Eleanor H. Porter.

Mary Marie online

. (page 5 of 16)
Online LibraryEleanor H. PorterMary Marie → online text (page 5 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and cleared his throat, and began to eat or to talk to Aunt Jane.

After dinner - I mean supper - he went out to the observatory, just as
he always used to. Aunt Jane said her head ached and she was going to
bed. I said I guessed I would step over to Carrie Heywood's; but Aunt
Jane said, certainly not; that I was much too young to be running
around nights in the dark. Nights! And it was only seven o'clock, and
not dark at all! But of course I couldn't go.

Aunt Jane went upstairs, and I was left alone. I didn't feel a bit
like reading; besides, there wasn't a book or a magazine anywhere
_asking_ you to read. They just shrieked, "Touch me not!" behind the
glass doors in the library. I hate sewing. I mean _Marie_ hates it.
Aunt Jane says Mary's got to learn.

For a time I just walked around the different rooms downstairs,
looking at the chairs and tables and rugs all _just so_, as if they 'd
been measured with a yardstick. Marie jerked up a shade and pushed a
chair crooked and kicked a rug up at one corner; but Mary put them all
back properly - so there wasn't any fun in that for long.

After a while I opened the parlor door and peeked in. They used to
keep it open when Mother was here; but Aunt Jane doesn't use it. I
knew where the electric push button was, though, and I turned on the

It used to be an awful room, and it's worse now, on account of its
shut-up look. Before I got the light on, the chairs and sofas loomed
up like ghosts in their linen covers. And when the light did come on,
I saw that all the old shiver places were there. Not one was missing.
Great-Grandfather Anderson's coffin plate on black velvet, the wax
cross and flowers that had been used at three Anderson funerals, the
hair wreath made of all the hair of seventeen dead Andersons and five
live ones - no, no, I don't mean _all_ the hair, but hair from all
seventeen and five. Nurse Sarah used to tell me about it.

Well, as I said, all the shiver places were there, and I shivered
again as I looked at them; then I crossed over to Mother's old piano,
opened it, and touched the keys. I love to play. There wasn't any
music there, but I don't need music for lots of my pieces. I know them
by heart - only they're all gay and lively, and twinkly-toe dancy.
_Marie_ music. I don't know a one that would be proper for _Mary_ to

But I was just tingling to play _something_, and I remembered that
Father was in the observatory, and Aunt Jane upstairs in the other
part of the house where she couldn't possibly hear. So I began to
play. I played the very slowest piece I had, and I played softly at
first; but I know I forgot, and I know I hadn't played two pieces
before I was having the best time ever, and making all the noise I
wanted to.

Then all of a sudden I had a funny feeling as if somebody somewhere
was watching me; but I just couldn't turn around. I stopped playing,
though, at the end of that piece, and then I looked; but there wasn't
anybody in sight. But the wax cross was there, and the coffin plate,
and that awful hair wreath; and suddenly I felt as if that room was
just full of folks with great staring eyes. I fairly shook with
shivers then, but I managed to shut the piano and get over to the door
where the light was. Then, a minute later, out in the big silent hall,
I crept on tiptoe toward the stairs. I knew then, all of a sudden, why
I'd felt somebody was listening. There was. Across the hall in the
library in the big chair before the fire sat - _Father_! And for 'most
a whole half-hour I had been banging away at that piano on marches and
dance music! My! But I held my breath and stopped short, I can tell
you. But he didn't move nor turn, and a minute later I was safely by
the door and halfway up the stairs.

I stayed in my room the rest of that evening; and for the second time
since I've been here I cried myself to sleep.

* * * * *

_Another week later_,

Well, I've got them - those brown and blue serge dresses and the
calfskin boots. My, but I hope they're stiff and homely enough - all of
them! And hot, too. Aunt Jane did say to-day that she didn't know but
what she'd made a mistake not to get gingham dresses. But, then, she'd
have to get the gingham later, anyway, she said; then I'd have both.

Well, they can't be worse than the serge. That's sure. I hate the
serge. They're awfully homely. Still, I don't know but it's just as
well. Certainly it's lots easier to be Mary in a brown serge and
clumpy boots than it is in the soft, fluffy things Marie used to wear.
You couldn't be Marie in _these_ things. Honestly, I'm feeling real
Maryish these days.

I wonder if that's why the girls seem so queer at school. They _are_
queer. Three times lately I've come up to a crowd of girls and heard
them stop talking right off short. They colored up, too; and pretty
quick they began to slip away, one by one, till there wasn't anybody
left but just me, just as they used to do in Boston. But of course it
can't be for the same reason here, for they've known all along about
the divorce and haven't minded it at all.

I heard this morning that Stella Mayhew had a party last night. But
_I_ didn't get invited. Of course, you can't always ask everybody to
your parties, but this was a real big party, and I haven't found a
girl in school, yet, that wasn't invited - but me. But I guess it
wasn't anything, after all. Stella is a new girl that has come here to
live since I went away. Her folks are rich, and she's very popular,
and of course she has loads of friends she had to invite; and she
doesn't know me very well. Probably that was it. And maybe I just
imagine it about the other girls, too. Perhaps it's the brown serge
dress. Still, it can't be that, for this is the first day I've worn
it. But, as I said, I feel Maryish already.

I haven't dared to touch the piano since that night a week ago, only
once when Aunt Jane was at a missionary meeting, and I knew Father was
over to the college. But didn't I have a good time then? I just guess
I did!

Aunt Jane doesn't care for music. Besides, it's noisy, she says, and
would be likely to disturb Father. So I'm not to keep on with my music
lessons here. She's going to teach me to sew instead. She says sewing
is much more sensible and useful.

Sensible and useful! I wonder how many times I've heard those words
since I've been here. And durable, too. And nourishing. That's another
word. Honestly, Marie is getting awfully tired of Mary's sensible
sewing and dusting, and her durable clumpy shoes and stuffy dresses,
and her nourishing oatmeal and whole-wheat bread. But there, what can
you do? I'm trying to remember that it's _different_, anyway, and that
I said I liked something different.

I don't see much of Father. Still, there's something kind of queer
about it, after all. He only speaks to me about twice a day - just
"Good-morning, Mary," and "Good-night." And so far as most of his
actions are concerned you wouldn't think by them that he knew I was in
the house, Yet, over and over again at the table, and at times when I
didn't even know he was 'round, I've found him watching me, and with
such a queer, funny look in his eyes. Then, very quickly always, he
looks right away.

But last night he didn't. And that's especially what I wanted to write
about to-day. And this is the way it happened.

It was after supper, and I had gone into the library. Father had gone
out to the observatory as usual, and Aunt Jane had gone upstairs to
her room as usual, and as usual I was wandering 'round looking for
something to do. I wanted to play on the piano, but I didn't dare
to - not with all those dead-hair and wax-flower folks in the parlor
watching me, and the chance of Father's coming in as he did before.

I was standing in the window staring out at nothing - it wasn't quite
dark yet - when again I had that queer feeling that somebody was
looking at me. I turned - and there was Father. He had come in and was
sitting in the big chair by the table. But this time he didn't look
right away as usual and give me a chance to slip quietly out of the
room, as I always had before. Instead he said:

"What are you doing there, Mary?"

"N-nothing." I know I stammered. It always scares me to talk to

"Nonsense!" Father frowned and hitched in his chair. Father always
hitches in his chair when he's irritated and nervous. "You can't be
doing nothing. Nobody but a dead man does nothing - and we aren't so
sure about him. What are you doing, Mary?"

"Just l-looking out the window."

"Thank you. That's better. Come here. I want to talk to you."

"Yes, Father."

I went, of course, at once, and sat down in the chair near him. He
hitched again in his seat.

"Why don't you do something - read, sew, knit?" he demanded. "Why do I
always find you moping around, doing nothing?"

Just like that he said it; and when he had just told me -

"Why, Father!" I cried; and I know that I showed how surprised I was.
"I thought you just said I couldn't do nothing - that nobody could!"

"Eh? What? Tut, tut!" He seemed very angry at first; then suddenly
he looked sharply into my face. Next, if you'll believe it, he
laughed - the queer little chuckle under his breath that I've heard him
give two or three times when there was something he thought was funny.
"Humph!" he grunted. Then he gave me another sharp look out of
his eyes, and said: "I don't think you meant that to be quite so
impertinent as it sounded, Mary, so we'll let it pass - this time. I'll
put my question this way: Don't you ever knit or read or sew?"

"I do sew every day in Aunt Jane's room, ten minutes hemming, ten
minutes seaming, and ten minutes basting patchwork squares together. I
don't know how to knit."

"How about reading? Don't you care for reading?"

"Why, of course I do. I love it!" I cried. "And I do read lots - at

"At - _home_?"

I knew then, of course, that I'd made another awful break. There
wasn't any smile around Father's eyes now, and his lips came together
hard and thin over that last word.

"At - at _my_ home," I stammered. "I mean, my _other_ home."

"Humph!" grunted Father. Then, after a minute: "But why, pray, can't
you read here? I'm sure there are - books enough." He flourished his
hands toward the bookcases all around the room.

"Oh, I do - a little; but, you see, I'm so afraid I'll leave some of
them out when I'm through," I explained,

"Well, what of it? What if you do?" he demanded.

"Why, _Father_!" I tried to show by the way I said it that he knew - of
course he knew. But he made me tell him right out that Aunt Jane
wouldn't like it, and that he wouldn't like it, and that the books
always had to be kept exactly where they belonged.

"Well, why not? Why shouldn't they?" he asked then, almost crossly,
and hitching again in his chair. "Aren't books down there - in
Boston - kept where they belong, pray?"

It was the first time since I'd come that he'd ever mentioned Boston;
and I almost jumped out of my chair when I heard him. But I soon saw
it wasn't going to be the last, for right then and there he began to
question me, even worse than Aunt Jane had.

He wanted to know everything, _everything_; all about the house, with
its cushions and cozy corners and curtains 'way up, and books left
around easy to get, and magazines, and Baby Lester, and the fun we had
romping with him, and everything. Only, of course, I didn't mention
Mother. Aunt Jane had told me not to - not anywhere; and to be
specially careful before Father. But what can you do when he asks you
himself, right out plain? And that's what he did.

He'd been up on his feet, tramping up and down the room all the time
I'd been talking; and now, all of a sudden, he wheels around and stops

"How is - your mother, Mary?" he asks. And it was just as if he'd
opened the door to another room, he had such a whole lot of questions
to ask after that. And when he'd finished he knew everything: what
time we got up and went to bed, and what we did all day, and the
parties and dinners and auto rides, and the folks that came such a lot
to see Mother.

Then all of a sudden he stopped - asking questions, I mean. He stopped
just as suddenly as he'd begun. Why, I was right in the middle of
telling about a concert for charity we got up just before I came away,
and how Mother had practiced for days and days with the young man who
played the violin, when all of a sudden Father jerked his watch from
his pocket and said:

"There, there, Mary, it's getting late. You've talked enough - too
much. Now go to bed. Good-night."

Talked too much, indeed! And who'd been making me do all the talking,
I should like to know? But, of course, I couldn't _say_ anything.
That's the unfair part of it. Old folks can say anything, _anything_
they want to to _you_, but you can't say a thing back to them - not a

And so I went to bed. And the next day all that Father said to me
was, "Good-morning, Mary," and, "Good-night," just as he had ever
since I came. And that's all he's said yesterday and to-day. But he's
looked at me. He's looked at me a lot. I know, because at mealtimes
and others, when he's been in the room with me, I've looked up and
found his eyes on me. Funny, isn't it?

* * * * *

_Two weeks later_.

Well, I don't know as I have anything very special to say. Still, I
suppose I ought to write something; so I'll put down what little there

Of course, there doesn't so much happen here, anyway, as there does at
home - I mean in Boston. (I _must_ stop calling it home down to Boston
as if this wasn't home at all. It makes Aunt Jane very, very angry,
and I don't think Father likes it very well.) But, as I was saying,
there really doesn't so much happen here as there does down to Boston;
and it isn't nearly so interesting. But, there! I suppose I mustn't
expect it to be interesting. I'm Mary now, not Marie.

There aren't any teas and dinners and pretty ladies and music and
soulful-eyed prospective suitors _here_. My! Wouldn't Aunt Jane have
four fits? And Father, too. But I'd just like to put one of Mother's
teas with the little cakes and flowers and talk and tinkling laughs
down in Aunt Jane's parlor, and then watch what happened. Oh, of
course, the party couldn't stand it long - not in there with the hair
wreath and the coffin plate. But they could stand it long enough for
Father to thunder from the library, "Jane, what in Heaven's name is
the meaning of all this?" And for Aunt Jane to give one look at the
kind of clothes _real_ folks wear, and then flee with her hands to her
ears and her eyes upraised to the ceiling. Wouldn't it be fun?

But, there! What's the use of imagining perfectly crazy, impossible
things like that? We haven't had a thing here in that parlor since I
came but one missionary meeting and one Ladies' Aid Sewing Circle; and
after the last one (the Sewing Circle) Aunt Jane worked a whole day
picking threads off the carpet, and smoothing down the linen covers
because they'd got so mussed up. And I heard her tell the hired girl
that she shouldn't have that Sewing Circle here again in a hurry, and
when she did have them they'd have to sew in the dining-room with a
sheet spread down to catch the threads. My! but I would like to see
Aunt Jane with one of Mother's teas in her parlor!

I can't see as Father has changed much of any these last two weeks. He
still doesn't pay much of any attention to me, though I do find him
looking at me sometimes, just as if he was trying to make up his mind
about something. He doesn't say hardly anything to me, only once or
twice when he got to asking questions again about Boston and Mother.

The last time I told him all about Mr. Harlow, and he was so
interested! I just happened to mention his name, and he wanted to know
right away if it was Mr. Carl Harlow, and if I knew whether Mother had
ever known him before. And of course I told him right away that it
was - the same one she was engaged to before she was engaged to him.

Father looked funny and kind of grunted and said, yes, yes, he knew.
Then he said, "That will do, Mary." And he began to read his book
again. But he never turned a page, and it wasn't five minutes before
he got up and walked around the room, picking out books from the
bookcases and putting them right back, and picking up things from the
mantel and putting _them_ right back. Then he turned to me and asked
with a kind of of-course-I-don't-care air:

"Did you say you saw quite a little of - this Harlow fellow?"

But he did care. I know he did. He was _real_ interested. I could see
that he was. And so I told him everything, all about how he came there
to the teas, and sent her flowers and candy, and was getting a divorce
himself, and what he said on the sofa that day, and how Mother
answered. As I said, I told him everything, only I was careful not to
call Mr. Harlow a prospective suitor, of course. I remembered too
well what Aunt Hattie had said. Father didn't say anything when I got
through. He just got up and left the room, and pretty quick I saw him
crossing the lawn to the observatory.

I guess there aren't any prospective suitors here. I mean, I guess
Father isn't a prospective suitor - anyhow, not yet. (Of course, it's
the man that has to be the suitor.) He doesn't go anywhere, only over
to the college and out to the observatory. I've watched so to see. I
wanted specially to know, for of course if he was being a prospective
suitor to any one, she'd be my new mother, maybe. And I'm going to be
awfully particular about any new mother coming into the house.

A whole lot more, even, depends on mothers than on fathers, you know;
and if you're going to have one all ready-made thrust upon you, you
are sort of anxious to know what kind she is. Some way, I don't think
I'd like a new mother even as well as I'd like a new father; and I
don't believe I'd like _him_ very well.

Of course, there are quite a lot of ladies here that Father _could_
have. There are several pretty teachers in the schools, and some nice
unmarried ladies in the church. And there's Miss Parmelia Snow. She's
Professor Snow's sister. She wears glasses and is terribly learned.
Maybe he _would_ like her. But, mercy! I shouldn't.

Then there's Miss Grace Ann Sanborn. She's fat, and awfully jolly. She
comes here a lot lately to see Aunt Jane. I don't know why. They don't
belong to the same church, or anything. But she "runs over," as she
calls it, almost every afternoon just a little before dinner - I mean

Mrs. Darling used to come then, too, when I first came; but she comes
over evenings now more. Maybe it's because she doesn't like Miss Grace
Ann. I don't think she _does_ like her, for every time she saw her,
she'd say: "Oh, _you_? So you're here!" And then she'd turn and talk
to Aunt Jane and simply ignore Miss Grace Ann. And pretty quick she'd
get up and go. And now she comes evenings. She's fixing over her
house, and she runs and asks Aunt Jane's advice about every little
thing. She asks Father's, too, every chance she gets, when she sees
him in the hall or on the front steps. I heard her tell Aunt Jane
she considered Professor Anderson a man of most excellent taste and

I suppose Mrs. Darling _could_ be my new mother. She's a widow. Her
husband died last year. She is very well off now that her husband
is dead, I heard Aunt Jane say one day. She meant well off in
money - quite a lot of it, you know. I _thought_ she meant well off
because he was dead and she didn't have to live with him any more,
and I said so to Aunt Jane. (He was a cross man, and very stern, as
everybody knew.) But, dear suz me! Aunt Jane was awfully shocked, and
said certainly not; that she meant Mr. Darling had left his wife a
great deal of money.

Then she talked very stern and solemn to me, and said that I must not
think just because my poor dear father's married life had ended in
such a wretched tragedy that every other home had such a skeleton in
the closet.

_I_ grew stern and dignified and solemn then. I knew, of course, what
she meant. I'm no child. She meant Mother. She meant that Mother, my
dear blessed mother, was the skeleton in their closet. And of course I
wasn't going to stand there and hear that, and not say a word.

But I didn't say just a word. I said a good many words. I won't try to
put them all down here; but I told her quietly, in a firm voice, and
with no temper (showing), that I guessed Father was just as much of a
skeleton in Mother's closet as she was in his; and that if she could
see how perfectly happy my mother was now she'd understand a little of
what my father's skeleton had done to her all those years she'd had to
live with it.

I said a lot more, but before I'd got half finished with what I wanted
to say, I got to crying, so I just had to run out of the room.

That night I heard Aunt Jane tell Mrs. Darling that the worst feature
of the whole deplorable situation was the effect on the child's mind,
and the wretched conception it gave her of the sacredness of the
marriage tie, or something like that. And Mrs. Darling sighed, and
said, oh, and ah, and the pity of it.

I don't like Mrs. Darling.

Of course, as I said before, Mrs. Darling could be my new mother,
being a widow, so. But, mercy! I hope she won't. I'd rather have Miss
Grace Ann than her, and I shouldn't be crazy about having Miss Grace

Well, I guess there's nothing more to write. Things at school are just
the same, only more so. The girls are getting so they act almost
as bad as those down to Boston in the school where I went before I
changed. Of course, maybe it's the divorce here, same as it was there.
But I don't see how it can be that here. Why, they've known it from
the very first!

Oh, dear suz me! How I do wish I could see Mother to-night and have
her take me in her arms and kiss me. I'm so tired of being Mary 'way
off up here where nobody cares or wants me.

Even Father doesn't want me, not really want me. I know he doesn't. I
don't see why he keeps me, only I suppose he'd be ashamed not to take
me his six months as long as the court gave me to him for that time.

* * * * *

_Another two weeks later_.

I'm so angry I can hardly write, and at the same time I'm so angry
I've just got to write. I can't talk. There isn't anybody to talk to;
and I've got to tell somebody. So I'm going to tell it here.

I've found out now what's the matter with the girls - you know I said
there _was_ something the matter with them; that they acted queer
and stopped talking when I came up, and faded away till there wasn't
anybody but me left; and about the party Stella Mayhew had and didn't
invite me.

Well, it's been getting worse and worse. Other girls have had parties,
and more and more often the girls have stopped talking and have looked
queer when I came up. We got up a secret society and called it the
"Tony Ten," and I was going to be its president. Then all of a sudden
one day I found there wasn't any Tony Ten - only Carrie Heywood and me.
The other eight had formed another society and Stella Mayhew was their

I told Carrie we wouldn't care; that we'd just change it and call
it the "Tony Two"; and that two was a lot more exclusive than ten,
anyway. But I did care, and Carrie did. I knew she did. And I know it
better now because last night - she told me. You see things have been
getting simply unbearable these last few days, and it got so it looked
as if I wasn't even going to have Carrie left. _She_ began to act
queer and I accused her of it, and told her if she didn't want to
belong to the Tony Two she needn't. That I didn't care; that I'd be a
secret society all by myself. But I cried. I couldn't help crying; and
she knew I did - care. Then she began to cry; and to-day, after school,
we went to walk up on the hill to the big rock; and there - she told
me. And it _was_ the divorce.

And it's all that Stella Mayhew - the new girl. Her mother found out I
was divorced (I mean Mother was) and she told Stella not to play with
me, nor speak to me, nor have a thing to do with me. And I said to
Carrie, all right! Who cared? _I_ didn't. That I never had liked that
Mayhew girl, anyway. But Carrie said that wasn't all. She said Stella
had got to be real popular before I came; that her folks had lots of
money, and she always had candy and could treat to ice-cream and
auto rides, and everybody with her was sure of a good time. She had
parties, too - lots of them; and of course, all the girls and boys
liked that.

Well, when I came everything was all right till Stella's mother found

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryEleanor H. PorterMary Marie → online text (page 5 of 16)