“Well, you kids have gone and done it now,” was Mary’s greeting, as she joined them in the Valley. Miss Cornelia was up at Ingleside, holding agonized conclave with Anne and Susan, and Mary hoped that the session might be a long one, for it was all of two weeks since she had been allowed to revel with her chums in the dear valley of rainbows.
“Done what?” demanded everybody but Walter, who was day-dreaming as usual.
“It’s you manse young ones, I mean,” said Mary. “It was just awful of you. I wouldn’t have done such a thing for the world, and I weren’t brought up in a manse—weren’t brought up anywhere—just come up.”
“What have we done?” asked Faith blankly.
“Done! You’d better ask! The talk is something terrible. I expect it’s ruined your father in this congregation. He’ll never be able to live it down, poor man! Everybody blames him for it, and that isn’t fair. But nothing is fair in this world. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
“What have we done?” asked Una again, despairingly. Faith said nothing, but her eyes flashed golden-brown scorn at Mary.
“Oh, don’t pretend innocence,” said Mary, witheringly. “Everybody knows what you have done.”
“I don’t,” interjected Jem Blythe indignantly. “Don’t let me catch you making Una cry, Mary Vance. What are you talking about?”
“I s’pose you don’t know, since you’re just back from up west,” said Mary, somewhat subdued. Jem could always manage her. “But everybody else knows, you’d better believe.”
“That Faith and Una stayed home from Sunday School last Sunday and cleaned house.”
“We didn’t,” cried Faith and Una, in passionate denial.
Mary looked haughtily at them.
“I didn’t suppose you’d deny it, after the way you’ve combed me down for lying,” she said. “What’s the good of saying you didn’t? Everybody knows you did. Elder Clow and his wife saw you. Some people say it will break up the church, but I don’t go that far. You are nice ones.”
Nan Blythe stood up and put her arms around the dazed Faith and Una.
“They were nice enough to take you in and feed you and clothe you when you were starving in Mr. Taylor’s barn, Mary Vance,” she said. “You are very grateful, I must say.”
“I am grateful,” retorted Mary. “You’d know it if you’d heard me standing up for Mr. Meredith through thick and thin. I’ve blistered my tongue talking for him this week. I’ve said again and again that he isn’t to blame if his young ones did clean house on Sunday. He was away—and they knew better.”
“But we didn’t,” protested Una. “It was Monday we cleaned house. Wasn’t it, Faith?”