Ellen was ecstatic at the mountain of boxes Jessie brought. Dresses for both girls, smocked, taffeta, bright gingham prints, sailor dresses, petticoats, panties and gowns with shoes and hats to match worked her into a frenzy. Ellen ripped in, pulling out garment after garment, exclaiming joyously at some, tossing others over her shoulder in rejection. Soon every surface in the room was covered. “0h, I had one just like this when I was little! Mother has the picture on her piano. Have you seen it? It looks just like Ginny! This little smocked dress is darling! Can you shorten it like ShirleyTemple’s?” Suddenly, her eyes smoldered. “I wouldn’t put this sailor suit on a dog! Get rid of it! No, don’t take it back! I said get rid of it! I hate it!” In a fury, she ripped the collar off and threw it on the floor an ground it with her slipper. “Now I won’t have to look at it! Don’t you ever bring any more trash like that around here!”
Jessie scurried to pick the things up. She wouldn’t be able to sell damaged goods. Subtly, she slid the damaged sailor suit in her bag. I’m not about to throw away a perfectly good outfit just because of you. I’ll be charging you plenty for that little fit, she thought. Jessie had dealt with Ellen so many years she knew what to expect, so she made up for Ellen’s meanness in her billing. Dr. Evans must have understood, since he always paid promptly without question.
“You never should have brought that hideous thing! Charge me what you want. I am not going to poor mouth about the price of a pathetic dress. I can’t stand sniveling and poor mouthing. It’s in such bad taste.” Ellen spouted at Jessie.
Jessie turned her back and seethed as she gathered up Ellen’s choices. She’d spent a good portion of her life sniveling and poor-mouthing since her husband died young and left her with four small children. Without Ellen’s trade, she’d be right back there. It was galling to be dependent on hateful rich clients like Ellen. Most of her clients were gentile, a number difficult, but Ellen was the worst she’d ever had to deal with.
” What else did you bring me? I told you to have Viola rework that black satin for the funeral. I’ll try it now.” Her manner was emperious.
“Miss Ellen, you just asked for it last night! The Sanderson wedding is Saturday and the funeral is Tuesday at two. I checked. Viola get it to you by closing Monday. I’ll send her over with it.” Clearly, Jessie had had enough.
“I don’t see what’s so important about Minnie Sanderson’s wedding, anyhow. Minnie’s got that crossed-eye. As soon as the veil is raised that’s the first thing anybody’s going to see. It’s lucky that Jones boy wants her. Nobody else would have ever wanted the poor thing. Did his brother ever get out of jail?” Since she wasn’t going to get what she wanted, being cruel would have to do. Ellen unwound a bit. “I’m so sorry. I forgot it’s your nephew Minnie is marrying.”
Jessie gathered the rejected dresses. “Minnie is a very sweet girl. I hope she and Johnny will be very happy and he doesn’t have a brother, only a sister. I guess you just heard some nasty gossip.”
Pointedly ignoring her response, Ellen snapped at her. “On your way out, tell Cora I need her!”
As Jessie left the kitchen, she gave Cora the message. “Your boss-lady wants you.”
Cora stopped her work and dried her hands. “Sweet Jesus, help me.”