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“And you don’t think maybe I ought to have had lemon custard to go with the pumpkin instead of the mince?”
Miss Marilla Chadwick turned from her anxious watching at the kitchen window to search Mary Amber’s clear young eyes for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
“Oh, no, I think mince is much better. All men like mince-pie, it’s so—sort of comprehensive, you know.”
Miss Marilla turned back to her window, satisfied.
“Well, now, if he came on that train, he ought to be in sight around the bend of the road in about three minutes,” she said tensely. “I’ve timed it often when folks were coming out from town, and it always takes just six minutes to get around the bend of the road.”
All through the months of the Great War Miss Marilla had knit and bandaged and emergencied and canteened with an eager, wistful look in her dreamy gray eyes, and many a sweater had gone to some needy lad with the little thrilling remark as she handed it over to the committee:
“I keep thinking, what if my nephew Dick should be needing one, and this just come along in time?”
But when the war was over, and most people had begun to use pink and blue wool on their needles, or else cast them aside altogether and tried to forget there ever had been such a thing as war, and the price of turkeys had gone up so high that people forgot to be thankful the war was over, Miss Marilla still held that wistful look in her eyes, and stillspoke of her nephew Dick with bated breath and a sigh. For was not Dick among those favored few who were to remain and do patrol work for an indefinite time in the land of the enemy, while others were gathered to their waiting homes and eager loved ones? Miss Marilla spoke of Dick as of one who still lingered on the border-land of terror, and who laid his young life a continuous sacrifice for the good of the great world.
A neat paragraph to that effect appeared in The Springhaven Chronicle, a local sheet that offered scant news items and fat platitudes at an ever-increasing rate to a gullible and conceited populace, who supported it because it was really the only way to know what one’s neighbors were doing. The paragraph was the reluctant work of Mary Amber, the young girl who lived next door to Miss Marilla and had been her devoted friend since the age of four, when Miss Marilla used to bake sugar cookies for her in the form of stogy men with currant eyes and outstretched arms.
Mary Amber remembered Nephew Dick as a young imp of nine who made a whole long, beautiful summer ugly with his torments. She also knew that the neighbors all round about had memories of that summer when Dick’s parents went on a Western trip and left him with his Aunt Marilla. Mary Amber shrank from exposing her dear friend to the criticisms of such of the readers of The Springhaven Chronicle as had memories of their cats tortured, their chickens chased, their flower-beds trampled, their children bullied, and their windows broken by the youthful Dick.
But time had softened the memories of that fateful summer in Miss Marilla’s mind, and, besides, she was sorely inneed of a hero. Mary Amber had not the heart to refuse to write the paragraph, but she made it as conservative as the circumstances allowed.