliott is cracked on the subject of Methodists. Nobody else makes any fuss about my going. I always behave myself. You ask Jem or Mrs. Blythe and see what they say. I’ll abide by their opinion. I’m going for the paper now and I’ll bring out the lantern and we’ll all sign.”
Fifteen minutes later the document was solemnly signed on Hezekiah Pollock’s tombstone, on the centre of which stood the smoky manse lantern, while the children knelt around it. Mrs. Elder Clow was going past at the moment and next day all the Glen heard that the manse children had been having another praying competition and had wound it up by chasing each other all over the graves with a lantern. This piece of embroidery was probably suggested by the fact that, after the signing and sealing was completed, Carl had taken the lantern and had walked circumspectly to the little hollow to examine his ant-hill. The others had gone quietly into the manse and to bed.
“Do you think it is true that father is going to marry Miss West?” Una had tremulously asked of Faith, after their prayers had been said.
“I don’t know, but I’d like it,” said Faith.
“Oh, I wouldn’t,” said Una, chokingly. “She is nice the way she is. But Mary Vance says it changes people altogether to be made stepmothers. They get horrid cross and mean and hateful then, and turn your father against you. She says they’re sure to do that. She never knew it to fail in a single case.”
“I don’t believe Miss West would ever try to do that,” cried Faith.
“Mary says anybody would. She knows all about stepmothers, Faith—she says she’s seen hundreds of them—and you’ve never seen one. Oh, Mary has told me blood-curdling things about them. She says she knew of one who whipped her husband’s little girls on their bare shoulders till they bled, and then shut them up in a cold, dark coal cellar all night. She says they’re all aching to do things like that.”
“I don’t believe Miss West would. You don’t know her as well as I do, Una. Just think of that sweet little bird she sent me. I love it far more even than Adam.”
“It’s just being a stepmother changes them. Mary says they can’t help it. I wouldn’t mind the whippings so much as having father hate us.”