Eleanor H. Porter
Part 4 out of 4
excited I can hardly wait till to-morrow night. But--oh, if only
Mother would go, too!
* * * * *
_Two days later_.
Well, _now_ I guess something's doing all right! And my hand is
shaking so I can hardly write--it wants to get ahead so fast and
_tell_. But I'm going to keep it sternly back and tell it just as it
happened, and not begin at the ice-cream instead of the soup.
Very well, then. I went last night with Grandfather and Aunt Hattie
to the reception; and Mother said I looked very sweet, and
any-father-ought-to-be-proud-of me in my new dress. Grandfather patted
me, put on his glasses, and said, "Well, well, bless my soul! Is this
our little Mary Marie?" And even Aunt Hattie said if I acted as well
as I looked I'd do very well. Then Mother kissed me and ran upstairs
_quick_. But I saw the tears in her eyes, and I knew why she hurried
At the reception I saw Father right away, but he didn't see me for a
long time. He stood in a corner, and lots of folks came up and spoke
to him and shook hands; and he bowed and smiled--but in between, when
there wasn't anybody noticing, he looked so tired and bored. After a
time he stirred and changed his position, and I think he was hunting
for a chance to get away, when all of a sudden his eyes, roving around
the room, lighted on me.
My! but just didn't I love the way he came through that crowd,
straight toward me, without paying one bit of attention to the folks
that tried to stop him on the way. And when he got to me, he looked so
glad to see me, only there was the same quick searching with his eyes,
beyond and around me, as if he was looking for somebody else, just as
he had done the morning of the lecture. And I knew it was Mother, of
course. So I said:
"No, she didn't come."
"So I see," he answered. And there was such a hurt, sorry look away
back in his eyes. But right away he smiled, and said: "But _you_ came!
I've got _you_."
Then he began to talk and tell stories, just as if I was a young lady
to be entertained. And he took me over to where they had things to
eat, and just heaped my plate with chicken patties and sandwiches and
olives and pink-and-white frosted cakes and ice-cream (not all at
once, of course, but in order). And I had a perfectly beautiful time.
And Father seemed to like it pretty well. But after a while he grew
sober again, and his eyes began to rove all around the room.
He took me to a little seat in the corner then, and we sat down and
began to talk--only Father didn't talk much. He just listened to what
I said, and his eyes grew deeper and darker and sadder, and they
didn't rove around so much, after a time, but just stared fixedly at
nothing, away out across the room. By and by he stirred and drew a
long sigh, and said, almost under his breath:
"It was just such another night as this."
And of course, I asked what was--and then I knew, almost before he had
"That I first saw your mother, my dear."
"Oh, yes, I know!" I cried, eager to tell him that I _did_ know. "And
she must have looked lovely in that perfectly beautiful blue silk
dress all silver lace."
He turned and stared at me.
"How did _you_ know that?" he demanded.
"I saw it."
"You saw it!"
"Yesterday, yes--the dress," I nodded.
"But how _could_ you?" he asked, frowning, and looking so surprised.
"Why, that dress must be--seventeen years old, or more."
I nodded again, and I suppose I did look pleased: it's such fun to
have a secret, you know, and watch folks guess and wonder. And I kept
him guessing and wondering for quite a while. Then, of course, I told
him that it was upstairs in Grandfather's trunk-room; that Mother had
got it out, and I saw it.
"But, what--was your mother doing with that dress?" he asked then,
looking even more puzzled and mystified.
And then suddenly I thought and remembered that Mother was crying.
And, of course, she wouldn't want Father to know she was crying over
it--that dress she had worn when he first met her long ago! (I don't
think women ever want men to know such things, do you? I know I
shouldn't!) So I didn't tell. I just kind of tossed it off, and
mumbled something about her looking it over; and I was going to say
something else, but I saw that Father wasn't listening. He had begun
to talk again, softly, as if to himself.
"I suppose to-night, seeing you, and all this, brought it back to me
so vividly." Then he turned and looked at me. "You are very like your
mother to-night, dear."
"I suppose I am, maybe, when I'm Marie," I nodded.
He laughed with his lips, but his eyes didn't laugh one bit as he
"What a quaint little fancy of yours that is, child--as if you were
two in one."
"But I am two in one," I declared. "That's why I'm a cross-current and
a contradiction, you know," I explained.
I thought he'd understand. But he didn't. I supposed, of course, he
knew what a cross-current and a contradiction was. But he turned again
and stared at me.
"A--_what_?" he demanded.
"A cross-current and a contradiction," I explained once more.
"Children of unlikes, you know. Nurse Sarah told me that long ago.
Didn't you ever hear that--that a child of unlikes was a cross-current
and a contradiction?"
"Well, no--I--hadn't," answered Father, in a queer, half-smothered
voice. He half started from his seat. I think he was going to walk up
and down, same as he usually does. But in a minute he saw he couldn't,
of course, with all those people around there. So he sat back again in
his chair. For a minute he just frowned and stared at nothing; then he
spoke again, as if half to himself.
"I suppose, Mary, we were--unlikes, your mother and I. That's just
what we were; though I never thought of it before, in just that way."
He waited, then went on, still half to himself, his eyes on the
"She loved things like this--music, laughter, gayety. I abhorred them.
I remember how bored I was that night here--till I saw her."
"And did you fall in love with her right away?" I just couldn't help
asking that question. Oh, I do so adore love stories!
A queer little smile came to Father's lips.
"Well, yes, I think I did, Mary. There'd been dozens and dozens of
young ladies that had flitted by in their airy frocks--and I never
looked twice at them. I never looked twice at your mother, for that
matter, Mary." (A funny little twinkle came into Father's eyes. I
_love_ him with that twinkle!) "I just looked at her once--and then
kept on looking till it seemed as if I just couldn't take my eyes off
her. And after a little her glance met mine--and the whole throng
melted away, and there wasn't another soul in the room but just us
two. Then she looked away, and the throng came back. But I still
looked at her."
"Was she so awfully pretty, Father?" I could feel the little thrills
tingling all over me. _Now_ I was getting a love story!
"She was, my dear. She was very lovely. But it wasn't just that--it
was a joyous something that I could not describe. It was as if she
were a bird, poised for flight. I know it now for what it was--the
very incarnation of the spirit of youth. And she _was_ young. Why,
Mary, she was not so many years older than you yourself, now."
I nodded, and I guess I sighed.
"I know--where the brook and river meet," I said; "only they won't let
_me_ have any lovers at all."
"Eh? What?" Father had turned and was looking at me so funny. "Well,
no, I should say not," he said then. "You aren't sixteen yet. And your
mother--I suspect _she_ was too young. If she hadn't been quite so
He stopped, and stared again straight ahead at the dancers--without
seeing one of them, I knew. Then he drew a great deep sigh that seemed
to come from the very bottom of his boots.
"But it was my fault, my fault, every bit of it," he muttered, still
staring straight ahead. "If I hadn't been so thoughtless--As if I
could imprison that bright spirit of youth in a great dull cage of
conventionality, and not expect it to bruise its wings by fluttering
against the bars!"
I thought that was perfectly beautiful--that sentence. I said it right
over to myself two or three times so I wouldn't forget how to write it
down here. So I didn't quite hear the next things that Father said.
But when I did notice, I found he was still talking--and it was about
Mother, and him, and their marriage, and their first days at the old
house. I knew it was that, even if he did mix it all up about the
spirit of youth beating its wings against the bars. And over and over
again he kept repeating that it was his fault, it was his fault; and
if he could only live it over again he'd do differently.
And right there and then it came to me that Mother said it was her
fault, too; and that if only she could live it over again, _she'd_ do
differently. And here was Father saying the same thing. And all of a
sudden I thought, well, why can't they try it over again, if they both
want to, and if each says it, was their--no, his, no, hers--well, his
and her fault. (How does the thing go? I hate grammar!) But I mean, if
she says it's her fault, and he says it's his. That's what I thought,
anyway. And I determined right then and there to give them the chance
to try again, if speaking would do it.
I looked up at Father. He was still talking half under his breath, his
eyes looking straight ahead. He had forgotten all about me. That was
plain to be seen. If I'd been a cup of coffee without any coffee in
it, he'd have been stirring me. I know he would. He was like that.
"Father. _Father!_" I had to speak twice, before he heard me. "Do you
really mean that you would like to try again?" I asked.
"Eh? What?" And just the way he turned and looked at me showed how
many _miles_ he'd been away from me.
"Try it again, you know--what you said," I reminded him.
"Oh, that!" Such a funny look came to his face, half ashamed, half
vexed. "I'm afraid I _have_ been--talking, my dear."
"Yes, but would you?" I persisted.
He shook his head; then, with such an oh-that-it-could-be! smile, he
"Of course;--we all wish that we could go back and do it over
again--differently. But we never can."
"I know; like the cloth that's been cut up into the dress," I nodded.
"Cloth? Dress?" frowned Father.
"Yes, that Mother told me about," I explained. Then I told him the
story that Mother had told me--how you couldn't go back and be
unmarried, just as you were before, any more than you could put the
cloth back on the shelf, all neatly folded in a great long web after
it had been cut up into a dress.
"Did your mother say--that?" asked Father. His voice was husky, and
his eyes were turned away, but they were not looking at the dancers.
He was listening to me now. I knew that, and so I spoke quick, before
he could get absent-minded again.
"Yes, but, Father, you can go back, in this case, and so can Mother,
'cause you both want to," I hurried on, almost choking in my anxiety
to get it all out quickly. "And Mother said it was _her_ fault. I
"_Her_ fault!" I could see that Father did not quite understand, even
"Yes, yes, just as you said it was yours--about all those things at
the first, you know, when--when she was a spirit of youth beating
against the bars."
Father turned square around and faced me.
"Mary, what are you talking about?" he asked then. And I'd have been
scared of his voice if it hadn't been for the great light that was
shining in his eyes.
But I looked into his eyes, and wasn't scared; and I told him
everything, every single thing--all about how Mother had cried over
the little blue dress that day in the trunk-room, and how she had
shown the tarnished lace and said that _she_ had tarnished the
happiness of him and of herself and of me; and that it was all her
fault; that she was thoughtless and willful and exacting and a spoiled
child; and, oh, if she could only try it over again, how differently
she would do! And there was a lot more. I told everything--everything
I could remember. Some way, I didn't believe that Mother would mind
_now_, after what Father had said. And I just knew she wouldn't mind
if she could see the look in Father's eyes as I talked.
He didn't interrupt me--not long interruptions. He did speak out a
quick little word now and then, at some of the parts; and once I know
I saw him wipe a tear from his eyes. After that he put up his hand and
sat with his eyes covered all the rest of the time I was talking. And
he didn't take it down till I said:
"And so, Father, that's why I told you; 'cause it seemed to me if
_you_ wanted to try again, and _she_ wanted to try again, why can't
you do it? Oh, Father, think how perfectly lovely 'twould be if you
did, and if it worked! Why, I wouldn't care whether I was Mary or
Marie, or what I was. I'd have you and Mother both together, and, oh,
how I should love it!"
It was just here that Father's arm came out and slipped around me in a
great big hug.
"Bless your heart! But, Mary, my dear, how are we going to--to bring
this about?" And he actually stammered and blushed, and he looked
almost young with his eyes so shining and his lips so smiling. And
then is when my second great idea came to me.
"Oh, Father!" I cried, "couldn't you come courting her again--calls
and flowers and candy, and all the rest? Oh, Father, couldn't you?
Why, Father, of course, you could!"
This last I added in my most persuasive voice, for I could see the
"no" on his face even before he began to shake his head.
"I'm afraid not, my dear," he said then. "It would take more than
a flower or a bonbon to to win your mother back now, I fear."
"But you could try," I urged.
He shook his head again.
"She wouldn't see me--if I called, my dear," he answered.
He sighed as he said it, and I sighed, too. And for a minute I didn't
say anything. Of course, if she wouldn't _see_ him--
Then another idea came to me.
"But, Father, if she _would_ see you--I mean, if you got a chance, you
_would_ tell her what you told me just now; about--about its being
your fault, I mean, and the spirit of youth beating against the bars,
and all that. You would, wouldn't you?"
He didn't say anything, not anything, for such a long time I thought
he hadn't heard me. Then, with a queer, quick drawing-in of his
breath, he said:
"I think--little girl--if--if I ever got the chance I would say--a
great deal more than I said to you to-night."
"Good!" I just crowed the word, and I think I clapped my hands; but
right away I straightened up and was very fine and dignified, for I
saw Aunt Hattie looking at me from across the room, as I said:
"Very good, then. You shall have the chance."
He turned and smiled a little, but he shook his head.
"Thank you, child; but I don't think you know quite what you're
promising," he said.
"Yes, I do."
Then I told him my idea. At first he said no, and it couldn't be, and
he was very sure she wouldn't see him, even if he called. But I said
she would if he would do exactly as I said. And I told him my plan.
And after a time and quite a lot of talk, he said he would agree to
And this morning we did it.
At exactly ten o'clock he came up the steps of the house here, but he
didn't ring the bell. I had told him not to do that, and I was on the
watch for him. I knew that at ten o'clock Grandfather would be gone,
Aunt Hattie probably downtown shopping, and Lester out with his
governess. I wasn't so sure of Mother, but I knew it was Saturday, and
I believed I could manage somehow to keep her here with me, so that
everything would be all right there.
And I did. I had a hard time, though. Seems as if she proposed
everything to do this morning--shopping, and a walk, and a call on
a girl I knew who was sick. But I said I did not feel like doing
anything but just to stay at home and rest quietly with her. (Which
was the truth--I _didn't_ feel like doing _anything else_!) But that
almost made matters worse than ever, for she said that was so totally
unlike me that she was afraid I must be sick; and I had all I could do
to keep her from calling a doctor.
[Illustration: THEN I TOLD HIM MY IDEA]
But I did it; and at five minutes before ten she was sitting quietly
sewing in her own room. Then I went downstairs to watch for Father.
He came just on the dot, and I let him in and took him into the
library. Then I went upstairs and told Mother there was some one
downstairs who wanted to see her.
And she said, how funny, and wasn't there any name, and where was the
maid. But I didn't seem to hear. I had gone into my room in quite a
hurry, as if I had forgotten something I wanted to do there. But,
of course, I didn't do a thing--except to make sure that she went
downstairs to the library.
They're there now _together_. And he's been here a whole hour already.
Seems as if he ought to say _something_ in that length of time!
After I was sure Mother was down, I took out this, and began to write
in it. And I've been writing ever since. But, oh, I do so wonder
what's going on down there. I'm so excited over--
* * * * *
_One week later_.
At just that minute Mother came into the room. I wish you could have
seen her. My stars, but she looked pretty!--with her shining eyes and
the lovely pink in her cheeks. And _young_! Honestly, I believe she
looked younger than I did that minute.
She just came and put her arms around me and kissed me; and I saw
then that her eyes were all misty with tears. She didn't say a word,
hardly, only that Father wanted to see me, and I was to go right down.
And I went.
I thought, of course, that she was coming too. But she didn't. And
when I got down the stairs I found I was all alone; but I went right
on into the library, and there was Father waiting for me.
_He_ didn't say much, either, at first; but just like Mother he put
his arms around me and kissed me, and held me there. Then, very soon,
he began to talk; and, oh, he said such beautiful things--_such_
tender, lovely, sacred things; too sacred even to write down here.
Then he kissed me again and went away.
But he came back the next day, and he's been here some part of every
day since. And, oh, what a wonderful week it has been!
They're going to be married. It's to-morrow. They'd have been married
right away at the first, only they had to wait--something about
licenses and a five-day notice, Mother said. Father fussed and fumed,
and wanted to try for a special dispensation, or something; but Mother
laughed, and said certainly not, and that she guessed it was just as
well, for she positively _had_ to have a few things; and he needn't
think he could walk right in like that on a body and expect her to
get married at a moment's notice. But she didn't mean it. I know she
didn't; for when Father reproached her, she laughed softly, and called
him an old goose, and said, yes, of course, she'd have married him
in two minutes if it hadn't been for the five-day notice, no matter
whether she ever had a new dress or not.
And that's the way it is with them all the time. They're too funny and
lovely together for anything. (Aunt Hattie says they're too silly for
anything; but nobody minds Aunt Hattie.) They just can't seem to do
enough for each other. Father was going next week to a place 'way on
the other side of the world to view an eclipse of the moon, but he
said right off he'd give it up. But Mother said, "No, indeed," she
guessed he _wouldn't_ give it up; that he was going, and that she was
going, too--a wedding trip; and that she was sure she didn't know a
better place to go for a wedding trip than the moon! And Father was
_so_ pleased. And he said he'd try not to pay all his attention to the
stars this time; and Mother laughed and said, "Nonsense," and that she
adored stars herself, and that he _must_ pay attention to the stars.
It was his business to. Then she looked very wise and got off
something she'd read in the astronomy book. And they both laughed, and
looked over to me to see if I was noticing. And I was. And so then we
And, as I said before, it is all perfectly lovely and wonderful.
So it's all settled, and they're going right away on this trip and
call it a wedding trip. And, of course, Grandfather had to get off his
joke about how he thought it was a pretty dangerous business; and to
see that _this_ honeymoon didn't go into an eclipse while they were
watching the other one. But nobody minds Grandfather.
I'm to stay here and finish school. Then, in the spring, when Father
and Mother come back, we are all to go to Andersonville and begin to
live in the old house again.
Won't it be lovely? It just seems too good to be true. Why, I don't
care a bit now whether I'm Mary or Marie. But, then, nobody else does,
either. In fact, both of them call me the whole name now, Mary Marie.
I don't think they ever _said_ they would. They just began to do it.
Of course, anybody can see why: _now_ each one is calling me the other
one's name along with their own. That is, Mother is calling me Mary
along with her pet Marie, and Father is calling me Marie along with
his pet Mary.
Funny, isn't it?
But one thing is sure, anyway. How about this being a love story
_now_? Oh, I'm so excited!
WHICH IS THE TEST
ANDERSONVILLE. _Twelve years later_.
_Twelve years_--yes. And I'm twenty-eight years old. Pretty old,
little Mary Marie of the long ago would think. And, well, perhaps
to-day I feel just as old as she would put it.
I came up into the attic this morning to pack away some things I shall
no longer need, now that I am going to leave Jerry. (Jerry is
my husband.) And in the bottom of my little trunk I found this
manuscript. I had forgotten that such a thing existed; but with its
laboriously written pages before me, it all came back to me; and I
began to read; here a sentence; there a paragraph; somewhere else a
page. Then, with a little half laugh and half sob, I carried it to an
old rocking-chair by the cobwebby dormer window, and settled myself to
read it straight through.
And I have read it.
Poor little Mary Marie! Dear little Mary Marie! To meet you like this,
to share with you your joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, of
those years long ago, is like sitting hand in hand on a sofa with a
childhood's friend, each listening to an eager "And do you remember?"
falling constantly from delighted lips that cannot seem to talk half
But you have taught me much, little Mary Marie. I understand--oh, I
understand so many things so much better, now, since reading this
little story in your round childish hand. You see, I had almost
forgotten that I was a Mary and a Marie--Jerry calls me Mollie--and I
had wondered what were those contending forces within me. I know now.
It is the Mary and the Marie trying to settle their old, old quarrel.
It was almost dark when I had finished the manuscript. The far corners
of the attic were peopled with fantastic shadows, and the spiders in
the window were swaying, lazy and full-stomached, in the midst of the
day's spoils of gruesome wings and legs. I got up slowly, stiffly,
shivering a little. I felt suddenly old and worn and ineffably weary.
It is a long, long journey back to our childhood--sometimes, even
though one may be only twenty-eight.
I looked down at the last page of the manuscript. It was written on
the top sheet of a still thick pad of paper, and my fingers fairly
tingled suddenly, to go on and cover those unused white sheets--tell
what happened next--tell the rest of the story; not for the sake of
the story--but for my sake. It might help me. It might make things
clearer. It might help to justify myself in my own eyes. Not that I
have any doubts, of course (about leaving Jerry, I mean), but that
when I saw it in black and white I could be even more convinced that I
was doing what was best for him and best for me.
So I brought the manuscript down to my own room, and this evening I
have commenced to write. I can't finish it to-night, of course. But I
have to-morrow, and still to-morrow. (I have so many to-morrows now!
And what do they all amount to?) And so I'll just keep writing, as I
have time, till I bring it to the end.
I'm sorry that it must be so sad and sorry an end. But there's no
other way, of course. There can be but one ending, as I can see. I'm
sorry. Mother'll be sorry, too. She doesn't know yet. I hate to tell
her. Nobody knows--not even Jerry himself--yet. They all think I'm
just making a visit to Mother--and I am--till I write that letter to
Jerry. And then--
I believe now that I'll wait till I've finished writing this. I'll
feel better then. My mind will be clearer. I'll know more what to say.
Just the effort of writing it down--
Of course, if Jerry and I hadn't--
But this is no way to begin. Like the little Mary Marie of long ago I
am in danger of starting my dinner with ice-cream instead of soup!
And so I must begin where I left off, of course. And that was at the
I remember that wedding as if it were yesterday. I can see now, with
Mary Marie's manuscript before me, why it made so great an impression
upon me. It was a very quiet wedding, of course--just the members
of the family present. But I shall never forget the fine, sweet
loveliness of Mother's face, nor the splendid strength and tenderness
of Father's. And the way he drew her into his arms and kissed her,
after it was all over--well, I remember distinctly that even Aunt
Hattie choked up and had to turn her back to wipe her eyes.
They went away at once, first to New York for a day or two, then to
Andersonville, to prepare for the real wedding trip to the other side
of the world. I stayed in Boston at school; and because nothing of
consequence happened all those weeks and months is the reason, I
suspect, why the manuscript got tossed into the bottom of my little
trunk and stayed there.
In the spring, when Father and Mother returned, and we all went back
to Andersonville, there followed another long period of just happy
girlhood, and I suspect I was too satisfied and happy to think of
writing. After all, I've noticed it's when we're sad or troubled over
something that we have that tingling to cover perfectly good white
paper with "confessions" and "stories of my life." As witness right
now what I'm doing.
And so it's not surprising, perhaps, that Mary Marie's manuscript
still lay forgotten in the little old trunk after it was taken up to
the attic. Mary Marie was happy.
And it _was_ happy--that girlhood of mine, after we came back to
Andersonville. I can see now, as I look back at it, that Father and
Mother were doing everything in their power to blot out of my memory
those unhappy years of my childhood. For that matter, they were also
doing everything in their power to blot out of their _own_ memories
those same unhappy years. To me, as I look back at it, it seems
that they must have succeeded wonderfully. They were very happy, I
believe--Father and Mother.
Oh, it was not always easy--even I could see that. It took a lot of
adjusting--a lot of rubbing off of square corners to keep the daily
life running smoothly. But when two persons are determined that it
shall run smoothly--when each is steadfastly looking to the _other's_
happiness, not at his own--why, things just can't help smoothing out
then. But it takes them both. One can't do it alone. Now, if Jerry
But it isn't time to speak of Jerry yet.
I'll go back to my girlhood.
It was a trying period--it must have been--for Father and Mother, in
spite of their great love for me, and their efforts to create for me
a happiness that would erase the past from my mind. I realize it now.
For, after all, I was just a girl--a young girl, like other girls;
high-strung, nervous, thoughtless, full of my whims and fancies; and,
in addition, with enough of my mother and enough of my father within
me to make me veritably a cross-current and a contradiction, as I had
said that I was in the opening sentence of my childish autobiography.
I had just passed my sixteenth birthday when we all came back to live
in Andersonville. For the first few months I suspect that just the
glory and the wonder and joy of living in the old home, with Father
and Mother _happy together_, was enough to fill all my thoughts. Then,
as school began in the fall, I came down to normal living again, and
became a girl--just a growing girl in her teens.
How patient Mother was, and Father, too! I can see now how gently and
tactfully they helped me over the stones and stumbling-blocks that
strew the pathway of every sixteen-year-old girl who thinks, because
she has turned down her dresses and turned up her hair, that she is
grown up, and can do and think and talk as she pleases.
I well remember how hurt and grieved and superior I was at Mother's
insistence upon more frequent rubbers and warm coats, and fewer
ice-cream sodas and chocolate bonbons. Why, surely I was old enough
_now_ to take care of myself! Wasn't I ever to be allowed to have my
own opinions and exercise my own judgment? It seemed not! Thus spoke
As for clothes!--I remember distinctly the dreary November rainstorm
of the morning I reproachfully accused Mother of wanting to make me
back into a stupid little Mary, just because she so uncompromisingly
disapproved of the beaded chains and bangles and jeweled combs and
spangled party dresses that "every girl in school" was wearing. Why,
the idea! Did she want me to dress like a little frump of a country
girl? It seems she did.
Poor mother! Dear mother! I wonder how she kept her patience at all.
But she kept it. I remember that distinctly, too.
It was that winter that I went through the morbid period. Like our
childhood's measles and whooping cough, it seems to come to most of
us--us women children. I wonder why? Certainly it came to me. True to
type I cried by the hour over fancied slights from my schoolmates, and
brooded days at a time because Father or Mother "didn't understand," I
questioned everything in the earth beneath and the heavens above;
and in my dark despair over an averted glance from my most intimate
friend, I meditated on whether life was, or was not, worth the living,
with a preponderance toward the latter.
Being plunged into a state of settled gloom, I then became acutely
anxious as to my soul's salvation, and feverishly pursued every ism
and ology that caught my roving eye's attention, until in one short
month I had become, in despairing rotation, an incipient agnostic,
atheist, pantheist, and monist. Meanwhile I read Ibsen, and wisely
discussed the new school of domestic relationships.
Mother--dear mother!--looked on aghast. She feared, I think, for my
life; certainly for my sanity and morals.
It was Father this time who came to the rescue. He pooh-poohed
Mother's fears; said it was indigestion that ailed me, or that I was
growing too fast; or perhaps I didn't get enough sleep, or needed,
maybe, a good tonic. He took me out of school, and made it a point to
accompany me on long walks. He talked with me--not _to_ me--about the
birds and the trees and the sunsets, and then about the deeper things
of life, until, before I realized it, I was sane and sensible once
more, serene and happy in the simple faith of my childhood, with all
the isms and ologies a mere bad dream in the dim past.
I was seventeen, if I remember rightly, when I became worried, not
over my heavenly estate now, but my earthly one. I must have a career,
of course. No namby-pamby everyday living of dishes and dusting and
meals and babies for me. It was all very well, of course, for some
people. Such things had to be. But for me--
I could write, of course; but I was not sure but that I preferred the
stage. At the same time there was within me a deep stirring as of a
call to go out and enlighten the world, especially that portion of it
in darkest Africa or deadliest India. I would be a missionary.
Before I was eighteen, however, I had abandoned all this. Father put
his foot down hard on the missionary project, and Mother put hers down
on the stage idea. I didn't mind so much, though, as I remember, for
on further study and consideration, I found that flowers and applause
were not all of an actor's life, and that Africa and India were not
entirely desirable as a place of residence for a young woman alone.
Besides, I had decided by then that I could enlighten the world just
as effectually (and much more comfortably) by writing stories at home
and getting them printed.
So I wrote stories--but I did not get any of them printed, in spite
of my earnest efforts. In time, therefore, that idea, also, was
abandoned; and with it, regretfully, the idea of enlightening the
world at all.
Besides, I had just then (again if I remember rightfully) fallen in
Not that it was the first time. Oh, no, not at eighteen, when at
thirteen I had begun confidently and happily to look for it! What a
sentimental little piece I was! How could they have been so patient
with me--Father, Mother, everybody!
I think the first real attack--the first that I consciously
called love, myself--was the winter after we had all come back to
Andersonville to live. I was sixteen and in the high school.
It was Paul Mayhew--yes, the same Paul Mayhew that had defied his
mother and sister and walked home with me one night and invited me to
go for an automobile ride, only to be sent sharply about his business
by my stern, inexorable Aunt Jane. Paul was in the senior class now,
and the handsomest, most admired boy in school. He didn't care for
girls. That is, he said he didn't. He bore himself with a supreme
indifference that was maddening, and that took (apparently) no notice
of the fact that every girl in school was a willing slave to the mere
nodding of his head or the beckoning of his hand.
This was the condition of things when I entered school that fall,
and perhaps for a week thereafter. Then one day, very suddenly, and
without apparent reason, he awoke to the fact of my existence. Candy,
flowers, books--some one of these he brought to me every morning. All
during the school day he was my devoted gallant, dancing attendance
every possible minute outside of session hours, and walking home with
me in the afternoon, proudly carrying my books. Did I say "_home_ with
me"? That is not strictly true--he always stopped just one block short
of "home"--one block short of my gate. He evidently had not forgotten
Aunt Jane, and did not intend to take any foolish risks! So he said
good-bye to me always at a safe distance.
That this savored of deception, or was in any way objectionable, did
not seem to have occurred to me. Even if it had, I doubt very much if
my course would have been altered, for I was bewitched and fascinated
and thrilled with the excitement of it all. I was sixteen, remember,
and this wonderful Adonis and woman-hater had chosen me, _me!_--and
left all the other girls desolate and sighing, looking after us with
longing eyes. Of course, I was thrilled!
This went on for perhaps a week. Then he asked me to attend a school
sleigh-ride and supper with him.
I was wild with delight. At the same time I was wild with
apprehension. I awoke suddenly to the fact of the existence of Father
and Mother, and that their permission must be gained. And I had my
doubts--I had very grave doubts. Yet it seemed to me at that moment
that I just _had_ to go on that sleigh-ride. That it was the only
thing in the whole wide world worth while.
I can remember now, as if it were yesterday, the way I debated in my
mind as to whether I should ask Father, Mother, or both together; and
if I should let it be seen how greatly I desired to go, and how much
it meant to me; or if I should just mention it as in passing, and take
their permission practically for granted.
I chose the latter course, and I took a time when they were both
together. At the breakfast-table I mentioned casually that the school
was to have a sleigh-ride and supper the next Friday afternoon and
evening, and that Paul Mayhew had asked me to go with him, I said I
hoped it would be a pleasant night, but that I should wear my sweater
under my coat, anyway, and I'd wear my leggings, too, if they thought
(Sweater and leggings! Two of Mother's hobbies. Artful child!)
But if I thought that a sweater and a pair of leggings could muffle
their ears as to what had gone before, I soon found my mistake.
"A sleigh-ride, supper, and not come home until evening?" cried
Mother. "And with whom, did you say?"
"Paul Mayhew," I answered. I still tried to speak casually; at the
same time I tried to indicate by voice and manner something of the
great honor that had been bestowed upon their daughter.
Father was impressed--plainly impressed; but not at all in the way I
had hoped he would be. He gave me a swift, sharp glance; then looked
straight at Mother.
"Humph! Paul Mayhew! Yes, I know him," he said grimly. "And I'm
dreading the time when he comes into college next year."
"You mean--" Mother hesitated and stopped.
"I mean I don't like the company he keeps--already," nodded Father.
"Then you don't think that Mary Marie--" Mother hesitated again, and
glanced at me.
"Certainly not," said Father decidedly.
I knew then, of course, that he meant I couldn't go on the
sleigh-ride, even though he hadn't said the words right out. I forgot
all about being casual and indifferent and matter-of-course then. I
thought only of showing them how absolutely necessary it was for
them to let me go on that sleigh-ride, unless they wanted my life
forever-more hopelessly blighted.
I explained carefully how he was the handsomest, most popular boy
in school, and how all the girls were just crazy to be asked to go
anywhere with him; and I argued what if Father had seen him with boys
he did not like--then that was all the more reason why nice girls like
me, when he asked them, should go with him, so as to keep him away
from the bad boys! And I told them, that this was the first and last,
and only sleigh-ride of the school that year; and I said I'd be
heart-broken, just heart-broken, if they did not let me go. And I
reminded them again that he was the very handsomest, most popular boy
in school; and that there wasn't a girl I knew who wouldn't be crazy
to be in my shoes.
Then I stopped, all out of breath, and I can imagine just how pleading
and palpitating I looked.
I thought Father was going to refuse right away, but I saw the glance
that Mother threw him--the glance that said, "Let me attend to this,
dear." I'd seen that glance before, several times, and I knew just
what it meant; so I wasn't surprised to see Father shrug his shoulders
and turn away as Mother said to me:
"Very well, dear. Ill think it over and let you know to-night."
But I was surprised that night to have Mother say I could go, for I'd
about given up hope, after all that talk at the breakfast-table. And
she said something else that surprised me, too. She said she'd like to
know Paul Mayhew herself; that she always wanted to know the friends
of her little girl. And she told me to ask him to call the next
evening and play checkers or chess with me.
Happy? I could scarcely contain myself for joy. And when the next
evening came bringing Paul, and Mother, all prettily dressed as if
he were really truly company, came into the room and talked so
beautifully to him, I was even more entranced. To be sure, it did
bother me a little that Paul laughed so much, and so loudly, and that
he couldn't seem to find anything to talk about only himself, and what
he was doing, and what he was going to do. Some way, he had never
seemed like that at school. And I was afraid Mother wouldn't like
All the evening I was watching and listening with her eyes and her
ears everything he did, everything he said. I so wanted Mother to like
him! I so wanted Mother to see how really fine and splendid and noble
he was. But that evening--Why _couldn't_ he stop talking about the
prizes he'd won, and the big racing car he'd just ordered for next
summer? There was nothing fine and splendid and noble about that. And
_were_ his finger nails always so dirty?
Why, Mother would think--
Mother did not stay in the room all the time; but she was in more or
less often to watch the game; and at half-past nine she brought in
some little cakes and lemonade as a surprise. I thought it was lovely;
but I could have shaken Paul when he pretended to be afraid of it, and
asked Mother if there was a stick in it.
The idea--Mother! A stick!
I just knew Mother wouldn't like that. But if she didn't, she never
showed a thing in her face. She just smiled, and said no, there wasn't
any stick in it; and passed the cakes.
When he had gone I remember I didn't like to meet Mother's eyes, and I
didn't ask her how she liked Paul Mayhew. I kept right on talking fast
about something else. Some way, I didn't want Mother to talk then, for
fear of what she would say.
And Mother didn't say anything about Paul Mayhew--then. But only a few
days later she told me to invite him again to the house (this time to
a chafing-dish supper), and to ask Carrie Heywood and Fred Small, too.
We had a beautiful time, only again Paul Mayhew didn't "show off" at
all in the way I wanted him to--though he most emphatically "showed
off" in _his_ way! It seemed to me that he bragged even more about
himself and his belongings than he had before. And I didn't like at
all the way he ate his food. Why, Father didn't eat like that--with
such a noisy mouth, and such a rattling of the silverware!
And so it went--wise mother that she was! Far from prohibiting me to
have anything to do with Paul Mayhew, she let me see all I wanted
to of him, particularly in my own home. She let me go out with him,
properly chaperoned, and she never, by word or manner, hinted that she
didn't admire his conceit and braggadocio.
And it all came out exactly as I suspect she had planned from the
beginning. When Paul Mayhew asked to be my escort to the class
reception in June, I declined with thanks, and immediately afterwards
told Fred Small I would go with _him_. But even when I told Mother
nonchalantly, and with carefully averted eyes, that I was going to the
reception with Fred Small--even then her pleasant "Well, that's good!"
conveyed only cheery mother interest; nor did a hasty glance into her
face discover so much as a lifted eyebrow to hint, "I thought you'd
come to your senses _sometime_!"
Wise little mother that she was!
In the days and weeks that followed (though nothing was said) I
detected a subtle change in certain matters, however. And as I look
back at it now, I am sure I can trace its origin to my "affair" with
Paul Mayhew. Evidently Mother had no intention of running the risk of
any more block-away courtships; also evidently she intended to know
who my friends were. At all events, the old Anderson mansion soon
became the rendezvous of all the boys and girls of my acquaintance.
And such good times as we had, with Mother always one of us, and ever
proposing something new and interesting!
And because boys--not _a_ boy, but boys--were as free to come to
the house as were girls, they soon seemed to me as commonplace and
matter-of-course and free from sentimental interest as were the girls.
Again wise little mother!
But, of course, even this did not prevent my falling in love with some
one older than myself, some one quite outside of my own circle of
intimates. Almost every girl in her teens at some time falls violently
in love with some remote being almost old enough to be her father--a
being whom she endows with all the graces and perfections of her dream
Adonis. For, after all, it isn't that she is in love with _him_, this
man of flesh and blood before her; it is that she is in love with
_love_. A very different matter.
My especial attack of this kind came to me when I was barely eighteen,
the spring I was being graduated from the Andersonville High School.
And the visible embodiment of my adoration was the head master, Mr.
Harold Hartshorn, a handsome, clean-shaven, well-set-up man of (I
should judge) thirty-five years of age, rather grave, a little stern,
and very dignified.
But how I adored him! How I hung upon his every word, his every
glance! How I maneuvered to win from him a few minutes' conversation
on a Latin verb or a French translation! How I thrilled if he bestowed
upon me one of his infrequent smiles! How I grieved over his stern
By the end of a month I had evolved this: his stern aloofness
meant that he had been disappointed in love; his melancholy was
loneliness--his heart was breaking. How I longed to help, to heal, to
cure! How I thrilled at the thought of the love and companionship _I_
could give him somewhere in a rose-embowered cottage far from the
madding crowd! (He boarded at the Andersonville Hotel alone now.) What
nobler career could I have than the blotting out of his stricken heart
the memory of that faithless woman who had so wounded him and blighted
his youth? What, indeed? If only he could see it as I saw it. If only
by some sign or token he could know of the warm love that was his but
for the asking! Could he not see that no longer need he pine alone and
unappreciated in the Andersonville Hotel? Why, in just a few weeks I
was to be through school. And then--
On the night before commencement Mr. Harold Hartshorn ascended our
front steps, rang the bell, and called for my father. I knew because I
was upstairs in my room over the front door; and I saw him come up the
walk and heard him ask for Father.
Oh, joy! Oh, happy day! He knew. He had seen it as I saw it. He had
come to gain Father's permission, that he might be a duly accredited
suitor for my hand!
During the next ecstatic ten minutes, with my hand pressed against my
wildly beating heart, I planned my wedding dress, selected with care
and discrimination my trousseau, furnished the rose-embowered cottage
far from the madding crowd--and wondered _why_ Father did not send for
me. Then the slam of the screen door downstairs sent me to the window,
a sickening terror within me,
Was he _going_--without seeing me, his future bride? Impossible!
Father and Mr. Harold Hartshorn stood on the front steps below,
talking. In another minute Mr. Harold Hartshorn had walked away, and
Father had turned back on to the piazza.
As soon as I could control my shaking knees, I went downstairs.
Father was in his favorite rocking-chair. I advanced slowly. I did not
"Was that Mr. Hartshorn?" I asked, trying to keep the shake out of my
"Mr. H-Hartshorn," I repeated stupidly.
"Yes. He came to see me about the Downer place," nodded Father. "He
wants to rent it for next year."
"To rent it--the Downer place!" (The Downer place was no
rose-embowered cottage far from the madding crowd! Why, it was big,
and brick, and _right next_ to the hotel! I didn't want to live
"Yes--for his wife and family. He's going to bring them back with him
next year," explained Father.
"His wife and family!" I can imagine about how I gasped out those four
"Yes. He has five children, I believe, and--"
But I had fled to my room.
After all, my recovery was rapid. I was in love with love, you see;
not with Mr. Harold Hartshorn. Besides, the next year I went to
college. And it was while I was at college that I met Jerry.
Jerry was the brother of my college friend, Helen Weston. Helen's
elder sister was a senior in that same college, and was graduated at
the close of my freshman year. The father, mother, and brother came on
to the graduation. And that is where I met Jerry.
If it might be called meeting him. He lifted his hat, bowed, said a
polite nothing with his lips, and an indifferent "Oh, some friend of
Helen's," with his eyes, and turned to a radiant blonde senior at my
And that was all--for him. But for me--
All that day I watched him whenever opportunity offered; and I
suspect that I took care that opportunity offered frequently. I was
fascinated. I had never seen any one like him before. Tall, handsome,
brilliant, at perfect ease, he plainly dominated every group of which
he was a part. Toward him every face was turned--yet he never seemed
to know it. (Whatever his faults, Jerry is _not_ conceited. I will
give him credit for that!) To me he did not speak again that day. I am
not sure that he even looked at me. If he did there must still have
been in his eyes only the "Oh, some friend of Helen's," that I had
seen at the morning introduction.
I did not meet Jerry Weston again for nearly a year; but that did not
mean that I did not hear of him. I wonder if Helen ever noticed how
often I used to get her to talk of her home and her family life; and
how interested I was in her gallery of portraits on the mantel--there
were two fine ones of her brother there.
Helen was very fond of her brother. I soon found that she loved to
talk about him--if she had a good listener. Needless to say she had a
very good one in me.
Jerry was an artist, it seemed. He was twenty-eight years old, and
already he had won no small distinction. Prizes, medals, honorable
mention, and a special course abroad--all these Helen told me about.
She told me, too, about the wonderful success he had just had with the
portrait of a certain New York society woman. She said that it was
just going to "make" Jerry; that he could have anything he wanted
now--anything. Then she told me how popular he always was with
everybody. Helen was not only very fond of her brother, but very proud
of him. That was plain to be seen. In her opinion, evidently, there
was none to be compared with him.
And apparently, in my own mind, I agreed with her--there was none to
be compared with him. At all events, all the other boys that used
to call and bring me candy and send me flowers at about this time
suffered woefully in comparison with him! I remember that. So tame
they were--so crude and young and unpolished!
I saw Jerry myself during the Easter vacation of my second year in
college. Helen invited me to go home with her, and Mother wrote that I
might go. Helen had been home with me for the Christmas vacation,
and Mother and Father liked her very much. There was no hesitation,
therefore, in their consent that I should visit Helen at Easter-time.
So I went.
Helen lived in New York. Their home was a Fifth-Avenue mansion with
nine servants, four automobiles, and two chauffeurs. Naturally such
a scale of living was entirely new to me, and correspondingly
fascinating. From the elaborately uniformed footman that opened the
door for me to the awesome French maid who "did" my hair, I adored
them all, and moved as in a dream of enchantment. Then came Jerry home
from a week-end's trip--and I forgot everything else.
I knew from the minute his eyes looked into mine that whatever I had
been before, I was now certainly no mere "Oh, some friend of Helen's."
I was (so his eyes said) "a deucedly pretty girl, and one well worth
cultivating." Whereupon he began at once to do the "cultivating."
And just here, perversely enough, I grew indifferent. Or was it only
feigned--not consciously, but unconsciously? Whatever it was, it did
not endure long. Nothing could have endured, under the circumstances.
Nothing ever endures--with Jerry on the other side.
In less than thirty-six hours I was caught up in the whirlwind of his
wooing, and would not have escaped it if I could.
When I went back to college he held my promise that if he could gain
the consent of Father and Mother, he might put the engagement ring on
Back at college, alone in my own room, I drew a long breath, and began
to think. It was the first chance I had had, for even Helen now had
become Jerry--by reflection.
The more I thought, the more frightened, dismayed, and despairing I
became. In the clear light of calm, sane reasoning, it was all so
absurd, so impossible! What could I have been thinking of?
Of Jerry, of course.
With hot cheeks I answered my own question. And even the thought of
him then cast the spell of his presence about me, and again I was back
in the whirl of dining and dancing and motoring, with his dear face
at my side. Of Jerry; yes, of Jerry I was thinking. But I must forget
I pictured Jerry in Andersonville, in my own home. I tried to picture
him talking to Father, to Mother.
Absurd! What had Jerry to do with learned treatises on stars, or with
the humdrum, everyday life of a stupid small town? For that matter,
what had Father and Mother to do with dancing and motoring and
painting society queens' portraits? Nothing.
Plainly, even if Jerry, for the sake of the daughter, liked Father and
Mother, Father and Mother certainly would not like Jerry. That was
Of course I cried myself to sleep that night. That was to be expected.
Jerry was the world; and the world was lost. There was nothing left
except, perhaps, a few remnants and pieces, scarcely worth the
counting--excepting, of course, Father and Mother. But one could not
always have one's father and mother. There would come a time when--
Jerry's letter came the next day--by special delivery. He had gone
straight home from the station and begun to write to me. (How like
Jerry that was--particularly the special-delivery stamp!) The most of
his letter, aside from the usual lover's rhapsodies, had to do with
plans for the summer--what we would do together at the Westons'
summer cottage in Newport. He said he should run up to Andersonville
early--very early; just as soon as I was back from college, in fact,
so that he might meet Father and Mother, and put that ring on my
And while I read the letter, I just knew he would do it. Why, I could
even see the sparkle of the ring on my finger. But in five minutes
after the letter was folded and put away, I knew, with equal
certitude--that he wouldn't.
It was like that all that spring term. While under the spell of the
letters, as I read them, I saw myself the adored wife of Jerry Weston,
and happy ever after. All the rest of the time I knew myself to be
plain Mary Marie Anderson, forever lonely and desolate.
I had been at home exactly eight hours when a telegram from Jerry
asked permission to come at once.
As gently as I could I broke the news to Father and Mother. He was
Helen's brother. They must have heard me mention him, I knew him well,
very well, indeed. In fact, the purpose of this visit was to ask them
for the hand of their daughter.
Father frowned and scolded, and said, "Tut, tut!" and that I was
nothing but a child. But Mother smiled and shook her head, even while
she sighed, and reminded him that I was twenty--two whole years older
than she was when she married him; though in the same breath she
admitted that I _was_ young, and she certainly hoped I'd be willing to
wait before I married, even if the young man was all that they could
ask him to be.
Father was still a little rebellious, I think; but Mother--bless her
dear sympathetic heart!--soon convinced him that they must at least
consent to see this Gerald Weston. So I sent the wire inviting him to
More fearfully than ever then I awaited the meeting between my lover
and my father and mother. With the Westons' mansion and manner of
living in the glorified past, and the Anderson homestead, and _its_
manner of living, very much in the plain, unvarnished present, I
trembled more than ever for the results of that meeting. Not that I
believed Jerry would be snobbish enough to scorn our simplicity, but
that there would be no common meeting-ground of congeniality.
I need not have worried--but I did not know Jerry then so well as I do
Jerry came--and he had not been five minutes in the house before it
might easily have seemed that he had always been there. He _did_ know
about stars; at least, he talked with Father about them, and so as
to hold Father's interest, too. And he knew a lot about innumerable
things in which Mother was interested. He stayed four days; and all
the while he was there, I never so much as thought of ceremonious
dress and dinners, and liveried butlers and footmen; nor did it once
occur to me that our simple kitchen Nora, and Old John's son at the
wheel of our one motorcar, were not beautifully and entirely adequate,
so unassumingly and so perfectly did Jerry unmistakably "fit in."
(There are no other words that so exactly express what I mean.) And in
the end, even his charm and his triumph were so unobtrusively complete
that I never thought of being surprised at the prompt capitulation of
both Father and Mother.
Jerry had brought the ring. (Jerry always brings his "rings"--and
he never fails to "put them on.") And he went back to New York with
Mother's promise that I should visit them in July at their cottage in
They seemed like a dream--those four days--after he had gone; and I
should have been tempted to doubt the whole thing had there not been
the sparkle of the ring on my finger, and the frequent reference to
Jerry on the lips of both Father and Mother.
They loved Jerry, both of them. Father said he was a fine, manly young
fellow; and Mother said he was a dear boy, a very dear boy. Neither of
them spoke much of his painting. Jerry himself had scarcely mentioned
it to them, as I remembered, after he had gone.
I went to Newport in July. "The cottage," as I suspected, was twice
as large and twice as pretentious as the New York residence; and it
sported twice the number of servants. Once again I was caught in the
whirl of dinners and dances and motoring, with the addition of tennis
and bathing. And always, at my side, was Jerry, seemingly living only
upon my lightest whim and fancy. He wished to paint my portrait; but
there was no time, especially as my visit, in accordance with Mother's
inexorable decision, was of only one week's duration.
But what a wonderful week that was! I seemed to be under a kind of
spell. It was as if I were in a new world--a world such as no one had
ever been in before. Oh, I knew, of course, that others had loved--but
not as we loved. I was sure that no one had ever loved as we loved.
And it was so much more wonderful than anything I had ever dreamed
of--this love of ours. Yet all my life since my early teens I had
been thinking and planning and waiting for it--love. And now it had
come--the real thing. The others--all the others had been shams and
make-believes and counterfeits. To think that I ever thought those
silly little episodes with Paul Mayhew and Freddy Small and Mr. Harold
Hartshorn were love! Absurd! But now--
And so I walked and moved and breathed in this spell that had been
cast upon me; and thought--little fool that I was!--that never had
there been before, nor could there be again, a love quite so wonderful
At Newport Jerry decided that he wanted to be married right away. He
didn't want to wait two more endless years until I was graduated. The
idea of wasting all that valuable time when we might be together! And
when there was really no reason for it, either--no reason at all!
I smiled to myself, even as I thrilled at his sweet insistence. I was
pretty sure I knew two reasons--two very good reasons--why I could not
marry before graduation. One reason was Father; the other reason was
Mother. I hinted as much.
"Ho! Is that all?" He laughed and kissed me. "I'll run down and see
them about it," he said jauntily.
I smiled again. I had no more idea that anything he could say would--
But I didn't know Jerry--_then_.
I had not been home from Newport a week when Jerry kept his promise
and "ran down." And _he_ had not been there two days before Father and
Mother admitted that, perhaps, after all, it would not be so bad an
idea if I shouldn't graduate, but should be married instead.
And so I was married.
(Didn't I tell you that Jerry always brought his rings and put them
And again I say, and so we were married.
But what did we know of each other?--the real other? True, we had
danced together, been swimming together, dined together, played tennis
together. But what did we really know of each other's whims and
prejudices, opinions and personal habits and tastes? I knew, to a
word, what Jerry would say about a sunset; and he knew, I fancy, what
I would say about a dreamy waltz song. But we didn't either of us know
what the other would say to a dinnerless home with the cook gone. We
were leaving a good deal to be learned later on; but we didn't think
of that. Love that is to last must be built upon the realization that
troubles and trials and sorrows are sure to come, and that they must
be borne together--if one back is not to break under the load. We
were entering into a contract, not for a week, but, presumedly, for a
lifetime--and a good deal may come to one in a lifetime--not all of it
pleasant. We had been brought up in two distinctly different social
environments, but we didn't stop to think of that. We liked the same
sunsets, and the same make of car, and the same kind of ice-cream;
and we looked into each other's eyes and _thought_ we knew the
other--whereas we were really only seeing the mirrored reflection of
And so we were married.
It was everything that was blissful and delightful, of course, at
first. We were still eating the ice-cream and admiring the sunsets. I
had forgotten that there were things other than sunsets and ice-cream,
I suspect. I was not twenty-one, remember, and my feet fairly ached
to dance. The whole world was a show. Music, lights, laughter--how I
loved them all!
_Marie_, of course. Well, yes, I suspect Marie _was_ in the ascendancy
about that time. But I never thought of it that way.
Then came the baby, Eunice, my little girl; and with one touch of her
tiny, clinging fingers, the whole world of sham--the lights and music
and glare and glitter just faded all away into nothingness, where it
belonged. As if anything counted, with _her_ on the other side of the
I found out then--oh, I found out lots of things. You see, it wasn't
that way at all with Jerry. The lights and music and the glitter and
the sham didn't fade away a mite, to him, when Eunice came. In fact,
sometimes it seemed to me they just grew stronger, if anything.
He didn't like it because I couldn't go with him any more--to dances
and things, I mean. He said the nurse could take care of Eunice. As if
I'd leave my baby with any nurse that ever lived, for any old dance!
The idea! But Jerry went. At first he stayed with me; but the baby
cried, and Jerry didn't like that. It made him irritable and nervous,
until I was _glad_ to have him go. (Who wouldn't be, with his eternal
repetition of "Mollie, _can't_ you stop that baby's crying?" As if
that wasn't exactly what I was trying to do, as hard as ever I could!)
But Jerry didn't see it that way. Jerry never did appreciate what a
wonderful, glorious thing just being a father is.
I think it was at about this time that Jerry took up his painting
again. I guess I have forgotten to mention that all through the first
two years of our marriage, before the baby came, he just tended to me.
He never painted a single picture. But after Eunice came--
But, after all, what is the use of going over these last miserable
years like this? Eunice is five now. Her father is the most popular
portrait painter in the country, I am almost tempted to say that he is
the most popular _man_, as well. All the old charm and magnetism are
there. Sometimes I watch him (for, of course, I _do_ go out with him
once in a while), and always I think of that first day I saw him at
college. Brilliant, polished, witty--he still dominates every group of
which he is a member. Men and women alike bow to his charm. (I'm glad
it's not _only_ the women. Jerry isn't a bit of a flirt. I will say
that much for him. At any rate, if he does flirt, he flirts just as
desperately with old Judge Randlett as he does with the newest and
prettiest _debutante_: with serene impartiality he bestows upon each
the same glances, the same wit, the same adorable charm.) Praise,
attention, applause, music, laughter, lights--they are the breath of
life to him. Without them he would--But, there, he never _is_ without
them, so I don't know what he would be.
After all, I suspect that it's just that Jerry still loves the
ice-cream and the sunsets, and I don't. That's all. To me there's
something more to life than that--something higher, deeper, more
worth while. We haven't a taste in common, a thought in unison, an
aspiration in harmony. I suspect--in fact I _know_--that I get on his
nerves just as raspingly as he does on mine. For that reason I'm sure
he'll be glad--when he gets my letter.
But, some way, I dread to tell Mother.
* * * * *
Well, it's finished. I've been about four days bringing this
autobiography of Mary Marie's to an end. I've enjoyed doing it, in a
way, though I'll have to admit I can't see as it's made things any
clearer. But, then, it was clear before. There isn't any other way.
I've got to write that letter. As I said before, I regret that it must
be so sorry an ending.
I suppose to-morrow I'll have to tell Mother. I want to tell her, of
course, before I write the letter to Jerry.
It'll grieve Mother. I know it will. And I'm sorry. Poor Mother!
Already she's had so much unhappiness in her life. But she's happy
now. She and Father are wonderful together--wonderful. Father is still
President of the college. He got out a wonderful book on the "Eclipses
of the Moon" two years ago, and he's publishing another one about the
"Eclipses of the Sun" this year. Mother's correcting proof for him.
Bless her heart. She loves it. She told me so.
Well, I shall have to tell her to-morrow, of course.
* * * * *
_To-morrow_--_which has become to-day._
I wonder if Mother _knew_ what I had come into her little sitting-room
this morning to say. It seems as if she must have known. And yet--I
had wondered how I was going to begin, but, before I knew it, I was
right in the middle of it--the subject, I mean. That's why I thought
perhaps that Mother--
But I'm getting as bad as little Mary Marie of the long ago. I'll try
now to tell what did happen.
I was wetting my lips, and swallowing, and wondering how I was going
to begin to tell her that I was planning not to go back to Jerry, when
all of a sudden I found myself saying something about little Eunice.
And then Mother said:
"Yes, my dear; and that's what comforts me most of anything--because
you _are_ so devoted to Eunice. You see, I have feared sometimes--for
you and Jerry; that you might separate. But I know, on account of
Eunice, that you never will."
"But, Mother, that's the very reason--I mean, it would be the reason,"
I stammered. Then I stopped. My tongue just wouldn't move, my throat
and lips were so dry.
To think that Mother suspected--_knew already_--about Jerry and me;
and yet to say that _on account_ of Eunice I would not do it. Why, it
was _for_ Eunice, largely, that I was _going_ to do it. To let that
child grow up thinking that dancing and motoring was all of life,
But Mother was speaking again.
"Eunice--yes. You mean that you never would make her go through what
you went through when you were her age."
"Why, Mother, I--I--" And then I stopped again. And I was so angry and
indignant with myself because I had to stop, when there were so many,
many things that I wanted to say, if only my dry lips could articulate
Mother drew her breath in with a little catch. She had grown rather
"I wonder if you remember--if you ever think of--your childhood," she
"Why, yes, of--of course--sometimes." It was my turn to stammer. I was
thinking of that diary that I had just read--and added to.
Mother drew in her breath again, this time with a catch that was
almost a sob. And then she began to talk--at first haltingly, with
half-finished sentences; then hurriedly, with a rush of words that
seemed not able to utter themselves fast enough to keep up with the
thoughts behind them.
She told of her youth and marriage, and of my coming. She told of her
life with Father, and of the mistakes she made. She told much, of
course, that was in Mary Marie's diary; but she told, too, oh, so much
more, until like a panorama the whole thing lay before me.
Then she spoke of me, and of my childhood, and her voice began to
quiver. She told of the Mary and the Marie, and of the dual nature
within me. (As if I didn't know about that!) But she told me much that
I did not know, and she made things much clearer to me, until I saw--
You can see things so much more clearly when you stand off at a
distance like this, you know, than you can when you are close to them!
She broke down and cried when she spoke of the divorce, and of the
influence it had upon me, and of the false idea of marriage it gave
me. She said it was the worst kind of thing for me--the sort of life I
had to live. She said I grew pert and precocious and worldly-wise, and
full of servants' talk and ideas. She even spoke of that night at the
little cafe table when I gloried in the sparkle and spangles and told
her that now we were seeing life--real life. And of how shocked she
was, and of how she saw then what this thing was doing to me. But it
was too late.
She told more, much more, about the later years, and the
reconciliation; then, some way, she brought things around to Jerry and
me. Her face flushed up then, and she didn't meet my eyes. She looked
down at her sewing. She was very busy turning a hem _just so_.
She said there had been a time, once, when she had worried a little
about Jerry and me, for fear we would--separate. She said that she
believed that, for her, that would have been the very blackest moment
of her life; for it would be her fault, all her fault.
I tried to break in here, and say, "No, no," and that it wasn't her
fault; but she shook her head and wouldn't listen, and she lifted
her hand, and I had to keep still and let her go on talking. She was
looking straight into my eyes then, and there was such a deep, deep
hurt in them that I just had to listen.
She said again that it would be her fault; that if I had done that she
would have known that it was all because of the example she herself
had set me of childish willfulness and selfish seeking of personal
happiness at the expense of everything and everybody else. And she
said that that would have been the last straw to break her heart.
But she declared that she was sure now that she need not worry. Such a
thing would never be.
I guess I gasped a little at this. Anyhow, I know I tried to break
in and tell her that we _were_ going to separate, and that that was
exactly what I had come into the room in the first place to say.
But again she kept right on talking, and I was silenced before I had
She said how she knew it could never be--on account of Eunice. That I
would never subject my little girl to the sort of wretchedly divided
life that I had had to live when I was a child.
(As she spoke I was suddenly back in the cobwebby attic with little
Mary Marie's diary, and I thought--what if it _were_ Eunice--writing
She said I was the most devoted mother she had ever known; that I was
_too_ devoted, she feared sometimes, for I made Eunice _all_ my world,
to the exclusion of Jerry and everything and everybody else. But that
she was very sure, because I _was_ so devoted, and loved Eunice so
dearly, that I would never deprive her of a father's love and care.
I shivered a little, and looked quickly into Mother's face. But she
was not looking at me. I was thinking of how Jerry had kissed and
kissed Eunice a month ago, when we came away, as if he just couldn't
let her go. Jerry _is_ fond of Eunice, now that she's old enough to
know something, and Eunice adores her father. I knew that part was
going to be hard. And now to have Mother put it like that--
I began to talk then of Jerry. I just felt that I'd got to say
something. That Mother must listen. That she didn't understand. I told
her how Jerry loved lights and music and dancing, and crowds
bowing down and worshiping him all the time. And she said yes, she
remembered; that _he'd been that way when I married him_.
She spoke so sort of queerly that again I glanced at her; but she
still was looking down at the hem she was turning.
I went on then to explain that _I_ didn't like such things; that _I_
believed that there were deeper and higher things, and things more
worth while. And she said yes, she was glad, and that that was going
to be my saving grace; for, of course, I realized that there couldn't
be anything deeper or higher or more worth while than keeping the home
together, and putting up with annoyances, for the ultimate good of
all, especially of Eunice.
She went right on then quickly, before I could say anything. She said
that, of course, I understood that I was still Mary and Marie, even
if Jerry did call me Mollie; and that if Marie had married a man that
wasn't always congenial with Mary, she was very sure Mary had enough
stamina and good sense to make the best of it; and she was very sure,
also, that if Mary would only make a little effort to be once in a
while the Marie he had married, things might be a lot easier--for
Of course, I laughed at that. I had to. And Mother laughed, too. But
we understood. We both understood. I had never thought of it before,
but I _had_ been Marie when I married Jerry. _I_ loved lights and
music and dancing and gay crowds just exactly as well as he did. And
it wasn't his fault that I suddenly turned into Mary when the baby
came, and wanted him to stay at home before the fire every evening
with his dressing-gown and slippers. No wonder he was surprised. He
hadn't married Mary--he never knew Mary at all. But, do you know? I'd
never thought of that before--until Mother said what she did. Why,
probably Jerry was just as much disappointed to find his Marie turned
into a Mary as I--
But Mother was talking again.
She said that she thought Jerry was a wonderful man, in some ways;
that she never saw a man with such charm and magnetism, or one who
could so readily adapt himself to different persons and circumstances.
And she said she was very sure if Mary could only show a little more
interest in pictures (especially portraits), and learn to discuss
lights and shadows and perspectives, that nothing would be lost, and
that something might be gained; that there was nothing, anyway, like a
community of interest or of hobbies to bring two people together; and
that it was safer, to say the least, when it was the wife that shared
the community of interest than when it was some other woman, though,
of course, she knew as well as I knew that Jerry never would--She
didn't finish her sentence, and because she didn't finish it, it made
me think all the more. And I wondered if she left it unfinished--on
Then, in a minute, she was talking again.
She was speaking of Eunice. She said once more that because of her,
she knew that she need never fear any serious trouble between Jerry
and me, for, after all, it's the child that always pays for the
mother's mistakes and short-sightedness, just as it is the soldier
that pays for his commanding officer's blunders. That's why she felt
that I had had to pay for her mistakes, and why she knew that I'd
never compel my little girl to pay for mine. She said that the mother
lives in the heart of the child long after the mother is gone, and
that was why the mother always had to be--so careful.
Then, before I knew it, she was talking briskly and brightly about
something entirely different; and two minutes later I found myself
alone outside of her room. And I hadn't told her.
But I wasn't even thinking of that. I was thinking of Eunice, and of
that round, childish scrawl of a diary upstairs in the attic trunk.
And I was picturing Eunice, in the years to come, writing _her_ diary;
and I thought, what if she should have to--
I went upstairs then and read that diary again. And all the while I
was reading I thought of Eunice. And when it was finished I knew that
I'd never tell Mother, that I'd never write to Jerry--not the letter
that I was going to write. I knew that--
* * * * *
They brought Jerry's letter to me at just that point. What a wonderful
letter that man can write--when he wants to!
He says he's lonesome and homesick, and that the house is like a tomb
without Eunice and me, and when _am_ I coming home?
* * * * *
I wrote him to-night that I was going--to-morrow.
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