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after school closed. Aunt Jane was out in the garden a lot, and Father
out to the observatory, so I just reveled in piano-playing till I
found almost every time I did it that he had come back, and was in the
library with the door open. So I don't dare to play now.

And there isn't a blessed thing to do. Oh, I have to sew an hour, and
now I have to weed an hour, too; and Aunt Jane tried to have me learn
to cook; but Susie (in the kitchen) flatly refused to have me "messing
around," so Aunt Jane had to give that up. Susie's the one person Aunt
Jane's afraid of, you see. She always threatens to leave if anything
goes across her wishes. So Aunt Jane has to be careful. I heard her
tell Mrs. Small next door that good hired girls were awfully scarce in
Andersonville.

As I said before, if only there was somebody here that wanted me. But
there isn't. Of course Father doesn't. That goes without saying. And
Aunt Jane doesn't. That goes, too, without saying. Carrie Heywood has
gone away for all summer, so I can't have even her; and of course, I
wouldn't associate with any of the other girls, even if they would
associate with me - which they won't.

That leaves only Mother's letters. They are dear, and I love them. I
don't know what I'd do without them. And yet, sometimes I think maybe
they're worse than if I didn't have them. They make me so homesick,
and I always cry so after I get them. Still, I know I just couldn't
live a minute if 'twasn't for Mother's letters.

Besides being so lonesome there's another thing that worries me, too;
and that is, _this_ - what I'm writing, I mean. The novel. It's getting
awfully stupid. Nothing happens. _Nothing!_ Of course, if 'twas just
a story I could make up things - lots of them - exciting, interesting
things, like having Mother elope with the violinist, and Father shoot
him and fall in love with Mother all over again, or else with somebody
else, and shoot that one's lover. Or maybe somebody'd try to shoot
Father, and I'd get there just in time to save him. Oh, I'd _love_
that!

But this is a real story, so, of course, I can't put in anything only
just what happens; and _nothing happens_.

And that's another thing. About the love story - I'm afraid there isn't
going to be one. Anyway, there isn't a bit of a sign of one, yet,
unless it's Mother. And of course, I haven't seen her for three
months, so I can't say anything about that.

Father hasn't got one. I'm sure of that. He doesn't like ladies. I
know he doesn't. He always runs away from them. But they don't run
away from him! Listen.

As I said before, quite a lot of them call here to see Aunt Jane, and
they come lots of times evenings and late afternoons, and I know now
why they do it. They come then because they think Father'll be at home
at that time; and they want to see him.

I know it now, but I never thought of it till the other day when
I heard our hired girl, Susie, talking about it with Bridget, the
Smalls' hired girl, over the fence when I was weeding the garden one
day. Then I knew. It was like this:

Mrs. Darling had been over the night before as usual, and had stayed
an awfully long time talking to Aunt Jane on the front piazza. Father
had been there, too, awhile. She stopped him on his way into the
house. I was there and I heard her. She said:

"Oh, Mr. Anderson, I'm so glad I saw you! I wanted to ask your advice
about selling poor dear Mr. Darling's law library."

And then she went on to tell him how she'd had an offer, but she
wasn't sure whether it was a good one or not. And she told him how
highly she prized his opinion, and he was a man of such splendid
judgment, and she felt so alone now with no strong man's shoulder to
lean upon, and she would be so much obliged if he only would tell her
whether he considered that offer a good one or not.

Father hitched and ahemmed and moved nearer the door all the time she
was talking, and he didn't seem to hear her when she pushed a chair
toward him and asked him to please sit down and tell her what to do;
that she was so alone in the world since poor dear Mr. Darling had
gone. (She always calls him poor dear Mr. Darling now, but Susie
says she didn't when he was alive; she called him something quite
different. I wonder what it was.)

Well, as I said, Father hitched and fidgeted, and said he didn't know,
he was sure; that she'd better take wiser counsel than his, and that
he was very sorry, but she really must excuse him. And he got through
the door while he was talking just as fast as he could himself, so
that she couldn't get in a single word to keep him. Then he was gone.

Mrs. Darling stayed on the piazza two whole hours longer, but Father
never came out at all again.

It was the next morning that Susie said this over the back-yard fence
to Bridget:

"It does beat all how popular this house is with the ladies - after
college hours!"

And Bridget chuckled and answered back:

"Sure it is! An' I do be thinkin' the Widder Darlin' is a heap fonder
of Miss Jane now than she would have been had poor dear Mr. Darlin'
lived!"

And she chuckled again, and so did Susie. And then, all of a sudden,
I knew. It was Father all those ladies wanted. It was Father Mrs.
Darling wanted. They came here to see him. They wanted to marry him.
_They_ were the prospective suitors. As if I didn't know what Susie
and Bridget meant! I'm no child!

But all this doesn't make Father like _them_. I'm not sure but it
makes him dislike them. Anyhow, he won't have anything to do with
them. He always runs away over to the observatory, or somewhere, and
won't see them; and I've heard him say things about them to Aunt Jane,
too - words that sound all right, but that don't mean what they say,
and everybody knows they don't. So, as I said before, I don't see any
chance of Father's having a love story to help out this book - not
right away, anyhow.

As for _my_ love story - I don't see any chance of that's beginning,
either. Yet, seems as if there ought to be the beginning of it by this
time - I'm going on fifteen. Oh, there have been _beginnings_, lots of
them - only Aunt Jane wouldn't let them go on and be endings, though I
told her good and plain that I thought it perfectly all right; and I
reminded her about the brook and river meeting where I stood, and all
that.

But I couldn't make her see it at all. She said, "Stuff and
nonsense" - and when Aunt Jane says _both_ stuff and nonsense I know
there's nothing _doing_. (Oh, dear, that's slang! Aunt Jane says she
does wish I would eliminate the slang from my vocabulary. Well, I
wish _she'd_ eliminate some of the long words from _hers_. Marie said
that - not Mary.)

Well, Aunt Jane said stuff and nonsense, and that I was much too young
to run around with silly boys. You see, Charlie Smith had walked home
from school with me twice, but I had to stop that. And Fred Small
was getting so he was over here a lot. Aunt Jane stopped _him_. Paul
Mayhew - yes, _Paul Mayhew_, Stella's brother! - came home with me, too,
and asked me to go with him auto-riding. My, how I did want to go! I
wanted the ride, of course, but especially I wanted to go because he
was Mrs. Mayhew's son. I just wanted to show Mrs. Mayhew! But Aunt
Jane wouldn't let me. That's the time she talked specially about
running around with silly boys. But she needn't have. Paul is no silly
boy. He's old enough to get a license to drive his own car.

But it wasn't just because he was young that Aunt Jane refused. I
found out afterward. It was because he was any kind of a man paying
me attention. I found that out through Mr. Claude Livingstone. Mr.
Livingstone brings our groceries. He's a _real_ young gentleman - tall,
black mustache, and lovely dark eyes. He goes to our church, and
he asked me to go to the Sunday-School picnic with him. I was _so_
pleased. And I supposed, of course, Aunt Jane would let me go with
_him. He's_ no silly boy! Besides, I knew him real well, and liked
him. I used to talk to him quite a lot when he brought the groceries.

But did Aunt Jane let me go? She did not. Why, she seemed almost more
shocked than she had been over Charlie Smith and Fred Small, and the
others.

"Mercy, child!" she exclaimed. "Where in the world do you pick
up these people?" And she brought out that "these people" _so_
disagreeably! Why, you'd think Mr. Livingstone was a foreign Japanese,
or something.

I told her then quietly, and with dignity, and with no temper
(showing), that Mr. Livingstone was not a foreign Japanese, but was a
very nice gentleman; and that I had not picked him up. He came to her
own door himself, almost every day.

"My own door!" exclaimed Aunt Jane. And she looked absolutely
frightened. "You mean to tell me that that creature has been coming
here to see you, and I not know it?"

I told her then - again quietly and with dignity, and without temper
(showing) - that he had been coming, not to see me, but in the natural
pursuance of his profession of delivering groceries. And I said
that he was not a creature. On the contrary, he was, I was sure, an
estimable young man. He went to her own church and Sunday-School.
Besides, I could vouch for him myself, as I knew him well, having seen
and talked with him almost every day for a long while, when he came to
the house.

But nothing I could say seemed to have the least effect upon her at
all, only to make her angrier and angrier, if anything. In fact _I_
think she showed a great deal of temper for a Christian woman about a
fellow Christian in her own church.

But she wouldn't let me go to the picnic; and not only that, but I
think she changed grocers, for Mr. Livingstone hasn't been here for a
long time, and when I asked Susie where he was she looked funny, and
said we weren't getting our groceries where Mr. Livingstone worked any
longer.

Well, of course, that ended that. And there hasn't been any other
since. That's why I say _my_ love story doesn't seem to be getting
along very well. Naturally, when it gets noised around town that your
Aunt Jane won't let you go anywhere with a young man, or let a young
man come to see you, or even walk home with you after the first
time - why, the young men aren't going to do very much toward making
your daily life into a love story.

* * * * *

_Two weeks later._

A queer thing happened last night. It was like this:

I think I said before what an awfully stupid time Mary is having of
it, and how I couldn't play now, or make any noise, 'cause Father has
taken to hanging around the house so much. Well, listen what happened.

Yesterday Aunt Jane went to spend the day with her best friend. She
said for me not to leave the house, as some member of the family
should be there. She told me to sew an hour, weed an hour, dust the
house downstairs and upstairs, and read some improving book an hour.
The rest of the time I might amuse myself.

Amuse myself! A jolly time I could have all by myself! Even Father
wasn't to be home for dinner, so I wouldn't have _that_ excitement. He
was out of town, and was not to come home till six o'clock.

It was an awfully hot day. The sun just beat down, and there wasn't
a breath of air. By noon I was simply crazy with my stuffy,
long-sleeved, high-necked blue gingham dress and my great clumpy
shoes. It seemed all of a sudden as if I couldn't stand it - not
another minute - not a single minute more - to be Mary, I mean. And
suddenly I determined that for a while, just a little while, I'd be
Marie again. Why couldn't I? There wasn't anybody going to be there
but just myself, _all day long_.

I ran then upstairs to the guest-room closet where Aunt Jane had made
me put all my Marie dresses and things when the Mary ones came. Well,
I got out the very fluffiest, softest white dress there was there, and
the little white slippers and the silk stockings that I loved, and the
blue silk sash, and the little gold locket and chain that Mother gave
me that Aunt Jane wouldn't let me wear. And I dressed up. My, didn't
I dress up? And I just _threw_ those old heavy shoes and black cotton
stockings into the corner, and the blue gingham dress after them
(though Mary went right away and picked the dress up, and hung it in
the closet, of course); but I had the fun of throwing it, anyway.

Oh, how good those Marie things did feel to Mary's hot, tired flesh
and bones, and how I did dance and sing around the room in those light
little slippers! Then Susie rang the dinner-bell and I went down to
the dining-room feeling like a really truly young lady, I can tell
you.

Susie stared, of course and said, "My, how fine we are to-day!" But I
didn't mind Susie.

After dinner I went out into the hall and I sang; I sang all over the
house. And I ran upstairs and I ran down; and I jumped all the last
three steps, even if it was so warm. Then I went into the parlor and
played every lively thing that I could think of on the piano. And I
sang there, too - silly little songs that Marie used to sing to Lester.
And I tried to think I was really down there to Boston, singing to
Lester; and that Mother was right in the next room waiting for me.

Then I stopped and turned around on the piano-stool. And there was the
coffin plate, and the wax cross, and the hair wreath; and the room was
just as still as death. And I knew I wasn't in Boston. I was there in
Andersonville, And there wasn't any Baby Lester there, nor any mother
waiting for me in the next room. And all the fluffy white dresses and
silk stockings in the world wouldn't make me Marie. I was really just
Mary, and I had got to have three whole months more of it.

And then is when I began to cry. And I cried just as hard as I'd been
singing a minute before. I was on the floor with my head in my arms on
the piano-stool when Father's voice came to me from the doorway.

"Mary, Mary, what in the world does this mean?"

I jumped up and stood "at attention," the way you have to, of course,
when fathers speak to you. I couldn't help showing I had been
crying - he had seen it. But I tried very hard to stop now. My first
thought, after my startled realization that he was there, was to
wonder how long he had been there - how much of all that awful singing
and banging he had heard.

"Yes, sir." I tried not to have my voice shake as I said it; but I
couldn't quite help that.

"What is the meaning of this, Mary? Why are you crying?"

I shook my head. I didn't want to tell him, of course; so I just
stammered out something about being sorry I had disturbed him. Then
I edged toward the door to show him that if he would step one side I
would go away at once and not bother him any longer.

But he didn't step one side. He asked more questions, one right after
another.

"Are you sick, Mary?"

I shook my head.

"Did you hurt yourself?"

I shook my head again.

"It isn't - your mother - you haven't had bad news from her?"

And then I blurted it out without thinking - without thinking at all
what I was saying: "No, no - but I wish I had, I wish I had; 'cause
then I could go to her, and go away from here!" The minute I'd said
it I _knew_ what I'd said, and how awful it sounded; and I clapped my
fingers to my lips. But 'twas too late. It's always too late, when
you've once said it. So I just waited for him to thunder out his
anger; for, of course, I thought he _would_ thunder in rage and
righteous indignation.

But he didn't. Instead, very quietly and gently he said:

"Are you so unhappy, then, Mary - here?"

And I looked at him, and his eyes and his mouth and his whole face
weren't angry at all. They were just sorry, actually sorry. And
somehow, before I knew it, I was crying again, and Father, with his
arm around me - _with his arm around me!_ think of that! - was leading
me to the sofa.

And I cried and cried there, with my head on the arm of the sofa, till
I'd made a big tear spot on the linen cover; and I wondered if it
would dry up before Aunt Jane saw it, or if it would change color
or leak through to the red plush underneath, or some other dreadful
thing. And then, some way, I found myself telling it all over to
Father - about Mary and Marie, I mean, just as if he was Mother, or
some one I loved - I mean, some one I loved and _wasn't afraid of_; for
of course I love Father. Of course I do!

Well, I told him everything (when I got started there was no
stopping) - all about how hard it was to be Mary, and how to-day I had
tried to be Marie for just a little while, to rest me. He interrupted
here, and wanted to know if that was why I looked so different
to-day - more as I had when I first came; and I said yes, that these
were Marie things that Mary couldn't wear. And when he asked, "Why,
pray?" in a voice almost cross, I told him, of course, that Aunt Jane
wouldn't let me; that Mary had to wear brown serge and calfskin boots
that were durable, and that would wear well.

And when I told him how sorry I was about the music and such a noise
as I'd been making, he asked if _that_ was Marie's fault, too; and I
said yes, of course - that Aunt Jane didn't like to have Mary play at
all, except hymns and funeral marches, and Mary didn't know any. And
he grunted a queer little grunt, and said, "Well, well, upon my soul,
upon my soul!" Then he said, "Go on." And I did go on.

I told him how I was afraid it _was_ going to be just like Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde. (I forgot to say I've read it now. I found it in
Father's library.) Of course not _just_ like it, only one of me was
going to be bad, and one good, I was afraid, if I didn't look out. I
told him how Marie always wanted to kick up rugs, and move the chairs
out of their sockets in the carpet, and leave books around handy, and
such things. And so to-day it seemed as if I'd just got to have a
vacation from Mary's hot gingham dresses and clumpy shoes. And I told
him how lonesome I was without anybody, not _anybody_; and I told
about Charlie Smith and Paul Mayhew and Mr. Claude Livingstone,
and how Aunt Jane wouldn't let me have them, either, even if I was
standing where the brook and river meet.

Father gave another funny little grunt here, and got up suddenly and
walked over to the window. I thought at first he was angry; but he
wasn't. He was even more gentle when he came back and sat down again,
and he seemed interested, very much interested in everything I told
him. But I stopped just in time from saying again how I wished I could
go back to Boston; but I'm not sure but he knew I was going to say it.

But he was very nice and kind and told me not to worry about the
music - that he didn't mind it at all. He'd been in several times and
heard it. And I thought almost, by the way he spoke, that he'd come in
on purpose to hear it; but I guess that was a mistake. He just put it
that way so I wouldn't worry over it - about its bothering him, I mean.

He was going to say more, maybe; but I don't know, I had to run. I
heard Aunt Jane's voice on the piazza saying good-bye to the lady that
had brought her home; so, of course, I had to run and hang Marie in
the closet and get out Mary from the corner before she saw me. And I
did.

By dinner-time I had on the gingham dress and the hot clumpy shoes
again; and I had washed my face in cold water so I had got most of the
tear spots off. I didn't want Aunt Jane to see them and ask questions,
of course. And I guess she didn't. Anyway, she didn't say anything.

Father didn't say anything either, but he acted queer. Aunt Jane tried
to tell him something about the missionary meeting and the heathen,
and a great famine that was raging. At first he didn't say anything;
then he said, oh, yes, to be sure, how very interesting, and he was
glad, very glad. And Aunt Jane was so disgusted, and accused him
of being even more absent-minded than usual, which was entirely
unnecessary, she said.

But even that didn't move Father a mite. He just said, yes, yes, very
likely; and went on scowling to himself and stirring his coffee after
he'd drank it all up - I mean, stirring where it had been in the cup.

I didn't know but after supper he'd speak to me and ask me to come to
the library. I _hoped_ he would. There were lots more things I'd like
to have said to him. But he didn't. He never said a word. He just kept
scowling, and got up from the table and went off by himself. But he
didn't go out to the observatory, as he most generally does. He went
into the library and shut the door.

He was there when the telephone message came at eight o'clock. And
what do you think? He'd _forgotten_ he was going to speak before the
College Astronomy Club that evening! Forgotten his old stars for once.
I don't know why. I did think, for a minute, 'twas 'cause of me - what
I'd told him. But I knew, of course, right away that it couldn't be
that. He'd never forget his stars for _me_! Probably he was just
reading up about some other stars, or had forgotten how late it was,
or something. (Father's always forgetting things.) But, anyway, when
Aunt Jane called him he got his hat and hurried off without so much
as one word to me, who was standing near, or to Aunt Jane, who was
following him all through the hall, and telling him in her most
I'm-amazed-at-you voice how shockingly absent-minded he was getting to
be.

* * * * *

_One week later._

Father's been awfully queer this whole week through. I can't make him
out at all. Sometimes I think he's glad I told him all those things in
the parlor that day I dressed up in Marie's things, and sometimes I
think he's sorry and wished I hadn't.

The very next morning he came down to breakfast with such a funny look
on his face. He said good-morning to me three times, and all through
breakfast he kept looking over at me with a kind of scowl that was not
cross at all - just puzzled.

After breakfast he didn't go out to the observatory, not even into the
library. He fidgeted around the dining-room till Aunt Jane went out
into the kitchen to give her orders to Susie; then he burst out, all
of a sudden:

"Well, Mary, what shall we do to-day?" Just like that he said it, as
if we'd been doing things together every day of our lives.

"D-do?" I asked; and I know I showed how surprised I was by the way I
stammered and flushed up.

"Certainly, do," he answered, impatient and scowling. "What shall we
do?"

"Why, Father, I - I don't know," I stammered again.

"Come, come, of course you know!" he cried. "You know what you want to
do, don't you?"

I shook my head. I was so astonished I couldn't even think. And when
you can't think you certainly can't talk.

"Nonsense, Mary," scowled Father again. "Of course you know what
you want to do! What are you in the habit of doing with your young
friends - your Carries and Charlies, and all the rest?"

I guess I just stood and stared and didn't say anything; for after a
minute he cried: "Well - well - well? I'm waiting."

"Why, we - we walk - and talk - and play games," I began; but right away
he interrupted.

"Good! Very well, then, we'll walk. I'm not Carrie or Charlie, but I
believe I can walk and talk - perhaps even play games. Who knows? Come,
get your hat."

And I got my hat, and we went.

But what a funny, funny walk that was! He meant to make it a good one;
I know he did. And he tried. He tried real hard. But he walked so
fast I couldn't half keep up with him; then, when he saw how I was
hurrying, he'd slow down, 'way down, and look so worried - till he'd
forget and go striding off again, way ahead of me.

We went up on the hill through the Benton woods, and it was perfectly
lovely up there. He didn't say much at first. Then, all of a sudden,
he began to talk, about anything and everything. And I knew, by the
way he did it, that he'd just happened to think he'd got to talk.

And how he talked! He asked me was I warmly clad (and here it is
August!), and did I have a good breakfast, and how old was I, and did
I enjoy my studies - which shows how little he was really thinking what
he was saying. He knows school closed ages ago. Wasn't he teaching me
himself the last of it, too? All around us were flowers and birds, and
oh, so many, many lovely things. But he never said a word about them.
He just talked - because he'd got to talk. I knew it, and it made me
laugh inside, though all the while it made me sort of want to cry,
too. Funny, wasn't it?

After a time he didn't talk any more, but just walked on and on; and
by and by we came home.

Of course, it wasn't awfully jolly - that walk wasn't; and I guess
Father didn't think it was either. Anyhow, he hasn't asked me to
go again this week, and he looked tired and worried and sort of


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