Little Miss By-The-Day
Lucille Van Slyke
Part 2 out of 4
groan, it was such a puzzling sort of book. To begin with its type was
bewildering with its s's all turned like f's and its italics so thin
you could scarcely decipher them. Besides that, the author, who
remained discreetly anonymous, but none the less unwarrantably
conceited, had a maddening way of spreading over a whole page the way
not to do things--he didn't state at the start that it was the wrong
way he was relating, he just meandered on, letting the reader suppose
that was the rightest way possible as he wrote at length pertaining
"How to grow Box Trees from seed.
"The box tree is a green shrub of greatest use and one of the most
necessary in the garden. There are two sorts, the dwarf box which we
French call Buis A' Artous much used for planting the embroidery of
Parterres. It naturally does not grow very much which makes it called
dwarf box. The other kind is the Box Tree of the woods, which advances
much higher and has bigger leaves which make it fit to form Pallisades
and green Tufts for Garnishing. It comes up in the shade but is a long
time gaining any considerable height. It is put to a great many petty
uses, as making balls--as the climate of France is very different from
that of the Indies in the degree heat _it is better to raise from slips
and layers than to try to sow seed which is a great time coming up_."
The book quite frankly disclosed the terrors as well as the joys of
the game. It was most disconcerting to read of
"The Distempers and Insects that Attack....The great Enemies are
Rabbets, Garden Mise, Moles, Caterpillars, Maybugs, Ants, Snails,
Turks, Canthardies and an abundance of weeds, the names of which are
unknown to us--"
She shouted with youthful laughter as she read it, the echoes of her
merriment sounding through the empty halls. She doubled her little
fist and shook it toward the candle, flickering low in its socket.
"That's what has hidden the garden," she murmured, "that's why I can't
see it--" she wrinkled her nose in disgust. "--Abundance-of-weeds--
Piqueur and Bele will settle you!"
All through the verdant spring, all through the quick hot summer the
girl puzzled over the unanswered riddle--the scheme of the garden.
Piqueur and Bele and Margot toiled valiantly pulling up the myriad
abundance-of-weeds, but in vain. It was not until the resplendent
autumn had passed that she had any inkling of the real pattern. There
came a glorious moonlit night, a chilly night when she snuggled under
the blankets and yawned over the chapter that told her "how to mulch
plants for winter." The wind blew so chill that at midnight she
pattered across the old carpet to make the casement fast. The whole
cleared space below her glistened with the fairy glamour of the first
frost. Under the magic silvery whiteness the lost "parterres and
cabinets and lozenges" with their paths and borders stood out as
clearly in the moonlight as the day when Madame Prudence's workmen had
charted them there. She laughed aloud as she ran back and turned to
the map labelled "The twentieth and laft practife which is the most
superb and which is The Bifected Oval."
"Oh, Oh!" she murmured as she leaned across the stone sill, unmindful
of the cold, to blow a tiny kiss to the fountain cupid, "How stupid I
was not to see! You just live in half the oval and the kitchen garden
and the stables are the other half--"
She could scarcely wait for morning to impart her wonderful news to
Grandy and the others.
"Some say it can be done within five years, but ye author believes
from experiences both at Versailles and in ye south of England that a
decade or more is necessary to establish any garden--"
Which warning from the fat brown leather book made it easier for
Felice, you see, because she never hoped to accomplish the garden in a
little time. Besides, Piqueur was, as Octavia had foretold "too old."
But it was Margot--oh, heaven-sent Margot, and the adoring, clumsy
Bele who toiled like four men, and so cabinet by cabinet, parterre by
parterre, terrace by terrace, the superb old garden began to grow
lovely once more.
Think of the victory of the summer when the hedges were at last
properly trimmed! Think of the joy of the flatly rolled turf, the
spring that they found a massive iron roller in an unused shed at the
back of the carriage house! Think of the wonder of that day when the
little fountain laughed again, its pipe unchoked and its overflow
trickling neatly away under the hidden terra-cotta drains!
The busy days lost themselves in weeks, the weeks dripped endlessly
from season to season. By the time the second spring had come it was
as though Felicia had lived in the House in the Woods forever.
The only links with the old life were the two or three visits of
Certain Legal Matters; and as Felice hated him as much as ever she hid
herself all she could during his short stays.
It was during his second visit that Felicia had her first real
encounter with the doughty lawyer. It was in March that he came, and
Felicia and Margot were deep in their spring plans. They needed a
great many things that they didn't have for the garden. It was
practical Margot who suggested casually,
"Why couldn't you ask Mr. Burrel? He could send them to the junction
and I could go with the oxen--I have always asked him for vegetable
seeds when I sent the spring list of supplies--write in a paper,
Cherie, all that we need--put down the roses and the trees and the
lily bulbs and all--tell him that he must send them."
She was rather cunning about it, was Felice. She waited until the
lawyer was strolling impatiently in the gallery waiting for the cart
to drive around from the stable. She approached him boldly, holding
out her list.
"These are some things we need for our garden," she said. "You will
please have them sent at once."
He stared at the imperious young creature. It was the first time she
had ever voluntarily spoken with him. He took the list. He was very
ill at ease.
"I am not certain," he began as he stared amazed at the lengthy order,
"that I can arrange for--er--"
Inwardly quaking Felice answered him. Her low voice sounded
astonishingly calm to her.
"But we must have them," she announced. She played her trump card
valiantly, "You can give it back to me if you can't get them, I have
another person--who can attend to--Certain Legal Matters for me--" Her
voice trailed faintly, she was really rather frightened.
"May I ask whom?" the lawyer demanded in amazement.
"I know where he is," she asserted childishly. "He is in Temple Bar,
Brooklyn, and he would get them for me quickly, I'm sure. You see, in
April we shall need these things for the planting. He told me--" she
added this with delicious positiveness, "to remember to let him know
if you did not manage things properly."
The cart had clattered around now, Piqueur was waiting politely. The
lawyer frankly gaped at her, his eyes narrowed. He looked very pale in
the afternoon light. His thick hand reached out for the list.
"I--I will see that you get what you wish, Miss Felicia--" he
capitulated. "You do not need to ask any one else about it--I'm glad
to do you the favor--"
And all the way across the Pine Plains to the station he questioned
Piqueur as to whether the Major or Felice had had any visitors. But
Piqueur, who had always hated the lawyer, cunningly evaded the cross-
examination. And in less than a week after Burrel's departure Margot
drove the ox-cart across the plains and brought it back fairly laden
with florists' crates and boxes.
Life was not all easy. Keeping the Major happy grew more and more
difficult. If Felicia found the House in the Woods joyous, he did not.
He brooded restlessly save for the hours they spent together over the
chess board or at dinner; sometimes he slowly paced the long gallery
or the hallways, but more often he sat gloomily, his hand on his cane,
his chin resting on his hand and looked sadly across the terrace where
Felice directed her workers. He, like Piqueur, was growing "too old."
He was really seventy-four that summer. Margot knew when his birthday
came and tried to make a little feast but he ignored it. He tried to
pretend a polite interest in the reconstruction of the garden but his
heart was not in it. He liked better to sit indoors in his carved
chair. Even on the warmest days when evening came he wanted a fire
kindled on the chilly marble hearth.
Felicia labored patiently at "making him happy." She had long since
made him a partner in her own game that she called pretending.
"Pretending" just as in the old days when she had played with Maman.
Of course, she had to whistle to pretend and he still affected a scorn
of the whistling he had once forbidden. The "pretending" usually took
place directly after dinner. She would kiss the top of his forehead
audaciously and dance before him with a deep curtsy.
"Let's pretend, Grandy! Let's pretend I'm not Felice! Let's pretend
I'm a blanchisseuse--that's a washerlady. This is a thing that
Piqueur's mother learned in France when she was young--whenever Margot
and I spread our linen on the grass to bleach we whistle this--"
Or sometimes she would demurely assure him that she was, "--a girl
who's pulling roses to sell the man who makes perfume--" She would
snatch up her needlework basket and swing it at her hip and pull the
roses down from the mantelpiece vases and all the while she would
whistle, with her dear little chin perkily lifted and her sparkling
eyes watching to see if the Major was listening.
The song he liked best of all was the song of the hunt. I think he
liked the audacity with which she appropriated his peaked hat and
perched it jauntily on her own head and caught away his cane to use
for a riding crop. "This song," she would explain joyously, "is for
autumn, when all the men and women are waiting on their restless
horses for the master of the hunt to blow his horn--" Her cupped hands
at her lips made a beautiful horn and her whistle rang valiantly in
the great ceilinged room but the hunting song usually lost itself in a
whirr of laughter and frills as the huntress dropped breathless on the
footstool at the Major's side and put her sleek head against his knee.
"Grandy," she whispered once, "You stub-stub-stubborn man! Why don't
you learn to pretend! Why don't you make believe they're all here?"
she waved her hand toward the portraits around them! "I pretend
they're proud, proud, proud I'm here! It must have been vairee stupid
for them before I came!"
The Major was not her only audience. She frequently "pretended" for
Margot and Piqueur and Bele, prancing gaily-about them in their snug
kitchen on the long winter evenings when they huddled by their fire.
For them she whistled all the droll bits of Marthy's songs that she
remembered. Piqueur only listened solemnly, with his smothered briar
pipe held politely in his hand; but Margot, buxom, and red cheeked
with her iron gray hair tucked under her flaring cap would sit and
gape and laugh and quite forget her knitting whenever she could hear,
"He who would woo a widow must not dally He must make hay while the
sun doth shine He must not say 'Widow, be mine--be mine!--'"
Felicia's absurd whine for the timorous lover always made Bele snort
from his corner,
"But boldly cry 'Widow, thou MUST--'"
Ah, the deep contralto of that boyish voice of hers roundly mouthing
the pompous swain's wooing!
She could always make Margot cry when she "pretended" _The Wreck of the
Polly Ann_--with her gray eyes wide with excitement as she described the
rolling waves from the top of the rigging! I don't suppose she ever knew
all of the words of any of these songs or ballads, she never did any of
them quite the same any time, but she caught at the plot and she babbled
a scrap or two of the chorus and she always knew every lilting turn of
There was one "pretend" she could only do when she was alone. She did
not try it often. Sometimes on the spring nights when the tender
breezes let the half-awakened wistaria flutter outside her window, she
would blow out all her candles and lean far across the sill and stare
at her unfinished garden.
And when the house was still, oh, heart-breakingly still, she would
kneel beside the bed and whisper,
"Let's pretend! Let's pretend we're back in your room, Maman! Let's
pretend it's THAT NIGHT! Let's pretend they've just brought me in from
the garden! And that you're laughing a little because you've heard him
"'Second cap I've lost here! Lost one when I was a little shaver!
There was a girl--why, girl--!'
"Oh Maman! Maman! If you'd only been there! You wouldn't have brought
She kept the choir boy's black velvet cap in the lowest drawer of the
wardrobe. Once Margot saw it when she was tidying things.
"I don't remember this--" she murmured curiously.
And Felicia had snatched it away jealously and cuddled it under her
"Because that's mine!" she had retorted passionately, "It's mine!
Mine! And it didn't belong evaire to any other woman only me!"
And the years slipped away like Time in Maitre Guedron's song and
every year the garden grew a little lovelier and every year Felicia
grew a little more sedate and every year Piqueur and the Major grew
"too old." Until Piqueur no longer left his fireside and as for the
Major--well, there came a day when the Major fell prostrate by the
staircase and lay for a long time breathing very hard. That was a
terrifying time until Bele brought a doctor from the village. He was a
good little doctor, round faced and pink cheeked, quite the youngest
thing, save Bele, that Felicia had seen in many years. And he pulled
the Major back to something like life--a something that played chess
very slowly and sometimes called Felicia Octavia and sometimes
"Louisa, I forbid you to go to Paris--it's a bad business--"
She "pretended" nothing in these days, simply went gravely about the
myriad tasks that awaited her, directing the stupid Bele, helping the
white haired Margot, sitting proudly at the head of the table smiling
across at a black eyed old gentleman who muttered and fumbled
peevishly at his food or quite forgot to eat at all until she coaxed
him. She always smiled at dinner; one should smile at dinner even
though one feels very, very sad. And after dinner one must make an
attempt to give a querulous old man his game of chess. And let his
cold lips caress one's hand when Bele comes to put him to bed.
But after that, especially if it was spring, she would wander
restlessly in her garden or pace back and forth in her high ceilinged
bed chamber. And sometimes she would kneel beside her window and
murmur a little prayer--she didn't know it was a prayer, it was just a
scrap of something she remembered--
"'I can't get out--I can't get out!' cried the starling," which isn't
in any prayer book of course, save the prayer book of a woman's
She was in the kitchen garden one morning just beside the gatehouse
showing Bele for the thousandth time how to trench the peas without
burying them, when a crumpled old man in a rough cap with a basket
under his arm, limped through the gate.
"I want to see Major Trenton--" he said firmly.
Felicia turned. No one ever came to see the Major any more. Not even
Certain Legal Matters since the time of the Major's fall. Felicia had
signed many papers at his last visit some three years before and since
then no one had bothered the Major.
"You'll have to see me," answered Felicia, coolly, "Bele, not--so--
deep! You're smothering them--what is your business?"
The man took off his cap, he put down his basket and knelt to open it
and out popped the littlest, drollest fluff of a spaniel that ever
"Oh, oh!" cried Felicia softly and dropped to her knees. "Oh, oh, it's
a little Babiche! Oh Zeb! Zeb! To think I didn't see who you were--"
And they walked across the paved door-yard with the tears in their
eyes and Felicia took him in to Margot and brought him soup and fed
the wee doggie and fluttered about like a wild young thing instead of
a sedate person of twenty-seven.
"I want to ask you a thousand million things! I want to ask Marthy a
thousand million things--"
Zeb closed his eyes and shook his head.
Felicia patted his shoulder.
"Has she gone away, like Maman?" she asked softly. "I know how hard it
is when folks go away, Zeb."
"But that's not the matter o' my comin'--" Zeb pushed his bowl away
and stood respectfully, "That matter o' my comin' was as I must see
the Major. On your going away, Miss Felicia, he promised me rent free
for my lifetime and he gave me all the breedin' stock they was and
left me the business for what I could make, so's to speak. Which isn't
what it were, with new-fangled big dogs getting in style now. And with
Marthy gone and all. But now with Mr. Burrel skipped out like he did,
things is awful--just awful--and It seemed like I'd got to tell the
Margot pulled out a chair for Felicia.
"Sit down, Cherie," she murmured, "Margot will get it out--have you
seen Mr. Burrel?" she questioned eagerly, "We've no sign of him this
"He's skipped out--" repeated Zeb dully, "Things is awful--Come last
Thursday they pasted 'Auction, April 10 for Unpaid Taxes' over
everything. So's when I was packing my things I come on some writing
Miss Octavia left Marthy. As to how to get here, and I come."
He was weary and spent with his journey; he was stupider than ever,
poor old Zeb. Not even the round faced doctor, whom Margot and Felicia
called for advice, could learn anything more from his disconnected
story, save that there were "heathen, dirty filthy heathen" living in
the old house.
Felicia cuddled the new Babiche thoughtfully.
"Do you think," she asked, "that the Major would miss me, Doctor, if I
went away a little while to find out about these things?"
The doctor shook his head.
"He wouldn't," he answered, "But, Miss Day, you couldn't go!"
"Couldn't I just!" she breathed. She was quite calm about the details.
Her perfect poise awed both Margot and the doctor into thinking her
quite capable. "Zeb could stay here with Margot, the doctor could take
me to the station, Zeb says he didn't come on a boat, just a train.
And you know, Margot, when I get to Brooklyn, I'll go right to Temple
Bar. There was a man, as I told you, another lawyer. When I was young
he told me to go to him if anything happened. Maman had him come. He
will know what to do."
Nothing they could say would dissuade her. The touch of imperiousness
with which she silenced their objections made the blundering well-
meaning doctor want to shake her. He waited impatiently while Margot
made Felicia ready for the hasty journey. He saw nothing absurd about
the slender figure that came down the stairway toward him wrapped in
the very same traveling coat in which she had first journeyed to the
House in the Woods. She was wearing one of Louisa's ugliest bonnets
with the strings tied primly under her chin and she was fearfully
The Major was sitting by his fire, dozing gently. He did not notice
her at all. He roused himself for the doctor's perfunctorily cheerful
farewell. It was then that he noted Felicia's coat and bonnet.
"What are you pretending?" he asked.
"I'm pretending I'm going on a journey," she answered cheerfully.
"Don't you think I look like going on a journey, Grandy?"
"I think you look very charming, my dear," he murmured automatically,
his thin hand on the top of his cane. He shivered slightly. "But I
forbid you to go to Paris--bad business--it's a bad business, Louisa!"
At the gateway, just as the doctor was clucking briskly to his horse,
Felicia put out her hand and stopped him. Zeb and Margot and Bele
stood respectfully beside the gatehouse, respectfully but very
"It's silly," faltered Felicia, "but I think--I--can't go alone--Zeb,
you bring me my new Babiche, I can carry her under my arm."
Zeb handed the dog up proudly, patting her professionally. He
scratched his head perplexedly as he stepped back from the wheel.
"Hey, wait!" he addressed the doctor as he started a second time. He
fumbled in an inner pocket of his rough coat. "I was forgetting, Miss
Felicia, a matter of a letter for you I found in Marthy's things--she
sent it off at you this long time ago but it came back at her--"
He handed it up, thin, much creased and much bestamped and postmarked.
Miss F. Day
Or return to
M. Z. Smather
2 Montrose Lane, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Pretend you were the doctor if you like, the tired country doctor,
mildly sorry for the little old maid granddaughter of your apoplectic
patient--that queer patient who lives in that stone mansion some of
those French refugees built over there across the Pine Plains. That's
an easy enough thing to pretend, but a tiresome enough thing, too, for
then you'll have to make believe you're urging your tired horse over
those heavy roads to the railway station so you can get the old maid
there in time for her train. She's quiet enough, in her seedy bonnet
and shabby coat, a nice sensible body usually, only very self-willed.
You know perfectly well she's going off on a wild goose chase and that
she shouldn't be taking that fool puppy with her.
_But oh, I hope you're good at pretending!_ For then you can pretend
you're Felicia Day! Felicia Day sitting in a lumbering local train,
quite unmindful of the atrocious rocking roadbed or the blurred spring
forests that whirl past your smoke-glazed window; quite oblivious of all
the terrors and discomforts of journeys past or journeys still to come!
For then you can pretend that you've just slowly pulled away the
envelope that was so useless because of poor old Marthy's
undecipherable handwriting and that you've kissed the inner wrapping
that reads "Please send this to Miss Trenton (if that's her name). At
once." And then--oh then, you can pretend you are reading the first
letter you ever had in all this world and that it says,
You see I've found out your first name even if I'm not sure of the
rest. Anyhow I know Major Trenton is your grandfather. He wouldn't let
me see you this morning when I went to your house and this afternoon
you'd gone away. The old woman says you've gone to a house in the
woods. Please, please tell me you'll let me come to see you. Please
tell me where it is. She doesn't seem to know exactly. The doctor says
your foot will be all right but, oh, I can't forgive myself that I let
you fall. I wish I had never, never let go of you at all--
Oh, girl, please write in a hurry where you are. I want to tell you so
many things. I want to ask you a lot of things. You can send a letter
to my house, it's 18 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn. I know you know my
name because you called it when you were falling. It was so wonderful
to have you know my name--
Oh, Felice, please write me very soon. I can't wait until I get your
_Your_ DUDLEY HAMILT.
Perhaps you remember the fat boy who teased little Felice through the
gate of the rectory yard. He didn't grow up like the rest of the choir
boys, he merely expanded until he was a droll larger edition of his
small tubby self; perhaps you've heard him singing at St. Patrick's
and smiled at the bland and childlike face from which his beautiful
big round baritone pours forth--he surely can sing! And eat! It's
really rather fun to go to the Brevoort with him and watch his
pleasingly plump wife remonstrate while he orders luncheon.
"Oh Tomothy Tom!" she groaned one showery April day, "those are all
starchy, sweety, fatty things! Don't order another food! Or I'll want
to eat them too, I shouldn't have another ounce, I shouldn't!"
"Not if you're going to take that jump over the fence in the second
act," said Graemer who was lunching with them. He was her manager,
Edwina Ely was a much better known person than her fat husband. And a
good bit older, too, if you must know it, though of course she did not
look so with her almost too blonde hair coiffed elaborately under the
wicked wings of her impertinent toque and her pleasure-loving chin
nestled in her white furs.
"I hate for us to eat here, the food's so good," she murmured with the
same plaintive note that makes the audience weep at the end of the
third act of "The Juggler."
"But I had a very special reason for wanting to come here," Graemer
explained. He had to be a bit wary of the starchy things too, though
he still had a figure in spite of his weight. He was complacently vain
of his prematurely gray hair, his fresh youthful skin and his dark
eyes. He reminded one somehow of a husky widow, he was so feminine in
spite of his size. He looked leisurely enough for a busy man. You
wondered how he had time to manage so many player folk, write so many
plays and yet dawdle over his luncheon as he did. He leaned forward to
ask Edwina's husband something. The fat man laughed uneasily.
"Well, he does usually lunch here," he admitted, "and I did use to
know him rather well, but I'm not exactly the person to introduce you
if you want anything from him--he's not overly fond of me--"
"I understood from Edwina that you were boyhood friends."
The fat man smiled and deliberately and delicately chucked his wife
under her rosy little chin.
"Tattle-tale!" he taunted her.
"You were!" she persisted, "you know you were!"
"If you ever were," said Graemer earnestly, "Permit me to suggest that
you renew your youth. What I want him for is partly on Edwina's
account. "The Juggler" isn't going as well as it ought to--I haven't
anything new in sight for her and I'd like to keep this going until I
have. What we need is a press agent like Dudley Hamilt."
"He's not a press agent--" gasped the fat man.
"He's the prince of press agents," answered Graemer easily, "he gets
more publicity, favorable publicity, for anything he touches than any
one I've ever watched work. Look what he did for the coal interests--
and look at that work of his in last fall's campaign--"
"But that was politics--" protested the fat man. "He wouldn't call
that being a press agent and I doubt if you could interest him in
"I can if I can get at him. Some one's bound to if I don't. It isn't
only for 'The Juggler' that I want him, it's for all my things--what
I'm going to offer him is something big--about the biggest end of the
game--but I don't want to seem to go to him so I thought that if there
was some casual way--if you should ask him to lunch with us--"
"He probably wouldn't--of course he might--" the baritone ruminated,
"Our fuss was a long time ago." He settled himself comfortably, he
dearly loved to gossip. "He's a queer chap, Dud is. Always was. We
used to sing in the same boy choir when we were kids. Little church
over in Brooklyn. He was an angel terror, regulation boy sopran'. Into
everything. Nearly drove the old choir master to drink. Was always
being expelled. Our families both belonged to the church so Brownly
always took us back after a row blew over. And carried us along while
our voices were changing. When I first began doing baritone Dudley was
singing all the tenor solos, had a peach of a voice, but he never did
anything with it afterwards."
"After what?" asked Edwina irritably.
Her husband chuckled.
"Wait, I'm telling you. It's a long story and a funny one even if the
joke is on me. You see Dud had a sweetheart on the other side of the
rectory wall. He was everlastingly edging toward it, tossing things
around to attract her attention and showing off generally. Funny
little girl. I didn't think she looked like much when we used to see
her first but gee, she certainly did come along when she got older!
Grew into a young peach! Dud just hung around silently worshipping,
pretending all the time he didn't know there was anybody picking
posies in the garden. I didn't know that she'd so much as noticed him
until one night in the spring when we were rehearsing for a special
oratorio. Some night!" The fat man sighed reminiscently. "All to the
Romeo and Juliet! Choir forming on the outside, old Brownly having a
tempermental fit as usual and Dud and I stationed over by the wall
ready to split our epiglottises; on our marks, set all ready to go
when Dud tosses up his cap, just as he used to when he was a little
shaver and Bing! Cap lands on top of the wall. So up clambers Dud--"
the raconteur smiled, "and I hope I may never see anything so pretty
pulled off as what happened next! That girl's head over the top of the
gate! Big dreamy eyes shining in the moonlight, hair parted, big comb
tucked in, lace dewdaddles around her shoulders! And Dud had been
languishing about her since he was twelve! First and only love! In
about one minute three seconds he had disappeared over said gate. It
was no place for a fat boy. Besides old Brownly was fairly roaring
from the chancel door, so I trotted along like a good child and left
Dud to his philandering. Brownly nearly had apoplexy getting along
without his pet tenor. After rehearsal I made a try for Dud, chirruped
under that blooming wall for about half an hour until an old gentleman
came out and requested me--er--more than requested me to go away.
"Old Major Trenton. Ever hear of him? Civil War hero. The fellow who
raised all that rumpus about chaps taking pensions if they'd wits
enough to earn their salt. He wouldn't touch one. Seems he'd gone to
war after having a row with his wife, she'd lit out for Paris just
before war was declared. Died over there leaving an infant daughter
that he had his own troubles getting away from some of her mother's
French relations. I used to hear my grandmother tell about the Trenton
case by the hour. There was some kind of a queer will, something about
the mother's money going to female descendants and a lot of talk about
a bunch of property the dying wife had mysteriously acquired in
France. The old Major only had one arm left after the war was over but
he fought a duel with a chap who insinuated that his wandering wife
wasn't all she might have been. By the time he'd got things settled he
was the finest old grouch you'd meet in a lifetime. Had the recluse
business down to a fine point. Summers he used to go off to the wilds
of Canada or the Adirondacks or somewhere that his wife's will had
specified their daughter must live and winters he used to lock the
girl up in that mansion next to our church. Wouldn't touch a penny of
his daughter's funds, actually paid rent to her, my grandmother said.
Made his living raising dogs, lap-dogs, in an old stable back of the
church. They were all the style. The fair customers used to hope
always that they were going to see the fascinating recluse widower.
But they never did. The only time he ever came to the surface that the
public knew about was the morning after the daughter eloped with the
rector's son. Grandmother says the Major smashed up a couple of
reporters the _Hawk_ sent over to interview him but he did tell 'em what
he thought on the woman question. Nobody had the nerve to go near him
for quite a while. Not for a couple of years or so. And then somebody
found the daughter starving in an attic. The rector's son had been a
nice enough chap but he hadn't enough grit to earn his living and the
girl, though she wasn't so young, couldn't touch her property without
the Major's consent and as she was as stiff-necked as he, she hadn't
made any effort at getting that consent. The rector's son had died of
pneumonia and their baby was just recovering from it and the girl
herself never did get over the strain. Somebody carried her home to die,
which it seems she took some years doing. Dud's sweetheart the other
side of the rectory wall was her daughter. The Major had lost a wife and
a daughter and he evidently had made up his mind he wasn't going to let
the last generation slip away. So you can just about guess how popular
Dudley Hamilt was when he broke into the Major's back yard.
"The old soldier didn't take a chance. He abso-bally-lutely
disappeared the next day. Took the girl with him, of course. Dud went
around like a wild man. He was twenty-one that spring, tall as he is
now and had about seven times as much pep as he has now, if you can
imagine that much. Evangeline looking for Gabriel was a paper chase
compared to Dudley trying to find his lady-love. He spent months at
it. Got haggard and wan, had a couple of fights with Burrel, a lawyer
who was the only person who knew where Major Trenton had gone. Funny
thing, it was that same Burrel who absconded with the American Trust
Company's stuff two or three years ago. Trenton must certainly have
made it worth the lawyer's while not to tell--for that lawyer was as
crooked as a corkscrew and yet Dud couldn't bribe him with everything
he could muster--which was quite some, for in those days the Hamilt
family had scads of money.
"I made a sort of break one night--" The fat man felt of his neck
ruefully. "Tried to joke with Dud a little, it was a year or so
afterward and I thought he'd gotten over things--but--er--he hadn't.
He--" He paused and blushed. "That's he though, coming through the
door," he ended. "Want me to try for him?"
It was the fair Edwina who dared however. She lifted her head
charmingly and beckoned.
"Don't ball things up, Tommy," she murmured under her breath, "Leave
it to us--get out if you see he's still miffed with you--Please come
over here, Mr. Hamilt," she called softly. "I want you to meet Mr.
He looked as blonde as she, almost, ruddy, lithe, but somehow old. He
did not smile at her greeting, he merely nodded. She gestured again,
so imperiously that he obeyed, but with scant courtesy, and he did not
look at all overjoyed at meeting the illustrious Mr. Graemer. He sat
down however, ordered his luncheon and listened gravely enough to
"Have you seen me in 'The Juggler'? Aren't you willing to say I can
act now? He never would--" she turned to Graemer. "He always said I
couldn't--but, don't you think I do in 'The Juggler'?" she entreated
"It's an actress-proof part, isn't it?" he bantered, watching her
"Brute!" she pouted.
"Perhaps he is complimenting me," teased Graemer.
"Not at all," promptly answered the rude Mr. Hamilt. "You've all but
ruined the play with your everlasting managing. It's a peach up to the
last act. Until you chuck that maudlin bunch of slush and scenery at
us. Where did you get that play, anyhow?" he asked insolently.
"Why, he wrote it last summer," protested Edwina.
"Yes?" his uplifted eyebrows were insulting as he glanced quizzically
at Graemer. "Then he was about twenty-five years younger last summer
than he is now. The first two acts of that play--Gad, it got me up
till then, but the rest of it--" he broke a bit off a crusty roll and
buttered it carefully, "I can readily believe, Mr. Graemer," he added
deliberately, "that you did write the rest of the play."
"You have to give the public what it wants," suggested Graemer
"No, you don't," said Dudley Hamilt. "You have to make the public want
what it's going to get--or what it needs."
"Which is exactly what I wanted to see you about," drawled the manager
"If I ever did get into the theatrical game," he answered rather more
good-humoredly than he had yet spoken, "I wouldn't insult the public
by a perpetual bluff that they were getting something new. I wouldn't
keep handing out things that assumed the public all had salacious
minds or else no minds at all. I don't mean that I'd go in for uplift
stuff--that isn't what the theater is for--it's to amuse--to thrill--
to wake up our emotions--it's to _play_--But as you chaps who control
the thing have it going now it's so damnably mechanical there's no sense
of play left in it. Why don't you find something that admits the
audience has an imagination?"
"As for instance?" Graemer put in adroitly.
"I don't know--" Hamilt sighed, "I haven't the least idea what. Only
it ought to be something that everybody is unconsciously hankering
for--something that we miss all the while--something we lack in this
machine-age. Something that will come across the footlights by itself
instead of having to have the spotlight show it to us, something that
would make us feel the way we did when we were kids--I guess it's
romance--and perhaps the spirit of it is gone--"
Graemer smiled. He nodded to Edwina. Then he drew a long breath and
put his case bluntly.
"I came in here rather deliberately, Mr. Hamilt, because I've been
wanting to have a talk with you for a long time. It isn't only about
'The Juggler' that I wanted to talk with you but about all of my
productions. There are so many of them and I am so busy with them that
there are a lot of angles of the game that I do not have time to
touch. The thing I need is what you have aptly described--some one who
will make the public want what it's going to get. Some one who will
make it think it's going to get what it wants. The kind of thing you
did last fall in politics--making the whole thing seem something any
regular fellow must find out about and something he'd have a lot of
fun finding out. It's struck me all the while you were pulling your
strings that that sort of work about the stage would wake up the
theater-goer the same way you waked up the voter."
"It might," agreed Mr. Hamilt cautiously. "There might be ways--if you
had something to back your statements that the game was worth while--I
mean to the theater-goer--"
"Well, wouldn't you be willing to think it over and have another talk
with me? I don't mean immediately and I do mean on a big scale. I'm
sure you understand that--"
Hamilt motioned for the waiter, coolly insisted on paying his own
check and rose.
"What you suggest is rather interesting," was all the answer he
vouchsafed, "I might."
But after he'd gone Graemer looked after him and laughed.
"Middle name is Cynic--but he's pretty young yet."
"And the best looking thing," sighed Edwina pulling on her gloves,
bored with her long silence.
Graemer was thoughtful.
"He's given me an idea," he announced suddenly. "Or perhaps it was
Tom's gossip about him. How'd you like to do an ingenue part like that
missing lady affair--start with your head over a garden wall--call it
'The Heart of a Boy,' say--fill it up with this stuff Hamilt calls
Tommie absorbed his last pastry.
"I've just remembered the girl's name," he announced, wiping a crumb
from his moist lips. "It was Felicia something or other--sort of sad,
"Maybe it would have been sadder if she'd married him," suggested
Edwina ironically. "He is a grouch, you can't get around that."
And the grouch, striding briskly up the avenue, was trying to be fair.
"Poor old Tommie!" he thought ruefully, "I don't know why I should go
on hating him because he will blab--it's the nature o' the beast--that
stupid little much-divorced animal that married him--" he glared at
two innocent young shoppers who were passing, "Gad, women are such
sophisticated cows nowadays--" Spring always made him wretched, spring
always made him fretful, spring always sent him off for the woods
somewhere, any woods so long as it was woods. He pondered over whether
he could get away Friday or would have to wait till Saturday morning,
and eventually decided on Saturday, consulting a memorandum book
scowlingly as he did so, jotting down appointments. He noted that he
would have to be in his office at five o'clock on Friday. Somebody or
other was going to telephone him about something. Which made him
reflect irritably that of all the mechanical devices of a mechanical
age the thing he hated most of all was a telephone! He could scarcely
endure the stupid way everybody shrieked "Hello!" through it. He
wished morosely that he could take a week-end trip without any luggage
whatever because he always had a row about his luggage. He wished
there was some system whereby one needn't always lose half one's
Felicia could have told him! Infrequent traveler that she was she had
been properly educated on that point. However much she may have
yawned, at the tender age of ten, over a certain dissertation on the
etiquette of travel, given one summer afternoon by Mademoiselle
D'Ormy, Felicia aged twenty-seven, embarked upon her first journey
alone, found herself musing with mighty comfort upon the charming
definiteness of those never-to-be-forgotten axioms. For Mademoiselle
had made the small Felicia recite them over and over until she was
"On a journey the traveler should enumerate all the traveling
equipment in fives to avoid the confusion caused by losing one's
belongings. Count upon the fingers what one has possessed upon
All unconscious of the amused glances of her fellow passengers,
Felicia Day, in her absurd bonnet and antiquated traveling coat sat
primly in the Pullman section that the doctor's thoughtfulness had
provided for her and counted her "five" just before her train reached
New York. She smiled as she counted, a whimsical smile--
Item one. A letter! A beautiful letter, reposing next her heart under
the stiff bodice of a frock that had once belonged to Josepha, mother-
in-law of Major Trenton.
Item two. One fluffy, sleepy Blenheim spaniel hidden in the capacious
sleeve of a coat that had been Octavia's.
Item three. A long and narrow knitted reticule, once carried by
Louisa, wife of Major Trenton, now containing bills and coins placed
there by Margot, said reticule held firmly, as Margot had directed,
with the center twisted firmly around Felicia's left wrist.
Item four. One russet leather traveling bag once used by Major
Trenton, now containing modest rolls of ancient lingerie, Octavia's
massive silver brushes and combs, a faded India dressing-gown
belonging to whom even Margot couldn't remember, on top of which was
tucked a flat wicker basket containing small cakes and sandwiches
wrapped neatly in a napkin and weighted over all these contents, where
Felicia herself had placed it when Margot wasn't looking--THE THEORY
AND PRACTISE OF GARDENING!
"Perhaps the wistaria will have to be pruned--perhaps the ivy around
the fountain will need trimming--maybe the narcissi will need thinning
out when they're through blossoming--I'm stupid about narcissi. I've
been living so long where there weren't any--" Her thoughts had raced
longingly toward the back yard of her childhood while Margot had been
packing the bag.
Item five. "Myself," decided Felicia nodding, "I must be careful not
to lose myself."
Which, droll as it seemed when she enumerated, proved to be the most
difficult item to remember.
"_Likewise on a journey especially of a business nature, one should
keep clearly in mind the exact order of destination, choosing the most
Destination first. "Temple Bar" where one may find the Portia Person
who long ago promised to help should one ever be "in Trouble."
Destination second. The address at the bottom of a grimy handbill that
announced "To be sold at auction for unpaid taxes--By the order of J.
K. Harlow, Justice of the--"
Destination _really_! Eighteen Columbia Heights!
"First," Felicia at least began her thinking clearly, "I shall go to
see the Judge and I shall say 'Don't sell Grandy's house because
Certain Legal Matters hasn't attended to things. Just wait. I know
another lawyer, he's in Temple Bar. He will attend to everything.' Oh
no! First I'll go find the Portia Person and while he is attending to
everything I will send a letter to Dudley Hamilt's house--then I will
go to Grandy's house and wait for Dudley Hamilt to come--oh! oh!
Babiche--I can't arrange things clearly in mind, I can't no matter how
I try! Only I must--"
So over and over to the roar of the train she tried to drill herself.
"First the Portia Person--then the Judge--"
It was nine o'clock in the morning when, tired and bewildered, she
emerged from the subway at Borough Hall, Brooklyn. The little hand,
that "had never spread itself over a doorknob or a fire-iron or any
clumsy thing" struggled valiantly with the russet bag; the new
Babiche, cramped and shaken from her day and night of travel, poked
her snubby nose from under the traveling coat and sniffed and
squeakingly yawned. Louisa's bonnet had worked itself askew, the sharp
wind from the river was flapping the heavy clothing about her slender
ankles and displaying the outlandish old "Congress gaiter" shoes. A
distressed and ridiculous figure, she stood and shuddered at the roar
of the elevated above her and the jangle of the surface cars that
clattered past her and trembled at the disconcerting honk of the
motors that barely escaped crushing her.
Officer Brennan, pompously regulating the congested traffic watched
the grotesque person on the curbstone and chuckled.
"For the love of hivin," he thought, "Thim movie actors will dress
like annything for the money--" and glanced about automatically to see
the camera man. But something in the terror of the little woman's
glance flashed over the crowded crossing to his warm Irish heart,
"Hullo, she's no acterine!" He ploughed through the river of travel
and caught at her arm and felt her slight weight sag against him.
"Annybody as turned her loose--" he continued his soliloquy after he'd
jollied a newsboy into escorting her across to the Temple Bar
Building, "Ought to be sent up--" He vented his disgust at the
"annybody" on a daring chauffeur and watched until the newsboy came
panting back to his stand to nod a triumphant grinning affirmative
"'Nd her head up in the air like a queen--" he held his own head
regally to signal the cross-town traffic, "Queer lot!" and forgot her.
It was noon when she came back to him, looking older and queerer and
whiter faced than ever. Temple Bar is a large office building and
Felicia Day had tramped courageously from floor to floor, from office
to office, persistently seeking the Portia Person. She had been
laughed at, had been almost insulted, had been treated with deference
and treated with indifference; she had talked with scores and scores
of lawyers, looking searchingly into their faces, asking her question
firmly and sweetly. She had asked it of busy lawyers, lazy lawyers,
suave lawyers, thin lawyers, fat lawyers, rude lawyers, young lawyers,
old lawyers; she had talked to dozens of clerks and stenographers,
appealed to elevator men, janitors, scrub women, any one who would
listen--she wanted to find the Portia Person, he had curly hair and he
was quite tall and he had had a client whose name was Octavia, who was
pretty and ill and who had given him some papers sixteen years ago. He
had talked with Mademoiselle D'Ormy, in a house in Montrose Place. Of
this business that she had for him the little woman was
extraordinarily canny, it was no one's affair save hers and the Portia
The patient girl at the news stand in the main hallway looked up and
down a list of tenants, checking them off with an over-manicured
finger as she tried to suggest. She had taken charge of Felicia's bag,
had offered to keep Babiche. Her good humor shone in a dreary morning.
Felicia began to have faith in her.
"If I was you," said the girl, "I'd go get myself a bite to eat. It's
noon, everybody's going out--don't you see?"
Felicia saw, she saw also that the patient newsstand girl was tired.
"Do you go to get yourself 'a bite'?" she asked curiously.
"Not till two o'clock," sighed the girl.
"I wish," decided Felicia whimsically, "that Margot had cooked
_de_-licious foods for us--broiled chicken and baked potatoes and
a caramel custard and that we could go and sit by the Bowling Green
and have Bele bring our lunch out on the little folding table--for
you have been most kind to me--"
The girl stared after her in amazement.
"Well, I'll be darned!" she announced frankly to the elevator starter,
"that woman is the limit! She's certainly got me guessing! One minute
she seems as intelligent as anybody--only she can't remember the name
of the man she's looking for--but gee, I forget names myself--and the
next minute she's asking me to lunch on Bowling Green, as pleasant as
you please! Can you beat it? And I can't for the life of me make out
whether she's young or old--her voice's dandy and young. Honest, I
like to hear her talk, she talks so comical--but don't she look like
the last rose of summer, now don't she?"
The elevator starter agreed that she did and whistled "She May Have
Seen Better Days" till the news-stand girl giggled and told him he was
"Too comical" but they both of them commented about her when she did
"She may be a nut," admitted the girl, "But she's kinda got me going.
Gee I'd like to find the lawyer for her just to find out was she
Dorothy Arnold come back--or somebody like that."
It was Officer Brennan who had dissuaded her from her attempt to find
the Portia Person. He had spied her, standing undecided outside the
office building and hailed her as he was about to go off his beat.
"Did you find what you were looking for?"
His sureness of manner and his uniform impressed her.
"I couldn't find the man I wanted," she confided, "so I think I'll
just have to see the Judge Person, myself, wouldn't you?"
He cogitated. Did she know what judge she wanted to see?
She unfolded the grimy hand bill, the "To be sold for unpaid taxes"
that Zeb had brought to her. He read it slowly till he came to the
"Order of Justice Harlow" at the bottom.
"That's an easy one," he cheered her, "I'll take you over there right
now and put you next to a fellow who works there. He'll slip you
through to his Honor himself and you can tell him your troubles."
But in spite of being "slipped through" there was a deal of waiting,
sometimes in anterooms, sometimes in corridors, a deal of answering
the questions of not overly intelligent clerks, and late afternoon
found her sitting primly cuddling her restless doggie, waiting for
some one to bring the tax records. She was a little tireder, a little
hungrier, a little less sure of herself than when the friendly news
girl had advised her to "get a bite." She was keeping her courage high
by thinking over and over to herself,
"After I see the Judge then I'll go to Dudley Hamilt."
It had not occurred to her that this busy place was a court room. It
had no stately panelled walls like those that had been painted in the
background of the portrait of Grandy's father. Nor did she understand
when she was at last ushered into the Justice's presence that he was
the man she had been waiting to see.
He did not wear a white curly wig and he did not wear a black satin
gown the way Grandy's father had. Nor were there any scrolls of vellum
with fat beribboned seals in this Judge's hands. Instead, alert
slender fingers riffled their way rapidly through a mass of papers
that a clerk put before him. Felicia watched the fingers until the
close cropped head was lifted and keen gray eyes glanced straight
The abrupt phrase with which he had intended to dismiss her died. He
stared at her curiously. He noted the traveling bag at her feet, the
absurd old coat and bonnet, the dark circles under her beseeching
"She looked," as he explained afterward, "like a daguerreotype--old
and youthful all at once, faded yet shining--most extraordinary little
"You are the Felicia Day mentioned here?" he asked gravely tapping the
Felicia tried to smile. She managed it so far as her eyes were
concerned but her lips were too tired. She nodded.
"And have you any other lawyer than Mr. Burrel--the lawyer who has
She nodded again. She spoke to him for the first time, her low
contralto, her clear enunciation, her perfect poise of manner,
startled him even more than the childlike simplicity--almost
absurdity--of her words.
"There's the Portia Person in Temple Bar."
"A woman lawyer?" he was very patient with her.
"No, he's a man. I only thought he was a woman when I was little. I
can't quite think of his name but he is in Temple Bar and he came to
see Maman and he told me if there was trouble to come to him--I've
looked and looked, but I can't find him today."
"I see--" the Justice looked out of the window thoughtfully, "but in
the meantime, while you're finding him, don't you think you'd better
have some other lawyer? Is there some other one you know about?"
"Maman only had that one."
It was going to be harder than he thought to make her understand. But
somehow or other he did it, talking slowly and very gently as though
he were talking to a child.
"I'm sorrier than I can tell that you are having this trouble. This
house in Montrose Place, Miss Day, has been your own property since
you were eighteen years of age. It was formerly the property of your
mother--" he consulted the papers, "Octavia Trenton Day. This Mr.
Burrel who had charge of your property has paid neither the taxes on
it, nor the interest on some mortgages that he arranged on it, for
about seven years back. Can you understand that? And the house has
been rented in the meantime to a great many families, it is
technically a tenement house. The present trouble is not only about
these unpaid taxes and the unpaid interest, but you have violated the
Tenement House laws. You have not installed proper fire escapes or
plumbing, you have not answered any of the notices that have been sent
you. This court had to fix an arbitrary fine--which you have not
"I nevaire do pay things," answered Felicia, greatly bewildered, "you
see Mademoiselle D'Ormy did not teach me much about money and Margot
only knows a little about money. Grandy paid for things until he fell
and now Margot pays for them. But you see Margot gets our money from
Mr. Burrel, he has all of our money so I just think--" she ended with
a businesslike decision, "you will have to get all that money for the
taxes and other things that I owe from the money that he has."
"But that is what I have been trying to explain. This Mr. Burrel has
been missing for over three years. This Margot you speak of must have
had some other way of getting funds for you."
"Margot hasn't vairee much," Felicia told him, "I can't ask her for
anything more. I think Mr. Judge, you'll just have to take my house."
He answered this seemingly absurd suggestion with deliberation.
"These papers show," he explained, "that Mr. Burrel offered your
equity in the house to the holder of the mortgage some six months or
so before Burrel himself disappeared. But the value of the property in
Montrose Place has depreciated to such an extent and the unpaid taxes
have piled up so alarmingly that the mortgager refused to agree to
that. The only way I can see just now to help you at all is to arrange
for a stay of thirty days in this matter of the proceedings against
you for the violation of the Tenement House Law together with a thirty
day Injunction preventing the sale of the house for unpaid taxes. That
will give you thirty days to arrange to pay that fine--which I have
made as light as possible but which amounts to fifty dollars." "And
the rest of it?" asked Felicia coolly.
He consulted the papers.
"Is eighteen thousand eight hundred and forty-two dollars and seventy-
She pulled open the strings of Louisa's beaded purse, she let the
money and bills therein slide into a heap on the desk between them.
She frowned at it.
"That's all there is now," she remarked, almost cheerfully, "except
some that Margot had to keep for buying sugar and flour and things in
the village--" She was so calm that he knew she was utterly unaware of
the enormity of the amount. "If I am going to have thirty days more,"
she concluded, "I'm quite sure I can get the rest for you, I'll find
the Portia Person, I know, evaire so many lawyers weren't in Temple
Bar today. He might be there tomorrow, you know." She nodded
confidently. "But that's all I can give you now. You've been vairee
good to try to make me understand. I'm rather stupid about it because
Mademoiselle did not teach me those things. And Maman arranged for the
Portia Person to attend to it." She rose, she cuddled her dog under
her arm and stooped for her bag.
He gestured for her to put the bag down, he scooped her small pile of
bills and silver into his hand and reached for her reticule and tucked
the money in slowly.
"My dear Miss Day," he stammered, "if you do not find this--er--
lawyer, you mention, a lawyer will be assigned by the court to attend
to things, and you would have to make your payments through him. In
the meantime--" he put the purse in her hand. "I am more sorry than I
can tell you that I have had to fix this fine--it is purely arbitrary
--I am very sorry--"
"Of course you would be," said Felicia slowly, her clear eyes looking
at him without malice and without scorn. "You must be sorry a great
deal of the time, aren't you? You couldn't be really happy making so
many people unhappy as I've watched go to talk with you today--they
looked vairee unhappy."
The gentle unfairness of her rebuke was most disconcerting.
"Perhaps I make some of them happy," he protested.
She shook her head.
"I didn't see a happy one," she answered simply.
An odd feeling that he wanted her to think well of him worried him.
Why he should have cared what this bedraggled, bankrupt little
creature thought he did not fathom, perhaps it was just that she
looked so helpless and so old that his heart smote him. Awkward as a
boy he stared out through the bedrizzled windowpane into the spring
"I hope you won't think I'm impertinent," he suggested suddenly, "but
I believe you said you arrived from out of town this morning and came
directly here. Have you some friend to whom you are going?"
From beneath Louisa's ridiculous old bonnet her hair scraggled
untidily, her pallor accentuated the dark circles under her drooping
eyelids. Yet when she looked up at him, the glory in those tired eyes
"I'm going,"--oh, how she wanted to say "to Dudley Hamilt"! It took
all her reserve to finish her sentence calmly! "To eighteen Columbia
"That's not far," he felt an inexpressible relief that she had
somewhere to go, "I'm not quite ready to go home myself, but my car is
waiting for me. Suppose we have one of these boys take your bag down
for you and that you let my chauffeur drive you to Columbia Heights
while he is waiting for me--I should be very glad if you would--"
She did not answer him until he opened the door for her. When she
looked up at him he was fairly startled by her wide ingenuous smile.
"I was just pretending," she said clearly, "that I had my ox-cart so
that I wouldn't have to walk to find Columbia Heights--I was just
thinking how delightful it would be if I did for I'm afraid--as afraid
as Margot is of a bat--of all of the things in the street--you are
indeed kind--" ah, the stilted phrases with which Mademoiselle had
instructed her so many years ago!--"to suggest a drive for me--"
He went back to his papers positively chuckling.
"She's refreshingly different," he thought. "Refreshingly different."
But he sighed as he handed the papers to the clerk. The whole case
seemed a hopeless tangle. And now that she was gone Felicia herself
seemed absolutely unreal. He rubbed his eyes and plunged into the next
But Felicia, resting comfortably on the wide seat of the judge's car
shut her tired eyes and let her head sink against the cushions. Her
heart was racing faster than this swiftly moving motor, she felt as
though she could not breathe.
They came to a slow halt before a pile of bricks and mortar. Above
them loomed a huge unfinished apartment house, from which were
tramping forth the home-going laborers. The smell of the wet lime as
they tracked across the rather narrow street was over-powering. The
chauffeur opened the door and spoke to her respectfully.
"There must be some mistake in your address, Madam, this is eighteen
Columbia Heights." She was overwhelmed, she could think nothing whatever
to say to him. He came to the rescue himself with a quiet, "Perhaps if
you have the name of the person you wanted to see--"
"It's Dudley Hamilt."
There was a drug store on the opposite corner. He disappeared within
its door and it was several minutes before he came back. This time he
had a definite word.
"The druggist says that the Hamilt house stood where this apartment is
being built, Madam. He says he understands that the elder Mr. Hamilt
is dead but that the younger one has an office somewhere in Manhattan.
Perhaps you could speak with him on the telephone--"
Speak with him! Her face glowed with sudden color.
"How nice of you!" she rose obediently to follow him, putting Babiche
carefully on the cushioned seat. "Will you tell the druggist that I'd
The man helped her respectfully through the doorway, he was thinking
as had his employer and as Officer Brennan had, that this odd little
woman shouldn't have to go around alone, and yet, it was puzzling, she
didn't seem to mind doing it. He obligingly found the telephone
number, turned and asked her if she would like him to call Mr.
Hamilt's office for her. The telephone was screwed to a small table
near the door. Felicia waited, her heart throbbing. Beside her at the
marble counter two giggling young things ordered soda water from a
white-coated clerk. They were garbed in the triggest and gayest of
spring clothing, they were as impeccably immaculate as the smiling
ladies on the perfume bottles in the window. Back of the telephone was
a long mirror that reflected their pretty smartness and Felicia's
impossible dowdiness. But Felicia did not see anything at all save the
round black hole through which she was to speak to Dudley Hamilt. She
was awed by it as she had been surprised by everything in this amazing
day. She watched closely the way the man held the receiver; not for
worlds would she have admitted her ignorance. She took the receiver,
she sat down quietly, she drew a long breath. The chauffeur was
already disappearing through the door, the drug clerk was joking with
his giggling young patrons. Suddenly her rapturous ear caught Dudley
Hamilt's resonant voice speaking,
"Who is it?" he demanded impatiently.
Her low sweet laughter purred over the wires to him.
"Can't you remember?" she asked quietly. "I am Felice.--Yes, I _am_
Felice. I have been trying to find your house, Dudley Hamilt, but it's
gone, they are building a vairee big house there. I didn't have your
letter, that letter that you sent me. Not till Zeb brought it to me day
before yesterday. That was why I didn't write to you where I was."
"Where are you now?" the excitement in his voice frightened her. "Tell
me, where are you?"
The giggling back of her grew so insistent that it broke in upon even
the solitude of her wonderous moment. She raised her eyes to the
mirror before her. She caught a swift glimpse of laughing faces, the
impishness of their mischievous eyes made her shiver. She
instinctively glanced into the looking glass to see where their gaze
rested. And looked straight at--herself!
At Louisa's ugly bonnet, at the damp and shapeless shoulders of the
gray coat, at her own pallor, at the deep shadows under her tired
eyes, into her own eyes, and saw the whole drab mirrored ghost of the
woman who had been the young Felicia. And through the telephone rang
Dudley Hamilt's eager voice, as eager as it had been that night when
he clambered over the gate.
"Tell me quickly where you are--I must see you--oh, your voice sounds
as though I'd not lost you at all--" he laughed nervously like an
embarrassed boy, "I want to see you--" he repeated inadequately.
She thought quickly, she could think of only one thing and that was
that Dudley Hamilt must NOT see her.
"Let's pretend," she interrupted him, her low contralto voice
trembling, "Let's pretend that I'm somewhere you can't see me--I only
wanted--to tell you that I had your letter. I wanted you to know how
happy it made me to have it. Dudley Hamilt--"
The receiver dropped from her hand; somewhere back of her the giggling
grew fainter and farther away. She shook her head weakly when the drug
clerk hurried with a glass of water. She was swaying, dimly conscious
of the awe in the face of the girl who was hastening toward her.
"Oh, she looks awfully ill--" she heard a dismayed voice.
"I'm not ill--" her proud chin lifted. She was pulling herself
together again, she even managed to stand by holding one hand on the
edge of the table.
The whirling blackness of the moment had passed. Even while the clerk
was hastily calling back the judge's chauffeur, the drooping little
figure had straightened itself.
"I think the lady was kinda faint," mumbled the clerk, mechanically
replacing the dangling receiver. "She's O.K. now--ain't you?"
"Did you find where you wanted to go?" the man's respectful query
"If it's not too far," she answered with dignity, "I think I'd like to
go to my own house--it's in a street called Montrose Place."
Inside the car her head drooped, she felt the new Babiche licking her
lifeless hand, she felt the whir of the motor. It vibrated through
every jangling nerve of her weary body. The whole impossible journey
was like a nightmare.
"That wasn't I, I saw in there--" her thoughts blurred, "it's just a
dreadful dream--that wasn't Felice I saw--oh, Dudley Hamilt--I was so
pretty that night! And now I'm just old--like Grandy--like Piqueur--"
After a million years--or was it after one little minute?--the car
stopped easily. Like the dream that Felicia had hoped the whole
dreadful day had been. She opened her eyes as though she might have
been waking up in the bed that Poquelin, the father of Moliere, had
"This," said the judge's chauffeur dubiously, "is Montrose Place."
She got out slowly, tucking Babiche mechanically under her arm. The
man lifted out her bag and touched his cap,--she did not even see him
The huge willows still arched above Montrose Place, but they were shabby
and dying. And the mossy bricked sidewalk was gone but on its
muddy concrete successor, scores and scores of noisy, dirty, alien
children squabbled and cried. Some of them were pushing against this
strange woman who had descended from the motor, some of them fingered
her coat, one bolder than the rest sat down upon her bag. It seemed to
her as though more children than she had known there were in the whole
world were crowding against her. Wherever she looked there were
children. They hung from the once lovely old windows, they slid down
the once beautiful balustrade, they tumbled out of every doorway. And
wherever there were not children there were signs. Blatant, dingy
signs. The first one she glimpsed was propped before the basement
gate through which the housemaids had been wont to enter. It was shaped
like a tombstone and with amateur lettering announced:
"TONY HE SELLA COAL WOOD ICE"
And from the rusty iron balcony hung a ragged pair of trousers into
which had been inserted a board, the legs flapped dispiritedly in the
gusty wind from the river. Painted in scraggling white paint across
the seat of the trousers was written
"A. Cohen. Pressing 25 and 50 cents."
It was twilight. The tailor had lighted a single flickering gas jet
beside the basement window. In the old days the front basement had
been the housemaids' sitting room with a channel-coal fire glowing in
the grate and a tidy white cloth on the table and neat rows of
geraniums in the windows--a cheery sort of place. Not at all like this
stuffy, overcrowded, ill ventilated place with the two silent shirt-
sleeved men humped over steaming ironing boards and with a dozen more
clattering away at noisy sewing machines.
A grizzled man scowled at her through thick glasses.
"Vell," he rasped, "Vat do you vant, madam?"
"I want to stay here."
"You vant to rent a room? I calls mine missus--" he called stridently,
"I think she gotta room for three dollars, I don' know--"
From the doorway of the once shining and immaculate kitchen a frowsy
head protruded, "Four we should get," whined a nasal voice "it is only
that it is on the top floor that we can make it so cheap--"
"This," announced Felicia to the slatternly woman "--is my house. How
dare you let it get so dirty!"
Her rising anger swept into her heart like a reviving fire. She
thought of Zeb, mouthing his scorn of the "dirty filthy heathen," she
thought of Mademoiselle D'Ormy scolding a housemaid who left so much
as a speck of dust on the hall balustrades, she did not see the
grinning woman gesturing to her husband, touching her forehead to
indicate Felicia's lack of wits.
"That ain't my business," the woman shrugged when she saw Felicia
looking at her. "We pays out rent by a receiver since the Mister
Burrel goes avay--I gotta get mine renta in adwance. I gotta nice room
if you vant to stay."
"But it's my house, of course I'll stay."
"It's a nice room, three dollars a veek--you vant to see it?"
The color blazed in Felicia's cheeks.
"I should like you to take me to it at once," she announced with
dignity. "You'll carry my bag, please."
The tailor's wife grumbingly obeyed her, preceding her new lodger with
ill concealed temper, her lumpy person almost blocking the ample
Up they passed from the basement to the once stately hallway. Not even
the encrusted dirt could hide the beauty of the old tessellated marble
floors and arched doorways but where the oval topped doors had once
swung hospitably wide their gloomy panels now hid the drawing-rooms,
and where the long mirror had once made the hallway bright with
reflected light a dingy ill-painted wall made the passage so gloomy
that one could scarcely see above the first landing. Silently
Felicia's weary feet carried her along behind her untidy conductor.
Unconsciously she tiptoed as she passed the closed door of her
mother's room, tiptoed as gently as though that frail sufferer were
still lying listlessly on the "sleighback" bed. Quietly around the
bend of the upper hall she followed, past the upstairs sitting room
and up the second flight toward the sleeping chambers, her heart
beating from the unwonted climb, her breath coming in quick gasps and
her damp hair clinging to her aching forehead.
"Maybe," she exulted secretly, "it will be the nursery that I'll have
--maybe I left something--" she smiled as she caught herself thinking
it on the stairway--"perhaps there will be a little fire in the
Peggoty grate and I can shut the door and sit down and think clearly."
But it wasn't the nursery. As they passed its closed door she could
hear the wrangle of many voices, a baby's fretful cry and the hurrying
whir of other sewing machines. The frowsy woman opened the door at the
head of the stairs. The-three-dollar-a-week-room was the hall bedroom.
The small room where Mademoiselle D'Ormy's bed had been wont to stand
in the old days--with the door left ajar so that Felicia would not be
frightened when she awoke in the night.
With the door to the adjoining room closed it looked twice as narrow
as she remembered it. And it was not a nice clean room. It held an old
iron bed and a pine table and a cheap wicker rocking chair. Yet
Felicia could almost have kissed the dingy walls for they were covered
with exactly the same droll paper that had always decorated them--the
paper on which the oft repeated group of fat faced shepherdesses
danced about their innumerable May poles and alternating with these
perpetual merry makers were the methodical flocks of lambs. Spang over
the middle of the space back of the bed was the discolored spot where
she had thrown the large and dripping bath sponge.
She felt suddenly very small and very, very helpless--she was utterly
spent. But there was something in her wide gray eyes--a dignity and a
command--that completely dominated the shrewish wife of the hump-
shouldered tailor, something that made the slatternly creature back
out of the room, for Felicia Day, with her hand on the battered iron
railing of the bed, had said clearly, "Woman, go at once."
And when the door was shut she sat down in one chair and put Babiche
carefully on the bed. She untied Louisa's bonnet and dropped it to the
floor; she loosed the cumbersome traveling coat. Far out on the river
the ferry boats and tugs were signaling; across the water the glamour
of a million lights shone toward her. It was quite dark now; she
stumbled to the window and looked down into the back yard. The dusk
had mercifully blurred out for her the heaps of refuse and ashes that
were dumped upon the spot where the narcissus border had been. The
great iron pots on the top of the garden wall loomed out of the
shadows. She looked straight down on the gate to the rectory yard.
She sunk in a crumpled heap and rested her weary head on the window
sill, then groped for the wee doggie as she heard the faint click of
its tiny paws coming toward her over the bare floor.
"Oh, Babiche!" she whispered, "Babiche, how happy--we should be--to be
THE UNFINISHED SONG
You can't imagine anything more amusing than the satisfaction with
which Felicia Day awoke. The early sun was streaming in her eyes. She
rubbed them drowsily and sat up in the middle of the narrow humpy bed.
At the foot of the bed Babiche awoke too, yawning and stretching
beautifully, reflexing her droll puppy body and wagging her wee
On the floor the russet bag gaped open where Felicia had dumped it the
night before; her clothes lay in a limp heap beside the window. But
the clear spring air, deliciously salty smelling to the woman who had
been living inland so long, made her breathe deeply.
"Ah! Babiche!" she murmured, smiling at the smudgy spot on the wall,
"What a naughty child I used to be!" She had a naive pride in this
evidence of her early wickedness. But a moment later she was frowning,
her eyes fixed on the grimy woodwork.
"What unspeakably lazy servants I must have! I shall send them away at
once! Just as soon as that woman has brought my breakfast I shall say
"'You are an abom-in-able housekeeper, pack your bags and go!'"
She had heard Mademoiselle D'Ormy send a servant away once. It gave a
splendid sense of superiority to think that she was going to do it
herself this time. She pulled her travel-stiff body over the edge of
the bed, and grimacing as she swung her pavement-sore feet to the
floor, she wrapped the lovely old dressing-gown about her and opened
the door into the hall. She could not think of any other way in which
to summon a servant whose name she did not know and so she whistled
clearly as she sometimes did when she wanted to call Bele from the
farther end of the orchard.
The house seemed filled with sounds, mutterings, babblings, little
cries, the heavy whirr of the sewing machines, the splintering clatter
of Tony, who was chopping his wares by the basement door--it seemed
impregnated with odors, smudgy, burning, unsavory, smoky smells. She
An unkempt head, a man's head, was thrust from the nursery door, in
the quick glance with which she looked at him and beyond him she
seemed to see a score of persons. There were not really so many of
them, merely a slovenly woman who was pedaling the sewing machine with
a baby tumbling at her feet, an eight-year-old who sat on the window
ledge pulling bastings while a half-grown girl cooked something on a
stove that had been propped in front of the fireplace.
Zeb's phrase--"filthy dirty heathen" trembled on Felicia's lips, her
eyes burned hotly. She grew furiously angry. Her breast was heaving,
her bare foot tapped impatiently on the chilly floor, but the man
slammed the door before she could speak.
She stepped resolutely into the hall, she whistled again, this time
No one answered.
She crossed to the bathroom beside the nursery. She was grimly
determined now, she would bathe herself and dress and go down to the
kitchen and speak at once to the servant. The bathroom door was
slightly open but the skylight was so dusty that she could scarcely
see. She put down her hand to turn the faucet and drew back in dismay.
Her tub was already filled--with coal!
And behind her a voice ejaculated,
"You no taka mine fires! Get out!"
Felicia did "get out," speeding so recklessly back to Mademoiselle's
old room that she was breathless as she shut the door behind her and
leaned against it laughing weakly.
"Oh! Oh! I know it is all a dream! It's too ridiculous to be true!"
She found enough water in a pitcher on the table to bathe her face.
She sat on the edge of the bed thinking hard as she brushed her hair.
"It is not a dream"--she shuddered, "The back yard is real--even with
all the rubbish there, the back yard is real! The gate is there--the
first thing I shall make them clean will be the back yard--after all,
it won't be so difficult as my garden in the woods. I shall not have
to wait to find the pattern, I know exactly how it all belongs. And I
know that about this whole house. I shall"--she grew more determined,
"make it all as it was before. First I shall put all these filthy
dirty heathen out--it will be exactly like making the garden--only I
shall have people pulled out instead of weeds--they are all like
weeds, these filthy dirty people--I am not afraid of weeds."
But all the same, when she was dressed and had begun the perilous
journey downward, she found herself very much afraid of the "weeds"
that she encountered on her way to the tailor's missus.
Nor did she issue victoriously as she had planned from her attempt to
send the tailor's missus away.
The tailor's missus stood her ground stoutly, she even forced Felicia
to give her three dollars for room rent from Louisa's purse; the
woman's awe of the night before had departed, she moaned strange
things about her children's starving, she reiterated her absolute lack
of belief that Felicia owned the house, she laughed toothlessly over
such a thing being possible.
"You tell that to Mister Grady," she scoffed, "Mr. Grady, he is goin'
to buy this house, comes the auction next Tuesday--"
Mr. Grady, Felicia discovered, was the rent collector; this fact at
last was something to seize upon. If he was the rent collector and it
was her house, certainly she could go and collect from him. She
learned that he lived across the street, a grimy finger indicated
where and she set forth valiantly.
Breakfastless, almost moneyless, her chin in the air, she marched
across the street and faced the redoubtable Mr. Grady. He wasn't a bad
sort at all, though it was quite evident that he, like the tailor's
missus, hadn't the slightest idea that she really owned her house. He
rubbed his stubby, sandy chin and hitched his shirt sleeve garter
"I hain't collecting for myself," he assured her, "I only collects for
the receiver for the estate--you can see 'im if you like--he's up in
th' Temple Bar buildin'." He was so good as to jot down the number of
the room for her. She thanked him and departed, leaving him staring
after her, scratching his chin more violently than ever.
By noon she stood quietly outside Judge Harlow's door. She presented
herself without parley. There was a calm determination about her that
reminded him somehow of a fanatic with a great cause. And yet there
was a mirthful twinkle in her eyes.
"It's been droll," she began, "I have been trying all day to make
persons understand that it's my house. I can't make anybody believe
me, not the tailor's missus, nor the rent collector nor the 'receiver
for the estate,'" her drawling imitation of the redoubtable Mr. Grady
made the Justice smile.
"Oh, you've talked with that scamp, have you?" he flung the door open
and pulled out a chair for her.
"I've talked with a great many--scamps"--she caught at new words as
delightedly as though they had been new flowers, and he laughed again.
She was too absurd, this grotesquely garbed old maid! "I haven't found
the Portia Person--" a note of gravity crept into her voice again,
"but I'm going to do without him--I have a plan"--she leaned forward
excitedly, "I thought it out--it's as good as the pattern of the
garden--the reason you have to make me pay fifty dollars for--
violating that Tenement Law is because there are too many persons in
my house, isn't that it?"
"Then," she decided triumphantly, "it's quite simple. We must just put
"Miss Daniel come to judgment!" he congratulated her.
They talked quite seriously then. The matter of identification was not
really droll, for there was literally no one to vouch for Felicia Day.
He found it difficult to explain to her that while he did not in the
least doubt her assertion that she was Felicia Day she would have to
prove, legally, that she was.
If the "receiver for the estate" could find any of the papers that
Felicia had signed for Mr. Burrel of course her signature would help,
(he called a stenographer and wrote for a letter from the country
doctor,) he explained regretfully that until she could prove that she
was the person she claimed to be she could not actually take
possession of the house.
"Then you can't 'actually' make me pay anything--those fines or taxes,
until you prove that I'm the person who owes them--" She came back at
him so quickly that she took his breath away.
"Again Miss Daniel comes to judgment!" he teased her. She put him in
an extraordinary good humor with her alertness. Her persistence and
her indomitable courage were such futile weapons against the armor of
the law that they seemed pathetic, but her droll faith in herself and
her absurd comments about the persons with whom she had been talking
made him want to laugh as one laughs at a precocious child.
She left as abruptly as she had come, tucking Babiche under her arm in
a deliciously matter-of-fact way.
"Good morning, Miss Day," he called after her.
She paused, she blushed furiously, she had forgotten Mademoiselle's
manners. But she made up for it. She dropped him the most amusing
curtsy with an upward glance like that of the one-eyed scrub woman who
had been cleaning the corridor.
"Good marnin', yer Honor!" she groaned exactly like that rheumatic
soul. He laughed silently, his head thrown back on his shoulders. How
could he know that she couldn't help "pretending" that she was
everybody she listened to!
"And she looks like a little old tramp," he recounted at luncheon to a
friend, "Most extraordinary person, one minute she puts a lump in your
throat--you're so sorry for her you could curse, and the next--Lordy!
the next minute you wonder at her impertinence--it's not exactly
impertinence either,--it's absolute frankness."
"No manners, eh?" suggested his friend.
"No manners at all. A manner," said the Justice neatly.
Back in the little hall room she sat dizzily on the edge of the bed
and divided the last of Margot's dry sandwiches with Babiche. They
were both ravenously hungry. Felicia turned the few coins out of
Louisa's old purse and contemplated them. Wherever she had turned in
these two busy days she had had to pay, she was perpetually asked for
And quite surely she must have some more. She couldn't ask Margot, and
the "receiver for the estate" would give her none. She stared at the
smug faced shepherdesses.
"Where," she thought, "Do persons get money?"
The shepherdesses smiled back stupidly.
Babiche answered her really. Having all there was to eat the wee dog
settled herself uncomfortably on the thin pillow.
"If I knew where the Wheezy was I'd have her make you a cushion--oh!
oh! Babiche! How stupid I've been! The Wheezy got money, Mademoiselle
used to give it to her from Maman's purse, two dollars every day--for
sewing--why, Babiche, I can sew beautifully--much better than the
It was a delightful moment, a self-reliant, decisive moment. Her eyes
sparkled, she caught up the ugly bonnet, she could hardly hurry fast
enough to find The Woman's Exchange and Employment Agency. She even
remembered the sign in the window.
"Applications for work received Tuesdays and Fridays." She was so glad
that it was Friday that she could have whistled. So down the stairs
they went again, the little dog and mistress, and straight around the
corner, past the old church, there they stopped for Felicia to read
what she hadn't stopped to read before,
"THIS PROPERTY FOR SALE OR TO LET
SUITABLE FOR GARAGE
OR MOVING PICTURES
APPLY YOUR OWN BROKER"
She stumbled around uncollected garbage, she waited impatiently for
impudent children to move out of her way, she thrilled with rage at
the sordid world about her.
"That pattern of it all is gone--I can't see how it was unless I close
my eyes," she thought.
But when she came to the faded sign "WOMAN'S EXCHANGE AND EMPLOYMENT
AGENCY" she smiled. For that at least was exactly as it had been save
that it looked tinier and dingier than it had in the old days. She
opened the iron-grilled door, her eager heart anticipating the
tinkling jangle of the spring bell at the rear, and when the shadowy
curtains parted and a grizzled head, surmounted by gold-rimmed
spectacles tucked above a worried forehead appeared, Felicia could
have cried out with delight.
For there was the Disagreeable Walnut, limping more painfully than she
had used to limp, blinking more uncertainly than she had used to
blink. Her rasping voice came thinner and more peevish than it had
twenty years ago but she called out just the same,
"Well, what's your business?"
Felicia listened dreamily; she seemed to be absorbing the whole shop,
the dusty shelves lined with useless "fancy" work, into whose
fashioning no fancy at all had crept; the cracked show counters filled
with pasty china daubed with violets and cross-eyed cupids,--propped
up rakishly in the very front of the dustiest, most battered case of
all the fat string dolly leaned despondently and smiled her red floss
"Oh, how you've lasted!" breathed Felicia.
"What?" shrilled the Disagreeable Walnut, blushing under her shriveled
"I mean--the little person made of string--" murmured Felicia abashed.
"I saw her here--when we came for The Wheezy--Mademoiselle D'Ormy and
The Disagreeable Walnut snorted.
"Oh, that Mademoiselle D'Ormy," she squinted through her adjusted
glasses, her shaking, purple-veined hands fumbling with the silk that
was wound around the bows to protect her thin old temples, "She hain't
been here this long while, have you seen her?"
"Do you know me?" demanded Felicia stepping very close.
"Don't know as I do--yet it seems like I did too--you hain't been here
in a long while, have ye?"
"Don't you remember--I lived in that same house where Mademoiselle
D'Ormy stayed--she brought me in here when I was a little girl--when
we came to get the Wheezy to sew--"
The Disagreeable Walnut shook her head.
"I never knew anybody named Wheezy."
"The Wheezy was fat--" Felicia puffed out her chest, tilted her chin
downward and hunched up her shoulders like the Wheezy. She cleared her
throat and panted and let her breath come sighingly through her pursed
lips, "She couldn't see why under the shining canopy the Major had her
make c-cushions for the dogs--"
The shop keeper nodded her recognition of The Wheezy.
"Oh, you mean Sophia Pease--dear! dear!" she wiped her eye glasses
tremblingly, "She's been out to the Baptist Home for the Aged this
long whiles. Her eyes went back on her--a nice sewer, as nice a sewer
as we ever had--dear, dear! I don't know when anybody asked me about
Sophia Pease--she made them dolls you was just mentioning--" she
motioned toward the disconsolate string toy--"dear, dear! she made
them even after she couldn't see for regular sewing--"
"Now can't you remember me?" reiterated Felicia pleadingly.
The Disagreeable Walnut shook her head.
"Can't say as I do--"
"But I am Felice--the little girl who came with Mademoiselle D'Ormy to
get Miss Pease--can't you see that I am?"
The old woman's tittering laugh of denial made Felicia want to shake
"That child--why you hain't she--she wouldn't be the matter of half
your age--you must be thirty-five or forty, hain't ye? She grew up and
run away like the rest of her women folks--" she giggled sardonically,
"Was a young limb, she was, I used to hear her whistling at them choir
boys next door--a young limb--all the girls in that family was man-
chasers--the mother run off with the rector's son--younger'n she was--
by a good two years I should say, she must ha' been thirty if she was
a minute--but pretty--prettier n' her mother--ever see the mother,
Miss Trenton--Miss Montrose that was?"
"Did you?" breathed Felicia. "Oh, did you see Grandy's Louisa?"
"Did I ever see her?" the Disagreeable Walnut leaned her sharp elbows
on the show case. "I see her when she was a bride--I'd just took
charge here then--she was a high-stepper! The Major hadn't a penny
when she married him but she had all the Montrose money and she got
him--some say as she told him if he'd marry her she'd live on what he
earned--but I guess he couldn't have earned the matter of her shoe
strings--not the way she dressed--she was stylish and tasty in her
dress--and then she eloped--with that lawyer fellow--some says she
didn't elope with him, but she went off for some French property her
mother had left her--but I dunno--she was an awful high-stepper. All I
know is that after she was dead and the Major brought Miss Octavia
"Did you see Maman? Did you?" Felicia could hardly breath, "Did you
see Octavia--wasn't she sweet? Wasn't she darling--didn't you love
her, love, love her?"
"Too high-stepping!" sniffed the old woman, "Whole lot of 'em was too
high-stepping for me--never liked any of 'em--"
"She didn't step at all--" Felicia's anger was rising, "She just
stayed in her bed and stayed in her bed--how dare you say you--oh!
oh!" Color burned in her pale cheeks, "I won't have you say such
"Well, I hain't quarreling with you about them folks," said the
Disagreeable Walnut sententiously, "They're all dead and buried
anyhow. And pore Sophia Pease might jes' as well be--mewed up in that
Baptist home where her friends, if she's got any, can't see her
excepting on Sundays--my stars! I wouldn't go to live in that Home, no
sir, I wouldn't--nor I wouldn't want to live at the--"
"Can you tell me," Felicia broke in upon this flood of opinions,
"Where I could go to see Miss Pease?"
"I'm telling you--the Baptist Home--"
"I do think she'd know me," Felicia murmured thoughtfully. "I do think
she would." She moved toward the door, intent upon trying to see Miss
But the Disagreeable Walnut, for all that she was old, was quite
capable of handling her job. She called petulantly after her
"What was you coming in for--anything you wanted to buy?"
"How stupid I am to forget. I came because it was Friday, you know, I
wanted to have some work, please. For two dollars a day and lunch."
The shop keeper pulled a dusty ledger toward her.
"Are you registered or new?"
"I--I think I'm new, I'm not registered."
The ledger was pushed around toward her, the shop keeper reached
fretfully for the spattered ink bottle.
"By the day or home work?"
"By the day," said Felicia decisively.
"Then sign here," a trembling finger indicated the line.
It was a new page. No one had signed it yet. At the top was printed,
NAME ADDRESS JOB APPLIED FOR DATE Mrs. or Miss.
And Felicia wrote, guiding the rusty pen carefully. Last of all, she
wrote just after the printed Miss, in firm letters, "By The Day," and
pushed back the book.
The Disagreeable Walnut pursed her lips, she couldn't really see
anything through the blur of her glasses.
The bell jangled, a brisk old person, much like the Disagreeable
Walnut, save that she looked agreeable, entered breathlessly.
"Sorry I was late," she dumped various bundles on the counter, "How'd
you make out, Susan?" She eyed Felicia as she began pulling at her
gloves. "Did my sister find what you wanted?"
"She wants work," quavered Susan, considerably less reliant than she'd
been a moment before. "I dunno where the work book is. I declare I
can't keep track of where you put things, Sarah--is there anybody
could use her? She wants sewing."
The brisk person swung the book around glancing at it capably as she
removed her hat.
"Oh, you've signed it in the wrong place. You should have put your
name there--not the way you were going to work"--her finger rested on
the place Felicia had written. "What is your name? Your name isn't
Miss By-the-Day is it?" she asked good-humoredly.
"Why, I think it is," Felicia smiled back, "I think it will have to
be--it's Day," she added shyly.
"Miss or Mrs.?"
"And what kind of work, please?"
"Like the Wheezy--sewing--for two dollars a day and lunch"--she
repeated it like a lesson.
"There's a day a week at 440 Linton Avenue--Mrs. Alden's, perhaps you
could go there. Have you references?"
"I don't even know what they are," Miss By-the-Day replied.
The brisk person laughed.
"Well you must have an address, where do you live?"
"In my own house," her chin lifted proudly, "Montrose Place."
"But if you have a house," the interrogator's voice was kindly if her
words were severe, "we can't possibly give you work. You see, our work
is for persons who have no other means of support, no other ways of
making their living."
Felicia's lips quivered.
"I haven't, that's why I came. You see it's all taxes and assessments
and fines and--it's so fearfully dirty and I haven't any money"--she
held out Louisa's reticule a bit ruefully. "You can see I haven't."
"I see"--the brisk person stepped back to the telephone. She was
thoughtful as she waited for her connection. She talked quietly,
murmuring things about some one who looked thoroughly responsible.
Presently she wrote down an address that she handed to Felicia. "You
must be there at eight o'clock in the morning, can you do that, Miss
"There's something else I'd like you to write--it's the place where
Miss Pease lives--"
"You can't go to see her except Sundays," Miss Sarah cautioned her.
After Felicia had gone the brisk woman straightened things about a
bit, humming under her breath.
"Su-san"--she called through the doorway, "haven't we seen that woman
somewheres? She looks awful familiar." Miss Susan grunted.
"She tried to make out she knew me, but I dunno--she can't never sew
to suit Mis' Freddie Alden and you know she can't--nobody can please
young Miss' Alden--old Miss' Alden was bad enough but young Miss'
Alden is worse--"
Of her adventures "by-the-day" only Felicia could have "found the
pattern." And as in the case of the garden of old, even she was a long
time discovering any design in the confusing blur of their outlines.
Perhaps it was because each day was like a bit of glass in a child's
kaleidoscope, an episode in itself, ugly, irregular and meaningless,
until Felicia's rage against life tumbled each piece into position and
Back to Full Books