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Jane’s father cried. ” As Jane’s father continued, it occurred to Jane that she might have predicted the rest: her stepmother, Mehitable, turning her face to her husband in that closed openness that meant he had her attention if not her understanding, her stepbrother Neddy slipping out the door to the barn like a starved cat, her stepsister Bethiah charging into the room in the full flood of a mindless jabber that drew her a swat, the little ones staring at their father like a pair of big-eyed, cornered foxes.
How many visits has it been now, ten? ” “Not near a dozen. ” “Hah! Business with me! Here is all his business with me: he’ll have a house across the road as I promised for your marriage portion, half interest in the mill, full charge of both mill and tannery. You’ve picked yourself an able man, Jane; and an agreeable one; a clever man I’d even call him. I can talk politics with him without fear of disrupting my digestion as always happens whenever your brother engages me on the subject. But I expect you need no essay from me on Phinnie Paine’s character; let me say, however, if I’d got this letter from Joseph Woollen he’d have got another answer.
She should go straight home—her father’s letters aside, the day’s work sat waiting—but two of the letters were for Jane, and the minute she stepped inside the house she would lose all chance of reading them in peace. The plan was to take the path along the millstream to her favorite rock above the millpond, where she might, for a time, keep her news to herself. Such was the plan, but as Jane rounded the bend she came up against a knot of men standing in front of Thacher’s tavern, their voices hot and sharp, the words flying back and forth like training-day musket shot.