The summer term at Wareham had ended,and Huldah Meserve, Dick Carter, andLiving Perkins had finished school, leavingRebecca and Emma Jane to represent Riverboroin the year to come. Delia Weeks was at homefrom Lewiston on a brief visit, and Mrs. Robinsonwas celebrating the occasion by a small and selectparty, the particular day having been set becausestrawberries were ripe and there was a rooster thatwanted killing. Mrs. Robinson explained this to herhusband, and requested that he eat his dinner onthe carpenter's bench in the shed, as the party wasto be a ladies' affair.
"All right; it won't be any loss to me," said Mr.
Robinson. "Give me beans, that's all I ask. Whena rooster wants to be killed, I want somebody elseto eat him, not me!"Mrs. Robinson had company only once or twicea year, and was generally much prostrated for severaldays afterward, the struggle between pride andparsimony being quite too great a strain upon her.
It was necessary, in order to maintain her standingin the community, to furnish a good "set out," yetthe extravagance of the proceeding goaded her fromthe first moment she began to stir the marble caketo the moment when the feast appeared upon thetable.
The rooster had been boiling steadily over a slowfire since morning, but such was his power of resistancethat his shape was as firm and handsome inthe pot as on the first moment when he was loweredinto it.
"He ain't goin' to give up!" said Alice, peeringnervously under the cover, "and he looks like ascarecrow.""We'll see whether he gives up or not when Itake a sharp knife to him," her mother answered;"and as to his looks, a platter full o' gravy makesa sight o' difference with old roosters, and I'll putdumplings round the aidge; they're turrible fillin',though they don't belong with boiled chicken."The rooster did indeed make an impressive showing,lying in his border of dumplings, and the dishwas much complimented when it was borne in byAlice. This was fortunate, as the chorus of admirationceased abruptly when the ladies began to eatthe fowl.
"I was glad you could git over to Huldy'sgraduation, Delia," said Mrs. Meserve, who sat at thefoot of the table and helped the chicken while Mrs.
Robinson poured coffee at the other end. She wasa fit mother for Huldah, being much the most stylishperson in Riverboro; ill health and dress were,indeed, her two chief enjoyments in life. It wasrumored that her elaborately curled "front piece"had cost five dollars, and that it was sent into Portlandtwice a year to be dressed and frizzed; butit is extremely difficult to discover the precise factsin such cases, and a conscientious historian alwaysprefers to warn a too credulous reader againstimbibing as gospel truth something that might bethe basest perversion of it. As to Mrs. Meserve'sappearance, have you ever, in earlier years, soughtthe comforting society of the cook and hung overthe kitchen table while she rolled out sugargingerbread? Perhaps then, in some unaccustomedmoment of amiability, she made you a dough lady,cutting the outline deftly with her pastry knife, andthen, at last, placing the human stamp upon it bysticking in two black currants for eyes. Just call tomind the face of that sugar gingerbread lady andyou will have an exact portrait of Huldah's mother,--Mis' Peter Meserve, she was generally called,there being several others.