Mary Marie by Eleanor H. Porter
Preface. Which Explains Things
Father calls me Mary. Mother calls me Marie. Everybody else calls me Mary Marie. The rest of my name is Anderson.
I'm thirteen years old, and I'm a cross-current and a contradiction. That is, Sarah says I'm that. (Sarah is my old nurse.) She says she read it once--that the children of unlikes were always a cross-current and a contradiction. And my father and mother are unlikes, and I'm the children. That is, I'm the child. I'm all there is. And now I'm going to be a bigger cross-current and contradiction than ever, for I'm going to live half the time with Mother and the other half with Father. Mother will go to Boston to live, and Father will stay here--a divorce, you know.
I'm terribly excited over it. None of the other girls have got a divorce in their families, and I always did like to be different. Besides, it ought to be awfully interesting, more so than just living along, common, with your father and mother in the same house all the time--especially if it's been anything like my house with my father and mother in it!
That's why I've decided to make a book of it--that is, it really will be a book, only I shall have to call it a diary, on account of Father, you know. Won't it be funny when I don't have to do things on account of Father? And I won't, of course, the six months I'm living with Mother in Boston. But, oh, my!--the six months I'm living here with him--whew! But, then, I can stand it. I may even like it--some. Anyhow, it'll be different. And that's something.
Well, about making this into a book. As I started to say, he wouldn't let me. I know he wouldn't. He says novels are a silly waste of time, if not absolutely wicked. But, a diary--oh, he loves diaries! He keeps one himself, and he told me it would be an excellent and instructive discipline for me to do it, too--set down the weather and what I did every day.
The weather and what I did every day, indeed! Lovely reading that would make, wouldn't it? Like this:
"The sun shines this morning. I got up, ate my breakfast, went to school, came home, ate my dinner, played one hour over to Carrie Heywood's, practiced on the piano one hour, studied another hour. Talked with Mother upstairs in her room about the sunset and the snow on the trees. Ate my supper. Was talked to by Father down in the library about improving myself and taking care not to be light-minded and frivolous. (He meant like Mother, only he didn't say it right out loud. You don't have to say some things right out in plain words, you know.) Then I went to bed."
* * * * *
Just as if I was going to write my novel like that! Not much I am. But I shall call it a diary. Oh, yes, I shall call it a diary--till I take it to be printed. Then I shall give it its true name--a novel. And I'm going to tell the printer that I've left it for him to make the spelling right, and put in all those tiresome little commas and periods and question marks that everybody seems to make such a fuss about. If I write the story part, I can't be expected to be bothered with looking up how words are spelt, every five minutes, nor fussing over putting in a whole lot of foolish little dots and dashes.
As if anybody who was reading the story cared for that part! The story's the thing.
I love stories. I've written lots of them for the girls, too--little short ones, I mean; not a long one like this is going to be, of course. And it'll be so exciting to be living a story instead of reading it--only when you're living a story you can't peek over to the back to see how it's all coming out. I shan't like that part. Still, it may be all the more exciting, after all, not to know what's coming.
I like love stories the best. Father's got--oh, lots of books in the library, and I've read stacks of them, even some of the stupid old histories and biographies. I had to read them when there wasn't anything else to read. But there weren't many love stories. Mother's got a few, though--lovely ones--and some books of poetry, on the little shelf in her room. But I read all those ages ago.
That's why I'm so thrilled over this new one--the one I'm living, I mean. For of course this will be a love story. There'll be my love story in two or three years, when I grow up, and while I'm waiting there's Father's and Mother's.
Nurse Sarah says that when you're divorced you're free, just like you were before you were married, and that sometimes they marry again. That made me think right away: what if Father or Mother, or both of them, married again? And I should be there to see it, and the courting, and all! Wouldn't that be some love story? Well, I just guess!
And only think how all the girls would envy me--and they just living along their humdrum, everyday existence with fathers and mothers already married and living together, and nothing exciting to look forward to. For really, you know, when you come right down to it, there aren't many girls that have got the chance I've got.
And so that's why I've decided to write it into a book. Oh, yes, I know I'm young--only thirteen. But I feel really awfully old; and you know a woman is as old as she feels. Besides, Nurse Sarah says I am old for my age, and that it's no wonder, the kind of a life I've lived.
And maybe that is so. For of course it has been different, living with a father and mother that are getting ready to be divorced from what it would have been living with the loving, happy-ever-after kind. Nurse Sarah says it's a shame and a pity, and that it's the children that always suffer. But I'm not suffering--not a mite. I'm just enjoying it. It's so exciting.
Of course if I was going to lose either one, it would be different. But I'm not, for I am to live with Mother six months, then with Father.
So I still have them both. And, really, when you come right down to it, I'd rather take them separate that way. Why, separate they're just perfectly all right, like that--that--what-do-you-call-it powder?--sedlitzer, or something like that. Anyhow, it's that white powder that you mix in two glasses, and that looks just like water till you put them together. And then, oh, my! such a fuss and fizz and splutter! Well, it's that way with Father and Mother. It'll be lots easier to take them separate, I know. For now I can be Mary six months, then Marie six months, and not try to be them both all at once, with maybe only five minutes between them.
And I think I shall love both Father and Mother better separate, too. Of course I love Mother, and I know I'd just adore Father if he'd let me--he's so tall and fine and splendid, when he's out among folks. All the girls are simply crazy over him. And I am, too. Only, at home--well, it's so hard to be Mary always. And you see, he named me Mary--
But I mustn't tell that here. That's part of the story, and this is only the Preface. I'm going to begin it to-morrow--the real story--Chapter One.
But, there--I mustn't call it a "chapter" out loud. Diaries don't have chapters, and this is a diary. I mustn't forget that it's a diary. But I can write it down as a chapter, for it's going to be a novel, after it's got done being a diary.