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relatives. She looked straight at Mattie as she spoke, a faint smile
deepening the vertical lines between her nose and chin.
When supper was over she rose from her seat and pressed her
hand to the flat surface over the region of her heart. “That pie of
yours always sets a mite heavy, Matt,” she said, not ill-naturedly.
She seldom abbreviated the girl’s name, and when she did so it
was always a sign of affability.
“I’ve a good mind to go and hunt up those stomach powders I got
last year over in Springfield,” she continued. “I ain’t tried them for
quite a while, and maybe they’ll help the heartburn.” Mattie lifted
her eyes. “Can’t I get them for you, Zeena?” she ventured.
“No. They’re in a place you don’t know about,” Zeena answered
darkly, with one of her secret looks.
She went out of the kitchen and Mattie, rising, began to clear the
dishes from the table. As she passed Ethan’s chair their eyes met
and clung together desolately. The warm still kitchen looked as
peaceful as the night before. The cat had sprung to Zeena’s
rocking-chair, and the heat of the fire was beginning to draw out
the faint sharp scent of the geraniums. Ethan dragged himself
wearily to his feet.
“I’ll go out and take a look around,” he said, going toward the
passage to get his lantern.
As he reached the door he met Zeena coming back into the room,
her lips twitching with anger, a flush of excitement on her sallow
face. The shawl had slipped from her shoulders and was dragging
at her down-trodden heels, and in her hands she carried the
fragments of the red glass pickle-dish.
“I’d like to know who done this,” she said, looking sternly from
Ethan to Mattie.
There was no answer, and she continued in a trembling voice: “I
went to get those powders I’d put away in father’s old spectacle-
case, top of the china-closet, where I keep the things I set store by,
so’s folks shan’t meddle with them-” Her voice broke, and two
small tears hung on her lashless lids and ran slowly down her
cheeks. “It takes the stepladder to get at the top shelf, and I put
Aunt Philura Maple’s pickle-dish up there o’ purpose when we
was married, and it’s never been down since, ‘cept for the spring
cleaning, and then I always lifted it with my own hands, so’s ‘t
shouldn’t get broke.” She laid the fragments reverently on the
table. “I want to know who done this,” she quavered.
At the challenge Ethan turned back into the room and faced her. “I
can tell you, then. The cat done it.” “The cat?” “That’s what I said.”
She looked at him hard, and then turned her eyes to Mattie, who
was carrying the dish-pan to the table.