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Like A Wolf On The Fold
by [?]

I

Aggie has always been in the habit of observing the anniversary of Mr. Wiggins’s death. Aggie has the anniversary habit, anyhow, and her life is a succession: of small feast-days, on which she wears mental crape or wedding garments–depending on the occasion. Tish and I always remember these occasions appropriately, sending flowers on the anniversaries of the passing away of Aggie’s parents; grandparents; a niece who died in birth; her cousin, Sarah Webb, who married a missionary and was swallowed whole by a large snake,–except her shoes, which the reptile refused and of which Aggie possesses the right, given her by the stricken husband; and, of course, Mr. Wiggins.

For Mr. Wiggins Tish and I generally send the same things each year–Tish a wreath of autumn foliage and I a sheaf of wheat tied with a lavender ribbon. The program seldom varies. We drive to the cemetery in the afternoon and Aggie places the sheaf and the wreath on Mr. Wiggins’s last resting-place, after first removing the lavender ribbon, of which she makes cap bows through the year and an occasional pin-cushion or fancy-work bag; then home to chicken and waffles, which had been Mr. Wiggins’s favorite meal. In the evening Charlie Sands generally comes in and we play a rubber or two of bridge.

On the thirtieth anniversary of Mr. Wiggins’s falling off a roof and breaking his neck, Tish was late in arriving, and I found Aggie sitting alone, dressed in black, with a tissue-paper bundle in her lap. I put my sheaf on the table and untied my bonnet-strings.

“Where’s Tish?” I asked.

“Not here yet.”

Something in Aggie’s tone made me look at her. She was eyeing the bundle in her lap.

“I got a paler shade of ribbon this time,” I said, seeing she made no comment on the sheaf. “It’s a better color for me if you’re going to make my Christmas present out of it this year again. Where’s Tish’s wreath?”

“Here.” Aggie pointed dispiritedly to the bundle in her lap and went on rocking.

“That! That’s no wreath.”

In reply Aggie lifted the tissue paper and shook out, with hands that trembled with indignation, a lace-and-linen centerpiece. She held it up before me and we eyed each other over it. Both of us understood.

“Tish is changed, Lizzie,” Aggie said hollowly. “Ask her for bread these days and she gives you a Cluny-lace fandangle. On mother’s anniversary she sent me a set of doilies; and when Charlie Sands was in the hospital with appendicitis she took him a pair of pillow shams. It’s that Syrian!”

Both of us knew. We had seen Tish’s apartment change from a sedate and spinsterly retreat to a riot of lace covers on the mantel, on the backs of chairs, on the stands, on the pillows–everywhere. We had watched her Marseilles bedspreads give way to hem-stitched covers, with bolsters to match. We had seen Tish go through a cold winter clad in a succession of sleazy silk kimonos instead of her flannel dressing-gown; terrible kimonos–green and yellow and red and pink, that looked like fruit salads and were just as heating.

“It’s that dratted Syrian!” cried Aggie–and at that Tish came in. She stood inside the door and eyed us.

“What about him?” she demanded. “If I choose to take a poor starving Christian youth and assist him by buying from him what I need–what I need!–that’s my affair, isn’t it? Tufik was starving and I took him in.”

“He took you in, all right!” Aggie sniffed. “A great, mustached, dirty, palavering foreigner, who’s probably got a harem at home and no respect for women!”

Tish glanced at my sheaf and at the centerpiece. She was dressed as she always dressed on Mr. Wiggins’s day–in black; but she had a new lace collar with a jabot, and we knew where she had got it. She saw our eyes on it and she had the grace to flush.