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 BOSTON. Four days later.  
Well, here I am again in Boston. Mother and the rest met me at the station, and everybody seemed glad to see me, just as they did before. And I was glad to see them. But I didn't feel anywhere near so excited, and sort of crazy, as I did last year. I tried to, but I couldn't. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I'd been Marie all summer, anyway, so I wasn't so crazy to be Marie now, not needing any rest from being Mary. Maybe it was 'cause I sort of hated to leave Father.
And I did hate to leave him, especially when I found he hated to have me leave him. And he did. He told me so at the junction1. You see, our train was late, and we had to wait for it; and there was where he told me.
He had come all the way down there with me, just as he had before. But he hadn't acted the same at all. He didn't fidget this time, nor walk over to look at maps and time-tables, nor flip2 out his watch every other minute with such a bored air that everybody knew he was seeing me off just as a duty. And he didn't ask if I was warmly clad, and had I left anything, either. He just sat and talked to me, and he asked me had I been a little happier there with him this year than last; and he said he hoped I had.
And I told him, of course, I had; that it had been perfectly3 beautiful there, even if there had been such a mix-up of him getting ready for Marie, and Mother sending Mary. And he laughed and looked queer—sort of half glad and half sorry; and said he shouldn't worry about that. Then the train came, and we got on and rode down to the junction. And there, while we were waiting for the other train, he told me how sorry he was to have me go.
He said I would never know how he missed me after I went last year. He said you never knew how you missed things—and people—till they were gone. And I wondered if, by the way he said it, he wasn't thinking of Mother more than he was of me, and of her going long ago. And he looked so sort of sad and sorry and noble and handsome, sitting there beside me, that suddenly I 'most wanted to cry. And I told him I did love him, I loved him dearly, and I had loved to be with him this summer, and that I'd stay his whole six months with him next year if he wanted me to.
He shook his head at that; but he did look happy and pleased, and said I'd never know how glad he was that I'd said that, and that he should prize it very highly—the love of his little daughter. He said you never knew how to prize love, either, till you'd lost it; and he said he'd learned his lesson, and learned it well. I knew then, of course, that he was thinking of Mother and the long ago. And I felt so sorry for him.
"But I'll stay—I'll stay the whole six months next year!" I cried again.
But again he shook his head.
"No, no, my dear; I thank you, and I'd love to have you; but it is much better for you that you stay in Boston through the school year, and I want you to do it. It'll just make the three months I do have you all the dearer, because of the long nine months that I do not," he went on very cheerfully and briskly; "and don't look so solemn and long-faced. You're not to blame—for this wretched situation."
The train came then, and he put me on board, and he kissed me again—but I was expecting it this time, of course. Then I whizzed off, and he was left standing4 all alone on the platform. And I felt so sorry for him; and all the way down to Boston I kept thinking of him—what he said, and how he looked, and how fine and splendid and any-woman-would-be-proud-of-him he was as he stood on the platform waving good-bye.
And so I guess I was still thinking of him and being sorry for him when I got to Boston. That's why I couldn't be so crazy and hilariously5 glad when the folks met me, I suspect. Some way, all of a sudden, I found myself wishing he could be there, too.
Of course, I knew that that was bad and wicked and unkind to Mother, and she'd feel so grieved not to have me satisfied with her. And I wouldn't have told her of it for the world. So I tried just as hard as I could to forget him—on account of Mother, so as to be loyal to her. And I did 'most forget him by the time I'd got home. But it all came back again a little later when we were unpacking6 my trunk.
You see, Mother found the two new white dresses, and the dear little shoes. I knew then, of course, that she'd have to know all—I mean, how she hadn't pleased Father, even after all her pains trying to have me go as Mary.
"Why, Marie, what in the world is this?" she demanded, holding up one of the new dresses.
I could have cried.
I suppose she saw by my face how awfully7 I felt 'cause she'd found it. And, of course, she saw something was the matter; and she thought it was—
Well, the first thing I knew she was looking at me in her very sternest, sorriest way, and saying:
"Oh, Marie, how could you? I'm ashamed of you! Couldn't you wear the
Mary dresses one little three months to please your father?"
I did cry, then. After all I'd been through, to have her accuse me of getting those dresses! Well, I just couldn't stand it. And I told her so as well as I could, only I was crying so by now that I could hardly speak. I told her how it was hard enough to be Mary part of the time, and Marie part of the time, when I knew what they wanted me to be. But when she tried to have me Mary while he wanted me Marie, and he tried to have me Marie while she wanted me Mary—I did not know what they wanted; and I wished I had never been born unless I could have been born a plain Susie or Bessie, or Annabelle, and not a Mary Marie that was all mixed up till I didn't know what I was.
And then I cried some more.
Mother dropped the dress then, and took me in her arms over on the couch, and she said, "There, there," and that I was tired and nervous, and all wrought8 up, and to cry all I wanted to. And by and by, when I was calmer I could tell Mother all about it.
And I did.
I told her how hard I tried to be Mary all the way up to Andersonville and after I got there; and how then I found out, all of a sudden one day, that father had got ready for Marie, and he didn't want me to be Mary, and that was why he had got Cousin Grace and the automobile9 and the geraniums in the window, and, oh, everything that made it nice and comfy and homey. And then is when they bought me the new white dresses and the little white shoes. And I told Mother, of course, it was lovely to be Marie, and I liked it, only I knew she would feel bad to think, after all her pains to make me Mary, Father didn't want me Mary at all.
"I don't think you need to worry—about that," stammered10 Mother. And when I looked at her, her face was all flushed, and sort of queer, but not a bit angry. And she went on in the same odd little shaky voice: "But, tell me, why—why did—your father want you to be Marie and not Mary?"
And then I told her how he said he'd remembered what I'd said to him in the parlor11 that day—how tired I got being Mary, and how I'd put on Marie's things just to get a little vacation from her; and he said he'd never forgotten. And so when it came near time for me to come again, he determined12 to fix it so I wouldn't have to be Mary at all. And so that was why. And I told Mother it was all right, and of course I liked it; only it did mix me up awfully, not knowing which wanted me to be Mary now, and which Marie, when they were both telling me different from what they ever had before. And that it was hard, when you were trying just the best you knew how.
And I began to cry again.
And she said there, there, once more, and patted me on my shoulder, and told me I needn't worry any more. And that she understood it, if I didn't. In fact, she was beginning to understand a lot of things that she'd never understood before. And she said it was very, very dear of Father to do what he did, and that I needn't worry about her being displeased13 at it. That she was pleased, and that she believed he meant her to be. And she said I needn't think any more whether to be Mary or Marie; but to be just a good, loving little daughter to both of them; and that was all she asked, and she was very sure it was all Father would ask, too.
I told her then how I thought he did care a little about having me there, and that I knew he was going to miss me. And I told her why—what he'd said that morning in the junction—about appreciating love, and not missing things or people until you didn't have them; and how he'd learned his lesson, and all that.
And Mother grew all flushed and rosy14 again, but she was pleased. I knew she was. And she said some beautiful things about making other people happy, instead of looking to ourselves all the time, just as she had talked once, before I went away. And I felt again that hushed, stained-window, soft-music, everybody-kneeling kind of a way; and I was so happy! And it lasted all the rest of that evening till I went to sleep.
And for the first time a beautiful idea came to me, when I thought how Mother was trying to please Father, and he was trying to please her. Wouldn't it be perfectly lovely and wonderful if Father and Mother should fall in love with each other all over again, and get married? I guess then this would be a love story all right, all right!
Oh, how I wish that stained-window, everybody-kneeling feeling would last. But it never does. Just the next morning, when I woke up, it rained. And I didn't feel pleased a bit. Still I remembered what had happened the night before, and a real glow came over me at the beautiful idea I had gone to sleep with.
I wanted to tell Mother, and ask her if it couldn't be, and wouldn't she let it be, if Father would. So, without waiting to dress me, I hurried across the hall to her room and told her all about it—my idea, and everything.
But she said, "Nonsense," and, "Hush15, hush," when I asked her if she and Father couldn't fall in love all over again and get married. And she said not to get silly notions into my head. And she wasn't a bit flushed and teary, as she had been the night before, and she didn't talk at all as she had then, either. And it's been that way ever since. Things have gone along in just the usual humdrum16 way, and she's never been the same as she was that night I came.
Something—a little something—did happen yesterday, though. There's going to be another big astronomy meeting here in Boston this month, just as there was when Father found Mother years ago; and Grandfather brought home word that Father was going to be one of the chief speakers. And he told Mother he supposed she'd go and hear him.
I couldn't make out whether he was joking or not. (I never can tell when Grandfather's joking.) But Aunt Hattie took it right up in earnest, and said, "Pooh, pooh," she guessed not. She could see Madge going down to that hall to hear Dr. Anderson speak!
And then a funny thing happened. I looked at Mother, and I saw her head come up with a queer little jerk.
"Well, yes, I am thinking of going," she said, just as calm and cool as could be. "When does he speak, Father?"
And when Aunt Hattie pooh-poohed some more, and asked how could she do such a thing, Mother answered:
"Because Charles Anderson is the father of my little girl, and I think she should hear him speak. Therefore, Hattie, I intend to take her."
And then she asked Grandfather again when Father was going to speak.
I'm so excited! Only think of seeing my father up on a big platform with a lot of big men, and hearing him speak! And he'll be the very smartest and handsomest one there, too. You see if he isn't!
Two weeks and one day later.
Oh, I've got a lot to write this time—I mean, a lot has happened.
Still, I don't know as it's going to take so very long to tell it.
Besides, I'm almost too excited to write, anyway. But I'm going to do
the best I can to tell it, just as it happened.
Father's here—right here in Boston. I don't know when he came. But the first day of the meeting was day before yesterday, and he was here then. The paper said he was, and his picture was there, too. There were a lot of pictures, but his was away ahead of the others. It was the very best one on the page. (I told you it would be that way.)
Mother saw it first. That is, I think she did. She had the paper in her hand, looking at it, when I came into the room; but as soon as she saw me she laid it right down quick on the table. If she hadn't been quite so quick about it, and if she hadn't looked quite so queer when she did it, I wouldn't have thought anything at all. But when I went over to the table after she had gone, and saw the paper with Father's picture right on the first page—and the biggest picture there—I knew then, of course, what she'd been looking at.
I looked at it then, and I read what it said, too. It was lovely. Why, I hadn't any idea Father was so big. I was prouder than ever of him. It told all about the stars and comets he'd discovered, and the books he'd written on astronomy, and how he was president of the college at Andersonville, and that he was going to give an address the next day. And I read it all—every word. And I made up my mind right there and then that I'd cut out that piece and save it.
But that night, when I went to the library cupboard to get the paper, I couldn't do it, after all. Oh, the paper was there, but that page was gone. There wasn't a bit of it left. Somebody had taken it right out. I never thought then of Mother. But I believe now that it was Mother, for—
But I mustn't tell you that part now. Stories are just like meals. You have to eat them—I mean tell them—in regular order, and not put the ice-cream in where the soup ought to be. So I'm not going to tell yet why I suspect it was Mother that cut out that page of the paper with Father's picture in it.
Well, the next morning was Father's lecture, and I went with Mother. Of course Grandfather was there, too, but he was with the other astronomers17, I guess. Anyhow, he didn't sit with us. And Aunt Hattie didn't go at all. So Mother and I were alone.
We sat back—a long ways back. I wanted to go up front, real far front—the front seat, if I could get it; and I told Mother so. But she said, "Mercy, no!" and shuddered18, and went back two more rows from where she was, and got behind a big post.
I guess she was afraid Father would see us, but that's what I wanted. I wanted him to see us. I wanted him to be right in the middle of his lecture and look down and see right there before him his little girl Mary, and she that had been the wife of his bosom19. Now that would have been what I called thrilling, real thrilling, especially if he jumped or grew red, or white, or stammered, or stopped short, or anything to show that he'd seen us—and cared.
I'd have loved that.
But we sat back where Mother wanted to, behind the post. And, of course, Father never saw us at all.
It was a lovely lecture. Oh, of course, I don't mean to say that I understood it. I didn't. But his voice was fine, and he looked just too grand for anything, with the light on his noble brow, and he used the loveliest big words that I ever heard. And folks clapped, and looked at each other, and nodded, and once or twice they laughed. And when he was all through they clapped again, harder than ever. And I was so proud of him I wanted to stand right up and holler, "He's my father! He's my father!" just as loud as I could. But, of course, I didn't. I just clapped like the rest; only I wished my hands were big like the man's next to me, so I could have made more noise.
Another man spoke20 then, a little (not near so good as Father), and then it was all over, and everybody got up to go; and I saw that a lot of folks were crowding down the aisle21, and I looked and there was Father right in front of the platform shaking hands with folks.
I looked at Mother then. Her face was all pinky-white, and her eyes were shining. I guess she thought I spoke, for all of a sudden she shook her head and said:
"No, no, I couldn't, I couldn't! But you may, dear. Run along and speak to him; but don't stay. Remember, Mother is waiting, and come right back."
I knew then that it must have been just my eyes that spoke, for I did want to go down there and speak to Father. Oh, I did want to go! And I went then, of course.
He didn't see me at first. There was a long line of us, and a big fat man was doing a lot of talking to him so we couldn't move at all, for a time. Then it came to when I was just three people away from him. And I was looking straight at him.
He saw me then. And, oh, how I did love the look that came to his face; it was so surprised and glad, and said, "Oh! You!" in such a perfectly lovely way that I choked all up and wanted to cry. (The idea!—cry when I was so glad to see him!)
I guess the two folks ahead of me didn't think they got much attention, and the next minute he had drawn22 me out of the line, and we were both talking at once, and telling each other how glad we were to see each other.
But he was looking for Mother—I know he was; for the next minute after he saw me, he looked right over my head at the woman back of me. And all the while he was talking with me, his eyes would look at me and then leap as swift as lightning first here, and then there, all over the hall. But he didn't see her. I knew he didn't see her, by the look on his face. And pretty quick I said I'd have to go. And then he said:
"Your mother—perhaps she didn't—did she come?" And his face grew all red and rosy as he asked the question.
And I said yes, and she was waiting, and that was why I had to go back right away.
And he said, "Yes, yes, to be sure," and, "good-bye." But he still held my hand tight, and his eyes were still roving all over the house. And I had to tell him again that I really had to go; and I had to pull real determined at my hand, before I could break away. And I don't believe I could have gone even then if some other folks hadn't come up at that minute.
I went back to Mother then. The hall was almost empty, and she wasn't anywhere in sight at all; but I found her just outside the door. I knew then why Father's face showed that he hadn't found her. She wasn't there to find. I suspect she had looked out for that.
Her face was still pinky-white, and her eyes were shining; and she wanted to know everything we had said—everything. So she found out, of course, that he had asked if she was there. But she didn't say anything herself, not anything. She didn't say anything, either, at the luncheon23 table, when Grandfather was talking with Aunt Hattie about the lecture, and telling some of the things Father had said.
Grandfather said it was an admirable address, scholarly and convincing, or something like that. And he said that he thought Dr. Anderson had improved greatly in looks and manner. And he looked straight at Mother when he said that; but still Mother never said a word.
In the afternoon I went to walk with one of the girls; and when I came in I couldn't find Mother. She wasn't anywhere downstairs, nor in her room, nor mine, nor anywhere else on that floor. Aunt Hattie said no, she wasn't out, but that she was sure she didn't know where she was. She must be somewhere in the house.
I went upstairs then, another flight. There wasn't anywhere else to go, and Mother must be somewhere, of course. And it seemed suddenly to me as if I'd just got to find her. I wanted her so.
And I found her.
In the little back room where Aunt Hattie keeps her trunks and moth-ball bags, Mother was on the floor in the corner crying. And when I exclaimed out and ran over to her, I found she was sitting beside an old trunk that was open; and across her lap was a perfectly lovely pale-blue satin dress all trimmed with silver lace that had grown black. And Mother was crying and crying as if her heart would break.
Of course, I tried and tried to stop her, and I begged her to tell me what was the matter. But I couldn't do a thing, not a thing, not for a long time. Then I happened to say what a lovely dress, only what a pity it was that the lace was all black.
She gave a little choking cry then, and began to talk—little short sentences all choked up with sobs24, so that I could hardly tell what she was talking about. Then, little by little, I began to understand.
She said yes, it was all black—tarnished25; and that it was just like everything that she had had anything to do with—tarnished: her life and her marriage, and Father's life, and mine—everything was tarnished, just like that silver lace on that dress. And she had done it by her thoughtless selfishness and lack of self-discipline.
And when I tried and tried to tell her no, it wasn't, and that I didn't feel tarnished a bit, and that she wasn't, nor Father either, she only cried all the more, and shook her head and began again, all choked up.
She said this little dress was the one she wore at the big reception where she first met Father. It was a beautiful blue then, all shining and spotless, and the silver lace glistened27 like frost in the sunlight. And she was so proud and happy when Father—and he was fine and splendid and handsome then, too, she said—singled her out, and just couldn't seem to stay away from her a minute all the evening. And then four days later he asked her to marry him; and she was still more proud and happy.
And she said their married life, when they started out, was just like that beautiful dress, all shining and spotless and perfect; but that it wasn't two months before a little bit of tarnish26 appeared, and then another and another.
She said she was selfish and willful and exacting28, and wanted Father all to herself; and she didn't stop to think that he had his work to do, and his place to make in the world; and that all of living, to him, wasn't just in being married to her, and attending to her every whim29. She said she could see it all now, but that she couldn't then, she was too young, and undisciplined, and she'd never been denied a thing in the world she wanted. As she said that, right before my eyes rose that box of chocolates she made me eat one at a time; but, of course, I didn't say anything! Besides, Mother hurried right on talking.
She said things went on worse and worse—and it was all her fault. She grew sour and cross and disagreeable. She could see now that she did. But she did not realize at all then what she was doing. She was just thinking of herself—always herself; her rights, her wrongs, her hurt feelings, her wants and wishes. She never once thought that he had rights and wrongs and hurt feelings, maybe.
And so the tarnish kept growing more and more. She said there was nothing like selfishness to tarnish the beautiful fabric30 of married life. (Isn't that a lovely sentence? I said that over and over to myself so as to be sure and remember it, so I could get it into this story. I thought it was beautiful.)
She said a lot more—oh, ever so much more; but I can't remember it all. (I lost some while I was saying that sentence over and over, so as to remember it.) I know that she went on to say that by and by the tarnish began to dim the brightness of my life, too; and that was the worst of all, she said—that innocent children should suffer, and their young lives be spotted31 by the kind of living I'd had to have, with this wretched makeshift of a divided home. She began to cry again then, and begged me to forgive her, and I cried and tried to tell her I didn't mind it; but, of course, I'm older now, and I know I do mind it, though I'm trying just as hard as I can not to be Mary when I ought to be Marie, or Marie when I ought to be Mary. Only I get all mixed up so, lately, and I said so, and I guess I cried some more.
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