Lovey Mary by Alice Hegan Rice
Chapter X. A Timely Visit
"The love of praise, howe'er concealed by art, Reigns more or less, and glows in ev'ry heart."
Weeks and months slipped by, and the Cabbage Patch ate breakfast and supper by lamplight. Those who could afford it were laying in their winter coal, and those who could not were providently pasting brown paper over broken window-panes, and preparing to keep Jack Frost at bay as long as possible.
One Saturday, as Lovey Mary came home from the factory, she saw a well-dressed figure disappearing in the distance.
"Who is that lady?" she demanded suspiciously of Europena Wiggs, who was swinging violently on the gate.
"'T ain't no lady," said Europena. "It's my Sunday-school teacher."
"Uh-huh. She wants Asia to come over to her house this evenin'."
"Wisht I could go," said Lovey Mary.
"Why can't you?" asked Mrs. Wiggs, coming to the open door. "Asia would jes love to show Mrs. Reddin' how stylish you look in that red dress. I'll curl yer hair on the poker if you want me to."
Any diversion from the routine of work was acceptable, so late that afternoon the two girls, arrayed in their best garments, started forth to call on the Reddings.
"I wisht I had some gloves," said Lovey Mary, rubbing her blue fingers.
"If I'd 'a' thought about it I'd 'a' made you some before we started. It don't take no time." Asia held out her hands, which were covered with warm red mitts. "I make 'em outen Billy's old socks after the feet's wore off."
"I don't see how you know how to do so many things!" said Lovey Mary, admiringly.
"'T ain't nothin'," disclaimed Asia, modestly. "It's jes the way maw brought us up. Whenever we started out to do a thing she made us finish it someway or 'nother. Oncet when we was all little we lived in the country. She sent Billy out on the hoss to git two watermelon, an' told him fer him not to come home without 'em. When Billy got out to the field he found all the watermelon so big he couldn't carry one, let alone two. What do you think he done?"
"Come home without 'em?"
"No, sir, he never! He jes set on the fence an' thought awhile, then he took off en his jeans pants an' put a watermelon in each leg an' hanged 'em 'crost old Rollie's back an' come ridin' home barelegged."
"I think he's the nicest boy in the Cabbage Patch," said Lovey Mary, laughing over the incident. "He never does tease Tommy."
"That's 'cause he likes you. He says you've got grit. He likes the way you cleaned up Miss Hazy an' stood up to Mr. Stubbins."
A deeper color than even the fresh air warranted came into Lovey Mary's cheeks, and she walked on for a few minutes in pleased silence.
"Don't you want to wear my gloves awhile?" asked Asia.
"No; my hands ain't cold any more," said Lovey Mary.
As they turned into Terrace Park, with its beautiful grounds, its fountains and statuary, Asia stopped to explain.
"Jes rich folks live over here. That there is the Reddin's' house, the big white one where them curbstone ladies are in the yard. I wisht you could git a peek in the parlor; they've got chairs made outer real gold, an' strandaliers that look like icicles all hitched together."
"Do they set on the gold chairs?"
"No, indeed; the legs is too wabbly fer that. I reckon they're jes to show how rich they are. This here is where the carriage drives in. Their hired man wears a high-style hat, an' a fur cape jes like Mrs. Reddin's."
"I 'spect they have turkey every day, don't they, Asia?"
Before Asia's veracity was tested to the limit, the girls were startled by the sudden appearance of an excited housemaid at the side door.
"Simmons! Simmons!" she screamed. "Oh, where is that man? I'll have to go for somebody myself." And without noticing the girls, she ran hastily down the driveway.
Asia, whose calmness was seldom ruffled, led the way into the entry. "That's the butter's pantry," she said, jerking her thumb over her shoulder.
"Don't they keep nothing in it but butter?" gasped Lovey Mary.
"Reckon not. They've got a great big box jes fer ice; not another thing goes in it."
Another maid ran down the steps, calling Simmons.
Asia, a frequent visitor at the house, made her way unconcernedly up to the nursery. On the second floor there was great confusion; the telephone was ringing, servants were hurrying to and fro.
"He'll choke to death before the doctor gets here!" they heard the nurse say as she ran through the hall. From the open nursery door they could hear the painful gasps and coughs of a child in great distress.
Asia paused on the landing, but Lovey Mary darted forward. The mother instinct, ever strong within her, had responded instantly to the need of the child. In the long, dainty room full of beautiful things, she only saw the terrified baby on his mother's lap, his face purple, his eyes distended, as he fought for his breath.
Without a word she sprang forward, and grasping the child by his feet, held him at arm's-length and shook him violently. Mrs. Redding screamed, and the nurse, who was rushing in with hot milk, dropped the cup in horror. But a tiny piece of hard candy lay on the floor, and Master Robert Redding was right side up again, sobbing himself quiet in Lovey Mary's arms.
After the excitement had subsided, and two doctors and Mr. Redding had arrived breathless upon the scene, Mrs. Redding, for the dozenth time, lavished her gratitude upon Lovey Mary:
"And to think you saved my precious baby! The doctor said it was the only thing that could have saved him, yet we four helpless women had no idea what to do. How did you know, dear? Where did you ever see it done!"
Lovey Mary, greatly abashed, faced the radiant parents, the two portly doctors, and the servants in the background.
"I learned on Tommy," she said in a low voice. "He swallered a penny once that we was going to buy candy with. I didn't have another, so I had to shake it out."
During the laugh that followed, she and Asia escaped, but not before Mr. Redding had slipped a bill into her hand, and the beautiful Mrs. Redding had actually given her a kiss!