Una never felt badly because the Ingleside twins were better dressed than she and Faith were. They wore their pretty clothes with careless grace and never seemed to think about them at all. Somehow, they did not make other people feel shabby. But when Mary Vance was dressed up she seemed fairly to exude clothes—to walk in an atmosphere of clothes—to make everybody else feel and think clothes. Una, as she sat there in the honey-tinted sunshine of the gracious December afternoon, was acutely and miserably conscious of everything she had on—the faded tam, which was yet her best, the skimpy jacket she had worn for three winters, the holes in her skirt and her boots, the shivering insufficiency of her poor little undergarments. Of course, Mary was going out for a visit and she was not. But even if she had been she had nothing better to put on and in this lay the sting.
“Say, this is great gum. Listen to me cracking it. There ain’t any gum spruces down at Four Winds,” said Mary. “Sometimes I just hanker after a chew. Mrs. Elliott won’t let me chew gum if she sees me. She says it ain’t lady-like. This lady-business puzzles me. I can’t get on to all its kinks. Say, Una, what’s the matter with you? Cat got your tongue?”
“No,” said Una, who could not drag her fascinated eyes from that squirrel muff. Mary leaned past her, picked it up and thrust it into Una’s hands.
“Stick your paws in that for a while,” she ordered. “They look sorter pinched. Ain’t that a dandy muff? Mrs. Elliott give it to me last week for a birthday present. I’m to get the collar at Christmas. I heard her telling Mr. Elliott that.”
“Mrs. Elliott is very good to you,” said Faith.
“You bet she is. And I’m good to her, too,” retorted Mary. “I work like a nigger to make it easy for her and have everything just as she likes it. We was made for each other. ’Tisn’t every one could get along with her as well as I do. She’s pizen neat, but so am I, and so we agree fine.”
“I told you she would never whip you.”
“So you did. She’s never tried to lay a finger on me and I ain’t never told a lie to her—not one, true’s you live. She combs me down with her tongue sometimes though, but that just slips off me like water off a duck’s back. Say, Una, why didn’t you hang on to the muff?”
Una had put it back on the bough.
“My hands aren’t cold, thank you,” she said stiffly.
“Well, if you’re satisfied, I am. Say, old Kitty Alec has come back to church as meek as Moses and nobody knows why. But everybody is saying it was Faith brought Norman Douglas out. His housekeeper says you went there and gave him an awful tongue-lashing. Did you?”
“I went and asked him to come to church,” said Faith uncomfortably.
“Fancy your spunk!” said Mary admiringly. “I wouldn’t have dared do that and I’m not so slow. Mrs. Wilson says the two of you jawed something scandalous, but you come off best and then he just turned round and like to eat you up. Say, is your father going to preach here to-morrow?”