“We’ve just got to punish ourselves good and hard for this,” whispered Jerry as they crept upstairs. “We’ll have a session of the Club first thing tomorrow and decide how we’ll do it. I never saw father so cut up. But I wish to goodness the Methodists would stick to one night for their prayer meeting and not wander all over the week.”
“Anyhow, I’m glad it wasn’t what I was afraid it was,” murmured Una to herself.
Behind them, in the study, Mr. Meredith had sat down at his desk and buried his face in his arms.
“God help me!” he said. “I’m a poor sort of father. Oh, Rosemary! If you had only cared!”
The Good-Conduct Club had a special session the next morning before school. After various suggestions, it was decided that a fast day would be an appropriate punishment.
“We won’t eat a single thing for a whole day,” said Jerry. “I’m kind of curious to see what fasting is like, anyhow. This will be a good chance to find out.”
“What day will we choose for it?” asked Una, who thought it would he quite an easy punishment and rather wondered that Jerry and Faith had not devised something harder.
“Let’s pick Monday,” said Faith. “We mostly have a pretty FILLING dinner on Sundays, and Mondays meals never amount to much anyhow.”
“But that’s just the point,” exclaimed Jerry. “We mustn’t take the easiest day to fast, but the hardest—and that’s Sunday, because, as you say, we mostly have roast beef that day instead of cold ditto. It wouldn’t be much punishment to fast from ditto. Let’s take next Sunday. It will be a good day, for father is going to exchange for the morning service with the Upper Lowbridge minister. Father will be away till evening. If Aunt Martha wonders what’s got into us, we’ll tell her right up that we’re fasting for the good of our souls, and it is in the Bible and she is not to interfere, and I guess she won’t.”
Aunt Martha did not. She merely said in her fretful mumbling way, “What foolishness are you young rips up to now?” and thought no more about it. Mr. Meredith had gone away early in the morning before any one was up. He went without his breakfast, too, but that was, of course, of common occurrence. Half of the time he forgot it and there was no one to remind him of it. Breakfast—Aunt Martha’s breakfast—was not a hard meal to miss. Even the hungry “young rips” did not feel it any great deprivation to abstain from the “lumpy porridge and blue milk” which had aroused the scorn of Mary Vance. But it was different at dinner time. They were furiously hungry then, and the odor of roast beef which pervaded the manse, and which was wholly delightful in spite of the fact that the roast beef was badly underdone, was almost more than they could stand. In desperation they rushed to the graveyard where they couldn’t smell it. But Una could not keep her eyes from the dining room window, through which the Upper Lowbridge minister could be seen, placidly eating.