"Have you heard the news?" cried Carrie Dungen as she sped towards Martha's kitchen. "Have you heard the news?" Her eyes were shining with delight.
"No," answered Martha's sister Kate, bending forward eagerly. "What was it? What was it?"
Carrie appeared triumphantly in the open door. "Oh, there's been an awful scene between Doctor Trescott and Jake Winter. I never thought that Jake Winter had any pluck at all, but this morning he told the doctor just what he thought of him."
"Well, what did he think of him?" asked Martha.
"Oh, he called him everything. Mrs. Howarth heard it through her front blinds. It was terrible, she says. It's all over town now. Everybody knows it."
"Didn't the doctor answer back?"
"No! Mrs. Howarth—she says he never said a word. He just walked down to his buggy and got in, and drove off as co-o-o-l. But Jake gave him jinks, by all accounts."
"But what did he say?" cried Kate, shrill and excited. She was evidently at some kind of a feast.
"Oh, he told him that Sadie had never been well since that night Henry Johnson frightened her at Theresa Page's party, and he held him responsible, and how dared he cross his threshold—and—and—and—"
"And what?" said Martha.
"Did he swear at him?" said Kate, in fearsome glee.
"No—not much. He did swear at him a little, but not more than a man does anyhow when he is real mad, Mrs. Howarth says."
"O-oh!" breathed Kate. "And did he call him any names?"
Martha, at her work, had been for a time in deep thought. She now interrupted the others. "It don't seem as if Sadie Winter had been sick since that time Henry Johnson got loose. She's been to school almost the whole time since then, hasn't she?"
They combined upon her in immediate indignation. "School? School? I should say not. Don't think for a moment. School!"
Martha wheeled from the sink. She held an iron spoon, and it seemed as if she was going to attack them. "Sadie Winter has passed here many a morning since then carrying her schoolbag. Where was she going? To a wedding?"
The others, long accustomed to a mental tyranny, speedily surrendered.
"Did she?" stammered Kate. "I never saw her."
Carrie Dungen made a weak gesture.
"If I had been Doctor Trescott," exclaimed Martha, loudly, "I'd have knocked that miserable Jake Winter's head off."
Kate and Carrie, exchanging glances, made an alliance in the air. "I don't see why you say that, Martha," replied Carrie, with considerable boldness, gaining support and sympathy from Kate's smile. "I don't see how anybody can be blamed for getting angry when their little girl gets almost scared to death and gets sick from it, and all that. Besides, everybody says—"
"Oh, I don't care what everybody says," said Martha.
"Well, you can't go against the whole town," answered Carrie, in sudden sharp defiance.
"No, Martha, you can't go against the whole town," piped Kate, following her leader rapidly.
"'The whole town,'" cried Martha. "I'd like to know what you call 'the whole town.' Do you call these silly people who are scared of Henry Johnson 'the whole town'?"
"Why, Martha," said Carrie, in a reasoning tone, "you talk as if you wouldn't be scared of him!"
"No more would I," retorted Martha.
"O-oh, Martha, how you talk!" said Kate. "Why, the idea! Everybody's afraid of him."
Carrie was grinning. "You've never seen him, have you?" she asked, seductively.
"No," admitted Martha.
"Well, then, how do you know that you wouldn't be scared?"
Martha confronted her. "Have you ever seen him? No? Well, then, how do you know you would be scared?"
The allied forces broke out in chorus: "But, Martha, everybody says so. Everybody says so."
"Everybody says what?"
"Everybody that's seen him say they were frightened almost to death. Tisn't only women, but it's men too. It's awful."
Martha wagged her head solemnly. "I'd try not to be afraid of him."
"But supposing you could not help it?" said Kate.
"Yes, and look here," cried Carrie. "I'll tell you another thing. The Hannigans are going to move out of the house next door."
"On account of him?" demanded Martha.
Carrie nodded. "Mrs. Hannigan says so herself."
"Well, of all things!" ejaculated Martha. "Going to move, eh? You don't say so! Where they going to move to?"
"Down on Orchard Avenue."
"Well, of all things! Nice house?"
"I don't know about that. I haven't heard. But there's lots of nice houses on Orchard."
"Yes, but they're all taken," said Kate. "There isn't a vacant house on Orchard Avenue."
"Oh yes, there is," said Martha. "The old Hampstead house is vacant."
"Oh, of course," said Kate. "But then I don't believe Mrs. Hannigan would like it there. I wonder where they can be going to move to?"
"I'm sure I don't know," sighed Martha. "It must be to some place we don't know about."
"Well." said Carrie Dungen, after a general reflective silence, "it's easy enough to find out, anyhow."
"Who knows—around here?" asked Kate.
"Why, Mrs. Smith, and there she is in her garden," said Carrie, jumping to her feet. As she dashed out of the door, Kate and Martha crowded at the window. Carrie's voice rang out from near the steps. "Mrs. Smith! Mrs. Smith! Do you know where the Hannigans are going to move to?"