There was an instant’s silence, full of omen to the culprits, and then Mrs. Meredith’s wrath found vent.
“Janice Meredith!” she cried. “On a Sabbath morning, when thee shouldst be setting thy thoughts in a fit order for church! And thou, Tabitha Drinker!”
“It ’s all my fault, Mrs. Meredith,” hurriedly asserted Tabitha. “I brought the book with me from Trenton, and ’t was I suggested that we go on reading this morning.”
“Six hours of spinet practice thou shalt have to-morrow, miss,” announced Mrs. Meredith to her daughter, “and this afternoon thou shalt say over the whole catechism. As for thee, Tabitha, I shall feel it my duty to write thy father of his daughter’s conduct. Now hurry and make ready for church.” And Mrs. Meredith started to leave the room.
“Oh, mommy,” cried Janice, springing forward and laying a detaining hand on her mother’s arm in an imploring manner, “punish me as much as you please,—I know ’t was very, very wicked,—but don’t take the book away! He and Amaryllis were just—”
“Not another sight shalt thou have of it, miss. My daughter reading novels, indeed!” and Mrs. Meredith departed, holding the evil book gingerly between her fingers, much as one might carry something that was liable to soil one’s hands.
The two girls looked at each other, Tabitha with a woebegone expression, and Janice with an odd one, which might mean many things. The flushed cheeks were perhaps due to guilt, but the tightly clinched little fists were certainly due to anger, and, noting these two only, one would have safely affirmed that Janice Meredith, meekly as she had taken her mother’s scolding, had a quick and hot temper. But the eyes were fairly starry with some emotion, certainly not anger, and though the lips were pressed tightly together, the feeling that had set them so rigidly was but a passing one, for suddenly the corners twitched, the straight lines bent into curves, and flinging herself upon the tall four-poster bedstead, Miss Meredith laughed as only fifteen can laugh.
“Oh, Tibbie, Tibbie,” she presently managed to articulate, “if you look like that I shall die,” and as the god of Momus once more seized her, she dragged the quilt into a rumpled pile, and buried her face in it, as if indeed attempting to suffocate herself.
“But, Janice, to think that we shall never know how it ended! I could n’t sleep last night for hours, because I was so afraid that Amaryllis would n’t have the opportunity to vindicate herself to—and ’t would have been finished in another day.”
“And a proper punishment for naughty Tibbie Drinker it is,” declared Miss Meredith, sitting up and assuming a judicially severe manner. “What do you mean, miss, by tempting good little Janice Meredith into reading a wicked romance on Sunday?”
“‘Good little Janice!’” cried Tibbie, contemptuously. “I could slap thee for that.” But instead she threw her arms about Janice’s neck and kissed her with such rapture and energy as to overbalance the judge from an upright position, and the two roiled over upon the bed laughing with anything but discretion, considering the nearness of their mentor. As a result a voice from a distance called sharply—