Homespun Tales HTML version

2. "Old Kennebec"
It was just seven o'clock that same morning when Rose Wiley smoothed the last wrinkle
from her dimity counterpane, picked up a shred of corn-husk from the spotless floor
under the bed, slapped a mosquito on the window-sill, removed all signs of murder with a
moist towel, and before running down to breakfast cast a frowning look at her
pincushion. Almira, otherwise "Mite," Shapley had been in her room the afternoon before
and disturbed with her careless hand the pattern of Rose's pins. They were kept
religiously in the form of a Maltese cross; and if, while she was extricating one from her
clothing, there had been an alarm of fire, Rose would have stuck the pin in its appointed
place in the design, at the risk of losing her life.
Entering the kitchen with her light step, she brought the morning sunshine with her. The
old people had already engaged in differences of opinion, but they commonly suspended
open warfare in her presence. There were the usual last things to be done for breakfast,
offices that belonged to her as her grandmother's assistant. She took yesterday's soda
biscuits out of the steamer where they were warming and softening; brought an apple pie
and a plate of seed cakes from the pantry; settled the coffee with a piece of dried fish skin
and an egg shell; and transferred some fried potatoes from the spider to a covered dish.
"Did you remember the meat, grandpa? We're all out," she said, as she began buttoning a
stiff collar around his reluctant neck.
"Remember? Land, yes! I wish't I ever could forgit anything! The butcher says he's 'bout
tired o' travelin' over the country lookin' for critters to kill, but if he finds anything he'll
be up along in the course of a week. He ain't a real smart butcher, Cyse Higgins ain't.--
Land, Rose, don't button that dickey clean through my epperdummis! I have to sport
starched collars in this life on account o' you and your gran'mother bein' so chock full o'
style; but I hope to the Lord I shan't have to wear 'em in another world!"
"You won't," his wife responded with the snap of a dish towel, "or if you do, they'll wilt
with the heat."
Rose smiled, but the soft hand with which she tied the neckcloth about the old man's
withered neck pacified his spirit, and he smiled knowingly back at her as she took her
seat at the breakfast table spread near the open kitchen door. She was a dazzling Rose,
and, it is to be feared, a wasted one, for there was no one present to observe her clean
pink calico and the still more subtle note struck in the green ribbon which was tied round
her throat,--the ribbon that formed a sort of calyx, out of which sprang the flower of her
face, as fresh and radiant as if it had bloomed that morning.
"Give me my coffee turrible quick," said Mr. Wiley; "I must be down to the bridge 'fore
they start dog-warpin' the side jam."