Joint Owners in
Spain by Alice Brown
Tale of New England Life
The Old Ladies' Home, much to the sorrow of its inmates, “set back
from the road.” A long, box-bordered walk led from the great door down
to the old turnpike, and thickly bowering lilac-bushes forced the eye
to play an unsatisfied hide-and-seek with the view. The sequestered old
ladies were quite unreconciled to their leaf-hung outlook; active life
was presumably over for them, and all the more did they long to “see
the passing” of the little world which had usurped their places. The
house itself was very old, a stately, square structure, with pillars on
either side of the door, and a fanlight above. It had remained
unpainted now for many years, and had softened into a mellow
lichen-gray, so harmonious and pleasing in the midst of summer's vital
green, that the few artists who ever heard of Tiverton sought it out,
to plant umbrella and easel in the garden, and sketch the stately
relic; photographers, also, made it one of their accustomed haunts. Of
the artists the old ladies disapproved, without a dissenting voice. It
seemed a “shaller” proceeding to sit out there in the hot sun for no
result save a wash of unreal colors on a white ground, or a few hasty
lines indicating no solid reality; but the photographers were their
constant delight, and they rejoiced in forming themselves into groups
upon, the green, to be “took” and carried away with the house.
One royal winter's day, there was a directors' meeting in the great
south room, the matron's parlor, a sprat bearing the happy charm of
perfect loyalty to the past, with its great fireplace, iron dogs and
crane, its settle and entrancing corner cupboards. The hard-working
president of the board was speaking hastily and from a full heart,
conscious that another instant's discussion might bring the tears to
“May I be allowed to say—it's irrelevant, I know, but I should like
the satisfaction of saying it—that this is enough to make one vow
never to have anything to do with an institution of any sort, from this
time forth for evermore?”
For the moment had apparently come when a chronic annoyance must be
recognized as unendurable. They had borne with the trial, inmates and
directors, quite as cheerfully as most ordinary people accept the
inevitable; but suddenly the tension had become too great, and the
universal patience snapped. Two of the old ladies, Mrs. Blair and Miss
Dyer, who were settled in the Home for life, and who, before going
there, had shown no special waywardness of temper, had proved utterly
incapable of living in peace with any available human being; and as the
Home had insufficient accommodations, neither could be isolated to
fight her “black butterflies” alone. No inmate, though she were cousin
to Hercules, could be given a room to herself; and the effect of this
dual system on these two, possibly the most eccentric of the number,
had proved disastrous in the extreme. Each had, in her own favorite
fashion, “kicked over the traces,” as the matron's son said in
town-meeting (much to the joy of the village fathers), and to such
purpose that, to continue the light-minded simile, very little harness
was left to guide them withal. Mrs. Blair, being “high sperited,” like
all the Coxes from whom she sprung, had now so tyrannized over the last
of her series of room-mates, so browbeaten and intimidated her, that
the latter had actually taken to her bed with a slow-fever of
discouragement, announcing that “she'd rather go to the poor-farm and
done with it than resk her life there another night; and she'd like to
know what had become of that hunderd dollars her nephew Thomas paid
down in bills to get her into the Home, for she'd be thankful to them
that laid it away so antic to hand it back afore another night went
over her head, so't she could board somewheres decent till 'twas gone,
and then starve if she'd got to!”
If Miss Sarah Ann Dyer, known also as a disturber of the public
peace, presented a less aggressive front to her kind, she was yet, in
her own way, a cross and a hindrance to their spiritual growth. She,
poor woman, lived in a scarcely varying state of hurt feeling; her tiny
world seemed to her one close federation, existing for the sole purpose
of infringing on her personal rights; and though she would not take the
initiative in battle, she lifted up her voice in aggrieved lamentation
over the tragic incidents decreed for her alone. She had perhaps never
directly reproached her own unhappy room-mate for selecting a
comfortable chair, for wearing squeaking shoes, or singing “Hearken, ye
sprightly,” somewhat early in the morning, but she chanted those ills
through all her waking hours in a high, yet husky tone, broken by
frequent sobs. And therefore, as a result of these domestic whirlwinds
and too stagnant pools, came the directors' meeting, and the helpless
protest of the exasperated president. The two cases were discussed for
an hour longer, in the dreary fashion pertaining to a question which
has long been supposed to have but one side; and then it remained for
Mrs. Mitchell, the new director, to cut the knot with the energy of one
to whom a difficulty is fresh.
“Has it ever occurred to you to put them together?” asked she. “They
are impossible people; so, naturally, you have selected the very
mildest and most Christian women to endure their nagging. They can't
live with the saints of the earth. Experience has proved that. Put them
into one room, and let them fight it out together.”
The motion was passed with something of that awe ever attending a
Napoleonic decree, and passed, too, with the utmost good-breeding; for
nobody mentioned the Kilkenny cats. The matron compressed her lips and
lifted her brows, but said nothing; having exhausted her own resources,
she was the more willing to take the superior attitude of good-natured
The moving was speedily accomplished; and at ten o'clock, one
morning, Mrs. Blair was ushered into the room where her forced
colleague sat by the window, knitting. There the two were left alone.
Miss Dyer looked up, and then heaved a tempestuous sigh over her work,
in the manner of one not entirely surprised by its advent, but willing
to suppress it, if such alleviation might be. She was a thin, colorless
woman, and infinitely passive, save at those times when her nervous
system conflicted with the scheme of the universe. Not so Mrs. Blair.
She had black eyes, “like live coals,” said her awed associates; and
her skin was soft and white, albeit wrinkled. One could even believe
she had reigned a beauty, as the tradition of the house declared. This
morning, she held her head higher than ever, and disdained expression
except that of an occasional nasal snort. She regarded the room with
the air of an impartial though exacting critic; two little beds covered
with rising-sun quilts, two little pine bureaus, two washstands. The
sunshine lay upon the floor, and in that radiant pathway Miss Dyer sat.
“If I'd ha' thought I should ha' come to this,” began Mrs. Blair, in
the voice of one who speaks perforce after long sufferance, “I'd ha'
died in my tracks afore I'd left my comfortable home down in Tiverton
Holler. Story-'n'-a-half house, a good sullar, an' woods nigh-by full
o' sarsaparilla an' goldthread! I've moved more times in this
God-forsaken place than a Methodist preacher, fust one room an' then
another; an' bad is the best. It was poor pickin's enough afore, but
this is the crowner!”
Miss Dyer said nothing, but two large tears rolled down and dropped
on her work. Mrs. Blair followed their course with gleaming eyes
endowed with such uncomfortable activity that they seemed to pounce
with every glance.
“What under the sun be you carryin' on like that for?” she asked,
giving the handle of the water-pitcher an emphatic twitch to make it
even with the world. “You 'ain't lost nobody, have ye, sence I moved in
Miss Dyer put aside her knitting with ostentatious abnegation, and
began rocking herself back and forth in her chair, which seemed not of
itself to sway fast enough, and Mrs. Blair's voice rose again, ever
higher and more metallic:—
“I dunno what you've got to complain of more'n the rest of us. Look
at that dress you've got on,—a good thick thibet, an' mine's a cheap,
sleazy alpaca they palmed off on me because they knew my eyesight ain't
what it was once. An' you're settin' right there in the sun, gittin'
het through, an' it's cold as a barn over here by the door. My land! if
it don't make me mad to see anybody without no more sperit than a wet
rag! If you've lost anybody, why don't ye say so? An' if it's a mad
fit, speak out an' say that! Give me anybody that's got a tongue in
their head, I say!”
But Miss Dyer, with an unnecessary display of effort, was hitching
her chair into the darkest corner of the room, the rockers hopelessly
snarling her yarn at every move.
“I'm sure I wouldn't keep the sun off'n anybody,” she said,
tearfully. “It never come into my head to take it up, an' I don't claim
no share of anything. I guess, if the truth was known, 'twould be seen
I'd been used to a house lookin' south, an' the fore-room winders all
of a glare o' light, day in an' day out, an' Madeira vines climbin'
over 'em, an' a trellis by the front door; but that's all past an'
gone, past an' gone! I never was one to take more 'n belonged to me;
an' I don't care who says it, I never shall be. An' I'd hold to that,
if 'twas the last word I had to speak!”
This negative sort of retort had an enfeebling effect upon Mrs.
“My land!” she exclaimed, helplessly. “Talk about my tongue!
Vinegar's nothin' to cold molasses, if you've got to plough through
The other sighed, and leaned her head upon her hand in an attitude
of extreme dejection. Mrs. Blair eyed her with the exasperation of one
whose just challenge has been refused; she marched back and forth
through the room, now smoothing a fold of the counterpane, with vicious
care, and again pulling the braided rug to one side or the other, the
while she sought new fuel for her rage. Without, the sun was lighting
snowy knoll and hollow, and printing the fine-etched tracery of the
trees against a crystal sky. The road was not usually much frequented
in winter time, but just now it had been worn by the week's sledding
into a shining track, and several sleighs went jingling up and down.
Tiverton was seizing the opportunity of a perfect day and the best
of “going,” and was taking its way to market. The trivial happenings of
this far-away world had thus far elicited no more than a passing glance
from Mrs. Blair; she was too absorbed in domestic warfare even to peer
down through the leafless lilac-boughs, in futile wonderment as to
whose bells they might be, ringing merrily past. On one journey about
the room, however, some chance arrested her gaze. She stopped,
“Forever!” she cried. Her nervous, blue-veined hands clutched at her
apron and held it; she was motionless for a moment. Yet the picture
without would have been quite devoid of interest to the casual eye; it
could have borne little significance save to one who knew the inner
life history of the Tiverton Home, and thus might guess what slight
events wrought all its joy and pain. A young man had set up his camera
at the end of the walk, and thrown the cloth over his head, preparatory
to taking the usual view of the house. Mrs. Blair recovered from her
temporary inaction. She rushed to the window, and threw up the sash.
Her husky voice broke strenuously upon the stillness:—
“Here! you keep right where you be! I'm goin' to be took! You wait
till I come!”
She pulled down the window, and went in haste to the closet, in the
excess of her eagerness stumbling recklessly forward into its depths.
“Where's my bandbox?” Her voice came piercingly from her temporary
seclusion. “Where'd they put it? It ain't here in sight! My soul!
where's my bunnit?”
These were apostrophes thrown off in extremity of feeling; they were
not questions, and no listener, even with the most friendly disposition
in the world, need have assumed the necessity of answering. So, wrapped
in oblivion to all earthly considerations save that of her Own inward
gloom, the one person who might have responded merely swayed back and
forth, in martyrized silence. But no such spiritual withdrawal could
insure her safety. Mrs. Blair emerged from the closet, and darted
across the room with the energy of one stung by a new despair. She
seemed about to fall upon the neutral figure in the corner, but seized
the chair-back instead, and shook it with such angry vigor that Miss
Dyer cowered down in no simulated fright.
“Where's my green bandbox?'“ The words were emphasized by cumulative
shakes, “Anybody that's took that away from me ought to be b'iled in
ile! Hangin''s too good for 'em, but le' me git my eye on 'em an' they
shall swing for 't! Yes, they shall, higher 'n Gil'roy's kite!”
The victim put both trembling hands to her ears.
“I ain't deef!” she wailed.
“Deef? I don't care whether you're deef or dumb, or whether you're
nummer'n a beetle! It's my bandbox I'm arter. Isr'el in Egypt! you
might grind some folks in a mortar an' you couldn't make 'em speak!”
It was of no use. Intimidation had been worse than hopeless; even
bodily force would not avail. She cast one lurid glance at the supine
figure, and gave up the quest in that direction as sheer waste of time.
With new determination, she again essayed the closet, tossing shoes and
rubbers behind her in an unsightly heap, quite heedless of the
confusion of rights and lefts. At last, in a dark corner, behind a blue
chest, she came upon her treasure. Too hurried now for reproaches, she
drew it forth, and with trembling fingers untied the strings. Casting
aside the cover, she produced a huge scoop bonnet of a long-past date,
and setting it on her head, with the same fevered haste, tied over it
the long figured veil destined always to make an inseparable part of
her state array. She snatched her stella shawl from the drawer, threw
it over her shoulders, and ran out of the room.
Miss Dyer was left quite bewildered by these erratic proceedings,
but she had no mind to question them; so many stories were rife in the
Home of the eccentricities embodied in the charitable phrase “Mis'
Blair's way” that she would scarcely have been amazed had her terrible
room-mate chosen to drive a coach and four up the chimney, or saddle
the broom for a midnight revel. She drew a long breath of relief at the
bliss of solitude, closed her eyes, and strove to regain the lost
peace, which, as she vaguely remembered, had belonged to her once in a
Silence had come, but not to reign. Back flew Mrs. Blair, like a
whirlwind. Her cheeks wore each a little hectic spot; her eyes were
flaming. The figured veil, swept rudely to one side, was borne
backwards on the wind of her coming, and her thin hair, even in those
few seconds, had become wildly disarranged.
“He's gone!” she announced, passionately. “He kep' right on while I
was findin' my bunnit. He come to take the house, an' he'd ha' took me
an' been glad. An' when I got that plaguy front door open, he was jest
drivin' away; an' I might ha' hollered till I was black in the face,
an' then I couldn't ha' made him hear.”
“I dunno what to say, nor what not to,” remarked Miss Dyer, to her
corner. “If I speak, I'm to blame; an' so I be if I keep still.”
The other old lady had thrown herself into a chair, and was looking
wrathfully before her.
“It's the same man that come from Sudleigh last August,” she said,
bitterly. “He took the house then, an' said he wanted another view when
the leaves was off; an' that time I was laid up with my stiff ankle,
an' didn't git into it, an' to-day my bunnit was hid, an' I lost it
Her voice changed. To the listener, it took on an awful meaning.
“An' I should like to know whose fault it was. If them that owns the
winder, an' set by it till they see him comin', had spoke up an' said,
'Mis' Blair, there's the photograph man. Don't you want to be took?' it
wouldn't ha' been too late! If anybody had answered a civil question,
an' said, 'Your bunnit-box sets there behind my blue chist,' it
wouldn't ha' been too late then! An' I 'ain't had my likeness took
sence I was twenty year old, an' went to Sudleigh Fair in my changeable
visite an' leghorn hat, an' Jonathan wore the brocaded weskit he
stood up in, the next week Thursday. It's enough to make a minister
Miss Dyer rocked back and forth.
“Dear me!” she wailed. “Dear me suz!”
The dinner-bell rang, creating a blessed diversion. Miss Blair,
rendered absent-minded by her grief, went to the table still in her
bonnet and veil; and this dramatic entrance gave rise to such morbid
though unexpressed curiosity that every one forbore, for a time, to
wonder why Miss Dyer did not appear. Later, however, when a tray was
prepared and sent up to her (according to the programme of her bad
days), the general commotion reached an almost unruly point, stimulated
as it was by the matron's son, who found an opportunity to whisper one
garrulous old lady that Miss Dyer had received bodily injury at the
hands of her roommate, and that Mrs. Blair had put on her bonnet to be
ready for the sheriff when he should arrive. This report, judiciously
started, ran like prairie fire; and the house was all the afternoon in
a pleasant state of excitement. Possibly the matron will never know why
so many of the old ladies promenaded the corridors from dinnertime
until long after early candlelight, while a few kept faithful yet
agitated watch from the windows. For interest was divided; some
preferred to see the sheriff's advent, and others found zest in the
possibility of counting the groans of the prostrate victim.
When Mrs. Blair returned to the stage of action, she was much
refreshed by her abundant meal and the strong tea which three times
daily heartened her for battle. She laid aside her bonnet, and
carefully folded the veil. Then she looked about her, and, persistently
ignoring all the empty chairs, fixed an annihilating gaze on one where
the dinner-tray still remained.
“I s'pose there's no need o' my settin' down,” she remarked,
bitingly. “It's all in the day's work. Some folks are waited on; some
ain't. Some have their victuals brought to 'em an' pushed under their
noses, an' some has to go to the table; when they're there, they can
take it or leave it. The quality can keep their waiters settin' round
day in an' day out, fillin' up every chair in the room. For my part, I
should think they'd have an extension table moved in, an' a snowdrop
cloth over it!”
Miss Dyer had become comparatively placid, but now she gave way to
“Anybody can move that waiter that's a mind to,” she said,
tremulously. “I would myself, if I had the stren'th; but I 'ain't got
it. I ain't a well woman, an' I 'ain't been this twenty year. If old
Dr. Parks was alive this day, he'd say so. 'You 'ain't never had a
chance,' he says to me. 'You've been pull-hauled one way or another
sence you was born.' An' he never knew the wust on't, for the wust
“Humph!” It was a royal and explosive note. It represented scorn for
which Mrs. Blair could find no adequate utterance. She selected the
straightest chair in the room, ostentatiously turned its back to her
enemy, and seated herself. Then, taking out her knitting, she strove to
keep silence; but that was too heavy a task, and at last she broke
forth, with renewed bitterness,—
“To think of all the wood I've burnt up in my kitchen stove an'
air-tight, an' never thought nothin' of it! To think of all the wood
there is now, growin' an' rottin' from Dan to Beersheba, an' I can't
lay my fingers on it!”
“I dunno what you want o' wood. I'm sure this room's warm enough.”
“You don't? Well, I'll tell ye. I want some two-inch boards, to nail
up a partition in the middle o' this room, same as Josh Marden done to
spite his wife. I don't want more'n my own, but I want it mine.”
Miss Dyer groaned, and drew an uncertain hand across her forehead.
“You wouldn't have no gre't of an outlay for boards,” she said,
drearily. “'Twouldn't have to be knee-high to keep me out. I'm no hand
to go where I ain't wanted; an' if I ever was, I guess I'm cured on't
Mrs. Blair dropped her knitting in her lap. For an instant, she sat
there motionless, in a growing rigidity; but light was dawning in her
eyes. Suddenly she came to her feet, and tossed her knitting on the
“Where's that piece o' chalk you had when you marked out your
tumbler-quilt?” The words rang like a martial order.
Miss Dyer drew it forth from the ancient-looking bag, known as a
cavo, which was ever at her side.
“Here 'tis,” she said, in her forlornest quaver. “I hope you won't
do nothin' out o' the way with it. I should hate to git into trouble
here. I ain't that kind.”
Mrs. Blair was too excited to hear or heed her. She was briefly,
flashingly, taking in the possibilities of the room, her bright black
eyes darting here and there with fiery insistence. Suddenly she went to
the closet, and, diving to the bottom of a baggy pocket in her “t'other
dress,” drew forth a ball of twine. She chalked it, still in delighted
haste, and forced one end upon her bewildered room-mate.
“You go out there to the middle square o' the front winder,” she
commanded, “an' hold your end o' the string down on the floor. I'll
Miss Dyer cast one despairing glance about her, and obeyed.
“Crazy!” she muttered. “Oh my land! she's crazy's a loon. I wisht
Mis' Mitchell'd pitch her tent here a spell!”
But Mrs. Blair was following out her purpose in a manner exceedingly
methodical. Drawing out one bed, so that it stood directly opposite her
kneeling helper, she passed the cord about the leg of the bedstead and
made it fast; then, returning to the middle of the room, she snapped
the line triumphantly. A faint chalk-mark was left upon the floor.
“There!” she cried. “Leggo! Now, you gi' me the chalk, an' I'll go
over it an' make it whiter.”
She knelt and chalked with the utmost absorption, crawling along on
her knees, quite heedless of the despised alpaca; and Miss Dyer,
hovering in a corner, timorously watched her. Mrs. Blair staggered to
her feet, entangled by her skirt, and pitching like a ship at sea.
“There!” she announced. “Now here's two rooms. The chalk-mark's the
partition. You can have the mornin' sun, for I'd jest as soon live by a
taller candle if I can have somethin' that's my own. I'll chalk a lane
into the closet, an' we'll both keep a right o' way there. Now I'm to
home, an' so be you. Don't you dast to speak a word to me unless you
come an' knock here on my headboard,—that's the front door,—an' I
won't to you. Well, if I ain't glad to be alone! I've hung my harp on a
willer long enough!”
It was some time before the true meaning of the new arrangement
penetrated Miss Dyer's slower intelligence; but presently she drew her
chair nearer the window and thought a little, chuckling as she did so.
She, too, was alone.
The sensation was new and very pleasant. Mrs. Blair went back and
forth through the closet-lane, putting her clothes away, with high good
humor. Once or twice she sang a little—Derby's Ram and Lord Lovel—in
a cracked voice. She was in love with solitude.
Just before tea, Mrs. Mitchell, in some trepidation, knocked at the
door, to see the fruits of contention present and to come. She had
expected to hear loud words; and the silence quite terrified her,
emphasizing, as it did, her own guilty sense of personal
responsibility. Miss Dyer gave one appealing look at Mrs. Blair, and
then, with some indecision, went to open the door, for the latch was in
“Well, here you are, comfortably settled!” began Mrs. Mitchell. She
had the unmistakable tone of professional kindliness; yet it rang clear
and true. “May I come in?”
“Set right down here,” answered Miss Dyer, drawing forward a chair.
“I'm real pleased to see ye.”
“And how are you this afternoon?” This was addressed to the occupant
of the other house, who, quite oblivious to any alien presence, stood
busily rubbing the chalk-marks from her dress.
Mrs. Blair made no answer. She might have been stone deaf, and as
dumb as the hearthstone bricks. Mrs. Mitchell cast an alarmed glance at
“Isn't she well?” she said, softly.
“It's a real pretty day, ain't it?” responded Miss Dyer. “If 'twas
summer time, I should think there'd be a sea turn afore night. I like a
sea turn myself. It smells jest like Old Boar's Head.”
“I have brought you down some fruit.” Mrs. Mitchell was still
anxiously observing the silent figure, now absorbed in an apparently
futile search in a brocaded work-bag. “Mrs. Blair, do you ever cut up
bananas and oranges together?”
No answer. The visitor rose, and unwittingly stepped across the
“Mrs. Blair—” she began, but she got no further.
Her hostess turned upon her, in surprised welcome.
“Well, if it ain't Mis' Mitchell! I can't say I didn't expect you,
for I see you goin' into Miss Dyer's house not more'n two minutes ago.
Seems to me you make short calls. Now set right down here, where you
can see out o' the winder. That square's cracked, but I guess the
directors'll put in another.”
Mrs. Mitchell was amazed, but entirely interested. It was many a
long day since any person, official or private, had met with cordiality
from this quarter.
“I hope you and our friend are going to enjoy your room together,”
she essayed, with a hollow cheerfulness.
“I expect to be as gay as a cricket,” returned Mrs. Blair,
innocently. “An' I do trust I've got good neighbors. I like to keep to
myself, but if I've got a neighbor, I want her to be somebody you can
“I'm sure Miss Dyer means to be very neighborly.” The director
turned, with a smile, to include that lady in the conversation. But the
local deafness had engulfed her. She was sitting peacefully by the
window, with the air of one retired within herself, to think her own
very remote thoughts. The visitor mentally improvised a little theory,
and it seemed to fit the occasion. They had quarrelled, she thought,
and each was disturbed at any notice bestowed on the other.
“I have been wondering whether you would both like to go sleighing
with me some afternoon?” she ventured, with the humility so prone to
assail humankind in a frank and shrewish presence. “The roads are in
wonderful condition, and I don't believe you'd take cold. Do you know,
I found Grandmother Eaton's foot-warmers, the other day! I'll bring
“Law! I'd go anywheres to git out o' here,” said Mrs. Blair,
ruthlessly. “I dunno when I've set behind a horse, either. I guess the
last time was the day I rid up here for good, an' then I didn't feel
much like lookin' at outdoor. Well, I guess you be a new
director, or you never'd ha' thought on't!”
“How do you feel about it, Miss Dyer?” asked the visitor. “Will you
go,—perhaps on, Wednesday?”
The other householder moved uneasily. Her hands twitched at their
knitting; a flush came over her cheeks, and she cast a childishly
appealing glance at her neighbor across the chalkline. Her eyes were
filling fast with tears. “Save me!” her look seemed to entreat “Let me
not lose this happy fortune!” Mrs. Blair interpreted the message, and
rose to the occasion with the vigor of the intellectually great.
“Mis' Mitchell,” she said, clearly, “I may be queer in my notions,
but it makes me as nervous as a witch to have anybody hollerin' out o'
my winders. I don't care whether it's company nor whether it's my own
folks. If you want to speak to Miss Dyer, you come along here after
me,—don't you hit the partition now!—right out o' my door an' into
her'n. Here, I'll knock! Miss Dyer, be you to home?”
The little old lady came forward, fluttering and radiant in the
excess of her relief.
“Yes, I guess I be,” she said, “an' all alone, too! I see you go by
the winder, an' I was in' hopes you'd come in!”
Then the situation dawned upon Mrs. Mitchell with an effect vastly
surprising to the two old pensioners. She turned from one to the other,
including them both in a look of warm loving-kindness. It was truly an
illumination. Hitherto, they had thought chiefly of her winter cloak
and nodding ostrich plume; now, at last, they saw her face, and read
some part of its message.
“You poor souls!” she cried. “Do you care so much as that? 'O you
Miss Dyer fingered her apron and looked at the floor, but her
companion turned brusquely away, even though she trod upon the
partition in her haste.
“Law! it's nothin' to make such a handle of” she said. “Folks don't
want to be under each other's noses all the time. I dunno's anybody
could stan' it, unless 'twas an emmet. They seem to git along swarmin'
Mrs. Mitchell left the room abruptly.
“Wednesday or Thursday, then!” she called over her shoulder.
The next forenoon, Mrs. Blair made her neighbor a long visit. Both
old ladies had their knitting, and they sat peacefully swaying back and
forth, recalling times past, and occasionally alluding to their happy
“What I really come in for,” said Mrs. Blair, finally, “was to ask
if you don't think both our settin'-rooms need new paper.”
The other gave one bewildered glance about her.
“Why, 'tain't been on more 'n two weeks,” she began; and then
remembrance awoke in her, and she stopped. It was not the scene of
their refuge and conflict that must be considered; it was the house of
fancy built by each unto herself. Invention did not come easily to her
as yet, and she spoke with some hesitation.
“I've had it in mind myself quite a spell, but somehow I 'ain't been
able to fix on the right sort o' paper.”
“What do you say to a kind of a straw color, all lit up with
tulips?” inquired Mrs. Blair; triumphantly.
“Ain't that kind o' gay?”
“Gay? Well, you want it gay, don't ye? I dunno why folks seem to
think they've got to live in a hearse because they expect to ride in
one! What if we be gittin' on a little mite in years? We ain't
underground yit, be we? I see a real good ninepenny paper once, all
covered over with green brakes. I declare if 'twa'n't sweet pretty!
Well, whether I paper or whether I don't, I've got some thoughts of a
magenta sofy. I'm tired to death o' that old horsehair lounge that sets
in my clock-room. Sometimes I wish the moths would tackle it, but I
guess they've got more sense. I've al'ays said to myself I'd have a
magenta sofy when I could git round to it, and I dunno's I shall be any
nearer to it than I be now.”
“Well, you are tasty,” said Miss Dyer, in some awe. “I dunno
how you come to think o' that!”
“Priest Rowe had one when I wa'n't more 'n twenty. Some o' his
relations give it to him (he married into the quality), an' I remember
as if 'twas yisterday what a tew there was over it. An' I said to
myself then, if ever I was prospered I'd have a magenta sofy. I 'ain't
got to it till now, but now I'll have it if I die for't.” “Well, I
guess you're in the right on't.” Miss Dyer spoke absently, glancing
from the window in growing trouble. “O Mis' Blair!” she continued, with
a sudden burst of confidence, “you don't think there's a storm brewin',
do you? If it snows Wednesday, I shall give up beat!”
Mrs. Blair, in her turn, peered at the smiling sky.
“I hope you ain't one o' them kind that thinks every fair day's a
weather breeder,” she said. “Law, no! I don't b'lieve it will storm;
an' if it does, why, there's other Wednesdays comin'!”