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A Letter of Credit by Susan Warner

Purcell helped Rotha to the two first named articles


aint a goin' up and down every meal," said his wife. "_I_ aint, I can tell you."

"How am I to know, then, when meals are ready?" Rotha asked.

"I don' know," said Mr. Purcell; and his wife added nothing. Rotha began to consider what was her best mode of action. _This_ sort of experience, she felt, would be unendurable.

The table was set with coarse but clean cloth and crockery. I might say much the same of the viands. The bread however was very good, and even delicate. Besides bread and butter there was cold boiled pickled pork, cold potatoes, and a plate of raw onions cut up in vinegar. Mr. Purcell helped Rotha to the two first-named articles.

"Like inguns?"

"Onions? Yes, sometimes," said Rotha, "when they are cooked."

"These is rareripes. First rate--best thing on table. Better 'n if they was cooked. Try 'em?"

"No, thank you."

"I knowed she wouldn't, Joe," said Mrs. Purcell, setting down Rotha's cup of tea. "What us likes wouldn't suit the likes o' her. She's from the City o' Pride. Us is country folks, and don't know nothin'."

"I've a kind o' tender pity for the folks as don't know inguns," said Mr. Purcell. "It's _them_ what don't know nothin'."

"She don't want your pity, neither," returned his wife. "I'd keep it, if I was you. Or you may pity her for havin' to eat along with we; it's _that_ as goes hard."

"You are making it harder than necessary," said Rotha calmly, though her colour rose. "Please to let me and my likings or dislikings alone. There is no need to discuss them."

After which speech there was a dead, ominous silence, which prevailed during a large part of the meal. This could not be borne, Rotha felt. She broke the silence as Mrs. Purcell gave her her second cup of tea.

"I have been thinking over what you said about calling me to meals. I think the best way will be, not to call me."

"How'll you get down then?" inquired Mrs. Purcell sharply.

"I will come when I am ready."

"But I don't keep no table a standin'. 'Taint a hotel. If you'll eat when us eats, you can, as Joe and Mis' Busby will have it so; but if you aint here when us sits down, there won't be no other time. I can't stand waitin' on nobody."

"I was going to say," pursued Rotha, "that you can set by a plate for me with whatever you have, and I'll take it cold--if it is cold."

"Where'll you take it?"

"Wherever I please. I do not know."

"There aint no place but the kitchen."

Rotha was silent, trying to keep temper and patience.

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