A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 5, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 5

There was a fireplace, which was dusted and scrubbed at intervals, but never, under any circumstances, profaned by a fire. It was curtained by a gay remnant of figured plush, however, so nobody missed the fire. White and gold china vases stood on the mantel, and a little china dog, who would never have dared to bark had he been alive, so chaste and humble of countenance was he, sat forever between the two vases, keeping faithful guard over Miss Mehitable's treasures.

The silver coffin plates of the Smiths, matted with black, and deeply framed, occupied the place of honour over the mantel. On the marble-topped table in the exact centre of the room was a basket of wax flowers and fruit, covered by a bell-shaped glass shade. Miss Hitty's album and her Bible were placed near it with mathematical precision. On the opposite wall was a hair wreath, made from the shorn locks of departed Smiths by Miss Hitty's mother. The proud possessor felt a covert reproach in the fact that she herself was unable to make hair wreaths. It was a talent for which she had great admiration.

Araminta rocked back and forth in her low chair by the window. She hummed a bit of "Sweet Bye and Bye" to herself, for hymns were the only songs she knew. She could play some of them, with one hand, on the melodeon in the corner, but she dared not touch the yellow keys of the venerated instrument except when Miss Hitty was out.

The sunlight shone lovingly on Araminta's brown hair, tightly combed back, braided, and pinned up, but rippling riotously, none the less. Her deep, thoughtful eyes were grey and her nose turned up coquettishly. To a guardian of greater penetration, Araminta's mouth would have given deep concern. It was a demure, rosy mouth, warning and tantalising by turns. Mischievous little dimples lurked in the corners of it, and even Aunt Hitty was not proof against the magic of Araminta's smile. The girl's face had the creamy softness of a white rose petal, but her cheeks bloomed with the flush of health and she had a most disconcerting trick of blushing. With Spartan thoroughness, Miss Mehitable constantly strove to cure Araminta of this distressing fault, but as yet she had not succeeded.

The pretty child had grown into an exquisitely lovely woman, to her stern guardian's secret uneasiness. "It's goin' to be harder to keep Minty right than 't would be if she was plain," mused Miss Hitty, "but t guess I'll be given strength to do it. I've done well by her so far."

"In the Sweet Bye and Bye," sang Araminta, in a piping, girlish soprano, "we shall meet on that beautiful shore."

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