Mary Marie by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter IV. When I Am Marie
Yes, I'm here. I've been here a week. But this is the first minute I've had a chance to write a word. I've been so busy just being here. And so has Mother. There's been such a lot going on since we came. But I'll try now to begin at the beginning and tell what happened.
Well, first we got into Boston at four o'clock Monday afternoon, and there was Grandpa Desmond to meet us. He's lovely--tall and dignified, with grayish hair and merry eyes like Mother's, only his are behind glasses. At the station he just kissed Mother and me and said he was glad to see us, and led us to the place where Peter was waiting with the car. (Peter drives Grandpa's automobile, and he's lovely, too.)
Mother and Grandpa talked very fast and very lively all the way home, and Mother laughed quite a lot. But in the hall she cried a little, and Grandpa patted her shoulder, and said, "There, there!" and told her how glad he was to get his little girl back, and that they were going to be very happy now and forget the past. And Mother said, yes, yes, indeed, she knew she was; and she was so glad to be there, and that everything was going to be just the same, wasn't it? Only--then, all of a sudden she looked over at me and began to cry again--only, of course, things couldn't be "just the same," she choked, hurrying over to me and putting both arms around me, and crying harder than ever.
Then Grandpa came and hugged us both, and patted us, and said, "There, there!" and pulled off his glasses and wiped them very fast and very hard.
But it wasn't only a minute or two before Mother was laughing again, and saying, "Nonsense!" and "The idea!" and that this was a pretty way to introduce her little Marie to her new home! Then she hurried me to the dearest little room I ever saw, right out of hers, and took off my things. Then we went all over the house. And it's just as lovely as can be--not at all like Father's in Andersonville.
Oh, Father's is fine and big and handsome, and all that, of course; but not like this. His is just a nice place to eat and sleep in, and go to when it rains. But this--this you just want to live in all the time. Here there are curtains 'way up and sunshine, and flowers in pots, and magazines, and cozy nooks with cushions everywhere; and books that you've just been reading laid down. (All Father's books are in bookcases, always, except while one's in your hands being read.)
Grandpa's other daughter, Mother's sister, Hattie, lives here and keeps house for Grandpa. She has a little boy named Lester, six years old; and her husband is dead. They were away for what they called a week-end when we came, but they got here a little after we did Monday afternoon; and they're lovely, too.
The house is a straight-up-and-down one with a back and front, but no sides except the one snug up to you on the right and left. And there isn't any yard except a little bit of a square brick one at the back where they have clothes and ash barrels, and a little grass spot in front at one side of the steps, not big enough for our old cat to take a nap in, hardly. But it's perfectly lovely inside; and it's the insides of houses that really count just as it is the insides of people--their hearts, I mean; whether they're good and kind, or hateful and disagreeable.
We have dinner at night here, and I've been to the theater twice already in the afternoon. I've got to go to school next week, Mother says, but so far I've just been having a good time. And so's Mother. Honestly, it has just seemed as if Mother couldn't crowd the days full enough. She hasn't been still a minute.
Lots of her old friends have been to see her; and when there hasn't been anybody else around she's taken Peter and had him drive us all over Boston to see things;--all kinds of things; Bunker Hill and museums, and moving pictures, and one play.
But we didn't stay at the play. It started out all right, but pretty soon a man and a woman on the stage began to quarrel. They were married (not really, but in the play, I mean), and I guess it was some more of that incompatibility stuff. Anyhow, as they began to talk more and more, Mother began to fidget, and pretty soon I saw she was gathering up our things; and the minute the curtain went down after the first act, she says:
"Come, dear, we're going home. It--it isn't very warm here."
As if I didn't know what she was really leaving for! Do old folks honestly think they are fooling us all the time, I wonder? But even if I hadn't known then, I'd have known it later, for that evening I heard Mother and Aunt Hattie talking in the library.
No, I didn't listen. I heard. And that's a very different matter. You listen when you mean to, and that's sneaking. You hear when you can't help yourself, and that you can't be blamed for. Sometimes it's your good luck, and sometimes it's your bad luck--just according to what you hear!
Well, I was in the window-seat in the library reading when Mother and Aunt Hattie came in; and Mother was saying:
"Of course I came out! Do you suppose I'd have had that child see that play, after I realized what it was? As if she hasn't had enough of such wretched stuff already in her short life! Oh, Hattie, Hattie, I want that child to laugh, to sing, to fairly tingle with the joy of living every minute that she is with me. I know so well what she has had, and what she will have--in that--tomb. You know in six months she goes back--"
Mother saw me then, I know; for she stopped right off short, and after a moment began to talk of something else, very fast. And pretty quick they went out into the hall again.
Dear little Mother! Bless her old heart! Isn't she the ducky dear to want me to have all the good times possible now so as to make up for the six months I've got to be with Father? You see, she knows what it is to live with Father even better than I do.
Well, I guess she doesn't dread it for me any more than I do for myself. Still, I'll have the girls there, and I'm dying to see them again--and I won't have to stay home much, only nights and meals, of course, and Father's always pretty busy with his stars and comets and things. Besides, it's only for six months, then I can come back to Boston. I can keep thinking of that.
But I know now why I've been having such a perfectly beautiful time all this week, and why Mother has been filling every minute so full of fun and good times. Why, even when we're at home here, she's always hunting up little Lester and getting him to have a romp with us.
But of course next week I've got to go to school, and it can't be quite so jolly then. Well, I guess that's all for this time.
* * * * *
About a month later.
I didn't make a chapter of that last. It wasn't long enough. And, really, I don't know as I've got much to add to it now. There's nothing much happened.
I go to school now, and don't have so much time for fun. School is pretty good, and there are two or three girls 'most as nice as the ones at Andersonville. But not quite. Out of school Mother keeps things just as lively as ever, and we have beautiful times. Mother is having a lovely time with her own friends, too. Seems as if there is always some one here when I get home, and lots of times there are teas and parties, and people to dinner.
There are gentlemen, too. I suppose one of them will be Mother's lover by and by; but of course I don't know which one yet. I'm awfully interested in them, though. And of course it's perfectly natural that I should be. Wouldn't you be interested in the man that was going to be your new father? Well, I just guess you would! Anybody would. Why, most folks have only one father, you know, and they have to take that one just as he is; and it's all a matter of chance whether they get one that's cross or pleasant; or homely or fine and grand-looking; or the common kind you can hug and kiss and hang round his neck, or the stand-off-don't-touch-me-I-mustn't-be-disturbed kind like mine. I mean the one I did have. But, there! that doesn't sound right, either; for of course he's still my father just the same, only--well, he isn't Mother's husband any more, so I suppose he's only my father by order of the court, same as I'm his daughter.
Well, anyhow, he's the father I've grown up with, and of course I'm used to him now. And it's an altogether different matter to think of having a brand-new father thrust upon you, all ready-made, as you might say, and of course I am interested. There's such a whole lot depends on the father. Why, only think how different things would have been at home if my father had been different! There were such a lot of things I had to be careful not to do--and just as many I had to be careful to do--on account of Father.
And so now, when I see all these nice young gentlemen (only they aren't all young; some of them are quite old) coming to the house and talking to Mother, and hanging over the back of her chair, and handing her tea and little cakes, I can't help wondering which, if any, is going to be her lover and my new father. And I am also wondering what I'll have to do on account of him when I get him, if I get him.
There are quite a lot of them, and they're all different. They'd make very different kinds of fathers, I'm sure, and I'm afraid I wouldn't like some of them. But, after all, it's Mother that ought to settle which to have--not me. She's the one to be pleased. 'T would be such a pity to have to change again. Though she could, of course, same as she did Father, I suppose.
As I said, they're all different. There are only two that are anywhere near alike, and they aren't quite the same, for one's a lawyer and the other's in a bank. But they both carry canes and wear tall silk hats, and part their hair in the middle, and look at you through the kind of big round eyeglasses with dark rims that would make you look awfully homely if they didn't make you look so stylish. But I don't think Mother cares very much for either the lawyer or the bank man, and I'm glad. I wouldn't like to live with those glasses every day, even if they are stylish. I'd much rather have Father's kind.
Then there's the man that paints pictures. He's tall and slim, and wears queer ties and long hair. He's always standing back and looking at things with his head on one side, and exclaiming "Oh!" and "Ah!" with a long breath. He says Mother's coloring is wonderful. I heard him. And I didn't like it very well, either. Why, it sounded as if she put it on herself out of a box on her bureau, same as some other ladies do! Still, he's not so bad, maybe; though I'm not sure but what his paints and pictures would be just as tiresome to live with as Father's stars, when it came right down to wanting a husband to live with you and talk to you every day in the year. You know you have to think of such things when it comes to choosing a new father--I mean a new husband. (I keep forgetting that it's Mother and not me that's doing the choosing.)
Well, to resume and go on. There's the violinist. I mustn't forget him. But, then, nobody could forget him. He's lovely: so handsome and distinguished-looking with his perfectly beautiful dark eyes and white teeth. And he plays--well, I'm simply crazy over his playing. I only wish Carrie Heywood could hear him. She thinks her brother can play. He's a traveling violinist with a show; and he came home once to Andersonville. And I heard him. But he's not the real thing at all. Not a bit. Why, he might be anybody, our grocer, or the butcher, up there playing that violin. His eyes are little and blue, and his hair is red and very short. I wish she could hear our violinist play!
And there's another man that comes to the parties and teas;--oh, of course there are others, lots of them, married men with wives, and unmarried men with and without sisters. But I mean another man specially. His name is Harlow. He's a little man with a brown pointed beard and big soft brown eyes. He's really awfully good-looking, too. I don't know what he does do; but he's married. I know that. He never brings his wife, though; but Mother's always asking for her, clear and distinct, and she always smiles, and her voice kind of tinkles like little silver bells. But just the same he never brings her.
He never takes her anywhere. I heard Aunt Hattie tell Mother so at the very first, when he came. She said they weren't a bit happy together, and that there'd probably be a divorce before long. But Mother asked for her just the same the very next time. And she's done it ever since.
I think I know now why she does. I found out, and I was simply thrilled. It was so exciting! You see, they were lovers once themselves--Mother and this Mr. Harlow. Then something happened and they quarreled. That was just before Father came.
Of course Mother didn't tell me this, nor Aunt Hattie. It was two ladies. I heard them talking at a tea one day. I was right behind them, and I couldn't get away, so I just couldn't help hearing what they said.
They were looking across the room at Mother. Mr. Harlow was talking to her. He was leaning forward in his chair and talking so earnestly to Mother; and he looked just as if he thought there wasn't another soul in the room but just they two. But Mother--Mother was just listening to be polite to company. Anybody could see that. And the very first chance she got she turned and began to talk to a lady who was standing near. And she never so much as looked toward Mr. Harlow again.
The ladies in front of me laughed then, and one of them said, with a little nod of her head, "I guess Madge Desmond Anderson can look out for herself all right."
Then they got up and went away without seeing me. And all of a sudden I felt almost sorry, for I wanted them to see me. I wanted them to see that I knew my mother could take care of herself, too, and that I was proud of it. If they had turned I'd have said so. But they didn't turn.
I shouldn't like Mr. Harlow for a father. I know I shouldn't. But then, there's no danger, of course, even if he and Mother were lovers once. He's got a wife now, and even if he got a divorce, I don't believe Mother would choose him.
But of course there's no telling which one she will take. As I said before, I don't know. It's too soon, anyway, to tell. I suspect it isn't any more proper to hurry up about getting married again when you've been unmarried by a divorce than it is when you've been unmarried by your husband's dying. I asked Peter one day how soon folks did get married after a divorce, but he didn't seem to know. Anyway, all he said was to stammer: "Er--yes, Miss--no, Miss. I mean, I don't know, Miss."
Peter is awfully funny. But he's nice. I like him, only I can't find out much by him. He's very good-looking, though he's quite old. He's almost thirty. He told me. I asked him. He takes me back and forth to school every day, so I see quite a lot of him. And, really, he's about the only one I can ask questions of here, anyway. There isn't anybody like Nurse Sarah used to be. Olga, the cook, talks so funny I can't understand a word she says, hardly. Besides, the only two times I've been down to the kitchen Aunt Hattie sent for me; and she told me the last time not to go any more. She didn't say why. Aunt Hattie never says why not to do things. She just says, "Don't." Sometimes it seems to me as if my whole life had been made up of "don'ts." If they'd only tell us part of the time things to "do," maybe we wouldn't have so much time to do the "don'ts." (That sounds funny, but I guess folks'll know what I mean.)
Well, what was I saying? Oh, I know--about asking questions. As I said, there isn't anybody like Nurse Sarah here. I can't understand Olga, and Theresa, the other maid, is just about as bad. Aunt Hattie's lovely, but I can't ask questions of her. She isn't the kind. Besides, Lester's always there, too; and you can't discuss family affairs before children. Of course there's Mother and Grandpa Desmond. But questions like when it's proper for Mother to have lovers I can't ask of them, of course. So there's no one but Peter left to ask. Peter's all right and very nice, but he doesn't seem to know anything that I want to know. So he doesn't amount to so very much, after all.
I'm not sure, anyway, that Mother'll want to get married again. From little things she says I rather guess she doesn't think much of marriage, anyway. One day I heard her say to Aunt Hattie that it was a very pretty theory that marriages were made in heaven, but that the real facts of the case were that they were made on earth. And another day I heard her say that one trouble with marriage was that the husband and wife didn't know how to play together and to rest together. And lots of times I've heard her say little things to Aunt Hattie that showed how unhappy her marriage had been.
But last night a funny thing happened. We were all in the library reading after dinner, and Grandpa looked up from his paper and said something about a woman that was sentenced to be hanged and how a whole lot of men were writing letters protesting against having a woman hanged; but there were only one or two letters from women. And Grandpa said that only went to prove how much more lacking in a sense of fitness of things women were than men. And he was just going to say more when Aunt Hattie bristled up and tossed her chin, and said, real indignantly:
"A sense of fitness of things, indeed! Oh, yes, that's all very well to say. There are plenty of men, no doubt, who are shocked beyond anything at the idea of hanging a woman; but those same men will think nothing of going straight home and making life for some other woman so absolutely miserable that she'd think hanging would be a lucky escape from something worse."
"Harriet!" exclaimed Grandpa in a shocked voice.
"Well, I mean it!" declared Aunt Hattie emphatically. "Look at poor Madge here, and that wretch of a husband of hers!"
And just here is where the funny thing happened. Mother bristled up--Mother--and even more than Aunt Hattie had. She turned red and then white, and her eyes blazed.
"That will do, Hattie, please, in my presence," she said, very cold, like ice. "Dr. Anderson is not a wretch at all. He is an honorable, scholarly gentleman. Without doubt he meant to be kind and considerate. He simply did not understand me. We weren't suited to each other. That's all."
And she got up and swept out of the room.
Now wasn't that funny? But I just loved it, all the same. I always love Mother when she's superb and haughty and disdainful.
Well, after she had gone Aunt Hattie looked at Grandpa and Grandpa looked at Aunt Hattie. Grandpa shrugged his shoulders, and gave his hands a funny little flourish; and Aunt Hattie lifted her eyebrows and said:
"Well, what do you know about that?" (Aunt Hattie forgot I was in the room, I know, or she'd never in the world have used slang like that!) "And after all the things she's said about how unhappy she was!" finished Aunt Hattie.
Grandpa didn't say anything, but just gave his funny little shrug again.
And it was kind of queer, when you come to think of it--about Mother, I mean, wasn't it?
* * * * *
One month later.
Well, I've been here another whole month, and it's growing nicer all the time. I just love it here. I love the sunshine everywhere, and the curtains up to let it in. And the flowers in the rooms, and the little fern-dish on the dining-room table, the books and magazines just lying around ready to be picked up; Baby Lester laughing and singing all over the house, and lovely ladies and gentlemen in the drawing-room having music and tea and little cakes when I come home from school in the afternoon. And I love it not to have to look up and watch and listen for fear Father's coming in and I'll be making a noise. And best of all I love Mother with her dancing eyes and her laugh, and her just being happy, with no going in and finding her crying or looking long and fixedly at nothing, and then turning to me with a great big sigh, and a "Well, dear?" that just makes you want to go and cry because it's so hurt and heart-broken. Oh, I do just love it all!
And Mother is happy. I'm sure she is. Somebody is doing something for her every moment--seems so. They are so glad to get her back again. I know they are. I heard two ladies talking one day, and they said they were. They called her "Poor Madge," and "Dear Madge," and they said it was a shame that she should have had such a wretched experience, and that they for one should try to do everything they could to make her forget.
And that's what they all seem to be trying to do--to make her forget. There isn't a day goes by but that somebody sends flowers or books or candy, or invites her somewhere, or takes her to ride or to the theater, or comes to see her, so that Mother is in just one whirl of good times from morning till night. Why, she'd just have to forget. She doesn't have any time to remember. I think she is forgetting, too. Oh, of course she gets tired, and sometimes rainy days or twilights I find her on the sofa in her room not reading or anything, and her face looks 'most as it used to sometimes after they'd been having one of their incompatibility times. But I don't find her that way very often, and it doesn't last long. So I really think she is forgetting.
About the prospective suitors--I found that "prospective suitor" in a story a week ago, and I just love it. It means you probably will want to marry her, you know. I use it all the time now--in my mind--when I'm thinking about those gentlemen that come here (the unmarried ones). I forgot and used it out loud one day to Aunt Hattie; but I shan't again. She said, "Mercy!" and threw up her hands and looked over to Grandpa the way she does when I've said something she thinks is perfectly awful.
But I was firm and dignified--but very polite and pleasant--and I said that I didn't see why she should act like that, for of course they were prospective suitors, the unmarried ones, anyway, and even some of the married ones, maybe, like Mr. Harlow, for of course they could get divorces, and--
"Marie!" interrupted Aunt Hattie then, before I could say another word, or go on to explain that of course Mother couldn't be expected to stay unmarried always, though I was very sure she wouldn't get married again until she'd waited long enough, and until it was perfectly proper and genteel for her to take unto herself another husband.
But Aunt Hattie wouldn't even listen. And she threw up her hands and said "Marie!" again with the emphasis on the last part of the name the way I simply loathe. And she told me never, never to let her hear me make such a speech as that again. And I said I would be very careful not to. And you may be sure I shall. I don't want to go through a scene like that again!
She told Mother about it, though, I think. Anyhow, they were talking very busily together when they came into the library after dinner that night, and Mother looked sort of flushed and plagued, and I heard her say, "Perhaps the child does read too many novels, Hattie."
And Aunt Hattie answered, "Of course she does!" Then she said something else which I didn't catch, only the words "silly" and "romantic," and "pre-co-shus." (I don't know what that last means, but I put it down the way it sounded, and I'm going to look it up.)
Then they turned and saw me, and they didn't say anything more. But the next morning the perfectly lovely story I was reading, that Theresa let me take, called "The Hidden Secret," I couldn't find anywhere. And when I asked Mother if she'd seen it, she said she'd given it back to Theresa, and that I mustn't ask for it again. That I wasn't old enough yet to read such stories.
There it is again! I'm not old enough. When will I be allowed to take my proper place in life? Echo answers when.
Well, to resume and go on.
What was I talking about? Oh, I know--the prospective suitors. (Aunt Hattie can't hear me when I just write it, anyway.) Well, they all come just as they used to, only there are more of them now--two fat men, one slim one, and a man with a halo of hair round a bald spot. Oh, I don't mean that any of them are really suitors yet. They just come to call and to tea, and send her flowers and candy. And Mother isn't a mite nicer to one than she is to any of the others. Anybody can see that. And she shows very plainly she's no notion of picking anybody out yet. But of course I can't help being interested and watching.
It won't be Mr. Harlow, anyway. I'm pretty sure of that, even if he has started in to get his divorce. (And he has. I heard Aunt Hattie tell Mother so last week.) But Mother doesn't like him. I'm sure she doesn't. He makes her awfully nervous. Oh, she laughs and talks with him--seems as if she laughs even more with him than she does with anybody else. But she's always looking around for somebody else to talk to; and I've seen her get up and move off just as he was coming across the room toward her, and I'm just sure she saw him. There's another reason, too, why I think Mother isn't going to choose him for her lover. I heard something she said to him one day.
She was sitting before the fire in the library, and he came in. There were other people there, quite a lot of them; but Mother was all alone by the fireplace, her eyes looking fixed and dreamy into the fire. I was in the window-seat around the corner of the chimney reading; and I could see Mother in the mirror just as plain as could be. She could have seen me, too, of course, if she'd looked up. But she didn't.
I never even thought of hearing anything I hadn't ought, and I was just going to get down to go and speak to Mother myself, when Mr. Harlow crossed the room and sat down on the sofa beside her.
"Dreaming, Madge?" he said, low and soft, his soulful eyes just devouring her lovely face. (I read that, too, in a book last week. I just loved it!)
Mother started and flushed up.
"Oh, Mr. Harlow!" she cried. (Mother always calls him "Mr." That's another thing. He always calls her "Madge," you know.) "How do you do?" Then she gave her quick little look around to see if there wasn't somebody else near for her to talk to. But there wasn't.
"But you do dream, of the old days, sometimes, Madge, don't you?" he began again, soft and low, leaning a little nearer.
"Of when I was a child and played dolls before this very fireplace? Well, yes, perhaps I do," laughed Mother. And I could see she drew away a little. "There was one doll with a broken head that--"
"I was speaking of broken hearts," interrupted Mr. Harlow, very meaningfully.
"Broken hearts! Nonsense! As if there were such things in the world!" cried Mother, with a little toss to her head, looking around again with a quick little glance for some one else to talk to.
But still there wasn't anybody there.
They were all over to the other side of the room talking, and paying no attention to Mother and Mr. Harlow, only the violinist. He looked and looked, and acted nervous with his watch-chain. But he didn't come over. I felt, some way, that I ought to go away and not hear any more; but I couldn't without showing them that I had been there. So I thought it was better to stay just where I was. They could see me, anyway, if they'd just look in the mirror. So I didn't feel that I was sneaking. And I stayed.
Then Mr. Harlow spoke again. His eyes grew even more soulful and devouring. I could see them in the mirror.
"Madge, it seems so strange that we should both have had to trail through the tragedy of broken hearts and lives before we came to our real happiness. For we shall be happy, Madge. You know I'm to be free, too, soon, dear, and then we--"
But he didn't finish. Mother put up her hand and stopped him. Her face wasn't flushed any more. It was very white.
"Carl," she began in a still, quiet voice, and I was so thrilled. I knew something was going to happen--this time she'd called him by his first name. "I'm sorry," she went on. "I've tried to show you. I've tried very hard to show you--without speaking. But if you make me say it I shall have to say it. Whether you are free or not matters not to me. It can make no difference in our relationship. Now, will you come with me to the other side of the room, or must I be so rude as to go and leave you?"
She got up then, and he got up, too. He said something--I couldn't hear what it was; but it was sad and reproachful--I'm sure of that by the look in his eyes. Then they both walked across the room to the others.
I was sorry for him. I do not want him for a father, but I couldn't help being sorry for him, he looked so sad and mournful and handsome; and he's got perfectly beautiful eyes. (Oh, I do hope mine will have nice eyes, when I find him!)
As I said before, I don't believe Mother'll choose Mr. Harlow, anyway, even when the time comes. As for any of the others--I can't tell. She treats them all just exactly alike, as far as I can see. Polite and pleasant, but not at all lover-like. I was talking to Peter one day about it, and I asked him. But he didn't seem to know, either, which one she will be likely to take, if any.
Peter's about the only one I can ask. Of course I couldn't ask Mother, or Aunt Hattie, after what she said about my calling them prospective suitors. And Grandfather--well, I should never think of asking Grandpa a question like that. But Peter--Peter's a real comfort. I'm sure I don't know what I should do for somebody to talk to and ask questions about things down here, if it wasn't for him. As I think I've said already, he takes me to school and back again every day; so of course I see him quite a lot.
Speaking of school, it's all right, and of course I like it, though not quite so well as I did. There are some of the girls--well, they act queer. I don't know what is the matter with them. They stop talking--some of them--when I come up, and they make me feel, sometimes, as if I didn't belong. Maybe it's because I came from a little country town like Andersonville. But they've known that all along, from the very first. And they didn't act at all like that at the beginning. Maybe it's just their way down here. If I think of it I'll ask Peter to-morrow.
Well, I guess that's all I can think of this time.
* * * * *
'Most four months later.
It's been ages since I've written here, I know. But there's nothing special happened. Everything has been going along just about as it did at the first. Oh, there is one thing different--Peter's gone. He went two months ago. We've got an awfully old chauffeur now. One with gray hair and glasses, and homely, too. His name is Charles. The very first day he came, Aunt Hattie told me never to talk to Charles, or bother him with questions; that it was better he should keep his mind entirely on his driving.
She needn't have worried. I should never dream of asking him the things I did Peter. He's too stupid. Now Peter and I got to be real good friends--until all of a sudden Grandpa told him he might go. I don't know why.
I don't see as I'm any nearer finding out who Mother's lover will be than I was four months ago. I suppose it's still too soon. Peter said one day he thought widows ought to wait at least a year, and he guessed grass-widows were just the same. My, how mad I was at him for using that name about my mother! Oh, I knew what he meant. I'd heard it at school. (I know now what it was that made those girls act so queer and horrid.) There was a girl--I never liked her, and I suspect she didn't like me, either. Well, she found out Mother had a divorce. (You see, I hadn't told it. I remembered how those girls out West bragged.) And she told a lot of the others. But it didn't work at all as it had in the West. None of the girls in this school here had a divorce in their families; and, if you'll believe it, they acted--some of them--as if it was a disgrace, even after I told them good and plain that ours was a perfectly respectable and genteel divorce. Nothing I could say made a mite of difference, with some of the girls, and then is when I first heard that perfectly horrid word, "grass-widow." So I knew what Peter meant, though I was furious at him for using it. And I let him see it good and plain.
Of course I changed schools. I knew Mother'd want me to, when she knew, and so I told her right away. I thought she'd be superb and haughty and disdainful sure this time. But she wasn't. First she grew so white I thought she was going to faint away. Then she began to cry, and kiss and hug me. And that night I heard her talking to Aunt Hattie and saying, "To think that that poor innocent child has to suffer, too!" and some more which I couldn't hear, because her voice was all choked up and shaky.
Mother is crying now again quite a lot. You see, her six months are 'most up, and I've got to go back to Father. And I'm afraid Mother is awfully unhappy about it. She had a letter last week from Aunt Jane, Father's sister. I heard her read it out loud to Aunt Hattie and Grandpa in the library. It was very stiff and cold and dignified, and ran something like this:
Then she signed her name, Abigail Jane Anderson. (She was named for her mother, Grandma Anderson, same as Father wanted them to name me. Mercy! I'm glad they didn't. "Mary" is bad enough, but "Abigail Jane"--!)
Well, Mother read the letter aloud, then she began to talk about it--how she felt, and how awful it was to think of giving me up six whole months, and sending her bright little sunny-hearted Marie into that tomb-like place with only an Abigail Jane to flee to for refuge. And she said that she almost wished Nurse Sarah was back again--that she, at least, was human.
"'And see that she's properly met,' indeed!" went on Mother, with an indignant little choke in her voice. "Oh, yes, I know! Now if it were a star or a comet that he expected, he'd go himself and sit for hours and hours watching for it. But when his daughter comes, he'll send John with the horses, like enough, and possibly that precious Abigail Jane of his. Or, maybe that is too much to expect. Oh, Hattie, I can't let her go--I can't, I can't!"
I was in the window-seat around the corner of the chimney, reading; and I don't know as she knew I was there. But I was, and I heard. And I've heard other things, too, all this week.
I'm to go next Monday, and as it comes nearer the time Mother's getting worse and worse. She's so unhappy over it. And of course that makes me unhappy, too. But I try not to show it. Only yesterday, when she was crying and hugging me, and telling me how awful it was that her little girl should have to suffer, too, I told her not to worry a bit about me; that I wasn't suffering at all. I liked it. It was ever so much more exciting to have two homes instead of one. But she only cried all the more, and sobbed, "Oh, my baby, my baby!"--so nothing I could say seemed to do one mite of good.
But I meant it, and I told the truth. I am excited. And I can't help wondering how it's all going to be at Father's. Oh, of course, I know it won't be so much fun, and I'll have to be "Mary," and all that; but it'll be something different, and I always did like different things. Besides, there's Father's love story to watch. Maybe he's found somebody. Maybe he didn't wait a year. Anyhow, if he did find somebody I'm sure he wouldn't be so willing to wait as Mother would. You know Nurse Sarah said Father never wanted to wait for anything. That's why he married Mother so quick, in the first place. But if there is somebody, of course I'll find out when I'm there. So that'll be interesting. And, anyway, there'll be the girls. I shall have them.
[Illustration: "I TOLD HER NOT TO WORRY A BIT ABOUT ME"]
I'll close now, and make this the end of the chapter. It'll be Andersonville next time.