Mary Catherine Crowley.

Apples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir online

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"There! the sun's out now, anyway! Crickey, I'm so glad!" exclaimed
Larry.

"The clouds were only blown up by the wind," said his father. "I do
not think we shall have rain to-day."

"Mother, may I put on a white dress and go to buy my May wreath?" asked
Abby.

"The air is too cold for you to change your warm gown for a summer one,
dear," returned Mrs. Clayton. "You may get the wreath, though; but be
sure that you wear it over your hat."

Abby seemed to think it was now her turn to grumble.

"Oh, dear!" she murmured. "All the girls wear white dresses, and go
without hats on May Day. I don't see why I can't!"

Her complaint made no impression, however; so she flounced out of the
room.

"My mother is the most exaggerating person!" exclaimed the little girl,
as she prepared for her shopping excursion. She meant aggravating;
but, like most people who attempt to use large words the meaning of
which they do not understand, she made droll mistakes sometimes.

Abby had fifteen cents, which her grandma had given her the day before.

"I'll hurry down to the Little Women's before the best wreaths are
gone," she said to herself.

The place was a fancy store, kept by two prim but pleasant spinster
sisters. Besides newspapers, stationery, thread and needles, and so
forth, they kept a stock of toys, candies, and pickled limes, which
insured them a run of custom among the young folk, who always spoke of
them as the Little Women. Not to disappoint the confidence placed in
them by their youthful patrons, they had secured an excellent
assortment of the crowns of tissue-paper flowers which, in those days,
every little girl considered essential to the proper observance of May
Day.

Abby selected one which she and the Little Women made up their minds
was the prettiest. It usually took both of the Little Women to sell a
thing. If one showed it, the other descanted upon its merits, or
wrapped it up in paper when the bargain was completed. Neither of them
appeared to transact any business, even to the disposal of "a pickle
lime" (as the children say), quite on her own responsibility.

After Abby had fully discussed the matter with them, therefore, she
bought her wreath. It was made of handsome white tissue-paper roses,
with green tissue-paper leaves, and had two long streamers. There was
another of pink roses, which she thought would be just the thing for
Larry to buy with the fifteen cents which he had received also. But
Larry had said:

"Pshaw! I wouldn't wear a wreath!" Abby didn't see why, because some
boys wore them.

On the way home she met a number of her playmates. Several of them
shivered in white dresses, and all were bareheaded except for their
paper wreaths. Not one of the wreaths was so fine as Abby's, however.
But, then, few little girls had fifteen cents to expend upon one. Abby
perceived at a glance that most of those worn by her companions were of
the ten-cent variety. The Little Women had them for eight; and even
five copper pennies would buy a very good one, although the roses of
the five-cent kind were pronounced by those most interested to be
"little bits of things."

Abby talked to the girls a while, and then went home to exhibit her
purchase. Her mother commented approvingly upon it; and the little
girl ran down to the kitchen to show it to Delia the cook, who had
lived with the family ever since Larry was a baby.

Delia was loud in her admiration.

"Oh, on this day they do have great doings in Ireland!" said she; "but
nowadays, to be sure, it's nothing to what it was in old times. It was
on May eve, I've heard tell, that St. Patrick lit the holy fire at
Tara, in spite of the ancient pagan laws. And in the days when the
country was known as the island of saints and of scholars, sure
throughout the length and breadth of the land the monastery bells rang
in the May with praises of the Holy Mother; and the canticles in her
honor were as ceaseless as the song of the birds. And 'twas the
fairies that were said to have great power at this season - "

"Delia, you know very well there are no fairies," interrupted Abby.

"Well, some foolish folk thought there were, anyhow," answered Delia.
"And in Maytide the children and cattle, the milk and the butter, were
kept guarded from them. Many and many an evening I've listened to my
mother that's dead and gone - God rest her soul! - telling of an old
woman that, at the time of the blooming of the hawthorn, always put a
spent coal under the churn, and another beneath the grandchild's
cradle, because that was said to drive the fairies away; and how
primroses used to be scattered at the door of the house to prevent the
fairies from stealing in, because they could not pass that flower. But
you don't hear much of that any more; for the priest said 'twas
superstition, and down from the heathenish times. So the old people
came to see 'twas wrong to use such charms, and the young people
laughed at the old women's tales. Now on May Day the shrines in the
churches are bright with flowers, of course. And as for the innocent
merrymakings, instead of a dance round the May or hawthorn bush, as in
the olden times, in some places there's just perhaps a frolic on the
village green, when the boys and girls come home from the hills and
dales with their garlands of spring blossoms - not paper flowers like
those," added Delia, with a contemptuous glance at Abby's wreath,
forgetting how much she had admired it only a few moments before.

Somehow it did not now seem so beautiful to Abby either. She took it
off, and gazed at it with a sigh.

"Here in New England the boys and girls go a-Maying," she said. "Last
year, when we were in the country, Larry and I went with our cousins.
We had such fun hanging May-baskets! I got nine. But," she went on,
regretfully, "I don't expect any this year; for city children do not
have those plays."

She went upstairs to the sitting-room, where Larry was rigging his boat
anew. He had been to the pond, but the wind wrought such havoc with
the little craft that he had to put into port for repairs.

Half an hour passed. Abby was dressing her beloved doll for an airing
on the sidewalk, - a promenade in a carriage, as the French say. While
thus occupied she half hummed, half sang, in a low voice, to herself, a
popular May hymn. When she reached the refrain, Larry joined, and
Delia appeared at the door just in time to swell the chorus with honest
fervor:

"See, sweet Mary, on thy altars
Bloom the fairest flowers of May.
Oh, may we, earth's sons and daughters,
Grow by grace as fair as they!"

"If you please," said Delia at its close, "there's a man below stairs
who says he has something for you both."

"For us!" exclaimed the children, starting up.

"Yes: your mother sent me to tell you. He says he was told to say as
how he had a May-basket for you."

"A May-basket, Delia? What! All lovely flowers like those I told you
about?" cried the little girl.

"Sure, child, and how could I see what was inside, and it so carefully
done up?" answered Delia, evasively.

They did not question further, but rushed downstairs to see for
themselves.

In the kitchen waited a foreign-looking man, with swarthy skin, and
thin gold rings in his ears. On the floor beside him was a large,
rough packing-basket.

"_That_ a May-basket!" exclaimed Abby, hardly able to restrain the
tears of disappointment which started to her eyes.

"_Si, signorita_," replied the man.

Her frown disappeared. It was certainly very nice to be addressed by
so high-sounding a title. She wished she could get Delia to call her
_signorita_. But no; she felt sure that Delia never would.

"Pshaw! It's only a joke!" said Larry, after a moment. "Somebody
thinks this is April-fool Day, I guess."

"Have patience for a leetle minute, please," said the man, as he cast
away the packing bit by bit. The children watched him with eager
interest. By and by he took out a little bunch of lilies of the
valley, which he handed to Abby with a low bow. Next he came to
something shrouded in fold after fold of tissue-paper.

"And here is the fairest lily of them all," he said, in his poetic
Italian fashion.

"What can it be, mother?" asked the little girl, wonderingly.

Mrs. Clayton smiled. "It is from Sartoris', the fine art store where
you saw the beautiful pictures last week; that is all I know about it,"
she replied.

The man carefully placed the mysterious object on the table.

"It is some kind of a vase or an image," declared Larry.

"Why, so it is!" echoed Abby.

In another moment the tissue veil was torn aside, and there stood
revealed a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin.

"Oh!" exclaimed Larry, in delight.

"How lovely!" added his sister.

The image was about two feet high, and of spotless Parian, which well
symbolized the angelic purity it was intended to portray. To many,
perhaps, it might appear simply a specimen of modeling, but little
better than the average. However, those who looked on it with the eyes
of faith saw before them, not so much the work itself, as the ideal of
the artist.

The graceful figure or Our Lady at once suggested the ethereal and
celestial. The long mantle, which fell in folds to her feet, signified
her modesty and motherly protection; the meekly folded hands were a
silent exhortation to humility and prayer; the tender, spiritual face
invited confidence and love; the crown upon her brow proclaimed her
sovereignty above all creatures and her incomparable dignity as Mother
of God.

"And is this beautiful statue really ours - just Larry's and mine?"
asked Abby.

"So the messenger says," returned Mrs. Clayton.

"Who could have sent it, I wonder?" inquired Larry.

The Italian pointed to the card attached to the basket. Abby took it
off and read:


"To my little friends, Abby and Larry Clayton, with the hope that,
especially during this month, they will try every day to do some little
thing to honor our Blessed Mother.

"FATHER DOMINIC."


"From Father Dominic!" exclaimed the boy, in delight.

"How very good of him!" added Abby, gratefully.

Father Dominic - generally so called because his musical Italian surname
was a stumbling-block to our unwieldy English speech - was a particular
friend of Mr. and Mrs. Clayton, who appreciated his culture and
refinement, and admired his noble character and devotion to his
priestly duties. He was an occasional visitor at their house, and took
a great interest in the children.

"How nice of him to send us something we shall always have!" Abby ran
on. "Now I can give the tiny image in my room to some one who hasn't
any."

"May we make an altar for our statue, mother?" asked Larry.

Although as a rule a lively, rollicking boy, when it came to anything
connected with his prayers, he was unaffectedly and almost comically
solemn about it.

"Yes," responded Mrs. Clayton. "And I think it would be a good plan
also to frame the card and hang it on the front of the altar, so that
you may not forget Father Dominic's words: 'Try every day to do some
little thing to honor our Blessed Mother.'"



II.

"O mother!" cried Abby, the day after the arrival of the unique
May-basket from Father Dominic, "now that we have such a lovely statue
of the Blessed Virgin, don't you think we ought to make a regular
altary."

"A what!" exclaimed Mrs. Clayton, at a loss to understand what her
little daughter could possibly mean. "I told you that you might have
an altar, dear. And you may arrange it whenever you please."

"No, but an altary," persisted Abby. "The Tyrrells have an altary in
their house, and I wish we could have one too. Why, you must know what
it is, mother, - just a little room fitted up like a chapel; and the
family say their prayers there night and morning, and at other times if
they wish."

"Oh, an oratory!" observed Mrs. Clayton, trying to repress a smile.

"Perhaps that _is_ the name," admitted Abby, a trifle disconcerted.
"Anyhow, can't we have one?"

"Well - yes," said her mother, after a few moments' reflection. "The
small room next to the parlor might be arranged for that purpose."

"That would make a beautiful al - chapel!" exclaimed Abby. She did not
venture to attempt the long word again.

"I think I could get enough out of the carpet that was formerly on the
parlor to cover the floor," mused Mrs. Clayton aloud. "The square
table, draped with muslin and lace, would make a pretty altar. Then,
with the pictures of the Sacred Heart and the Bouguereau Madonna to
hang on the walls, and my _prie-dieu_ - yes, Abby, I think we can manage
it."

"Oh, how splendid!" cried the little girl. "When shall we begin to get
it ready?"

"Perhaps to-morrow," answered her mother; "but I can not promise to
have the preparations completed at once. It will take some time to
plan the carpet and have it put down."

Abby was not only satisfied, but delighted. She told Larry the minute
he came into the house. He had been over to the pond with his boat
again.

"That will be grand!" said he. "When you get everything fixed, I'll
bring you the little vase I got for Christmas, and my prayer-book,
and - oh, yes, my rosary, to put on the altar. And, then," he went on,
quite seriously, "there's my catechism, and the little chalk angel,
and - "

"The little chalk angel!" repeated Abby, scornfully. "Why, that has
lost its head!"

"But it's a little chalk angel all the same," argued Larry. "And if I
find the head, it can be glued on."

"Oh - well; we don't want any trash like that on our altar!" rejoined
his sister. "And the books and rosary can be kept on the shelf in the
corner. It would be nice to have the vase, though."

Larry, who at first had been rather offended that his offerings were
not appreciated, brightened up when he found he could at least furnish
something to adorn the shrine.

The following day was Saturday. There was, of course, no school, and
Abby was free to help her mother to get the little room in order. She
was impatient to begin. But alas for her plans! About nine o'clock in
the morning Mrs. Clayton suddenly received word that grandma was not
feeling well, and she at once prepared to visit the dear old lady.

"I may be away the greater part of the day, Delia," she said, as she
tied the strings of her bonnet; "but I have given you all necessary
directions, I think, - Larry, do not go off with any of the boys, but
you may play in the park as usual. - And, Abby, be sure that you do not
keep Miss Remick waiting when she comes to give you your music lesson."

"But what about the altary - oh, oratory I mean?" asked Abby, dejectedly.

"There is a piece of muslin in the linen press which you may take to
cover the altar," said her mother; "but do not attempt to arrange
anything more. I will attend to the rest next week. I am sorry to
disappoint you and Larry; but, you see, I can not help it."

She harried away; and the children ran up to the parlor, which was on
the second story of the house, to take another look at their precious
statue, which had been placed on the marble slab in front of one of the
long mirrors. Then they went into the small room which was to be the
oratory. The only furniture it contained was the square table which
they had brought there the evening before. Abby got the muslin, and
began to drape the table to resemble an altar; Larry looking on
admiringly, volunteering a suggestion now and then. She succeeded
pretty well. Larry praised her efforts; he was prouder than ever of
his sister, - although, as he remarked, "the corners _would_ look a
little bunchy, and the cloth was put on just a _teenty_ bit crooked."

Presently the little girl paused, took several pins out of her
mouth - which seemed to be the most available pincushion, - and glanced
disconsolately at the pine boards of the floor.

"What is the use of fixing the altar before the floor is covered!" she
said. "I am almost sure I could put down the carpet myself."

"Oh, no, you couldn't!" said Larry. "You'd be sure to hammer your
fingers instead of the tacks - girls always do. But if you get the
carpet all spread out, _I'll_ nail it down for you."

The roll of carpet stood in the corner. It had been partially ripped
apart, and there were yards and yards of it; for it had covered the
parlor, which was a large room. Mrs. Clayton intended to have it made
over for the dining-room, and estimated that there would be enough left
for the oratory. She had not thought it necessary to explain these
details to Abby, however.

"We'll do it," declared the latter. "Mother said to wait, but I don't
believe she'll care."

"Course she won't," agreed Larry.

Both the children felt that what they had decided upon was not exactly
right, - that it would be better to observe strictly their mother's
instructions. But, like many people who argue themselves into the
delusion that what they want to do is the best thing to be done, Abby
tried to compromise with the "still small voice" which warned her not
to meddle, by the retort: "Oh, it will spare mother the trouble! And
she'll be glad to have it finished." As for Larry, the opportunity to
pound away with the hammer and make as much noise as he pleased, was a
temptation hard to resist.

Abby opened the roll.

"What did mother mean by saying she thought she could get enough out of
this carpet to cover the floor?" said the little girl, with a laugh.
"She must have been very absent-minded; for there's lashin's of it
here, as Delia would say."

"Oh, my, yes - lashin's!" echoed Larry.

Abby was what is called "a go-ahead" young person. She was domestic in
her tastes, and, for her years, could make herself very useful about
the house when she chose. Now, therefore, she had no diffidence about
her ability to carry out her undertaking. And Larry, although he
frequently reminded her that she did not know _every_thing, had a
flattering confidence in her capacity.

"I'll have it done in less than no time," she said, running to get her
mother's large scissors.

Click, click went the shears as she slashed into the carpet, taking off
breadth after breadth, without attempting to match the pattern, and
with little regard for accuracy of measurement. Instead of laying it
along the length of the room, she chose to put it crosswise, thus
cutting it up into any number of short pieces.

"No matter about its not being sewed," she went on; "you can nail it
together, can't you, Larry?"

"Oh, yes!" said Larry.

The more hammering the better for him. He hunted up the hammer and two
papers of tacks, and as fast as Abby cut he nailed.

Delia was unusually busy; for it was house-cleaning time, and she was
getting the diningroom ready for the new carpet. Therefore, although
she heard the noise upstairs, she gave herself no concern about it;
supposing that Larry was merely amusing himself, for he was continually
tinkering at one thing or another.

By and by Larry remarked: "Say, Abby, you've got two of these pieces
too short."

Abby went over and looked at them. "Gracious, so I have!" she said.
"Well, put them aside, and I'll cut two more."

Click went the scissors again, and the carpet was still further
mutilated. Then, as a narrow strip was required, a breadth was slit
down the centre. Finally the boards were covered.

"There!" she cried triumphantly. "It is all planned. Now, I'll nail."

Larry demurred at first, but Abby was imperious. Moreover, the
constant friction of the handle of the hammer had raised a blister in
the palm of his hand. Abby had an ugly red welt around her thumb,
caused by the resistance of the scissors; for it had been very hard
work to cut the heavy carpet. But she did not complain, for she felt
that she was a martyr to industry.

At last the work was completed; and, flushed and tired, with her
fingers bruised from frequent miscalculated blows from the hammer, and
her knuckles rubbed and tingling, she paused to admire the result of
her toil. The carpeting was a curious piece of patchwork certainly,
but the children were delighted with their achievement.

The lunch bell rang.

"Don't say anything about it to Delia," cautioned Abby.

Larry agreed that it would be as well not to mention the subject. They
did not delay long at the meal, but hastened back to their self-imposed
task.

"Now let's hurry up and finish the altar," said Abby.

Having completed the adornment of the table, by throwing over the
muslin a fine lace curtain, from the linen press also, and decking it
with some artificial flowers found in her mother's wardrobe, Abby
brought the statue from the parlor, and set it upon the shrine which
she and Larry had taken so much trouble to prepare. Larry placed
before the lovely image his little vase containing a small bunch of
dandelions he had gathered in the yard. He was particularly fond of
dandelions. Abby had nothing to offer but her May wreath, which she
laid beside it. But the decorations appeared too scanty to satisfy her.

"I'll get the high pink vases from the parlor," said she.

"Yes," added Larry. "And the candlesticks with the glass hanging all
round them like a fringe, that jingles when you touch them."

The little girl brought the vases. Then she carried in the candelabra,
the crystal pendants ringing as she walked in a way that delighted
Larry. She knew perfectly well that she was never allowed to tamper
with the costly ornaments in the parlor; but she excused herself by the
plea: "I'm doing it for the Blessed Virgin." Larry also had a certain
uneasiness about it, but he said to himself: "Oh, it must be all right
if Abby thinks so! She is a great deal older than I am, and ought to
know."

The shrine was certainly elaborate now. The children were so engrossed
with admiring it that they did not hear the house door open and close.
A step in the hall, however, reminded the little girl of her music
lesson.

"Gracious, that must be Miss Remick!" she said, in confusion.

She quietly opened the door of the oratory, intending to peep into the
parlor to see if the teacher was there. To her surprise she
encountered her mother, who had just come up the stairs. But Mrs.
Clayton was much more astonished by the sight which greeted, her eyes
when she glanced into the oratory.

"O Abby," she exclaimed, in distress and annoyance, "how could you be
so disobedient! O Larry, why did you help to do what you must have
known I would not like?"

Larry grew very red in the face, looked down, and fumbled with one of
the buttons of his jacket,

"But, mother," began Abby, glibly, "it was for the Blessed Virgin, you
know. I was sure I could put down the carpet all right, and I thought
you would be glad to be saved the trouble."

"Put it down all right!" rejoined her mother. "Why, you have ruined
the carpet, Abby!"

Both children looked incredulous and astonished.

"Don't you see that you have cut it up so shockingly that it is
entirely spoiled? What is left would have to be so pieced that I can
not possibly use it for the dining-room, as I intended."

Abby was mortified and abashed. Larry grew more and more uncomfortable.

"And, then, the vases and candelabra!" continued Mrs. Clayton. "Have
you not been forbidden to lift or move them, daughter?"

"Yes, mother," acknowledged the little girl. "But I thought you
wouldn't mind when I wanted them for the altar. I didn't suppose you'd
think anything you had was too good for the Blessed Virgin."

"Certainly not," was the reply. "I had decided to place the candelabra
on your little shrine. The pink vases are not suitable. But these
ornaments are too heavy for you to carry. It was only a happy chance
that you did not drop and break them. And, then, the statue! Do you
not remember that I would not permit you to move it yesterday? How
would you have felt if it had clipped from your clasp and been dashed
to pieces?"

A few tears trickled down Abby's cheeks. Larry blinked hard and stared
at the wall.

"My dear children, that is not the way to honor our Blessed Mother,"
Mrs. Clayton went on to say. "Do you think that she looked down with
favor upon your work to-day? No. But if you had waited as I told
you, - if each of you had made a little altar for her in your heart and
offered to her the beautiful flowers of patience, and the votive lights
of loving obedience, - then indeed you would have won her blessing, and
she would have most graciously accepted the homage of such a shrine.
As it is, you see, you have very little, if anything, to offer her."


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Online LibraryMary Catherine CrowleyApples, Ripe and Rosy, Sir → online text (page 5 of 13)