“Go on with thy own dressing, Tabitha,” ordered Mrs. Meredith, taking the strings from her hand. “Now breathe out, Janice.”
Miss Meredith drew a long breath, and then expelled it, instant advantage being taken by her mother to strain the strings. “Again,” she said, holding all that had been gained, and the operation was repeated, this time the edges of the frock meeting across the back.
“It hurts,” complained the owner of the waist, panting, while the upper part of her bust rose and fell rapidly in an attempt to make up for the crushing of the lower lungs.
“I lose all patience with thee, Janice,” cried her mother. “Here when thou hast been given by Providence a waist that would be the envy of any York woman, that thou shouldst object to clothes made to set it off to a proper advantage.”
“It hurts all the same,” reiterated Janice; “and last year I could beat Jacky Whitehead, but now when I try to run in my new frocks I come nigh to dying of breathlessness.”
“I should hope so!” exclaimed her mother. “A female of fifteen run with a boy, indeed! The very idea is indelicate. Now, as soon as thou hast put on thy slippers and goloe-shoes, go to thy father, who has been told of thy misbehaviour, and who will reprove thee for it.” And with this last damper on the “lightness of young people,” as Mrs. Meredith phrased it, she once more left the room. It is a regrettable fact that Miss Janice, who had looked the picture of submission as her mother spoke, made a mouth, which was far from respectful, at the departing figure.
“Oh, Janice,” said Tabitha, “will he be very severe?”
“Severe?” laughed Janice. “If dear dadda is really angry, I’ll let tears come into my eyes, and then he’ll say he’s sorry he hurt my feelings, and kiss me; but if he’s only doing it to please mommy, I’ll let my eyes shine, and then he’ll laugh and tell me to kiss him. Oh, Tibbie, what a nice time we could have if women were only as easy to manage as men!” With this parting regret, Miss Meredith sallied forth to receive the expected reproof.
The lecture or kiss received,—and a sight of Miss Meredith would have led the casual observer to opine that the latter was the form of punishment adopted,—the two girls mounted into the big, lumbering coach along with their elders, and were jolted and shaken over the four miles of ill-made road that separated Greenwood, the “seat,” as the “New York Gazette” termed it, of the Honourable Lambert Meredith, from the village of Brunswick, New Jersey. Either this shaking, or something else, put the two maidens in a mood quite unbefitting the day, for in the moment they tarried outside the church while the coach was being placed in the shed, Miss Drinker’s face was frowning, and once again Miss Meredith’s nails were dug deep into the little palms of her hands.
“Yes,” Janice whispered. “She put it in the fire. Dadda saw her.”