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 ANDERSONVILLE. Well, here I am. I've been here two days now, and I guess I'd better write down what's happened so far, before I forget it.
First, about my leaving Boston. Poor, dear Mother did take on dreadfully, and I thought she just wouldn't let me go. She went with me to the junction1 where I had to change, and put me on the parlor2 car for Andersonville, and asked the conductor to look out for me. (As if I needed that—a young lady like me! I'm fourteen now. I had a birthday last week.)
But I thought at the last that she just wouldn't let me go, she clung to me so, and begged me to forgive her for all she'd brought upon me; and said it was a cruel, cruel shame, when there were children, and people ought to stop and think and remember, and be willing to stand anything. And then, in the next breath, she'd beg me not to forget her, and not to love Father better than I did her. (As if there was any danger of that!) And to write to her every few minutes.
Then the conductor cried, "All aboard!" and the bell rang, and she had to go and leave me. But the last I saw of her she was waving her handkerchief, and smiling the kind of a smile that's worse than crying right out loud. Mother's always like that. No matter how bad she feels, at the last minute she comes up bright and smiling, and just as brave as can be.
I had a wonderful trip to Andersonville. Everybody was very kind to me, and there were lovely things to see out the window. The conductor came in and spoke3 to me several times—not the way you would look after a child, but the way a gentleman would tend to a lady. I liked him very much.
There was a young gentleman in the seat in front, too, who was very nice. He loaned me a magazine, and bought some candy for me; but I didn't see much more of him, for the second time the conductor came in he told me he'd found a nice seat back in the car on the shady side. He noticed the sun came in where I sat, he said. (I hadn't noticed it specially4.) But he picked up my bag and magazine—but I guess he forgot the candy-box the nice young gentleman in front had just put on my window-sill, for when I got into my new seat the candy wasn't anywhere; and of course I didn't like to go back for it. But the conductor was very nice and kind, and came in twice again to see if I liked my new seat; and of course I said I did. It was very nice and shady, and there was a lady and a baby in the next seat, and I played with the baby quite a lot.
It was heaps of fun to be grown up and traveling alone like that! I sat back in my seat and wondered and wondered what the next six months were going to be like. And I wondered, too, if I'd forgotten how to be "Mary."
"Dear me! How shall I ever remember not to run and skip and laugh loud or sing, or ask questions, or do anything that Marie wants to do?" I thought to myself.
And I wondered if Aunt Jane would meet me, and what she would be like. She came once when I was a little girl, Mother said; but I didn't remember her.
Well, at last we got to Andersonville. John was there with the horses, and Aunt Jane, too. Of course I knew she must be Aunt Jane, because she was with John. The conductor was awfully6 nice and polite, and didn't leave me till he'd seen me safe in the hands of Aunt Jane and John. Then he went back to his train, and the next minute it had whizzed out of the station, and I was alone with the beginning of my next six months.
The first beginning was a nice smile, and a "Glad to see ye home, Miss," from John, as he touched his hat, and the next was a "How do you do, Mary?" from Aunt Jane. And I knew right off that first minute that I wasn't going to like Aunt Jane—just the way she said that "Mary," and the way she looked me over from head to foot.
Aunt Jane is tall and thin, and wears black—not the pretty, stylish7 black, but the "I-don't-care" rusty8 black—and a stiff white collar. Her eyes are the kind that says, "I'm surprised at you!" all the time, and her mouth is the kind that never shows any teeth when it smiles, and doesn't smile much, anyway. Her hair is some gray, and doesn't kink or curl anywhere; and I knew right off the first minute she looked at me that she didn't like mine, 'cause it did curl.
I was pretty sure she didn't like my clothes, either. I've since found out she didn't—but more of that anon. (I just love that word "anon.") And I just knew she disapproved9 of my hat. But she didn't say anything—not in words—and after we'd attended to my trunk, we went along to the carriage and got in.
My stars! I didn't suppose horses could go so slow. Why, we were ages just going a block. You see I'd forgotten; and without thinking I spoke right out.
"My! Horses are slow, aren't they?" I cried. "You see, Grandpa has an auto10, and—"
"Mary!"—just like that she interrupted—Aunt Jane did. (Funny how old folks can do what they won't let you do. Now if I'd interrupted anybody like that!) "You may as well understand at once," went on Aunt Jane, "that we are not interested in your grandfather's auto, or his house, or anything that is his." (I felt as if I was hearing the catechism in church!) "And that the less reference you make to your life in Boston, the better we shall be pleased. As I said before, we are not interested. Besides, while under your father's roof, it would seem to me very poor taste, indeed, for you to make constant reference to things you may have been doing while not under his roof. The situation is deplorable enough, however you take it, without making it positively11 unbearable12. You will remember, Mary?"
Mary said, "Yes, Aunt Jane," very polite and proper; but I can tell you that inside of Mary, Marie was just boiling.
Unbearable, indeed!
We didn't say anything more all the way home. Naturally, I was not going to, after that speech; and Aunt Jane said nothing. So silence reigned13 supreme14.
Then we got home. Things looked quite natural, only there was a new maid in the kitchen, and Nurse Sarah wasn't there. Father wasn't there, either. And, just as I suspected, 't was a star that was to blame, only this time the star was the moon—an eclipse; and he'd gone somewhere out West so he could see it better.
He isn't coming back till next week; and when I think how he made me come on the first day, so as to get in the whole six months, when all the time he did not care enough about it to be here himself, I'm just mad—I mean, the righteously indignant kind of mad—for I can't help thinking how poor Mother would have loved those extra days with her.
Aunt Jane said I was to have my old room, and so, as soon as I got here, I went right up and took off my hat and coat, and pretty quick they brought up my trunk, and I unpacked15 it; and I didn't hurry about it either. I wasn't a bit anxious to get downstairs again to Aunt Jane. Besides, I may as well own up, I was crying—a little. Mother's room was right across the hall, and it looked so lonesome; and I couldn't help remembering how different this homecoming was from the one in Boston, six months ago.
Well, at last I had to go down to dinner—I mean supper—and, by the way, I made another break on that. I called it dinner right out loud, and never thought—till I saw Aunt Jane's face.
"Supper will be ready directly," she said, with cold and icy emphasis. "And may I ask you to remember, Mary, please, that Andersonville has dinner at noon, not at six o'clock."
"Yes, Aunt Jane," said Mary, polite and proper again. (I shan't say what Marie said inside.)
We didn't do anything in the evening but read and go to bed at nine o'clock. I wanted to run over to Carrie Heywood's; but Aunt Jane said no, not till morning. (I wonder why young folks never can do things when they want to do them, but must always wait till morning or night or noon, or some other time!)
In the morning I went up to the schoolhouse. I planned it so as to get there at recess16, and I saw all the girls except one that was sick, and one that was away. We had a perfectly17 lovely time, only everybody was talking at once so that I don't know now what was said. But they seemed glad to see me. I know that. Maybe I'll go to school next week. Aunt Jane says she thinks I ought to, when it's only the first of May. She's going to speak to Father when he comes next week.
She was going to speak to him about my clothes; then she decided18 to attend to those herself, and not bother him. As I suspected, she doesn't like my dresses. I found out this morning for sure. She came into my room and asked to see my things. My! But didn't I hate to show them to her? Marie said she wouldn't; but Mary obediently trotted19 to the closet and brought them out one by one.
Aunt Jane turned them around with the tips of her fingers, all the time sighing and shaking her head. When I'd brought them all out, she shook her head again and said they would not do at all—not in Andersonville; that they were extravagant20, and much too elaborate for a young girl; that she would see the dressmaker and arrange that I had some serviceable blue and brown serges at once.
Blue and brown serge, indeed! But, there, what's the use? I'm Mary now, I keep forgetting that; though I don't see how I can forget it—with Aunt Jane around.
But, listen. A funny thing happened this morning. Something came up about Boston, and Aunt Jane asked me a question. Then she asked another and another, and she kept me talking till I guess I talked 'most a whole half-hour about Grandpa Desmond, Aunt Hattie, Mother, and the house, and what we did, and, oh, a whole lot of things. And here, just two days ago, she was telling me that she wasn't interested in Grandpa Desmond, his home, or his daughter, or anything that was his!
There's something funny about Aunt Jane.
One week later.
Father's come. He came yesterday. But I didn't know it, and I came running downstairs, ending with a little bounce for the last step. And there, right in front of me in the hall was—Father.
I guess he was as much surprised as I was. Anyhow, he acted so. He just stood stock-still and stared, his face turning all kinds of colors.
"You?" he gasped21, just above his breath. Then suddenly he seemed to remember. "Why, yes, yes, to be sure. You are here, aren't you? How do you do, Mary?"
He came up then and held out his hand, and I thought that was all he was going to do. But after a funny little hesitation22 he stooped and kissed my forehead. Then he turned and went into the library with very quick steps, and I didn't see him again till at the supper-table.
At the supper-table he said again, "How do you do, Mary?" Then he seemed to forget all about me. At least he didn't say anything more to me; but three or four times, when I glanced up, I found him looking at me. But just as soon as I looked back at him he turned his eyes away and cleared his throat, and began to eat or to talk to Aunt Jane.
After dinner—I mean supper—he went out to the observatory23, just as he always used to. Aunt Jane said her head ached and she was going to bed. I said I guessed I would step over to Carrie Heywood's; but Aunt Jane said, certainly not; that I was much too young to be running around nights in the dark. Nights! And it was only seven o'clock, and not dark at all! But of course I couldn't go.
Aunt Jane went upstairs, and I was left alone. I didn't feel a bit like reading; besides, there wasn't a book or a magazine anywhere asking you to read. They just shrieked24, "Touch me not!" behind the glass doors in the library. I hate sewing. I mean Marie hates it. Aunt Jane says Mary's got to learn.
For a time I just walked around the different rooms downstairs, looking at the chairs and tables and rugs all just so, as if they 'd been measured with a yardstick25. Marie jerked up a shade and pushed a chair crooked26 and kicked a rug up at one corner; but Mary put them all back properly—so there wasn't any fun in that for long.
After a while I opened the parlor door and peeked27 in. They used to keep it open when Mother was here; but Aunt Jane doesn't use it. I knew where the electric push button was, though, and I turned on the light.
It used to be an awful room, and it's worse now, on account of its shut-up look. Before I got the light on, the chairs and sofas loomed28 up like ghosts in their linen29 covers. And when the light did come on, I saw that all the old shiver places were there. Not one was missing. Great-Grandfather Anderson's coffin30 plate on black velvet31, the wax cross and flowers that had been used at three Anderson funerals, the hair wreath made of all the hair of seventeen dead Andersons and five live ones—no, no, I don't mean all the hair, but hair from all seventeen and five. Nurse Sarah used to tell me about it.
Well, as I said, all the shiver places were there, and I shivered again as I looked at them; then I crossed over to Mother's old piano, opened it, and touched the keys. I love to play. There wasn't any music there, but I don't need music for lots of my pieces. I know them by heart—only they're all gay and lively, and twinkly-toe dancy. Marie music. I don't know a one that would be proper for Mary to play.
But I was just tingling32 to play something, and I remembered that Father was in the observatory, and Aunt Jane upstairs in the other part of the house where she couldn't possibly hear. So I began to play. I played the very slowest piece I had, and I played softly at first; but I know I forgot, and I know I hadn't played two pieces before I was having the best time ever, and making all the noise I wanted to.
Then all of a sudden I had a funny feeling as if somebody somewhere was watching me; but I just couldn't turn around. I stopped playing, though, at the end of that piece, and then I looked; but there wasn't anybody in sight. But the wax cross was there, and the coffin plate, and that awful hair wreath; and suddenly I felt as if that room was just full of folks with great staring eyes. I fairly shook with shivers then, but I managed to shut the piano and get over to the door where the light was. Then, a minute later, out in the big silent hall, I crept on tiptoe toward the stairs. I knew then, all of a sudden, why I'd felt somebody was listening. There was. Across the hall in the library in the big chair before the fire sat—Father! And for 'most a whole half-hour I had been banging away at that piano on marches and dance music! My! But I held my breath and stopped short, I can tell you. But he didn't move nor turn, and a minute later I was safely by the door and halfway33 up the stairs.
I stayed in my room the rest of that evening; and for the second time since I've been here I cried myself to sleep.
Another week later,
Well, I've got them—those brown and blue serge dresses and the calfskin boots. My, but I hope they're stiff and homely34 enough—all of them! And hot, too. Aunt Jane did say to-day that she didn't know but what she'd made a mistake not to get gingham dresses. But, then, she'd have to get the gingham later, anyway, she said; then I'd have both.
Well, they can't be worse than the serge. That's sure. I hate the serge. They're awfully homely. Still, I don't know but it's just as well. Certainly it's lots easier to be Mary in a brown serge and clumpy boots than it is in the soft, fluffy35 things Marie used to wear. You couldn't be Marie in these things. Honestly, I'm feeling real Maryish these days.
I wonder if that's why the girls seem so queer at school. They are queer. Three times lately I've come up to a crowd of girls and heard them stop talking right off short. They colored up, too; and pretty quick they began to slip away, one by one, till there wasn't anybody left but just me, just as they used to do in Boston. But of course it can't be for the same reason here, for they've known all along about the divorce and haven't minded it at all.
I heard this morning that Stella Mayhew had a party last night. But I didn't get invited. Of course, you can't always ask everybody to your parties, but this was a real big party, and I haven't found a girl in school, yet, that wasn't invited—but me. But I guess it wasn't anything, after all. Stella is a new girl that has come here to live since I went away. Her folks are rich, and she's very popular, and of course she has loads of friends she had to invite; and she doesn't know me very well. Probably that was it. And maybe I just imagine it about the other girls, too. Perhaps it's the brown serge dress. Still, it can't be that, for this is the first day I've worn it. But, as I said, I feel Maryish already.
I haven't dared to touch the piano since that night a week ago, only once when Aunt Jane was at a missionary36 meeting, and I knew Father was over to the college. But didn't I have a good time then? I just guess I did!
Aunt Jane doesn't care for music. Besides, it's noisy, she says, and would be likely to disturb Father. So I'm not to keep on with my music lessons here. She's going to teach me to sew instead. She says sewing is much more sensible and useful.
Sensible and useful! I wonder how many times I've heard those words since I've been here. And durable37, too. And nourishing. That's another word. Honestly, Marie is getting awfully tired of Mary's sensible sewing and dusting, and her durable clumpy shoes and stuffy38 dresses, and her nourishing oatmeal and whole-wheat bread. But there, what can you do? I'm trying to remember that it's different, anyway, and that I said I liked something different.
I don't see much of Father. Still, there's something kind of queer about it, after all. He only speaks to me about twice a day—just "Good-morning, Mary," and "Good-night." And so far as most of his actions are concerned you wouldn't think by them that he knew I was in the house, Yet, over and over again at the table, and at times when I didn't even know he was 'round, I've found him watching me, and with such a queer, funny look in his eyes. Then, very quickly always, he looks right away.
But last night he didn't. And that's especially what I wanted to write about to-day. And this is the way it happened.
It was after supper, and I had gone into the library. Father had gone out to the observatory as usual, and Aunt Jane had gone upstairs to her room as usual, and as usual I was wandering 'round looking for something to do. I wanted to play on the piano, but I didn't dare to—not with all those dead-hair and wax-flower folks in the parlor watching me, and the chance of Father's coming in as he did before.
I was standing39 in the window staring out at nothing—it wasn't quite dark yet—when again I had that queer feeling that somebody was looking at me. I turned—and there was Father. He had come in and was sitting in the big chair by the table. But this time he didn't look right away as usual and give me a chance to slip quietly out of the room, as I always had before. Instead he said:
"What are you doing there, Mary?"
"N-nothing." I know I stammered40. It always scares me to talk to
"Nonsense!" Father frowned and hitched41 in his chair. Father always hitches42 in his chair when he's irritated and nervous. "You can't be doing nothing. Nobody but a dead man does nothing—and we aren't so sure about him. What are you doing, Mary?"
"Just l-looking out the window."
"Thank you. That's better. Come here. I want to talk to you."
"Yes, Father."
I went, of course, at once, and sat down in the chair near him. He hitched again in his seat.
"Why don't you do something—read, sew, knit?" he demanded. "Why do I always find you moping around, doing nothing?"
Just like that he said it; and when he had just told me—
"Why, Father!" I cried; and I know that I showed how surprised I was.
"I thought you just said I couldn't do nothing—that nobody could!"
"Eh? What? Tut, tut!" He seemed very angry at first; then suddenly he looked sharply into my face. Next, if you'll believe it, he laughed—the queer little chuckle43 under his breath that I've heard him give two or three times when there was something he thought was funny. "Humph!" he grunted44. Then he gave me another sharp look out of his eyes, and said: "I don't think you meant that to be quite so impertinent as it sounded, Mary, so we'll let it pass—this time. I'll put my question this way: Don't you ever knit or read or sew?"
"I do sew every day in Aunt Jane's room, ten minutes hemming46, ten minutes seaming, and ten minutes basting47 patchwork48 squares together. I don't know how to knit."
"How about reading? Don't you care for reading?"
"Why, of course I do. I love it!" I cried. "And I do read lots—at home."
I knew then, of course, that I'd made another awful break. There wasn't any smile around Father's eyes now, and his lips came together hard and thin over that last word.
"At—at my home," I stammered. "I mean, my other home."
"Humph!" grunted Father. Then, after a minute: "But why, pray, can't you read here? I'm sure there are—books enough." He flourished his hands toward the bookcases all around the room.
"Oh, I do—a little; but, you see, I'm so afraid I'll leave some of them out when I'm through," I explained,
"Well, what of it? What if you do?" he demanded.
"Why, Father!" I tried to show by the way I said it that he knew—of course he knew. But he made me tell him right out that Aunt Jane wouldn't like it, and that he wouldn't like it, and that the books always had to be kept exactly where they belonged.
"Well, why not? Why shouldn't they?" he asked then, almost crossly, and hitching49 again in his chair. "Aren't books down there—in Boston—kept where they belong, pray?"
It was the first time since I'd come that he'd ever mentioned Boston; and I almost jumped out of my chair when I heard him. But I soon saw it wasn't going to be the last, for right then and there he began to question me, even worse than Aunt Jane had.
He wanted to know everything, everything; all about the house, with its cushions and cozy50 corners and curtains 'way up, and books left around easy to get, and magazines, and Baby Lester, and the fun we had romping51 with him, and everything. Only, of course, I didn't mention Mother. Aunt Jane had told me not to—not anywhere; and to be specially careful before Father. But what can you do when he asks you himself, right out plain? And that's what he did.
He'd been up on his feet, tramping up and down the room all the time I'd been talking; and now, all of a sudden, he wheels around and stops short.
"How is—your mother, Mary?" he asks. And it was just as if he'd opened the door to another room, he had such a whole lot of questions to ask after that. And when he'd finished he knew everything: what time we got up and went to bed, and what we did all day, and the parties and dinners and auto rides, and the folks that came such a lot to see Mother.
Then all of a sudden he stopped—asking questions, I mean. He stopped just as suddenly as he'd begun. Why, I was right in the middle of telling about a concert for charity we got up just before I came away, and how Mother had practiced for days and days with the young man who played the violin, when all of a sudden Father jerked his watch from his pocket and said:
"There, there, Mary, it's getting late. You've talked enough—too much. Now go to bed. Good-night."
Talked too much, indeed! And who'd been making me do all the talking, I should like to know? But, of course, I couldn't say anything. That's the unfair part of it. Old folks can say anything, anything they want to to you, but you can't say a thing back to them—not a thing.
And so I went to bed. And the next day all that Father said to me was, "Good-morning, Mary," and, "Good-night," just as he had ever since I came. And that's all he's said yesterday and to-day. But he's looked at me. He's looked at me a lot. I know, because at mealtimes and others, when he's been in the room with me, I've looked up and found his eyes on me. Funny, isn't it?
Two weeks later.
Well, I don't know as I have anything very special to say. Still, I suppose I ought to write something; so I'll put down what little there is.
Of course, there doesn't so much happen here, anyway, as there does at home—I mean in Boston. (I must stop calling it home down to Boston as if this wasn't home at all. It makes Aunt Jane very, very angry, and I don't think Father likes it very well.) But, as I was saying, there really doesn't so much happen here as there does down to Boston; and it isn't nearly so interesting. But, there! I suppose I mustn't expect it to be interesting. I'm Mary now, not Marie.
There aren't any teas and dinners and pretty ladies and music and soulful-eyed prospective52 suitors here. My! Wouldn't Aunt Jane have four fits? And Father, too. But I'd just like to put one of Mother's teas with the little cakes and flowers and talk and tinkling53 laughs down in Aunt Jane's parlor, and then watch what happened. Oh, of course, the party couldn't stand it long—not in there with the hair wreath and the coffin plate. But they could stand it long enough for Father to thunder from the library, "Jane, what in Heaven's name is the meaning of all this?" And for Aunt Jane to give one look at the kind of clothes real folks wear, and then flee with her hands to her ears and her eyes upraised to the ceiling. Wouldn't it be fun?
But, there! What's the use of imagining perfectly crazy, impossible things like that? We haven't had a thing here in that parlor since I came but one missionary meeting and one Ladies' Aid Sewing Circle; and after the last one (the Sewing Circle) Aunt Jane worked a whole day picking threads off the carpet, and smoothing down the linen covers because they'd got so mussed up. And I heard her tell the hired girl that she shouldn't have that Sewing Circle here again in a hurry, and when she did have them they'd have to sew in the dining-room with a sheet spread down to catch the threads. My! but I would like to see Aunt Jane with one of Mother's teas in her parlor!
I can't see as Father has changed much of any these last two weeks. He still doesn't pay much of any attention to me, though I do find him looking at me sometimes, just as if he was trying to make up his mind about something. He doesn't say hardly anything to me, only once or twice when he got to asking questions again about Boston and Mother.
The last time I told him all about Mr. Harlow, and he was so interested! I just happened to mention his name, and he wanted to know right away if it was Mr. Carl Harlow, and if I knew whether Mother had ever known him before. And of course I told him right away that it was—the same one she was engaged to before she was engaged to him.
Father looked funny and kind of grunted and said, yes, yes, he knew. Then he said, "That will do, Mary." And he began to read his book again. But he never turned a page, and it wasn't five minutes before he got up and walked around the room, picking out books from the bookcases and putting them right back, and picking up things from the mantel and putting them right back. Then he turned to me and asked with a kind of of-course-I-don't-care air:
"Did you say you saw quite a little of—this Harlow fellow?"
But he did care. I know he did. He was real interested. I could see that he was. And so I told him everything, all about how he came there to the teas, and sent her flowers and candy, and was getting a divorce himself, and what he said on the sofa that day, and how Mother answered. As I said, I told him everything, only I was careful not to call Mr. Harlow a prospective suitor, of course. I remembered too well what Aunt Hattie had said. Father didn't say anything when I got through. He just got up and left the room, and pretty quick I saw him crossing the lawn to the observatory.
I guess there aren't any prospective suitors here. I mean, I guess Father isn't a prospective suitor—anyhow, not yet. (Of course, it's the man that has to be the suitor.) He doesn't go anywhere, only over to the college and out to the observatory. I've watched so to see. I wanted specially to know, for of course if he was being a prospective suitor to any one, she'd be my new mother, maybe. And I'm going to be awfully particular about any new mother coming into the house.
A whole lot more, even, depends on mothers than on fathers, you know; and if you're going to have one all ready-made thrust upon you, you are sort of anxious to know what kind she is. Some way, I don't think I'd like a new mother even as well as I'd like a new father; and I don't believe I'd like him very well.
Of course, there are quite a lot of ladies here that Father could have. There are several pretty teachers in the schools, and some nice unmarried ladies in the church. And there's Miss Parmelia Snow. She's Professor Snow's sister. She wears glasses and is terribly learned. Maybe he would like her. But, mercy! I shouldn't.
Then there's Miss Grace Ann Sanborn. She's fat, and awfully jolly. She comes here a lot lately to see Aunt Jane. I don't know why. They don't belong to the same church, or anything. But she "runs over," as she calls it, almost every afternoon just a little before dinner—I mean supper.
Mrs. Darling used to come then, too, when I first came; but she comes over evenings now more. Maybe it's because she doesn't like Miss Grace Ann. I don't think she does like her, for every time she saw her, she'd say: "Oh, you? So you're here!" And then she'd turn and talk to Aunt Jane and simply ignore Miss Grace Ann. And pretty quick she'd get up and go. And now she comes evenings. She's fixing over her house, and she runs and asks Aunt Jane's advice about every little thing. She asks Father's, too, every chance she gets, when she sees him in the hall or on the front steps. I heard her tell Aunt Jane she considered Professor Anderson a man of most excellent taste and judgment54.
I suppose Mrs. Darling could be my new mother. She's a widow. Her husband died last year. She is very well off now that her husband is dead, I heard Aunt Jane say one day. She meant well off in money—quite a lot of it, you know. I thought she meant well off because he was dead and she didn't have to live with him any more, and I said so to Aunt Jane. (He was a cross man, and very stern, as everybody knew.) But, dear suz me! Aunt Jane was awfully shocked, and said certainly not; that she meant Mr. Darling had left his wife a great deal of money.
Then she talked very stern and solemn to me, and said that I must not think just because my poor dear father's married life had ended in such a wretched tragedy that every other home had such a skeleton in the closet.
I grew stern and dignified55 and solemn then. I knew, of course, what she meant. I'm no child. She meant Mother. She meant that Mother, my dear blessed mother, was the skeleton in their closet. And of course I wasn't going to stand there and hear that, and not say a word.
But I didn't say just a word. I said a good many words. I won't try to put them all down here; but I told her quietly, in a firm voice, and with no temper (showing), that I guessed Father was just as much of a skeleton in Mother's closet as she was in his; and that if she could see how perfectly happy my mother was now she'd understand a little of what my father's skeleton had done to her all those years she'd had to live with it.
I said a lot more, but before I'd got half finished with what I wanted to say, I got to crying, so I just had to run out of the room.
That night I heard Aunt Jane tell Mrs. Darling that the worst feature of the whole deplorable situation was the effect on the child's mind, and the wretched conception it gave her of the sacredness of the marriage tie, or something like that. And Mrs. Darling sighed, and said, oh, and ah, and the pity of it.
I don't like Mrs. Darling.
Of course, as I said before, Mrs. Darling could be my new mother,
being a widow, so. But, mercy! I hope she won't. I'd rather have Miss
Grace Ann than her, and I shouldn't be crazy about having Miss Grace
Well, I guess there's nothing more to write. Things at school are just the same, only more so. The girls are getting so they act almost as bad as those down to Boston in the school where I went before I changed. Of course, maybe it's the divorce here, same as it was there. But I don't see how it can be that here. Why, they've known it from the very first!
Oh, dear suz me! How I do wish I could see Mother to-night and have her take me in her arms and kiss me. I'm so tired of being Mary 'way off up here where nobody cares or wants me.
Even Father doesn't want me, not really want me. I know he doesn't. I don't see why he keeps me, only I suppose he'd be ashamed not to take me his six months as long as the court gave me to him for that time.
Another two weeks later.
I'm so angry I can hardly write, and at the same time I'm so angry I've just got to write. I can't talk. There isn't anybody to talk to; and I've got to tell somebody. So I'm going to tell it here.
I've found out now what's the matter with the girls—you know I said there was something the matter with them; that they acted queer and stopped talking when I came up, and faded away till there wasn't anybody but me left; and about the party Stella Mayhew had and didn't invite me.
Well, it's been getting worse and worse. Other girls have had parties, and more and more often the girls have stopped talking and have looked queer when I came up. We got up a secret society and called it the "Tony Ten," and I was going to be its president. Then all of a sudden one day I found there wasn't any Tony Ten—only Carrie Heywood and me. The other eight had formed another society and Stella Mayhew was their president.
I told Carrie we wouldn't care; that we'd just change it and call it the "Tony Two"; and that two was a lot more exclusive than ten, anyway. But I did care, and Carrie did. I knew she did. And I know it better now because last night—she told me. You see things have been getting simply unbearable these last few days, and it got so it looked as if I wasn't even going to have Carrie left. She began to act queer and I accused her of it, and told her if she didn't want to belong to the Tony Two she needn't. That I didn't care; that I'd be a secret society all by myself. But I cried. I couldn't help crying; and she knew I did—care. Then she began to cry; and to-day, after school, we went to walk up on the hill to the big rock; and there—she told me. And it was the divorce.
And it's all that Stella Mayhew—the new girl. Her mother found out I was divorced (I mean Mother was) and she told Stella not to play with me, nor speak to me, nor have a thing to do with me. And I said to Carrie, all right! Who cared? I didn't. That I never had liked that Mayhew girl, anyway. But Carrie said that wasn't all. She said Stella had got to be real popular before I came; that her folks had lots of money, and she always had candy and could treat to ice-cream and auto rides, and everybody with her was sure of a good time. She had parties, too—lots of them; and of course, all the girls and boys liked that.
Well, when I came everything was all right till Stella's mother found out about the divorce, and then—well, then things were different. First Stella contented56 herself with making fun of me, Carrie said. She laughed at the serge dresses and big homely shoes, and then she began on my name, and said the idea of being called Mary by Father and Marie by Mother, and that 't was just like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (That's a story, Carrie says. I'm going to read it, if Father's got it. If there ever was another Mary and Marie all in one in the world I want to know what she did.) But Carrie says the poking57 fun at me didn't make much difference with the girls, so Stella tried something else. She not only wouldn't speak to me herself, or invite me, or anything, but she told all the girls that they couldn't go with her and me, too. That they might take their choice. And Carrie said some of them did choose and stayed with me; but they lost all the good times and ice-cream and parties and rides and everything; and so one by one they dropped me and went back to Stella, and now there wasn't anybody left, only her, Carrie. And then she began to cry.
And when she stopped speaking, and I knew all, and saw her crying there before me, and thought of my dear blessed mother, I was so angry I could scarcely speak. I just shook with righteous indignation. And in my most superb, haughty58, and disdainful manner I told Carrie Heywood to dry her tears; that she needn't trouble herself any further, nor worry about losing any more ice-cream nor parties. That I would hereto declare our friendship null and void, and this day set my hand and seal to never speak to her again, if she liked, and considered that necessary to keeping the acquaintance of the precious Stella.
But she cried all the more at that, and flung herself upon me, and, of course, I began to cry, too—and you can't stay superb and haughty and disdainful when you're all the time trying to hunt up a handkerchief to wipe away the tears that are coursing down your wan5 cheeks. And of course I didn't. We had a real good cry together, and vowed59 we loved each other better than ever, and nobody could come between us, not even bringing a chocolate-fudge-marshmallow college ice—which we both adore. But I told her that she would be all right, just the same, for of course I should never step my foot inside of that schoolhouse again. That I couldn't, out of respect to Mother. That I should tell Aunt Jane that to-morrow morning. There isn't any other school here, so they can't send me anywhere else. But it's 'most time for school to close, anyway. There are only two weeks more.
But I don't think that will make any difference to Aunt Jane. It's the
principle of the thing. It's always the principle of the thing with
Aunt Jane. She'll be very angry, I know. Maybe she'll send me home.
Oh, I hope she will!
Well, I shall tell her to-morrow, anyway. Then—we'll see.
One day later.
And, dear, dear, what a day it has been!
I told her this morning. She was very angry. She said at first: "Nonsense, Mary, don't be impertinent. Of course you'll go to school!" and all that kind of talk. But I kept my temper. I did not act angry. I was simply firm and dignified. And when she saw I really meant what I said, and that I would not step my foot inside that schoolroom again—that it was a matter of conscience with me—that I did not think it was right for me to do it, she simply stared for a minute, as if she couldn't believe her eyes and ears. Then she gasped:
"Mary, what do you mean by such talk to me? Do you think I shall permit this sort of thing to go on for a moment?"
I thought then she was going to send me home. Oh, I did so hope she was. But she didn't. She sent me to my room.
"You will stay there until your father comes home this noon," she said. "This is a matter for him to settle."
Father! And I never even thought of her going to him with it. She was always telling me never to bother Father with anything, and I knew she didn't usually ask him anything about me. She settled everything herself. But this—and the very thing I didn't want her to ask him, too. But of course I couldn't help myself. That's the trouble. Youth is so helpless in the clutches of old age!
Well, I went to my room. Aunt Jane told me to meditate60 on my sins. But I didn't. I meditated61 on other people's sins. I didn't have any to meditate on. Was it a sin, pray, for me to stand up for my mother and refuse to associate with people who wouldn't associate with me on account of her? I guess not!
I meditated on Stella Mayhew and her mother, and on those silly, faithless girls that thought more of an ice-cream soda62 than they did of justice and right to their fellow schoolmate. And I meditated on Aunt Jane and her never giving me so much as a single kiss since I came. And I meditated on how much better Father liked stars and comets than he did his own daughter; and I meditated on what a cruel, heartless world this is, anyway, and what a pity it was that I, so fair and young, should have found it out so soon—right on the bank, as it were, or where that brook63 and river meet. And I wondered, if I died if anybody would care; and I thought how beautiful and pathetic I would look in my coffin with my lily-white hands folded on my breast. And I hoped they 'd have the funeral in the daytime, because if it was at night-time Father'd be sure to have a star or something to keep him from coming. And I wanted him to come. I wanted him to feel bad; and I meditated on how bad he would feel—when it was too late.
But even with all this to meditate on, it was an awfully long time coming noon; and they didn't call me down to dinner even then. Aunt Jane sent up two pieces of bread without any butter and a glass of water. How like Aunt Jane—making even my dinner a sin to meditate on! Only she would call it my sin, and I would call it hers.
Well, after dinner Father sent for me to come down to the library. So I knew then, of course, that Aunt Jane had told him. I didn't know but she would wait until night. Father usually spends his hour after dinner reading in the library and mustn't be disturbed. But evidently to-day Aunt Jane thought I was more consequence than his reading. Anyhow, she told him, and he sent for me.
My, but I hated to go! Fathers and Aunt Janes are two different propositions. Fathers have more rights and privileges, of course. Everybody knows that.
Well, I went into the library. Father stood with his back to the fireplace and his hands in his pockets. He was plainly angry at being disturbed. Anybody could see that. He began speaking at once, the minute I got into the room—very cold and dignified.
"Mary, your aunt tells me you have been disobedient and disrespectful to her. Have you anything to say?"
I shook my head and said, "No, sir."
What could I say? Old folks ask such senseless questions, sometimes. Naturally I wasn't going to say I had been disrespectful and disobedient when I hadn't; and of course, I couldn't say I hadn't been when Aunt Jane said I had. That would be just like saying Aunt Jane lied. So, of course, I had nothing to say. And I said so.
"But she declares you refused to go back to school, Mary," said Father then.
"Yes, sir."
"Then you did refuse?"
"Yes, sir."
"Well, you may go and tell her now, please, that you are sorry, and that you will go to school this afternoon. You may go now." And he turned to the table and picked up his book.
I didn't go, of course. I just stood there twisting my handkerchief in my fingers; and, of course, right away he saw me. He had sat down then.
"Mary, didn't you hear me?" he demanded.
"Yes, sir, but—Father, I can't go back to that school," I choked.
And I began to cry.
"But I tell you that you must."
I shook my head.
"I can't."
"Do you mean that you defy me as you did your Aunt Jane this morning?—that you refuse to go back to school?"
"Yes, sir."
For a minute he sat and stared at me just as Aunt Jane had done; then he lifted his head and threw back his shoulders as if he was throwing off a heavy weight.
"Come, come, Mary," he said sternly. "I am not a patient man, and my temper has reached the breaking point. You will go back to school and you will go now. I mean that, Mary."
"But, Father, I can't" I choked again; and I guess there was something in my face this time that made even him see. For again he just stared for a minute, and then said:
"Mary, what in the world does this mean? Why can't you go back? Have you been—expelled?"
"Oh, no, sir."
"Then you mean you won't go back."
"I mean I can't—on account of Mother."
I wouldn't have said it if I hadn't had to. I didn't want to tell him, but I knew from the very first that I'd have to tell him before I got through. I could see it in his face. And so, now, with his eyes blazing as he jumped almost out of his chair and exclaimed, "Your mother!" I let it out and got it over as soon as possible.
"I mean, on account of Mother—that not for you, or Aunt Jane, or anybody will I go back to that school and associate with folks that won't associate with me—on account of Mother."
And then I told it—all about the girls, Stella Mayhew, Carrie, and how they acted, and what they said about my being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because I was a Mary and a Marie, and the ice-cream, and the parties they had to give up if they went with me. And I know I was crying so I could hardly speak before I finished; and Father was on his feet tramping up and down the room muttering something under his breath, and looking—oh, I can't begin to tell how he looked. But it was awful.
"And so that's why I wish," I finished chokingly, "that it would hurry up and be a year, so Mother could get married."
"Married!" Like a flash he turned and stopped short, staring at me.
"Why, yes," I explained; "for if she did get married, she wouldn't be divorced any longer, would she?"
But he wouldn't answer. With a queer little noise in his throat he turned again and began to walk up and down, up and down, until I thought for a minute he'd forgotten I was there. But he hadn't. For after a while he stopped again right in front of me.
"So your mother is thinking of getting married," he said in a voice so queer it sounded as if it had come from away off somewhere.
But I shook my head and said no, of course; and that I was very sure she wouldn't till her year was up, and even then I didn't know which she'd take, so I couldn't tell for sure anything about it. But I hoped she'd take one of them, so she wouldn't be divorced any longer.
"But you don't know which she'll take," grunted Father again. He turned then, and began to walk up and down again, with his hands in his pockets; and I didn't know whether to go away or to stay, and I suppose I'd have been there now if Aunt Jane hadn't suddenly appeared in the library doorway64.
"Charles, if Mary is going to school at all to-day it is high time she was starting," she said. But Father didn't seem to hear. He was still tramping up and down the room, his hands in his pockets.
"Charles!" Aunt Jane raised her voice and spoke again. "I said if Mary is going to school at all to-day it is high time she was starting."
"Eh? What?" If you'll believe it, that man looked as dazed as if he'd never even heard of my going to school. Then suddenly his face changed. "Oh, yes, to be sure. Well, er—Mary is not going to school to-day," he said. Then he looked at his watch, and without another word strode into the hall, got his hat, and left the house, leaving Aunt Jane and me staring into each other's faces.
But I didn't stay much longer than Father did. I strode into the hall, too, by Aunt Jane. But I didn't leave the house. I came up here to my own room; and ever since I've been writing it all down in my book.
Of course, I don't know now what's going to happen next. But I wish you could have seen Aunt Jane's face when Father said I wasn't going to school to-day! I don't believe she's sure yet that she heard aright—though she didn't try to stop me, or even speak when I left and came upstairs. But I just know she's keeping up a powerful thinking.
For that matter, so am I. What is going to happen next? Have I got to go to school to-morrow? But then, of course, I shan't do that. Besides, I don't believe Father'll ask me to, after what I said about Mother. He didn't like that—what those girls said—any better than I did. I'm sure of that. Why, he looked simply furious. But there isn't any other school here that I can be sent to, and—
But what's the use? I might surmise65 and speculate all day and not come anywhere near the truth. I must await—what the night will bring forth66, as they say in really truly novels.
Four days later.
And what did the night bring forth? Yes, what did it bring! Verily it brought forth one thing I thought nothing ever could have brought forth.
It was like this.
That night at the supper-table Aunt Jane cleared her throat in the I-am-determined67-I-will-speak kind of a way that she always uses when she speaks to Father. (Aunt. Jane doesn't talk to Father much more than Mother used to.)
"Charles," she began.
Father had an astronomy paper beside his plate, and he was so busy reading he didn't hear, so Aunt Jane had to speak again—a little louder this time.
"Charles, I have something to say to you."
"Eh? What? Oh—er—yes. Well, Jane, what is it?" Father was looking up with his I'll-be-patient-if-it-kills-me air, and with his forefinger68 down on his paper to keep his place.
As if anybody could talk to a person who's simply tolerating you for a minute like that, with his forefinger holding on to what he wants to tend to! Why, I actually found myself being sorry for Aunt Jane.
She cleared her throat again.
"It is understood, of course, that Mary is to go to school to-morrow morning, I suppose," she said.
"Why, of course, of course," began Father impatiently, looking down at his paper. "Of course she'll go to—" he stopped suddenly. A complete change came to his face. He grew red, then white. His eyes sort of flashed. "School?" he said then, in a hard, decided voice. "Oh, no; Mary is not going to school to-morrow morning." He looked down to his paper and began to read again. For him the subject was very evidently closed. But for Aunt Jane it was not closed.
"You don't mean, Charles, that she is not to go to school at all, any more," she gasped.
"Exactly." Father read on in his paper without looking up.
"But, Charles, to stop her school like this!"
"Why not? It closes in a week or two, anyway."
Aunt Jane's lips came together hard.
"That's not the question at all," she said, cold like ice. "Charles, I'm amazed at you—yielding to that child's whims69 like this—that she doesn't want to go to school! It's the principle of the thing that I'm objecting to. Do you realize what it will lead to—what it—"
"Jane!" With a jerk Father sat up straight. "I realize some things that perhaps you do not. But that is neither here nor there. I do not wish Mary to go to school any more this spring. That is all; and I think—it is sufficient."
"Certainly." Aunt Jane's lips came together again grim and hard. "Perhaps you will be good enough to say what she shall do with her time."
"Time? Do? Why—er—what she always does; read, sew, study—"
"Study?" Aunt Jane asked the question with a hateful little smile that Father would have been blind not to have understood. And he was equal to it—but I 'most fell over backward when I found how equal to it he was.
"Certainly," he says, "study. I—I'll hear her lessons myself—in the library, after I come home in the afternoon. Now let us hear no more about it."
With that he pushed back his plate, stuffed his astronomy paper into his pocket, and left the table, without waiting for dessert. And Aunt Jane and I were left alone.
I didn't say anything. Victors shouldn't boast—and I was a victor, of course, about the school. But when I thought of what Father had said about my reciting my lessons to him every day in the library—I wasn't so sure whether I'd won out or not. Recite lessons to my father? Why, I couldn't even imagine such a thing!
Aunt Jane didn't say anything either. I guess she didn't know what to say. And it was kind of a queer situation, when you came right down to it. Both of us sitting there and knowing I wasn't going back to school any more, and I knowing why, and knowing Aunt Jane didn't know why. (Of course I hadn't told Aunt Jane about Mother and Mrs. Mayhew.) It would be a funny world, wouldn't it, if we all knew what each other was thinking all the time? Why, we'd get so we wouldn't do anything but think—for there wouldn't any of us speak to each other, I'm afraid, we'd be so angry at what the other was thinking.
Well, Aunt Jane and I didn't speak that night at the supper-table. We finished in stern silence; then Aunt Jane went upstairs to her room and I went up to mine. (You see what a perfectly wildly exciting life Mary is living! And when I think of how full of good times Mother wanted every minute to be. But that was for Marie, of course.)
The next morning after breakfast Aunt Jane said:
"You will spend your forenoon studying, Mary. See that you learn well your lessons, so as not to annoy your father."
"Yes, Aunt Jane," said Mary, polite and proper, and went upstairs obediently; but even Mary didn't know exactly how to study those lessons.
Carrie had brought me all my books from school. I had asked her to when I knew that I was not going back. There were the lessons that had been assigned for the next day, of course, and I supposed probably Father would want me to study those. But I couldn't imagine Father teaching me all alone. And how was I ever going to ask him questions, if there were things I didn't understand? Besides, I couldn't imagine myself reciting lessons to Father—Father!
But I needn't have worried. If I could only have known. Little did I think—But, there, this is no way to tell a story. I read in a book, "How to Write a Novel," that you mustn't "anticipate." (I thought folks always anticipated novels. I do. I thought you wanted them to.)
Well, to go on.
Father got home at four o'clock. I saw him come up the walk, and I waited till I was sure he'd got settled in the library, then I went down.
He wasn't there.
A minute later I saw him crossing the lawn to the observatory. Well, what to do I didn't know. Mary said to go after him; but Marie said nay70, nay. And in spite of being Mary just now, I let Marie have her way.
Rush after him and tell him he'd forgotten to hear my lessons? Father? Well, I guess not! Besides, it wasn't my fault. I was there all ready. It wasn't my blame that he wasn't there to hear me. But he might remember and come back. Well, if he did, I'd be there. So I went to one of those bookcases and pulled out a touch-me-not book from behind the glass door. Then I sat down and read till the supper-bell rang.
Father was five minutes late to supper. I don't know whether he looked at me or not. I didn't dare to look at him—until Aunt Jane said, in her chilliest71 manner:
"I trust your daughter had good lessons, Charles."
I had to look at him then. I just couldn't look anywhere else. So I was looking straight at him when he gave that funny little startled glance into my eyes. And into his eyes then there crept the funniest, dearest little understanding twinkle—and I suddenly realized that Father, Father, was laughing with me at a little secret between us. But 't was only for a second. The next moment his eyes were very grave and looking at Aunt Jane.
"I have no cause to complain—of my daughter's lessons to-day," he said very quietly. Then he glanced over at me again. But I had to look away quick, or I would have laughed right out.
When he got up from the table he said to me: "I shall expect to see you to-morrow in the library at four, Mary."
And Mary answered, "Yes, Father," polite and proper, as she should; but Marie inside was just chuckling72 with the joke of it all.
The next day I watched again at four for Father to come up the walk; and when he had come in I went down to the library. He was there in his pet seat before the fireplace. (Father always sits before the fireplace, whether there's a fire there or not. And sometimes he looks so funny sitting there, staring into those gray ashes just as if it was the liveliest kind of a fire he was watching.)
As I said, he was there, but I had to speak twice before he looked up.
Then, for a minute, he stared vaguely73.
"Eh? Oh! Ah—er—yes, to be sure," he muttered then, "You have come with your books. Yes, I remember."
But there wasn't any twinkle in his eyes, nor the least little bit of an understanding smile; and I was disappointed. I had been looking for it. I knew then, when I felt so suddenly lost and heart-achey, that I had been expecting and planning all day on that twinkly understanding smile. You know you feel worse when you've just found a father and then lost him!
And I had lost him. I knew it the minute he sighed and frowned and got up from his seat and said, oh, yes, to be sure. He was just Dr. Anderson then—the man who knew all about the stars, and who had been unmarried to Mother, and who called me "Mary" in an of-course-you're-my-daughter tone of voice.
Well, he took my books and heard my lessons, and told me what I was to study next day. He's done that two days now.
Oh, I'm so tired of being Mary! And I've got more than four whole months of it left. I didn't get Mother's letter to-day. Maybe that's why I'm specially lonesome to-night.
July first.
School is done, both the regular school and my school. Not that my school has amounted to much. Really it hasn't. Oh, for three or four days he asked questions quite like just a teacher. Then he got to talking. Sometimes it would be about something in the lessons; sometimes it would be about a star, or the moon. And he'd get so interested that I'd think for a minute that maybe the understanding twinkle would come into his eyes again. But it never did.
Sometimes it wasn't stars and moons, though, that he talked about. It was Boston, and Mother. Yes, he did. He talked a lot about Mother. As I look back at it now, I can see that he did. He asked me all over again what she did, and about the parties and the folks that came to see her. He asked again about Mr. Harlow, and about the concert, and the young man who played the violin, and what was his name, and how old was he, and did I like him. And then, right in the middle of some question, or rather, right in the middle of some answer I was giving him, he would suddenly remember he was hearing my lessons, and he would say, "Come, come, Mary, what has this to do with your lessons?"
Just as if I was to blame! (But, then, we women always get the blame, I notice.) And then he'd attend strictly74 to the books for maybe five whole minutes—before he asked another question about that party, or the violinist.
Naturally the lessons haven't amounted to much, as you can imagine.
But the term was nearly finished, anyway; and my real school is in
Boston, of course.
It's vacation now. I do hope that will amount to something!
August first.
It hasn't, so far—I mean vacation. Really, what a world of disappointment this is! How on earth I'm going to stand being Mary for three months more I don't know. But I've got to, I suppose. I've been here May, June, and July; and that leaves August, September, and October yet to come. And when I think of Mother and Boston and Marie, and the darling good times down there where you're really wanted, I am simply crazy.
If Father wanted me, really wanted me, I wouldn't care a bit. I'd be willing to be Mary six whole months. Yes, I'd be glad to. But he doesn't. I'm just here by order of the court. And what can you do when you're nothing but a daughter by order of the court?
Since the lessons have stopped, Father's gone back to his "Good-morning, Mary," and "Good-night," and nothing else, day in and day out. Lately he's got so he hangs around the house an awful lot, too, so I can't even do the things I did the first of the month. I mean that I'd been playing some on the piano, along at the first, after school closed. Aunt Jane was out in the garden a lot, and Father out to the observatory, so I just reveled in piano-playing till I found almost every time I did it that he had come back, and was in the library with the door open. So I don't dare to play now.
And there isn't a blessed thing to do. Oh, I have to sew an hour, and now I have to weed an hour, too; and Aunt Jane tried to have me learn to cook; but Susie (in the kitchen) flatly refused to have me "messing around," so Aunt Jane had to give that up. Susie's the one person Aunt Jane's afraid of, you see. She always threatens to leave if anything goes across her wishes. So Aunt Jane has to be careful. I heard her tell Mrs. Small next door that good hired girls were awfully scarce in Andersonville.
As I said before, if only there was somebody here that wanted me. But there isn't. Of course Father doesn't. That goes without saying. And Aunt Jane doesn't. That goes, too, without saying. Carrie Heywood has gone away for all summer, so I can't have even her; and of course, I wouldn't associate with any of the other girls, even if they would associate with me—which they won't.
That leaves only Mother's letters. They are dear, and I love them. I don't know what I'd do without them. And yet, sometimes I think maybe they're worse than if I didn't have them. They make me so homesick, and I always cry so after I get them. Still, I know I just couldn't live a minute if 'twasn't for Mother's letters.
Besides being so lonesome there's another thing that worries me, too; and that is, this—what I'm writing, I mean. The novel. It's getting awfully stupid. Nothing happens. Nothing! Of course, if 'twas just a story I could make up things—lots of them—exciting, interesting things, like having Mother elope with the violinist, and Father shoot him and fall in love with Mother all over again, or else with somebody else, and shoot that one's lover. Or maybe somebody'd try to shoot Father, and I'd get there just in time to save him. Oh, I'd love that!
But this is a real story, so, of course, I can't put in anything only just what happens; and nothing happens.
And that's another thing. About the love story—I'm afraid there isn't going to be one. Anyway, there isn't a bit of a sign of one, yet, unless it's Mother. And of course, I haven't seen her for three months, so I can't say anything about that.
Father hasn't got one. I'm sure of that. He doesn't like ladies. I know he doesn't. He always runs away from them. But they don't run away from him! Listen.
As I said before, quite a lot of them call here to see Aunt Jane, and they come lots of times evenings and late afternoons, and I know now why they do it. They come then because they think Father'll be at home at that time; and they want to see him.
I know it now, but I never thought of it till the other day when
I heard our hired girl, Susie, talking about it with Bridget, the
Smalls' hired girl, over the fence when I was weeding the garden one
day. Then I knew. It was like this:
Mrs. Darling had been over the night before as usual, and had stayed an awfully long time talking to Aunt Jane on the front piazza75. Father had been there, too, awhile. She stopped him on his way into the house. I was there and I heard her. She said:
"Oh, Mr. Anderson, I'm so glad I saw you! I wanted to ask your advice about selling poor dear Mr. Darling's law library."
And then she went on to tell him how she'd had an offer, but she wasn't sure whether it was a good one or not. And she told him how highly she prized his opinion, and he was a man of such splendid judgment, and she felt so alone now with no strong man's shoulder to lean upon, and she would be so much obliged if he only would tell her whether he considered that offer a good one or not.
Father hitched and ahemmed and moved nearer the door all the time she was talking, and he didn't seem to hear her when she pushed a chair toward him and asked him to please sit down and tell her what to do; that she was so alone in the world since poor dear Mr. Darling had gone. (She always calls him poor dear Mr. Darling now, but Susie says she didn't when he was alive; she called him something quite different. I wonder what it was.)
Well, as I said, Father hitched and fidgeted, and said he didn't know, he was sure; that she'd better take wiser counsel than his, and that he was very sorry, but she really must excuse him. And he got through the door while he was talking just as fast as he could himself, so that she couldn't get in a single word to keep him. Then he was gone.
Mrs. Darling stayed on the piazza two whole hours longer, but Father never came out at all again.
It was the next morning that Susie said this over the back-yard fence to Bridget:
"It does beat all how popular this house is with the ladies—after college hours!"
And Bridget chuckled76 and answered back:
"Sure it is! An' I do be thinkin' the Widder Darlin' is a heap fonder of Miss Jane now than she would have been had poor dear Mr. Darlin' lived!"
And she chuckled again, and so did Susie. And then, all of a sudden, I knew. It was Father all those ladies wanted. It was Father Mrs. Darling wanted. They came here to see him. They wanted to marry him. They were the prospective suitors. As if I didn't know what Susie and Bridget meant! I'm no child!
But all this doesn't make Father like them. I'm not sure but it makes him dislike them. Anyhow, he won't have anything to do with them. He always runs away over to the observatory, or somewhere, and won't see them; and I've heard him say things about them to Aunt Jane, too—words that sound all right, but that don't mean what they say, and everybody knows they don't. So, as I said before, I don't see any chance of Father's having a love story to help out this book—not right away, anyhow.
As for my love story—I don't see any chance of that's beginning, either. Yet, seems as if there ought to be the beginning of it by this time—I'm going on fifteen. Oh, there have been beginnings, lots of them—only Aunt Jane wouldn't let them go on and be endings, though I told her good and plain that I thought it perfectly all right; and I reminded her about the brook and river meeting where I stood, and all that.
But I couldn't make her see it at all. She said, "Stuff and nonsense"—and when Aunt Jane says both stuff and nonsense I know there's nothing doing. (Oh, dear, that's slang! Aunt Jane says she does wish I would eliminate the slang from my vocabulary. Well, I wish she'd eliminate some of the long words from hers. Marie said that—not Mary.)
Well, Aunt Jane said stuff and nonsense, and that I was much too young to run around with silly boys. You see, Charlie Smith had walked home from school with me twice, but I had to stop that. And Fred Small was getting so he was over here a lot. Aunt Jane stopped him. Paul Mayhew—yes, Paul Mayhew, Stella's brother!—came home with me, too, and asked me to go with him auto-riding. My, how I did want to go! I wanted the ride, of course, but especially I wanted to go because he was Mrs. Mayhew's son. I just wanted to show Mrs. Mayhew! But Aunt Jane wouldn't let me. That's the time she talked specially about running around with silly boys. But she needn't have. Paul is no silly boy. He's old enough to get a license77 to drive his own car.
But it wasn't just because he was young that Aunt Jane refused. I found out afterward78. It was because he was any kind of a man paying me attention. I found that out through Mr. Claude Livingstone. Mr. Livingstone brings our groceries. He's a real young gentleman—tall, black mustache, and lovely dark eyes. He goes to our church, and he asked me to go to the Sunday-School picnic with him. I was so pleased. And I supposed, of course, Aunt Jane would let me go with him. He's no silly boy! Besides, I knew him real well, and liked him. I used to talk to him quite a lot when he brought the groceries.
But did Aunt Jane let me go? She did not. Why, she seemed almost more shocked than she had been over Charlie Smith and Fred Small, and the others.
"Mercy, child!" she exclaimed. "Where in the world do you pick up these people?" And she brought out that "these people" so disagreeably! Why, you'd think Mr. Livingstone was a foreign Japanese, or something.
I told her then quietly, and with dignity, and with no temper (showing), that Mr. Livingstone was not a foreign Japanese, but was a very nice gentleman; and that I had not picked him up. He came to her own door himself, almost every day.
"My own door!" exclaimed Aunt Jane. And she looked absolutely frightened. "You mean to tell me that that creature has been coming here to see you, and I not know it?"
I told her then—again quietly and with dignity, and without temper (showing)—that he had been coming, not to see me, but in the natural pursuance of his profession of delivering groceries. And I said that he was not a creature. On the contrary, he was, I was sure, an estimable young man. He went to her own church and Sunday-School. Besides, I could vouch79 for him myself, as I knew him well, having seen and talked with him almost every day for a long while, when he came to the house.
But nothing I could say seemed to have the least effect upon her at all, only to make her angrier and angrier, if anything. In fact I think she showed a great deal of temper for a Christian80 woman about a fellow Christian in her own church.
But she wouldn't let me go to the picnic; and not only that, but I think she changed grocers, for Mr. Livingstone hasn't been here for a long time, and when I asked Susie where he was she looked funny, and said we weren't getting our groceries where Mr. Livingstone worked any longer.
Well, of course, that ended that. And there hasn't been any other since. That's why I say my love story doesn't seem to be getting along very well. Naturally, when it gets noised around town that your Aunt Jane won't let you go anywhere with a young man, or let a young man come to see you, or even walk home with you after the first time—why, the young men aren't going to do very much toward making your daily life into a love story.
Two weeks later.
A queer thing happened last night. It was like this:
I think I said before what an awfully stupid time Mary is having of it, and how I couldn't play now, or make any noise, 'cause Father has taken to hanging around the house so much. Well, listen what happened.
Yesterday Aunt Jane went to spend the day with her best friend. She said for me not to leave the house, as some member of the family should be there. She told me to sew an hour, weed an hour, dust the house downstairs and upstairs, and read some improving book an hour. The rest of the time I might amuse myself.
Amuse myself! A jolly time I could have all by myself! Even Father wasn't to be home for dinner, so I wouldn't have that excitement. He was out of town, and was not to come home till six o'clock.
It was an awfully hot day. The sun just beat down, and there wasn't a breath of air. By noon I was simply crazy with my stuffy, long-sleeved, high-necked blue gingham dress and my great clumpy shoes. It seemed all of a sudden as if I couldn't stand it—not another minute—not a single minute more—to be Mary, I mean. And suddenly I determined that for a while, just a little while, I'd be Marie again. Why couldn't I? There wasn't anybody going to be there but just myself, all day long.
I ran then upstairs to the guest-room closet where Aunt Jane had made me put all my Marie dresses and things when the Mary ones came. Well, I got out the very fluffiest81, softest white dress there was there, and the little white slippers82 and the silk stockings that I loved, and the blue silk sash, and the little gold locket and chain that Mother gave me that Aunt Jane wouldn't let me wear. And I dressed up. My, didn't I dress up? And I just threw those old heavy shoes and black cotton stockings into the corner, and the blue gingham dress after them (though Mary went right away and picked the dress up, and hung it in the closet, of course); but I had the fun of throwing it, anyway.
Oh, how good those Marie things did feel to Mary's hot, tired flesh and bones, and how I did dance and sing around the room in those light little slippers! Then Susie rang the dinner-bell and I went down to the dining-room feeling like a really truly young lady, I can tell you.
Susie stared, of course and said, "My, how fine we are to-day!" But I didn't mind Susie.
After dinner I went out into the hall and I sang; I sang all over the house. And I ran upstairs and I ran down; and I jumped all the last three steps, even if it was so warm. Then I went into the parlor and played every lively thing that I could think of on the piano. And I sang there, too—silly little songs that Marie used to sing to Lester. And I tried to think I was really down there to Boston, singing to Lester; and that Mother was right in the next room waiting for me.
Then I stopped and turned around on the piano-stool. And there was the coffin plate, and the wax cross, and the hair wreath; and the room was just as still as death. And I knew I wasn't in Boston. I was there in Andersonville, And there wasn't any Baby Lester there, nor any mother waiting for me in the next room. And all the fluffy white dresses and silk stockings in the world wouldn't make me Marie. I was really just Mary, and I had got to have three whole months more of it.
And then is when I began to cry. And I cried just as hard as I'd been singing a minute before. I was on the floor with my head in my arms on the piano-stool when Father's voice came to me from the doorway.
"Mary, Mary, what in the world does this mean?"
I jumped up and stood "at attention," the way you have to, of course, when fathers speak to you. I couldn't help showing I had been crying—he had seen it. But I tried very hard to stop now. My first thought, after my startled realization83 that he was there, was to wonder how long he had been there—how much of all that awful singing and banging he had heard.
"Yes, sir." I tried not to have my voice shake as I said it; but I couldn't quite help that.
"What is the meaning of this, Mary? Why are you crying?"
I shook my head. I didn't want to tell him, of course; so I just stammered out something about being sorry I had disturbed him. Then I edged toward the door to show him that if he would step one side I would go away at once and not bother him any longer.
But he didn't step one side. He asked more questions, one right after another.
"Are you sick, Mary?"
I shook my head.
"Did you hurt yourself?"
I shook my head again.
"It isn't—your mother—you haven't had bad news from her?"
And then I blurted84 it out without thinking—without thinking at all what I was saying: "No, no—but I wish I had, I wish I had; 'cause then I could go to her, and go away from here!" The minute I'd said it I knew what I'd said, and how awful it sounded; and I clapped my fingers to my lips. But 'twas too late. It's always too late, when you've once said it. So I just waited for him to thunder out his anger; for, of course, I thought he would thunder in rage and righteous indignation.
But he didn't. Instead, very quietly and gently he said:
"Are you so unhappy, then, Mary—here?"
And I looked at him, and his eyes and his mouth and his whole face weren't angry at all. They were just sorry, actually sorry. And somehow, before I knew it, I was crying again, and Father, with his arm around me—with his arm around me! think of that!—was leading me to the sofa.
And I cried and cried there, with my head on the arm of the sofa, till I'd made a big tear spot on the linen cover; and I wondered if it would dry up before Aunt Jane saw it, or if it would change color or leak through to the red plush underneath85, or some other dreadful thing. And then, some way, I found myself telling it all over to Father—about Mary and Marie, I mean, just as if he was Mother, or some one I loved—I mean, some one I loved and wasn't afraid of; for of course I love Father. Of course I do!
Well, I told him everything (when I got started there was no stopping)—all about how hard it was to be Mary, and how to-day I had tried to be Marie for just a little while, to rest me. He interrupted here, and wanted to know if that was why I looked so different to-day—more as I had when I first came; and I said yes, that these were Marie things that Mary couldn't wear. And when he asked, "Why, pray?" in a voice almost cross, I told him, of course, that Aunt Jane wouldn't let me; that Mary had to wear brown serge and calfskin boots that were durable, and that would wear well.
And when I told him how sorry I was about the music and such a noise as I'd been making, he asked if that was Marie's fault, too; and I said yes, of course—that Aunt Jane didn't like to have Mary play at all, except hymns86 and funeral marches, and Mary didn't know any. And he grunted a queer little grunt45, and said, "Well, well, upon my soul, upon my soul!" Then he said, "Go on." And I did go on.
I told him how I was afraid it was going to be just like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (I forgot to say I've read it now. I found it in Father's library.) Of course not just like it, only one of me was going to be bad, and one good, I was afraid, if I didn't look out. I told him how Marie always wanted to kick up rugs, and move the chairs out of their sockets87 in the carpet, and leave books around handy, and such things. And so to-day it seemed as if I'd just got to have a vacation from Mary's hot gingham dresses and clumpy shoes. And I told him how lonesome I was without anybody, not anybody; and I told about Charlie Smith and Paul Mayhew and Mr. Claude Livingstone, and how Aunt Jane wouldn't let me have them, either, even if I was standing where the brook and river meet.
Father gave another funny little grunt here, and got up suddenly and walked over to the window. I thought at first he was angry; but he wasn't. He was even more gentle when he came back and sat down again, and he seemed interested, very much interested in everything I told him. But I stopped just in time from saying again how I wished I could go back to Boston; but I'm not sure but he knew I was going to say it.
But he was very nice and kind and told me not to worry about the music—that he didn't mind it at all. He'd been in several times and heard it. And I thought almost, by the way he spoke, that he'd come in on purpose to hear it; but I guess that was a mistake. He just put it that way so I wouldn't worry over it—about its bothering him, I mean.
He was going to say more, maybe; but I don't know, I had to run. I heard Aunt Jane's voice on the piazza saying good-bye to the lady that had brought her home; so, of course, I had to run and hang Marie in the closet and get out Mary from the corner before she saw me. And I did.
By dinner-time I had on the gingham dress and the hot clumpy shoes again; and I had washed my face in cold water so I had got most of the tear spots off. I didn't want Aunt Jane to see them and ask questions, of course. And I guess she didn't. Anyway, she didn't say anything.
Father didn't say anything either, but he acted queer. Aunt Jane tried to tell him something about the missionary meeting and the heathen, and a great famine that was raging. At first he didn't say anything; then he said, oh, yes, to be sure, how very interesting, and he was glad, very glad. And Aunt Jane was so disgusted, and accused him of being even more absent-minded than usual, which was entirely88 unnecessary, she said.
But even that didn't move Father a mite89. He just said, yes, yes, very likely; and went on scowling91 to himself and stirring his coffee after he'd drank it all up—I mean, stirring where it had been in the cup.
I didn't know but after supper he'd speak to me and ask me to come to the library. I hoped he would. There were lots more things I'd like to have said to him. But he didn't. He never said a word. He just kept scowling, and got up from the table and went off by himself. But he didn't go out to the observatory, as he most generally does. He went into the library and shut the door.
He was there when the telephone message came at eight o'clock. And what do you think? He'd forgotten he was going to speak before the College Astronomy Club that evening! Forgotten his old stars for once. I don't know why. I did think, for a minute, 'twas 'cause of me—what I'd told him. But I knew, of course, right away that it couldn't be that. He'd never forget his stars for me! Probably he was just reading up about some other stars, or had forgotten how late it was, or something. (Father's always forgetting things.) But, anyway, when Aunt Jane called him he got his hat and hurried off without so much as one word to me, who was standing near, or to Aunt Jane, who was following him all through the hall, and telling him in her most I'm-amazed-at-you voice how shockingly absent-minded he was getting to be.
One week later.
Father's been awfully queer this whole week through. I can't make him out at all. Sometimes I think he's glad I told him all those things in the parlor that day I dressed up in Marie's things, and sometimes I think he's sorry and wished I hadn't.
The very next morning he came down to breakfast with such a funny look on his face. He said good-morning to me three times, and all through breakfast he kept looking over at me with a kind of scowl90 that was not cross at all—just puzzled.
After breakfast he didn't go out to the observatory, not even into the library. He fidgeted around the dining-room till Aunt Jane went out into the kitchen to give her orders to Susie; then he burst out, all of a sudden:
"Well, Mary, what shall we do to-day?" Just like that he said it, as if we'd been doing things together every day of our lives.
"D-do?" I asked; and I know I showed how surprised I was by the way I stammered and flushed up.
"Certainly, do," he answered, impatient and scowling. "What shall we do?"
"Why, Father, I—I don't know," I stammered again.
"Come, come, of course you know!" he cried. "You know what you want to do, don't you?"
I shook my head. I was so astonished I couldn't even think. And when you can't think you certainly can't talk.
"Nonsense, Mary," scowled92 Father again. "Of course you know what you want to do! What are you in the habit of doing with your young friends—your Carries and Charlies, and all the rest?"
I guess I just stood and stared and didn't say anything; for after a minute he cried: "Well—well—well? I'm waiting."
"Why, we—we walk—and talk—and play games," I began; but right away he interrupted.
"Good! Very well, then, we'll walk. I'm not Carrie or Charlie, but I believe I can walk and talk—perhaps even play games. Who knows? Come, get your hat."
And I got my hat, and we went.
But what a funny, funny walk that was! He meant to make it a good one; I know he did. And he tried. He tried real hard. But he walked so fast I couldn't half keep up with him; then, when he saw how I was hurrying, he'd slow down, 'way down, and look so worried—till he'd forget and go striding off again, way ahead of me.
We went up on the hill through the Benton woods, and it was perfectly lovely up there. He didn't say much at first. Then, all of a sudden, he began to talk, about anything and everything. And I knew, by the way he did it, that he'd just happened to think he'd got to talk.
And how he talked! He asked me was I warmly clad (and here it is August!), and did I have a good breakfast, and how old was I, and did I enjoy my studies—which shows how little he was really thinking what he was saying. He knows school closed ages ago. Wasn't he teaching me himself the last of it, too? All around us were flowers and birds, and oh, so many, many lovely things. But he never said a word about them. He just talked—because he'd got to talk. I knew it, and it made me laugh inside, though all the while it made me sort of want to cry, too. Funny, wasn't it?
After a time he didn't talk any more, but just walked on and on; and by and by we came home.
Of course, it wasn't awfully jolly—that walk wasn't; and I guess Father didn't think it was either. Anyhow, he hasn't asked me to go again this week, and he looked tired and worried and sort of discouraged when he got back from that one.
But he's asked me to do other things. The next day after the walk he asked me to play to him. Yes, he asked me to; and he went into the parlor and sat down on one of the chairs and listened while I played three pieces. Of course, I didn't play loud ones, nor very fast ones, and I was so scared I'm afraid I didn't play them very well. But he was very polite and said, "Thank you, Mary," and, "That that was very nice"; then he stood up and said, "Thank you" again and went away into the library, very polite, but stiff, like company.
The next evening he took me out to the observatory to see the stars. That was lovely. Honestly I had a perfectly beautiful time, and I think Father did, too. He wasn't stiff and polite one bit. Oh, I don't mean that he was impolite or rude. It's just that he wasn't stiff as if I was company. And he was so happy with his stars and his telescope, and so glad to show them to me—oh, I had a beautiful time, and I told him so; and he looked real pleased. But Aunt Jane came for me before I'd had half enough, and I had to go to bed.
The next morning I thought he'd be different, somehow, because we'd had such a lovely time together the night before. But he wasn't. He just said, "Good-morning, Mary," and began to read his paper. And he read his paper all through breakfast without saying another word to me. Then he got up and went into the library, and I never saw him again all day except at dinner-time and supper-time, and then he didn't talk to me.
But after supper he took me out again to see the stars, and he was just as nice and friendly as could be. Not a bit like a man that's only a father by order of the court. But the next day—!
Well—and that's the way it's been all the week. And that's why I say he's been so queer. One minute he'll be just as nice and folksy as you could ask anybody to be, and the very next he's looking right through you as if he didn't see you at all, and you wonder and wonder what's the matter, and if you've done anything to displease93 him.
Sometimes he seems almost glad and happy, and then he'll look so sorry and sad!
I just can't understand my father at all.
Another week later.
I'm so excited I don't know what to do. The most wonderful thing has happened. I can't hardly believe it yet myself. Yet it's so. My trunk is all packed, and I'm to go home to-morrow. To-morrow!
This is the way it happened.
Mother wrote Aunt Jane and asked if I might not be allowed to come home for the opening of school in September. She said she understood quite well that she had no right to ask this, and, of course, if they saw fit, they were entirely within their rights to refuse to allow me to go until the allotted94 time. But that she could not help asking it for my sake, on account of the benefit to be derived95 from being there at the opening of the school year.
Of course, I didn't know Mother was going to write this. But she knew all about the school here, and how I came out, and everything. I've always told Mother everything that has happened. Oh, of course, I haven't written "every few minutes," as she asked me to. (That was a joke, anyway, of course.) But I have written every few days, and, as I said before, I told her everything.
Well, when the letter came I took it to Aunt Jane myself; and I was crazy to know what was in it, for I recognized the writing, of course. But Aunt Jane didn't tell me. She opened it, read it, kind of flushed up, and said, "Humph! The idea!" under her breath, and put the letter in her pocket.
Marie wanted to make a scene and insist on knowing what was in her own mother's letter; but Mary contented herself with looking superb and haughty and disdainful, and marching out of the room without giving Aunt Jane the satisfaction of even being asked what was in that letter.
But at the table that noon Aunt Jane read it to Father out loud. So that's how I came to know just what was in it. She started first to hand it over to him to read; but as he put out his hand to take it I guess he saw the handwriting, for he drew back quickly, looking red and queer.
"From Mrs. Anderson to you?" he asked. And when Aunt Jane nodded her head he sat still farther back in his chair and said, with a little wave of his hand, "I never care to read—other people's letters."
Aunt Jane said, "Stuff and nonsense, Charles, don't be silly!" But she pulled back the letter and read it—after giving a kind of an uneasy glance in my direction.
Father never looked up once while she was reading it. He kept his eyes on his plate and the baked beans he was eating. I watched him. You see, I knew, by Aunt Jane's reading the letter to him, that it was something he had got to decide; and when I found out what it was, of course, I was just crazy. I wanted to go so. So I watched Father's face to see if he was going to let me go. But I couldn't make out. I couldn't make out at all. It changed—oh, yes, it changed a great deal as she read; but I couldn't make out what kind of a change it was at all.
Aunt Jane finished the letter and began to fold it up. I could see she was waiting for Father to speak; but he never said a word. He kept right on—eating beans.
Then Aunt Jane cleared her throat and spoke.
"You will not let her go, of course, Charles; but naturally I had to read the letter to you. I will write to Mrs. Anderson to-night."
Father looked up then.
"Yes," he said quietly; "and you may tell her, please, that Mary will go."
Aunt Jane said that. But I—I almost ran around the table and hugged him. (Oh, how I wish he was the kind of a father you could do that to!)
"Charles!" said Aunt Jane again. "Surely you aren't going to give in so tamely as this to that child and her mother!"
"I'm not giving in at all, Jane," said Father, very quietly again. "I am consulting my own wishes in the matter. I prefer to have her go."
I 'most cried out then. Some way, it hurt to have him say it like that, right out—that he wanted me to go. You see, I'd begun to think he was getting so he didn't mind so very much having me here. All the last two weeks he'd been different, really different. But more of that anon. I'll go on with what happened at the table. And, as I said, I did feel bad to have him speak like that. And I can remember now just how the lump came right up in my throat.
Then Aunt Jane spoke, stiff and dignified.
"Oh, very well, of course, if you put it that way. I can quite well understand that you would want her to go—for your sake. But I thought that, under the circumstances, you would manage somehow to put up with the noise and—"
"Jane!" Just like that he interrupted, and he thundered, too, so that Aunt Jane actually jumped. And I guess I did, too. He had sprung to his feet. "Jane, let us close this matter once for all. I am not letting the child go for my sake. I am letting her go for her own. So far as I am concerned, if I consulted no one's wishes but my own, I should—keep her here always."
With that he turned and strode from the room, leaving Aunt Jane and me just staring after him.
But only for a minute did I stare. It came to me then what he had said—that he would like to keep me here always. For I had heard it, even if he had said the last word very low, and in a queer, indistinct voice. I was sure I had heard it, and I suddenly realized what it meant. So I ran after him; and that time, if I had found him, I think I would have hugged him. But I didn't find him. He must have gone quite away from the house. He wasn't even out to the observatory. I went out to see.
He didn't come in all the afternoon. I watched for that, too. And when he did come—well, I wouldn't have dared to hug him then. He had his very sternest I-am-not-thinking-of-you-at-all air, and he just came in to supper and then went into the library without saying hardly anything. Yet, some way, the look on his face made me cry. I don't know why.
The next day he was more as he has been since we had that talk in the parlor. And he has been different since then, you know. He really has. He has talked quite a lot with me, as I have said, and I think he's been trying, part of the time, to find something I'll be interested in. Honestly, I think he's been trying to make up for Carrie Heywood and Stella Mayhew and Charlie Smith and Mr. Livingstone. I think that's why he took me to walk that day in the woods, and why he took me out to the observatory to see the stars quite a number of times. Twice he's asked me to play to him, and once he asked me if Mary wasn't about ready to dress up in Marie's clothes again. But he was joking then, I knew, for Aunt Jane was right there in the house. Besides, I saw the twinkle in his eyes that I've seen there once or twice before. I just love that twinkle in Father's eyes!
But that hasn't come any since Mother's letter to Aunt Jane arrived. He's been the same in one way, yet different in another. Honestly, if it didn't seem too wildly absurd for anything, I should say he was actually sorry to have me go. But, of course, that isn't possible. Oh, yes, I know he said that day at the dinner-table that he should like to keep me always. But I don't think he really meant it. He hasn't acted a mite like that since, and I guess he said it just to hush96 up Aunt Jane, and make her stop arguing the matter.
Anyway, I'm going to-morrow. And I'm so excited I can hardly breathe.

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