FICTION

Candles In Her Eyes

When Em'ly Perkins married Ed Jennings the town was shocked . . . But when she set her cap for the new preacher . . . Well!

EVE BENNETT August 15 1944
FICTION

Candles In Her Eyes

When Em'ly Perkins married Ed Jennings the town was shocked . . . But when she set her cap for the new preacher . . . Well!

EVE BENNETT August 15 1944

Candles In Her Eyes

FICTION

EVE BENNETT

HOW’D-YOU-DO?” the new music teacher greeted me. “I do hope you’re the practicing kind. You must always have clean hands and nails. Have you a metronome?”

She was an old maid of at least 23. She was like a garden sparrow, dull browns and greys. Her large brown eyes were stagnant unroiled pools. Her redbrown hair was a lifeless overfuzzy pompadour. Dutifully, twice a week, she instructed mo over the yellowed keys of her square piano. “ONE-twothree-ONE-two-three, wrong finger, Lucy—”

This was Grandma’s idea. I was staying with Grandma in her little town in the country because my mother was ill. That winter I was eight. “I want you to take piano,” Grandma said, “so by and by you can play ‘Redwing’ for me. Em’ly Perkins ain’t got much gumption, but she knows her music, and anyhow, I owe her my trade on account of her poor dead ma and pa.”

I thought I should die of boredom ere I could flap my wings with “Redwing”! And then . . Something struck Em’ly Perkins, my drab music teacher. “ONEtwo-three-ONE-two-ONE . . . Uh, where were we? Start again, Lucy.”

Came the day when, arriving at Miss Perkins’, I met the town painter man, Ed. Jennings. He’d been around, the month before, painting Em’ly Perkins’ house. Now, here he was, coming out the front door, smiling. “Good-by, Em’ly. Hello, there, Lucy.” Em’ly Perkins’ cheeks were pink.

Grandma soon caught on. “Per pity sakes, Mis’ Rymer Mizer says that painter fellow is sparkin’ around Em’ly Perkins!”

“He was there one day when I came,” I said brightly. “He’s handsome! Curly hair, and .....

such friendly handsome eyes ...”

“Oh, he’s friendly,”

Grandma said tartly.

“Like a hound dog, and jest as worthless. I reckon he’s the most sociable barfly in town.”

“Em’ly’s too homely for him,” I mused.

“She’s too good for. him,” Grandma informed me. “Why,

Em’ly’s ma would turn over in her grave if she thought Em’ly would look at such a fellow.”

Ï THINK I’ll set with you while you take your lesson,” Grandma said, a day or two later. “Mis’ Rymer Mizer saw Ed Jennings leave the Perkins’ place last night. I owe it to Em’ly’s ma to look after that girl.”

Em’ly met us at her door, and at sight of Grandma her cheeks flushed, and her eyes fluttered as though entrapped. “Why—why, Mrs. Burnett, come in. My. house isn’t very clean ...”

“If you’re your ma’s daughter, I reckon your house is clean,” Grandma said cryptically. “I thought I’d see how Lucy’s getting along.”

Grandma arranged herself in the Morris chair. At my poor best I couldn’t have kept time with Em’ly’s counting. “ONE-two-three, I mean three—Er--this is a new piece, Mrs. Burnett, ‘The Little Flowers March,’ the first time Lucy has put both hands together. Let’s start again, dear . . .”

Em’ly’s fingers were nervous; I felt a breathlessness in her. Crayon portraits stared down at us: Em’ly’s

When Em'ly Perkins married Ed Jennings the town was shocked . . . But when she set her cap for the new preacher . . . Well!

pa, just a man in a stiff collar; Em’ly’s ma, ferocious. Grandma’s eyes bored from behind us.

“I was thinking,” Grandma said, while Em’ly served us coffee, and cake on rose-sprigged chinaware —“it was jest five years ago your ma was took and eight since your pa passed on. Your ma was a good woman, Em’ly.”

Em’ly said, “And pa was a good man ...”

“Your ma brought you up real strict, Em’ly, but it was for your own good. And she scrimped herself so you could graduate in music. It’s lucky, too, you was left a home mortgage-free. You got all a girl could want.”

Em’ly murmured, “More cake? It’s mama’s marble cake recipe, you know.”

“If I ever saw guilt writ large!” Grandma said, on the way home. “Well, Em’ly’s a good girl, but spineless. As fer Ed Jennings ...”

I went for my last lesson before Grandma and I journeyed home for Christmas. Em’ly met fne with a smile-wreathed face; her eyes carried little candles, being lit, one by one, in the brown depths of lonely wells.

On the piano was a plate of fudge. Em’ly was gay. “We won’t have a lesson today, dear. I’ve some new pictures for the stereopticon. And here, I have a gift for you!”

I unwrapped the gift and said politely, “Thank you. Now I have three sets of dominoes. Here’s a handkerchief for you from Grandma and me.”

Em’ly giggled. Actually. She pulled me down beside her on the sofa. Her fuzzy hair was soft in the glow from the base-burner.

Somehow I didn’t tell Grandma about that afternoon. How Em’ly

; ......vCr-.giggled and giggled.

How she confided that she was going to have company for Christmas dinner—only, don’t tell, she warned hastily, there were so many people she’d ought to invite but couldn’t . . .

R A N D M A was unwontedly cross when we arrived back the day after New Year’s. All the holiday eating (and Grandma loved her victuals) had “soured her stomach on her”; the pump was frozen; and Grandma’s favorite hydrangea was frostbitten.

Mrs. Homer Fiddler, neighbor to the north, was blown into Grandma’s kitchen, on the day’s evil wind, before ever we got the fires built up. With her side-ofbacon arms wrapped in her apron, Mrs. Fiddler proceeded to rile Grandma.

“Well, how are you?” Mrs. Fiddler began chirpily. “Ain’t it cold? My land, you sure missed a lot of excitement! Hank Larson broke his leg and ...” “Mis’ Hoover Smith dropped me a card,” Grandma said. “I reckon she acquainted me with all the news.” Mrs. Fiddler hurried on, trying to overtake Mrs. Hoover Smith’s card. “ ’D she tell you about the Willowbrook Tucker’s barn burnin’ down, two milch cows, four head of horses and all? And the scrap in Aid over the aisle carpets?”

Grandma, poking at the grate, kept nodding smartly.

“And Em’ly Perkins makin’ a fool of herself?” Grandma straightened. “What’s that about Em’ly Perkins?”

Mrs. Fiddler’s eyes bulged triumph. “Well* ev’rybody’s talking. Em’ly had this painter fellow .to dinner Christmas Day, mind you—just him and Granny McConkle, who’s stone-deaf. Two days after Christmas Ed Jennings hired a liv’ry stable sleigh and took Em’ly riding right along Main Street—and out the Willowbrook road !

“Then, last Monday night, them two came to the oyster supper together, JUST-AS-BIG-AS-CUFFY! And if you’d seen Em’ly! Wearin’ the second new dress she’s had this winter, and the way they carried on was a scandal to the jayhawks. Well—what do you think of that?”

Mrs. Homer Fiddler was doomed not to know what Grandma thought. “Great day in the morning,” Grandma said, “seems ’s if I’ll never get this place warm. Lucy, get in more cobs, will you? Why, Mis’ Fiddler, I guess Em’ly’s ma brought her up to take care of herself all right, without our help.”

“Her ma’d turn over in her grave!”

“When Em’ly’s ma once made up her mind to lie on one side, it took a mite of persuasion to make her switch over!” Grandma said.

After Mrs. Fiddler had taken her reluctant departure, Grandma sniffed, “That gossip peddler! Did you see her face when I let on I’d heard all the news?” Grandma crowed with sudden laughter.

“My,” I said, “I can hardly wait to start my music lessons.”

Grandma eyed me darkly. “I ain’t so sure you’re going to start. I’ll have to see what this foolishness is about. My stars, Em’ly’s ma would turn—humph! Likely it’s all jest Fannie Fiddler’s romancing, whole cloth.”

Grandma went with me to Em’ly’s the day I was supposed to start music again. Em’ly met us with flushed cheeks and the candles bright in her eyes.

“How-d’y-do, Em’ly?” Grandma said with great poise. “Have a nice Christmas? I heard so.”

Like that, to the point. Grandma was ever thrifty of time.

The candlelight wavered as in a rough breeze under Em’ly’s quickly lowered lids. Her voice would hardly support her brave words. “Yes, I had my fiance to dinner on Christmas, Mrs. Burnett.”

Grandma’s poise fled. “Wh-what was that, Em’ly?” “Sit down,” Em’ly said, very busy with raising shades and helping us with our wraps. “Yes, Mrs. Burnett, I have some news. Ed Jennings and I are going to be married. I thought I’d tell you and Lucy first.”

Grandma’s eyes were a couple of wet hens spluttering. “Why—why, Em’ly Perkins, you can’t marry that man!”

Em’ly backed up against the china closet and put out her hands beside her, bracing. Her face, now, was very pale, with just a fine young flag of red waving high under her wide eyes.

“I’m going to marry him, Mrs. Burnett. I love him.” “Pshaw. He’s just the first man who’s come along.” “He’s the only man who’s come along, Mrs. Burnett.”

“And wouldn’t it jest shame your ma, now, for you to be snatching at the first man who’s come along?”

“The only man,” Em’ly repeated, with a sort of a stubbornness.

“Set down, child,” Grandma said. “I never meant to dart at you that-a-way. You come nigh to taking my breath away. After all, I was one of your ma’s best friends. We come out from Ontario together. And now it looks like a passel of meddling women know more’n I do about this.”

Em’ly slipped into the chair beside her. “I haven’t told anyone. It just happened last night . . . ”—A reminiscent smile pestered her lips—“and I meant to tell you first, you and Lucy. I’m so fond of both of you.”

Well, I hoisted my banners to the sky right there. Even against Grandma if need be.

.Grandma was dauntless and brash from the wiry crinkles of her iron-grey hair, her sharp eyes, patrician nose and flaring lips, to her feet which set themselves down as though they knew exactly the way to go. It was Em’ly who needed me, not Grandma.

MRS. BURNETT,” Em’ly said breathlessly, “it isn’t that Ed’s the only man who’s courted me. I love him, really I do. He’s awfully smart, and good to me, so good to me. I’ve been lonesome, living here alone.”

“Pshaw!” Grandma said. “I live alone.”

“But—you’ve had your life.”

“I ain’t dead yet!” Grandma snapped.

“No, but I’ve been dead !”s Em’ly flashed right back. “I’ve never lived any more than an unborn babe, Mrs.

Burnett. I’m just being born now, into

a world where people feel—and laugh—and love.”

“Don’t be vulgar, Em’ly,” Grandma said. “There’s such a thing as overdoing this business of living, you know. You’d find that out, once you was tied up with Ed Jennings. He lives too pesky much. How’d this all start?”

“He—he painted my house, you know. And I gave him coffee once or twice—and cake—or pie. He praised my cooking so much that—I asked him to dinner one noon . . . ”

“Humph!” Grandma said, as one who would say Sucker had she known the word.

“So, then, the next night he brought me a load of wood ...”

“After dark, I guess,” Grandma said finely.

“Yes. And I asked him in to warm. We got to talking ...”

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“It reads like a paperback novel,” Grandma (who was well-read) commented sarcastically. “And you kept on feeding him. He’d like that.”

“Yes, he does like my food. I—I’d like someone to appreciate my food, Mrs. Burnett. I’m a good cook and I’m sick and tired of cooking for myself. And Ed never gets home cooking, you know.”

“Stuff and nonsense,” Grandma said. “Mis’ Pearson’s restaurant serves fair home . cooking, and you know it. Besides, when Ed’s working” (Grandma had a way of tapping small words, smartly, lending emphasis) “he eats at folks’ houses lots of the time, when the man of the house is to home.” (Tapping again.) “Yes, it sure does make good paperback novel reading!

“Em’ly, poor old Mrs. Jennings wore herself out slaving for that no-account family. And that’s what you’d do, too, if you married Ed. He ain’t anyways steady.”

“I’d like to work for him,” Em’ly said. “I love him.”

Grandma was annoyed to the point of repetition. “Your ma would turn over in her grave, Em’ly.”

“Mama wouldn’t understand, of course,” Em’ly said tonelessly. “Mama never loved anyone.”

“Your ma and pa loved each other same as anyone . . Grandma

handled foolish terms gingerly. “Folks don’t go maundering around, play acting out their feelings all their lives, particularly if they’re hard workers.” “Pa didn’t love mama, that I know,” Em’ly said strangely.

Grandma rose abruptly. “I’ve got a pot of beans in and I’ve got to go tend ’em. I know it’s useless to argue with an infatuated girl, but, Em’ly, I hope you’ll do some tall thinking. I owe it to your ma to see that you don’t throw yourself away on that fellow.”

“I love him,” Em’ly said, clasping and unclasping her hands. She kept looking at the piano. I guess she was thinking of little girls’ stiff fingers and the weary running of scales, ONEtwo-three-ONE-two-three, over and over, on and on and on, endlessly, to the bitter lonely end. And when she looked up you could see that she was glad we were going.

“About Lucy’s music,” Grandma said. “She can start Wednesday. If you have time ...”

“Yes,” Em’ly said.

As Grandma marched ahead I shyly slipped my hand into Em’ly’s. As she squeezed it I saw the sheen of tears in her eyes.

I was having my lesson, a week later, when there was a loud pounding at the door. Em’ly went to answer and I heard Mrs. Homer Fiddler’s excited chirping in the hall, ‘T thought you’d ought to know, Em’ly. I hate to tell you, but that feller of yours is down in jail! I seen the constable taking him in.” “JAIL!”

“I hate to tell you, Em’ly, but, oh, he was staggering drunk, Ed Jennings was, and J reckon he’d had a fight, too, he was that covered with blood. I jest thought you’d ought to know ...” Em’ly’s face was like the frozen sickly turnips Grandma had cleaned out of the cellar the week before. “I—I must go to him.”

“You ain’t never going to the jail, Em’ly! Your ma would turn over in her grave!”

Em’ly had thrown on her wraps and was out the door, not answering Mrs. Fiddler, nor remembering me.

“Well!” Mrs. Homer Fiddler said. Her face was greasy with smugness. “You going home now, Lucy?”

Maclean's Magazine, August 15, 1944

“I—I have to wait,” I muttered, hating her

“You better come Your grandmaw would want that you should.”

I turned my back and sat there on the stool, making myself a stone image.

“Well!” Mrs. Homer Fiddler welled. 1 was glad when I heard the door close.

I knew what she would do. Straight as a poison-tipped arrow, she’d fly to Grandma.

I flew. Round about blocks, down alleys, frightened in the cold dusk, shivering for Ern’ly. I got to Grandma first.

Grandma’s jaw dropped when I told her. “Minna Perkins would turn over in her grave!”

“That’s what Mrs. Fiddler said,” I told Grandma; ana Grandma’s jaw clamped shut.

“That hussy! She couldn’t wait to get to Em’ly and spread the bad news, could she? Well, we won’t be here when that old buzzard gets here. We’ll go cook some supper for Em’ly; she’ll be heartbroken when she gets home. It do beat all what fools women can be.”

Em’ly didn’t come home alone. She brought Ed Jennings with her. And a pretty sight he made, indeed. Em’ly almost carried him in, coaxing. He was bruised and cut and dirty, and one eye was swollen shut.

I felt a sickness. I remembered how my nice new Uncle Sidney had carried my own Aunt Erma over the doorsill of their home the day they were married. I choked, now, at the hideous comparison Em’ly’s poor shoddy romance made.

Em’ly was “green about the gills” as Grandma put it, but there was a triumphant gleam in her eye. “I made Constable Berry let me bring him home,” she said. “Poor dear, he’s hurt. It was that bully, Al Sandeen.”

Grandma rose out of her chair. Her gaze refused to encompass the disgraceful spectacle of Ed Jennings. “Your supper’s setting back on the stove, Em’ly,” she said. “Lucy and I must go. Your poor ma would ...”

It wasn’t like Grandma that her voice broke, but it surely did.

TWO DAYS later, when it was time for my lesson, Grandma had a heavy cold. “I’m likely shut in till spring thaw,” she said drearily. “Lucy —if that man’s at Em’ly’s you turn around and come straight home.”

That man wasn’t there. Em’ly, looking as grey as the day’s lowhanging clouds, drew me in by the fire. “I was afraid your grandma wouldn’t let you come any more, Lucy.”

“Oh, of course she’ll let me,” I said bluffly. “Why, she was just saying today what a friend of hers your mother was.”

Suddenly Em’ly’s hands flew to her face to catch a freshet of tears.

“Lucy, you’re the only person who seems to understand—oh, I love him so! I’m going to marry him and they can’t stop me! He needs me, and I need him. Do you know how important it is to be needed, Lucy?”

“Please don’t cry,” I whispered, almost strangling with sympathy.

“Your grandma,” Em’ly said, bitterly, “thinks she owes a duty to mama. Lucy, I’m going to tell you something, but you must never tell. My—my mother was a hard woman, Lucy. That’s awful to say, but it’s true. It wasn’t only that she made me wear ugly clothes and never have any fun—and made me work harder than other children. It wasn’t even that she never showed me any love (everybody needs love, Lucy!). It was the way she treated my father. My father could have been fun; he could have

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been a happy man. But every tiny bit of joking he ever tried, every time he put bis arm around mama, or tried to please heror petted me—she snapped him off, hatefully.”

Anger was rising in Em’ly’s voice. “Lucy, once I tried to talk to mama about pa, and do you know what she told me? She said my father had the makings of a first-class rounder: that if she hadn’t kept him in line he’d have been a drunkard, a bum, and a ladykiller! She said -she said my father had always wanted to spark around the girls. That he’d always been soft on Emma Manchester (that was your grandma’s maiden name, Lucy)—because she was wild and flirty. You can see why it makes me feel funny to hear your grandma standing up for mama. Lucy, you aren’t mad at me for telling you this? You won’t tell?”

“No,” I said slowly. “I’m glad you told me. I kind of knew Grandma was fun when she was a girl. She’s fun now —in—in a respectable way.”

“But, oh, so respectable,” Em’ly sighed.

“I—I hope you marry the painter man,” I whispered suddenly.

Em’ly kissed me. “I’m going to, Lucy.”

The town rocked to its winter-strawprotected foundations the very next day. Em’ly Perkins and Ed Jennings had left on the early morning train.

They came back two days later. Married.

Em’ly spiked one potential source of snubbing at the very start. She announced she was through giving music lessons. She was going to keep house for Ed.

“Mark my words,” Grandma said, “the time will come when those music lessons her poor ma paid for will come in mighty handy.”

Well—you wanted Em’ly to win out. She came right back to that little town and she bet them all she could be happy with Ed Jennings. And with all those four-hundred-some narrowed eyes, spying, waiting, she wove out her marriage harmony with steady, music-practiced fingers, holding her head high, her eyes straight ahead.

Oh, of course, the Ladies Aid gave her a shower. And, of course, her mother’s old friends, led by Grandma, came in with gifts and frozen-lipped congratulations. And, of course, they held their peace after that, to Em’ly’s face. But they watched. And waited.

1WENT home at the end of the school year. I came back in the summer to visit, and again for Thanksgiving. Spring vacation and all the next summer I spent with Grandma.

Em’ly’s story didn’t read like a paperback novel any more. Except that there was Em’ly’s vaunting loyalty and what happened to her looks. She should have become “drug out” as Grandma would have said. There was, instead, a kind of glow to her, a luminosity; candles keeping lighted in her eyes . . . lighted with hard-bought tapers, I guess.

“She’s just a plain fool,” Grandma said (not unkindly). “You have to say it for her, she’s got her ma’s spirit.” “Maybe it’s her father’s,” I blurted. And subsided quickly.

Grandma’s seasonal bulletins on the Ed Jennings read with a quininic trace of triumph: “He goes on a toot every so often. He ain’t worth the powder to blow him up; I told her how it would be. It must shame Em’ly terribly. But she’s made her bed—and you have to say it for her, she’s doing a good job of lying in it. Well, Minna Perkins would turn over in her grave if she knew who’s lying in HER bed—Ed Jennings, half the time dead drunk!”

“Em’ly’s gone back to giving music lessons,” Grandma reported. “Why, she had to. That fellow don’t work half the time.”

Ed Jennings went to work drunk one brave spring morning. His job was to paint the courthouse roof. In his drunkenness he fell off the roof and broke his neck.

Then Emily sold her parents’ home and all it contained. This was a slap in the face to the folks who had Minna Perkins enshrined in that house—and Em’ly entombed along with her.

Next Em’ly went to Chicago for a brushing-up course in music. When she returned, in six months, she rented a two-room house which she proceeded to have done over according to crazy modern notions. “She’s hiring another painter man!” (Quoting Grandma.)

Em’ly had electric lights installed, frescoed walls with hand-painted borders, furniture done in leaf green, and a matching hand-painted screen. Her drapes were green taffeta instead of proper lace. There were two new-style stuffed velvet chairs, “so soft you’d think Ed Jennings’ mortal lazy self was there to set in ’em,” Grandma sniffed. “And not a knickknack nor doily to be found. It don’t look stylish to me. She calls it a studi-o.”

Emily wore her hair parted straight down the middle and drawn back tight in a low knot on her neck. It was too plain to be stylish; yet it brought out her brown eyes and the light in them—a different light now. Maybe electric lights instead of candles. Her clothes were the talk of the town.

THE summer I was 17 I went to visit Grandma. Grandma surveyed me with a keenness in which lurked twinkles. “Quite a young lady, ain’t you? I guess mebbe you wouldn’t be interested in the new boy across the alley. No, I reckon not.”

Grandma told me spiritedly about the new church building and all the fine activities under the new young minister, Reverend Loren Rawlings. “He’s a dandy, I tell you,” Grandma said. “He gives ’em What-Fur and they love it. He’s got folks coming and subscribing that ain’t set foot inside the church for years. And he’s so nicelooking you don’t see how he can be sincere, but he is.”

We arrived, eventually, at the subject of Em’ly Jennings, and Grandma froze at mention of her. I persisted. “What’s Em’ly doing now?” Grandma eyed me. “Making a fool of herself again, that’s all.”

“Another man? Another love affair?”

I cried. “Honest?”

“I didn’t say another love affair,” Grandma said. “He ain’t making a fool of himself. It’s jest Em’ly chasing another man.”

“Does this one drink too?” I asked breathlessly.

“He does not,” Grandma said. “It’s the preacher she’s running after. After the life she’s led—folks jest don’t like it, that’s all.”

I saw how it was at the Epworth League sociable the next week. There was this dark-eyed friendly young Loren Rawlings. He was all over the place, shaking hands, joking, asking after folks’ joys and sorrows, aches and pains, crops and new babies. Every man and woman in the room smiled a warming smile at the young man’s approach and handclasp.

But over the heads of the crowd, and running through it like a live wire, I saw it. I saw Loren Rawlings’ eyes mfèët Em’ly’s. Em’ly, who stood out in the crowd, with her stylish blue taffeta; and that same something flaming in her eyes. “Hello, Lucy,” she said softly, happily.

All my old loyalty came flooding

back. "That preacher is in love with Em’ly, Grandma,” I said firmly, on the way home. “I saw the way he looked at her.”

Grandma muttered. “How could he help looking at her? He’d have to be blind if he couldrj’t see them clothes and the way she’s after him. She always was a great hand to feed men, you know. Well, she’s had him to her studi-o for meals. She bakes fer him; takas him candy. She plays the piano for him every time she can find a stool to flop onto, ogling him all the while. Em’ly’s ma would turn over in her grave if she knew the life that girl’s led —not that Em’ly’s any girl, though she’s been so flighty for all of 10 years!”

Something set a bell ringing in my memory. Flighty. Em’ly had been flighty and the town women couldn’t forgive her. (THEY had had to settle down.) Flighty. I remembered— “Grandma!” I said. It had been when I was so very young that Em’ly had bidden me not to tell. Now it needed telling.

So I told. “She said her mother said you were wild and flirty, Grandma. She said Mr. Perkins had always sparked around you. I guess he’d have loved you if you’d let him. That’s what Em’ly’s mother thought.”

Grandma had her hand out to open the front door and now she whirled there in the moonlight. “Minna Perkins said I was wild and flirty? Why, I never was any such thing!” “Your picture, Grandma, the one when you were 16, makes you look awfully cute and—exciting. I bet you were popular, and peachy!”

Grandma marched erectly ahead of me into the house. She lit the parlor lamp and went into the bedroom with her hat. I followed. She was standing in front of the mirror.

“Of course,” Grandma said, “I did have beaux. Minna Perkins never had any but Clem. Once she set her eyes on him he was a goner.”

Ladies Aid met at Grandma’s that next week. Grandma cleaned and baked for two days. By noon of the day women were converging, bringing children and quilt blocks. And sooner or later, when the quilt for the preacher was under way, the talk followed a beaten track to the heart of the matter.

Perhaps it helped that it was Mrs. Homer Fiddler who got caught up, high-pitched and dry, on a wave of talk: “Em’ly’s ma would turn over in her grave. Someone ought to warn Reverend Rawlings, such a fine young feller—”

Grandma stood in the doorway, arms akimbo. Her voice came clearcut, like a swift crackling flame.

“I reckon your daughter’s too young and silly fer the preacher, Fannie, and you and me are too old. Em’ly ought to make a right good preacher’s wife. She had strict home training. She could always play the piano and lead the choir for services. And with her experiences she’d ought to have learned tolerance for sinners, which, heaven knows, a preacher’s wife had ought to have. I reckon if the preacher wants to marry Em’ly, it’s his business, Fannie.”