That afternoon, Miss Sally-Lou Wartrace, sister of the keeper of the store at the cross-roads, was at her brother's counter eagerly reading an Atlanta paper while he stood looking over her shoulder.
The final word was caught up by an impulsive snicker, which Webb muffled under his hat. "Oh, I don't mean to say that I am not some older," Mrs. Drake floundered. "Bein' as you are unmarried, it wouldn't be polite for me with as old children as I got to " "Oh, I'm not mad about it!" Miss Sally-Lou declared, hastily. "I know I'm not as young as Dolly an' her crowd o' girls."
The visitor ascended the steps, crossed the porch, and, without rapping at the door, entered the sitting-room where she found Dolly, Ann, and her mother together. Mrs. Drake was patching a sheet at the window; Ann, sulky and obstinate, was trying to do an example on a slate; and Dolly stood over her, a dark, wearied expression on her face. "Hello, folkses!" Miss Sally-Lou greeted them, playfully.
Miss Sally-Lou raised her voice tentatively, that she might rivet his attention. "Young as she is, I never see 'er without havin' 'er ax some question or other about me or somebody else marryin'." "It's jest the woman croppin' out in 'er," Webb drawled, with unconscious humor. "Looks like marryin' is a woman's aim the same as keepin' out of it ought to be a man's."
Miss Sally-Lou folded the paper and thrust it into the big pocket of her print skirt. "I am goin' over thar, Dolph," she said, with a rising smile. "I wouldn't miss it for a purty." "You'd better keep out of it," the storekeeper mildly protested. "You know you have been mixed up in several fusses." "I don't expect to have a thing to do with this un," was the eager reply.
"But I would just like to see if they really are countin' on a man of that sort tyin' himself on to a lay-out of their stripe. Nobody in the valley believed Mr. Mostyn had any such intention. He was just killin' time an' amusin' hisse'f." Leaving the store, Miss Sally-Lou strode briskly along the hot, dusty road toward Drake's.
I'm a good hand about a sick-bed, an' I know how to give medicine. If Dolly gets worse, send word to me, an' I'll step right over. This may go hard with her. You know I think that idle scamp might 'a' had better to do than " But Mrs. Drake, obeying her brother's imperative nod, was moving toward the stairs. Sally-Lou and Webb were left together.
Maybe he hain't writ to her since he went back the scamp! He ought to be licked good an' strong." "What are you fixing up so for, Miss Sally-Lou?" Ann wanted to know, a bubble of amusement in her young eyes and voice. "Are you going to get married?" "Listen to her," Miss Wartrace tittered, quite unobservant of Ann's sarcasm. "The idea of a child of that age constantly thinking of marrying."
She liked to chat with 'im now an' then, but la, me! if you women are so dead bent on splicin' folks why don't you keep your eyes open? Listen to me, an' see if I ain't right. You watch an' see if Dolly an' Warren Wilks " "Pshaw!" Miss Sally-Lou sniffed. "Dolly will never give Warren a second thought not now, nohow. She's got 'er sights up, an' she'll never lower 'em ag'in."
Mostyn told me an' Dolly all about him an' that woman. We knowed all along that he was goin' to git married, but it was a sort o' secret betwixt us three." Astounded, and warningly pinched on the arm, Ann, with a lingering backward look, left the room and reluctantly climbed the stairs. "You'll have to excuse me, Miss Sally-Lou, here's your paper," Mrs. Drake was slowly recovering discretion.