"If only one of them had thought to say a kind word to me!" flashed again through Eva's mind.
"Go on, go on; what are you lagging for?" whispered Alice, as Eva's pace faltered here.
Eva's eyes were fixed upon Cordelia, who had crossed the room and was going towards the door.
"Go on, go on; you are stopping us all!" exclaimed Alice, impatiently.
But with a sudden supreme effort Eva flung away her cowardice, and dashed off the track, crying, "Cordelia! Cordelia!"
Cordelia turned her head a moment, yet without staying her steps.
Eva sprang forward and put out her hand, crying again, "Cordelia! Cordelia!"
The runners had all stopped with one accord, as Eva sprang forward. What was it, what was she going to do, to say, to Cordelia? Even Alice and Janey, who knew more than the others what was in Eva's mind,—even they wondered what she was going to do, to say. And when in the next instant she cried breathlessly, "We—I—didn't mean to crowd you out; it—it wasn't fair; and—and you'll come back and take my place, Cordelia, won't you?" they, even Alice and Janey, forgot to be angry; forgot everything at the moment in their astonishment and an involuntary admiration for Eva's courage in daring to do as she did—against them all! What Alice might have said or done when that moment had gone, and her mortification at Eva's disregard of her opinion had had chance to start afresh, it is impossible to tell, for before that could take place something very unexpected happened, and this was a most unlooked-for action on Cordelia's part. They all looked to see her turn with one of her haughty, or what Alice and Janey called her uppish, independent glances upon Eva, and reject at once her appeal and offer. Instead of that—instead of coldness and haughty independence—they saw her, they heard her, suddenly give a shuddering, sobbing sigh, and then, dropping her face into her hands, break down utterly in a paroxysm of tears,—not tears of anger, of violence of any kind, but tears that, like the shuddering, sobbing sigh, seemed to come from a sore heart after long repression.
"Oh, Cordelia! Cordelia!" burst out Eva, putting her arm about Cordelia, "don't, don't cry."
Cordelia could not respond to this appeal, could not stop her tears; but as Eva bent over her in tender pity, she leaned forward and rested her head against the arm that encircled her. As the girls who stood watching saw this, as they saw Eva with her own pocket-handkerchief try to wipe away those tears, as they heard her say again, "Oh, Cordelia! Cordelia! don't, don't cry!" they looked at one another in a confused, questioning sort of way; and then, as they heard Eva speak again and with a breaking voice, as they saw the bright drops of sympathy and pity and regret gather in her eyes and roll down her cheeks, they started uneasily, and one and then another moved forward in a half-frightened, embarrassed fashion towards the door. Eva glanced up at them reproachfully as they passed. Were they not going to say a word, not a single word, to Cordelia? Hadn't they any pity for her; hadn't they any shame for what they had done? Goaded by these thoughts, she burst out passionately, "Oh, girls, I should think—" and then broke down completely, and bowed her head against Cordelia's, unable to say another word. But somebody else took up her words,—the very words she had used a second ago,—somebody else whispered,—
"Don't cry, don't cry." At the same moment a hand touched her shoulder, and she looked up to see—Alice King standing beside her. And then it seemed as if all the others were anxious to press forward; and one of them, the youngest of all, little Mary Leslie, a girl of ten, suddenly piped out,—
"We—we didn't know as you'd care, like this, Cordelia."
And then Cordelia lifted up her swollen tear-stained face, and faltered out: "Care? How—how could I hel—help caring?"
"But we thought—we thought you didn't like us," said another, hesitatingly.
"And I—I thought you hated and despised me, and I thought you'd despise me more if—if I showed that I cared!" and Cordelia gave another little sob, and covered her poor disfigured face again.
"Oh, Cordelia, Cordelia!" cried one and then another, pityingly; and then a voice, it sounded like Alice's, said, "We've been on the wrong track."
Just here a bell in the hall—the signal to those in the gymnasium that their half-hour was up—rang sharply out, and ashamed and sorry and repentant the girls hurried away to their rooms to change their dresses and prepare for dinner.
"Oh, Alice, Alice, you were so good!" cried Eva, flinging her arms around Alice's neck the moment they were alone together.
"Good? Don't—don't say that," exclaimed Alice, starting back.
"But you were. I—I was so afraid you'd be angry with me. I—"
Alice now flung her arms around her friend, and gave her a little hug, as she cried: "Oh, Eva, it's you who've been good. I—I've been—a little fiend, I suppose, and I was horridly angry at first; but when I—I saw how—that Cordelia really was—that she really felt what she did, I—oh, Eva!" laughing a little hysterically, "when you stood mopping up Cordelia's tears, all I could think was, there's a little Samaritan."
"I did truly, and you'll go on as good as you've begun, and end by liking and loving Cordelia because you pity her, I dare say. But though I'm going to behave myself, and bear with her, I shall never come up to that, for she is so queer and so clumsy, and she does dress so! I'm going to behave myself, though, I am,—I am; but I hope she won't expect too much, that she won't push forward too fast now."
"Oh, Alice, I don't believe Cordelia's that kind of a girl at all; she's too proud. I think she's awkward and queer, and don't know about dress and things, because she's lived 'way out there on the plains, but she'll improve when she finds we mean to be friendly to her; you see if she doesn't."
And Eva was right. By the end of the term Cordelia had improved so much in the friendlier atmosphere that surrounded her that she was quite like another girl. No longer uneasy and suspicious, she lost her self-consciousness, and with it a good deal of her awkwardness and apparent ill temper, and began to blossom out happily and cheerily as a girl should. Even her face brightened and bloomed in this atmosphere, and by and by she took Eva and Alice and Janey into her confidence so far that she shyly asked their advice about her dress, and profited by it to such an extent that Alice could no longer say, "She does dress so!"
"Oh, Laura, I want you to come home with me to-morrow after school and dine, and stay the evening. We shall be alone together, for mamma and papa are going out to a dinner-party. You'll come, won't you? Mamma told me to ask you."
"If it was any other evening."
"Now, Laura, you are not going to say you can't come!"
"I must, Kitty. I have promised to take tea with Esther Bodn."
"Yes, she asked me to fix a day this week when I could come, and I fixed Thursday,—to-morrow."
"But, Laura, can't you postpone it? Tell her how it is,—that mamma and papa are going away, and that Mary and Agnes are in New York, and I shall be all alone unless you come. Can't you do that, Laura?"
"I don't want to do that, Kitty."
"Oh, you'd rather go to that little Bodn girl's than to come to me!"
"I didn't say that, and I didn't mean that, Kitty. I meant that I didn't want to do what you asked, because it wouldn't be polite or kind."
"Well, it seems to me, Laura Brooks, that you are putting on very ceremonious airs all at once. Didn't you postpone until another day a visit to Amy Stanton last winter, for just such a reason as this,—that you might go to Annie Grainger's when her mother went to Baltimore,—and Amy never thought of its being impolite or unkind."
"But that was different, Kitty."
"Different? Show me where the difference is, please."
"Oh, Kitty, you know."
"But I don't know."
Laura's delicate face flushed a little, but after a moment's hesitation she said: "Esther is—is not like Amy Stanton or you; that is, she doesn't live in the same way. The Bodns are poor,—quite poor, Kitty."
"Well, I don't see how that alters the case," still obstinately responded Kitty.
"Now, Kitty, you do see. Esther is shy and sensitive. She doesn't visit the people that we do."
"She doesn't visit anybody, so far as I know."
"Yes, that is just it," Laura went on eagerly; "and so you see that when she and her mother have made preparations for company—even one person—it would put them to a great deal of trouble and inconvenience to change the time, and it would be unkind and impolite to ask them to do it."
"How do you know that they have made such unusual preparations for you?" asked Kitty, sarcastically.
Laura flushed again as she answered: "I didn't mean unusual in one way, but I thought that they didn't often invite company by something that Esther said. When she asked me to fix a day, she told me that her mother wasn't very well, and that they didn't keep a servant."
"Not keep a servant! Not a single one! Why, they must be awfully poor, like common working-people!" exclaimed the young Beacon Street girl, in a wondering tone.
"Esther isn't common, if she is poor," Laura instantly asserted with decision.
"I don't understand how anybody so poor as that should be sent to Miss Milwood's school. I shouldn't think they could afford it," went on Kitty; "why, the place for her is a public school."
"But, Kitty, don't you know that Esther assists Miss Milwood,—that it is Esther who looks over all the French and German exercises, and makes the first corrections before mademoiselle takes them?"
"Yes,—why, Esther, you must have noticed, is very proficient in French and German. She and her mother have lived abroad and here, in French and German families, to prepare her for being a teacher. She has a great natural aptitude, too, for languages."
"How in the world did you find all this out, Laura?"
"I didn't find it out, as you call it,—there is no secret about it,—Esther would no doubt have told you as much, if you had got as well acquainted with her as I have."
"I don't see how you came to get so well acquainted with her. She's nice enough, but I could always see that she wasn't like the rest of us,—of our set."
"Like the rest of us! She's just as good as the rest of us, and better than some of us."
"Oh, I dare say," said Kitty, in a patronizing tone.
"She may not be of our set, as you say, Kitty; but when I think of how Maud and Florence Aplin talk sometimes, I don't feel very proud of belonging to 'our set.'"
"Yes, I know, Maud and Flo do brag awfully now and then; but they are nice girls, and it is a nice family, mamma says."
"Every one seems to say that about them, and I've often wondered what they meant. I'm sure Mr. Aplin isn't very nice. He has no end of money, I know, but he can be so rude, and Mrs. Aplin is so patronizing. Now, why should they be called such 'nice people'?"
Kitty straightened herself up, put on a very knowing look, and repeated parrot-like what she had heard older persons say,—
"Mrs. Aplin was a Windlow."
"What in the world is a Windlow?" asked Laura, rather sarcastically.
Kitty was a worldly young woman, but she was also full of fun; and this question of Laura's amused her mightily, and with a suppressed giggle she answered demurely: "I think it has something to do with windows. The Windlows were English, and I believe their business was to open and shut the windows in the king's palaces,—perhaps to wash them. This all began ages ago, and it was considered a great honor, a tip-top thing to do, especially when the windows were high up. The honor has descended from generation to generation, and the name with it, I believe. They had some very ordinary name at the start."
The giggle, that had been suppressed up to this point, now burst forth in a shout of laughter, wherein Laura herself joined, exclaiming, as she did so, "Oh, Kitty, you are so ridiculous!"
"Why don't you make a rhyme and say, 'Oh, Kitty, you're so witty'? But, Laura, it is you who are odd and ridiculous, to pretend that you don't know that Windlow is one of the oldest names of one of the oldest families who came over to America in the Mayflower,—regular old aristocrats."
"Now, Kitty, I'm up in my history, if I'm not on this society stuff, and just let me tell you that those first settlers of America who came over in the Mayflower were not aristocrats."
"Oh, Laura, when everybody who can, brags of a Mayflower ancestor! I heard Mrs. Arkwright say to mamma, the other day that the Aplins were of the real old Mayflower blue blood."
"Then Mrs. Arkwright, with the 'everybody' you tell of, doesn't know what history says."
"Why, I'm sure I thought that was history."
"Well, it isn't. Last year I went with my father to Plymouth, and he took me to the famous rock where the Mayflower pilgrims landed, and afterward he gave me a lovely book called 'The Olden Time,' by Edmund Sears, that told me all about the pilgrims,—who they were, and why they came over, and everything, and I remember it said in this book that the Plymouth pilgrims were constantly confounded—those were the very words—with the Puritans who came over nine years later to Massachusetts."
"But Plymouth is in Massachusetts."
"Yes, I know, but it wasn't in that day. It was simply Plymouth Colony. The Mayflower sailed by Cape Cod into Plymouth Bay. They named the bay Plymouth, as they named the town Plymouth, for the old Plymouth in England."
"Did they name Cape Cod too?"
"No; that name was given years before by Captain Gosnold, an early voyager."
"Oh, I know, he caught such a lot of codfish there. I wish he'd never discovered the place; I hate codfish. But go on with your history lesson, Miss Brooks. I haven't any Mayflower ancestors, and so I'm more than resigned to have them taken down from their aristocratic peg."
"But they were lovely people,—lovely; kind and good to everybody, whether they believed as they did or not, for they had been persecuted themselves in the old country they had left for their opinions, and they meant that every one in the new country should worship as they pleased. They were very intelligent people, too, though, as this history says, 'from the middle and humbler walks of English life.' It was the men who came over to Massachusetts Bay and settled in Boston who were the aristocrats, and they were not nearly so liberal and generous as the Plymouth men. The head ones were stiff and overbearing, and meddled and interfered with people who didn't think as they did, and made a lot of strict little laws about all sorts of things, so that the name of 'Puritan' and 'puritanical' came to be used for anything that was bigoted and narrow-minded; and these names have stuck to all New England, and papa says that at this day people mix up things, and think that the Mayflower people and Boston people were all alike."
Kitty Grant gave a little hop, skip, and jump here, to Laura's astonishment. "Oh, Laura, it's such larks," she cried out. The two girls were walking down Beacon Street on their way home from school, and Laura looked about her to see what Kitty had so suddenly discovered to call out such an exclamation. Seeing nothing unusual, she asked, "What is such larks?"
Kitty laughed. "Oh, Laura, can't you see that this little fact you have pulled out from this tangled-up colony business, this dear dreadful little fact that the Mayflowers were not aristocrats, only—what does your history book say? Oh, I have it—'from the middle and humbler walks of English life;' not blue Mayflowers, but common colors—can't you see that it will be such larks for me to use this little fact like a little bombshell, when Mrs. Arkwright, or Maud, or Flo Aplin, or any of these Mayflower braggers begin to hold forth?"
"Why, Kitty, I thought you liked Maud and Flo!"
"I do when they don't give me too much Mayflower. I've always thought, and so has mamma, that this was their one fault,—that if it wasn't for that, they would be pretty near perfect; and now—and now, Brooksie, I shall proceed to be the means of grace that shall make them paragons of perfection. Oh, Laura, you're a treasure with that head of yours crammed full of facts, and I'll forgive you anything for this last little fact, even for neglecting me for that little Bodn girl!"
"I haven't neglected you."
"Well, snubbed me, then."
"Nor snubbed you. I only want to be considerate and polite to Esther; that's all."
"What a horrid name she has! Did you ever think of it, Laura—Esther Bodn—Bodn?"
"I don't think it's horrid at all. I like it."
"B-o-d-n—Bodn—it sounds awfully common."
"Why, Kitty, it's spelled B-o-w-d-o-i-n, the same as our Bowdoin Street, and pronounced Bod'n, as that is!"
"Is it, really? I didn't know that."
"I'm sure Bowdoin Street sounds well enough."
"Well, yes, I've always rather liked the sound of it; but then, you know, I always saw and felt the spelling, when I saw it. What in the world was the pronunciation ever snipped off like that for? It ought to be pronounced just as it is spelled. I've a good mind to pronounce it so the next time I speak to Esther."
"No, I wouldn't do that; but you might think of her as Miss Bowdoin," answered Laura, dryly.
"Oh, Laura, what a head full of wisdom you've got! I don't see how I ever lived without you. But—see here, tell me what street Miss Bowdoin lives in."
Laura hesitated a moment; then answered, "McVane Street."
"Where is McVane Street, for pity's sake? I never heard of it,—one of those horrid South End streets, I suppose?"
"No, it is at the West End, beyond Cambridge Street, down by the Massachusetts Hospital."
"No, no, Laura Brooks, you don't mean that she lives down there by the wharves?"
"It isn't by the wharves," cried Laura, indignantly.
"Well, it isn't far off. One of the regular old tumble-down streets, given up long ago to cobblers and tinkers of all kinds, and you're going to take tea with a girl who lives in that frowsy, dirty place!"
"It isn't frowsy and dirty. It's only an old, unfashionable street, but not frowsy or dirty. It's quite clean and quiet, and has shade-trees and little grass plots to some of the houses. Why, it used to be the court end of the town years ago."
"So was North Bennet Street, and all the rest of the North End; and now it's turned over to the rag-tag of creation,—Russian Jews, and every other kind of a foreigner,—and look here!" suddenly interrupting herself, as a new idea struck her, "I'll bet you anything that this Esther Bodn is a foreigner,—an emigrant herself of some sort."
"Yes, I'll bet you a pair of gloves,—eight-buttoned ones,—and I don't believe her name is spelled at all like our Bowdoin Street. I believe they—her mother and she—spell it that way to suit themselves. I believe it's just Bodn; and that is an outlandish foreign name, if I—"
"Kitty, I think it's positively wicked for you to talk like this,—it's slander."
Kitty laughed, and, wagging her head to and fro, sang in a merry little undertone,—
"Taffy is a Welshman, Taffy is a thief Flaunting as a Yankee man; that's my belief."
Laura couldn't help joining in this laugh, Kitty was so droll; but the laugh died out in the next breath, as she said,—
"Now, Kitty, don't go and talk like this to the other girls; don't—"
"Laura, how did it ever come about that the Bodn invited you to tea?" interrupted Kitty.
"It came about as naturally as this: One day I was going along Boylston Street, and just as I got to the public library I met Esther coming out with her arms full of books. I joined her, and insisted upon carrying some of the books for her; and after a little hesitation she accepted my offer, and led the way across the Common to the opposite gateway upon Charles Street. Here she stopped, and held out one hand for the books, and said, 'It was so kind of you to help me. Thank you very much.'
"'But I'm not going to leave you here,' I said; 'I'll walk home with you.' 'But it's a long walk to where I live,' she answered. I told her I didn't think anything of a long walk, and insisted on going further with her. I felt sorry, however, a minute after, for I saw that I had made a mistake,—that she didn't want me to go with her; but I didn't know how to turn back at once then, as she had started up briskly at my insistence with another 'Thank you.' But when we turned into Cambridge Street, I began to understand why she didn't want me,—she felt sensitive and afraid of my criticism; and I don't wonder—"
"Nor I, either," struck in Kitty, in a flippant tone.
"I should have felt sensitive," went on Laura, pityingly, "and I was so sorry for her; but I was determined to keep on then, and seem to take no notice, and somehow make her understand that it made no difference to me where she lived. I felt sorrier and sorrier for her, though, as she went on down Cambridge Street, past all those liquor and provision and second-hand furniture shops, with the tenements over them, and I was so thankful for her when she turned out of all this, and we crossed over and went into a quiet old street, and came out upon the pretty grounds of the Massachusetts Hospital; and as soon as I saw these grounds, I said, 'Oh, how pretty!' and then we turned again, and it was into the street opposite the hospital. It was almost as quiet as the country there. There were no shops at all, and the houses, though they looked old, were in very good repair, and some of them had been freshly painted, and had little grass plots beside them; and it was before one of these that Esther stopped, and then she said, 'If we had come over the hill, the way would have been pleasanter,' and I said just what I felt,—that I thought it was very pleasant, anyway, when you got there, and that the sunset must be beautiful from the windows. She was taking the books from me as I said this, and she looked up at me for a second, as if she were studying me, and then she asked me if I would like to come in some bright day, and see her and the sunsets,—that they were very beautiful from the upper windows. I told her I would like to come very much, and thanked her for asking me; and then I kissed her, for—"
"And struck up an intimate friendship at once," burst in Kitty, laughing.
"No, for this was some weeks ago, and she's only just asked me to set the day when I could come. Oh, Kitty, you may make fun all you like; but she is a very interesting girl,—my mother thinks she is too."
"Oh, you've introduced her to your mother, have you?"
"I have told mamma about her, and I brought her in one afternoon to see the pictures,—she's very fond of pictures,—and mamma asked her to stay to luncheon, but she couldn't."
"And now it is you who are going to make the first visit, going to sunsets and tea on McVane Street!"
"Laura! Laura!" called a voice here; and Laura looked up, to see her brother Jack in his T-cart pulling up at the curbstone. The next minute she was whirling off with him, bowing good-by to Kitty; and Kitty was calling after her mischievously,—
"Laura, Laura, tell your brother you are going to take tea with a girl who lives on McVane Street!"
The spirited horse that young Jack Brooks drove held his attention so completely at that moment that he had no time to bestow upon anything else; but when he was well out on the broad, clear roadway of the "Neck," he turned to his sister, and asked, "What did Kitty Grant; mean by your going to take tea with a girl who lives on McVane Street?"
"It is one of the girls at Miss Milwood's school,—Esther Bodn."
"How does a girl who lives on McVane Street come to go to Miss Milwood's school?"
"She assists Miss Milwood." And Laura told what she knew of Esther's assistance in the way of the French and German.
"Oh!" and the young man gave a satisfied sort of nod as he uttered this, as much as to say, "That explains it;" and then, dismissing the subject from his mind, turned his whole attention again to his horse, while Laura drew a deep breath of relief. She had begun to think that if her brother were to take up Kitty's cry against McVane Street, she might find her anticipated visit set about with thorns. "But I shall go, I shall go!" she said to herself, "whatever Jack may say, when mamma says that I may."
But Jack said no more on that occasion, nor when his mother, the next day at luncheon, asked Laura what time Miss Bodn expected her, did the young gentleman make any remark. He had evidently forgotten the matter altogether; and Laura, without further anxiety, set out upon her little journey to McVane Street.
Kitty Grant had laughed that morning when Laura had told her that she was to go to Esther's at four o'clock and leave at six, that she might be in time for her own dinner hour,—had laughed and said, "Oh, a regular 'four-to-six,'—a sunset tea! The little Bodn is 'up' on 'sassiety' matters, isn't she? Dear me, I wish I could go with you,—I never went to a sunset tea. Couldn't you take me along?"
"No, I'm sure I couldn't," Laura had answered, laughing a little, but a little irritated, nevertheless, at Kitty's tone; and when Kitty had gone on and declared that nobody could be more appreciative than herself, Laura had retorted,—
"Yes; but you make great mistakes in your appreciations. You wouldn't appreciate Esther's own sweetness and refinement at their real worth, if the carpets and curtains and chairs and things in the house on McVane Street didn't happen to please your taste."
These words of hers returned to Laura with great force as the door of the house on McVane Street was opened to her, and she found herself in a chilly hall, darkly papered and darkly and shabbily carpeted; and when she followed Esther up the stairs,—for it was Esther who had answered her ring,—and noted the general dreariness of the whole, she thought pityingly, "Poor Esther, to be obliged to live in such a dismal fashion."
It was in this depressed state of mind that she came to the top of the stairs. Here Esther was waiting for her; and as she pushed wide open a door in front of her, she said brightly, "Here we are," and Laura, turning, stood for a moment dumb with surprise, as she saw a room that by contrast with the dinginess of the halls looked almost luxurious, for it was all lightness and brightness and warmth and sweet odors, with the sunshine streaming in upon a window full of plants, and touching up a quantity of woodcuts, photographs, and water-colors, with a few oils, and two or three fine etchings,—all of which pretty nearly hid the ugly dark wallpaper. A little coal fire in a low grate made things still brighter, and brought out the soft faded reds of the rug, and purples and yellows of the worn chintz covers of lounge and chairs. And right in the lightest and brightest spot of all this lightness and brightness stood a little claw-footed round table, bearing an old-fashioned tea-service of china. The sunshine seemed actually to fill up the cups and spill over into the gilt-bordered saucers, as Laura looked. "It is a 'sunset tea,' indeed," she said to herself; "and if Kitty Grant could see how pretty and refined were the simple arrangements, she wouldn't mix Esther up with any horrid common emigrants, if she does live on McVane Street. Esther a foreigner of any kind! Nothing could be more absurd. Esther was a New England girl, if ever there was one,—a little New England girl, who had come up with her mother to Boston from the Cape perhaps to learn to be a teacher. Yes, that must be the explanation of McVane Street. The Bodns were people who had come up from the country, and country people of small means wouldn't be likely to know where to choose a home."
Laura had all this settled satisfactorily in her mind after she had chatted awhile with Esther in the sunny room, and taken in more completely its various details, such as the fishnet drapery by the windows, the group of shells on the plant-stand, and several photographs of a sea-coast. And when shown other sea-country treasures,—bits of coral and ivory and mosses,—things grew plainer than ever, and she began to have a very clear notion of Esther's past surroundings, and pictured her mother as one of those neat, trim, anxious-faced little women she had often seen in her sea or mountain summerings. It was just when she had got this fancy picture sharply defined that she heard Esther say, as a door leading from the next room opened,—
"Mother dear, this is my friend Laura Brooks, I've told you about;" and Laura, rising hastily, turned to see no trim, anxious-faced little person, but a tall, handsome, dark-eyed woman smiling a greeting to her daughter's guest over the pot of tea and plate of bread and butter that she carried. Not in the least like the fancy picture; but who—who was it she suggested?
All through the little meal this question kept recurring to Laura. Where had she seen that dark, handsome face before? It recurred to her again, as she followed the mother and daughter up to the little third-story room, to see the beautiful sunset effects. Where had she seen just that profile against such a sunset light? Then all at once, as the declining beams sent a redder ray across the nose and chin, the question was answered. The red ray had also illumined Laura's own face, and Mrs. Bodn, turning suddenly, caught the girl's curiously animated expression, and asked inquiringly, "What is it, my dear?" and Laura answered eagerly,—
"Oh, do you know that picture of Walter Scott's 'Rebecca,' painted by some great English artist, I think? My uncle has a copy of it in his library, and it is so like you, so like you, Mrs. Bodn. The moment I saw you I was sure that I had met you before; but just now, when the sunset lit up your face, I knew at once what made it so familiar. It was its great resemblance to the 'Rebecca.' Oh, do you know the picture, Mrs. Bodn?"
"Yes, perfectly well," answered Mrs. Bodn, quietly; "but it was not painted by an English artist, it was the work of a young German who is now dead. He was very little known, though he did some fine work."
"And did you know that the picture was so like you, Mrs. Bodn?"
"Well, yes, I knew that it was thought to be like me when it was painted; and it ought to be, you know, for I sat for it,—I was the model."
"You were a—a—the model," gasped Laura, in astonishment.
"Yes, I was a—a—the model," answered Mrs. Bodn, repeating Laura's own halting syllables, with an accent half of amusement, half of sarcasm. Then, more seriously, she added, "It was years ago, when I was living in Munich."
"Esther, where are you?" a voice from the floor below here called out.
"We are up in your room looking at the sunset; it's lovely; come up and see it," Esther called back. And the next moment Laura was being introduced to "My cousin, David Wybern,"—a tall, good-looking boy of fifteen or sixteen, with beautiful dark eyes like Mrs. Bodn's. The next moment after that, when this tall, good-looking boy, in addressing Mrs. Bodn, called her "Aunt Rebecca," like a flash these thoughts went flying through Laura's mind,—
"A model for Rebecca the Jewess, and her own name Rebecca, and her daughter's and her nephew's names,—Esther, David,—these also Hebrew names!" What did it signify? Kitty—Kitty would say that it proved she was right,—that they were the very people she had said they were. But, oh, they were not; they were not of that common kind that Kitty had classed so scornfully! No matter if her mother had been a model years ago, it was through poverty, of course, and she was very brave not to be ashamed of it; and Esther,—Esther was lovely, a girl to be good to, to be true to, and she, Laura Brooks, would be good to her and true to her, no matter what happened. Poor Laura, she little knew how this resolve would be put to the test within the next few hours, for she could not foresee that the fact of the coachman's forgetfulness to call for her, as he had been ordered to do, and her consequent acceptance of David Wybern's attendance, was to bring such a storm about her. It had seemed the simplest thing in the world, when half-past six struck, and no carriage came for her, to accept David's attendance, and just as simple, when the street cars rushed by, without an inch of standing-room, to walk on and up over the hill to Beacon Street. But in this walk it happened that her brother had passed her as he drove by with one of his friends, and he had gone straight home and into the dining-room with the words, "What does this mean?" and then he proceeded to tell how he had passed his sister accompanied by a young man or boy who looked to him like one of the clerks in Weyman & Co.'s importing-house.
What did it mean, indeed? Her father and mother also wondered and exclaimed; and when Laura appeared, and told them what it meant, there was a general outcry of disapproval and criticism, led on by her brother, who told her she should have waited and sent a message to them by this boy, instead of permitting him to walk home with her. In vain Laura spoke of the boy's good manners, of the refined aspect of the little home which she had just visited, and the intelligence and dignity of Mrs. Bodn and her daughter. Nothing she said seemed to ameliorate the disapproval or criticism; and at last, stung by a sore sense of injustice, the girl turned upon her father and said, "Papa, I've always heard you say that everybody should be judged by their worth, and you've often and often quoted from that poem of Robert Burns that you are so fond of, about honest poverty, and I remember two lines particularly, that you seemed to like most of all,—
"'That sense and worth o'er a' the earth May bear the prize and a' that;'
"and yet now, now—"
"But, my dear child," as Laura here broke down with a little sob,—"my dear child, it isn't that these people are poor,—it is because we don't know anything about them."
"I—I think it is because you do know that—that they live on McVane Street," faltered Laura.
"Well, that is to know nothing about them, in the sense that father means," broke in her brother, sharply. "Their living there shows that they are the kind of people that are out of our class entirely,—people that we don't want to know. I didn't think it mattered much the other day, when you told me you were going down there to take tea with your teacher; but when I find you are to make friends with the young clerks who are the relations of your teacher, I think it matters a good deal."
"But this clerk, as you call him, has a great deal better manners than Charley Aplin. He behaves a great deal more like a gentleman."
"And he has a much longer nose," retorted her brother, with a sneering little laugh. "The fellow's a Jew, I'm certain; he has a regular Jewish face."
"He has not," began Laura, indignantly, and then stopped suddenly. It was the low trader-type of Jewish face reflected from her brother's mind that she saw as she spoke; then Mrs. Bodn's beautiful profile and that of her nephew rose before her! If they—if they—her brother, her father, could see these faces,—these faces so fine and intelligent, and saw, too, the likeness that she had seen to the portrait in her uncle's library,—would they feel differently,—would they do justice to Esther and her relations, though they were Jews,—would they admit that they were of the higher type, that they were fit friends for her? No, no, no, she answered herself, as soon as these questions started up in her mind, and, stung through all her generous young heart by these instinctive answers, she burst forth: "You talk about Jews as if there were but one class,—the lowest class. What if all Americans were judged by the lowest class? Would you call that fair? And you think the Bodns are the lowest kind just because they are poor and live on McVane Street! That great novelist who lived in England and who was prime minister there, Lord Beaconsfield, was a Jew, and he was proud of it; and the Mendelssohns were Jews; and there are those wonderful musical novels Uncle George gave me to read last summer, 'Charles Auchester' and 'Counterparts,' they are full of Jews and their genius—"
"Laura, Laura, there is no need of your talking like this," interrupted her father; "we are not going to deny the worth or respectability of your new acquaintances, but it is entirely unnecessary for you to rush into any intimacy with such strangers."
There was a look in her father's face, as he spoke, that told Laura very plainly that all she had said had done more harm than good, and that henceforth there would be no more "sunset teas" with Esther Bodn. All her little plans, too, for making Esther's life brighter, by welcoming her into her own home, and bringing her into a better acquaintance with the other girls, were rendered impossible now. But if she could not be good to her in this way, she would be more than ever kind and cordial to her at school, and she would try to enlist Kitty Grant's interest. She would tell Kitty about that pretty refined home, and ask her to be kind and cordial too; and she was sure that Kitty would not refuse, for, in spite of her fun and her worldliness, Kitty had really a kind heart. Yes, she would enlist Kitty, and Kitty was all powerful. If she once got interested in a person, she could make everybody else interested. But, alas, for this scheme!
Alas! because Kitty had already taken her stand on the other side. She had already told the girls that Esther Bodn lived on McVane Street, in near neighborhood to a lot of rum-shops and foreigners, and had then "made fun," in the same rattling way that she had used with Laura, airing all her little suspicions and suggestions about the name of Bodn, in the half-frolic fashion that always had such effect upon the listeners. It had such effect on this occasion, that Laura found that every girl had passed from indifference to an active prejudice against Esther. Kitty herself had not meant to produce this result. Indeed, Kitty had had no meaning whatever but that of amusing herself,—"making fun;" and when the girls, relishing this "fun," laughed and applauded, she did not realize that she had done a mischievous thing. Poor Laura, however, realized everything as the days went by, and she saw Esther subjected to a certain critical observation. Her only hope was that the person most interested did not notice this; but one day she came upon Esther at recess, bending over a pile of exercises, at which she was apparently hard at work.
"What's the rush, Esther, that you've got to work at recess?" she asked.
Esther murmured an unintelligible reply, and bent her head still lower; and then it was that Laura, to her dismay, saw a tear drop to the exercises upon the desk.
"Esther, Esther, what is the matter? Tell me!"
"I—I don't know," faltered Esther, "but things seem different. I always knew that the girls didn't care very much for me, but they were not unkind. Now—they—seem unkind some way. Perhaps it's only my fancy, but—but they seem to look down on me as they didn't before, and—and sometimes they seem to avoid me, and—I'm just the same as ever, except—except I'm a good deal shabbier this spring. I've always been rather shabby, but this spring it's worse, because we've lost some money,—not much, but it was a good deal to us, and I couldn't have anything new; and—and there's another thing—one morning I overheard one of the girls say to Kitty Grant, 'McVane Street, that is enough!' They must have been talking about me and where I live. Nobody else here lives on McVane Street, and we—mother and I—wouldn't live there if we could afford to live where we liked; but we came here strangers, and this was much the most comfortable place we could find for what we could pay. I know it's in a disagreeable part of the city; but it isn't bad, it isn't low, where we are, it's only run down and shabby. But I thought Boston people were above judging others by such things. I'd always heard that Boston girls—"
"Boston girls! oh, don't talk to me of Boston girls, don't talk to me of any girls anywhere," burst in Laura. "I'm sick—sick of girls. Girls will do things and say things—little, mean, petty things—that boys would be ashamed to do or say."
"Then you do think it's because of my shabbiness and where I live that—that has made them—these girls so—so different; but why should they—all at once? I can't understand."
"Don't try to understand! Don't bother your head about them—they don't mean—they don't know—they are not worth your notice. You are a long, long way above them!"
"Mother didn't want to come to Boston to live; but when my uncle John Wybern, mother's brother, died three years ago,—he died in Munich; he was an artist, like my father, and we'd all lived together, since my father's death,—we came on here, as uncle had advised, because he knew some one here in an importing-house who would get David a situation. He didn't want David to be an artist. He said it was such an anxious, hand-to-mouth life, if one didn't make a quick success of it; and he knew, for he hadn't made a success any more than my father had,—and—and this is why we came here, and are here now on McVane Street, though my mother didn't want to come. But I wanted to come from the first. I'd heard and read so much about Boston, I thought I was sure to be happy here, for I thought the people were so noble and high-minded, and—" There was a pathetic little faltering break again at this, which was resolutely repressed, and the sentence resumed with, "and then I knew my father's people had once—" But at this point, "Esther," called out Miss Milwood from the doorway, "bring the exercises into my room, and we'll finish them together."
Almost at that very moment Kitty Grant came running down the aisle, calling out, "Laura, Laura, are you going this afternoon to the Art Club?"
"To hear Monsieur Baudouin? Yes."
"Well, we'll go together, then."
"Very well," mimicking Laura's cool tones; then with a change of voice, "Laura, what is the matter? You are enough to freeze anybody. What have I done?"
"You've done a very cruel thing."
"Yes, I sha'n't take back my words,—you have done a very cruel thing."
"For pity's sake, what do you mean?"
"You may well say 'for pity's sake;'" and then Laura burst forth and repeated, word for word, the conversation that had transpired between Esther and herself, concluding with, "And you—you, Kitty, are to blame for this, for it is you who have prejudiced the girls against Esther with your talk about McVane Street and the foreigners in that neighborhood."
"I? Just my little fun about McVane Street and your sunset tea there?"
"Yes, just your little fun! I know what your fun is! Oh, Kitty, Kitty, I did think you had a kind heart! But to be the means of hurting anybody, as you have hurt Esther,—it is—it is—"
"Laura, Laura, don't," as Laura here broke down in a little fit of sobbing. "Of course I didn't know—I didn't think. Oh, dear, I'll tell the girls I didn't mean a word I said,—that I'm the biggest liar in town; that Esther is an heiress; that—that—oh, I'll do or say anything, if you'll only stop crying, Laura. There, there," as Laura tried to stifle a fresh sob, "that's right, take my handkerchief,—yours is sopping wet, and—My goodness, there comes Maud Aplin—she must not see us sniffing and sobbing like this, she'll say we've had a quarrel. Here, let us go into the little recitation-room, quick now, before she sees us."
And into the little recitation-room Laura was very willing to go and hide her tear-stained face from inquisitive eyes, while Kitty, penitent and overcome more by the spectacle of these tears than by a sense of her own shortcomings, followed briskly after, with this cheerful little running fire of remarks, anent the Art Club lecturer: "I'm just crazy—crazy to see this Monsieur Baudouin; for what do you think Flo Aplin says? That he is a real viscomte or marquis, or something of that sort, but that he came into his title only a year or two ago, and is much prouder of his reputation as an art authority and critic and his name, Pierre Baudouin,—it's his own name, you know,—and he won his reputation under that. The Aplins met him last year in Paris. Windlow Aplin, who is studying art there, just swears by him, and says the artists dote on him, and Flo says he is perfectly elegant. Etching is his great fad now, and he is going to lecture this afternoon on etching and etchers. Oh, I'm just crazy to see and hear him, aren't you?"
Laura had by this time conquered her tears, thanks to Kitty's adroitness, and, with a half-humorous, half-grateful appreciation of this adroitness, she thought to herself as she walked round to the Art Club with Kitty that afternoon, "Kitty has a good heart, after all."
The Art Club hall was quite full as they entered; but there were seats well down in front, and there they found most of the school girls under Miss Milwood's charge. Esther was one of this party; and Kitty made a great point of leaning forward and bowing to her with much graciousness. The next moment she was whispering to Laura, "There, didn't I behave prettily to Esther this time? You'll see now—" But at that instant a slender dark-eyed gentleman, accompanied by one of the artists, was seen coming rapidly up the aisle, and, "Look, look, there he is!" cried Kitty, "and isn't he elegant?"
And Laura looking, as she was told, found no reason to disagree with this comment.
"But I do hope," whispered the irrepressible Kitty again, as Monsieur Baudouin ascended the platform,—"I do hope he is as interesting as he looks; appearances are deceitful sometimes." But no one of that audience found Pierre Baudouin's appearance deceitful. He was more than interesting,—he was enthralling as he went on with his almost loving consideration of his subject, setting before his hearers, in a melodious voice and very good English, some of the results of his great knowledge and experience. You could have heard a pin drop, as the saying goes, so spell-bound was the audience; and at the end there was a warm outburst of applause, and then a gathering about him, as he left the platform, of the various artists, and others who were eager to speak with him. He was standing with this little group, when Laura, watching and listening just outside of it, heard him say, "There is a remarkable etching that I wish I could show you, for it proves completely the theory I have just placed before you. I saw it but once, in the artist's own studio, as I was passing through Munich. When a little later I heard that the artist was dead, and his effects for sale, I tried to buy the etching, but was told that it had been given to a friend, a Mr. John Wybern. Since then, I have learned that Mr. Wybern has also died, and I started again on my search; but it has been fruitless so far, though I still hope I may come across it, and be able, if not to add it to my collection, to examine it again. The artist, by the way, is the same one that painted that remarkable picture, 'Rebecca the Jewess.'"
Laura turned hastily around to look for Esther. She had not to look far. Esther was just behind her. "Esther, did you hear?" she asked.
"Do you know about the etching?"
"Yes, it hangs in our parlor. I wish I dared go forward now and tell him."
"Oh, Esther, do, do!"
But Esther hung back. Then Laura obeyed an impulse that forever after filled her with astonishment. She pressed forward, and, before she had time to think twice, was addressing Monsieur Baudouin, and telling him what she knew.
"What! you can tell me where this etching is? You can take me to it?" he exclaimed, with a sort of joyful incredulity.
Laura answered by turning to Esther and saying. "This young lady can tell you more about it. The etching is in the possession of her family."
"Ah, and this young lady is—"
Laura reached back, seized Esther's hand, and pulled her to her side.
"Is Miss Bodn."
"Mees Bodn!" he repeated with a start. "Mees Bodn! Ah, pardon me, do you spell this name B-o-w-d-o-i-n?"
"You do, you do," as Esther answered in the affirmative; "and, pardon again, are you related to one Henri—Henry, you call it here—Henry Pierre Bowdoin?"
"My father's name was Henry Pierre Bowdoin."
"Then, Mademoiselle," and Monsieur Baudouin stretched out his hand, and a smile lit up his face, "you must be a relation of mine; and three years ago, when I was in this country, and tried to find the American branch of our family that spelled its name Bowdoin and was called Bodn, but which was originally Baudouin, the old Huguenot name, I was told it had died out. Where were you then, Mademoiselle?"
"In Munich, where my mother and I had lived with my uncle John Wybern, since my father's death, years ago."
"Your uncle! John Wybern was your uncle? So—so is it possible, is it possible? And I find the two objects I have been hunting, so far apart, together! It is most astonishing and yet most simple. And your mother—your mother is living? Yes, and you will give me your address, that I may hasten to pay my respects to her;" and Monsieur whipped out a little note-book and wrote down, probably with greater satisfaction than it had ever been written before, "McVane Street."
"Most astonishing and yet most simple," as Monsieur had truly said; yet to the flock of Miss Milwood's girls, who, well down to the front, had lost nothing of this surprising interview, it was only "most astonishing," and to some of them most humiliating and mortifying. Kitty Grant was the first to voice this mortification, by turning upon them and saying, as Esther disappeared with Monsieur Baudouin, "Say, girls, how do you feel now? I feel like one of Cinderella's sisters. Laura now—Laura, where are you?" But Laura had also disappeared. She wanted to be by herself and think it over. But what of Esther,—Esther, who had been neglected and disregarded and despised? What of Esther, as she stood there, and as she walked away with Monsieur Baudouin? Esther was the least astonished of them all, for years ago she had been familiar with the facts of her paternal family history, and knew that she was a descendant of Pierre Baudouin, a French Huguenot, who had fled to America to escape religious persecution, and knew that the name Baudouin had suffered a change to Bowdoin; knew, too, that as Bowdoin it had been made illustrious in America's annals, and worn the honors of the highest offices of the State. She knew all this; but she knew also that this was long ago, and that her father was the last of his name in America, and when he died, after a wasting illness that exhausted his fortune, there was little thought given to the fact that the old Huguenot root still existed in France, though half-playful, half-serious mention had now and then been made of the kinsfolk in France they would sometime go to seek.
All this Esther had stored away in her memory, so that when Monsieur Baudouin announced himself as the kinsman from France, it was more like a long-anticipated event than a surprise. And all this she told to Laura in the days that followed,—those dear, delightful days, when there was no difficulty put in the way of going to McVane Street; when McVane Street, indeed, according to Kitty, became quite the fashion with the artists flocking to see the wonderful etching, and Monsieur Baudouin holding forth upon its merits to them as he made himself at home with his American kinsfolk, who were now discovered to be such charming folk. Laura sometimes in these days blazed up with indignation and disgust as she noted the sudden attentions that were bestowed upon Esther and her mother. No one now spoke of emigrants and foreigners in connection with these dwellers on McVane Street. Jack Brooks himself seemed to forget that David Wybern looked like a Jew, even before it was found that David and all of his people were of the most unmixed Puritan stock!
"And I, too," thought Laura,—"I, too, muddled and mistook things as I shouldn't, if Esther and her mother had lived in a different quarter. If they had lived anywhere over the hill, should I have fancied, though they were so poor, that Mrs. Bowdoin must have been a professional model? No, no, I should have thought at once, what I know now, that the artist was her friend, and that she sat to him as a friendly favor, like any other lady."
But while Laura thus scourged herself with the rest, Esther and her mother had set her apart from all the rest for their special love and confidence,—a love and confidence that are as fresh to-day as when the mother and daughter sailed away with Monsieur Baudouin, a year ago, to visit their French kinsfolk.
"Number five!" called out shrilly and impatiently the saleswoman at the lace counter in a great dry-goods establishment. The call was repeated in a still more impatient tone before there was any response; then there rushed up a girl of ten or eleven, whose big black eyes looked forth fearlessly, some people said impudently, from a little peaked face, so thin and small that it seemed all eyes, and in the neighborhood where the child lived she was often nicknamed "Eyes."
"Why didn't you come when you were first called?" asked the saleswoman, angrily.
"Couldn't; I'se waitin' for somethin'," answered the child, coolly.
"You were staring at and list'nin' to those ladies at the ribbon counter; I saw you," retorted the saleswoman.
"Well, I tole yer, I'se waitin' for somethin'," the girl answered, showing two rows of teeth in a mischievous grin.
A younger saleswoman, standing near, giggled.
"Don't laugh at her, Lizzie," rebuked the elder; "she's getting too big for her boots with her impudence."
"They ain't boots; they're shoes." And a thin little leg was thrust forward to show a foot encased in a shabby old shoe much too large for it.
Then, like a flash, the "imp," as the saleswoman often termed her, seized the parcel that was ready for her, and darted off with it.
"You'll get reported if you don't look out," the saleswoman called after her.
The "imp" turned her head and winked back at the irritated saleswoman in such a grotesque fashion that the lively Lizzie giggled again, for which she was told she ought to be ashamed of herself. Good-natured Lizzie admitted the truth of this accusation, but declared that Becky was so funny she "just couldn't help laughing."
"You call it 'funny,'" the other exclaimed; "I call it impudence. She ain't afraid of anything or anybody. Look at her now! there she is back at the ribbon counter. I wonder what those swells are talking about, that she's so taken up with. She's up to some mischief, I'll bet you, Lizzie."
"I guess it's only her fun. She's going to take 'em off by 'n' by," said Lizzie.
This was one of the "imp's" accomplishments,—taking people off. She was a great mimic, and on rainy days when the girls ate their luncheon in the room that the firm had allotted to them for that purpose, Miss Becky would "take off," the various people that had come under her keen observation during the day. "Private theatricals," the lively Lizzie called this "taking off," as Becky strutted and minced, with her chin up, her dress lifted in one hand, while with the other she held a pair of scissors for an eyeglass, and peered through the bows at a piece of cloth, which she picked and pecked and commented upon in fine-lady fashion,—"just like the swells," Lizzie declared. It was quite natural then for her to conclude that it was fun of this sort that Becky was "up to," in her close attention to the "swell" customers at the ribbon counter. "She was studyin' 'em, just as actresses study their play-parts," Lizzie thought to herself; and half an hour later, when she met Becky in the lunch-room, she called out to her,—
"Come, Becky, give us the swells at the ribbon counter."
"Eh?" said Becky.
Lizzie repeated her request, and the other girls joined in: "Yes, Becky, give us the swells at the ribbon counter; we want some fun."
"They warn't funny," answered Becky, shortly.
"Oh! now, Becky, what'd you stand there lis'nin' and lookin' at 'em so long for?"
"'Cause they were sayin' somethin' I wanted to hear."
"Of course they were. What was it about, Becky?"
"May-day, flowers and queens and baskets."
"Oh, my! Well, tell us how they said it, Becky."
"I tole yer they warn't funny; they warn't o' that kind that peeks through them long stick glasses and puckers up their lips. They talked straight 'long, and said very int'restin' things," said Becky.
"Well, tell us; tell us what 'twas," exclaimed Lizzie.
"Oh, you wouldn't care for what they's talkin' 'bout. They warn't sayin' anythin' 'bout beaux or clothes," Becky replied with a grin.
A shout of laughter went up from the rest of the company, who all knew the lively Lizzie's favorite topics. Lizzie joined in the laugh, and cried good-naturedly,—
"Never mind, Becky, if I'm not up to your ribbon swells talk; tell us about it."
"Oh, yes! tell us, tell us!" echoed the others.
Becky took a bite out of a slice of bread, and munching it slowly, said,—
"I tole yer once 't was 'bout May-day and flowers and queens and baskets."
"What May-day? There's thirty-one of 'em, Becky."
Becky looked staggered for a moment. In her little hard-worked life she had had small opportunity to learn much out of books, and she had never happened to hear this rhyming bit:—
"Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November, All the rest have thirty-one, Excepting February alone."
Recovering her wits, however, very speedily, she said coolly,—
"The first pleasant one."
"Well, what were they telling about it? What were they going to do the first pleasant day in May?"
"They didn't say as they was goin' to do anythin'; they was tellin'—or one of 'em was tellin' t' other one—what folks did when they's little, and afore that, hundreds o' years ago, how the folks then used to get all the children together and go out in the country and put up a great big high pole, and put a lot o' flowers on a string and wind 'em roun' the pole; and then all the children would take hold o' han's and dance roun' the pole, and one o' the children was chose to be queen, and had a crown made o' flowers on her head, and the rest o' the children minded her."
"You'd like that,—to be queen and have the rest mind you, Becky, wouldn't you?" laughed one of the company.
"I bet I would," owned Becky, frankly.
"But what about the baskets?" asked somebody else.
"Oh, the kids," said Becky, forgetting in her present absorbed interest the term "children,"—which she had learned to use since she had come up daily from the poor neighborhood where she lived,—"the kids use to fill a basket with flowers and hang it on the door-knob of somebody's house,—somebody they knew,—and then ring the bell and run. Golly! guess I should hev to hang it inside where I lives. I couldn't hang it on no outside door and hev it stay there long,—them thieves o' alley boys would git it 'fore yer could turn. I guess, though, they was country kids who used to hang 'em; but the lady said she was goin' to try to start 'em up again here in the city."
"What kind o' baskets were they?" asked Lizzie, suddenly sitting up with a new air of attention.
"Oh, ho!" laughed one of the girls; "Lizzie wants to hang a basket for somebody she knows!"
"Hush up!" said Lizzie, turning rather red. Then, addressing Becky again: "Did the lady who was telling about 'em have a basket with her? Did you see it?"
"No, but she hed a piece o' that pretty wrinkly paper jes' like the lamp-shades in the winders, and she said the baskets was made o' that, and she was buyin' some ribbon to match for handles and bows."
"Oh, I wish I could see one of 'em," said Lizzie.
"I went to a kinnergarden school wonst when I was a little kid," struck in Becky here, "and we was put up there to makin' baskets out o' paper."
"Could you do it now?" asked Lizzie, eagerly.
"Mebbe I could," answered Becky, warily; "but it's a good bit ago."
"When you were young," cried one of the company with a giggle.
"Yes, when I was young," repeated Becky, in exact imitation of the speaker, whose voice was very flat and nasal.
Everybody laughed, and one of the girls cried: "Becky'll get the best of you any time." They were all of them impressed with this fact, when, a few minutes after, the wary Becky agreed to show Lizzie what she knew of "kinnergarden" basket-making, if Lizzie would agree to pay her for her trouble by giving her materials enough to make a basket for herself.
"Ain't she a sharp one?" commented one of the girls to another when they had left the lunch-room.
"Ain't she, though? She'll get what she can, and hold on to what she's got every time."
"But she's awful good fun. Didn't she take off Matty Kelley's flat nose-y way of talkin' to a T?"
"Didn't she!" and the two girls laughed anew at the recollection.
Becky was the only one of the parcel-girls who was in the lunch-room when this talk about May-day took place. The others lived nearer to the store, and had gone home to their dinners. They were all a trifle older than Becky, and a good deal larger. For these reasons, as well as for the fact that they had been in the establishment quite a while when Becky entered it, they had put on a great many disagreeable airs toward the pale-faced little girl when she first appeared, and attempted, as Becky put it, to "boss" her. They soon found, however, that the new-comer was too much for them. They expected her to be afraid of them,—to "stand round" for them. But Miss Becky was not in the least afraid of them, or, for that matter, of anybody; and as soon as she understood what they meant, she turned upon them the whole force of that inimitable mimicry of hers, and "took off" their airs in a manner that soon set the small army of salesmen and saleswomen into such fits of laughter that the tables were completely turned upon the tormentors, and they were only too glad to drop their airs and treat Becky with the respect that pluck and superior power invariably command. But while thus constrained to decent behavior before Becky's eyes, behind her back they gave way to the resentment that they felt against her for her triumph over them, and let no opportunity slip to say slighting things of her. Good-natured Lizzie would laugh when they said these things to her,—when they told her that Becky Hawkins was nothin' but one o' that low lot who lived down amongst that thieving set by the East Cove alleys,—that jus' as like as not she was a thief herself; that she was awful close and stingy, anyway, and saved up every scrap she could find; that they'd seen her themselves pick up old strings and buttons and such duds from the gutters! But if Lizzie laughed out of her light lively heart, and declared she didn't believe what they said was true, and didn't care if it was, there were others not so good-natured as Lizzie, who, though often vastly entertained by Becky, were quite ready to believe that the spirit of mimicry she possessed had something lawless about it, especially when she broke forth into the slang of the street,—"gutter-slang," the other parcel-girls called it,—the lawlessness seemed to gather a sort of proof. And so it was that, in spite of the entertainment she afforded, and a certain kind of respect in which her "smartness" was held, Becky was considered as rather an outsider, and an object of more or less suspicion.
"A sharp one!" the saleswoman had called her, the other agreeing; and when the next day, which was also a rainy day, the little company gathered in the lunch-room again, and Lizzie brought forth a variety of pretty papers, there was a general watchfulness to see how much Becky knew, and what she would claim. Two other of the parcel-girls were now present. They had heard all about the basket-making plan of yesterday, and pushed forward with great interest. Becky looked at them with mischief in her eyes, but made no movement to join Lizzie.
"Come," said the older of the two, "why don't you begin, Becky? Lizzie's waitin', and so are we."
"What yer waitin' for?" asked Becky, with an impudent grin.
"To see how you make the baskets."
"Well, yer'll hev to wait."
"Why, you told Lizzie you'd show her how to make baskets out o' paper!"
"But I didn' say I'se goin' to show anybody else. This ain't a free kinnergarden. These are private lessons."
A shriek of laughter went up at this, while somebody cried,—
"And private lessons must be paid for, mustn't they, Becky?"
"Every time," answered Becky, with unruffled coolness.
"Where's the private room to give 'em in?" piped out one of the parcel-girls with a wink at the other.
"In here!" cried Becky, with a sudden inspiration, jumping up and running into a little fitting-room that had that morning been assigned to her to sweep and put in order after the lunch hour.
"Good for you!" cried Lizzie, with one of her laughs, as she followed her teacher.
"And you didn't get ahead o' me this time, either!" called out Becky, as she bolted the door upon herself and companion.
"You're too sharp for any of us, Becky," called back one of the saleswomen.
"Ain't she sharp?" agreed one and another; and "I told you so," said still another. "She's a regular little cove-sharper, as Lotty said." Lotty was the older parcel-girl.
And thus, though most of them laughed at Becky's last "move," they were prejudiced against her for it, and thought it another evidence of her stinginess and sharpness. They all agreed, however, that she had "got 'round' Lizzie to that extent that that young woman would stand up for her, anyway, no matter what she'd do or didn't do.
"An' I'll bet yer," said the younger parcel-girl, "she'll lie out o' that basket bizness, an' get a lot o' paper too. She know how to make baskets! Not much. You see now when they come out o' the fitting-room there'll be some excuse that 't ain't done, an' they can't show it now,—you see."
This prophecy was received in silence, but without much sign of disagreement; and when the fitting-room door finally opened, it was funny to watch the looks of astonishment that were bestowed upon the pretty little basket of green and white paper that Lizzie held swung upon her finger.
"Well, I never! She did know how, didn't she?" exclaimed one of the party.
"Of course she did," answered Lizzie.
Becky only shrugged her shoulders disdainfully.
"Bet yer she hooked it out o' some shop, and had it in that bag she carried in," whispered Lotty Riker, the parcel-girl.
"Hush!" warned one of the company.
But it was too late. Becky had heard, and for the first time since she had been in the store, those about her saw hot wrath blazing from her eyes as she burst forth savagely,—
"Yer mean low-lived thing yer, yer must be up to sech tricks yerself to think that!"
"What is it? What did she say?" asked Lizzie.
Becky repeated Lotty's words, her wrath increasing as she did so.
"Hooked it! You know better, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself, Lotty Riker," said Lizzie. "Becky and I made the basket ourselves. See here now!" and, opening one hand, she displayed the ends of the paper strips as they had been cut off, and where they fitted the protruding ends on the basket. "But," turning to Becky, "Lotty knows better; she only wanted to bother you."
"She wanted to bully me! She's been at it ever since I come here,—she and t' other one. I made 'em stop it wonst, an' I'll make 'em ag'in. I can stan' a good deal, but I ain't a-goin' to stan' bein' called a thief, I ain't. I ain't no more a thief 'n they be, if I do live down Cove way, and don't wear quite so good clo'es as they does. Hooked it!" going a step nearer to the two girls. "I wish we was boys. I'd—I'd lick yer, I would, the minit I got yer out on the street; but," with a disgusted sigh, "I'm a girl, and I carn't. 'Tain't 'spectable for girls, Tim says, an' I mus'n't. But lemme jes' hear any more sech talk, an'—I'll forgit I'm a girl for 'bout five minutes!"
This conclusion was too much for Lizzie's gravity, and she burst into one of her infectious laughs. Several of the others joined in, and then Becky herself gave a sudden little grin.
Lotty Riker and her sister, who had been thoroughly frightened, felt immensely relieved at this, and for the moment everything seemed the same as before the outbreak; but it was only seeming. The majority of the company, without taking into consideration the provocation Becky had received, thought to themselves: "What a temper!" Becky's wild little threats, and the way she expressed herself, had made a strong impression; and when presently Lizzie laughingly asked, "Who's Tim, Becky?" and Becky had answered in that lawless manner of hers: "Oh, he's a fren' o' mine,—a great big fightin' gentleman what lives in the house where we do," there was a general exchange of glances, and a general conviction that the Riker girls had not been altogether wrong in some of their statements. And when the next day they heard Miss Becky confide to Lizzie that she had made "a splendid basket," and was going to hang it for Tim on that "fust pleasant day of May," they whispered to each other, "A May-basket for a prize-fighter!"
But they took very good care that the whisper did not reach Becky. She was "great fun," but they had found out how fiercely she could turn from her fun.
The first day of May turned out to be a most beautiful day, bright and sunny; and when Lizzie hung her pretty basket filled with Plymouth Mayflowers on the door-knob of a great friend of hers, she laughed, and wondered if Becky had hung hers for that "fightin' gen'leman, Tim." She would ask Becky the minute she got to the store. But the minute she got to the store she had a customer to wait upon, and had no time to bestow on Becky until she needed her service. Then she called "Number Five;" but, instead of "Number Five," Lotty Riker responded.
"Where's Becky?" asked Lizzie.
"I dunno. She hain't come in; mebbe she's hangin' that May-basket for the prize-fighter," giggled Lotty.
Business was very brisk that day, and Lizzie had no leisure for anything else. But at noon, when she was going out to her lunch, it occurred to her that Becky had not yet appeared. Where could she be? She had always been punctual to a minute.
The afternoon was busier than the morning, and once more Becky was forgotten. It was not until the closing hour—five o'clock—that Lizzie thought of her again, and then she burst out to Matty and Josie Kelly, as they were leaving the store together,—
"Where do you suppose Becky Hawkins is? She hasn't been here to-day, and she's always here, and so punctual."
"Mebbe she's taken it into her head to leave," answered Matty. "'T would be just like her; she's that independent."
"Catch her leaving when she'd have anything to lose. She'd lose a week's pay to leave without warning, and she knows it. She's too sharp to do that," put in Josie, laughing,
"I hope she ain't sick," said Lizzie.
"Sick! her kind don't get sick easy. Those Cove streeters are tough. Lizzie, how much did she get out of you for showing you how to make that basket?"
"Why, what I agreed to give,—enough to make a basket for herself; and last night, when she was going home, I gave her some of my Mayflowers,—I had plenty."
"Well, I'm sure you are real generous."
"No, I'm not; it was a bargain."
"Yes, Becky's bargain, and she'd like to have made a bargain with the rest of us. The idea of taking you off into that fitting-room, so't the rest of us wouldn't profit by her showing you, and then her talking about private lessons!"
"Oh, that was only her fun."
"Fun! and when one of the girls said, 'And private lessons must be paid for, mustn't they, Becky?' and she answered, 'Yes, every time,' do you think that was only fun?"
"Yes; and if it wasn't, I don't care. She's a right to make a little something if she can. They're awful poor folks down there on Cove Street."
"Make a little something! Yes, but I guess you wouldn't catch any of the other girls here making a little something like that out of the friends she was working alongside of."
"Friends!" exclaimed Lizzie.
"And say, Lizzie," went on Josie, paying no attention to Lizzie's exclamation, "I'll bet you anything she sold her basket, and very likely to that prize-fighter,—that Tim."
"I don't care if she did. But don't let's talk any more about her. I hate to talk about folks, and it doesn't do any good to think bad things of 'em. But, hark, what's that the newsboys are crying? 'Awful disaster down—' Where? Stop a minute, I'm going to buy a paper."
"Yes, here it is, awful disaster down in one of the Cove Street tenement-houses," read Lizzie; and then, bringing up suddenly, she cried, "Why, girls, girls, that's where Becky lives,—in one of those tenements."
"Go on, go on!" urged Matty; and Lizzie went on, and read: "'At six o'clock this morning one of the most disastrous fires that we have had for years broke out in the rear of the Cove Street tenement-houses, and, owing to the high wind and the dryness of the season, it had gained such headway by the time the engines arrived, that it looked as if not only the whole block but the adjoining buildings were doomed; but after hours of untiring effort on the part of the firemen, it was finally brought under control. Several of the tenements were completely gutted, and the wildest excitement prevailed as the panic-stricken tenants, with cries and shrieks of terror, jumped from the windows, or in other ways sought to save themselves. It is not yet ascertained how many lost their lives in these attempts, but it is feared that the number is by no means small.'"
"I'm going down there! I'm going down there!" Lizzie cried out here, breaking off her reading, and starting forward at a rapid pace.
"You needn't try to stop me, I'm going. Becky's down there somewhere, and mebbe she's alive and hurt and needs something, and I'm going to see. You needn't come if you're afraid, but I'm going!"
The two girls offered no further remonstrance, but silently turned; and the three went on together toward the burned district.
"What yer doin' here?" asked a policeman gruffly, as they entered Cove Street. "Go back! 't ain't no place for anybody that hain't got business here."
"I'm looking for little Becky Hawkins,—one of the girls in our store," answered Lizzie.
"Yes; do you know her?"
"Should think I did. This is my beat,—known her all her life pretty much."
"Did she get out,—is she alive?" asked Lizzie, breathlessly.
"Yes, she's alive; she's down there in that corner house with her friend Tim."
The policeman's lips moved with a faint odd smile as he said this,—a smile that Matty and Josie interpreted to mean that Becky was just what the Riker girls had said she was,—a little Cove Street hoodlum,—while Tim, the prize-fighter, was probably one of the friends of her family that the policeman had probably now under arrest down in that "corner house." Thrilling with this interpretation, Josie pulled at Lizzie's sleeve, and made a frantic appeal to her to come away as the policeman had advised, adding,—
"We are decent girls, and—it's a disgrace to have anything to do with such a lot as Becky and her family and—"
"What yer talkin' 'bout?" suddenly interrupted the policeman,—"what yer talkin' 'bout? Becky Hawkins a disgrace to yer! Come down here 'n' see what the Cove Street folks think of Becky Hawkins!" and he wheeled around as suddenly as he had spoken, and beckoned the girls to follow him.
They followed him down to the corner house, which stood blackened with smoke and water, but otherwise uninjured, for it was just here that the flames had been arrested, and in the hall-way the few poor remnants of the household goods that had been saved from the other tenements were huddled together. Pushing past these, the policeman stopped at an open door whence issued a sound of voices. Lizzie started forward as a familiar tone struck her ear, and smiling she exclaimed, "That's Becky!"
But the policeman pulled her back. "Wait a minute!" he said.
"Who's that speakin' to me?" called out the familiar voice. "Is it Lizzie Macdonald from the store?"
"Yes, yes!" and, the policeman no longer holding her back, Lizzie stepped over the threshold. There were two or three others in the room; but over and beyond them Lizzie caught sight of Becky's big black eyes, and hurrying forward cried: "Oh, Becky, I've only just got out of the store, and just read about the fire, and I thought mebbe you were hurt, and I came as fast as I could to see if I couldn't do something for you; but I'm so glad you are all right—But," coming nearer and finding that Becky was not standing, as she supposed, but propped up on a table, "you're not all right, are you?"
"No, I—I guess—I'm all wrong," responded Becky, with a queer little smile, and an odd quaver to her voice.
"Oh, Becky, Becky, they ought to have taken better care of you,—a little thing like you!"
"'Twas she was takin' care of other folks," spoke up one of the women in the room.
"Yes, 'twas a-savin' my Tim that did it," broke forth another. "She'd got down the stairs all safe, and then she thought o' Tim and ran back for him. She know'd I wasn't to home, and he was all alone; and she saved him for me,—she saved him for me! She helped him out onto the roof; 'twas too late for the stairs then, and a fireman got him down the 'scape; but Becky—Becky was behind, and the fire follered so fast, she made a jump—and fell—oh, Becky! Becky!"
"Hush now!" said the other woman. "Don't keep a-goin' over it; yer worry her, and it's no use."
"Went back for Tim, saved Tim the prize-fighter!" thought Lizzie, in dumb amazement.
"The kid'll be all right soon," broke in another voice here.
Lizzie looked up, and saw a rough fellow, who had just come in, gazing down at Becky with an expression that strangely softened his hard face.
Becky lifted her eyes at the sound of the voice.
"Hello, Jake," she said faintly.
"Hello, Becky, yer'll be all right soon, won't yer?"
"I'm all right now," said Becky, sleepily, "and Tim's all right. He didn't get burnt, but the basket and all the pretty flowers did. If I could make another—"
"I'll make another for you," said Lizzie, pressing forward.
"And hang it for Tim?" asked Becky.
"Yes," answered Lizzie. Something in Lizzie's expression, in her tone, roused Becky's wandering memory, and with a sudden flash of her old mischief she said,—
"He's a fren' o' mine. Show up, Tim, and lemme interduce yer."
There was a movement on the other side of the table where Becky lay; and then Lizzie saw, struggling up from a chair, a tiny crippled body, wasted and shrunken,—the body of a child of seven with a shapely head and the face of an intelligent boy of fifteen.
"That's him,—that's Tim,—the fightin' gen'leman I tole yer 'bout," said Becky, with a gay little smile at the remembrance of her joke and how she "played it on 'em," and at the look of astonishment now on Lizzie's face. And still with the gay little smile, but fainter voice,—
"Yer'll tell 'em, Lizzie,—the girls in the store,—how I played it on 'em; and when I git back—I'll—"
"Give her some air; she's faint," cried one of the women.
The tall young rough, Jake, sprang to the window and pulled it open, letting in a fresh wind that blew straight up from the grassy banks beyond the Cove.
"Do yer feel better, Becky?" he asked, as he saw her face brighten.
"I—I feel fus' rate—all well, Jake, and—I—I smell the Mayflowers. They warn't burnt, were they? And oh, ain't they jolly, ain't they jolly! Tim, Tim!"
"Yes, yes, Becky," answered Tim, in a shaking voice.
"Wait for me here Tim,—I—I'm goin' to find 'em for yer, Tim,—ther, ther Mayflowers. They're close by; don't yer smell 'em? Close by—I'm goin'—to find 'em for yer, Tim!" And with a radiant smile of anticipation Becky's soul went out upon its happy quest, leaving behind her the grime and poverty of Cove Street forever.
The two women—and one of them was Becky's aunt with whom the girl had always lived—broke into sobs and tears; but as the latter looked at the radiant face, she said suddenly,—
"She's well out of it all."
"But there's them that'll be worse for her goin'," said the other; "and 't ain't only Tim I mean, it's the like o' him," nodding towards Jake, who was slipping quietly out of the room,—"it's the like o' him. They looked up to her, they did,—bit of a thing as she was. She was that straight and plucky and gin'rous she did 'em good; she made 'em better. Jake's often said she was the Cove Street mascot."
And with these words sounding in her ears, Lizzie crept softly from the room. Just over the threshold, in the shadow of the broken bits of furniture that had been saved from the fire, she started to see Matty and Josie still waiting for her.
"What!" she cried, "have you been here all the time—have you seen—have you heard—"
They nodded; and Matty whispered brokenly,—
"Oh, Lizzie, I ain't never again goin' to think bad things of anybody I don't know."
"Nor I, nor I," said Josie, huskily.
"What have you done with those new overshoes, Ally?"
"Put 'em away."
"Well, you can just go and get 'em, then. Come, hurry up, for I want to wear 'em down town."
But Ally didn't move.
"Ally, do you hear?" cried her cousin Florence.
"Yes, I hear, but I ain't a-going to mind you. The rubbers are mine, and you've worn 'em about enough already; you're stretching 'em all out, for your foot is bigger than mine."
"No such thing. I'm not hurting them in the least."
"Yes, you are; and you are taking the gloss all off 'em, too, and I want 'em to look new when I wear 'em in Boston."
"Well, I never heard of such selfish, stingy meanness as this. It's raining hard, and you'd let me go out and get my feet sopping wet rather than lend me your new rubbers."
"Why don't you wear your own old ones?"
"Because they leak."
"They've leaked ever since I got this new pair!" retorted Ally, scornfully. "But it isn't these rubbers only; you're always borrowing my things. There's my blue jacket; you've worn it till the edge is threadbare, and you've worn my brown hat until it looks as shabby—and—there! you've got my silver bangle on now! You're no better than a thief, Florence Fleming!"
"A thief! that's a nice pretty thing to say to me! I should like to know who buys your things for you? Isn't it my father and Uncle John? I should like to know where you'd be, Alice Fleming, if it wasn't for Uncle John and father. Here, take your old bangle and keep it, and everything else that you've got. I never want to see anything of yours again; and I'm glad you're going off to Boston to Uncle John's for the rest of the winter, and I wish you'd stay there and never come back here,—I do!"
"I wish so too. Nobody in Uncle John's family would ever be so mean as to fling it in my face that I was a poor little beggar of an orphan."
"Uncle John's family! Uncle John's wife said the last time she was here that she dreaded the winter on your account,—there!"
"Aunt Kate—said that?"
"Yes, she did; I heard her."
A strange look came into Ally's eyes, and all the pretty color faded from her cheeks, as she cried out in a hoarse, passionate voice,—
"You're a cruel, bad girl, Florence Fleming, and I hope some day you'll have something cruel and bad come to you to punish you!" and with these words the excited child flung herself across her little bed, and burst into a paroxysm of stormy sobs and tears.
"Here, here, what's the matter now?" called out Mrs. Fleming, Florence's mother, coming across the hall and pushing the bedroom door open.
"Ask Ally," answered Florence, coolly,—so coolly, so calmly, that it was quite natural to suppose that she was much less to blame in the present disturbance than her cousin; and as poor Ally was past speaking, Florence had a double advantage, and Mrs. Fleming, glancing from one girl to the other, thought she understood the situation perfectly, and in consequence said rather sharply,—
"I do wish, Ally, you would try to control your temper a little more!" and with these words the lady turned and left the room, her daughter Florence following her. As they crossed the hall, Ally unfortunately overheard her aunt say to Florence, "I am thankful that you two are to be separated to-morrow for the rest of the winter. I hope by spring some other arrangement can be made to keep you apart. We shall never have any peace while—"
The rest of the sentence was lost to Ally. But she was quite sure it was—"while Ally is with us;" and a fresh gust of stormy sobs and tears shook the child's frame, as she thus concluded the sentence. A fresh gust also of stormy resentment and self-pity shook the girl. "Oh, yes, it's always Ally, always Ally, that's to blame," she said to herself. "It would be very different if I wasn't a poor little beggar of an orphan; yes, indeed, very different. If I was a rich orphan, if papa and mamma had left a lot of money to be taken care of with me, I guess things would be different,—I guess they would. I guess Florence Fleming and her mother wouldn't lay everything that goes wrong to me then, and I guess Aunt Kate wouldn't say that she dreaded the winter on account of me,—no, I guess she wouldn't! Oh, oh!" with a fresh sob, "I wish some other arrangement could be made away from 'em all. They don't any of 'em want me, not any of 'em, and I'd rather go to an orphan asylum. I'd rather—I'd rather—oh, I'd rather go to jail than to them!" and down into the pillow again went the fuzzy yellow head of this little hot-tempered Ally Fleming, who called herself so pityingly "a poor little beggar of an orphan."
The facts of the case were these: Ally's father and mother had both died when she was seven years old, leaving her to the care of her two nearest relatives,—her father's two brothers,—Mr. Tom and Mr. John Fleming. As her father had little or nothing to leave her, he had requested that the burden of her maintenance should be equally divided between the uncles, the child to live alternately with each family, six months with one and six with the other. She had been old enough when she was thus transplanted from her own home to realize more or less the peculiar condition of things; and as she was quick-tempered and sensitive, she very soon began to take note of any comment or remark regarding herself that was dropped in her hearing, and very often misunderstood or made too much of it. But there was no denying, whichever way you looked at it, that it was rather a difficult situation for both sides, and that the Fleming aunts and uncles and cousins had something to put up with, as well as Ally. But that Ally was the most to be pitied there was also no denying, for she could remember with unfading vividness being the centre of love, the one special darling in one home, and now she hadn't even one home, and was nobody's darling. As she lay there on the bed shaken by her sobs, she pictured to herself, as she had pictured many, many times in these three years, the happy home that she had lost. For three years this once petted child had been learning what it was to be one of many, or, as she herself put it, one too many.
The next day at noon Ally was on her way to Boston, where she was to live for the next six months in her uncle John's family. Both her uncle Tom and his wife, Aunt Ann, had gone to the station to see her off, and both of them had kissed her good-by, and given her various messages to deliver to the Boston relations. Everything was going on as pleasantly as possible until Aunt Ann at the very last stooped down and said,—
"Now, try, Ally, try while you are with your aunt Kate to control your temper. You mustn't fly up at every little thing, and expect to have your own way with everybody. It is very difficult to live with people who act like that, and nobody can love them. Remember that, Ally;" and with these words, Mrs. Fleming bent still lower to touch Ally's lips with a final farewell kiss. But Ally at this movement turned suddenly, and the kiss that was meant for her lips fell upon her cheek.
"Such an uncomfortable disposition as that child has, I never met before, never!" ejaculated Mrs. Fleming, as she joined her husband outside the car.
"What's she done now?" asked Uncle Tom.
His wife described the girl's swift evasive movement away from her.
Uncle Tom laughed, and then sighed. "Poor little soul," he said; "she's going to have a hard time of it in life, I'm afraid."
"She's going to make those who live with her have a hard time," answered Aunt Ann, resentfully thinking of her rejected kiss.
"'Mustn't fly up at every little thing!'" repeated Ally to herself, as she was left alone in her seat. "She'd better give Florence some of her good advice. She'd better tell her not to aggravate folks 'most to death, and then stand off so cool, and make everybody else seem in the wrong. Hard to live with! Mebbe I am hard to live with; but I don't play double like that; and as for nobody's loving me, these relations of mine never loved me—any of 'em—from the first."