Mary Marie by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter VI. When I Am Both Together
Well, I came last night. Mother and Grandfather and Aunt Hattie and Baby Lester all met me at the station. And, my! wasn't I glad to see them? Well, I just guess I was!
I was specially glad on account of having such a dreadful time with Father that morning. I mean, I was feeling specially lonesome and homesick, and not-belonging-anywhere like.
You see, it was this way: I'd been sort of hoping, I know, that at the last, when I came to really go, Father would get back the understanding smile and the twinkle, and show that he really did care for me, and was sorry to have me go. But, dear me! Why, he never was so stern and solemn, and you're-my-daughter-only-by-the-order-of-the-court sort of way as he was that morning.
He never even spoke at the breakfast-table. (He wasn't there hardly long enough to speak, anyway, and he never ate a thing, only his coffee--I mean he drank it.) Then he pushed his chair back from the table and stalked out of the room.
He went to the station with me; but he didn't talk there much, only to ask if I was sure I hadn't forgotten anything, and was I warmly clad. Warmly clad, indeed! And there it was still August, and hot as it could be! But that only goes to show how absent-minded he was, and how little he was really thinking of me!
Well, of course, he got my ticket and checked my trunk, and did all those proper, necessary things; then we sat down to wait for the train. But did he stay with me and talk to me and tell me how glad he had been to have me with him, and how sorry he was to have me go, and all the other nice, polite things 'most everybody thinks they've got to say when a visitor goes away? He did not. He asked me again if I was sure I had not left anything, and was I warmly clad; then he took out his newspaper and began to read. That is, he pretended to read; but I don't believe he read much, for he never turned the sheet once; and twice, when I looked at him, he was looking fixedly at me, as if he was thinking of something. So I guess he was just pretending to read, so he wouldn't have to talk to me.
But he didn't even do that long, for he got up and went over and looked at a map hanging on the wall opposite, and at a big time-table near the other corner. Then he looked at his watch again with a won't-that-train-ever-come? air, and walked back to me and sat down.
And how do you suppose I felt, to have him act like that before all those people--to show so plainly that he was just longing to have me go? I guess he wasn't any more anxious for that train to come than I was. And it did seem as if it never would come, too. And it didn't come for ages. It was ten minutes late.
Oh, I did so hope he wouldn't go down to the junction. It's so hard to be taken care of "because it's my duty, you know"! But he went. I told him he needn't, when he was getting on the train with me. I told him I just knew I could do it beautifully all by myself, almost-a-young lady like me. But he only put his lips together hard, and said, cold, like ice: "Are you then so eager to be rid of me?" Just as if I was the one that was eager to get rid of somebody!
Well, as I said, he went. But he wasn't much better on the train than he had been in the station. He was as nervous and fidgety as a witch, and he acted as if he did so wish it would be over and over quick. But at the junction--at the junction a funny thing happened. He put me on the train, just as Mother had done, and spoke to the conductor. (How I hated to have him do that! Why, I'm six whole months older, 'most, than I was when I went up there!) And then when he'd put me in my seat (Father, I mean; not the conductor), all of a sudden he leaned over and kissed me; kissed me--Father! Then, before I could speak, or even look at him, he was gone; and I didn't see him again, though it must have been five whole minutes before that train went.
I had a nice trip down to Boston, though nothing much happened. This conductor was not near so nice and polite as the one I had coming up; and there wasn't any lady with a baby to play with, nor any nice young gentleman to loan me magazines or buy candy for me. But it wasn't a very long ride from the junction to Boston, anyway. So I didn't mind. Besides, I knew I had Mother waiting for me.
And wasn't I glad to get there? Well, I just guess I was! And they acted as if they were glad to see me--Mother, Grandfather, Aunt Hattie, and even Baby Lester. He knew me, and remembered me. He'd grown a lot, too. And they said I had, and that I looked very nice. (I forgot to say that, of course, I had put on the Marie clothes to come home in--though I honestly think Aunt Jane wanted to send me home in Mary's blue gingham and calfskin shoes. As if I'd have appeared in Boston in that rig!)
My, but it was good to get into an automobile again and just go! And it was so good to have folks around you dressed in something besides don't-care black alpaca and stiff collars. And I said so. And Mother seemed so pleased.
"You did want to come back to me, darling, didn't you?" she cried, giving me a little hug. And she looked so happy when I told her all over again how good it seemed to be Marie again, and have her and Boston, and automobiles, and pretty dresses and folks and noise again.
She didn't say anything about Father then; but later, when we were up in my pretty room alone, and I was taking off my things, she made me tell her that Father hadn't won my love away from her, and that I didn't love him better than I did her; and that I wouldn't rather stay with him than with her.
Then she asked me a lot of questions about what I did there, and Aunt Jane, and how she looked, and Father, and was he as fond of stars as ever (though she must have known 'most everything, 'cause I'd already written it, but she asked me just the same). And she seemed real interested in everything I told her.
And she asked was he lonesome; and I told her no, I didn't think so; and that, anyway, he could have all the ladies' company he wanted by just being around when they called. And when she asked what I meant, I told her about Mrs. Darling, and the rest, and how they came evenings and Sundays, and how Father didn't like them, but would flee to the observatory. And she laughed and looked funny, for a minute. But right away she changed and looked very sober, with the kind of expression she has when she stands up in church and says the Apostles' Creed on Sunday; only this time she said she was very sorry, she was sure; that she hoped my father would find some estimable woman who would make a good home for him.
Then the dinner-gong sounded, and she didn't say any more.
There was company that evening. The violinist. He brought his violin, and he and Mother played a whole hour together. He's awfully handsome. I think he's lovely. Oh, I do so hope he's the one! Anyhow, I hope there's some one. I don't want this novel to all fizzle out without there being any one to make it a love story! Besides, as I said before, I'm particularly anxious that Mother shall find somebody to marry her, so she'll stop being divorced, anyway.
* * * * *
A month later.
Yes, I know it's been ages since I've written here in this book; but there just hasn't been a minute's time.
First, of course, school began, and I had to attend to that. And, of course, I had to tell the girls all about Andersonville--except the parts I didn't want to tell, about Stella Mayhew, and my coming out of school. I didn't tell that. And right here let me say how glad I was to get back to this school--a real school--so different from that one up in Andersonville! For that matter, everything's different here from what it is in Andersonville. I'd so much rather be Marie than Mary. I know I won't ever be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here. I'll be the good one all the time.
It's funny how much easier it is to be good in silk stockings and a fluffy white dress than it is in blue gingham and calfskin. Oh, I'll own up that Marie forgets sometimes and says things Mary used to say; like calling Olga a hired girl instead of a maid, as Aunt Hattie wants, and saying dinner instead of luncheon at noon, and some other things.
I heard Aunt Hattie tell Mother one day that it was going to take about the whole six months to break Mary Marie of those outlandish country ways of hers. (So, you see, it isn't all honey and pie even for Marie. This trying to be Mary and Marie, even six months apart, isn't the easiest thing ever was!) I don't think Mother liked it very well--what Aunt Hattie said about my outlandish ways. I didn't hear all Mother said, but I knew by the way she looked and acted, and the little I did hear, that she didn't care for that word "outlandish" applied to her little girl--not at all.
Mother's a dear. And she's so happy! And, by the way, I think it is the violinist. He's here a lot, and she's out with him to concerts and plays, and riding in his automobile. And she always puts on her prettiest dresses, and she's very particular about her shoes, and her hats, that they're becoming, and all that. Oh, I'm so excited! And I'm having such a good time watching them! Oh, I don't mean watching them in a disagreeable way, so that they see it; and, of course, I don't listen--not the sneak kind of listening. But, of course, I have to get all I can--for the book, you know; and, of course, if I just happen to be in the window-seat corner in the library and hear things accidentally, why, that's all right.
And I have heard things.
He says her eyes are lovely. He likes her best in blue. He's very lonely, and he never found a woman before who really understood him. He thinks her soul and his are tuned to the same string. (Oh, dear! That sounds funny and horrid, and not at all the way it did when he said it. It was beautiful then. But--well, that is what it meant, anyway.)
She told him she was lonely, too, and that she was very glad to have him for a friend; and he said he prized her friendship above everything else in the world. And he looks at her, and follows her around the room with his eyes; and she blushes up real pink and pretty lots of times when he comes into the room.
Now, if that isn't making love to each other, I don't know what is. I'm sure he's going to propose. Oh, I'm so excited!
Oh, yes, I know if he does propose and she says yes, he'll be my new father. I understand that. And, of course, I can't help wondering how I'll like it. Sometimes I think I won't like it at all. Sometimes I almost catch myself wishing that I didn't have to have any new father or mother. I'd never need a new mother, anyway, and I wouldn't need a new father if my father-by-order-of-the-court would be as nice as he was there two or three times in the observatory.
But, there! After all, I must remember that I'm not the one that's doing the choosing. It's Mother. And if she wants the violinist I mustn't have anything to say. Besides, I really like him very much, anyway. He's the best of the lot. I'm sure of that. And that's something. And then, of course, I'm glad to have something to make this a love story, and best of all I would be glad to have Mother stop being divorced, anyway.
Mr. Harlow doesn't come here any more, I guess. Anyway, I haven't seen him here once since I came back; and I haven't heard anybody mention his name.
Quite a lot of the others are here, and there are some new ones. But the violinist is here most, and Mother seems to go out with him most to places. That's why I say I think it's the violinist.
I haven't heard from Father.
Now just my writing that down that way shows that I expected to hear from him, though I don't really see why I should, either. Of course, he never has written to me; and, of course, I understand that I'm nothing but his daughter by order of the court. But, some way, I did think maybe he'd write me just a little bit of a note in answer to mine--my bread-and-butter letter, I mean; for of course, Mother had me write that to him as soon as I got here.
But he hasn't.
I wonder how he's getting along, and if he misses me any. But of course, he doesn't do that. If I was a star, now--!
* * * * *
Two days after Thanksgiving.
The violinist has got a rival. I'm sure he has. It's Mr. Easterbrook. He's old--much as forty--and bald-headed and fat, and has got lots of money. And he's a very estimable man. (I heard Aunt Hattie say that.) He's awfully jolly, and I like him. He brings me the loveliest boxes of candy, and calls me Puss. (I don't like that, particularly. I'd prefer him to call me Miss Anderson.) He's not nearly so good-looking as the violinist. The violinist is lots more thrilling, but I shouldn't wonder if Mr. Easterbrook was more comfortable to live with.
The violinist is the kind of a man that makes you want to sit up and take notice, and have your hair and finger nails and shoes just right; but with Mr. Easterbrook you wouldn't mind a bit sitting in a big chair before the fire with a pair of old slippers on, if your feet were tired.
Mr. Easterbrook doesn't care for music. He's a broker. He looks awfully bored when the violinist is playing, and he fidgets with his watch-chain, and clears his throat very loudly just before he speaks every time. His automobile is bigger and handsomer than the violinist's. (Aunt Hattie says the violinist's automobile is a hired one.) And Mr. Easterbrook's flowers that he sends to Mother are handsomer, too, and lots more of them, than the violinist's. Aunt Hattie has noticed that, too. In fact, I guess there isn't anything about Mr. Easterbrook that she doesn't notice.
Aunt Hattie likes Mr. Easterbrook lots better than she does the violinist. I heard her talking to Mother one day. She said that any one that would look twice at a lazy, shiftless fiddler with probably not a dollar laid by for a rainy day, when all the while there was just waiting to be picked an estimable gentleman of independent fortune and stable position like Mr. Easterbrook--well, she had her opinion of her; that's all. She meant Mother, of course. I knew that. I'm no child.
Mother knew it, too; and she didn't like it. She flushed up and bit her lip, and answered back, cold, like ice.
"I understand, of course, what you mean, Hattie; but even if I acknowledged that this very estimable, unimpeachable gentleman was waiting to be picked (which I do not), I should have to remind you that I've already had one experience with an estimable, unimpeachable gentleman of independent fortune and stable position, and I do not care for another."
"But, my dear Madge," began Aunt Hattie again, "to marry a man without any money--"
"I haven't married him yet," cut in Mother, cold again, like ice. "But let me tell you this, Hattie. I'd rather live on bread and water in a log cabin with the man I loved than in a palace with an estimable, unimpeachable gentleman who gave me the shivers every time he came into the room."
And it was just after she said this that I interrupted. I was right in plain, sight in the window-seat reading; but I guess they'd forgotten I was there, for they both jumped a lot when I spoke. And yet I'll leave it to you if what I said wasn't perfectly natural.
"Of course, you would, Mother!" I cried. "And, anyhow, if you did marry the violinist, and you found out afterward you didn't like him, that wouldn't matter a mite, for you could unmarry him at any time, just as you did Father, and--"
But they wouldn't let me finish. They wouldn't let me say anything more. Mother cried, "Marie!" in her most I'm-shocked-at-you voice; and Aunt Hattie cried, "Child--child!" And she seemed shocked, too. And both of them threw up their hands and looked at each other in the did-you-ever-hear-such-a-dreadful-thing? way that old folks do when young folks have displeased them. And them they both went right out of the room, talking about the unfortunate effect on a child's mind, and perverted morals, and Mother reproaching Aunt Hattie for talking about those things before that child (meaning me, of course). Then they got too far down the hall for me to hear any more. But I don't see why they needed to have made such a fuss. It wasn't any secret that Mother got a divorce; and if she got one once, of course she could again. (That's what I'm going to do when I'm married, if I grow tired of him--my husband, I mean.) Oh, yes, I know Mrs. Mayhew and her crowd don't seem to think divorces are very nice; but there needn't anybody try to make me think that anything my mother does isn't perfectly nice and all right. And she got a divorce. So, there!
* * * * *
One week later.
There hasn't much happened--only one or two things. But maybe I'd better tell them before I forget it, especially as they have a good deal to do with the love part of the story. And I'm always so glad to get anything of that kind. I've been so afraid this wouldn't be much of a love story, after all. But I guess it will be, all right. Anyhow, I know Mother's part will be, for it's getting more and more exciting--about Mr. Easterbrook and the violinist, I mean.
They both want Mother. Anybody can see that now, and, of course, Mother sees it. But which she'll take I don't know. Nobody knows. It's perfectly plain to be seen, though, which one Grandfather and Aunt Hattie want her to take! It's Mr. Easterbrook.
And he is awfully nice. He brought me a perfectly beautiful bracelet the other day--but Mother wouldn't let me keep it. So he had to take it back. I don't think he liked it very well, and I didn't like it, either. I wanted that bracelet. But Mother says I'm much too young to wear much jewelry. Oh, will the time ever come when I'll be old enough to take my proper place in the world? Sometimes it seems as if it never would!
Well, as I said, it's plain to be seen who it is that Grandfather and Aunt Hattie favor; but I'm not so sure about Mother. Mother acts funny. Sometimes she won't go with either of them anywhere; then she seems to want to go all the time. And she acts as if she didn't care which she went with, so long as she was just going--somewhere. I think, though, she really likes the violinist the best; and I guess Grandfather and Aunt Hattie think so, too.
Something happened last night. Grandfather began to talk at the dinner-table. He'd heard something he didn't like about the violinist, I guess, and he started in to tell Mother. But they stopped him. Mother and Aunt Hattie looked at him and then at me, and then back to him, in their most see-who's-here!--you-mustn't-talk-before-her way. So he shrugged his shoulders and stopped.
But I guess he told them in the library afterwards, for I heard them all talking very excitedly, and some loud; and I guess Mother didn't like what they said, and got quite angry, for I heard her say, when she came out through the door, that she didn't believe a word of it, and she thought it was a wicked, cruel shame to tell stories like that just because they didn't like a man.
This morning she broke an engagement with Mr. Easterbrook to go auto-riding and went with the violinist to a morning musicale instead; and after she'd gone Aunt Hattie sighed and looked at Grandfather and shrugged her shoulders, and said she was afraid they'd driven her straight into the arms of the one they wanted to avoid, and that Madge always would take the part of the under dog.
I suppose they thought I wouldn't understand. But I did, perfectly. They meant that by telling stories about the violinist they'd been hoping to get her to give him up, but instead of that, they'd made her turn to him all the more, just because she was so sorry for him.
Funny, isn't it?
* * * * *
One week later.
Well, I guess now something has happened all right! And let me say right away that I don't like that violinist now, either, any better than Grandfather and Aunt Hattie. And it's not entirely because of what happened last night, either. It's been coming on for quite a while--ever since I first saw him talking to Theresa in the hall when she let him in one night a week ago.
Theresa is awfully pretty, and I guess he thinks, so. Anyhow, I heard him telling her so in the hall, and she laughed and blushed and looked sideways at him. Then they saw me, and he stiffened up and said, very proper and dignified, "Kindly hand my card to Mrs. Anderson." And Theresa said, "Yes, sir." And she was very proper and dignified, too.
Well, that was the beginning. I can see now that it was, though, I never thought of its meaning anything then, only that he thought Theresa was a pretty girl, just as we all do.
But four days ago I saw them again. He tried to put his arm around her that time, and the very next day he tried to kiss her, and after a minute she let him. More than once, too. And last night I heard him tell her she was the dearest girl in all the world, and he'd be perfectly happy if he could only marry her.
Well, you can imagine how I felt, when I thought all the time it was Mother he was coming to see! And now to find out that it was Theresa he wanted all the time, and he was only coming to see Mother so he could see Theresa!
At first I was angry,--just plain angry; and I was frightened, too, for I couldn't help worrying about Mother--for fear she would mind, you know, when she found out that it was Theresa that he cared for, after all. I remembered what a lot Mother had been with him, and the pretty dresses and hats she'd put on for him, and all that. And I thought how she'd broken engagements with Mr. Easterbrook to go with him, and it made me angry all over again. And I thought how mean it was of him to use poor Mother as a kind of shield to hide his courting of Theresa! I was angry, too, to have my love story all spoiled, when I was getting along so beautifully with Mother and the violinist.
But I'm feeling better now. I've been thinking it over. I don't believe Mother's going to care so very much. I don't believe she'd want a man that would pretend to come courting her, when all the while he was really courting the hired girl--I mean maid. Besides, there's Mr. Easterbrook left (and one or two others that I haven't said much about, as I didn't think they had much chance). And so far as the love story for the book is concerned, that isn't spoiled, after all, for it will be ever so much more exciting to have the violinist fall in love with Theresa than with Mother, for, of course, Theresa isn't in the same station of life at all, and that makes it a--a mess-alliance. (I don't remember exactly what that word is; but I know it means an alliance that makes a mess of things because the lovers are not equal to each other.) Of course, for the folks who have to live it, it may not be so nice; but for my story here this makes it all the more romantic and thrilling. So that's all right.
Of course, so far, I'm the only one that knows, for I haven't told it, and I'm the only one that's seen anything. Of course, I shall warn Mother, if I think it's necessary, so she'll understand it isn't her, but Theresa, that the violinist is really in love with and courting. She won't mind, I'm sure, after she thinks of it a minute. And won't it be a good joke on Aunt Hattie and Grandfather when they find out they've been fooled all the time, supposing it's Mother, and worrying about it?
Oh, I don't know! This is some love story, after all!
* * * * *
Two days later.
Well, I should say it was! What do you suppose has happened now? Why, that wretched violinist is nothing but a deep-dyed villain! Listen what he did. He proposed to Mother--actually proposed to her--and after all he'd said to that Theresa girl, about his being perfectly happy if he could marry her. And Mother--Mother all the time not knowing! Oh, I'm so glad I was there to rescue her! I don't mean at the proposal--I didn't hear that. But afterward.
It was like this.
They had been out automobiling--Mother and the violinist. He came for her at three o'clock. He said it was a beautiful warm day, and maybe the last one they'd have this year; and she must go. And she went.
I was in my favorite window-seat, reading, when they came home and walked into the library. They never looked my way at all, but just walked toward the fireplace. And there he took hold of both her hands and said:
"Why must you wait, darling? Why can't you give me my answer now, and make me the happiest man in all the world?"
"Yes, yes, I know," answered Mother; and I knew by her voice that she was all shaky and trembly. "But if I could only be sure--sure of myself."
"But, dearest, you're sure of me!" cried the violinist. "You know how I love you. You know you're the only woman I have ever loved, or ever could love!"
Yes, just like that he said it--that awful lie--and to my mother. My stars! Do you suppose I waited to hear any more? I guess not!
[Illustration: "WHY MUST YOU WAIT, DARLING?"]
I fairly tumbled off my seat, and my book dropped with a bang, as I ran forward. Dear, dear, but how they did jump--both of them! And I guess they were surprised. I never thought how 'twas going to affect them--my breaking in like that. But I didn't wait--not a minute. And I didn't apologize, or say "Excuse me," or any of those things that I suppose I ought to have done. I just started right in and began to talk. And I talked hard and fast, and lots of it.
I don't know now what I said, but I know I asked him what he meant by saying such an awful lie to my mother, when he'd just said the same thing, exactly 'most, to Theresa, and he'd hugged her and kissed her, and everything. I'd seen him. And--
But I didn't get a chance to say half I wanted to. I was going on to tell him what I thought of him; but Mother gasped out, "Marie! Marie! Stop!"
And then I stopped. I had to, of course. Then she said that would do, and I might go to my room. And I went. And that's all I know about it, except that she came up, after a little, and said for me not to talk any more about it, to her, or to any one else; and to please try to forget it.
I tried to tell her what I'd seen, and what I'd heard that wicked, deep-dyed villain say; but she wouldn't let me. She shook her head, and said, "Hush, hush, dear"; and that no good could come of talking of it, and she wanted me to forget it. She was very sweet and very gentle, and she smiled; but there were stern corners to her mouth, even when the smile was there. And I guess she told him what was what. Anyhow, I know they had quite a talk before she came up to me, for I was watching at the window for him to go; and when he did go he looked very red and cross, and he stalked away with a never-will-I-darken-this-door-again kind of a step, just as far as I could see him.
I don't know, of course, what will happen next, nor whether he'll ever come back for Theresa; but I shouldn't think even she would want him, after this, if she found out.
And now where's my love story coming in, I should like to know?
* * * * *
Two days after Christmas.
Another wonderful thing has happened. I've had a letter from Father--from Father--a letter--ME!
It came this morning. Mother brought it in to me. She looked queer--a little. There were two red spots in her cheeks, and her eyes were very bright.
"I think you have a letter here from--your father," she said, handing it out.
She hesitated before the "your father" just as she always does. And 'tisn't hardly ever that she mentions his name, anyway. But when she does, she always stops a funny little minute before it, just as she did to-day.
And perhaps I'd better say right here, before I forget it, that Mother has been different, some way, ever since that time when the violinist proposed. I don't think she cares really--about the violinist, I mean--but she's just sort of upset over it. I heard her talking to Aunt Hattie one day about it, and she said:
"To think such a thing could happen--to me! And when for a minute I was really hesitating and thinking that maybe I would take him. Oh, Hattie!"
And Aunt Hattie put her lips together with her most I-told-you-so air, and said:
"It was, indeed, a narrow escape, Madge; and it ought to show you the worth of a real man. There's Mr. Easterbrook, now--"
But Mother wouldn't even listen then. She pooh-poohed and tossed her head, and said, "Mr. Easterbrook, indeed!" and put her hands to her ears, laughing, but in earnest just the same, and ran out of the room.
And she doesn't go so much with Mr. Easterbrook as she did. Oh, she goes with him some, but not enough to make it a bit interesting--for this novel, I mean--nor with any of the others, either. In fact, I'm afraid there isn't much chance now of Mother's having a love story to make this book right. Only the other day I heard her tell Grandfather and Aunt Hattie that all men were a delusion and a snare. Oh, she laughed as she said it. But she was in earnest, just the same. I could see that. And she doesn't seem to care much for any of the different men that come to see her. She seems to ever so much rather stay with me. In fact, she stays with me a lot these days--almost all the time I'm out of school, indeed. And she talks with me--oh, she talks with me about lots of things. (I love to have her talk with me. You know there's a lot of difference between talking with folks and to folks. Now, Father always talks to folks.)
One day it was about getting married that Mother talked with me, and I said I was so glad that when you didn't like being married, or got tired of your husband, you could get unmarried, just as she did, and go back home and be just the same as you were before.
But Mother didn't like that, at all. She said no, no, and that I mustn't talk like that, and that you couldn't go back and be the same. And that she'd found it out. That she used to think you could. But you couldn't. She said it was like what she read once, that you couldn't really be the same any more than you could put the dress you were wearing back on the shelf in the store, and expect it to turn back into a fine long web of cloth all folded up nice and tidy, as it was in the first place. And, of course, you couldn't do that--after the cloth was all cut up into a dress!
She said more things, too; and after Father's letter came she said still more. Oh, and I haven't told yet about the letter, have I? Well, I will now.
As I said at first, Mother brought it in and handed it over to me, saying she guessed it was from Father. And I could see she was wondering what could be in it. But I guess she wasn't wondering any more than I was, only I was gladder to get it than she was, I suppose. Anyhow, when she saw how glad I was, and how I jumped for the letter, she drew back, and looked somehow as if she'd been hurt, and said:
"I did not know, Marie, that a letter from--your father would mean so much to you."
I don't know what I did say to that. I guess I didn't say anything. I'd already begun to read the letter, and I was in such a hurry to find out what he'd said.
I'll copy it here. It wasn't long. It was like this:
I'd been reading the letter out loud, and when I got through Mother was pacing up and down the room. For a minute she didn't say anything; then she whirled 'round suddenly and faced me, and said, just as if something inside of her was making her say it:
"I notice there is no mention of your mother in that letter, Marie. I suppose--your father has quite forgotten that there is such a person in the world as--I."
But I told her no, oh, no, and that I was sure he remembered her, for he used to ask me questions often about what she did, and the violinist and all.
"The violinist!" cried Mother, whirling around on me again. (She'd begun to walk up and down once more.) "You don't mean to say you ever told your father about him!"
"Oh, no, not everything," I explained, trying to show how patient I was, so she would be patient, too. (But it didn't work.) "I couldn't tell him everything because everything hadn't happened then. But I told about his being here, and about the others, too; but, of course, I said I didn't know which you'd take, and--"
"You told him you didn't know which I'd take!" gasped Mother.
Just like that she interrupted, and she looked so shocked. And she didn't look much better when I explained very carefully what I did say, even though I assured her over and over again that Father was interested, very much interested. When I said that, she just muttered, "Interested, indeed!" under her breath. Then she began to walk again, up and down, up and down. Then, all of a sudden, she flung herself on the couch and began to cry and sob as if her heart would break. And when I tried to comfort her, I only seemed to make it worse, for she threw her arms around me and cried:
"Oh, my darling, my darling, don't you see how dreadful it is, how dreadful it is?"
And then is when she began to talk some more about being married, and unmarried as we were. She held me close again and began to sob and cry.
"Oh, my darling, don't you see how dreadful it all is--how unnatural it is for us to live--this way? And for you--you poor child!--what could be worse for you? And here I am, jealous--jealous of your own father, for fear you'll love him better than you do me!
"Oh, I know I ought not to say all this to you--I know I ought not to. But I can't--help it. I want you! I want you every minute; but I have to give you up--six whole months of every year I have to give you up to him. And he's your father, Marie. And he's a good man. I know he's a good man. I know it all the better now since I've seen--other men. And I ought to tell you to love him. But I'm so afraid--you'll love him better than you do me, and want to leave--me. And I can't give you up! I can't give you up!"
Then I tried to tell her, of course, that she wouldn't have to give me up, and that I loved her a whole lot better than I did Father. But even that didn't comfort her, 'cause she said I ought to love him. That he was lonesome and needed me. He needed me just as much as she needed me, and maybe more. And then she went on again about how unnatural and awful it was to live the way we were living. And she called herself a wicked woman that she'd ever allowed things to get to such a pass. And she said if she could only have her life to live over again she'd do so differently--oh, so differently.
Then she began to cry again, and I couldn't do a thing with her; and of course, that worked me all up and I began to cry.
She stopped then, right off short, and wiped her eyes fiercely with her wet ball of a handkerchief. And she asked what was she thinking of, and didn't she know any better than to talk like this to me. Then she said, come, we'd go for a ride.
And we did.
And all the rest of that day Mother was so gay and lively you'd think she didn't know how to cry.
Now, wasn't that funny?
Of course, I shall answer Father's letter right away, but I haven't the faintest idea what to say.
* * * * *
One week later.
I answered it--Father's letter, I mean--yesterday, and it's gone now. But I had an awful time over it. I just didn't know what in the world to say. I'd start out all right, and I'd think I was going to get along beautifully. Then, all of a sudden, it would come over me, what I was doing--writing a letter to my father! And I could imagine just how he'd look when he got it, all stern and dignified, sitting in his chair in the library, and opening the letter just so with his paper-cutter; and I'd imagine his eyes looking down and reading what I wrote. And when I thought of that, my pen just wouldn't go. The idea of my writing anything my father would want to read!
And so I'd try to think of things that I could write--big things--big things that would interest big men: about the President, and our-country-'tis-of-thee, and the state of the weather and the crops. And so I'd begin:
"Dear Father: I take my pen in hand to inform you that--"
Then I'd stop and think and think, and chew my pen-handle. Then I'd put down something. But it was awful, and I knew it was awful. So I'd have to tear it up and begin again. Three times I did that; then I began to cry. It did seem as if I never could write that letter. Once I thought of asking Mother what to say, and getting her to help me. Then I remembered how she cried and took on and said things when the letter came, and talked about how dreadful and unnatural it all was, and how she was jealous for fear I'd love Father better than I did her. And I was afraid she'd do it again, and so I didn't like to ask her. And so I didn't do it.
Then, after a time, I got out his letter and read it again. And all of a sudden I felt all warm and happy, just as I did when I first got it; and some way I was back with him in the observatory and he was telling me all about the stars. And I forgot all about being afraid of him, and about the crops and the President and my-country-'tis-of-thee. And I just remembered that he'd asked me to tell him what I did on Christmas Day; and I knew right off that that would be easy. Why, just the easiest thing in the world! And so I got out a fresh sheet of paper and dipped my pen in the ink and began again.
And this time I didn't have a bit of trouble. I told him all about the tree I had Christmas Eve, and the presents, and the little colored lights, and the fun we had singing and playing games. And then how, on Christmas morning, there was a lovely new snow on the ground, and Mr. Easterbrook came with a perfectly lovely sleigh and two horses to take Mother and me to ride, and what a splendid time we had, and how lovely Mother looked with her red cheeks and bright eyes, and how, when we got home, Mr. Easterbrook said we looked more like sisters than mother and daughter, and wasn't that nice of him. Of course, I told a little more about Mr. Easterbrook, too, so Father'd know who he was--a new friend of Mother's that I'd never known till I came back this time, and how he was very rich and a most estimable man. That Aunt Hattie said so.
Then I told him that in the afternoon another gentleman came and took us to a perfectly beautiful concert. And I finished up by telling about the Christmas party in the evening, and how lovely the house looked, and Mother, and that they said I looked nice, too.
And that was all. And when I had got it done, I saw that I had written a long letter, a great long letter. And I was almost afraid it was too long, till I remembered that Father had asked me for it; he had asked me to tell him all about what I did on Christmas Day.
So I sent it off.
* * * * *
Yes, I know it's been quite a while, but there hasn't been a thing to say--nothing new or exciting, I mean. There's just school, and the usual things; only Mr. Easterbrook doesn't come any more. (Of course, the violinist hasn't come since that day he proposed.) I don't know whether Mr. Easterbrook proposed or not. I only know that all of a sudden he stopped coming. I don't know the reason.
I don't overhear so much as I used to, anyway. Not but that I'm in the library window-seat just the same; but 'most everybody that comes in looks there right off, now; and, of course, when they see me they don't hardly ever go on with what they are saying. So it just naturally follows that I don't overhear things as I used to.
Not that there's much to hear, though. Really, there just isn't anything going on, and things aren't half so lively as they used to be when Mr. Easterbrook was here, and all the rest. They've all stopped coming, now, 'most. I've about given up ever having a love story of Mother's to put in.
And mine, too. Here I am fifteen next month, going on sixteen. (Why, that brook and river met long ago!) But Mother is getting to be almost as bad as Aunt Jane was about my receiving proper attentions from young men. Oh, she lets me go to places, a little, with the boys at school; but I always have to be chaperoned. And whenever are they going to have a chance to say anything really thrilling with Mother or Aunt Hattie right at my elbow? Echo answers never! So I've about given up that's amounting to anything, either.
Of course, there's Father left, and of course, when I go back to Andersonville this summer, there may be something doing there. But I doubt it.
I forgot to say I haven't heard from Father again. I answered his Christmas letter, as I said, and wrote just as nice as I knew how, and told him all he asked me to. But he never answered, nor wrote again. I am disappointed, I'll own up. I thought he would write. I think Mother did, too. She's asked me ever so many times if I hadn't heard from him again. And she always looks so sort of funny when I say no--sort of glad and sorry together, all in one.
But, then, Mother's queer in lots of ways now. For instance: One week ago she gave me a perfectly lovely box of chocolates--a whole two-pound box all at once; and I've never had more than a half-pound at once before. But just as I was thinking how for once I was going to have a real feast, and all I wanted to eat--what do you think she told me? She said I could have three pieces, and only three pieces a day; and not one little tiny one more. And when I asked her why she gave me such a big box for, then, if that was all I could have, she said it was to teach me self-discipline. That self-discipline was one of the most wonderful things in the world. That if she'd only been taught it when she was a girl, her life would have been very, very different. And so she was giving me a great big box of chocolates for my very own, just so as to teach me to deny myself and take only three pieces every day.
Three pieces!--and all that whole big box of them just making my mouth water all the while; and all just to teach me that horrid old self-discipline! Why, you'd think it was Aunt Jane doing it instead of Mother!
* * * * *
One week later.
It's come--Father's letter. It came last night. Oh, it was short, and it didn't say anything about what I wrote. But I was proud of it, just the same. I just guess I was! There wasn't much in it but just that I might stay till the school closed in June, and then come. But he wrote it. He didn't get Aunt Jane to write to Mother, as he did before. And then, besides, he must have forgotten his stars long enough to think of me a little--for he remembered about the school, and that I couldn't go there in Andersonville, and so he said I had better stay here till it finished.
And I was so glad to stay! It made me very happy--that letter. It made Mother happy, too. She liked it, and she thought it was very, very kind of Father to be willing to give me up almost three whole months of his six, so I could go to school here. And she said so. She said once to Aunt Hattie that she was almost tempted to write and thank him. But Aunt Hattie said, "Pooh," and it was no more than he ought to do, and that she wouldn't be seen writing to a man who so carefully avoided writing to her. So Mother didn't do it, I guess.
But I wrote. I had to write three letters, though, before I got one that Mother said would do to send. The first one sounded so glad I was staying that Mother said she was afraid he would feel hurt, and that would be too bad--when he'd been so kind. And the second one sounded as if I was so sorry not to go to Andersonville the first of April that Mother said that would never do in the world. He'd think I didn't want to stay in Boston. But the third letter I managed to make just glad enough to stay, and just sorry enough not to go. So that Mother said it was all right. And I sent it. You see I asked Mother to help me about this letter. I knew she wouldn't cry and moan about being jealous this time. And she didn't. She was real excited and happy over it.
* * * * *
Well, the last chocolate drop went yesterday. There were just seventy-six pieces in that two-pound box. I counted them that first day. Of course, they were fine and dandy, and I just loved them; but the trouble is, for the last week I've been eating such snippy little pieces. You see, every day, without thinking, I'd just naturally pick out the biggest pieces. So you can imagine what they got down to toward the last--mostly chocolate almonds.
As for the self-discipline--I don't see as I feel any more disciplined than I did before, and I know I want chocolates just as much as ever. And I said so to Mother.
But Mother is queer. Honestly she is. And I can't help wondering--is she getting to be like Aunt Jane?
Now, listen to this:
Last week I had to have a new party dress, and we found a perfect darling of a pink silk, all gold beads, and gold slippers to match. And I knew I'd look perfectly divine in it; and once Mother would have got it for me. But not this time. She got a horrid white muslin with dots in it, and a blue silk sash, suitable for a child--for any child.
Of course, I was disappointed, and I suppose I did show it--some. In fact, I'm afraid I showed it a whole lot. Mother didn't say anything then; but on the way home in the car she put her arm around me and said:
"I'm sorry about the pink dress, dear. I knew you wanted it. But it was not suitable at all for you--not until you're older, dear."
She stopped a minute, then went on with another little hug:
"Mother will have to look out that her little daughter isn't getting to be vain, and too fond of dress."
I knew then, of course, that it was just some more of that self-discipline business.
But Mother never used to say anything about self-discipline.
Is she getting to be like Aunt Jane?
* * * * *
One week later.
I know she is now.
I'm learning to cook--to cook! And it's Mother that says I must. She told Aunt Hattie--I heard her--that she thought every girl should know how to cook and to keep house; and that if she had learned those things when she was a girl, her life would have been quite different, she was sure.
Of course, I'm not learning in Aunt Hattie's kitchen. Aunt Hattie's got a new cook, and she's worse than Olga used to be--about not wanting folks messing around, I mean. So Aunt Hattie said right off that we couldn't do it there. I am learning at a Domestic Science School, and Mother is going with me. I didn't mind so much when she said she'd go, too. And, really, it is quite a lot of fun--really it is. But it is queer--Mother and I going to school together to learn how to make bread and cake and boil potatoes! And, of course, Aunt Hattie laughs at us. But I don't mind. And Mother doesn't, either. But, oh, how Aunt Jane would love it, if she only knew!
* * * * *
Something is the matter with Mother, certainly. She's acting queerer and queerer, and she is getting to be like Aunt Jane. Why, only this morning she hushed me up from laughing so loud, and stopped my romping up and down the stairs with Lester. She said it was noisy and unladylike--and only just a little while ago she just loved to have me laugh and play and be happy! And when I said so to her this morning, she said, yes, yes, of course, and she wanted me to be happy now, only she wished to remind me that very soon I was going back to my father in Andersonville, and that I ought to begin now to learn to be more quiet, so as not to trouble him when I got there.
Now, what do you think of that?
And another thing. What do you suppose I am learning about now? You'd never guess. Stars. Yes, stars! And that is for Father, too.
Mother came into my room one day with a book of Grandfather's under her arm. She said it was a very wonderful work on astronomy, and she was sure I would find it interesting. She said she was going to read it aloud to me an hour a day. And then, when I got to Andersonville and Father talked to me, I'd know something. And he'd be pleased.
She said she thought we owed it to Father, after he'd been so good and kind as to let me stay here almost three whole months of his six, so I could keep on with my school. And that she was very sure this would please him and make him happy.
And so, for 'most a week now, Mother has read to me an hour a day out of that astronomy book. Then we talk about it. And it is interesting. Mother says it is, too. She says she wishes she'd known something about astronomy when she was a girl; that she's sure it would have made things a whole lot easier and happier all around, when she married Father; for then she would have known something about something he was interested in. She said she couldn't help that now, of course; but she could see that I knew something about such things. And that was why she was reading to me now. Then she said again that she thought we owed it to Father, when he'd been so good to let me stay.
It seems so funny to hear her talk such a lot about Father as she does, when before she never used to mention him--only to say how afraid she was that I would love him better than I did her, and to make me say over and over again that I didn't. And I said so one day to her--I mean, I said I thought it was funny, the way she talked now.
She colored up and bit her lip, and gave a queer little laugh. Then she grew very sober and grave, and said:
"I know, dear. Perhaps I am talking more than I used to. But, you see, I've been thinking quite a lot, and I--I've learned some things. And now, since your father has been so kind and generous in giving you up to me so much of his time, I--I've grown ashamed; and I'm trying to make you forget what I said--about your loving me more than him. That wasn't right, dear. Mother was wrong. She shouldn't try to influence you against your father. He is a good man; and there are none too many good men in the world--No, no, I won't say that," she broke off.
But she'd already said it, and, of course, I knew she was thinking of the violinist. I'm no child.
She went on more after that, quite a lot more. And she said again that I must love Father and try to please him in every way; and she cried a little and talked a lot about how hard it was in my position, and that she was afraid she'd only been making it harder, through her selfishness, and I must forgive her, and try to forget it. And she was very sure she'd do better now. And she said that, after all, life wasn't in just being happy yourself. It was in how much happiness you could give to others.
Oh, it was lovely! And I cried, and she cried some more, and we kissed each other, and I promised. And after she went away I felt all upraised and holy, like you do when you've been to a beautiful church service with soft music and colored windows, and everybody kneeling. And I felt as if I'd never be naughty or thoughtless again. And that I'd never mind being Mary now. Why, I'd be glad to be Mary half the time, and even more--for Father.
Listen. Would you believe it? Just that same evening Mother stopped me again laughing too loud and making too much noise playing with Lester; and I felt real cross. I just boiled inside of me, and said I hated Mary, and that Mother was getting to be just like Aunt Jane. And yet, just that morning--
Oh, if only that hushed, stained-window-soft-music feeling would last!
* * * * *
Well, once more school is done, my trunk is all packed, and I'm ready to go to Andersonville. I leave to-morrow morning. But not as I left last year. Oh, no. It is very, very different. Why, this year I'm really going as Mary. Honestly, Mother has turned me into Mary before I go. Now, what do you think of that? And if I've got to be Mary there and Mary here, too, when can I ever be Marie? Oh, I know I said I'd be willing to be Mary half, and maybe more than half, the time. But when it comes to really being Mary out of turn extra time, that is quite another thing.
And I am Mary.
I've learned to cook. That's Mary.
I've been studying astronomy. That's Mary.
I've learned to walk quietly, speak softly, laugh not too loudly, and be a lady at all times. That's Mary.
And now, to add to all this, Mother has had me dress like Mary. Yes, she began two weeks ago. She came into my room one morning and said she wanted to look over my dresses and things; and I could see, by the way she frowned and bit her lip and tapped her foot on the floor, that she wasn't suited. And I was glad; for, of course, I always like to have new things. So I was pleased when she said:
"I think, my dear, that on Saturday we'll have to go in town shopping. Quite a number of these things will not do at all."
And I was so happy! Visions of new dresses and hats and shoes rose before me, and even the pink beaded silk came into my mind--though I didn't really have much hopes of that.
Well, we went shopping on Saturday, but--did we get the pink silk? We did not. We did get--you'd never guess what. We got two new gingham dresses, very plain and homely, and a pair of horrid, thick low shoes. Why, I could have cried! I did 'most cry as I exclaimed:
"Why, Mother, those are Mary things!"
"Of course, they're Mary things," answered Mother, cheerfully--the kind of cheerfulness that says: "I'm being good and you ought to be." Then she went on. "That's what I meant to buy--Mary things, as you call them. Aren't you going to be Mary just next week? Of course, you are! And didn't you tell me last year, as soon as you got there, Miss Anderson objected to your clothing and bought new for you? Well, I am trying to see that she does not have to do that this year."
And then she bought me a brown serge suit and a hat so tiresomely sensible that even Aunt Jane will love them, I know. And to-morrow I've got to put them on to go in.
Do you wonder that I say I am Mary already?