Eleanor H. Porter.

Mary Marie online

. (page 2 of 16)
Online LibraryEleanor H. PorterMary Marie → online text (page 2 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to see her mopin' 'round the house, nothin' to do. Oh, she read, an'
sewed with them bright-colored silks an' worsteds; but 'course there
wasn't no real work for her to do. There was good help in the kitchen,
an' I took what care of your grandma was needed; an' she always gave
her orders through me, so I practically run the house, an' there
wasn't anything _there_ for her to do.

"An' so your ma just had to mope it out alone. Oh, I don't mean your
pa was unkind. He was always nice an' polite, when he was in the
house, an' I'm sure he meant to treat her all right. He said yes, yes,
to be sure, of course she was lonesome, an' he was sorry. 'T was too
bad he was so busy. An' he kissed her an' patted her. But he always
began right away to talk of the comet; an' ten to one he didn't
disappear into the observatory within the next five minutes. Then your
ma would look so grieved an' sorry an' go off an' cry, an' maybe not
come down to dinner, at all.

"Well, then, one day things got so bad your grandma took a hand. She
was up an' around the house, though she kept mostly to her own rooms.
But of course she saw how things was goin'. Besides, I told her - some.
'T was no more than my duty, as I looked at it. She just worshipped
your pa, an' naturally she'd want things right for him. So one day she
told me to tell her son's wife to come to her in her room.

"An' I did, an' she came. Poor little thing! I couldn't help bein'
sorry for her. She didn't know a thing of what was wanted of her, an'
she was so glad an' happy to come. You see, she _was_ lonesome, I

"'Me? Want me? - Mother Anderson?' she cried. 'Oh, I'm so glad!' Then
she made it worse by runnin' up the stairs an' bouncin' into the room
like a rubber ball, an' cryin': 'Now, what shall I do, read to you, or
sing to you, or shall we play games? I'd _love_ to do any of them!'
Just like that, she said it. I heard her. Then I went out, of course,
an' left them. But I heard 'most everything that was said, just the
same, for I was right in the next room dustin', and the door wasn't
quite shut.

"First your grandmother said real polite - she was always polite - but
in a cold little voice that made even me shiver in the other room,
that she did not desire to be read to or sung to, and that she did not
wish to play games. She had called her daughter-in-law in to have a
serious talk with her. Then she told her, still very polite, that she
was noisy an' childish, an' undignified, an' that it was not only
silly, but very wrong for her to expect to have her husband's entire
attention; that he had his own work, an' it was a very important one.
He was going to be president of the college some day, like his
father before him; an' it was her place to help him in every way she
could - help him to be popular an' well-liked by all the college people
an' students; an' he couldn't be that if she insisted all the time on
keepin' him to herself, or lookin' sour an' cross if she couldn't have

"Of course that ain't all she said; but I remember this part
particular on account of what happened afterward. You see - your
ma - she felt awful bad. She cried a little, an' sighed a lot, an' said
she'd try, she really would try to help her husband in every way she
could; an' she wouldn't ask him another once, not once, to stay with
her. An' she wouldn't look sour an' cross, either. She'd promise she
wouldn't. An' she'd try, she'd try, oh, so hard, to be proper an'

"She got up then an' went out of the room so quiet an' still you
wouldn't know she was movin'. But I heard her up in her room cryin'
half an hour later, when I stopped a minute at her door to see if she
was there. An' she was.

"But she wasn't cryin' by night. Not much she was! She'd washed her
face an' dressed herself up as pretty as could be, an' she never so
much as looked as if she wanted her husband to stay with her, when
he said right after supper that he guessed he'd go out to the
observatory. An' 't was that way right along after that. I know,
'cause I watched. You see, I knew what she'd _said_ she'd do. Well,
she did it.

"Then, pretty quick after that, she began to get acquainted in the
town. Folks called, an' there was parties an' receptions where she
met folks, an' they began to come here to the house, 'specially them
students, an' two or three of them young, unmarried professors. An'
she began to go out a lot with them - skatin' an' sleigh-ridin' an'

"Like it? Of course she liked it! Who wouldn't? Why, child, you never
saw such a fuss as they made over your ma in them days. She was all
the rage; an' of course she liked it. What woman wouldn't, that was
gay an' lively an' young, an' had been so lonesome like your ma had?
But some other folks didn't like it. An' your pa was one of them. This
time 't was him that made the trouble. I know, 'cause I heard what he
said one day to her in the library.

"Yes, I guess I was in the next room that day, too - er - dustin',
probably. Anyway, I heard him tell your ma good an' plain what he
thought of her gallivantin' 'round from mornin' till night with them
young students an' professors, an' havin' them here, too, such a lot,
till the house was fairly overrun with them. He said he was shocked
an' scandalized, an' didn't she have any regard for _his_ honor an'
decency, if she didn't for herself! An', oh, a whole lot more.

"Cry? No, your ma didn't cry this time. I met her in the hall right
after they got through talkin', an' she was white as a sheet, an' her
eyes was like two blazin' stars. So I know how she must have looked
while she was in the library. An' I must say she give it to him good
an' plain, straight from the shoulder. She told him _she_ was shocked
an' scandalized that he could talk to his wife like that; an' didn't
he have any more regard for _her_ honor and decency than to accuse her
of runnin' after any man living - much less a dozen of them! An' then
she told him a lot of what his mother had said to her, an' she said
she had been merely tryin' to carry out those instructions. She was
tryin' to make her husband and her husband's wife an' her husband's
home popular with the college folks, so she could help him to be
president, if he wanted to be. But he answered back, cold an' chilly,
that he thanked her, of course, but he didn't care for any more of
that kind of assistance; an' if she would give a little more time
to her home an' her housekeepin', as she ought to, he would be
considerably better pleased. An' she said, very well, she would see
that he had no further cause to complain. An' the next minute I met
her in the hall, as I just said, her head high an' her eyes blazin'.

"An' things did change then, a lot, I'll own. Right away she began to
refuse to go out with the students an' young professors, an' she sent
down word she wasn't to home when they called. And pretty quick, of
course, they stopped comin'.

"Housekeepin'? Attend to that? Well, y-yes, she did try to at first,
a little; but of course your grandma had always given the
orders - through me, I mean; an' there really wasn't anything your ma
could do. An' I told her so, plain. Her ways were new an' different
an' queer, an' we liked ours better, anyway. So she didn't bother
us much that way very long. Besides, she wasn't feelin' very well,
anyway, an' for the next few months she stayed in her room a lot, an'
we didn't see much of her. Then by an' by _you_ came, an' - well, I
guess that's all - too much, you little chatterbox!"



And that's the way Nurse Sarah finished her story, only she shrugged
her shoulders again, and looked back, first one way, then another. As
for her calling me "chatterbox" - she always calls me that when _she's_
been doing all the talking.

As near as I can remember, I have told Nurse Sarah's story exactly as
she told it to me, in her own words. But of course I know I didn't
get it right all the time, and I know I've left out quite a lot. But,
anyway, it's told a whole lot more than _I_ could have told why they
got married in the first place, and it brings my story right up to the
point where I was born; and I've already told about naming me, and
what a time they had over that.

Of course what's happened since, up to now, I don't know _all_ about,
for I was only a child for the first few years. Now I'm almost a young
lady, "standing with reluctant feet where the brook and river meet."
(I read that last night. I think it's perfectly beautiful. So kind of
sad and sweet. It makes me want to cry every time I think of it.) But
even if I don't know all of what's happened since I was born, I know
a good deal, for I've seen quite a lot, and I've made Nurse tell me a
lot more.

I know that ever since I can remember I've had to keep as still as a
mouse the minute Father comes into the house; and I know that I never
could imagine the kind of a mother that Nurse tells about, if it
wasn't that sometimes when Father has gone off on a trip, Mother and
I have romped all over the house, and had the most beautiful time.
I know that Father says that Mother is always trying to make me a
"Marie," and nothing else; and that Mother says she knows Father'll
never be happy until he's made me into a stupid little "Mary," with
never an atom of life of my own. And, do you know? it does seem
sometimes, as if Mary and Marie were fighting inside of me, and I
wonder which is going to beat. Funny, isn't it?

Father is president of the college now, and I don't know how many
stars and comets and things he's discovered since the night the star
and I were born together. But I know he's very famous, and that he's
written up in the papers and magazines, and is in the big fat red
"Who's Who" in the library, and has lots of noted men come to see him.

Nurse says that Grandma Anderson died very soon after I was born, but
that it didn't make any particular difference in the housekeeping; for
things went right on just as they had done, with her giving the orders
as before; that she'd given them all alone anyway, mostly, the last
year Grandma Anderson lived, and she knew just how Father liked
things. She said Mother tried once or twice to take the reins herself,
and once Nurse let her, just to see what would happen. But things got
in an awful muddle right away, so that even Father noticed it and said
things. After that Mother never tried again, I guess. Anyhow, she's
never tried it since I can remember. She's always stayed most of the
time up in her rooms in the east wing, except during meals, or when
she went out with me, or went to the things she and Father had to go
to together. For they did go to lots of things, Nurse says.

It seems that for a long time they didn't want folks to know there was
going to be a divorce. So before folks they tried to be just as usual.
But Nurse Sarah said _she_ knew there was going to be one long ago.
The first I ever heard of it was Nurse telling Nora, the girl we had
in the kitchen then; and the minute I got a chance I asked Nurse what
it was - a divorce.

My, I can remember now how scared she looked, and how she clapped her
hand over my mouth. She wouldn't tell me - not a word. And that's
the first time I ever saw her give that quick little look over each
shoulder. She's done it lots of times since.

As I said, she wouldn't tell me, so I had to ask some one else. I
wasn't going to let it go by and not find out - not when Nurse Sarah
looked so scared, and when it was something my father and mother were
going to have some day.

I didn't like to ask Mother. Some way, I had a feeling, from the way
Nurse Sarah looked, that it was something Mother wasn't going to like.
And I thought if maybe she didn't know yet she was going to have it,
that certainly _I_ didn't want to be the one to tell her. So I didn't
ask Mother what a divorce was.

I didn't even think of asking Father, of course. I never ask Father
questions. Nurse says I did ask him once why he didn't love me like
other papas loved their little girls. But I was very little then, and
I don't remember it at all. But Nurse said Father didn't like it very
well, and maybe I _did_ remember that part, without really knowing it.
Anyhow, I never think of asking Father questions.

I asked the doctor first. I thought maybe 't was some kind of a
disease, and if he knew it was coming, he could give them some sort
of a medicine to keep it away - like being vaccinated so's not to have
smallpox, you know. And I told him so.

He gave a funny little laugh, that somehow didn't sound like a laugh
at all. Then he grew very, very sober, and said:

"I'm sorry, little girl, but I'm afraid I haven't got any medicine
that will prevent - a divorce. If I did have, there'd be no eating or
drinking or sleeping for me, I'm thinking - I'd be so busy answering my

"Then it _is_ a disease!" I cried. And I can remember just how
frightened I felt. "But isn't there any doctor anywhere that _can_
stop it?"

He shook his head and gave that queer little laugh again.

"I'm afraid not," he sighed. "As for it's being a disease - there are
people that call it a disease, and there are others who call it a
cure; and there are still others who say it's a remedy worse than the
disease it tries to cure. But, there, you baby! What am I saying?
Come, come, my dear, just forget it. It's nothing you should bother
your little head over now. Wait till you're older."

Till I'm older, indeed! How I hate to have folks talk to me like that!
And they do - they do it all the time. As if I was a child now, when
I'm almost standing there where the brook and river meet!

But that was just the kind of talk I got, everywhere, nearly every
time I asked any one what a divorce was. Some laughed, and some
sighed. Some looked real worried 'cause I'd asked it, and one got mad.
(That was the dressmaker. I found out afterward that she'd _had_ a
divorce already, so probably she thought I asked the question on
purpose to plague her.) But nobody would answer me - really answer me
sensibly, so I'd know what it meant; and 'most everybody said, "Run
away, child," or "You shouldn't talk of such things," or, "Wait, my
dear, till you're older"; and all that.

Oh, how I hate such talk when I really want to know something! How
do they expect us to get our education if they won't answer our

I don't know which made me angriest - I mean angrier. (I'm speaking of
two things, so I must, I suppose. I hate grammar!) To have them talk
like that - not answer me, you know - or have them do as Mr. Jones, the
storekeeper, did, and the men there with him.

It was one day when I was in there buying some white thread for Nurse
Sarah, and it was a little while after I had asked the doctor if a
divorce was a disease. Somebody had said something that made me think
you could buy divorces, and I suddenly determined to ask Mr. Jones if
he had them for sale. (Of course all this sounds very silly to me now,
for I know that a divorce is very simple and very common. It's just
like a marriage certificate, only it _un_marries you instead of
marrying you; but I didn't know it then. And if I'm going to tell this
story I've got to tell it just as it happened, of course.)

Well, I asked Mr. Jones if you could buy divorces, and if he had them
for sale; and you ought to have heard those men laugh. There were six
of them sitting around the stove behind me.

"Oh, yes, my little maid" (above all things I abhor to be called a
little maid!) one of them cried. "You can buy them if you've got money
enough; but I don't reckon our friend Jones here has got them for

Then they all laughed again, and winked at each other. (That's another
disgusting thing - _winks_ when you ask a perfectly civil question! But
what can you do? Stand it, that's all. There's such a lot of things
we poor women have to stand!) Then they quieted down and looked
very sober - the kind of sober you know is faced with laughs in the
back - and began to tell me what a divorce really was. I can't remember
them all, but I can some of them. Of course I understand now that
these men were trying to be smart, and were talking for each other,
not for me. And I knew it then - a little. We know a lot more things
sometimes than folks think we do. Well, as near as I can remember it
was like this:

"A divorce is a knife that cuts a knot that hadn't ought to ever been
tied," said one.

"A divorce is a jump in the dark," said another.

"No, it ain't. It's a jump from the frying-pan into the fire," piped
up Mr. Jones.

"A divorce is the comedy of the rich and the tragedy of the poor,"
said a little man who wore glasses.

"Divorce is a nice smushy poultice that may help but won't heal," cut
in a new voice.

"Divorce is a guidepost marked, 'Hell to Heaven,' but lots of folks
miss the way, just the same, I notice," spoke up somebody with a

"Divorce is a coward's retreat from the battle of life." Captain
Harris said this. He spoke slow and decided. Captain Harris is old and
rich and not married. He's the hotel's star boarder, and what he says,
goes, 'most always. But it didn't this time. I can remember just how
old Mr. Carlton snapped out the next.

"Speak from your own experience, Tom Harris, an' I'm thinkin' you
ain't fit ter judge. I tell you divorce is what three fourths of the
husbands an' wives in the world wish was waitin' for 'em at home this
very night. But it ain't there." I knew, of course, he was thinking of
his wife. She's some cross, I guess, and has two warts on her nose.

There was more, quite a lot more, said. But I've forgotten the rest.
Besides, they weren't talking to me then, anyway. So I picked up my
thread and slipped out of the store, glad to escape. But, as I said
before, I didn't find many like them.

Of course I know now - what divorce is, I mean. And it's all settled.
They granted us some kind of a decree or degree, and we're going to
Boston next Monday.

It's been awful, though - this last year. First we had to go to that
horrid place out West, and stay ages and ages. And I hated it. Mother
did, too. I know she did. I went to school, and there were quite a lot
of girls my age, and some boys; but I didn't care much for them. I
couldn't even have the fun of surprising them with the divorce we were
going to have. I found _they_ were going to have one, too - every last
one of them. And when everybody has a thing, you know there's no
particular fun in having it yourself. Besides, they were very unkind
and disagreeable, and bragged a lot about their divorces. They said
mine was tame, and had no sort of snap to it, when they found Mother
didn't have a lover waiting in the next town, or Father hadn't run off
with his stenographer, or nobody had shot anybody, or anything.

That made me mad, and I let them see it, good and plain. I told them
our divorce was perfectly all right and genteel and respectable; that
Nurse Sarah said it was. Ours was going to be incompatibility, for
one thing, which meant that you got on each other's nerves, and just
naturally didn't care for each other any more. But they only laughed,
and said even more disagreeable things, so that I didn't want to go
to school any longer, and I told Mother so, and the reason, too, of

But, dear me, I wished right off that I hadn't. I supposed she was
going to be superb and haughty and disdainful, and say things that
would put those girls where they belonged. But, my stars! How could I
know that she was going to burst into such a storm of sobs and clasp
me to her bosom, and get my face all wet and cry out: "Oh, my baby, my
baby - to think I have subjected you to this, my baby, my baby!"

And I couldn't say a thing to comfort her, or make her stop, even when
I told her over and over again that I wasn't a baby. I was almost a
young lady; and I wasn't being subjected to anything bad. I _liked_
it - only I didn't like to have those girls brag so, when our divorce
was away ahead of theirs, anyway.

But she only cried more and more, and held me tighter and tighter,
rocking back and forth in her chair. She took me out of school,
though, and had a lady come to teach me all by myself, so I didn't
have to hear those girls brag any more, anyway. That was better. But
she wasn't any happier herself. I could see that.

There were lots of other ladies there - beautiful ladies - only she
didn't seem to like them any better than I did the girls. I wondered
if maybe _they_ bragged, too, and I asked her; but she only began to
cry again, and moan, "What have I done, what have I done?" - and I had
to try all over again to comfort her. But I couldn't.

She got so she just stayed in her room lots and lots. I tried to make
her put on her pretty clothes, and do as the other ladies did, and go
out and walk and sit on the big piazzas, and dance, and eat at the
pretty little tables. She did, some, when we first came, and took
me, and I just loved it. They were such beautiful ladies, with their
bright eyes, and their red cheeks and jolly ways; and their dresses
were so perfectly lovely, all silks and satins and sparkly spangles,
and diamonds and rubies and emeralds, and silk stockings, and little
bits of gold and silver slippers.

And once I saw two of them smoking. They had the cutest little
cigarettes (Mother said they were) in gold holders, and I knew then
that I was seeing life - real life; not the stupid kind you get back in
a country town like Andersonville. And I said so to Mother; and I was
going to ask her if Boston was like that. But I didn't get the chance.
She jumped up so quick I thought something had hurt her, and cried,
"Good Heavens, Baby!" (How I hate to be called "Baby"!) Then she just
threw some money on to the table to pay the bill and hurried me away.

It was after that that she began to stay in her room so much, and not
take me anywhere except for walks at the other end of the town where
it was all quiet and stupid, and no music or lights, or anything. And
though I teased and teased to go back to the pretty, jolly places, she
wouldn't ever take me; not once.

Then by and by, one day, we met a little black-haired woman with white
cheeks and very big sad eyes. There weren't any spangly dresses and
gold slippers about _her_, I can tell you! She was crying on a bench
in the park, and Mother told me to stay back and watch the swans while
she went up and spoke to her. (Why do old folks always make us watch
swans or read books or look into store windows or run and play all
the time? Don't they suppose we understand perfectly well what it
means - that they're going to say something they don't want us to
hear?) Well, Mother and the lady on the bench talked and talked ever
so long, and then Mother called me up, and the lady cried a little
over me, and said, "Now, perhaps, if I'd had a little girl like
that - !" Then she stopped and cried some more.

We saw this lady real often after that. She was nice and pretty and
sweet, and I liked her; but she was always awfully sad, and I don't
believe it was half so good for Mother to be with her as it would have
been for her to be with those jolly, laughing ladies that were always
having such good times. But I couldn't make Mother see it that way at
all. There are times when it seems as if Mother just _couldn't_ see
things the way I do. Honestly, it seems sometimes almost as if _she_
was the cross-current and contradiction instead of me. It does.

Well, as I said before, I didn't like it very well out there, and I
don't believe Mother did, either. But it's all over now, and we're
back home packing up to go to Boston.

Everything seems awfully queer. Maybe because Father isn't here,
for one thing. He wrote very polite and asked us to come to get our
things, and he said he was going to New York on business for several
days, so Mother need not fear he should annoy her with his presence.
Then, another thing, Mother's queer. This morning she was singing away
at the top of her voice and running all over the house picking up
things she wanted; and seemed so happy. But this afternoon I found her
down on the floor in the library crying as if her heart would break
with her head in Father's big chair before the fireplace. But she
jumped up the minute I came in and said, no, no, she didn't want
anything. She was just tired; that's all. And when I asked her if she
was sorry, after all, that she was going to Boston to live, she said,
no, no, no, indeed, she guessed she wasn't. She was just as glad as
glad could be that she was going, only she wished Monday would hurry
up and come so we could be gone.

And that's all. It's Saturday now, and we go just day after to-morrow.

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryEleanor H. PorterMary Marie → online text (page 2 of 16)