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the bread-board, vigorously, with the strength of her whole body. I waited for my reply. At last it came.
'Well, I will say you've been good to me, and Anne loves you but I think you've got a hard heart.'
Secretly I agreed with her. I retrenched and urged her to send only a part of her money, saving the rest for furniture. Of course, I knew by this time that the word 'furniture' was to her like magic and a charm.
Meanwhile, fond as she was of Anne and proud of her, Mamie was bent on not spoiling her. She used to put her in a wooden tub in the sunshine on the floor of the kitchen, as Peter PumpkinEater put his wife in the pumpkin shell; and like Peter, there she kept her very well. And Anne, more ingenuous and happier than Diogenes, for she liked it and crowed if people came into her sunshine, would stay there perfectly happy and delighted for the greater part of the day, playing with an apple or a potato. I really never saw such a baby.
Meanwhile, although Bill was, it seems, drinking more than ever, with the aid, of course, of Mamie's earnings, Mamie herself contrived to be above fact and experience, and was sure he was actively reforming. In a sense she really lived a charmed life.
It seemed that Fate and fact could deal her no blow which would finally affect her. She knew Bill's failings better than the matron, by a great deal; but if you suppose that these could spoil the pure romance of life for her, or invalidate her dream of a home and furniture of her own, cushioned chairs owned and sat upon by the reformed Bill and herself, you are much mistaken.
She was a firm believer in miracles. 'I know you don't believe in them,' she would say; 'but at the Orphan Asylum there was a statue of Saint Stephen
that used to turn around over night, it really did, if it was pleased with what you did.'
Like so many of her class, Mamie had an incorrigible tendency toward rumor. Knowledge comes not to these by laborious delving of their own, but appears to be delivered to them out of the air as by bird auguries, and by all manner of unauthenticated hearsay infinitely rather to be trusted than fact. I take this to be in their case a survival of what was believed, in ancient times, to be speech with Divinity. However it may shock the modern mind to read of the Almighty giving out to Moses, not merely the majestic laws carven on tables of stone, but commands and detail and measurement of great exactness as to the stuff and manner of fashioning and trimming the High Priest's breeches, to the minds of Mamie and her class there would be in this little that was shocking, they themselves believing and delighting in Divine collaboration in even the most homely
Anne wore on a string about her neck a little square of Canton flannel which in the course of many months had become extremely grimy. I suggested as tactfully as I could that this was not in keeping with the laws of health, and might be, with a view to germs, a positive danger to Anne.
Mamie smiled happily, indulgently: "That's just where you're wrong! It's to protect her from danger - specially danger by drowning!'
Once I suggested that, if I were she, I would not feed Anne burned breadcrusts.
'Oh, but they say they're good for a baby; they say they're splendid for the digestion.'
Useless to argue. She had always heard so. "They' said so.
So it is that knowledge comes to them, not laboriously, as does our own,
but by easy rumor, floating hearsay, and wisdom is brought to them without effort of their own, as viands to a king. They are fed by ravens. Their gourd grows over night. Messengers still come and go between heaven and earth to instruct them. There is not required of them, the laboring class, that slavish mental toil exacted of the world's great intellects. Angels and ministers of grace, however they may have abandoned the wise, do still, it seems, defend them. They have only to be of a listening mind and a believing heart, and they shall know what is good for digestion, and what will save their children from drowning.
Mamie, further, was able to maintain a remarkable equilibrium between respectful service as a servant and what might have been the gracious democracy of a ruler. She taught Anne to call me 'Honey,' and had it as a surprise for me one morning. I will not deny that it was a surprise. But if you think that so sweet an appellation in Anne's bird-like voice, her golden head leaning over into the sunshine as she heard my step, seemed to me to be lacking in dignity, then you and I are of contrary opinions.
One day, when Mamie was dusting where hung a Fra Lippo Madonna, Anne pointed a fat finger at it, demanding, 'Honey?'
Mamie did not even pause.
'No,' she said briskly, 'that's not Honey. That's Lord and Lord's mawma.'
One day, Mamie came to me, her face beaming.
'I want to do the right thing, so I'm going to give you a whole month's notice. Bill has rented some rooms. What do you think of that!'
She brought out his letter for proof. 'He's to pay for the rooms, and I'm to send him the money for the furniture. He'll get whatever kind I like. You've always been kind to me,' she added, 'but I think you've got a hard heart as to Bill.'
Well, perhaps I had.
The month passed very happily. As his letters came, she would tell me what he had bought.
'It's a bureau with a marble top, second-hand, Second Avenue, but as good as new. Besides, some people would rather have antiques. And I do like bureaus!'
Then it would be a table that set her singing her queer rag-time songs. Once there came word of three cushioned chairs. One letter announced a looking-glass. And once, as I went into the kitchen suddenly, there was Mamie, one arm above her head, the other holding her skirt, dancing for Anne to see and to Anne's inexpressible wonder and delight. She sat there in her tub, leaning forward, beaming, fascinated, and holding tight to its sides as though we might all be personages in a fairytale, and she and the tub might any moment fly away.
At sight of me, Mamie stopped, flushing pink as a rose, apologetic, but unfeignedly happy.
'I could n't help it! He's bought me a chiffoneer!'
A moment later, as I passed through the hall, I could hear Mamie singing, 'And she's going back to her Daddy, and her home, home, home!'-to some impromptu rigmarole tune of her own.
Soon after this she took the train to the nearest town and came back laden with packages - all manner of cheap household stuff picked up at the fiveand-ten-cent store. It occurred to me that she might as well have a small
I told her gently, but firmly, what I empty trunk of mine that there was in suspected concerning it.
the attic. She was delighted with the
gift, and wore the key of it on a chain around her neck.
'I'd rather have that key than a locket!' she said, putting her hand over it affectionately. It was so that she repaid you tenfold. 'It's wonderful,' she would say, every little while, in joyful anticipation, 'having your own home!'
For myself, despite many unmitigated realities, I could not help feeling that I was living in something of a wonder story. Who knew but with those extraordinary powers of hers, which so readily rose above fact, who knew but that she might rub that key some day as Aladdin his lamp, and turn us all into triumphant heroes and heroines.
Mamie did not forget, as I said goodbye to her in the big city terminal where I finally left them, to give me parting advice, sisterly sympathy:
'Now, don't you go and get discouraged. I know you've had troubles. Well, I've had trouble enough too. You just keep right on, and hold your head high. There's no telling what'll come to them that holds their heads high. Look at me!'
I looked at her and could have felt convinced. Then we said our goodbyes, and away they went. The last I saw of them in the crowd was Anne's hand still waving loyally to me over Mamie's shoulder quite a long time after her eyes had lost me.
I missed them exceedingly; and the bluebirds of that second spring hardly made up to me for the absence of Anne's birdlike voice. The new maid, Margaret, was interesting enough, but no one could ever quite take the place of those others. With all this in mind, you will realize with what a sinking of the heart I found that there was more than Mamie to be missed. There could be no doubt in the matter, for there had been no outsider in the house at
all of late; therefore it could be due to no other magic than hers that there was a grievous lessening of my scant stores of household belongings-sheets and pillow-cases, towels and a pair of blankets, napkins and I think a tablecloth, and some muffin-rings and kitchen conveniences, and I do not know what else.
Little bits of reality came drifting back to me the key kept so faithfully always around her neck; my own gift of the trunk; and the sentiment — say now, if you like, the sentimentality
with which I had noted the fact that even that rather small trunk was too large for her poor belongings.
Then suddenly, the whole episode read to me like an Uncle Remus 'Br'er Fox and Br'er Rabbit' tale, and I was not too discouraged to laugh-as the 'Little Boy' is recorded always to have done at the turn of the story, at the inevitable triumph of the cleverer of the two.
Yet for Mamie's sake, not to speak of my own, such an ending was not to be permitted. I had asked her to come to see me in town on one of the days of the week that I was always there, and to be sure to bring Anne to see me. She had assured me that she would, and that she would never forget me. Now I knew it would be necessary, rather, for me to go and find her. I rehearsed the scene mentally. I meant to tell her that she could keep all the things she had stolen. (Let them remain in the manner of coals of fire in her trunk!) I would first reduce her to powder in a solemn and serious manner, and then strew her upon the winds of my righteous indignation! She whom I had treated with unfailing kindness! She whom in sickness I had nursed! She whose many faults had been forgiven her, and in whom I had placed trust! She!
Strangely enough she did come to
see me, that very next day I was in town. She seemed eager to get to me; nervous, too, like one whipped of her conscience. I felt my heart suddenly softening and as quickly hardened it. I really had not expected quick penitence of her, but even so, she must take the full punishment of my disapproval. There is a duty we owe in such matters. I would make nothing easy for her.
She sat down heavily, then suddenly put her hand over quickly on mine. I made no sign. Not even that should move me. Then in a hoarse whisper, a really hoarse whisper, almost a moan, she said,
'Oh, how shall I tell you? How shall I tell you?'
Stony pause. I looked coldly at her. It seemed, for a moment, that the irresistible force really had met the immovable body. Then all at once, she put her head down on her arm, sobbed, and spoke.
'There wasn't any bureau! There was n't any chiffoneer! There was n't even any rooms!'
An instant of time swirled past. Then I knew, as of old, that the power of the poor is an irresistible force, never never not even by the immovable body of our strongest determinations, to be withstood. My own iron resolves I saw converted suddenly into the flimsiest fiction-rent gossamer floating wide.
Oh! Oh! I could have put my face in my hands and wept. All her dreams gone! All her hopes! her pride! her cherished plans! her money! her faith - everything! How small the theft of a few pillow-cases and towels looked now that, at Fate's hands, she, poor thing, had had all this stolen from her! This was no time to reduce her to powder, when she was already reduced to floods of tears and I by no means far from the verge of them.
Mamie's miracle had failed. The un-
Mamie, with the help of the perpetually severe, perpetually tender-hearted matron, went out to work again. But there may be those who would be more interested to know what I did with my resolves, my righteous indignation, and, above all, with my conscience. As to my conscience, I cleared that. I wrote to the matron, warning her that in assigning Mamie to any place, it should be remembered that, valuable as Mamie was in many ways, she had a light-fingered tendency to collect household goods. From my later knowledge, I believe that the matron may have smiled at the ingenuousness of that. It might readily be thought superfluous to warn the expert physicist that water does not run up hill.
As to my righteous indignation, it may seem to you a poor thing, but it never came back. Somehow I never quite forgot the grip of Mamie's hand on mine that day, and her hoarse voice as it announced the total ruin of her hopes; or the memory, by contrast, of her little singing dance before Anne at a happier season, with Anne leaning forward holding delightedly to the sides of the tub.
He is not apt to be the most severe in correction who has suffered much discipline at the hands of Fate. It should be remembered by the unrelenting and conscientious disciplinarian who judges me, that I had seen the ruin of some of my own hopes. Joys that I had planned for full as eagerly as
The story is too obvious to tell. Mamie, delights that I had reared on
more likely foundations, had been swept away and almost as suddenly. I am entering here on no philosophy, I am merely stating facts; and I may as well confess that I took comfort in the thought, that, though the bureau, the washstand and the 'chiffoneer' had fallen in the general ruin, Mamie still had the sheets, the pillow-cases, the towels, the muffin-rings, and the rest. It was even turning out a little like a fairy-tale after all, for I really now wanted her to have these, and in view of my own very meagre circumstances and my duties to others, I could not with a clear conscience have afforded to give them to her. She, as with a magic foresight, had contrived to relieve me of all embarrassment.
Meanwhile, I heard nothing more of Mamie. Then one day, I had this letter from her (I omit the independent spelling):
I thought I'd write to tell you that Anne has a good Papa. He's a farmer. I'm married again. (Since she was not married before, the again' may refer to a second wedding ring.) He's got a nice house. Do come and see me. (Here followed very careful directions.) I'd like you to see our animals. We've got five chickens, one rooster, a cat and a dog. He had a house already furnished. It's good furnished too. The bed has got shams on the pillows.
It was not long after this that I had a letter from an old aunt of Mamie's, of whom Mamie had several times spoken to me, and to whom she used sometimes to write. The aunt said that, though she had always been too poor to do anything for Mamie, still she took an interest in her. She knew I had been good to her. If it was n't
too much trouble, would I write and tell her how Mamie was, or would I send her her address if she was not with me.
I wrote her with a good deal of pleasure that Mamie was happily married (I did not quibble at the word) to a well-to-do farmer; that she had a nicely furnished house, some animals, and that her husband loved Anne devotedly.
Then I wrote to Mamie and sent her her aunt's letter; and I told her that I thought it would be a kindness if she would write to the old lady.
In reply I had the following: 'I know you meant to be kind. But I'm sorry you wrote to my aunt. It was n't my aunt at all. It was Bill.''
Here also I know it well fact is less satisfactory than romance. There should, no doubt, be the telling scene of a sequel. I never saw Mamie again, however, and the unfocused waving of a fat, lovely little hand in that crowded terminal is my last memory of Anne.
You who read this may be in some uneasiness as to Mamie. I confess that I am not. I cannot forget the angels of grace that do undoubtedly attend on such. Need Pharaoh, having seen the wonders, be anxious do you think, as to how the departed children of Israel would be maintained in the desert places where he would so easily have perished?
But lest you should, nevertheless, have Mamie's welfare at heart, and should entertain, with some misgivings, thought of what may have become of Anne, there are yet other signs and wonders of which I shall ask to be allowed to speak.
(To be continued)