PRIZE STORIES OF 1924
been over long enough for prosperous Robinsons and impoverished Overtons to marry each other without scandal. Mrs. Overton would have liked to sit behind her own silver tea service again, and in her own drawing room, and Mr. Robinson would have been so honoured by the gift of her hand in marriage that she would at last have been able to talk to the people she wanted to talk to about the things she wanted to talk about. But Cornelia disapproved of second marriages so positively that people who did not know her might well have thought she was sorry that she had been born. Cornelia was then expecting the birth of that son who was now trying to conceal his own grief so that he could console her first daughter-in-law. And Cornelia had been thrown into such a state by her mother's announcement that Mrs. Overton had felt obliged to give up the idea.
So she had continued to sit on the side of her daughter’s table for nine months of every year, and on the side of her son William's table for three months of every year. Even when tea services on breakfast tables went out, and round tables came in, tables continued to have a head and a side, and Mrs. Overton had continued to grieve for her own tea service and her own table. She had never ceased to long for a house where a ringing telephone would mean that someone in the world wanted to talk with her badly enough to go through the trouble of getting a telephone number; where a ringing door bell would mean that someone wanted to see her, if it were only a book agent, or the laundry man.
For thirty-four years Mrs. Overton had spoken to Daughters of the American Revolution and Daughters of the Confederacy and newspaper reporters and officers of those clubs which seem to exist chiefly to elect officers. But she had spoken only to tell them that Mrs. Foster was lunching or dining or presiding at some house or some club where she either could or could not be called to the telephone. She had talked to a great many callers, but she had talked to callers of no consequence, while Mrs. Foster talked to callers of great consequence—local, if not international. And then Mrs. Foster had fallen ill. And William Overton had fallen ill. And old Mrs. Overton began to be Rachel weeping for her children.
Mrs. Foster was ill, desperately ill, for six months. For