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Further Chronicles of Avonlea

IV. Jane's Baby
Miss Rosetta Ellis, with her front hair in curl-papers, and her back hair bound with a
checked apron, was out in her breezy side yard under the firs, shaking her parlor rugs,
when Mr. Nathan Patterson drove in. Miss Rosetta had seen him coming down the long
red hill, but she had not supposed he would be calling at that time of the morning. So
she had not run. Miss Rosetta always ran if anybody called and her front hair was in
curl-papers; and, though the errand of the said caller might be life or death, he or she
had to wait until Miss Rosetta had taken her hair out. Everybody in Avonlea knew this,
because everybody in Avonlea knew everything about everybody else.
But Mr. Patterson had wheeled into the lane so quickly and unexpectedly that Miss
Rosetta had had no time to run; so, twitching off the checked apron, she stood her
ground as calmly as might be under the disagreeable consciousness of curl-papers.
"Good morning, Miss Ellis," said Mr. Patterson, so somberly that Miss Rosetta instantly
felt that he was the bearer of bad news. Usually Mr. Patterson's face was as broad and
beaming as a harvest moon. Now his expression was very melancholy and his voice
positively sepulchral.
"Good morning," returned Miss Rosetta, crisply and cheerfully. She, at any rate, would
not go into eclipse until she knew the reason therefor. "It is a fine day."
"A very fine day," assented Mr. Patterson, solemnly. "I have just come from the Wheeler
place, Miss Ellis, and I regret to say--"
"Charlotte is sick!" cried Miss Rosetta, rapidly. "Charlotte has got another spell with her
heart! I knew it! I've been expecting to hear it! Any woman that drives about the country
as much as she does is liable to heart disease at any moment. _I_ never go outside of
my gate but I meet her gadding off somewhere. Goodness knows who looks after her
place. I shouldn't like to trust as much to a hired man as she does. Well, it is very kind of
you, Mr. Patterson, to put yourself out to the extent of calling to tell me that Charlotte is
sick, but I don't really see why you should take so much trouble--I really don't. It doesn't
matter to me whether Charlotte is sick or whether she isn't. YOU know that perfectly
well, Mr. Patterson, if anybody does. When Charlotte went and got married, on the sly,
to that good-for-nothing Jacob Wheeler--"
"Mrs. Wheeler is quite well," interrupted Mr. Patterson desperately. "Quite well. Nothing
at all the matter with her, in fact. I only--"
"Then what do you mean by coming here and telling me she wasn't, and frightening me
half to death?" demanded Miss Rosetta, indignantly. "My own heart isn't very strong--it
runs in our family--and my doctor warned me to avoid all shocks and excitement. I don't