In addition to the usual and convenient modern shirt-waist-and-skirt endowment, Maria had when she came but two gowns, one of black muslin and the other white, with improvised hats to match, - simple, graceful gowns, yet oversombre.
But lo! she has blossomed forth like a spring seed catalogue, and Bart insists that I watched the gate with his field-glass an hour the afternoon of the tea, to see her go out. I did no such thing; I was looking at an oriole's nest that hangs in the elm over the road, but I could not help seeing the lovely pink flower hat that she wore atilt, with just enough pink at the neck and streamers at the waist of her dress to harmonize.
I visited the larder that evening for supper supplies, - yes, we have become so addicted to the freedom of outdoors that for the last few days Bart has brought even the dinner up to camp, waiting upon me beautifully, for now we have entirely outgrown the feeling of the first few days that we were taking part in a comedy, and have found ourselves, as it were - in some ways, I think, for the first time.
Anastasia seemed consumed with a desire for a dish of gossip, but was not willing to take the initiative. She chuckled to herself and tried several perfectly transparent ways of attracting my attention, until I took pity on her, a very one-sided pity too, for,'between ourselves, Anastasia is the domestic salt and pepper that gives the Garden Vacation a flavour that I should sadly miss.
"Miss Marie," she exclaimed, "do be the tastiest creaytur ever I set me eyes on." (She refused absolutely to call her Maria; that name, she holds, is only fit for a settled old maid, "and that same it's not sure and fair to mark any woman wid being this side the grave." )
Then I knew that I only had to sit down and raise my eyes to Anastasia's face in an attitude of attention, to open the word gates, and this I did.
"Well, fust off win she got the invite ter sing at the swarry that tops off the day's doings down to that Golf Club, she was that worried about hats you never seen the like! She wus over ter Bridgeton, and Barney swore he drove her ter every milliner in the place, and says she ter me, pleasant like, that evenin', when returned, in excuse fer havin' nothin' to show, 'Oh, Annie, Annie, it would break yer heart to see the little whisp of flowers they ask five dollars for; to fix me hats a trifle would part me from a tin-dollar bill!'"
(The sentiments I at once perceived might be Maria's, but their translation Anastasia's.)
"Now Miss Marie, she's savin' like, - not through meanness, but because she's got the good Irish heart that boils against payin' rint, and she's hoardin' crown by shillin' till she kin buy her a cabin and to say a pertaty patch for a garden, somewhere out where it's green! Faith! but she'll do it too; she's a manager! Yez had orter see the illigant boned turkey she made out o' veal, stuck through with shrivelled black ground apples, she called 'puffies'! an glued it up foine wid jelly. Sez I, 'They'll never know the difference,' but off she goes and lets it out and tells the makin' uv it ter every woman on the hill, - that's all I hev agin her. She's got a disease o' truth-telling when there's no need that would anguish the saints o' Hiven theirselves!
"'I kin make better 'n naturaler-lookin' hats fer nothin', here at home, than they keep in N' York,' she says after looking out the back window a piece. 'And who'll help yer?' says I, 'and where'll yer git the posies and what all?'
'"I bought some bolts o' ribbon to-day,' says she, smilin'; 'and fer the rest, the garden, you, and I will manage it together, if you'll lend me a shelf all to meself in the cold closet whenever I need it!' Sure fer a moment I wuz oneasy, fer I thought a wild streak run branchin' through all the boss's family!"
(At the words Garden, You, and I, there flashed through me the thought of some telepathic influence at work.)
"'The garden's full o' growin' posies that outshames the flower-makers; watch out and see, Anastasia!'
"Well and I did!! This mornin' early she picks a lot o' them sticky pink flowers by the stoop, the colour o' chiny shells, wid spokes in them like umbrellas, and the thick green leaves, and after leavin' 'em in water a spell, puts 'em in me cold closet, a small bit o' wet moss tied to each stem end wid green sewin' silk! A piece after dinner out she comes wid the hat that's covered with strong white lace, and she cocks it this way and pinches it that and sews the flowers to it quick wid a big thread and a great splashin' bow on behind, and into the cold box agin!
"'That's fer this afternoon,' says she, and before she wore it off (a hat that Eve, mother o' sin, and us all would envy), she'd another ready for the night! 'Will it spoil now and give yer away, I wonder?' says I, anxious like.
"'Not fer two hours, at least; and it'll keep me from stayin' too long; if I do, it'll wither away and leave me all forlorn, like Cinderella and her pumpkin coach!' she said a-smilin' kind uv to herself in me kitchen minor, when she put the hat on. 'But I'm not insultin' God's flowers tryin' to pass them off for French ones, Annie/ says she. 'I'm settin' a new garden fashion; let them follow who will!' and away wid her! That same other is in here now, and it's no sin to let yer peep, gin it's ye own posies and ye chest they're in." So, throwing open the door Anastasia revealed the slate shelf covered by a sheet of white paper, while resting on an empty pickle jar, for a support, was the second hat, of loosely woven black straw braid, an ornamental wire edging the brim that would allow it to take a dozen shapes at will. It was garlanded by a close-set wreath of crimson peonies grading down to blush, all in half bud except one full-blown beauty high in front and one under the brim set well against the hair, while covering the wire, caught firm and close, were glossy, fragrant leaves of the wild sweetbrier made into a vine.