Mrs. Persis Flagg stood in her front doorway taking leave of Miss Cynthia Pickett, who had been making a long call. They were not intimate friends. Miss Pickett always came formally to the front door and rang when she paid her visits, but, the week before, they had met at the county conference, and happened to be sent to the same house for entertainment, and so had deepened and renewed the pleasures of acquaintance.
It was an afternoon in early June; the syringa-bushes were tall and green on each side of the stone doorsteps, and were covered with their lovely white and golden flowers. Miss Pickett broke off the nearest twig, and held it before her prim face as she talked. She had a pretty childlike smile that came and went suddenly, but her face was not one that bore the marks of many pleasures. Mrs. Flagg was a tall, commanding sort of person, with an air of satisfaction and authority.
“Oh, yes, gather all you want,” she said stiffly, as Miss Pickett took the syringa without having asked beforehand; but she had an amiable expression, and just now her large countenance was lighted up by pleasant anticipation.
“We can tell early what sort of a day it’s goin’ to be,” she said eagerly. “There ain’t a cloud in the sky now. I’ll stop for you as I come along, or if there should be anything unforeseen to detain me, I’ll send you word. I don’t expect you’d want to go if it wa’n't so that I could?”
“Oh my sakes, no!” answered Miss Pickett discreetly, with a timid flush. “You feel certain that Mis’ Timms won’t be put out? I shouldn’t feel free to go unless I went ‘long o’ you.”
“Why, nothin’ could be plainer than her words,” said Mrs. Flagg in a tone of reproval. “You saw how she urged me, an’ had over all that talk about how we used to see each other often when we both lived to Longport, and told how she’d been thinkin’ of writin’, and askin’ if it wa’n't so I should be able to come over and stop three or four days as soon as settled weather come, because she couldn’t make no fire in her best chamber on account of the chimbley smokin’ if the wind wa’n't just right. You see how she felt toward me, kissin’ of me comin’ and goin’? Why, she even asked me who I employed to do over my bonnet, Miss Pickett, just as interested as if she was a sister; an’ she remarked she should look for us any pleasant day after we all got home, an’ were settled after the conference.”
Miss Pickett smiled, but did not speak, as if she expected more arguments still.
“An’ she seemed just about as much gratified to meet with you again. She seemed to desire to meet you again very particular,” continued Mrs. Flagg. “She really urged us to come together an’ have a real good day talkin’ over old times–there, don’t le’ ’s go all over it again! I’ve always heard she’d made that old house of her aunt Bascoms’ where she lives look real handsome. I once heard her best parlor carpet described as being an elegant carpet, different from any there was round here. Why, nobody couldn’t be more cordial, Miss Pickett; you ain’t goin’ to give out just at the last?”
“Oh, no!” answered the visitor hastily; “no, ‘m! I want to go full as much as you do, Mis’ Flagg, but you see I never was so well acquainted with Mis’ Cap’n Timms, an’ I always seem to dread putting myself for’ard. She certain was very urgent, an’ she said plain enough to come any day next week, an’ here ’tis Wednesday, though of course she wouldn’t look for us either Monday or Tuesday. ‘T will be a real pleasant occasion, an’ now we’ve been to the conference it don’t seem near so much effort to start.”