"I ONLY make just as much coffee as you want, for if you leave any I have to drink it, and it hurts me."

We were taking dinner with the woman who lives on the side of the hill near where our tent is pitched. When the first month had passed, we saw that she had decided that, in spite of living in a tent and having no protector but a mastiff, we were respectable women. She had been kind from the first, and intensely curious all the time, but after four weeks she began to invite us to spend the day with her. We did not want to go, and we excused ourselves until we could do so no longer.

"Time was a-passin'," she informed us, "and here 'twas into August; and 'fore we know it you two'll be a-packin' up and leavin', 'shout makin' me that visit."

Ah, yes, time was passing. Her words gave us a pang. But we hoped there were yet two weeks, at least, before us here.

Mrs. Lemuel Hatch ("Miss Lem," as she was called all through the Ridge, to distinguish her from half a dozen other Hatches dwelling near) gained our promise to spend the day with her. She said Mrs. Marlow's niece, "she that's ben so edicated, you know, was a-comin', too. She was visitin' at her aunt's at the end of the ma'sh, and she'd sent over for her." Mrs. Lem sat down again as she said this, and put her hands on her knees as she bent forward gazing at us. "She's ben to her aunt's for a couple of weeks, I guess. I s'pose you 've heard of Malviny Litchfield, ain't ye?"

Yes, we had heard Mrs. Marlow speak of her.

"Wall, Malviny's got more book-learnin', I s'pose, than I could ever expect to shake a stick at. She went through everything in these parts, and then she went through Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, and came out a-flyin'. I've heard it said that ef a gal goes through that seminary it's about certain she'll marry a missionary. I can't tell how true that is, but I do know that Malviny got engaged to a missionary jest in her last term. You see, he had ben out to Burmah, and had lost two wives out there. Nat'rally he come back for another one. Burmah seemed to agree with him, but did n't seem to agree with his wives. He was engaged to Malviny, as I said. But something happened; I never knew jest what 't was. Malviny had begun to study the Burmah tongue, and there was great talk up 'n' down the Ridge 'bout the Lord havin' called her to teach the heathen. Miss Marlow was consid'able set up, and I don't blame her any; I sh'd ben set up myself if any of my relatives was calkilatin' to marry a missionary. But it fell through. All to once he had married another Mount Holyoke girl, and had actually sailed. Malviny 's ben teachin' here and there ever sence. She's a assistant in some boardin'-school now. They say she knows everything. I've seen handsomer women than she makes, but I don't s'pose there 's a likelier gal in the State than Malviny Litchfield. Now, don't go to bein' late; come early, and we'll have a good, long, sociable day."

So Mrs. Lem left us to think of the morrow and of the girl who had almost been a missionary's "helpmate."

It was when Mrs. Lem was getting dinner that she came to the door of the sitting-room and asked us how much coffee we were in the habit of drinking, and then told us that when there was any of this beverage left she had to drink it to save it, and it hurt her. It was now after eleven o'clock. Dinner would be precisely at twelve. The fish were frying and tile potatoes boiling, and Miss Litchfield had not come yet. We had given her up. Mrs. Lem said something must have happened. But the coffee was put on to steep, with an allowance for Malviny. Suddenly the youngest girl, aged five, burst into the house, and announced that Miss Litchfield was jest a-comin' up the Ridge from the ma'sh. A moment after we heard sounds of talk and explanation in the kitchen, and then the new-comer was ushered into the room where we sat stiffly in straight chairs.

I don't know what I had expected to see, but I immediately knew that it had been something very different from this. Miss Malvina Litchfield was no longer in her first youth. She was short and very plump, and she had protruding eyes of so light a blue that they were extremely bewildering. Her mouth was small and thin-lipped, and of that kind which makes you involuntarily begin to nip your own mouth in when you see it.

She had a retreating chin and a slight blonde mustache. She was altogether so blonde that all her colors seemed to have faded. She was dressed in a gray gown, so tight that the seams appeared to be in that stage that immediately precedes bursting. But I think that Miss Litchfield's discipline over all her surroundings was such that the seams never would really burst. She had a decided baritone voice, and such a voice is always peculiarly startling when coming from a fair "complected" woman. She uttered each word with painful distinctness, and she sounded "ng" with an absolute ring, evidently fearing that if she did not do that way she should omit the sound altogether, as she had probably done when she was a child. Every sentence she spoke was as if she were explaining something abstruse to a stupid child. She shook hands with a long-continued circular motion, very fatiguing to the recipient of this greeting.

"It gives me extreme pleasure to meet you two ladies," she said, sitting down opposite and looking intently at us. "I understand you have been passing the season quite primitively in a tent on this shore."

"Yes, quite primitively," murmured Carlos, looking much confused. As for me, I had not an idea in my mind. That voice, those eyes, the strained seams of that gray waist, the explanatory manner, quickly made me idiotic. I expected momentarily that she would ask me if I could tell her what county I lived in, or who was the first President of the United States; and, for the first time since the age of seven, I could not have replied to those questions correctly. Until I heard her talk I did not know there were in the language so many words ending in the syllable "ly," and hearing her, I felt as if I would hereafter try to get along without any adverbs. She said the sun shone very prettily on Salt Pond, and that the sail-boats there moved gracefully; she thought our tent contrasted quite prettily with the green grass around it. I find myself confused in trying to write down what she said, for she had a completely stultifying effect on me, and I saw that my friend was fast lapsing into blankness. We were grateful when we were summoned to dinner. This meal was eaten in a silence unbroken save by the sentences from Miss Litchfield. She ate and drank with extreme correctness; the food disappeared from her plate with a kind of mathematical precision which made me think, in some crazy kind of a way, of cube root and ratios.

Mr. Lemuel Hatch dined with us. He did not speak once, and made no social sign of any kind beyond nodding his head at us all when he came in and sat down at the table. His appetite seemed good, and he kindly kept shoving different kinds of food toward us. Although his conversational powers did not appear to be great at that time, he had a good-natured face with keen eyes, and I thought it might be possible that his vocal organs were paralyzed by the presence of Miss Litchfield.

I drank more coffee than I wanted, because I discovered by Mrs. Lem's distressed -face, when she raised the coffee-pot, that there was more than enough to go round; consequently there would be some left, and she would have to drink it from economical motives, and would be made ill thereby.

We were not long at the table. Mr. Hatch ate with astonishing rapidity, and suddenly pushed his chair back, rose, and walked out of the room. At this time we were all eating huckleberry pie; Mrs. Lem remarked that her husband was in a hurry to go to his pawts. In five minutes more we had all risen, and the three guests were back in the sitting-room.

It seems to me that I never heard so much conversation as Miss Litchfield poured out in the next hour. Her jaws opened and shut with that same kind of mysterious mathematical movement she had employed when eating and drinking. She instructed us without the usual "recess" that she must have been obliged to give her regular pupils. In the last half hour she got upon the subject of foreign missions. She said that at one time in her life it had seemed to her that Providence was leading her in the direction of a work in Burmah. She had then prayerfully, hopefully, and cheerfully begun the study of that language. She had also laid out a plan for the daily life of such heathen as, in the Providence of God, might come under her care. She had worked some mottoes quite prettily in green and purple crewels on a yellow background. The colors had really contrasted very artistically. She thought she might some time appropriately use them in a Sabbath-school. Heaven, in its wise plans, had decreed that the intention of going to Burmah should not come to fruition.

As she told us this in her deep voice, gazing at us with her almost colorless eyes, I had a desperate feeling that in another moment I might not be able to control the desire to rush indecorously from the room. I glanced at my friend. Her whole face seemed to be glazing over in some way, and she sat with her hands clasped tightly in her lap.

"I had supposed, until quite recently," went on Miss Litchfield, "that my whole future was to be devoted to educational purposes. Now, however, the way seems opening in a different direction, and I trust I may be able to be useful to one who stands critically in need of a near and dear friend."

We murmured something, and she continued, branching out from that subject into a perfect labyrinth of adverbs. These adverbs elude me when I try to catch them, as I have said, but they fell glibly off her tongue.

The afternoon passed, as all things do. As early as possible we started home.

The next 'morning we were strolling along the beach with Maria Jane Yates; we were all gathering Irish moss, which an east wind had thrown up. Greatly to our surprise, we met Mr. Simms in his gray suit, and by his side was Malvina Litchfield. She was talking, of course.

Like a flash came into our minds her hope that she might be useful to one who stood critically in need of a near and dear friend. We repeated these words to Mrs. Yates, who tossed her head.

"I thought you knew," she remarked. "They've ben engaged this three days. She 's gittin' ready to be married; weddin' the last of this month."

"Poor Mr. Simms!" said I involuntarily.

"I d' know 'bout that," she said, "but I'll bet a cent he 'll hev something besides his liver to think of. I expect she's a mighty good woman."

"Then please give me a bad one," said Carlos with emphasis.

Maria Jane looked at us quizzically.

"You'd better be careful," she advised, "or if you talk like that, folks 'll be a-sayin' you're runnin' down Malviny 'cause she's caught Mr. Simms. I do declare, Malviny come to visit her aunt jest in the nick of time."


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