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Chapter 8

MAGGIE, THE FOUNTAINS


Maggie, bringing in a bundle: "Something a District Messenger brought. Will you sign for it, ma'am?"

Mrs. Fountain: "You sign, Clarence. If I know anything about the look and the feel of a bundle, this is another bath-robe, but I shall soon see." While she is cutting the string and tearing the wrappings away, Fountain signs and Maggie goes. Mrs. Fountain shakes out the folds of the robe. "Well, upon my word, I should think there was conspiracy to insult you, Clarence. I should like to know who has had the effrontery— What's on it?"

Fountain, reading from the card which had fallen out of the garment to the floor: "'With Christmas greetings from Mrs. Arthur J. Gibby.'"

Mrs. Fountain, dropping the robe and seizing the card: "Mrs. Arthur J. Gibby! Well, upon my word, this is impudence. It's not only impudence, it's indelicacy. And I had always thought she was the very embodiment of refinement, and I've gone about saying so. Now I shall have to take it back. The idea of a lady sending a bath-robe to a gentleman! What next, I wonder! What right has Mrs. Gibby to send you a bath-robe? Don't prevaricate! Remember that the truth is the only thing that can save you. Matters must have gone pretty far, when a woman could send you anything so—intimate. What are you staring at with that paper? You needn't hope to divert my mind by—"

Fountain, giving her the paper in which the robe came: "Seems to be for Mrs. Clarence Fountain."

Mrs. Fountain, snatching it from him: "What! It is, it is! Oh, poor dear Lilly! How can you ever forgive me? She saw me looking at it to-day at Shumaker's, and it must have come into her head in despair what else to get me. But it was a perfect inspiration—for it was just what I was longing for. Why"—laughing hysterically while she holds up the robe, and turns it this way and that—"I might have seen at a glance that it wasn't a man's, with this lace on and this silk hood, and"—she hurries into it, and pulls it forward, looking down at either side—"it's just the right length, and if it was made for me it couldn't fit me better. What a joke I shall have with Lilly, when I tell her about it. I sha'n't spare myself a bit!"

Fountain: "Then I hope you'll spare me. I have some little delicacy of feeling, and I don't like the notion of a lady's giving me a bath-robe. It's—intimate. I don't know where you picked up your girl friends."

Mrs. Fountain, capering about joyfully: "Oh, how funny you are, darling! But go on. I don't mind it, now. And you may be glad you've got off so easily. Only now if there are any more bath-robes—" A timid rap is heard at the door. "Come in, Maggie!" The door is slowly set ajar, then flung suddenly wide open, and Jim and Susy in their night-gowns rush dancing and exulting in.

William Dean Howells

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