The Visit of Ann Maria Hazen

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

From The Sunday Star September 8, 1907

On Monday morning Ellen Wise went into the post office and inquired in a non-expectant voice if there was any mail for her. To her surprise the postmaster handed her a letter from Ann Maria Hazen, who lived about thirty-five miles away, in East Livingstone. Ellen carried the letter unopened across the street to Mrs. Ebenezer Tucker.

When she entered the kitchen door, as was her wont, without knocking, Mrs. Ebenezer was washing the fine china cup and saucer, egg cup and plate, which she had used for her breakfast. She looked up without the slightest surprise. Mrs. Ebenezer never evinced surprise. She was a most composed woman, tall and slender, with pale hair, and a complexion as transparent as her own egg shell china. In her youth she had had a sort of elusive prettiness which the years had hardened. She was now severe looking, with her pale hair strained so tightly back that baldness was imminent. She moved with the utmost angularity, although she handled her china so delicately.

“Oh, it's you, Ellen Wise,” she observed in her calm, thin voice. “Sit down.”

Ellen sat down with a sigh.

“Cold out?” inquired Mrs. Ebenezer.

“Sort of raw. I thought I'd drop in a minute. I've got a letter. I wonder who sent it?” Ellen Wise corrugated her brow over the envelope as she spoke. She was not unlike a small copy of Mrs. Ebenezer. She also had been, in her youth, delicately and elusively pretty. She also, in later years, had hardened and dried, albeit to something shorter and less bony. She was a tiny woman, with a rather worn though highly alert expression. She was very energetic, and all her motions were as swift as a bird's.

“Why don't you open it and find out?” said Mrs. Ebenezer, in whom a mild and gentle curiosity was beginning to stir. “Here are the scissors.”

“Well!” said Ellen after a few minutes. “It is from Ann Maria Hazen — Ann Maria Jones, you know.”

“I should think I knew! She was Jones long enough. I can't think of her as anything else. Well?”

“She wants to come here to Exeter to see the old friends, and she wants to make her headquarters with me.” Ellen spoke with a little pride, and also with a little dismay.

Mrs. Ebenezer regarded her thoughtfully. “Why, I don't remember that she used to be so very intimate with you when she lived here.”

“She used to run in quite often before her mother died and she got married and went to East Livingstone to live.”

“She used to run in here too,” remarked Mrs. Ebenezer reminiscently and a trifle grimly; “but I guess she knew better than to propose coming here for headquarters. She used to be quite intimate with Mrs. Sam Aldis too; but Sam never could bear her, and she wouldn't ask to go there.”

“No, I don't think she would,” said Ellen. “She says she is coming to-morrow, if it's pleasant.”

“You don't mean she isn't going to wait till she hears from you to know whether it's convenient or not?”

“Now, Sophia,” Ellen said deprecatingly, “Ann Maria mentions you particularly in this very letter as one of the friends whom she hopes to see again.”

“That means she expects an invitation to tea.”

“She doesn't say so.”

“Of course she doesn't! Well, I will ask her to tea. I'll ask you and Ann Maria and Mrs. Sam Aldis Thursday afternoon. Come real early. I am willing to do all I can to help entertain her while she is in Exeter. Of course, if an Exeter woman, who has married and gone away, comes back to make a visit, we all owe it to her to make her stay pleasant. Let me see, the Anti-Gossip Club meets next week, and she used to be a member. You can take her to that.”

“Yes,” replied Ellen with a little unconscious bridle, remembering that she was president of the Anti-Gossip Club, and how glad she was that her new gown was finished. Then she added, “Well, I guess I must be going. If Ann Maria is coming to-morrow, I've got a good deal to do.”

“Don't work too hard,” Mrs. Ebenezer said, as her friend went out.

But Ellen Wise did work too hard, and when she went to bed she was too tired to sleep. She was glad when the room began to show the lights of dawn.

“I do hope it will be decided weather,” she said aloud. “I hope it will be either a pouring rain, or else broad sunlight, so I can tell exactly what to expect.” Ellen realized that it would be fairly tragic should she venture on such extravagance as roast beef, and her guest not arrive. After long deliberation she had decided that she must have a roast for dinner on the day of Mrs. Hazen's arrival. “I could have steak,” she reflected; “but I know what Ann Maria Hazen is, if she hasn't altered, and she would be sure to think beefsteak was dreadful snippy for a company dinner.”

Ellen was a hospitable soul; but hospitality must needs be an anxiety when one's income is infinitesimal. She considered anxiously the subject of the roast, as she peered out of the window, a little meager figure with its night dress trailing off sloping shoulders. The sky was a uniform gray blur against which the naked branches of the trees lopped motionless. Ellen sighed. “No human being can tell what it is going to do,” she said. “It may rain, or it may snow, or it may clear off.” She put on a gray wool gown, in which she looked like nothing so much as a delicate and originally pretty flower, drooping gently toward the pleasant things of life, which has met too many storms and winds, and has got its frail petals frayed and torn thereby.

That morning, after she had finished her breakfast and washed the dishes, she looked out of the window and saw the same dull, leaden sky. Ann Maria Hazen, thirty-five miles away, might possibly be looking upon clear sky, and be at that very minute on her way to the station. Ellen realized that she must decide, if she was to have the roast in season for the midday meal. As she put on her wraps she reasoned that she, Ellen Wise, long past youth and its nervous tremors, she, the president of a woman's club, should be ashamed of herself for being in such a state over buying or not buying a roast for dinner. Yet, while she realized the sordid absurdity of it, the pitiful limpness of her pocketbook made her feel helpless. She did not know how long Ann Maria would stay; but she did know how many roasts within a certain time were possible for her, and how could she keep command of herself under that gray and uncertain sky, not knowing whether Ann Maria would or would not come.

She opened her front door, stepped out firmly, closed and locked it, and, after her innocent, unreasoning, provincial fashion, placed the key under one of the closed blinds of the sitting room window. She stepped along the sidewalk, holding up her gray skirt daintily. Now and then she glanced wistfully up at the gray sky. Suddenly she wondered what the evening paper had said as to the weather probabilities. She would stop in at Mrs. Ebenezer Tucker's and see. As she opened Mrs. tucker's side door, a warm spicy fragrance came in her nostrils. Mrs. Ebenezer was just lifting a nicely browned squash pie from the stove oven.

“Oh, is it you, Ellen?” she said. “I am just baking some squash pies. I thought you might like one.”

“Thank you,” replied Ellen; “but I baked three myself yesterday. I thought I'd look at your evening paper, and see what the weather probabilities were. Ann Maria wrote she would come if it was pleasant; and you can see how it looks. How can I tell what it is in East Livingstone?”

Mrs. Ebenezer sniffed, with high thin nose. “Hum!” she said. “There's the paper on the sitting room table. You can look if you want to. As for myself, I never look to see what the probabilities are until the weather has come.”

Ellen brought out the paper and searched, the big sheet fluttering in her slim, nervous hands. “It says ‘clearing at noon,’” she announced joyfully.

Mrs. Ebenezer sniffed again. “Wait till night,” said she; “then you can look in the paper and find out for certain what the weather has been to-day.”

Ellen eyed her anxiously. “Do you think it looks like storm?” said she.

“Don't ask me,” replied Mrs. Ebenezer. “I wash my hands of all foreknowledge of the weather, when we have such queer work as we have had this winter. For all I know, it may rain, or it may snow, or it may clear, or we may have an earthquake by noon. Don't ask me!”

Mrs. Ebenezer took another pie from the oven. Ellen stood considering, frowning uneasily.

“I dare say if Ann Maria gets started she will come,” said Mrs. Ebenezer, looking up.

“I think so myself,” said Ellen in a relieved tone as she went out.

She made her purchases at the market, and in her soft ladylike way ordered that they should be sent immediately. She paid for them out of her rusty pocketbook, and hastened home. She put some finishing touches to the house, and specially to the guest chamber. She started a fire in the parlor stove, and left the chamber door open, that the heat might rise. At twelve everything was ready. The dining table was adorned with a fine linen cloth and a centerpiece embroidered with strawberries. Ellen set a fern in a green jardinière on the centerpiece, and felt entirely satisfied with the result.

“I don't know what sort of society Ann Maria Jones may move in, in East Livingstone,” she said to herself. “She may be invited to course luncheons and dinners; but I know one thing, I have plenty to eat, and the table looks as nice as any table can, I don't care whose it is.”

To complete her satisfaction, the sun was shining in a broad shaft across the soft luster of the table. Ellen reflected happily how foolish she would have been not to prepare the dinner, and how mistaken Mrs. Ebenezer was concerning the weather predictions. “She is always rather apt to turn up her nose at opinions, and not own to anything except facts,” she thought. She was standing at a sitting room window watching for her guest to arrive. Ellen thought that she might expect to see the white horse, which Peter Lark drove in his depot wagon, by half-past twelve. And she did.

At exactly half-past twelve the old white horse came in sight round the turn of the road, jerking his hammer head after a fashion he had. Ellen ran to the door, opened it, and stood waiting, although the wind blew cold. She had recently written a paper about the beauty of hospitality for the club, and had specially insisted upon the hostess standing in her door to greet a coming guest. Ellen remembered this as the wind blew back her hair from her thin temples and her delicate nose reddened. She was smiling, and one little bony hand was actually extended to welcome Ann Maria Hazen.

But when the old white horse reached the house, he gave his head an extra jerk, as if of contempt, and passed by. Ellen fairly gasped with surprise. She went into the house and sat down by her sitting room window. She thought that possibly she might see the other conveyance, a black horse attached to a shabby old coupé. And she did. The black horse had a peculiar gait, being afflicted with a slight lameness in the right fore shoulder, which made him bow violently at every step. Ellen saw, with a great thrill of relief, that dark equine head appear in the distance, seeming to nod in greeting at her very window. Again she ran to the door. Again she waited, smiling, with her little right hand extended in quivering readiness to welcome. But the horse bowed at her with fiendish vehemence, and broke into a gallop as he passed by.

Then next train was due at one forty-five. “That meat will be all dried up!” said Ellen aloud with indescribable emphasis. She took the roast from the oven, set it back on the stove, and covered it up. “It won't be worth much,” she said grimly; “but I can't help it. As I remember Ann Maria Jones, she was always a little behindhand.”

While waiting, Ellen knitted steadily on a white wool fascinator. Ellen always had a fascinator under way. A square of brilliant sunshine moved as imperceptibly as time on her worn and clean ingrain carpet. “As pleasant a day as I ever saw,” she thought.

At two o'clock she was in the doorway again, on the watch for the old white horse. And presently he came into sight again, moving with jerks of hammer head, as usual. As before, he went past. Ellen could not believe her eyes; but more was to come. Immediately followed on the black horse, bowing to the right. The equine nod at Ellen seemed more sardonic as the equipage went by.

Ellen fairly turned white. She entered her house again. This time she locked the front door, turning the key with a vicious snap. She knew now that her guest could not arrive in time for any meal except supper. She put the dinner array into the pantry.

When the next train was due, Ellen sat doggedly knitting. She would not go to the door; but she could not resist the temptation to glance out of the window, and she had an uncanny sensation when the old white horse, followed at a short interval by the black, again came into sight. Her knees writhed with suppressed emotion; but she would not get up. As before, the white horse went jerking past, and the bowing black one at a gallop. Ellen Wise for the first time in her life felt fairly superstitious. She had a cold chill in her spine.

She told herself that she must put foolish fancies out of her mind, and set the table for supper. She made some biscuits, and sliced some cake. She also put on the table a frosted lemon pie. “Guess I won't cut that till just before we sit down,” she said with a last lingering doubt.

At quarter past five everything was ready. At quarter before six Ellen gave her guest up. Ann Maria Hazen could not be coming that night at all. Ellen ate a little, and cleared away her supper table.

The next morning she rose early, made herself a cup of coffee, and hurried down to Mrs. Ebenezer Tucker's.

Mrs. Tucker stared at her when she entered. “What's the matter? Aren't you well?” she asked. “You look sort of feverish. How is Ann Maria?”

“She didn't come.”

“Didn't come! Why not?”

“I suppose it couldn't have been pleasant in East Livingstone.”

“Why, it's a shame!” cried Mrs. Ebenezer. “I suppose you got all ready for her, and everything?”

“Yes, two meals.”

“And now to-day you can't tell a thing. It's cloudy again.”

“No, I can't.”

“Well, there's one thing to be considered. Of course you can warm up yesterday's meals for her if she does come to-day.”

“I am going to,” said Ellen grimly.

“I should. I shouldn't care if everything was as dry as a bone.” At the post office Ellen found a postal card from Ann Maria Hazen, and stopped for a few moments at Mrs. Ebenezer's door to tell her the news.

“I got a card from Ann Maria,” said she, “and she writes that it looked so threatening yesterday that she thought best not to start; but she is coming to-day if it is pleasant.”

“Well, I declare!” said Mrs. Ebenezer.

“She writes she's got a new bonnet,” continued Ellen, “and she doesn't want to run any risk of spoiling it.”

Mrs. Ebenezer sniffed. “A pity about her bonnet!” said she. “What about her keeping you on tenter hooks this way?”

“Well, I've got to make the best of it,” replied Ellen with restrained indignation.

“She always did care more about her clothes than her friends' feelings!” Mrs. Ebenezer called out as Ellen retreated.

Ellen spent another day very much as she spent the preceding one. As before, the sun shone brilliantly by noon. As before, she got her dinner ready. As before, she stood in the door and waited. But Ann Maria did not come.

In the evening Mrs. Ebenezer came in to see if the guest had arrived, and waxed indignant, somewhat to Ellen's comfort.

“They must be having a spell of weather in East Livingstone,” she said. “I never heard of a woman making so much trouble just on account of her new bonnet. Why doesn't she borrow an umbrella, if she doesn't own one?”

Ellen lay awake that night planning to make a stew for the next day's dinner, using the cold roast. “Ann Maria will think she's got a warmed over dinner; but I can't help it. I can't afford to throw away that roast,” she said.

The next day dawned very clear. Ellen prepared her stew. “Now I've got nothing but stew, she's bound to come,” she told herself with bitter pessimistic conviction. But at noon Peter Lark drove the old white horse past the house without drawing rein.

Ellen gasped. “Good land!” she said under her breath.

She went out into the kitchen and took the stew off the fire. The dumplings were very light and puffy. Ellen made shift to eat one with a little of the savory gravy. Then she poured the stew into a dish and set it away in a cool place. “She'll have to eat that stew warmed up if she comes to-morrow,” she said grimly. She put the dumplings on a plate, and stood in the kitchen door calling, “Puss, puss, puss!” The house next door was empty. The inmates had moved out of town some months before, and had left their cat, and Ellen had been feeding him.

That night she set her supper table again, and made some fresh biscuits. “At this rate, I shall have to buy another bag of flour this month,” she thought. “It is simply awful to waste so much.”

Ann Maria Hazen did not arrive. Ellen watched until long after the train was due. Then she went out into the kitchen and did what ever after shocked her immeasurably. She took the pan of nicely browned biscuits, and opened the kitchen door. She called “Puss, puss, puss!” and without waiting to see if the cat came, she gave the pan a furious tilt, and the biscuits slid out on the ground. Then she closed the door with a snap and locked it. She did more, also. She made a savage cut into the frosted lemon pie and ate it. “Might as well get a little something out of it,” said she. She was very fond of lemon pie, and this had a curious savor of appeased wrath, which was like a tempting but unwholesome sweet.

This petty comedy was fast taking on the aspects of a tragedy to Ellen Wise. Everything is comparative. The fall of a leaf may mean a cataclysm to some minute and unrecognizable existence. Very little was required to move to the uttermost such a simple life as this village woman's.

The next day was clear again. She found another postal in the office. It appointed that day to come, if — again that fatal if — it was clear. Ellen made a new batch of dumplings and warmed the stew. She also made a rice pudding, and again Ann Maria did not come. That night she set her table, and made more biscuits, and Ann Maria did not come.

She did not throw those biscuits away. A fierce plan was slowly maturing in her mind. That evening she put on her fascinator and thick gray shawl, and ran down to see Mrs. Ebenezer. She found her in her pretty sitting room, reading the evening paper. When Ellen entered she looked up.

“You don't mean to say —” she began.

“Yes, I do,” said Ellen.

“What do you think is the matter?”

“I suppose there was a cloud as big as a handkerchief over East Livingstone,” replied Ellen.

“I never heard anything like it in my life,” said Mrs. Ebenezer. “Here you have been getting ready for her all this time.”

“Yes,” said Ellen, “and I have come to the end of my rope.” There was a queer expression on her face.

Mrs. Ebenezer regarded her in a startled fashion. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean just this,” returned Ellen firmly. “My cousin Emma Lane, who lives in Worcester, has been teasing me all winter to come and see her. As for getting ready for Ann Maria Jones, and sitting waiting for her another day, I won't.”

“You are going to see your cousin?”

“Wouldn't you?”

“Yes, I would.”

Ellen got up. “That's decided, then,” she said.

“You aren't going so soon,” said Mrs. Ebenezer. “Why, you've just got here.”

“I know it; but I've got plenty to do.”

Mrs. Ebenezer rose and accompanied Ellen to the door. When she opened it the keen night air came in their faces. The sky was wonderful with stars. “It's going to be a clear day to-morrow,” said Mrs. Ebenezer. “I hope you'll have a good time, Ellen.”

“Thank you,” said Ellen, gathering up her skirts carefully.

“I think you are doing just right, going,” said Mrs. Ebenezer.

“I have stood all I could,” replied Ellen.

When Mrs. Ebenezer returned to the sitting room and resumed her seat, she looked a little uneasy. “I declare, Ellen Wise did look dreadful nervous,” she said to herself.

The next morning she met Mrs. Sam Aldis on the street, and told her that Ellen Wise had gone to Worcester to visit her cousin.

“I heard she was expecting Ann Maria Jones to visit her,” said Mrs. Sam Aldis.

“Well, she was,” replied Mrs. Ebenezer; “but Ann Maria kept writing she was coming, and not coming, and Ellen kept getting ready for her, and her cousin in Worcester has been writing her to come and see her, and I rather think Ellen thought she might as well go herself as to stay at home getting meals ready for anybody as uncertain as Ann Maria Jones.”

“I do hope she won't come,” said Mrs. Sam Aldis uneasily. “I know if Ellen isn't at home she will think she can visit me, and Sam can't bear her.”

“Well, I don't believe she will come,” said Mrs. Ebenezer.

However, that very forenoon Mrs. Ebenezer saw Peter Lark drive past with Ann Maria Hazen, her head crowned with a very smart bonnet.

Mrs. Ebenezer dropped her needlework and sat meditating. Finally she set her mouth hard, gave her head a toss, and began sewing again. “I won't ask her here, anyhow,” she said.

That very evening Mrs. Sam Aldis rang her front door bell and came in, fairly bursting with news. “What do you think!” said she. “Ann Maria Hazen came, and she found a card tied to Ellen Wise's door bell saying that she had gone away. Then Ann Maria got Peter Lark to drive around to my house, and I declare I don't know what to do. I hope I didn't lie too much. I told her that I was expecting Sam's mother, and my spare room would be in use. I am expecting her; but I have no idea she will come before next month. Then what do you think Ann Maria did?”

“I'm sure I don't know.”

“She said Ellen had left the key under the blind, and she guessed she would just go in and make herself at home. She knew that was what Ellen would want her to do. Do you know how long Ellen is to be in Worcester?”

“No, I don't,” gasped Mrs. Ebenezer. “That woman has gone to living in Ellen Wise's house, using all her things.”

“Yes, she has,” said Mrs. Sam Aldis. “When I came past to-night I saw Ann Maria sitting beside the window. I guess she was reading. She had Ellen's lamp lighted, and looked as if she lived there. I think she'll stay a week, at the very least.”

Mrs. Sam Aldis was right. Ann Maria Hazen did stay a week. She subsisted partly upon donations of food from friends and neighbors, partly upon her own purchases. She kept Ellen's stoves going, she cooked, she ate, she slept in Ellen's pretty guest chamber, and made herself entirely at home. She was invited out to tea several times; she went to church; she attended a meeting of the Woman's Club, and finally left for home.

That evening Mrs. Ebenezer was in her sitting room reading the paper, when Ellen Wise, wearing her gray shawl and fascinator, came in.

“Well, I declare!” said Mrs. Ebenezer. “So you are home again.”


Mrs. Ebenezer stared at her. “Ellen Wise!” she cried. “What on earth is the matter? You look as if you had been through a fit of sickness.” She unpinned Ellen's shawl, and untied her fleecy hood as she spoke. “Here, sit down in this chair by the register. How you shake! Have you got a chill?”

“I guess not,” chattered Ellen.

“When did you get home from Worcester?”

There was a pause. Then Ellen spoke. “I haven't been there,” she said in a faint voice.

“Haven't been to Worcester?”


“Why, where have you been? You have been away.”

There was another pause. Then Ellen straightened her little thin body and looked at the other woman with a curious expression. It was compounded of nobleness, of shame, and a species of defiance. “I have been in the Larrabee house next door,” said she.

“Ellen Wise!”

“Yes, I know I have been awfully wicked. That night when I went away from here I wrote that notice, and tied it on my door. Then I took some bedding and some eatables (I thought Ann Maria would turn round and go home; but I wanted to be on the safe side), and went over there. I had the key of the Larrabee house. It was left with me in case anybody wanted to look at it to rent. The Snows had left their old kitchen stove, and the bin was a quarter full of coal. There's a bedstead in the bed room out of the sitting room, and I made up my bed.”

“You haven't stayed there ever since?”

“Yes, with the cat. You know the Snows left their cat. He had a fit day before yesterday.”

“Ellen Wise! However did you manage?”

“I managed. I kept the fire going. I had to watch and see when Ann Maria went out, so I could sneak over and get some flour and potatoes and things. Once she almost caught me. I was up in my chamber getting my warm flannel wrapper, when I heard her come in. I had to hide in the closet for almost an hour till she went out again. That was last Thursday night. I thought she had gone somewhere to tea and wouldn't be back; but she didn't stay long. I could smell the cream toast she was making, and she got out a jar of my peach preserve. After she had gone to evening meeting I got away safely.”

“Ellen Wise! What did you do with yourself all that time?”

“Oh, I carried my Shakespeare over, and paper, and my pen and ink, and wrote a paper on Hamlet for the Anti-Gossip Club. And I had my knitting, and finished two fascinators.”

Suddenly Ellen burst into a wild peal of laughter which bordered on hysteria. “Ann Maria Hazen did get the best of me that time, and no mistake,” said she. “I thought when she saw that card on the door she'd turn around and go home; but she didn't. She stayed a whole week, and I've had to steal into my own house like a thief in the night, to get things to eat, and it wasn't until this afternoon that I saw Peter Lark come and carry her trunk out. Then, as soon as it was dark, I went home. She's left the house as neat as a pin; I'll say that for her.”

Mrs. Ebenezer stared vacantly at the other woman, then suddenly she also burst into a wild shriek of laughter; but Ellen had sobered.

“I know it is sort of funny,” said she; “but I do feel as if I had done an awful thing, and now I don't know what to do about it.”

“What to do about it?”

“Yes, I don't know. Sophia, shall I tell people what I have done?”

Mrs. Ebenezer burst into another wild cackle of laughter.

“I knew it was awful,” Ellen said piteously; “but I guess my nerves aren't very strong, and I got ready for her, and watched till I was almost wild. I didn't feel as if I could buy another roast, and I couldn't tell what the weather in East Livingstone would be next day. Shall I tell everybody? What would you advise, Sophia?”

Mrs. Ebenezer gazed at Ellen. Her forehead was puckered reflectively, although her mouth still twitched. Then she stood up suddenly. “You look just about sick, Ellen Wise,” said she, “and I'm going to get you a glass of my blackberry wine, and I had chicken pie for supper, and it isn't cold yet. You've got to eat a good big piece.”

“What would —”

“Wait till I come back. I want to think it over. You haven't done anything wrong; but I know how you feel.”

“I've always been open and aboveboard, Sophia.”

“Of course you have. Wait till I return.”

In the doorway Mrs. Ebenezer turned. “You remember that day it rained so hard?” said she.

“Yes. What would —”

“Ann Maria got caught in that rain, and that new bonnet was soaked.”

“Oh, I'm sorry.”

“I'm glad!” said Mrs. Ebenezer. She went out with a hunch of her high, thin shoulders and a swirl of her black silk skirts.

Ellen Wise sat waiting, her mouth drawn piteously down at the corners.

It was not long before Mrs. Ebenezer returned. She bore a tray laden with chicken pie, pound cake, and a glass of blackberry wine, and her face was triumphant. “Now, Ellen Wise,” she said, setting the tray on the table, “you draw up here, and you eat every mouthful.”

“But what —” said Ellen.

“What would I advise you to do? Goodness! I've thought it all out. You are president of the Anti-Gossip Club, aren't you?”

“Yes; but —”

“But what?” said Mrs. Ebenezer sharply. “Here's your napkin. Have some of that pickle with the pie. Of course, if you are president of an Anti-Gossip Club, you can't tell. It would be upholding gossip.”

“But —”

“But what? You don't want to promote gossip, do you?”

“No, Sophia.”

“Then eat your supper, and keep still.”