A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 2, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 2

The slanting sunbeams of late afternoon crept through the cobwebbed window, and Miss Evelina stirred uneasily in her sleep. The mocking dream vanished and she awoke to feel, as always, the iron, icy hand that unmercifully clutched her heart. The room was cold and she shivered as she lay beneath her insufficient covering.

At length she rose, and dressed mechanically, avoiding the mirror, and pinning her veil securely to her hair. She went downstairs slowly, clinging to the railing from sheer weakness. She was as frail and ghostly as some disembodied spirit of Grief.

Soon, she had a fire. As the warmth increased, she opened the rear door of the house to dispel the musty atmosphere. The March wind blew strong and clear through the lonely rooms, stirring the dust before it and swaying the cobwebs. Suddenly, Miss Evelina heard a footstep outside and instinctively drew down her veil.

Before she could close the door, a woman, with a shawl over her head, appeared on the threshold, peered curiously into the house, then unhesitatingly entered.

"For the land's sake!" cried a cheery voice. "You scared me most to death! I saw the smoke coming from the chimney and thought the house was afire, so I come over to see."

Miss Evelina stiffened, and made no reply.

"I don't know who you are," said the woman again, mildly defiant, "but this is Evelina Grey's house."

"And I," answered Miss Evelina, almost inaudibly, "am Evelina Grey."

"For the land's sake!" cried the visitor again. "Don't you remember me? Why, Evelina, you and I used to go to school together. You----"

She stopped, abruptly. The fact of the veiled face confronted her stubbornly. She ransacked her memory for a forgotten catastrophe, a quarter of a century back. Impenetrably, a wall was reared between them.

"I--I'm afraid I don't remember," stammered Miss Evelina, in a low voice, hoping that the intruder would go.

"I used to be Mehitable Smith, and that's what I am still, having been spared marriage. Mehitable is my name, but folks calls me Hitty--Miss Hitty," she added, with a slight accent on the "Miss."

"Oh," answered Miss Evelina, "I remember," though she did not remember at all.

"Well, I'm glad you've come back," went on the guest, politely. Altogether in the manner of one invited to do so, she removed her shawl and sat down, furtively eyeing Miss Evelina, yet affecting to look carelessly about the house.

She was a woman of fifty or more, brisk and active of body and kindly, though inquisitive, of countenance. Her dark hair, scarcely touched with grey, was parted smoothly in the exact centre and plastered down on both sides, as one guessed, by a brush and cold water. Her black eyes were bright and keen, and her gold-bowed spectacles were habitually worn half-way down her nose. Her mouth and chin were indicative of great firmness--those whose misfortune it was to differ from Miss Hitty were accustomed to call it obstinacy. People of plainer speech said it was "mulishness."

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