The Copy-Cat & Other Stories
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Part 3 out of 7
room, and she was quite alone, although I had heard
her talking as I went up-stairs. Then I said: 'Con-
tent, I thought somebody was in your room. I
heard you talking.'
"And she said, looking right into my eyes: 'Yes,
ma'am, I was talking.'
"'But there is nobody here,' I said.
"'Yes, ma'am,' she said. 'There isn't anybody
here now, but my big sister Solly was here, and she
is gone. You heard me talking to my big sister
Solly.' I felt faint, Edward, and you know it takes
a good deal to overcome me. I just sat down in
Content's wicker rocking-chair. I looked at her and
she looked at me. Her eyes were just as clear and
blue, and her forehead looked like truth itself. She
is not exactly a pretty child, and she has a peculiar
appearance, but she does certainly look truthful and
good, and she looked so then. She had tried to
fluff her hair over her forehead a little as I had
told her, and not pull it back so tight, and she wore
her new dress, and her face and hands were as clean,
and she stood straight. You know she is a little
inclined to stoop, and I have talked to her about
it. She stood straight, and looked at me with those
blue eyes, and I did feel fairly dizzy."
"What did you say?"
"Well, after a bit I pulled myself together and
I said: 'My dear little girl, what is this? What do
you mean about your big sister Sarah?' Edward,
I could not bring myself to say that idiotic Solly.
In fact, I did think I must be mistaken and had not
heard correctly. But Content just looked at me
as if she thought me very stupid. 'Solly,' said she.
'My sister's name is Solly.'
"'But, my dear,' I said, 'I understand that you
had no sister.'
"'Yes,' said she, 'I have my big sister Solly.'
"'But where has she been all the time?' said I.
"Then Content looked at me and smiled, and it
was quite a wonderful smile, Edward. She smiled
as if she knew so much more than I could ever
know, and quite pitied me."
"She did not answer your question?"
"No, only by that smile which seemed to tell
whole volumes about that awful Solly's whereabouts,
only I was too ignorant to read them.
"'Where is she now, dear?' I said, after a little.
"'She is gone now,' said Content.
"'Gone where?' said I.
"And then the child smiled at me again. Edward,
what are we going to do? Is she untruthful, or has
she too much imagination? I have heard of such a
thing as too much imagination, and children telling
lies which were not really lies."
"So have I," agreed the rector, dryly, "but I
never believed in it." The rector started to leave
"What are you going to do?" inquired Sally.
"I am going to endeavor to discriminate between
lies and imagination," replied the rector.
Sally plucked at his coat-sleeve as they went
down-stairs. "My dear," she whispered, "I think
she is asleep."
"She will have to wake up."
"But, my dear, she may be nervous. Would
it not be better to wait until to-morrow?"
"I think not," said Edward Patterson. Usually
an easy-going man, when he was aroused he was
determined to extremes. Into Content's room he
marched, Sally following. Neither of them saw
their small son Jim peeking around his door. He
had heard -- he could not help it -- the conversation
earlier in the day between Content and his mother.
He had also heard other things. He now felt entirely
justified in listening, although he had a good code
of honor. He considered himself in a way respon-
sible, knowing what he knew, for the peace of
mind of his parents. Therefore he listened, peeking
around the doorway of his dark room.
The electric light flashed out from Content's
room, and the little interior was revealed. It was
charmingly pretty. Sally had done her best to make
this not altogether welcome little stranger's room
attractive. There were garlands of rosebuds swung
from the top of the white satin-papered walls.
There were dainty toilet things, a little dressing-
table decked with ivory, a case of books, chairs
cushioned with rosebud chintz, windows curtained
with the same.
In the little white bed, with a rose-sprinkled cover-
lid over her, lay Content. She was not asleep.
Directly, when the light flashed out, she looked at
the rector and his wife with her clear blue eyes. Her
fair hair, braided neatly and tied with pink ribbons,
lay in two tails on either side of her small, certainly
very good face. Her forehead was beautiful, very
white and full, giving her an expression of candor
which was even noble. Content, little lonely girl
among strangers in a strange place, mutely beseech-
ing love and pity, from her whole attitude toward
life and the world, looked up at Edward Patterson
and Sally, and the rector realized that his determina-
tion was giving way. He began to believe in imagi-
nation, even to the extent of a sister Solly. He had
never had a daughter, and sometimes the thought
of one had made his heart tender. His voice was
very kind when he spoke.
"Well, little girl," he said, "what is this I hear?"
Sally stared at her husband and stifled a chuckle.
As for Content, she looked at the rector and said
nothing. It was obvious that she did not know
what he had heard. The rector explained.
"My dear little girl," he said, "your aunt Sally"
-- they had agreed upon the relationship of uncle and
aunt to Content -- "tells me that you have been
telling her about your -- big sister Solly." The rector
half gasped as he said Solly. He seemed to himself
to be on the driveling verge of idiocy before the pro-
nunciation of that absurdly inane name.
Content's responding voice came from the pink-
and-white nest in which she was snuggled, like the
fluting pipe of a canary.
"Yes, sir," said she.
"My dear child," said the rector, "you know
perfectly well that you have no big sister -- Solly."
Every time the rector said Solly he swallowed hard.
Content smiled as Sally had described her smiling.
She said nothing. The rector felt reproved and
looked down upon from enormous heights of inno-
cence and childhood and the wisdom thereof. How-
ever, he persisted.
"Content," he said, "what did you mean by
telling your aunt Sally what you did?"
"I was talking with my big sister Solly," replied
Content, with the calmness of one stating a funda-
mental truth of nature.
The rector's face grew stern. "Content," he said,
"look at me."
Content looked. Looking seemed to be the in-
stinctive action which distinguished her as an indi-
"Have you a big sister -- Solly?" asked the rector.
His face was stern, but his voice faltered.
"Then -- tell me so."
"I have a big sister Solly," said Content. Now
she spoke rather wearily, although still sweetly, as
if puzzled why she had been disturbed in sleep to
be asked such an obvious question.
"Where has she been all the time, that we have
known nothing about her?" demanded the rector.
Content smiled. However, she spoke. "Home,"
"When did she come here?"
"Where is she now?"
Content smiled and was silent. The rector cast
a helpless look at his wife. He now did not care
if she did see that he was completely at a loss.
How could a great, robust man and a clergyman
be harsh to a tender little girl child in a pink-and-
white nest of innocent dreams?
Sally pitied him. She spoke more harshly than
her husband. "Content Adams," said she, "you
know perfectly well that you have no big sister
Solly. Now tell me the truth. Tell me you have
no big sister Solly."
"I have a big sister Solly," said Content.
"Come, Edward," said Sally. "There is no use
in staying and talking to this obstinate little girl
any longer." Then she spoke to Content. "Before
you go to sleep," said she, "you must say your
prayers, if you have not already done so."
"I have said my prayers," replied Content, and
her blue eyes were full of horrified astonishment at
"Then," said Sally, "you had better say them
over and add something. Pray that you may always
tell the truth."
"Yes, ma'am," said Content, in her little canary
The rector and his wife went out. Sally switched
off the light with a snap as she passed. Out in the
hall she stopped and held her husband's arms hard.
"Hush!" she whispered. They both listened. They
heard this, in the faintest plaint of a voice:
"They don't believe you are here, Sister Solly,
but I do."
Sally dashed back into the rosebud room and
switched on the light. She stared around. She
opened a closet door. Then she turned off the light
and joined her husband.
"There was nobody there?" he whispered.
"Of course not."
When they were back in the study the rector
and his wife looked at each other.
"We will do the best we can," said Sally. "Don't
worry, Edward, for you have to write your sermon
to-morrow. We will manage some way. I will admit
that I rather wish Content had had some other
distant relative besides you who could have taken
charge of her."
"You poor child!" said the rector. "It is hard
on you, Sally, for she is no kith nor kin of yours."
"Indeed I don't mind," said Sally Patterson, "if
only I can succeed in bringing her up."
Meantime Jim Patterson, up-stairs, sitting over
his next day's algebra lesson, was even more per-
plexed than were his parents in the study. He paid
little attention to his book. "I can manage little
Lucy," he reflected, "but if the others have got hold
of it, I don't know."
Presently he rose and stole very softly through
the hall to Content's door. She was timid, and
always left it open so she could see the hall light
until she fell asleep. "Content," whispered Jim.
There came the faintest "What?" in response.
"Don't you," said Jim, in a theatrical whisper,
"say another word at school to anybody about your
big sister Solly. If you do, I'll whop you, if you
are a girl."
"Don't care!" was sighed forth from the room.
"And I'll whop your old big sister Solly, too."
There was a tiny sob.
"I will," declared Jim. "Now you mind!"
The next day Jim cornered little Lucy Rose under
a cedar-tree before school began. He paid no atten-
tion to Bubby Harvey and Tom Simmons, who were
openly sniggering at him. Little Lucy gazed up
at Jim, and the blue-green shade of the cedar seemed
to bring out only more clearly the white-rose softness
of her dear little face. Jim bent over her.
"Want you to do something for me," he whis-
Little Lucy nodded gravely.
"If my new cousin Content ever says anything
to you again -- I heard her yesterday -- about her
big sister Solly, don't you ever say a word about it
to anybody else. You will promise me, won't you,
A troubled expression came into little Lucy's kind
eyes. "But she told Lily, and Lily told Amelia, and
Amelia told her grandmother Wheeler, and her
grandmother Wheeler told Miss Parmalee when she
met her on the street after school, and Miss Parma-
lee called on my aunt Martha and told her," said
"Oh, shucks!" said Jim.
"And my aunt Martha told my father that she
thought perhaps she ought to ask for her when she
called on your mother. She said Arnold Carruth's
aunt Flora was going to call, and his aunt Dorothy.
I heard Miss Acton tell Miss Parmalee that she
thought they ought to ask for her when they called
on your mother, too."
"Little Lucy," he said, and lowered his voice,
"you must promise me never, as long as you live,
to tell what I am going to tell you."
Little Lucy looked frightened.
"Promise!" insisted Jim.
"I promise," said little Lucy, in a weak voice.
"Never, as long as you live, to tell anybody.
"Now, you know if you break your promise and
tell, you will be guilty of a dreadful lie and be very
Little Lucy shivered. "I never will."
"Well, my new cousin Content Adams -- tells lies."
Little Lucy gasped.
"Yes, she does. She says she has a big sister
Solly, and she hasn't got any big sister Solly. She
never did have, and she never will have. She makes
"Makes believe?" said little Lucy, in a hopeful
"Making believe is just a real mean way of lying.
Now I made Content promise last night never to
say one word in school about her big sister Solly, and
I am going to tell you this, so you can tell Lily and
the others and not lie. Of course, I don't want to
lie myself, because my father is rector, and, besides,
mother doesn't approve of it; but if anybody is
going to lie, I am the one. Now, you mind, little
Lucy. Content's big sister Solly has gone away,
and she is never coming back. If you tell Lily and
the others I said so, I can't see how you will be lying."
Little Lucy gazed at the boy. She looked like
truth incarnate. "But," said she, in her adorable
stupidity of innocence, "I don't see how she could
go away if she was never here, Jim."
"Oh, of course she couldn't. But all you have to
do is to say that you heard me say she had gone.
Don't you understand?"
"I don't understand how Content's big sister Solly
could possibly go away if she was never here."
"Little Lucy, I wouldn't ask you to tell a lie for
the world, but if you were just to say that you heard
me say --"
"I think it would be a lie," said little Lucy, "be-
cause how can I help knowing if she was never here
she couldn't --"
"Oh, well, little Lucy," cried Jim, in despair, still
with tenderness -- how could he be anything but
tender with little Lucy? -- "all I ask is never to say
anything about it."
"If they ask me?"
"Anyway, you can hold your tongue. You know
it isn't wicked to hold your tongue."
Little Lucy absurdly stuck out the pointed tip of
her little red tongue. Then she shook her head
"Well," she said, "I will hold my tongue."
This encounter with innocence and logic had left
him worsted. Jim could see no way out of the fact
that his father, the rector, his mother, the rector's
wife, and he, the rector's son, were disgraced by
their relationship to such an unsanctified little soul
as this queer Content Adams.
And yet he looked at the poor lonely little girl, who
was trying very hard to learn her lessons, who sug-
gested in her very pose and movement a little, scared
rabbit ready to leap the road for some bush of hiding,
and while he was angry with her he pitied her. He
had no doubts concerning Content's keeping her
promise. He was quite sure that he would now say
nothing whatever about that big sister Solly to the
others, but he was not prepared for what happened
that very afternoon.
When he went home from school his heart stood
still to see Miss Martha Rose, and Arnold Carruth's
aunt Flora, and his aunt who was not his aunt, Miss
Dorothy Vernon, who was visiting her, all walking
along in state with their lace-trimmed parasols,
their white gloves, and their nice card-cases. Jim
jumped a fence and raced across lots home, and
gained on them. He burst in on his mother, sitting
on the porch, which was inclosed by wire netting
overgrown with a budding vine. It was the first
warm day of the season.
"Mother," cried Jim Patterson -- "mother, they
"Who, for goodness' sake, Jim?"
"Why, Arnold's aunt Flora and his aunt Dorothy
and little Lucy's aunt Martha. They are coming to
Involuntarily Sally's hand went up to smooth her
pretty hair. "Well, what of it, Jim?" said she.
"Mother, they will ask for -- big sister Solly!"
Sally Patterson turned pale. "How do you
"Mother, Content has been talking at school. A
lot know. You will see they will ask for --"
"Run right in and tell Content to stay in her
room," whispered Sally, hastily, for the callers,
their white-kidded hands holding their card-cases
genteelly, were coming up the walk.
Sally advanced, smiling. She put a brave face
on the matter, but she realized that she, Sally
Patterson, who had never been a coward, was
positively afraid before this absurdity. The callers
sat with her on the pleasant porch, with the young
vine-shadows making networks over their best gowns.
Tea was served presently by the maid, and, much to
Sally's relief, before the maid appeared came the
inquiry. Miss Martha Rose made it.
"We would be pleased to see Miss Solly Adams
also," said Miss Martha.
Flora Carruth echoed her. "I was so glad to hear
another nice girl had come to the village," said she
with enthusiasm. Miss Dorothy Vernon said some-
thing indefinite to the same effect.
"I am sorry," replied Sally, with an effort, "but
there is no Miss Solly Adams here now." She spoke
the truth as nearly as she could manage without
unraveling the whole ridiculous affair. The callers
sighed with regret, tea was served with little cakes,
and they fluttered down the walk, holding their card-
cases, and that ordeal was over.
But Sally sought the rector in his study, and she
was trembling. "Edward," she cried out, regardless
of her husband's sermon, "something must be done
"Why, what is the matter, Sally?"
"People are -- calling on her."
"Calling on whom?"
"Big sister -- Solly!" Sally explained.
"Well, don't worry, dear," said the rector. "Of
course we will do something, but we must think it
over. Where is the child now?"
"She and Jim are out in the garden. I saw them
pass the window just now. Jim is such a dear boy,
he tries hard to be nice to her. Edward Patterson,
we ought not to wait."
"My dear, we must."
Meantime Jim and Content Adams were out in
the garden. Jim had gone to Content's door and
tapped and called out, rather rudely: "Content, I
say, put on your hat and come along out in the
garden. I've got something to tell you."
"Don't want to," protested Content's little voice,
"You come right along."
And Content came along. She was an obedient
child, and she liked Jim, although she stood much
in awe of him. She followed him into the garden
back of the rectory, and they sat down on the bench
beneath the weeping willow. The minute they were
seated Jim began to talk.
"Now," said he, "I want to know."
Content glanced up at him, then looked down
and turned pale.
"I want to know, honest Injun," said Jim, "what
you are telling such awful whoppers about your old
big sister Solly for?"
Content was silent. This time she did not smile,
a tear trickled out of her right eye and ran over the
"Because you know," said Jim, observant of the
tear, but ruthless, "that you haven't any big sister
Solly, and never did have. You are getting us all
in an awful mess over it, and father is rector
here, and mother is his wife, and I am his
son, and you are his niece, and it is downright
mean. Why do you tell such whoppers? Out
Content was trembling violently. "I lived with
Aunt Eudora," she whispered.
"Well, what of that? Other folks have lived
with their aunts and not told whoppers."
"They haven't lived with Aunt Eudora."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Content
Adams, and you the rector's niece, talking that way
about dead folks."
"I don't mean to talk about poor Aunt Eudora,"
fairly sobbed Content. "Aunt Eudora was a real
good aunt, but she was grown up. She was a good
deal more grown up than your mother; she really
was, and when I first went to live with her I was
'most a little baby; I couldn't speak -- plain, and
I had to go to bed real early, and slept 'way off from
everybody, and I used to be afraid -- all alone, and
"Well, go on," said Jim, but his voice was softer.
It WAS hard lines for a little kid, especially if she
was a girl.
"And so," went on the little, plaintive voice, "I
got to thinking how nice it would be if I only had
a big sister, and I used to cry and say to myself -- I
couldn't speak plain, you know, I was so little --
'Big sister would be real solly.' And then first
thing I knew -- she came."
"Big sister Solly."
"What rot! She didn't come. Content Adams,
you know she didn't come."
"She must have come," persisted the little girl,
in a frightened whisper. "She must have. Oh, Jim,
you don't know. Big sister Solly must have come,
or I would have died like my father and mother."
Jim's arm, which was near her, twitched convul-
sively, but he did not put it around her.
"She did -- co-me," sobbed Content. "Big sister
Solly did come."
"Well, have it so," said Jim, suddenly. "No use
going over that any longer. Have it she came, but
she ain't here now, anyway. Content Adams, you
can't look me in the face and tell me that."
Content looked at Jim, and her little face was
almost terrible, so full of bewilderment and fear
it was. "Jim," whispered Content, "I can't have
big sister Solly not be here. I can't send her away.
What would she think?"
Jim stared. "Think? Why, she isn't alive to
"I can't make her -- dead," sobbed Content. "She
came when I wanted her, and now when I don't so
much, when I've got Uncle Edward and Aunt Sally
and you, and don't feel so dreadful lonesome, I
can't be so bad as to make her dead."
Jim whistled. Then his face brightened up. He
looked at Content with a shrewd and cheerful grin.
"See here, kid, you say your sister Solly is big,
grown up, don't you?" he inquired.
Content nodded pitifully.
"Then why, if she is grown up and pretty, don't
she have a beau?"
Content stopped sobbing and gave him a quick
"Then -- why doesn't she get married, and go out
West to live?"
Jim chuckled. Instead of a sob, a faint echo of his
chuckle came from Content.
Jim laughed merrily. "I say, Content," he cried,
"let's have it she's married now, and gone?"
"Well," said Content.
Jim put his arm around her very nicely and pro-
tectingly. "It's all right, then," said he, "as all
right as it can be for a girl. Say, Content, ain't it
a shame you aren't a boy?"
"I can't help it," said Content, meekly.
"You see," said Jim, thoughtfully, "I don't, as
a rule, care much about girls, but if you could coast
down-hill and skate, and do a few things like that,
you would be almost as good as a boy."
Content surveyed him, and her pessimistic little
face assumed upward curves. "I will," said she.
"I will do anything, Jim. I will fight if you want
me to, just like a boy."
"I don't believe you could lick any of us fellers
unless you get a good deal harder in the muscles,"
said Jim, eying her thoughtfully; "but we'll play
ball, and maybe by and by you can begin with
"Could lick him now," said Content.
But Jim's face sobered before her readiness. "Oh
no, you mustn't go to fighting right away," said he.
"It wouldn't do. You really are a girl, you know,
and father is rector."
"Then I won't," said Content; "but I COULD knock
down that little boy with curls; I know I could."
"Well, you needn't. I'll like you just as well.
You see, Content" -- Jim's voice faltered, for he was
a boy, and on the verge of sentiment before which
he was shamed -- "you see, Content, now your big
sister Solly is married and gone out West, why, you
can have me for your brother, and of course a
brother is a good deal better than a sister."
"Yes," said Content, eagerly.
"I am going," said Jim, "to marry Lucy Rose
when I grow up, but I haven't got any sister, and
I'd like you first rate for one. So I'll be your big
brother instead of your cousin."
"Big brother Solly?"
"Say, Content, that is an awful name, but I don't
care. You're only a girl. You can call me any-
thing you want to, but you mustn't call me Solly
when there is anybody within hearing."
"Because it wouldn't do," said Jim with weight.
"I never will, honest," said Content.
Presently they went into the house. Dr. Trum-
bull was there; he had been talking seriously to the
rector and his wife. He had come over on purpose.
"It is a perfect absurdity," he said, "but I made
ten calls this morning, and everywhere I was asked
about that little Adams girl's big sister -- why you
keep her hidden. They have a theory that she is
either an idiot or dreadfully disfigured. I had to
tell them I know nothing about it."
"There isn't any girl," said the rector, wearily.
"Sally, do explain."
Dr. Trumbull listened. "I have known such
cases," he said when Sally had finished.
"What did you do for them?" Sally asked, anx-
"Nothing. Such cases have to be cured by time.
Children get over these fancies when they grow up."
"Do you mean to say that we have to put up with
big sister Solly until Content is grown up?" asked
Sally, in a desperate tone. And then Jim came in.
Content had run up-stairs.
"It is all right, mother," said Jim.
Sally caught him by the shoulders. "Oh, Jim,
has she told you?"
Jim gave briefly, and with many omissions, an
account of his conversation with Content.
"Did she say anything about that dress, Jim?"
asked his mother.
"She said her aunt had meant it for that out-
West rector's daughter Alice to graduate in, but
Content wanted it for her big sister Solly, and told
the rector's wife it was hers. Content says she knows
she was a naughty girl, but after she had said it she
was afraid to say it wasn't so. Mother, I think that
poor little thing is scared 'most to death."
"Nobody is going to hurt her," said Sally.
"Goodness! that rector's wife was so conscientious
that she even let that dress go. Well, I can send it
right back, and the girl will have it in time for her
graduation, after all. Jim dear, call the poor child
down. Tell her nobody is going to scold her."
Sally's voice was very tender.
Jim returned with Content. She had on a little
ruffled pink gown which seemed to reflect color on
her cheeks. She wore an inscrutable expression, at
once child-like and charming. She looked shy, fur-
tively amused, yet happy. Sally realized that the
pessimistic downward lines had disappeared, that
Content was really a pretty little girl.
Sally put an arm around the small, pink figure.
"So you and Jim have been talking, dear?" she said.
"Yes, ma'am," replied little Content. "Jim is
my big brother --" She just caught herself before
she said Solly.
"And your sister Solly is married and living out
"Yes," said Content, with a long breath. "My
sister Solly is married." Smiles broke all over her
little face. She hid it in Sally's skirts, and a little
peal of laughter like a bird-trill came from the soft
LITTLE LUCY ROSE
LITTLE LUCY ROSE
BACK of the rectory there was a splendid, long
hill. The ground receded until the rectory
garden was reached, and the hill was guarded on
either flank by a thick growth of pines and cedars,
and, being a part of the land appertaining to the
rectory, was never invaded by the village children.
This was considered very fortunate by Mrs. Patterson,
Jim's mother, and for an odd reason. The rector's
wife was very fond of coasting, as she was of most
out-of-door sports, but her dignified position pre-
vented her from enjoying them to the utmost. In
many localities the clergyman's wife might have
played golf and tennis, have rode and swum and
coasted and skated, and nobody thought the worse
of her; but in The Village it was different.
Sally had therefore rejoiced at the discovery of
that splendid, isolated hill behind the house. It
could not have been improved upon for a long, per-
fectly glorious coast, winding up on the pool of ice
in the garden and bumping thrillingly between dry
vegetables. Mrs. Patterson steered and Jim made the
running pushes, and slid flat on his chest behind
his mother. Jim was very proud of his mother. He
often wished that he felt at liberty to tell of her
feats. He had never been told not to tell, but real-
ized, being rather a sharp boy, that silence was
wiser. Jim's mother confided in him, and he re-
spected her confidence. "Oh, Jim dear," she would
often say, "there is a mothers' meeting this after-
noon, and I would so much rather go coasting with
you." Or, "There's a Guild meeting about a fair,
and the ice in the garden is really quite smooth."
It was perhaps unbecoming a rector's wife, but
Jim loved his mother better because she expressed a
preference for the sports he loved, and considered that
no other boy had a mother who was quite equal to
his. Sally Patterson was small and wiry, with a bright
face, and very thick, brown hair, which had a boyish
crest over her forehead, and she could run as fast
as Jim. Jim's father was much older than his mother,
and very dignified, although he had a keen sense of
humor. He used to laugh when his wife and son
came in after their coasting expeditions.
"Well, boys," he would say, "had a good time?"
Jim was perfectly satisfied and convinced that his
mother was the very best and most beautiful per-
son in the village, even in the whole world, until
Mr. Cyril Rose came to fill a vacancy of cashier in
the bank, and his daughter, little Lucy Rose, as
a matter of course, came with him. Little Lucy
had no mother. Mr. Cyril's cousin, Martha Rose,
kept his house, and there was a colored maid with a
bad temper, who was said, however, to be inval-
Little Lucy attended Madame's school. She
came the next Monday after Jim and his friends had
planned to have a chicken roast and failed. After
Jim saw little Lucy he thought no more of the
chicken roast. It seemed to him that he thought
no more of anything. He could not by any possi-
bility have learned his lessons had it not been for
the desire to appear a good scholar before little Lucy.
Jim had never been a self-conscious boy, but that
day he was so keenly worried about her opinion of
him that his usual easy swing broke into a strut
when he crossed the room. He need not have been
so troubled, because little Lucy was not looking at
him. She was not looking at any boy or girl. She
was only trying to learn her lesson. Little Lucy was
that rather rare creature, a very gentle, obedient
child, with a single eye for her duty. She was so
charming that it was sad to think how much her
mother had missed, as far as this world was con-
The minute Madame saw her a singular light
came into her eyes -- the light of love of a childless
woman for a child. Similar lights were in the eyes
of Miss Parmalee and Miss Acton. They looked
at one another with a sort of sweet confidence when
they were drinking tea together after school in Ma-
"Did you ever see such a darling?" said Madame.
Miss Parmalee said she never had, and Miss Acton
"She is a little angel," said Madame.
"She worked so hard over her geography lesson,"
said Miss Parmalee, "and she got the Amazon River
in New England and the Connecticut in South
America, after all; but she was so sweet about it,
she made me want to change the map of the world.
Dear little soul, it did seem as if she ought to have
rivers and everything else just where she chose."
"And she tried so hard to reach an octave, and her
little finger is too short," said Miss Acton; "and she
hasn't a bit of an ear for music, but her little voice
is so sweet it does not matter."
"I have seen prettier children," said Madame,
"but never one quite such a darling."
Miss Parmalee and Miss Acton agreed with Ma-
dame, and so did everybody else. Lily Jennings's
beauty was quite eclipsed by little Lucy, but Lily
did not care; she was herself one of little Lucy's
most fervent admirers. She was really Jim Patter-
son's most formidable rival in the school. "You
don't care about great, horrid boys, do you, dear?"
Lily said to Lucy, entirely within hearing of Jim
and Lee Westminster and Johnny Trumbull and
Arnold Carruth and Bubby Harvey and Frank Ellis,
and a number of others who glowered at her.
Dear little Lucy hesitated. She did not wish to
hurt the feelings of boys, and the question had been
loudly put. Finally she said she didn't know. Lack
of definite knowledge was little Lucy's rock of refuge
in time of need. She would look adorable, and say
in her timid little fluty voice, "I don't -- know."
The last word came always with a sort of gasp which
was alluring. All the listening boys were convinced
that little Lucy loved them all individually and gen-
erally, because of her "I don't -- know."
Everybody was convinced of little Lucy's affec-
tion for everybody, which was one reason for her
charm. She flattered without knowing that she did
so. It was impossible for her to look at any living
thing except with soft eyes of love. It was impos-
sible for her to speak without every tone conveying
the sweetest deference and admiration. The whole
atmosphere of Madame's school changed with the
advent of the little girl. Everybody tried to live
up to little Lucy's supposed ideal, but in reality
she had no ideal. Lucy was the simplest of little
girls, only intent upon being good, doing as she was
told, and winning her father's approval, also her
Martha Rose was quite elderly, although still
good-looking. She was not popular, because she
was very silent. She dressed becomingly, received
calls and returned them, but hardly spoke a word.
People rather dreaded her coming. Miss Martha
Rose would sit composedly in a proffered chair, her
gloved hands crossed over her nice, gold-bound card-
case, her chin tilted at an angle which never varied,
her mouth in a set smile which never wavered, her
slender feet in their best shoes toeing out precisely
under the smooth sweep of her gray silk skirt. Miss
Martha Rose dressed always in gray, a fashion
which the village people grudgingly admired. It
was undoubtedly becoming and distinguished, but
savored ever so slightly of ostentation, as did her
custom of always dressing little Lucy in blue. There
were different shades and fabrics, but blue it always
was. It was the best color for the child, as it re-
vealed the fact that her big, dark eyes were blue.
Shaded as they were by heavy, curly lashes, they
would have been called black or brown, but the blue
in them leaped to vision above the blue of blue
frocks. Little Lucy had the finest, most delicate
features, a mist of soft, dark hair, which curled
slightly, as mist curls, over sweet, round temples.
She was a small, daintily clad child, and she spoke
and moved daintily and softly; and when her blue
eyes were fixed upon anybody's face, that person
straightway saw love and obedience and trust in
them, and love met love half-way. Even Miss
Martha Rose looked another woman when little
Lucy's innocent blue eyes were fixed upon her rather
handsome but colorless face between the folds of
her silvery hair; Miss Martha's hair had turned
prematurely gray. Light would come into Martha
Rose's face, light and animation, although she never
talked much even to Lucy. She never talked much
to her cousin Cyril, but he was rather glad of it.
He had a keen mind, but it was easily diverted, and
he was engrossed in his business, and concerned lest
he be disturbed by such things as feminine chatter,
of which he certainly had none in his own home, if
he kept aloof from Jenny, the colored maid. Hers
was the only female voice ever heard to the point
of annoyance in the Rose house.
It was rather wonderful how a child like little
Lucy and Miss Martha lived with so little conversa-
tion. Martha talked no more at home than abroad;
moreover, at home she had not the attitude of wait-
ing for some one to talk to her, which people outside
considered trying. Martha did not expect her cousin
to talk to her. She seldom asked a question. She
almost never volunteered a perfectly useless obser-
vation. She made no remarks upon self-evident
topics. If the sun shone, she never mentioned it.
If there was a heavy rain, she never mentioned that.
Miss Martha suited her cousin exactly, and for that
reason, aside from the fact that he had been devoted
to little Lucy's mother, it never occurred to him to
marry again. Little Lucy talked no more than Miss
Martha, and nobody dreamed that she sometimes
wanted somebody to talk to her. Nobody dreamed
that the dear little girl, studying her lessons, learn-
ing needlework, trying very futilely to play the
piano, was lonely; but she was without knowing
it herself. Martha was so kind and so still; and her
father was so kind and so still, engrossed in his papers
or books, often sitting by himself in his own study.
Little Lucy in this peace and stillness was not hav-
ing her share of childhood. When other little girls
came to play with her. Miss Martha enjoined quiet,
and even Lily Jennings's bird-like chattering be-
came subdued. It was only at school that Lucy
got her chance for the irresponsible delight which
was the simple right of her childhood, and there her
zeal for her lessons prevented. She was happy at
school, however, for there she lived in an atmos-
phere of demonstrative affection. The teachers
were given to seizing her in fond arms and caress-
ing her, and so were her girl companions; while
the boys, especially Jim Patterson, looked wistful-
Jim Patterson was in love, a charming little poetical
boy-love; but it was love. Everything which he
did in those days was with the thought of little
Lucy for incentive. He stood better in school than
he had ever done before, but it was all for the sake
of little Lucy. Jim Patterson had one talent, rather
rudimentary, still a talent. He could play by ear.
His father owned an old violin. He had been in-
clined to music in early youth, and Jim got per-
mission to practise on it, and he went by himself
in the hot attic and practised. Jim's mother did
not care for music, and her son's preliminary scra-
ping tortured her. Jim tucked the old fiddle under
one round boy-cheek and played in the hot attic,
with wasps buzzing around him; and he spent his
pennies for catgut, and he learned to mend fiddle-
strings; and finally came a proud Wednesday after-
noon when there were visitors in Madame's school,
and he stood on the platform, with Miss Acton
playing an accompaniment on the baby grand piano,
and he managed a feeble but true tune on his violin.
It was all for little Lucy, but little Lucy cared no
more for music than his mother; and while Jim was
playing she was rehearsing in the depths of her mind
the little poem which later she was to recite; for
this adorable little Lucy was, as a matter of course,
to figure in the entertainment. It therefore happened
that she heard not one note of Jim Patterson's pain-
fully executed piece, for she was saying to herself
in mental singsong a foolish little poem, beginning:
There was one little flower that bloomed
Beside a cottage door.
When she went forward, little darling blue-clad
figure, there was a murmur of admiration; and when
she made mistakes straight through the poem, saying,
There was a little flower that fell
On my aunt Martha's floor,
for beginning, there was a roar of tender laughter
and a clapping of tender, maternal hands, and every-
body wanted to catch hold of little Lucy and kiss her.
It was one of the irresistible charms of this child
that people loved her the more for her mistakes,
and she made many, although she tried so very
hard to avoid them. Little Lucy was not in the
least brilliant, but she held love like a precious vase,
and it gave out perfume better than mere knowledge.
Jim Patterson was so deeply in love with her when
he went home that night that he confessed to his
mother. Mrs. Patterson had led up to the subject
by alluding to little Lucy while at the dinner-table.
"Edward," she said to her husband -- both she
and the rector had been present at Madame's school
entertainment and the tea-drinking afterward -- "did
you ever see in all your life such a darling little girl
as the new cashier's daughter? She quite makes up
for Miss Martha, who sat here one solid hour, hold-
ing her card-case, waiting for me to talk to her.
That child is simply delicious, and I was so glad
she made mistakes."
"Yes, she is a charming child," assented the rector,
"despite the fact that she is not a beauty, hardly
"I know it," said Mrs. Patterson, "but she has the
worth of beauty."
Jim was quite pale while his father and mother
were talking. He swallowed the hot soup so fast
that it burnt his tongue. Then he turned very
red, but nobody noticed him. When his mother
came up-stairs to kiss him good night he told her.
"Mother," said he, "I have something to tell
"All right, Jim," replied Sally Patterson, with her
"It is very important," said Jim.
Mrs. Patterson did not laugh; she did not even
smile. She sat down beside Jim's bed and looked
seriously at his eager, rapt, shamed little boy-face
on the pillow. "Well?" said she, after a minute
which seemed difficult to him.
Jim coughed. Then he spoke with a blurt.
"Mother," said Jim, "by and by, of course not quite
yet, but by and by, will you have any objection to
Miss Lucy Rose as a daughter?"
Even then Sally Patterson did not laugh or even
smile. "Are you thinking of marrying her, Jim?"
asked she, quite as if her son had been a man.
"Yes, mother," replied Jim. Then he flung up
his little arms in pink pajama sleeves, and Sally
Patterson took his face between her two hands and
kissed him warmly.
"She is a darling, and your choice does you credit,
Jim," said she. "Of course you have said nothing
to her yet?"
"I thought it was rather too soon."
"I really think you are very wise, Jim," said his
mother. "It is too soon to put such ideas into
the poor child's head. She is younger than you,
isn't she, Jim?"
"She is just six months and three days younger,"
replied Jim, with majesty.
"I thought so. Well, you know, Jim, it would
just wear her all out, as young as that, to be obliged
to think about her trousseau and housekeeping and
going to school, too."
"I know it," said Jim, with a pleased air. "I
thought I was right, mother."
"Entirely right; and you, too, really ought to
finish school, and take up a profession or a busi-
ness, before you say anything definite. You would
want a nice home for the dear little thing, you
know that, Jim."
Jim stared at his mother out of his white pillow.
"I thought I would stay with you, and she would
stay with her father until we were both very much
older," said he. "She has a nice home now, you
Sally Patterson's mouth twitched a little, but she
spoke quite gravely and reasonably. "Yes, that is
very true," said she; "still, I do think you are wise
to wait, Jim."
When Sally Patterson had left Jim, she looked in
on the rector in his study. "Our son is thinking
seriously of marrying, Edward," said she.
The rector stared at her. She had shut the door,
and she laughed.
"He is very discreet. He has consulted me as to
my approval of her as daughter and announced his
intention to wait a little while."
The rector laughed; then he wrinkled his forehead
uneasily. "I don't like the little chap getting such
ideas," said he.
"Don't worry, Edward; he hasn't got them,"
said Sally Patterson.
"I hope not."
"He has made a very wise choice. She is that
perfect darling of a Rose girl who couldn't speak
her piece, and thought we all loved her when we
"Well, don't let him get foolish ideas; that is all,
my dear," said the rector.
"Don't worry, Edward. I can manage him,"
But she was mistaken. The very next day Jim
proposed in due form to little Lucy. He could not
help it. It was during the morning intermission,
and he came upon her seated all alone under a haw-
thorn hedge, studying her arithmetic anxiously.
She was in blue, as usual, and a very perky blue bow
sat on her soft, dark hair, like a bluebird. She
glanced up at Jim from under her long lashes.
"Do two and seven make eight or ten? If you
please, will you tell me?" said she.
"Say, Lucy," said Jim, "will you marry me by
Lucy stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"Will I what?"
"Marry me by and by?"
Lucy took refuge in her little harbor of ignorance.
"I don't know," said she.
"But you like me, don't you, Lucy?"
"I don't know."
"Don't you like me better than you like Johnny
"I don't know."
"You like me better than you like Arnold Carruth,
don't you? He has curls and wears socks."
"I don't know."
"When do you think you can be sure?"
"I don't know."
Jim stared helplessly at little Lucy. She stared
"Please tell me whether two and seven make
six or eleven, Jim," said she.
"They make nine," said Jim.
"I have been counting my fingers and I got it
eleven, but I suppose I must have counted one finger
twice," said little Lucy. She gazed reflectively at
her little baby-hands. A tiny ring with a blue stone
shone on one finger.
"I will give you a ring, you know," Jim said,
"I have got a ring my father gave me. Did you
say it was ten, please, Jim?"
"Nine," gasped Jim.
"All the way I can remember," said little Lucy,
"is for you to pick just so many leaves off the hedge,
and I will tie them in my handkerchief, and just be-
fore I have to say my lesson I will count those
Jim obediently picked nine leaves from the haw-
thorn hedge, and little Lucy tied them into her
handkerchief, and then the Japanese gong sounded
and they went back to school.
That night after dinner, just before Lucy went to
bed, she spoke of her own accord to her father and
Miss Martha, a thing which she seldom did. "Jim
Patterson asked me to marry him when I asked him
what seven and two made in my arithmetic lesson,"
said she. She looked with the loveliest round eyes
of innocence first at her father, then at Miss Martha.
Cyril Rose gasped and laid down his newspaper.
"What did you say, little Lucy?" he asked.
"Jim Patterson asked me to marry him when I
asked him to tell me how much seven and two made
in my arithmetic lesson."
Cyril Rose and his cousin Martha looked at each
"Arnold Carruth asked me, too, when a great
big wasp flew on my arm and frightened me."
Cyril and Martha continued to look. The little,
sweet, uncertain voice went on.
"And Johnny Trumbull asked me when I 'most
fell down on the sidewalk; and Lee Westminster
asked me when I wasn't doing anything, and so did
"What did you tell them?" asked Miss Martha,
in a faint voice.
"I told them I didn't know."
"You had better have the child go to bed now,"
said Cyril. "Good night, little Lucy. Always tell
"Yes, father," said little Lucy, and was kissed,
and went away with Martha.
When Martha returned, her cousin looked at her
severely. He was a fair, gentle-looking man, and
severity was impressive when he assumed it.
"Really, Martha," said he, "don't you think you
had better have a little closer outlook over that
"Oh, Cyril, I never dreamed of such a thing,"
cried Miss Martha.
"You really must speak to Madame," said Cyril.
"I cannot have such things put into the child's
"Oh, Cyril, how can I?"
"I think it is your duty."
"Cyril, could not -- you?"
Cyril grinned. "Do you think," said he, "that
I am going to that elegant widow schoolma'am and
say, 'Madame, my young daughter has had four
proposals of marriage in one day, and I must beg
you to put a stop to such proceedings'? No, Martha;
it is a woman's place to do such a thing as that.
The whole thing is too absurd, indignant as I am
about it. Poor little soul!"
So it happened that Miss Martha Rose, the next
day being Saturday, called on Madame, but, not
being asked any leading question, found herself abso-
lutely unable to deliver herself of her errand, and
went away with it unfulfilled.
"Well, I must say," said Madame to Miss Par-
malee, as Miss Martha tripped wearily down the
front walk -- "I must say, of all the educated women
who have really been in the world, she is the strang-
est. You and I have done nothing but ask inane
questions, and she has sat waiting for them, and
chirped back like a canary. I am simply worn out."
"So am I," sighed Miss Parmalee.
But neither of them was so worn out as poor
Miss Martha, anticipating her cousin's reproaches.
However, her wonted silence and reticence stood
her in good stead, for he merely asked, after little
Lucy had gone to bed:
"Well, what did Madame say about Lucy's pro-
"She did not say anything," replied Martha.
"Did she promise it would not occur again?"
"She did not promise, but I don't think it will."
The financial page was unusually thrilling that
night, and Cyril Rose, who had come to think rather
lightly of the affair, remarked, absent-mindedly;
"Well, I hope it does not occur again. I cannot have
such ridiculous ideas put into the child's head. If
it does, we get a governess for her and take her away
from Madame's." Then he resumed his reading,
and Martha, guilty but relieved, went on with her
It was late spring then, and little Lucy had at-
tended Madame's school several months, and her
popularity had never waned. A picnic was planned
to Dover's Grove, and the romantic little girls had
insisted upon a May queen, and Lucy was unani-
mously elected. The pupils of Madame's school went
to the picnic in the manner known as a "straw-
ride." Miss Parmalee sat with them, her feet
uncomfortably tucked under her. She was the
youngest of the teachers, and could not evade the
duty. Madame and Miss Acton headed the pro-
cession, sitting comfortably in a victoria driven by
the colored man Sam, who was employed about the
school. Dover's Grove was six miles from the vil-
lage, and a favorite spot for picnics. The victoria
rolled on ahead; Madame carried a black parasol,
for the sun was on her side and the day very warm.
Both ladies wore thin, dark gowns, and both felt
the languor of spring.
The straw-wagon, laden with children seated upon
the golden trusses of straw, looked like a wagon-
load of blossoms. Fair and dark heads, rosy faces
looked forth in charming clusters. They sang, they
chattered. It made no difference to them that it
was not the season for a straw-ride, that the trusses
were musty. They inhaled the fragrance of blooming
boughs under which they rode, and were quite ob-
livious to all discomfort and unpleasantness. Poor
Miss Parmalee, with her feet going to sleep, sneezing
from time to time from the odor of the old straw,
did not obtain the full beauty of the spring day.
She had protested against the straw-ride.
"The children really ought to wait until the season
for such things," she had told Madame, quite boldly;
and Madame had replied that she was well aware
of it, but the children wanted something of the sort,
and the hay was not cut, and straw, as it happened,
was more easily procured.
"It may not be so very musty," said Madame;
"and you know, my dear, straw is clean, and I
am sorry, but you do seem to be the one to ride
with the children on the straw, because" -- Madame
dropped her voice -- "you are really younger, you
know, than either Miss Acton or I."
Poor Miss Parmalee could almost have dispensed
with her few years of superior youth to have gotten
rid of that straw-ride. She had no parasol, and the
sun beat upon her head, and the noise of the children
got horribly on her nerves. Little Lucy was her one
alleviation. Little Lucy sat in the midst of the
boisterous throng, perfectly still, crowned with her
garland of leaves and flowers, her sweet, pale little
face calmly observant. She was the high light of
Madame's school, the effect which made the
whole. All the others looked at little Lucy, they
talked to her, they talked at her; but she remained
herself unmoved, as a high light should be. "Dear
little soul," Miss Parmalee thought. She also
thought that it was a pity that little Lucy could
not have worn a white frock in her character as
Queen of the May, but there she was mistaken. The
blue was of a peculiar shade, of a very soft material,
and nothing could have been prettier. Jim Patterson
did not often look away from little Lucy; neither
did Arnold Carruth; neither did Bubby Harvey;
neither did Johnny Trumbull; neither did Lily
Jennings; neither did many others.
Amelia Wheeler, however, felt a little jealous as
she watched Lily. She thought Lily ought to have
been queen; and she, while she did not dream of
competing with incomparable little Lucy, wished
Lily would not always look at Lucy with such wor-
shipful admiration. Amelia was inconsistent. She
knew that she herself could not aspire to being an
object of worship, but the state of being a nonentity
for Lily was depressing. "Wonder if I jumped out
of this old wagon and got killed if she would mind
one bit?" she thought, tragically. But Amelia did
not jump. She had tragic impulses, or rather im-
aginations of tragic impulses, but she never carried
them out. It was left for little Lucy, flower-crowned
and calmly sweet and gentle under honors, to be
guilty of a tragedy of which she never dreamed.
For that was the day when little Lucy was lost.
When the picnic was over, when the children were
climbing into the straw-wagon and Madame and
Miss Acton were genteelly disposed in the victoria,
a lamentable cry arose. Sam drew his reins tight
and rolled his inquiring eyes around; Madame and
Miss Acton leaned far out on either side of the vic-
"Oh, what is it?" said Madame. "My dear Miss
Acton, do pray get out and see what the trouble is.
I begin to feel a little faint."
In fact, Madame got her cut-glass smelling-bottle
out of her bag and began to sniff vigorously. Sam
gazed backward and paid no attention to her. Ma-
dame always felt faint when anything unexpected
occurred, and smelled at the pretty bottle, but she
Miss Acton got out, lifting her nice skirts clear
of the dusty wheel, and she scuttled back to the up-
roarious straw-wagon, showing her slender ankles
and trimly shod feet. Miss Acton was a very wiry,
dainty woman, full of nervous energy. When she
reached the straw-wagon Miss Parmalee was climb-
ing out, assisted by the driver. Miss Parmalee
was very pale and visibly tremulous. The children
were all shrieking in dissonance, so it was quite
impossible to tell what the burden of their tale of
woe was; but obviously something of a tragic na-
ture had happened.
"What is the matter?" asked Miss Acton, tee-
tering like a humming-bird with excitement.
"Little Lucy --" gasped Miss Parmalee.
"What about her?"
"She isn't here."
"Where is she?"
"We don't know. We just missed her."
Then the cry of the children for little Lucy Rose,
although sadly wrangled, became intelligible. Ma-
dame came, holding up her silk skirt and sniffing at
her smelling-bottle, and everybody asked ques-
tions of everybody else, and nobody knew any satis-
factory answers. Johnny Trumbull was confident
that he was the last one to see little Lucy, and so
were Lily Jennings and Amelia Wheeler, and so
were Jim Patterson and Bubby Harvey and Arnold
Carruth and Lee Westminster and many others;
but when pinned down to the actual moment
everybody disagreed, and only one thing was cer-
tain -- little Lucy Rose was missing.
"What shall I say to her father?" moaned Ma-
"Of course, we shall find her before we say any-
thing," returned Miss Parmalee, who was sure to
rise to an emergency. Madame sank helpless be-
fore one. "You had better go and sit under that
tree (Sam, take a cushion out of the carriage for
Madame) and keep quiet; then Sam must drive
to the village and give the alarm, and the straw-
wagon had better go, too; and the rest of us will
hunt by threes, three always keeping together. Re-
member, children, three of you keep together, and,
whatever you do, be sure and do not separate. We
cannot have another lost."
It seemed very sound advice. Madame, pale and
frightened, sat on the cushion under the tree and
sniffed at her smelling-bottle, and the rest scattered
and searched the grove and surrounding underbrush
thoroughly. But it was sunset when the groups
returned to Madame under her tree, and the straw-
wagon with excited people was back, and the victoria
with Lucy's father and the rector and his wife, and
Dr. Trumbull in his buggy, and other carriages fast
arriving. Poor Miss Martha Rose had been out
calling when she heard the news, and she was walk-
ing to the scene of action. The victoria in which
her cousin was seated left her in a cloud of dust.
Cyril Rose had not noticed the mincing figure with
the card-case and the parasol.
The village searched for little Lucy Rose, but it
was Jim Patterson who found her, and in the most
unlikely of places. A forlorn pair with a multi-
plicity of forlorn children lived in a tumble-down
house about half a mile from the grove. The man's
name was Silas Thomas, and his wife's was Sarah.
Poor Sarah had lost a large part of the small wit she
had originally owned several years before, when her
youngest daughter, aged four, died. All the babies
that had arrived since had not consoled her for the
death of that little lamb, by name Viola May, nor
restored her full measure of under-wit. Poor Sarah
Thomas had spied adorable little Lucy separated
from her mates by chance for a few minutes, pick-
ing wild flowers, and had seized her in forcible but
loving arms and carried her home. Had Lucy not
been such a silent, docile child, it could never have
happened; but she was a mere little limp thing in
the grasp of the over-loving, deprived mother who
thought she had gotten back her own beloved Viola
When Jim Patterson, big-eyed and pale, looked
in at the Thomas door, there sat Sarah Thomas, a
large, unkempt, wild-visaged, but gentle creature,
holding little Lucy and cuddling her, while Lucy,
shrinking away as far as she was able, kept her big,
dark eyes of wonder and fear upon the woman's
face. And all around were clustered the Thomas
children, unkempt as their mother, a gentle but
degenerate brood, all of them believing what their
mother said. Viola May had come home again.
Silas Thomas was not there; he was trudging slowly
homeward from a job of wood-cutting. Jim saw
only the mother, little Lucy, and that poor little
flock of children gazing in wonder and awe. Jim
rushed in and faced Sarah Thomas. "Give me
little Lucy!" said he, as fiercely as any man. But
he reckoned without the unreasoning love of a
mother. Sarah only held little Lucy faster, and the
poor little girl rolled appealing eyes at him over that
brawny, grasping arm of affection.
Jim raced for help, and it was not long before it
came. Little Lucy rode home in the victoria, seated
in Sally Patterson's lap. "Mother, you take her,"
Jim had pleaded; and Sally, in the face and eyes of
Madame, had gathered the little trembling crea-
ture into her arms. In her heart she had not much
of an opinion of any woman who had allowed such
a darling little girl out of her sight for a moment.
Madame accepted a seat in another carriage and rode
home, explaining and sniffing and inwardly resolving
never again to have a straw-ride.
Jim stood on the step of the victoria all the way
home. They passed poor Miss Martha Rose, still
faring toward the grove, and nobody noticed her,
for the second time. She did not turn back until
the straw-wagon, which formed the tail of the little
procession, reached her. That she halted with mad
waves of her parasol, and, when told that little Lucy
was found, refused a seat on the straw because she
did not wish to rumple her best gown and turned
about and fared home again.
The rectory was reached before Cyril Rose's
house, and Cyril yielded gratefully to Sally Patter-
son's proposition that she take the little girl with
her, give her dinner, see that she was washed and
brushed and freed from possible contamination from
the Thomases, who were not a cleanly lot, and later
brought home in the rector's carriage. However,
little Lucy stayed all night at the rectory. She had
a bath; her lovely, misty hair was brushed; she
was fed and petted; and finally Sally Patterson
telephoned for permission to keep her overnight.
By that time poor Martha had reached home and
was busily brushing her best dress.
After dinner, little Lucy, very happy and quite
restored, sat in Sally Patterson's lap on the veranda,
while Jim hovered near. His innocent boy-love
made him feel as if he had wings. But his wings
only bore him to failure, before an earlier and
mightier force of love than his young heart could
yet compass for even such a darling as little Lucy.
He sat on the veranda step and gazed eagerly and
rapturously at little Lucy on his mother's lap, and
the desire to have her away from other loves came
over him. He saw the fireflies dancing in swarms
on the lawn, and a favorite sport of the children of
the village occurred to him.
"Say, little Lucy," said Jim.
Little Lucy looked up with big, dark eyes under
her mist of hair, as she nestled against Sally Patter-
"Say, let's chase fireflies, little Lucy."
"Do you want to chase fireflies with Jim, darling?"
Little Lucy nestled closer. "I would rather stay
with you," said she in her meek flute of a voice,
and she gazed up at Sally with the look which she
might have given the mother she had lost.
Sally kissed her and laughed. Then she reached
down a fond hand and patted her boy's head.
"Never mind, Jim," said Sally. "Mothers have to
MARGARET LEE encountered in her late middle
age the rather singular strait of being entirely
alone in the world. She was unmarried, and as
far as relatives were concerned, she had none except
those connected with her by ties not of blood, but by
Margaret had not married when her flesh had been
comparative; later, when it had become superlative,
she had no opportunities to marry. Life would have
been hard enough for Margaret under any circum-
stances, but it was especially hard, living, as she did,
with her father's stepdaughter and that daughter's
Margaret's stepmother had been a child in spite of
her two marriages, and a very silly, although pretty
child. The daughter, Camille, was like her, although
not so pretty, and the man whom Camille had mar-
ried was what Margaret had been taught to regard
as "common." His business pursuits were irregular
and partook of mystery. He always smoked ciga-
rettes and chewed gum. He wore loud shirts and a
diamond scarf-pin which had upon him the appear-
ance of stolen goods. The gem had belonged to
Margaret's own mother, but when Camille expressed
a desire to present it to Jack Desmond, Margaret
had yielded with no outward hesitation, but after-
ward she wept miserably over its loss when alone in
her room. The spirit had gone out of Margaret,
the little which she had possessed. She had always
been a gentle, sensitive creature, and was almost
helpless before the wishes of others.
After all, it had been a long time since Margaret
had been able to force the ring even upon her little
finger, but she had derived a small pleasure from
the reflection that she owned it in its faded velvet
box, hidden under laces in her top bureau drawer.
She did not like to see it blazing forth from the tie
of this very ordinary young man who had married
Camille. Margaret had a gentle, high-bred contempt
for Jack Desmond, but at the same time a vague
fear of him. Jack had a measure of unscrupulous
business shrewdness, which spared nothing and no-
body, and that in spite of the fact that he had not
Margaret owned the old Lee place, which had been
magnificent, but of late years the expenditures had
been reduced and it had deteriorated. The conserva-
tories had been closed. There was only one horse
in the stable. Jack had bought him. He was a worn-
out trotter with legs carefully bandaged. Jack drove
him at reckless speed, not considering those slender,
braceleted legs. Jack had a racing-gig, and when
in it, with striped coat, cap on one side, cigarette in
mouth, lines held taut, skimming along the roads in
clouds of dust, he thought himself the man and true
sportsman which he was not. Some of the old Lee
silver had paid for that waning trotter.
Camille adored Jack, and cared for no associations,
no society, for which he was not suited. Before the
trotter was bought she told Margaret that the kind
of dinners which she was able to give in Fairhill were
awfully slow. "If we could afford to have some
men out from the city, some nice fellers that Jack
knows, it would be worth while," said she, "but
we have grown so hard up we can't do a thing to
make it worth their while. Those men haven't got
any use for a back-number old place like this. We
can't take them round in autos, nor give them a
chance at cards, for Jack couldn't pay if he lost,
and Jack is awful honorable. We can't have the
right kind of folks here for any fun. I don't propose
to ask the rector and his wife, and old Mr. Harvey,
or people like the Leaches."
"The Leaches are a very good old family," said
"I don't care for good old families when they are
so slow," retorted Camille. "The fellers we could
have here, if we were rich enough, come from fine
families, but they are up-to-date. It's no use hang-
ing on to old silver dishes we never use and that I
don't intend to spoil my hands shining. Poor Jack
don't have much fun, anyway. If he wants that
trotter -- he says it's going dirt cheap -- I think it's
mean he can't have it, instead of your hanging on to
a lot of out-of-style old silver; so there."
Two generations ago there had been French blood
in Camille's family. She put on her clothes beauti-
fully; she had a dark, rather fine-featured, alert lit-
tle face, which gave a wrong impression, for she was
essentially vulgar. Sometimes poor Margaret Lee
wished that Camille had been definitely vicious, if
only she might be possessed of more of the charac-
teristics of breeding. Camille so irritated Margaret
in those somewhat abstruse traits called sensibilities
that she felt as if she were living with a sort of
spiritual nutmeg-grater. Seldom did Camille speak
that she did not jar Margaret, although uncon-
sciously. Camille meant to be kind to the stout
woman, whom she pitied as far as she was capable
of pitying without understanding. She realized that
it must be horrible to be no longer young, and so
stout that one was fairly monstrous, but how horrible
she could not with her mentality conceive. Jack also
meant to be kind. He was not of the brutal -- that is,
intentionally brutal -- type, but he had a shrewd
eye to the betterment of himself, and no realization
of the torture he inflicted upon those who opposed
For a long time matters had been worse than usual
financially in the Lee house. The sisters had been
left in charge of the sadly dwindled estate, and had
depended upon the judgment, or lack of judgment,
of Jack. He approved of taking your chances and
striking for larger income. The few good old grand-
father securities had been sold, and wild ones from
the very jungle of commerce had been substituted.
Jack, like most of his type, while shrewd, was as
credulous as a child. He lied himself, and expected
all men to tell him the truth. Camille at his bidding
mortgaged the old place, and Margaret dared not
oppose. Taxes were not paid; interest was not paid;
credit was exhausted. Then the house was put up
at public auction, and brought little more than suffi-
cient to pay the creditors. Jack took the balance
and staked it in a few games of chance, and of course
lost. The weary trotter stumbled one day and had
to be shot. Jack became desperate. He frightened
Camille. He was suddenly morose. He bade Ca-
mille pack, and Margaret also, and they obeyed.
Camille stowed away her crumpled finery in the
bulging old trunks, and Margaret folded daintily her
few remnants of past treasures. She had an old silk
gown or two, which resisted with their rich honesty
the inroads of time, and a few pieces of old lace,
which Camille understood no better than she under-
stood their owner.
Then Margaret and the Desmonds went to the
city and lived in a horrible, tawdry little flat in
a tawdry locality. Jack roared with bitter mirth
when he saw poor Margaret forced to enter her tiny
room sidewise; Camille laughed also, although she
chided Jack gently. "Mean of you to make fun of
poor Margaret, Jacky dear," she said.
For a few weeks Margaret's life in that flat was
horrible; then it became still worse. Margaret near-
ly filled with her weary, ridiculous bulk her little
room, and she remained there most of the time,
although it was sunny and noisy, its one window
giving on a courtyard strung with clothes-lines and
teeming with boisterous life. Camille and Jack went
trolley-riding, and made shift to entertain a little,
merry but questionable people, who gave them
passes to vaudeville and entertained in their turn
until the small hours. Unquestionably these peo-
ple suggested to Jack Desmond the scheme which
spelled tragedy to Margaret.
She always remembered one little dark man with
keen eyes who had seen her disappearing through
her door of a Sunday night when all these gay, be-
draggled birds were at liberty and the fun ran high.
"Great Scott!" the man had said, and Margaret had
heard him demand of Jack that she be recalled.
She obeyed, and the man was introduced, also the
other members of the party. Margaret Lee stood
in the midst of this throng and heard their repressed
titters of mirth at her appearance. Everybody
there was in good humor with the exception of Jack,
who was still nursing his bad luck, and the little
dark man, whom Jack owed. The eyes of Jack and
the little dark man made Margaret cold with a ter-
ror of something, she knew not what. Before that
terror the shame and mortification of her exhibition
to that merry company was of no import.
She stood among them, silent, immense, clad in
her dark purple silk gown spread over a great hoop-
skirt. A real lace collar lay softly over her enormous,
billowing shoulders; real lace ruffles lay over her
great, shapeless hands. Her face, the delicacy of
whose features was veiled with flesh, flushed and
paled. Not even flesh could subdue the sad brill-
iancy of her dark-blue eyes, fixed inward upon her
own sad state, unregardful of the company. She
made an indefinite murmur of response to the saluta-
tions given her, and then retreated. She heard the
roar of laughter after she had squeezed through the
door of her room. Then she heard eager conversa-
tion, of which she did not catch the real import, but
which terrified her with chance expressions. She
was quite sure that she was the subject of that eager
discussion. She was quite sure that it boded her
In a few days she knew the worst; and the worst
was beyond her utmost imaginings. This was be-
fore the days of moving-picture shows; it was the
day of humiliating spectacles of deformities, when
inventions of amusements for the people had not
progressed. It was the day of exhibitions of sad
freaks of nature, calculated to provoke tears rather
than laughter in the healthy-minded, and poor Mar-
garet Lee was a chosen victim. Camille informed
her in a few words of her fate. Camille was sorry
for her, although not in the least understanding why
she was sorry. She realized dimly that Margaret
would be distressed, but she was unable from her
narrow point of view to comprehend fully the whole
"Jack has gone broke," stated Camille. "He
owes Bill Stark a pile, and he can't pay a cent of it;
and Jack's sense of honor about a poker debt is
about the biggest thing in his character. Jack has
got to pay. And Bill has a little circus, going to
travel all summer, and he's offered big money for
you. Jack can pay Bill what he owes him, and we'll
have enough to live on, and have lots of fun going
around. You hadn't ought to make a fuss about it."
Margaret, pale as death, stared at the girl, pertly
slim, and common and pretty, who stared back
laughingly, although still with the glimmer of un-
comprehending pity in her black eyes.
"What does -- he -- want -- me -- for?" gasped
"For a show, because you are so big," replied
Camille. "You will make us all rich, Margaret.
Ain't it nice?"
Then Camille screamed, the shrill raucous scream
of the women of her type, for Margaret had fallen
back in a dead faint, her immense bulk inert in her
chair. Jack came running in alarm. Margaret had
suddenly gained value in his shrewd eyes. He was
as pale as she.
Finally Margaret raised her head, opened her
miserable eyes, and regained her consciousness of
herself and what lay before her. There was no course
open but submission. She knew that from the first.
All three faced destitution; she was the one financial
asset, she and her poor flesh. She had to face it,
and with what dignity she could muster.
Margaret had great piety. She kept constantly
before her mental vision the fact in which she be-
lieved, that the world which she found so hard, and
which put her to unspeakable torture, was not all.
A week elapsed before the wretched little show
of which she was to be a member went on the road,
and night after night she prayed. She besieged her
God for strength. She never prayed for respite.
Her realization of the situation and her lofty reso-
lution prevented that. The awful, ridiculous com-
bat was before her; there was no evasion; she prayed
only for the strength which leads to victory.
However, when the time came, it was all worse
than she had imagined. How could a woman gently
born and bred conceive of the horrible ignominy of
such a life? She was dragged hither and yon, to this
and that little town. She traveled through swelter-
ing heat on jolting trains; she slept in tents; she
lived -- she, Margaret Lee -- on terms of equality
with the common and the vulgar. Daily her absurd
unwieldiness was exhibited to crowds screaming with
laughter. Even her faith wavered. It seemed to her
that there was nothing for evermore beyond those
staring, jeering faces of silly mirth and delight at
sight of her, seated in two chairs, clad in a pink
spangled dress, her vast shoulders bare and
sparkling with a tawdry necklace, her great, bare
arms covered with brass bracelets, her hands in-
cased in short, white kid gloves, over the fingers
of which she wore a number of rings -- stage prop-
Back to Full Books