A Long-Distance Call From Jim And how it shook up Centerville By Bess Streeter Aldrich

“Potatoes for one thing.” Mrs. Meeker was on familiar ground. “I’ve got a new way; I learned it from Jennie Rhodes when she visited me, and I intended to spring it on the Kensington; but I’m like Mis’ Tuttle, nothing’s too good for Jim Sheldon and his bride. First, you mash ’em–”

“Jim and his bride?” Ella inquired languidly.

“Oh, you go on, Ella!–and then you put ’em on the plate with an ice-cream mold, and there they stand up just as cute, like little pyramids with a clove at the top.”

“A clove! Why, a clove? Why not a clothespin, or a prune? Is there a clove on the top of the pyramids?” Ella’s apparently unquenchable spirits were rising.

Minnie Adams insisted on a reception in the town hall. Minnie was very tall and seemed to get thinner toward the top. Even her neck was larger at the base and very long, as though Nature in an absent-minded mood had forgotten what she was doing and gone on making neck.

“BUT, Minnie,” Ella interposed diplomatically, “a reception is so stiff. At least it would be stiff for informal Centerville people to give.”

“Oh, I don’t think so–and it would show her that we know how to do things right. She’s probably a New York girl–or she may be French, for all we know. Good land! I hope not. We’d have to motion out everything we had to say. Anyway, a reception wouldn’t be stiff when we got it to going good.”

“How do you stop it when you do get it to going?” Mrs. Tuttle wanted to know.

“Maybe it would be like Mrs. Whitman in her new electric car over at Greenwood,” Ella suggested. “She couldn’t stop it, you know. She went round and round the garage all afternoon calling out to the men every time she went by. And they couldn’t make out what she said, and thought she was just showing off.”

Everyone laughed. Ella, apparently, was the gayest of all.

“It would be nice to have a picture of Jim up,” Addie Smith suggested timidly. As it was Addie’s first contribution to the general reserve fund of ideas it should have been met with more respect, but it only called forth from Ella: “Horrors! Addie! You’ll be wanting to paste his war articles up on the walls of the hall.”

“Speaking of the hall,” Mrs. Meeker put in, “I think a lot of Japanese umbrellas and lanterns could be fixed to cover the walls, they’re so dingy–”

“And, maybe, we could get Sam Fong to come up and stand under them for atmosphere.” It was Ella again, making the others laugh. “Thank goodness, I’ll always be like that,” she thought to herself, as though she had just made a discovery. “Outside I’ll always be gay and silly.”

MINNIE ADAMS won. It was to be a reception. Tom Tuttle was to go to the train and get the guests in his car. Minnie had sniffed to herself over this particular detail, Tom’s car being of that make which carries a very modest price and a very immodest notoriety. But as Tom had been honored with the telephone message from Jim, there was nothing to do but submit.

If Jim and his wife chose to change their clothes, Tom was to stop with them at his house, and then bring them on over to the hall. There were several hundred other details connected with the soirée, definitely planned, so that the whole thing would move, barrage-like, with the precision of clockwork. For genuine leadership, Marshal Foch had nothing on Mrs. Thomas Tuttle.

Ella found herself swept along on the tidal wave of preparations, hating it, heartsick, loathing the attempt of these kind, simple folk to make of themselves something they were not.

The receiving line was to have been composed of the five who had met at Mrs. Tuttle’s, but Ella balked. If this horrible thing had to be, she, at least, didn’t purpose to be a member of the shock troops. She compromised by agreeing to take charge of the frappé bowl, far in the rear of the long hall.

On Friday afternoon the old hall over Hodge’s Dry Goods Emporium looked, as the “Enterprise” would later describe it, “a bower of loveliness.” Under Ella’s direction the school children had magnanimously brought in half the maple leaves and at least two-thirds of the blazing sumac in the precinct.

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