Little Miss By-The-Day
Lucille Van Slyke
Part 3 out of 4
let them all reflect in quaint order against the clear sweet mirrors
of her faith and hope and charity.
Who but Felicia could have shaken beauty from that first unlovely "by-
the-day"? Seamstress after seamstress had come and gone in that
impossibly selfish household, the meek ones enduring it until they
could endure no more, the proud ones hurrying angrily away; competent
or incompetent, not one of them had ever been able to please her
exacting employer, yet Felicia, mercifully unaware of the heart aches
she would endure within, walked staunchly through the iron gates, with
"440 Linton Avenue" boldly wrought in filagree upon their stern
The house was set close to the street but wide side yards separated it
from its newer neighbors. It was pretentiously ugly with its mansard
roof, intricate porches, balconies and bay windows that had evidently
been added after the original architectural atrocity had been
committed. At her first glance as the pert and frilly maid opened the
door it seemed as though the whole house were filled with innumerable
elaborate draperies and fat-framed paintings and much stuffed
furniture. While she waited for the maid to announce her, her quick
ears caught the nervous undertone of the house--the whining voices of
children above stairs, the quick clatter of dishes in the far off
pantry and a politely peevish voice that was raised as its owner
struggled with an imperfect telephone connection.
"--just at my wits' end--both maids have the day out,--the children
are off my hands for the day--they're going to be in the pageant--but
it is awkward for all that. Uncle Peter's nurse insists that she has
to go out and it doesn't leave any one to stay with him. Fred is so
unreasonable about our leaving Uncle Peter alone. Of course if the
Exchange did send the sewing person to do the mending I could go--only
you never can tell whether people like that are honest or not--they
often aren't--" The "sewing person" in the overstuffed chair looked
straight ahead of her. She shut her lips together and tried
desperately not to listen.
"--that's all I can promise--if the sewing person comes and can sit in
the hall--I think it would be perfectly horrid if you had to play a
three table--if I can't get there in time for luncheon I'll hurry
around by half past two--that is if I possibly can."
Her irritable voice was still raised to telephone pitch as she hurried
toward her new seamstress. It wasn't until she had ushered Felicia
into the draughty angle of the upper hall where she was to sew that
Mrs. Alden discovered Babiche.
Felicia cuddled her tiny dog.
"Why, she's a precious," she protested sweetly. "She'll just stay
right beside me if you can find her a cushion--"
She felt very small and meek as she sat taking her wee neat stitches.
All about her the unpleasant confusion of the house surged on. The
half-grown children departed tempestuously for the pageant, their
mother bustled out leaving a trail of half explicit instructions
behind her. The last Felicia heard of her voice was a fretful
instruction to the cook.
"--and you'll have to take something or other up to the sewing woman--
some of that cold lamb will do--"
Felice wrinkled her nose commiseratingly at Babiche's questioning
eyes. Babiche the elder had hated cold lamb. From the door to her left
she could hear soothing murmurs of a voice reading. A carefully
modulated voice that evidently cared nothing at all about what it was
reading. An irascible masculine "Well, well, never mind that!"
frequently interrupted the reader. At noon the voice stopped and a
patient nurse appeared in the doorway.
"I'm going down for Mr. Alden's tray," she announced primly, "if he
should speak will you call me?" Felicia nodded. She stitched steadily.
She was putting new rows of lace on a torn petticoat, and so intent
was she in joining the pattern of the lace that she forgot to watch
Babiche. That inquisitive one was exploring, sniffing cautiously as
she approached the invalid's bed but a second later she was trotting
hastily back to her mistress.
"I positively won't have stray animals about the house," a quavering
This petulance continued long after the nurse had returned with his
tray. Felicia could hear the faint rumble of his disapproval even when
the door was closed. She glanced up in dismay as the bulk of the cook
blocked her light. It was not an appetizing luncheon that that
individual banged down upon the lap-board that was propped across the
receding arms of the morris-chair to serve as a table. There were some
microscopic scraps of the cold lamb, a cup of cocoa on which the
surface had long since grown thick and oily, a rather limp looking
lettuce leaf with a stuffed tomato palpably left from some former
meal. Felicia sipped the cocoa, she dipped bits of the dry bread in it
and fed Babiche. She herself ate the lamb and struggled through the
salad. She was really very, very hungry. She did not dare let herself
think that the food was unpalatable. After it was all eaten she spread
her napkin carefully over the empty plates and went on with her
ruffle. There was a console table outside the invalid's door.
Presently the nurse appeared and put his tray upon it. She set the
door carefully ajar.
"I'm going out for my two hours, I think he won't want anything. I
think he will just doze, he usually sleeps while I'm gone. But he
didn't like his lunch, so I'll leave it here. If he should call, do
you mind taking it in?"
After that the house was still. Felicia finished the petticoat, folded
it neatly and began making exquisite darns in a white silk stocking.
Babiche lifted her small head and sniffed in the direction of the
invalid's lunch tray. Felicia eyed the tray. You would have known to
have looked at that tray and its careful appointment that some one had
given it to the invalid for Christmas. The china on it matched so
decorously. It was an alluring looking lunch--crisp curled hearts of
celery, a glowing bit of currant jelly in a glass compote, half of a
delectably browned chicken surrounded by cress, and set in a silver
frame was a custard cup filled with the creamiest looking custard that
inspired hands had ever snatched from the oven at the psychological
moment. It was quarter of one when the sedate nurse left the tray on
the desk. At quarter past one Felicia fastened a glove button and
sighed. Babiche's eyes were pleading. At quarter of two Felicia
finished a Jacob's ladder in a long purple stocking. Babiche was
sitting up and begging with her paws crossed. Felicia made her sit
down by tapping her head with the thimble. At ten minutes past two
Felicia had mended two pairs of short white cotton socks.
At twenty-five minutes of three a throaty voice whispered up the
"Nurse 'phoned she can't get back until after four and would I mind
giving Mr. Alden his orange juice when he wakes up. It's in this glass
I'm lifting to you--" A moist red hand was thrust through the open
space at the bend of the stair casing. "You give it to him if he is
asking before I'm back. I'm stepping across the way to my cousin's for
At twenty minutes of three Felicia had finished all of the socks save
the black ones. The silk for mending them was on the edge of the console
table beside the tray. She crossed the space bravely.
She had her hand on the spool of silk, when Babiche stood on her
absurd head, a trick she'd not performed before Felice. Her mistress
"You can't have it, you precious little beggar," she whispered. "It
isn't for doggies." At ten minutes of three, another pair of men's
black socks had been added to the basket of completed work. Babiche
gave two hungry yelps that sounded painfully loud in that silent
house. Felicia struck her again with the thimble and began resolutely
putting a new dress braid on a bedraggled serge skirt. At three
o'clock a gentle snore emanated from the sick room. At quarter past
three Felicia smothered Babiche's most frenzied bark. At seventeen
minutes past three Felicia Day, seamstress, became a thief.
"One simply cannot," as Mrs. Alden remarked "trust the sort of persons
one gets from the Exchange, you never can tell what they might take--"
"They" might take just a bit of chicken skin to feed to a tiny hungry
dog. And "they" might lift a bit of chicken wing to hungry human lips
and after that "they" might deliberately and delicately eat the rest
of it and give the bone to the doggie. And "they" might crunch the
bits of celery and eat the last delicious spoonful of the custard--
"They" might even do that!
Especially when you remember that except for the dry bits of lamb and
the sad tomato Felicia Day and Babiche, her dog, had had no other food
save that from Margot's lunch box since they had left that bountiful
House in the Woods.
At half past three, suddenly aware of the enormity of her crime,
Felicia put her face into her hands and shook with laughter.
"Oh, Babiche! Babiche! Aren't we delight-fully wicked!"
Babiche pranced joyously, tossing her bone in the air and worrying it.
With a sudden rush the wee dog dashed straight into the sick room,
scurried about under the bed and back to her mistress. The snoring
stopped abruptly. A waking snort was followed by heavy breathing. And
then the quavering voice called,
"Miss Grant--if you'll bring that confounded tray in I'll try to eat a
Felicia's eyes surveyed the empty tray, her lips moved but she could
"Miss Grant--I said I'd--"
She stood before him, her eyes dropped demurely to hide her mirth. She
had had the presence of mind to bring his orange juice, but when she
looked up she felt suddenly very sorry. For he was not a beautiful old
man like Grandy. He was wrinkled and yellow and gaunt and cross
looking. He was not sad at being old, he was bitter.
Her heart went out to him, her mirth died as suddenly as a frightened
"Are you really vairee hungry?" she asked solicitously.
Her low voice was not professionally low like the nurse's, it was just
sweetly, normally low--to that irritable old man who lived in a family
of shrill voices it sounded like an angel's. Her smoothly coiffed head
and antiquated gown spoke eloquently to him of a past when women
dressed as he thought women should dress.
He turned on his pillow and looked at her.
"Lord no! I'm not hungry! I'm never hungry--but what in the Jumping
Jehosophat are you doing here?"
"I'm mending. By-the-day, you know. Your nurse went walking. And your
cook went to see her cousin. So if you really were hungry--isn't it
lucky you aren't?--I don't know what we would do." She advanced to the
bedside. He made her want to shudder, he was so ugly in his long green
dressing gown. With his bald head and piercing eyebrows he made her
think of a gigantic worm. When he spoke his head waggled just as a
worm's head waggles when it tops a rose bush.
"There was chicken--" he remembered petulantly, "I like that cold--"
"It was vairee good--" Felicia assured him. Just to hear Felicia say
"Vairee" mouthing it as Mademoiselle D'Ormy had done, was refreshingly
different. "Babiche had the skin and the bones and I had the rest. We
stole it, you know--"
Her confession was deliciously funny, her eyes danced laughter though
her tone was demurely proper. She was really thinking of Maman lying
so lovely in her bed and she was thinking how Maman had talked about
amusing people when they were worried and she was thinking that this
dreadful old man was the most worried looking person she had ever
His grizzled hand jammed another pillow feebly behind his shoulders.
He glared at her.
"Well, well, Miss--Whadda-you-call-it," he was growing more peevish.
"You'll have to find something for me--"
Her smooth hand stretched toward him as quickly as a
prestidigitator's, with the glass of orange juice. He was too
surprised to do anything save drink it, gulping it throatily and
handing back the glass with a grunt.
"And of course," added Felicia with perfect good humor, "I shall have
to pay a forfeit--I always did when I took anything from Maman's tray.
If I was caught."
Her childishness of manner did not seem at all incongruous to him. She
was comfortably ageless so far as he was concerned, a drab figure with
a pleasant voice who treated him as though he were a human being
instead of a sick ogre. In some mysterious way her attitude suggested
something that no one had suggested to him for years--the thing called
"Forfeits for Maman," she continued, "meant I had to play chess--you
don't play chess do you?"
He sat bolt upright. His beady eyes gleamed with excitement.
"Miss Whadda-you-call-it," he retorted, "you go right over there by my
desk--open the bottom drawer--there's chessmen and a board. I've been
looking for four years for somebody who had sense enough to play
Babiche trotted at her heels, sniffing at all the new odors about her.
Felicia moved easily, she got the chess men, went and brought back her
lap-board and sat patiently at the bedside.
Four o'clock, half past four o'clock, five o'clock--there was no sound
save the shove of the chess men. The room grew dark--the old man
impatiently indicated the light. The little dog curled contently on
the foot of the bed, Felicia's sleek head bent over the board. He was
no easy opponent. At quarter past five nurse fluttered heavily in,
looked at the bedside and gasped.
"Why Mr. Alden--"
He waved her away.
At half past five, the mistress of the household puffed up the
stairway. She paused by the deserted chair in the hallway.
"Where's the seamstress?" she demanded.
The nurse showed her.
Felicia's hand was poised over a knight, she looked up gravely and
Mrs. Alden's hat with its waving plumes was overpowering enough, but
her voice, strident and angry, seemed to fill the whole room.
"Well, really," she began, "I think that's the most impudent thing
that I have ever had any one do in my house! What do you think I hired
For a full minute it did not occur to Felicia that the woman was
addressing her. And when she knew, she rose slowly, even carefully, so
as not to upset the chess-men.
"For two dollars a day--and lunch--" she answered clearly. She hadn't
the remotest idea of being impertinent. She was merely literal. The
only thing that saved her from Mrs. Alden's mounting wrath was the old
man's voice chuckling from his pillows.
"And--" he looked triumphantly at his angry niece-in-law's snapping
eyes, "she had to steal the lunch, by the Jumping Jehosophat, she had
to steal her lunch! Why don't you feed people, Clara--why don't you?"
"She had a good lunch, I'm sure I instructed the cook to give her a
With the annoying cunning of the old he contradicted her. He dearly
loved a row with the mistress of the household.
"Cold lamb--" he cackled, "I heard you say cold lamb--"
"Very well, Uncle Peter," said Mrs. Alden tapping her pointed patent
leather toe impatiently, "we won't argue. I'll pay the woman and she
Uncle Peter's head dropped pitifully, his bravado ceased abruptly, he
became a whining child.
"Don't go, Miss Whadda-you-call-it--I want to finish the game. She can
pay you but don't go. It's my house, isn't it?" he fretfully
interrogated the nurse, "I guess it's my house yet even if I am half
dead. I'm not all dead yet, not by a long shot--"
The nurse stooped over him professionally but he waved her away.
"Sit down, can't you?" he demanded of Felicia, "it's your move."
Felicia sat down, two spots of color burning in her pale cheeks. She
extended her hand over the knight again, bowing imperiously to the
angry woman. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes--outside the
echoes of the indignant woman's strident voice came across the
hallway. She was venting her ill humor on the children noisily
returning from their pageant, on the cook, whose frowsy head appeared
at the stair landing for dinner orders, on the patient nurse who
pattered about on errands.
"--what we're coming to--the trouble is I can't say my soul's my own--
sewing women! Playing chess instead of sewing! The last one couldn't
sew and this one won't--" She reprimanded a grocer over the telephone,
she sent a child snivelling to her bedroom. But the invalid, his eyes
intent on the chess board, paid no heed. He moved cautiously,
craftily, he had set his heart on winning. And he was too shrewd for
Felicia to dare to pretend to let him win.
The minutes seemed like ages but at length, just as the angry voice
was subsiding, the old man straightened victoriously on his pillows.
"Check!" he called buoyantly, "Check!"
"You play adroitly," she encouraged him. "And I'm really ra-ther glad
I stole your luncheon for here comes your supper. I know you'll be
hungry for your supper--"
She was outside the door, as quiet as a shadow, fastening Louisa's old
bonnet under her chin, buttoning the old coat about her; even before
Mrs. Alden was at her side she had Babiche under her arm.
"Here's your money," said the woman stiffly.
Felicia shook her head.
"You might as well take it, even if you didn't work full time. Of
course, I won't want you to come again."
"No?" Felicia asked with a curious upward inflection.
In the exasperated silence the invalid's voice quavered out to them.
"Miss Whadda-you-call-it!--Call that woman back here, Miss Grant!" She
stepped to his door. "I wish you'd come around sometimes," he asked
her pleadingly, "I do admire a good game of chess--and it's my house,
I tell you, this is my house, even Clara can't say this isn't my
"I'll come sometimes," she promised, "indeed I will--" she stepped
back to her abashed employer. "--you aren't making him happy," she
murmured passionately, "sick people and old people ought to be happy--"
and walked straight down the stairs and out through the ornate gates
leaving a discomfited woman behind her.
There were exactly six cents left in the bottom of Louisa's reticule,
--it was when Felicia was passing a bake shop and saw a child buying
currant buns that she knew what to do with them. She went in and
bought buns. She walked slowly up her own stairs, pausing outside
Maman's door to push the bag of buns back into the niche by the
stairway. And stood a moment getting her breath and then reached out
"Let's pretend--" she murmured under the turmoil of noises--the house
was perturbed at suppertime,--"Let's pretend you put them there,
Safe in Mademoiselle's room she addressed Babiche firmly.
"That woman, that Mrs. Alden is just a WEED! A weed like the tailor's
missus and the rest. Some one ought to pull her right out of Uncle
Peter's house! She is worse than a weed! She ought to have to be a by-
the-day! And sit in a windy hall and sew and sew. And then some one
ought to bring her a tray, with messy napkins and just two pieces of
dry lamb and a sad tomato--and all the while that she was eating it
somebody ought to put Uncle Peter's tray on the table beside her! With
chicken and custard and celery and all! Yes, that's what some one
should do, Babiche!"
Babiche begged gracefully for her part of the buns. They had a
delightful time together.
"But I do wish," she murmured, after they'd settled themselves on the
narrow bed for the night, "I could remember whether Mademoiselle ever
let the Wheezy have such a dreadful luncheon--I shall ask her
She did ask her, for she did find the Wheezy, just as she found
anything she set out to find, by sheer dint of persistence.
It was late afternoon when she found her. The visiting hours were
almost over. The Wheezy never had visitors, she was sitting listlessly
looking at nothing at all when the attendant ushered Felicia through
the corridor. She was just the same old Wheezy, but more crotchety,
smaller and thinner, wheezing still and she turned her dim eyes toward
the doorway and called,
"If you want to speak to Mrs. Sperry why under the shining canopy
don't you come in? She'll be back in a second."
For several minutes she stubbornly would not recognize Felicia. She
grudgingly admitted that she did remember Mademoiselle D'Ormy and that
she did recall there had been a little girl, but she was as
incredulous as the Disagreeable Walnut had been that this frumpy, drab
looking person was that sprightly child. Felicia strove mightily to
"Can't you remember when you used to sew for us at Montrose Place, how
I called you the Wheezy and it made you cross?"
Miss Pease admitted that the child had called her that.
"And can't you remember anything else I did? I mean that the little
girl did? For if you could I would do it and then you'd know--"
"She used to whistle--" the admission came slowly after deep thought,
"She used to whistle real good, when the old man wasn't about."
Felicia sat down on the edge of the Wheezy's bed. Her eyes were
shining. Mrs. Sperry had come back and was sitting by the Wheezy's
window. It seemed that they shared the room. She was staring
animatedly at her room-mate's visitor. From the opened door into the
corridor Felicia could glimpse other old ladies, peeping in curiously,
hovering about like gray moths at twilight.
She smiled at them wistfully, as she was wont to smile at Grandy, with
her heart in her eyes.
"We're going to pretend something," she called to them softly, "Would
you like to pretend? We're going to pretend I'm a little girl in a
back yard who has been hearing Marthy sing--Marthy sings a song called
Billy Boy about a boy who had been courting. She used to say, in the
song, 'Where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy--Where have you been,
charming Billy?' I can't sing but you shall hear me whistle it--"
The little gray moths of women crept closer, some of them fluttered
into the Wheezy's room. The twilight grew deeper and deeper, and on
the edge of the Wheezy's bed sat little Miss By-the-day and whistled
the songs that Marthy used to sing. "Churry Ripe--Churry Ripe--" and
"Ever of thee I am fondly dreaming--"
She whistled until some one came down the corridor to light the
lights. The Wheezy's bony hand was on hers, the Wheezy's tears were
"Why under the shining canopy I didn't know who you was--" she
muttered apologetically, "My soul, I guess it's because I can't half
"No, it's because--" Felicia sighed, "I'm not really that little girl
any more. Only the Happy Part of her is here--" she put her hand on
her breast. "I'm really old--like Grandy--like Piqueur. I can see
vairee well. I saw myself--" she paused, "in a mirror, you know, I was
that surprised--" she managed to laugh a little. "But Wheezy dear,
there's a man who has to know that I am Felicia Day. Will you tell him
that you know I am?"
The Wheezy promised eagerly. And then Felicia whistled a while longer,
because one little gray moth, more daring than the rest wanted to
"I remember, I remember in the years long passed away,
A little maid and I would meet beside the stream to play-"
Her quavering voice recited the verses, while Felicia whistled, oh, so
They fluttered after her as she walked down the corridor, the Matron
walked beside her and the Wheezy's arm was through hers. Of course she
was coming again, she promised them she would, they accepted her
promises with eager queries like children.
"I'll come another visiting day--" she patted the Wheezy's shoulders,
"I like to! You all are _so_ good at pretending!"
"Do you know," she told Judge Harlow in the morning, "I did find some
one who knows who I am?" Her face was glowing with achievement,
"Even if you get so old that you don't look at all as you used to
there's some part of you that people can't forget. Some Happy Part of
you! You really ought to try it! Perhaps there is some old lady up
there who used to know you when you were little! If you'd go there
some visiting day and whistle for her she'd know you, just as quick!
You try it!"
She went away thrilling with anticipation. He had a young lawyer
there, who had a great many papers. The young lawyer explained to her
that the Justice had asked him to keep track of things for her. And
they were arranging it so that in another week, she would possess her
house, mortgages, taxes, fines and all, and the thirty days "to
straighten things" but she would actually possess it and the tailor
and the tailor's missus and all their dreadful tenants would have to
go out, bag and baggage.
She trotted into The Woman's Exchange at noon, positively buoyant.
"You'll have to find me another by-the-day," she announced to Miss
"How'd you make out Saturday?"
"I--made--_out_--" Felicia laughed back at her. "She was a WEED, that
woman. The old man played chess with me but she didn't like us to do it.
I couldn't take the two dollars--"
"I'm afraid you aren't businesslike," Miss Sarah chided, "you said you
needed the money."
"I do," Felicia assured her, "that's why I'm back for another by-the-
Miss Sarah found another job for her, indeed she jotted down several
possible places in a small notebook whose florid cover extolled the
virtues of Dinkle's Cough Syrup.
"This would be a good book for anybody so unbusinesslike as you," she
confided as she presented her client with it. "In the back here are
pages to write what you earn and what you spend and to keep track of
the days you are going out."
It fitted nicely into the reticule. Felicia felt competent with it
there. She used to take it out at night and write in it. It had double
entry pages labelled grandly "INCOME" "EXPENDITURES." With the first
pages Felicia wrote a letter to Margot, a masterly letter in which she
bade her servant tell Zeb that the filthy dirty heathen were going to
be sent away, a letter in which she warned Margot that unless Grandy
were too unhappy she would not go back to the House in the Woods until
the house in the city was clean once more. She explained that certain
legal matters had to be attended to. The round stroke of her pen
seemed to proclaim her complete confidence that they could be attended
to satisfactorily. But the postscript begged Margot to tell Bele to
stay all he could with Grandy, "If Grandy looks at the chess board
tell Bele to put the men on it and shove a man every time Grandy
pushes one--you must all keep Grandy happy." And the last postscript
of all said, "The narcissi are lovely, I have them in my room!"
Which was quite truthful. She did have narcissi in her room! Their
fragrance almost overpowered her. She lay in the darkness and
pretended that they were in the garden and that she was lying on them.
She had been most businesslike about them. If you could have audited
her accounts in Dinkle's Cough Syrup you would have seen on the page
where she first began her reckoning,
Two dollars Bone--five cents
Apples, cakes and sandwiches
forty five cents
Narcissi One dollar."
It is delightful to relate that no one ever in all this world
purchased more narcissi for one dollar than Felicia bought at the
florist's stand that wonderful evening when she made her first
expenditure from money she had actually earned. She looked so tired
and wan in her frumpy old clothes that the florist's clerk, who was a
sentimental young thing, assumed she must be purchasing them for some
one's grave. Even though he might be foredoomed to lose his job, he
recklessly tied up the whole bundle that her hand had indicated.
"Honest, she made me feel like I oughta be giving things away instead
of selling 'em," he apologized to his astounded boss, who had met the
new customer on her way out, "Honest, she got me hipped!"
In spite of the "heathen," in spite of taxes and fines--in spite of
the fatigue that still remained from those days of travel and hunger,
in spite of the strangeness of sitting all day stitching, in spite of
even the fierce longing, whenever she passed a telephone, to speak
with Dudley Hamilt, Felicia found herself--happy, happy with the same
haunting happiness with which she had long ago untangled the puzzle of
the lost garden, happy with the aching happiness that longs to attain
and trembles lest it cannot.
"Babiche," she chattered, "When I was young, like the girls in Piqueur's
song I found my fun in spring forests; but now--" she was looking out
across the river at the gleaming towers of Manhattan, glimpsing the
jewel-like line of trolleys crawling slowly over the lighted bridges,
watching the busy shipping that scurried over the harbor in the violet
and bronze evening, "Now I find it in spring cities--"
She consulted the garden book much, peering bravely down into the
appalling rubbish heaps of her beloved back yard.
"All of the ivy isn't gone and there's wistaria and we can make new
ivies from slips, next spring it must be just as it used to be.
Perhaps we can find the old benches, I know exactly where to build the
paths. We will have to get some pebbles to make the paths. We must
plant plenty of narcissi again, Babiche. Because some day, there might
be some other girl who lived in this house and who walked in the
garden and when Her Night came we would want it to be just as lovely
as it was That Night--"
She had no definite girl in mind, she had not really, although she
thought she had found the "pattern" of what the house was to be, she
only longed to get the "filthy dirty heathen" out and make things
orderly as they once had been. I doubt if she had yet visualized
anybody as living in that house, save Maman and Grandy and herself.
Yet even before the heathen were out she had brought home a girl--the
Sculptor Girl, the first of those starry-eyed young humans who were to
call the house their own.
It happened this way. She set forth on a cloudy, threatening over-warm
morning, Babiche under her arm, toward a new address, a morning so
palpably "growing" that she longed to be planting. She had promised
herself eagerly that the very day when the heathen were gone she would
plant some ivies. She was pretending vehemently that the heathen were
gone and that she didn't have to be a "by-the-day" yet before night
she was exclaiming passionately, "I am proud, proud, proud I was a by-
The new place was not a hard one. A fat, seemingly good natured
employer awaited her, a boarding house mistress who had curtains to be
mended and napkins to be hemmed, who was dubious about taking the
applicant when she discovered she could not use a sewing machine but
who decided on second reflection (aided by the fact that she had just
discovered that her sewing machine was not in repair) to allow Felicia
her day's work.
The vestibule doors were embellished with gilt lettering that
proclaimed the place to be
Mrs. Seeley did not object to Babiche. Indeed she kissed the top of
her nose so resoundingly that Babiche was terrified and Felicia stared
with amazement. It had never occurred to her that any one ever kissed
a dog. If Felicia had been left comfortably to her own devices at her
previous "places" she quickly discovered that the Seeley household
made rather an event of the seamstress' coming. There was no necessity
for stealing a lunch. Indeed, when lunchtime arrived she was ushered
into the basement dining-room and invited to eat with the rest of the
family and as many of the "select boarders" as appeared. It was not a
good luncheon. But to Felicia it was an extraordinarily gay function.
For at the table was Mr. Perry, immaculately groomed in a discreet
uniform. Mrs. Seeley introduced them with a matter-of-fact statement
of their occupations.
"Miss Day, meet Mrs. J. Furthrington's chauffeur--Miss Day is sewing
for me--" she poured their teas impartially. It appeared that Mrs. J.
Furthrington's chauffeur did not often grace the boarding house for
his meals. He usually, as he expressed it "ate wherever the run was."
He talked with whimsical despondency of his job which, it appeared,
"Good gracious," chaffed Mrs. Seeley, "I thought you'd felt grand from
associating with swells and changing your rooms--"
"Well I feel swell," he admitted dubiously, "but in a way the job gets
my goat. Munition millionaires, that's what I'm working for, can you
beat it? Last year in a Canarsie bungalow and this year a-riding in a
Rolls Royce! Everybody to his taste--mine wouldn't be for nobody else
driving my car no matter how much spondulex come my way. It will be me
for the little old low down 'steen cylinder racer when I get my pile--"
he slid his long body under the table and grasped his plate as a
steering wheel, "'Poor, get out of muh way!' my horn will yell--"
His fellow boarders laughed uproariously, his landlady wiped tears
from her eyes.
"Hain't he comical?" she appealed to her sewing woman.
Felicia viewed the redoubtable Mr. Perry with amused eyes.
"He's vairee good at pretending--" her shy approbation came. He winked
"Any time you want a joy-ride, call on me!"
Which fresh sally seemed to explode uncontrollable mirth about the
basement dining-room. Flapping his wonderful gauntlets together he
called a farewell from the doorway.
"Only get a different bunnet--" he waved Louisa's from the peg on the
hall rack, Felicia didn't mind in the least, she was mouthing this new
phrase "Joy-ride," it sounded delightful. All the same she rescued her
bonnet and carried it upstairs with her. "I love that boy like a plate
of fudge," confided Mrs. Seeley as she and Felicia were ascending to
the ornate bedroom where the sewing was waiting. "He's the life of the
place. Everybody likes him. I don't know what there is about him, he
hain't so handsome but he certainly is poplar. Yet Dulcie won't stand
for him--Dulcie thinks he's fresh."
It appeared that Dulcie was not pleased with anything or anybody.
Especially when she was having one of her "spells." Mrs. Seeley rocked
violently as she recounted to her new seamstress her trials with
"She's a caution. In a way I do owe her a livin'. She's my husband's
niece I know, that is by his first wife y'understand. She wasn't even
exactly his niece. But on account of his havin' to use Dulcie's money
in his plumbin' business we agreed to give her her livin'. Al kept her
in a nart school, a swell art school when we was first married. That
was a mistake. I said to him many a time to mark-my-words, it would be
a mistake. Of course when he died I didn't feel it was up to me to
keep her in a nart school. So I took her right into the family, same's
I'd take you or anybody. But it's no use. All she does is mope. Even
Mr. Perry can't cheer her up, though he tries.
"Says he to her only last night, 'Cheer up, I'll take you a nice ride
down to the morgue.' I thought everybody'd die laughing to hear him
but she just got up and stalked out of the dining-room like somebody
had insulted her. And I can't get a peep out of her today. Just this
noon I says to her, pleasant enough, because I was short of help,
wouldn't she come down and wait on table, but would she?" demanded
Mrs. Seeley bitterly, "She would not. She said she was no scullery
maid and slammed the door in my face and went back to her wet mud--"
"Oh, is she building a garden?" asked Felice eagerly.
"Nothing so useful as a garden," snorted Mrs. Seeley, "it's clay she's
fussin' with, thinkin' she's going to be able to make statues some
day. Statues! What kind of a job is that nowadays! Artist jobs is
impractical. Dulcie is awful impractical. I offered to send her to
business college, she could make a good living, but no, she's gotta
make statues! With the parks all full of 'em now and that kind of
thing going out of style for parlors! I put both my Rogers groups
upstairs in the attic when I bought the phonograph--there's no style
to a statue any more. And she wants to learn to make 'em!"
"But I should think," breathed the seamstress her eyes glowing as she
lifted them from her work, "that you'd be proud to have her want to
try to make something."
What Mrs. Seeley thought expressed itself in the bang of the door as
she left to answer a strident summons below stairs. But after she had
gone Felice became aware of continued sobbing in the next room, a
sobbing as penetrating, for all it was not so loud, as that of the
noisy Italian baby at home.
For a long time the weeping was sustained and dreary. It never ceased
save when Mrs. Seeley came back to give Felicia instructions about her
work, but usually after her footfalls had clattered down the stairway
the crying would begin again, very softly. Frequently Felicia could
hear the pad, pad, pad of stockinged feet. She knew that whenever the
crying stopped the grieving one walked to and fro restlessly. After a
longer interval of silence than usual Felicia became aware that
Babiche was sniffing excitably. The nervous sniff that had always
characterized the wee doggies on days when the carbolic water was
ready for the rinsing.
Felicia wrinkled her own nose tentatively. Presently she got up and
opened the door to the next room. It was empty. But adjoining it was
an untidy bathroom with a dark wainscoting and a grimy enameled tub
and standing over near the uncurtained window was a boyish figure,
wrapped in a man's overcoat, with a bottle in her hand. She had wept
so long, poor girl, that Felicia couldn't tell very much about how she
really looked, except that it seemed to her she had never seen any one
Felicia stood there, an absurdly dowdy figure, Babiche clasped in her
arm, and smiled timorously.
"Where is your dog?" she asked sweetly.
"What dog?" demanded a sulky voice.
"The dog you were going to wash--" Felicia's voice was casual. "With
"I wasn't--trying to wash any dog--" the girl breathed dully.
Felicia moved quickly, she took the bottle from the girl's hand. "Then
I wish you'd lend me your--'scarbolic,'" she entreated sweetly,
"Babiche really needs a bath."
The youthful sufferer stared from her tear-stained eyes, stared with
all her might at the shabby, frumpy, middle-aged looking little person
who had taken the bottle from her hand.
"I can't stand it--" she sobbed bitterly, "I've got to quit--you don't
know how I feel--I feel as if--"
"When you feel that way," interrupted Felicia quietly, "you mustn't
have a 'scarbolic' bottle, that's a thing that will make you go dead--"
"It's my own business if I do--I'd rather be dead than the way I am--"
she stretched out her arms passionately, "I haven't room to breathe! I
did have that top floor front you know, it was a peach of a place to
work. But she rented it to a chauffeur and put me in this hole--oh,
oh, when all I asked was room for my model stand and room for my clay
--when all I wanted was room for Pandora--you can't know how I feel--"
"But I do know how you feel!" slender hands cupped the girl's face.
Felicia's eyes looked through into the girl's soul. "You feel like 'I
can't get out, I can't get out, sang the starling'! Once I did.
Perhaps every one of us comes to a time when she feels all shut in--I
went out into my garden when I felt that way. It is a big garden but
it felt smaller than this room. I cried in it all night long, walking
up and down and up and down--quite sure I didn't want to live any
more. But when it was getting to be morning I saw a rosebush by the
wall. In a jar. I'd forgotten to take care of it and Bele--he is good,
you know, but stupid--had been tending it. Poor Rosebush!
"It was much too big for its jar. Its roots were all cramped and its
top all cut back so it couldn't bloom--you mustn't prune some roses
too much, you know--I've just been thinking, that you're rather like
my rosebush. You're Dulcie, aren't you? I think I know exactly what
you need. If you'd just come along with me--I've a big room--I mean I
will have as soon as I get the abundance-of-weeds-for-which-we-have-
no-name out--I'd just love you to come with me. You'd be proud, proud,
proud if you did--
"Listen, that's Mrs. Seeley coming back up the stairs. She's bringing
me my two dollars. You put on your shoes and when she's down the
stairs I'll whistle--so--vairee softly. And then you will come out and
down we'll go. It will really be a great favor if you will--it's a big
house, my house and I'm ra-_ther_ lonely--"
It wasn't until they were outside in the shadowy, rain-sweet street
that Dulcie realized she had been coaxed that far. She drew back.
"I've no hat," she whimpered, "It's no use--I don't want to go--"
"You would," the seamstress insisted, "if you only knew what fun it's
going to be. And we'll stop in the Exchange and buy you a cap. It's a
darling cap. I've wanted it evaire since I saw it, it's velvet, rather
like a choir boy's, only it has a tassel." Her arm was through
Dulcie's, they were really walking along. "And we shall buy our supper
there too. Miss Susan has fat jars of baked beans and little round
corn muffins and I think she has quince jelly--"
She actually managed to get her hysterical guest as far as the shop
without further parley. The girl took the cap and the parcels that
Felicia handed her, turning her head away when she fancied Miss Susan
was eyeing her sharply. They walked around the corner and into the
gateway of that unspeakably dirty house. The girl drew back in dismay.
"Oh, it's altogether too dreadful--" she exclaimed. "It's worse than
Aunt Seeley's--I can't go in--"
But she did go in and up the stairs too, protesting weakly all the
way. She was plainly exhausted from her emotions, and clung to
Felicia's arm. And when they were safe in Mademoiselle's room she
looked about her wildly. "It's an awful place--" she moaned.
"It's going to be lovely," promised Felicia stoutly, "It used to be
lovely. Look here," she drew the girl to the window and pointed out
across the gleaming river, "that's what you'll see every night from
your windows. You won't be in this little room, you'll be in the big
room next, the room that used to be my nursery."
She wheedled the tired girl into eating a bit. She coaxed her to lie
on the bed and watch the stars. She did not talk any more, just
listened to sobbing breaths that the girl drew--listened as she sat in
the wicker chair with Babiche cuddled in her arms. And presently the
girl slept. And Felicia sighed and slept too.
Morning was droll and difficult. An enormous bumping and thumping
awakened the sleepers. Cramped and dazed from her uncomfortable night
in the chair Felicia jumped up startled; drowsy and bewildered in her
unaccustomed bed, Dulcie sat up and stared at her.
"Whatever is it?" Dulcie stammered.
Felicia clapped her hands.
"It's the weeds--this is going to be a wonderful, wonderful day,
Dulcie, you're going to be so glad--just think! The tailor and the
tailor's missus and all of them are going--"
They were not only going, they had already started. All day long the
old house groaned under their leave-taking. All day long Felicia
chattered to Dulcie of her plans of how they should find where the old
furniture had gone and bring it back; of how they should make the
whole house lovely.
Dulcie was shy and silent most of the time, her eyes were still red,
she was still numb from her nerve-racking day before, still shamed by
the fact that this queer little creature had given her her bed and
slept in a chair beside her. Late afternoon found the two of them
standing in the empty room that had been the nursery. They had been
laughing a little over the absurdity of their situation; the tailor's
missus had removed the bed and chair from Mademoiselle's room, and
they were furnitureless. But Dulcie was waking up mentally after her
day of stupor. "Impractical" as her aunt had proclaimed her, she
proved the contrary very quickly.
"Steamer chairs," she decided instantly, "I left two steamer chairs
and some rugs over on Ella Slocum's back porch--I'll bet we could get
a grocery boy to bring them over for us--"
"Only what good will it do?" she tramped about the great room
restlessly, "It's no use, Miss Day, you might better have let me quit
--you've got troubles enough without bothering with me--"
"Isn't there room enough?" asked Felicia shyly. "Isn't it big enough?"
"It's big enough for the model stand--" she admitted moodily. "It's a
good light. I could paint these silly papered walls--" Felicia sighed.
Dear old shepherds and shepherdesses! It was not the gathering
twilight alone that let them mist away as she looked.
"Are they so silly?" she asked. "I didn't know." But the girl did not
"It's no use," that moody creature was muttering despondently.
"There's space enough but it's no use. I don't seem to want to do it
any more--I used to sit and dream about how I'd do it and how it would
make other people dream just to look--it wasn't going to be any
ordinary Pandora--it was to be a symbol--a symbol of what goes on in
your heart when you're young--before you know about life--oh, I can't
chitter-chatter about it--but I used to think I could make it--"
"Of course you can make it," Felicia insisted. "Not just now--" she
led the girl to the window, "right now, the first thing you'll have to
do is to help me in the garden. Doesn't it look ugly down there? It
used to be lovely. Probably as soon as it's lovely again you will walk
around in it and dream about your Pandora. I used to dream a lot of
things in that garden. Some day, while I'm off sewing on my stupid
sewing, you'll come dashing upstairs--and begin! Think what fun it
will be when I get home that night! I'll call out, 'Where's my
sculptor girl?' And you'll call out--'Here, I've begun!'" Felicia
waved her hand into the gloom behind them as though Pandora were
already mysteriously there. Perhaps she was!
At any rate that was the moment that Felicia won!
The Sculptor Girl laughed, a nervous little laugh, and dashed off to
arrange for the steamer chairs. Presently she came back with them and
found Felicia had kindled a fire in the Peggoty grate. It was
delightfully cosy with two candles burning recklessly on the mantel-
shelf and Felicia and Dulcie sitting by the embers of the little fire.
They'd had a supper of sandwiches and milk. Babiche was curled at
their feet and they were planning excitably what they'd do with the
house, when from the depths of the empty hall the old bell shrilled.
They'd bolted the doors an hour before when the last of the tailor's
tribe had departed. It was the Sculptor Girl who mustered courage to
"It's all right," she called up to Felicia, "it's Miss Sarah from the
Exchange. There's a Mr. Alden with her--will you come down?"
He was a very apologetic Mr. Alden.
"I know it's after eight," he said, "but I've had a time finding you.
It's Uncle Peter. He's--well, Miss Grant and the doctor think he's
pretty bad tonight. He's a notion he wants to play chess with you,
he's been asking all day. I couldn't find you till now. Would you come
along for an hour or two to pacify him?"
The Sculptor Girl decided for her.
"Babiche and I will wait up for you," she said. "We'll wait--"
It was as comfortable a motor as the Judge's. Little Miss Day let
herself rest in its cushions. She felt rather lonely without Babiche,
but she was glad she had had her to leave with the Sculptor Girl.
"Maybe the dear old duffer will be asleep when we get there and I can
send you right back," Mr. Alden suggested hopefully. "He was so darned
good to me when I was a kid that I can't let him miss anything I can
get for him--Lord knows that's not much--I thought I could get you
right away but I didn't have any name and I couldn't find out where
you came from--my wife didn't have your address--"
They entered quietly and were up the stairway quickly. Outside the
door he paused, "Just as soon as he is asleep," he whispered, "you
come out and let me know--I'll be in the library downstairs with some
chaps and I'll phone for the car to come around for you--you're
awfully good to come--" he was a bit awkward.
"Uncle Peter" looked no more miserable than, he had the week before
when she had met him, save that his eyes burned deeper. His voice was
more petulant, he wasted no time in preliminaries, merely ejaculated a
"Ah! Why didn't you come earlier?"
The nurse sat by her light, reading; the chess board lay on the small
table; Uncle Peter was propped in his cushions and the game began.
From below stairs Felicia could hear faint echoes of conversations.
She had heard the mistress of the house departing in the same motor
that had brought them, but a steady rumble of men's voices and a faint
aroma of cigars floated up the stairway. You can't think what
exultation it gave her, just having a sense of nearness to sturdy
masculinity after a lifetime of invalids and old folks! She liked the
spirit of argument that dimly arose, the eager confab--"It's not
feasible"--"It couldn't be pulled off"--"Quixotic plan"--"take a mint
The sheltered sick room was like all her life, but below stairs there
were--men! She moved her pawns quietly, watching Uncle Peter's adroit
game. She watched too, something else, the light in Uncle Peter's
eyes. They sparkled.
The room was impossibly hot yet the old man shivered, just as Grandy
shivered, and drew his dressing gown closer. Felicia was very tired
from her exciting day. She grew paler and paler; the circles under her
eyes grew deeper; her forehead was moist; her hand trembled a bit. But
presently she heard.
"Check!" She roused herself, she had been playing badly, he had caught
her! But he laughed, a feeble, senile laugh, and leaned back,
altogether pleased with himself.
"A drink," he panted and closed his eyes. "Come again, Miss Whadda-
The nurse's eyes reproached her as she tiptoed out.
A pert maid arose, from the hall chair,
"Mr. Alden said for me to 'phone the garage, that the car would be
here for you directly--will you sit down--"
There was a bench on the stair landing below them beside an open
window. Felicia gestured toward it, and the maid nodded.
She could hear the voices more clearly now, she could even see two of
the speakers through an arched doorway. They were sprawled easily in
big chairs, a blue haze of smoke floating over them. One of them was
"That's all right--we agree with you--we'll go in your wild scheme if
you can find some other fools too--only, I say Dud, before you beat it
just sing a couple things, will you? You might be gone six months
instead of three and that's too long between songs. I know you aren't
singing and you haven't any voice and all that, but just a couple to
show there's no hard feeling--those things you used to--the one that
the darkey boy wrote--that Dunbar chap--'The Sum'--and that other one--"
Others added to the appeal. Some one objected. Felicia caught a brief
glimpse of a tall figure, over-coat on arm, the doorway, and a hand
pulling him back. But on he came, protesting vibrantly that he never
sang any more. He looked up toward the figure on the stairs,
"I believe I'll run up to say Howdy and Good-by to your Uncle Peter--"
One step, two steps he had ascended before she could actually see him.
Then with her heart in her eyes she looked to him--he was so tall, so
broad shouldered, so superb in his ruddy blondeness!
"Oh, Dudly Hamilt!" her lips moved. But she leaned back against the
shadow of the curtains as he drew nearer.
He was so close she could touch him, he was so close that at last he
saw her--that is he saw a little drab person whose figure was lost in
a caped coat.
"Beg pardon," he murmured--and passed her--
She buried her face in her hands. She was too weak to move. She was
still sitting with her face thus hidden when he came down the stairway
a moment later, calling back to the invalid,
"You'll be as good as ever when it's summer--"
The others were waiting for him at the foot of the stairway.
"Un-cle Pe-ter-" called Freddie Alden, "ask Dud to sing 'Who Knows'
for you." Uncle Peter did.
And so with her pulse racing madly, with her throat so dry it seemed
as though she could not breathe, Felicia Day sat and listened,
listened with her trembling hand over her mouth to keep her lips from
crying out. Listened to the first firm chords as Dudley Hamilt's long
fingers moved over the keys, listened as he began to sing. He wasn't
using very much voice, just enough to let the melody ring upward to
Uncle Peter, round and smooth and inexpressibly caressing. He wasn't
singing as though it mattered especially what he sang, indeed at first
the phrasing was careless. But presently his voice soared more freely,
it grew vibrant with longing.
"Thou art the soul of a summer's day,
Thou art the breath of a rose;
But the summer is fled and the rose is dead;
Where are they gone, who knows, who knows?
"Thou art the blood of my heart of hearts,
Thou art my soul's repose;
But my heart's grown numb and my soul is dumb--"
The song stopped abruptly.
"Sorry. Can't sing it.--'Night, Uncle Peter. 'Night everybody--" A
"Gad, he's a queer chap! If I had his voice I'd sing--" she caught the
fatuous phrases of the man who had laughed but after that she was no
longer sure of herself. She could only hear the muffled rise of her
The chauffeur asked a respectful question at the doorway.
"Why, yes," answered Freddie Alden, "the maid 'phoned--wait a minute--
Hullo--" he called. But a second later he was racing upward,
"I say, Miss Grant--this little woman here--she's fainted--"
"CERTAIN LEGAL MATTERS"
Of Janet MacGregor and why she couldn't abide Mrs. Freddie Alden the
Poetry Girl once said epics could have been written. Janet was gaunt
and wiry, the relict of the late Jock MacGregor, who had cared for
Uncle Peter Alden's horses for a lifetime and died leaving his savings
and a bit of life insurance to Janet, together with an admonition to
"keep an eye on Mr. Peter."
Janet did. She dropped into the Alden kitchen frequently of an evening
to glean a melancholy satisfaction from the morbid details of Uncle
Peter's lingering betwixt life and death. Whenever--which was
frequent--there was an upheaval in the Alden's domestic arrangements,
Janet filled in the gaps, spoke her mind freely to Mrs. Freddie,
secure in the knowledge that Mrs. Freddie wouldn't talk back until a
new cook arrived, and usually departed in a wholesome rage--which
didn't at all deter her from accepting Mr. Freddie's sizable peace
To see her "washing oop" after dinner on an evening when she was about
to depart FOREVER--or anyhow until Mr. Freddie came for her again--was
a tremendous sight. Especially on an evening when at the highest
moment of her justifiable wrath Mr. Freddie would appear and
nonchalantly suggest a "few eats for some chaps who'd dropped in" as
casually as though Janet were not already on the verge of explosion.
Of course she would prepare the lunch, stabbing the bread-saw
viciously into the defenseless loaf and muttering dark things as she
assembled something she called "old doves" on a big Sheffield platter.
Janet couldn't cook at all but she could arrange things as beautifully
as her ancestors did--and they had been a race of public park
gardeners! There wasn't anything she couldn't do with some parsley, a
can of sardines and the cheese that was left from dinner. And then she
would wait grimly for the platter. Not for anything, even though she
were leaving FOREVER, would Janet let the remnants remain to stain
that sacred platter. Besides if she waited she always had a fine
chance to growl whimpering things about what an hour it was for a
decent widow woman to be a-walkin' the roads and to agree, feebly, oh
very feebly, that maybe Mr. Freddie was right, that it wouldn't hurt
the chauffeur to drive her back to her tiny flat.
This particular evening Janet had been speaking her mind so freely
that the new dining-room girl had fled absolutely dazed by Janet's
dark threat that, Mr. Peter or no Mr. Peter, she, Janet MacGregor,
would never let her shadow rest again on the Alden walls. She would
tell Mr. Freddie that, she would let him understand that she didn't
have to take Miss' Alden's lip, that she, at least, wasn't married to
her, that she had some spirit left even if she was a widow woman. And
that she wasn't dependent on the Aldens nor anybody else. That she was
going to quit service of any kind--day of week or month. She had a
grand chance to open a window-cleaning emporium. She could get the
ladders and harnesses and chamois scrubs for almost nothing from the
widow of a boss cleaner who had cleaned a twenty-second story window
without the aid of one of his own reliable harnesses. She didn't care
so much for her flat anyhow. She was going to find a basement, she
was, with a long hall to keep the ladders in and a sunny front room
for her to live in and put her sign in the window. But with the Aldens
she was through--unless, of course, Mr. Freddie wanted to give her a
She had been loitering near the pantry door shamelessly eavesdropping
during Dudley Hamilt's song because she hoped that meant the gentlemen
would be going and that she could air her grievances while Mr. Freddie
smoked and chuckled at her grumbling. So that when Mr. Freddie called
for Miss Grant, Janet was on the stairs a good three seconds before
that professionally calm person appeared.
Janet sat on the landing window seat and cuddled Felicia in her thin
arms, crooning over her like a setting hen.
"There, there--don't ye mind her--" she lifted glum eyes to Mr.
Freddie as she soothed the sobbing woman, "It's this that Miss'
Freddie's tantrums brings the help to! Many a time have I masel' felt
like givin' way the way this poor soul is givin' way. It's on'y ma
fierce pride that saves me--don't ye cry over Miss' Freddie's way o'
"It wasn't Mrs. Freddie, it wasn't anybody--" Felicia lifted her
streaming eyes from Janet's spare bosom. She was deeply chagrined that
the group hovering on the stairway could see her tears. "It was just
that--I was tired--that Uncle Peter's room was rather hot--that I
liked to hear the man sing--I'm vairee well--" Her drawling "vairee"
sounded anything but well, it was almost a sob in itself. "Truly
She was still "very well" a few moments later when she and Janet
settled themselves in the luxurious car. They were the oddest pair.
Janet's bonnet and shawl were as battered as Felicia's garb; exhausted
as she was Felicia found herself whimsically wondering how she'd tell
herself from Janet when it was time to get out. Felicia's tears had
dissolved in little smothered hysterical sniffs. She was laughing at
Janet's scolding because the seamstress had refused to take what Mr.
Freddie had tried to give her just as they were stepping into the car.
"It's worth ony money to Mr. Freddie to have Mr. Peter snatch a bit of
contentment from life--and Mr. Freddie is that prodigal with money
that if you don't take it of him he'll hand it to the next one--"
"But I can't take money for playing--chess is only playing, its only
for work we should take money."
Janet snorted. She talked volubly in her rich broad Scotch. Agitated
as she was, Felicia's own lips were mouthing these strange new sounds,
she was sure she could get the gutteral A, she wasn't sure of the
burry R. She couldn't heed at all what Janet was saying, indeed she
couldn't listen intelligently, because her tired ears were still
filled with the glorious harmonies of Dudley Hamilt's unfinished song.
When she shut her eyes she could see his tall figure swinging up the
stairs--she was trying to convince herself that she was really glad
that he hadn't recognized her, when the car stopped before her
darkened house. Janet got out first, haughtily dismissing the
chauffeur with the assurance that she could walk the four blocks over
to her own house and she'd not leave a clean car in such a dirty
street as Montrose Place.
Dulcie was waiting on the old balcony. Babiche trotted ahead of her
when she opened the door, in ecstacy at Felicia's home coming. Dulcie
set her flaring candle carefully on the newel post and eyed Janet.
"It's Janet MacGregor with me, Dulcie. She's a widow woman. This is
Dulcie Dierckx, Janet, you'll like Dulcie--" She had Babiche in her
arms now, and was leaning wearily against the balustrade, "Janet was
good to bring me home--I was a silly fool--I cried, Dulcie--"
Janet was peering curiously into the empty house.
"Is onybody livin' here?" she demanded. "I thought I saw them all
movin' out--I heard the building was comin' down to make room for
Dulcie answered that it wasn't, holding the door open as a tactful
hint that she'd better go. But Janet had no intention of leaving. She
had a woman's curiosity about a vacant house, and she was frankly
looking things over, craning her neck to glance down the murky
"Would you think the basement might be to let to a decent body? It's
no worth much, so old and all but I know a body as might conseeder
it." Impractical as the "beastly step-aunt" had proclaimed her to be
Dulcie grasped Janet's thin arm.
"How much would you pay?"
"Is it your hous'?"
"It's Miss Day's--" Dulcie nodded toward Felicia. "She's just been
thinking she might rent part of it. Of course its altogether too large
"If she's livin' here where's her furnishings?" demanded Janet
Felicia sat down on a stair. She motioned but the others remained
standing, their lean figures casting grotesque shadows in the
flickering light of the candle.
"This is the pattern of it," the little seamstress explained. "It's my
house, Janet MacGregor, only it's dirty because while I was gone
building my garden, some dirty filthy heathen came to live here. But
now I'm home His Honor made them all go away. And as soon as I have
earned enough money to pay the taxes and other things I shall make the
house lovely again. The furniture is in a place called storage. I
think I have to pay them something before I get my things, don't I,
"What's the matter o' the storage bills?" demanded Janet her eyes
Dulcie answered her, her sharp slangy syllables falling incisively
after Felicia's low drawl.
"I don't know that it's any of your business but they amount to about
two hundred dollars. I know what you're thinking, that with the
furniture we could open a rooming house. I've been thinking that
myself while Miss Day was gone. I've experience you know, my beastly
step-aunt does make a good thing of it. So if you wanted to rent the
basement and had some furniture of your own Miss Day might consider
Janet's thin arms rested akimbo. She nodded.
"If you've lodgings to let you've got to have some one to keep 'em
tidy. There's a good bit o' money there for an able body. If the
furnishings is what she ree-presents and you'd conseeder takin' me in
on shares--I might conseeder--"
"Consider what?" gasped Dulcie.
"Conseeder advancing for the storage of the furnishings--with the
furnishings as security o' course. And doin' some cleanin' toward the
matter o' what ma rent would be. Mind I'm no sayin' I would until I
see the furnishings. I'm on'y conseederin'--I'll have the matter o'
some ladders--" she peered again down the dark hallway, "and I'd want
a neat ticket in the window--"
At midnight, by the embers of their dying fire, Felicia lay with
Dulcie's rug about her, plaintively pretending from the feel of the
chair, that she was the young Felice of those long years ago,
journeying toward the beloved House in the Woods. It was an easy
pretense for she could glimpse the dark waters of the bay and the
silent ships drifting on the tide. A spring fog seeped through the
open windows and she was quite as miserable as she had been on that
memorable trip. Beside her in her own chair, Dulcie talked and talked,
a thousand details that Felicia's tired wits could not follow. It did
not seem at all a miracle to her that she had found Janet. She
accepted her with the simplicity with which she accepted any one who
came into her life.
"The garden is a little old pippin," Dulcie boasted. "We can make that
all O. K. in a day or so, but the house did stump me! Janet MacGregor
is an angel sent straight from heaven. If I ever get a commish' to
sculpt an angel I shall use Janet MacGregor for my model, little Miss
By-the-Day," she sighed drowsily, "your middle name must be Luck."
"My middle name is Trenton," answered Felicia literally. "Dulcie, I am
going to tell you something. Something you must remember. When our
little garden is lovely again, if any one--ever--kisses--you out there
and you love him--don't let any one take you away from him. Because it
might be too long afterward that you come back--you might be old like
Grandy and Piqueur--so that he wouldn't know you when he saw you. He
wouldn't know that you were the--Girl,--"
Something in the level flatness of her tones almost broke the Sculptor
Girl's heart. She reached out her hand and caught Felicia's and
gripped it hard. She did not say much but what she said Felicia found
"Why--" her reply was the breathless reply of discovery, "I hadn't
noticed till now--_how young your hands are!"_
They awoke to the dazzling wonder of the new day, a bit stiff from
their unaccustomed couches but exuberant over the adventure. Almost
before they had finished their simple breakfast the excited Janet
It was Dulcie Dierckx, impractical Dulcie Dierckx, who took charge.
She was a very different person from the hysterical girl that Felicia
had brought home with her two days before.
"You'd better go to your by-the-day." Dulcie was almost saucy.
"Babiche and I will stay and guard the fort. I'll show Janet all the
dirt, I think there's enough to satisfy even her unholy craving--and
then if she still wants to go into the deal I can go to the storage
place. I know I could arrange it because I did it once for Aunt Jen;
it's a bore, it takes all kinds of time, you'd hate it and--" tears
threatened, "unless I'm doing something for my keep I can't stay."
Little Miss Day agreed gratefully. She departed with tactful
discretion before Janet and Dulcie began their argument. Which was
some argument! But in the end they came to something like a feasible
plan and when they did--! Ah! if you could have seen what those two
accomplished that day! Each put the other on her mettle. They did
wonderful team work. Janet agreed readily enough when she saw the
massive furniture that she had ample security. Dulcie fairly browbeat
the storage manager, and between the two of them they actually
arranged for a small van load of furniture to be delivered at Montrose
Place before dark. As for the rest of it, Dulcie had a wrist-watch,
that for all we know is still reposing in the dusty pawnbroker's at
which she cheerfully hocked it. She'd always wondered why she had it
and I don't believe she ever remembered to go back for it. And Janet
had a nephew, a cross-eyed nephew, who was an odd-job man. Can't you
see Dulcie buying the bags of creamy kalsomine and the brushes and
Janet packing up her pails and scrubbing things?
There never was such a polishing, such a mopping, such a scrubbing
such a--whisper!--fumigating--since the old house had been built!
They'd sense enough not to try too much. They confined their efforts
to the nursery, Janet's basement room and Mademoiselle's old quarters.
Dulcie knew she mustn't touch the shepherdesses there. Felice had told
her about the battle royal with the sponge, but in the nursery--well,
the crossy-eyed nephew couldn't work fast enough to suit Dulcie. She
feverishly grabbed a brush herself and slashed about delightedly in
kalsomine. Janet bossed the nephew and Dulcie, Dulcie bossed Janet and
the nephew, the nephew nearly uncrossed his eyes from trying to follow
all the instructions the two shouted at him.
At quarter after six when Miss By-the-Day climbed slowly up the
stairs, reaching out delightedly for Babiche, who had been sleeping in
the top-most niche of the stair, two tired and aching women flung open
the door of the nursery. They were smiling. Neither of them could
think of a thing to say, but a curious mingling of odors told their
story for them. The freshness of the clean, scarcely-dried, kalsomine,
the faint tinge of smoke from the bit of fire, the delicious soapy
cleanliness and a wholesome whiff of barley broth floated out into the
dusty hallway to the little person on the stairs. She looked through
the doorway and saw clean walls, creamy yellow; windows that
glistened, a glowing fire, a tiny table spread for two--Janet knew her
place!--Grandy's fat sofa under the dormer windows, the stately hall
table flat against the side wall, Maman's chaise-longue, the slender
chaise-longue with its flowered chintz cushions, beside the fire--
When Felicia saw that she reached out her arms and sighed contentedly,
"Oh! it's home--it's really home--"
Who shall say which of them won the greater triumph in those mad April
days? Sometimes it seemed as though it must be the valiant Janet, who
fought with soap and brushes and won Gargantuan victories over squalor
and filth. Sometimes it seemed as though it were the belligerent
Dulcie, who bravely tried to forget that she had ever wept over "wet
mud" and wanted to die--die! Why, she couldn't live hard enough, the
days seemed so short! She threw herself heart and soul into the fray;
she grubbed in the bit of garden, she toiled upstairs and down with
the clumsy paint brushes. Whenever she lacked for pence she strode
forth to the art school where she had once been a pupil in the days
before "Uncle Al" had put her money into the disastrous plumbing
venture, and boldly demanded the right to pose at fifty cents an hour.
With the bravado born of her new grip on life she brazenly descended
on the "beastly Aunt Jen" and demanded and received her trunks and
As for Felice, her victories were humbler--they were small, silent
victories over Self. In the long hours while she sat sewing she fought
out her little battle--the battle of hating uncongenial toil. It was
not easy, for she had an honest hatred of it.
Not even the goal in sight could make her like being a "by-the-day."
Moreover as she grew wiser in the matter of reckoning she realized the
utter impossibility of actually earning, with her hands, the appalling
sum that she owed. She could only work on blindly from day to day,
hoping, hoping against hope that she would find the Portia Person. She
never gave that up. Long hours after her day's work was over she kept
following elusive trails that led nowhere. She would never admit
defeat in that respect. She would find him and she was sure that he
could solve the difficulties that beset her.
Slowly she was evolving a philosophy of life. It began with a bitter
feeling that she had been cheated, that Grandy hadn't been fair to
her, to let her grow up so ignorant of life, so ignorant of the ways
to earn a living. But gradually she began to discover that neither
Grandy nor Mademoiselle nor Maman herself could have taught her to
"It's my stub, stub, stubborn way--" she chided herself, "I won't let
any one tell me--I think it's only when I work that I learn--Work!
that's the thing to learn with--it's like the 'Binnage'--the second
digging of the garden to make things grow--its not pleasant but after
all--it must be done."
Next she found out that it wasn't enough to work--you must like to do
it! Janet now, she _liked_ to clean--and so she did it beautifully, did
it superlatively, whereas when Dulcie or Felice tried, it was only half
done. So Felice set herself to "like to" be a "by-the-day."
And that was the time she discovered that to like to do anything you
must make it genuinely amusing.
"We should be immensely gay when we're working, shouldn't we, Dulcie?"
she asked one evening when they leaned far out of the windows to watch
the ships in the harbor. "Think how gay the sailors are. I remember
one who whistled while he cleaned the deck--he did it very quickly,
much more quickly than the stupid boys who didn't whistle--I think
when I sew I shall whistle,--not aloud--" she laughed, "it would wake
folks' babies! But in my heart--"
She watched Janet vigorously sweeping the area-way.
"Look Dulcie, it's not the way that she does it that matters--you and
I brush as hard--but it's because it's Janet brushing--the broom acts
as though it were Janet instead of just a broom--isn't it delightful?
I shall have to make my needle me--and you shall--"
They were silent. All had not been victory for poor Dulcie. There was
the model stand and the tools and the "wet mud," but the part of
Dulcie that had wanted to create seemed dead--it seemed to have died
back there that day when she had tried to die in "Aunt Jen's" house.
Morning after morning when Felice went away she would encourage her.
She would assure her that when she came back at night she would hear
Dulcie calling "It's begun." But alas, it never was--it was only by
keeping madly, tempestuously busy at other things that Dulcie endured
the nag of some of those April days. Sometimes she gave up entirely,
flung herself prostrate on the sofa under the dormer windows and wept
until she was no longer Dulcie, until she was merely a limp rag of a
human who wouldn't even speak to Felice, who actually cursed when
Janet tried to bring her soup.
But somehow or other the three of them squeezed and bumped along, a
precarious existence really, which would have been utterly impossible
if it hadn't been for Janet. She it was, who held the purse strings.
She it was who cooked sad looking, unpalatable, but none the less
nourishing, stews and broths. You should have seen Janet during one of
those solemn conclaves with the young lawyer whom Justice Harlow had
assigned to the case. He was a frankly gloomy lawyer. He was sure they
were wasting time and money and energy in their attempt to make the
house habitable--he didn't believe it was possible, he didn't think
that even another thirty days extension of time could be procured and
as for the debts on the property, they looked to his impoverished
purse like the combined national debts of all the Americas. He was a
very young lawyer. He was sorry, he said he was sorry, protesting that
he was doing everything on earth he could do to help "The Case." He
always called the house "The Case."
Janet called him back one night after the two younger women had left.
She informed him bluntly that she didn't think he was anything much of
a lawyer. He retorted hotly that he'd done everything any lawyer could
do. Janet eyed him cannily.
"Where might ye be livin'? You're no married?"
He admitted his single blessedness; he named his address; he on
further urging named his room rent. And Janet came back at him with a
practical ferocity that was magnificent.
"If you're so keen on helping my little lady why are ye no livin' here
and paying her rent?"
He murmured things about neighborhoods and slums and not being able to
afford to live in such a hole and appearances and other futile
excuses. But in the end he followed her meekly up the stairway and was
shown the glories of Grandy's old room. It was a huge cavern of a
room, a whale of a room, with a curtained alcove holding a stately
bed, with wide windows overlooking the bay and a low squatty chair
beside the fireplace. While he was looking Dulcie tripped down the
stairs and winked solemnly at Janet. And she too assailed him. He
hadn't an argument left when the two of them were through with him. He
felt like a henpecked Mormon husband; he was red with wrath at the
Sculptor Girl's cool bossiness; he loathed the very idea of living in
the same house with such a person. Especially when she told him
bluntly, that he'd have to go to Felice and beg to be taken in.
Felicia mustn't know that he'd been "influenced" she put it.
In the end he capitulated, clambering up to the nursery and tapping
meekly on the door, stammering as he made his request.
But he'd his reward straight with--the reward of her wide, sincere
"How stupid I was not to offer it to you! Of course you must have
longed for it directly you saw it--oh, do you know I think you must
have felt it was just the place for a lawyer! Shall I tell you
something--" she was down the stairs, running like a girl to point out
the wonders of the room. "You see Grandy's father was a Judge and he
knew Louisa's uncle--It was Louisa's uncle who used to live in this
house and both those men used to sit in this room and talk and talk
and talk--Mademoiselle told me about it. You shall have Grandy's
father's picture over the fireplace. We shall bring it up from the
hall. It's a beautiful picture--you'll just admire him! And to think--
we haven't unpacked the books, Grandy's father's books--" she smiled
over her shoulder at Dulcie as she always smiled when she quoted that
slangy young person, "That will be Some Law!"
All the same he was young enough so that he apologized profusely to
his friends for having such a disreputable lodging,
"Yep, I know it's a rookery and a rotten neighborhood, but I have
reasons--" he said it darkly as though he were plotting. He didn't yet
know that a very powerful reason was Dulcie. He was so busy hating
her, thinking up things to say back when she let her saucy, slangy
phrases loose at him that he didn't know how easily he was learning to
love the solemn heavy furniture that surrounded him, the bit of fire
in the grate on chilly evenings, and Dulcie herself, poking her head
in the door crying,
"How is the majesty of the law? Would it mind lifting a ladder for a
poor woiking goil?"
The day he knew that the house was home was the languorous spring day
when he stopped to stare at a bowl of strawberries in the niche
outside his door. Their purchase had driven Janet almost to drink. She
plainly told Felice they'd all end in the poorhouse. But Felice hadn't
minded, she had inscribed a card, on which in her spidery slanting
scrawl was written,
"NOTICE TO LAWYERS AND SCULPTORS: HAVE SOME ON ME."
"By gad!" he breathed, grinning, "she's coming on!"
He didn't protest at Dulcie's demurely calling him "The Rumor," not
even when she added, "Because as a lawyer, you're a false alarm."
He took his humble part in the gigantic house-cleaning. He opportunely
called to mind a chance acquaintance in the Street Cleaning
department, whereupon an ancient white wings was stationed in the
Of course the White Wings couldn't remove the dingy lace curtains and
the grimy lodgings signs from the disconsolate six houses across the
way; but he could and did do wonders to gutters and sidewalks. The
hordes that had inhabited the great house had really made most of the
noise, the "across the street" houses were fairly quiet.
Spring did a lot. She draped new ivy over the dilapidated church and
rectory; she let the gray-green leaves of the wistaria flutter gaily
over the cornices; she touched with magic the old denuded stumps of
the trees of heaven and the back yard became a shaded retreat.
Sometimes at twilight when Felice came home, it seemed to her that the
long ago look of the street was creeping slowly back--perhaps, of
course, it was just that she was growing used to it or else it was the
tender light through the old willows that made the spirit of things
strangely young again.
She always came home bubbling with adventure now. Dulcie would sit
shamelessly smoking a cigarette filched from the lawyer and listen by
the hour while little Miss By-the-Day imitated her employers and their
maid servants and their man servants and the strangers within their
gates. The two women would sit in the back yard on the old iron
benches, which Janet had found in the depths of the coal bin. The
lawyer would walk grandly about, and chuckle and chuckle while Felicia
pretended she was a very fat customer who was always going to begin
dieting after "Mrs. Poomsonby's bridge luncheon." And when Janet was
gone for her bit of walk--the dear soul liked to gossip with her old
neighbors four blocks over--Dulcie and the lawyer would laugh until
tears blinded them at Felicia pretending she was Janet. Oh, but she
was inimitable at that!
Janet arguing with the fish man, Janet experimenting with the
telephone the lawyer had put in the hall, Janet simultaneously
polishing a window and singing.
"Ouch--" Felicia would pull imaginary rheumatism through an imaginary
casement, "Oh weel--oh weel--to look at the du-urt! it's sickenin'!
You tak the high road
And I'll tak the low road
And I'll be in Scotland before ye,
Oh, I and my true luv shall never be--
oot of the way below there--summat is drapping--Th' De'il tak my bit
'On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.'"
The folk who lived in the rear alley used to lean, sill-warming fashion
on their windows, the children shrilly whistling the chorus, the men
forgetting their pipes, the women sniffling as women do when they hear
old ballads, for of course once Felice had started "pretending" she
didn't stop. A moment after she'd been Janet she'd be Marthy, dear,
lean, grizzled old Marthy, dead these many years, singing,
"In the gloaming
Oh, my darling,
Think not bitterly of me--"
It never occurred to any of them, least of all Felice, how many, many
hours she spent "pretending." Two evenings a week at chess with Uncle
Peter--(thank heaven Dudley Hamilt came no more--!) Sunday afternoons
with the Wheezy's gentle old fellow sufferers, almost all the other
evenings in the garden. She was using ounce after ounce of her
precious strength, pouring out her self to the whole world around her,
making it laugh, making it weep, making it thrill, making it--work.
She stopped one morning to see Justice Harlow. He stared at her as
though it were the first time he had ever seen her. She no longer wore
eccentric garb. Dulcie had divided with her. She had a simple hat and
a serge frock. She was shabby, to be sure, but it was no longer a
ridiculous shabbiness. She was pale and wan, even paler than when she
had first come to him but the timidity, the uncertainty, had gone. Her
eyes were deeper. They shone like jewels; the softened outlines of her
profile were thinner, clearer; her beautiful mouth had grown firm and
a bit of gray showed in her hair. She was altogether adorable, like a
wee wren after a stormy day. The stilted phrases were slipping away.
She spoke more alertly. Bits of Dulcie's lingo were creeping into her
speech. But she still answered with a literalness that took one's
"Now whadda ye know about that?" asked the Justice all unconscious
that he was colloquial.
"I do not know anything about it," she said demurely, and added with
one of her casual references to the illustrious dead--she treated them
all as though they were contemporary--"I think Heloise might know what
to do. One of the things Abelard loved about her was that she always
knew what to do--she was vairee good at administrating, like Janet,
don't you think?"
All the while she was filling her house--with gentle paupers! Think
you how Janet raged the day she brought home the most useless citizen
of all--the Poetry Girl.
Felice had been sewing for two or three days for a dentist's wife, a
rather amusing job for she was stationed in an upstairs window that
let one look down two streets, and at the other window in the room the
dentist's white haired mother sat and gossiped softly about all the
persons who came.
It was the dentist's mother who saw the Poetry Girl first, a thin
figure who walked uncertainly up and down the street, eyeing doctors'
signs. It was a regular streetful of doctors.
"There's a poor thing that's lost her address," crooned Mrs. Miller,
"she does look sick. It's a tooth, too, see how she holds her hand to
her face, you can almost see the pain."
Felice saw, that is she thought she saw. Of course no one could really
see such an ENORMOUS pain as the one that was sweeping the Poetry Girl
along. It was too big to see.
It was something like this. Orange red, pale blue, E flat minor,
acrobatic, Ariel-like in its changes. Sometimes it made her careen
heavily toward the curb--that was the time it made her head seem big
and her feet very far away. Sometimes she could walk but she wanted to
scream, sometimes she felt like a volcano, a Vesuvius of shooting
pains, sometimes it hammered at her ears and she couldn't hear at all.
But one thing she remembered all the time, that she had exactly
twenty-seven cents in her purse.
She was planning whether she'd better dash up to a door and act as
though she had an appointment and give a false address for the bill to
be sent or whether she'd better announce she hadn't any way to pay the
dentist and would he take his pay in poetry, or whether she'd just
shriek, "Stop it!"
In the end her body decided for her. It just flopped down outside the
house where Felicia and Mrs. Miller were watching.
The Poetry Girl was normally very sweet tempered but she wasn't at all
her usual self when she opened her eyes. She was in an operating chair
and she looked accusingly at the man beside her.
"You shouldn't sprinkle me," she murmured reproachfully, "I'm wet
enough as it is and I've no rubbers;--" the faint blue shadows under
her eyes accused them all. Her thin hand tried to pat her rumpled
hair, "I do believe you've lost another hairpin for me--I'd only
three--" she was petulant, "And if you do pull it I can't pay you--"
she was defiant. "Not unless you need some poetry written.
"Or a play. I can write a play. But I can't sell knit underwear or I
can't do general housework--I'm only--a toothache--Bobby Burns wrote
me--maybe you've read me--"
Of course Felicia took her home with her,--that was foreordained from
the moment she saw her,--but she had a beautiful row getting her! The
Poetry Girl had a "stub, stub, stubborn way" too. She was suspicious,
she was wary. She said she didn't care a damn where she went but she
didn't want any one to take her there. The dentist agreed with her. He
took Felicia aside and told her it was his private opinion that the
girl was either drunk or on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he
thought the best thing to do would be to notify a police matron. In
short he was cool and practical. If there was anything Felicia Day
couldn't endure it was a Van Dyke beard on a cool and practical man.
She told the Sculptor Girl afterward that it took strength of mind not
to pull his silly beard off.
She tucked her thimble in her pocket, folded her apron and asked,
"Will you promise not to let her go till I get my hat?"
"You can't manage her," said the dentist, "I tell you she's
"So am I," confided Felicia serenely, "but I'll come back to-morrow
for the sewing. As soon as I get her in bed and Janet brings her some
soup she'll be perfectly all right--"
But all the same it wasn't easy getting her home. It was a long walk.
Felicia hadn't two carfares and she had forgotten to ask the dentist
for money. To make bad matters worse a heavy down pour of rain
overtook them a good half mile from the house. Its cool splatter
seemed to bring the Poetry Girl to her senses. She laughed a bit.
"What an idiot!" she exclaimed, "you must think me--my name is Blythe
Modder, and usually I'm sane. You see just before I went into that
dentist's I did such a fool thing. I bought some patent liniment and
put on my tooth and I didn't notice until afterward that it said
'external use only'--I was such an idiot--I think it went to my head--
I'm very much better now."
"Well, come along and get some dry clothes and tea anyhow, then you'll
be vairee all right."
She left her with Janet while she ran for the dry clothes. She left
her on Janet's immaculate bed in Janet's atrocious dressing gown. Her
clothes she unceremoniously turned over to Janet to dry, leaving that
practical soul verbose with disgust.
Felicia herself was drenched and she loved it. She was loth to strip
the damp clothes off; she felt like running miles and miles in the
rain. She was dreamily happy, dreamily miserable; she felt like the
day--all tears and smiles both. She dropped the outer garments to
floor and pulled her shoes and stockings off. Babiche sat up and
begged for a cracker. Felicia stooped, her damp hair clinging to her
beautiful forehead, the long scant chemise that had been Octavia's
falling loosely from her smooth shoulders.
"Poor Babiche," she crooned, "When your mistress does come in--" So
intent was she on reaching for the cracker box that she lifted her
voice a bit. Dulcie, outside the door ready to tap on it, swung it
open just in time to glimpse the charming posture.
Felicia blushed like a sixteen year old. She reached for her dressing
gown and pulled it toward her.
But Dulcie Dierckx, slamming the door behind her, leaned against the
panels fairly devouring Felicia with her eyes.
"Oh! Oh!" she cried in absolute ecstacy; "Oh, Pandora! Pandora! don't
move! How could I have been so stupid not to have seen you before! Oh,
please drop the coat! Oh! Oh! you adorable--you beautiful person--you
little old peach!"
Felicia laughed. Laughed her soft, breathless laugh and drew the gown
"You--you're rather embarrassing--" she sighed, "Though of course,"
her eyes danced mischievously, "my knees and my ankles and my insteps
are vairee nice indeed--I got them all from Louisa, Margot says--and
my hands--" she stretched one out--"They're Grandmother Trenton's--and
I think I have nice ears--but the rest of me--" she shrugged, "The
rest of me won't do at all--my mouth is too big and--no, I wouldn't be
at all your Pandora--it's dark here--that's why you thought you saw
"I saw her," insisted the Sculptor Girl stubbornly. "And you'd be a
brute not to help me--I--look here," she lied casually, "I didn't tell
you but I've managed a bit of money--I'm not asking you to pose for
nothing--I can pay you more than you earn at your sewing--"
"Oh, money," she stammered. "I didn't think about money--Sculptor
Girl--how could you--"
"Taxes," ejaculated the Sculptor Girl bluntly. "Interest! You can't
forget 'em or we'll all be back in the gutter you know--So that's
settled--to-morrow morning at nine--I'll have a good fire--you won't
mind awfully, will you, if I hang wet cheese cloth around you--?"
She was trying to keep the excitement out of her voice but her eyes
were sparkling. She no longer saw Felicia, she only saw Pandora--the
Pandora of her dreams!
But all the same, after she'd lighted her cigarette in her own room
she drew a long breath and pottered about her few possessions until
she found something pawnable.
In the shop she bargained coolly enough with the pawn-broker, pocketed
the money she fought for and as she was leaving stopped to gaze
casually at the motley array of things in the dusty case. She stared
unbelievingly at a quaint mahogany box, warily priced two or three
other things and finally asked "how much for the damaged writing
case?" Ten minutes later she fled with it under her arm. It didn't
look like much. It was quite empty and it would make a nice box for
Pandora to be opening. But over and over her heart was pounding,
"It's the same Bee on it that's on her brushes--it's the same Bee she
has said was on the silver--it's--oh, if it only could be hers!"
She burst in upon the Poetry Girl (now warm and snug in some of
Dulcie's own garments) and Felicia sitting by the nursery fire. They
were having a friendly little party. Felicia introduced the two girls
with the affable hope they'd be nice neighbors. "Blythe's coming to
have the front room next as soon as Cross Eyes can pink-wash it--" Her
eyes glimpsed the box, she fairly ran for it, "That's Maman's," she
exclaimed, "How did you find it?" She hugged it delightedly; she
opened it--"Even its emptiness smells nice," she sighed.
"Oughtn't there to be a secrud pocket in it, m'loidy? With the missing
will and the dagger he stabbed her with?"
"Nothing like that," laughed Miss Day with one of her delicious
excursions into slang, "it was just for Maman's writing things--but
I'm _that_ proud to have it--"
She was still holding the box when Janet brought up their dinner.
After the Poetry Girl had left, she settled herself for her scolding.
She knew that she was due for it. For naturally she had to confess
that she'd asked Miss Modder to come live in the house.
"What's she paying?" demanded Janet.
"A good bargain, I made. It's like this--she writes, you know, so she
doesn't get her money everyday as you and I do, Janet. She's more
like--well, Dulcie when she's sculpting. So I made a bargain with her
that she'd not pay her rent just now, that she'll pay later. She's to
pay some girl's rent for as long as she stays herself rent free, do
you see? As soon as she can she'll pay her own rent and she'll pay
another rent too, that's vairee business like, don't you think,
Dulcie solemnly assured Janet she "couldn't beat it." She offered to
enter into a similar agreement. Janet couldn't get any sense out of
either of them. She retired baffled and defeated.
"All the same," confessed Dulcie, "You've got to quit bringing home
losers, Miss Day. You ought to pick one winner just to square yourself
Felicia promised. And, mirabile dictu, kept her word the very next
Of all the persons that her mistress brought home Janet really
approved of only that one. But that one, as she grudgingly admitted,
made up for the whole "shiftless crew."
"She's Christian," she assured Felice solemnly, "A Christian." Which
was the more delightful from the fact that her sect was one that Janet
had hitherto scorned as "Irish Roman Catolic." But just to look at
Molly O'Reilly was to know you'd love her. Fat, oh, ridiculously fat,
in comparison with the rest of that skinny household--ruddy, glowingly
ruddy, beside that pale-faced "crew." Just by the law of contrasts
they adored her when they saw her--especially after they'd tasted her
Miss By-the-Day met her in the laundry of a great house where she'd
put in a day mending curtains and table linen. Not a bad sort of job
if one had a suitable spot to work in; but a laundry, a steamy, soapy,
wet-woolens-smelling laundry is not a comfortable place to sew. By
noon Felice wanted to indulge in one of Dulcie's weeps--she was so
nervous--when there entered, bearing a tray, Molly O'Reilly, with her
blue sleeves rolled over her dimpled elbows and her red hair lightly
dusted with flour.
"Here's something to put inside you--" she called to the perspiring
colored woman who was washing and the tiny white person who was
laboriously darning thin net, "something to think on save work." She
stole a keen glance at the seamstress. "Yours goes on this bit of
table; Susy, put down the top of your toobs and get a stool."
Ah, that food! Even Margot couldn't cook like Molly O'Reilly. Why,
Molly cooked as Janet scrubbed, as the Poetry Girl wrote, as the
Sculptor Girl modeled--by inspiration! There wasn't anything on that
tray she put before Felicia that hadn't been made from crumbs that
fell from the rich man's feast. Yet so cunningly had she warmed it, so
deftly had she flavored it, so daintily had she garnished it that it
seemed food ambrosial. Felicia let her fork slide into delectable
crust underneath which snuggled the tenderest chicken she'd ever
tasted in her life. Bits of carrots and celery and potatoes drifted
idly about a sea of creamy gravy--um--when you go to Montrose Place
order "Old Fashioned Chicken Pie."
The artist who had created this delight sat easily against the laundry
sill and grumbled.
"Coompany, coompany all hours. And niver a sound of them reaching the
kitchen. Meals from marning till night and me niver seeing them ate.
You'd think I'd be contint--the wages is so gr'rand, but honest, Susy,
I was happier doing gineral housework for brides at twenty per mont'--
at least I'd a bit of heart put in me, I heard something savin' a
voice on the house 'phone sayin',
"'Dinner fur eight at seven o'clock--' I'm going to quit. As soon as
iver I can find a partner. I'm going to open one of these stylish tea
rooms where's I can peep through the door and see me food bein'
Can't you almost hear Felicia talking with her, describing the kitchen
and the back yard and the dumb-waiter that goes up to Grandy's room
and stops at Maman's room and on up to the old nursery? Can't you see
Felicia triumphantly bringing Mollyhome to look it over? And can't you
almost hear the lovely Irish songs that Molly's mother taught her? And
Felicia pretending that she is Molly's mother? If you can't, why I'm
afraid you haven't really understood Felicia.
So the days grew longer and sweeter and the little after-dinner group
in the garden grew bigger--think of the excitement of the day when the
lawyer brought home the architect and his timid wife! They came to
live in Maman's room, the room that Felice had intended to keep for
herself. But you'll know presently why she gave it to them. You
remember it was only one flight up. He was a young architect well able
to climb but Mrs. Architect couldn't. And he was a very new architect.
Felice said staunchly that she wouldn't think of having an old fat
successful architect around, that he'd be bored with all the small
jobs the house needed, but this obliging young one, now HE was quite
willing to work hours over where new bathrooms might go--if they ever
had any tub money, or where old lattices could be replaced--if they
ever had any lattice money. You see the idea was that he could pay his
room rent architecting, a "vairee practical" idea Felice assured
Janet. But Janet sniffed.
Everybody brought somebody else. Janet didn't approve of any of them
but she did love them all! That was the unanswerable argument about
all these persons who flocked to the house in Montrose Place--they
were so lovable! Such buoyant souls, who hadn't quite gotten a grip on
life but were pathetically sure that once they did--!
They triumphantly felt that the fact they'd been starving mostly,
helped to prove their genius. Though Felice could never see it that
way. Long after the rest were in bed she used to walk passionately up
and down Mademoiselle's tiny room.
"They're all starlings singing that they can't get out--it's not fair
--not a bit right--they ought not to starve, they ought not to freeze.
And folks who say so are stupid! You can't grow roses like weeds--just
anywhere! And they're going to be the roses in the garden of world--
they ought to be in the sun, they ought to be watched so carefully--
why can't the stupid old world see it! But it doesn't. It just
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