Part 3 out of 4
The next afternoon, when the Sunday classes were in session in the great
hall, Janey, who was not in the same class with Eva and Alice, wondered
as she looked across at them what they could be talking about that
seemed so interesting. This is what they were talking about: Alice, in
her clever exact way, had told Miss Vincent the whole of that little
Saturday-night talk concerning the good Samaritan. Miss Vincent smiled
when Alice told of Eva's odd simplicity of application; but as Alice
went on and presented Eva's perplexity and her plea for girls of her
age,--their lack of time and all that, and her own assurance to Eva that
Miss Vincent did not mean what Eva fancied that she did,--Miss Vincent,
in a quick, decided, almost eager way, started forward and cried,--
"Oh, but I did! I did mean it. Girls of your age can do--oh, so much!
You are thinking of only one way of doing,--helping the poor, visiting
people in need. I _don't_ think you can do much of that. I think that
_is_ mostly for older people; but you live in a little world of your
own,--a girls' world, where you can help or hurt one another every day
and hour by what you do or say. Oh, I know, I know, for I went through
such suffering once,--was so hurt when I might have been helped. But let
me tell you about it, and then you'll see what I mean. It was when I was
between twelve and thirteen. We had just come to Boston, and I was sent
to a strange school. I was very shy, but ashamed to show that I was. So
when the girls stared at me, as girls will, and giggled amongst
themselves about anything, I thought they were staring in an unfriendly
way and laughing at _me_, and I immediately straightened up and put on a
stiff and what I tried to make an indifferent manner. This only
prejudiced them against me, and the unfriendliness I had fancied became
very soon a reality, and I was snubbed or avoided in the most decided
way. I tried to bear this silently, to act as if I didn't care for a
while, but I became so lonely at length I thought I would try to
conciliate them. I dare say, however, my shy manner was still
misunderstood, for I was not encouraged to go on. What I suffered at
this time I have never forgotten. The girls were no worse than other
girls, but they had started out on a wrong track, and gradually the
whole flock of them, one led on by what another would say or do, were
down upon me. It was a sort of contagious excitement, and they didn't
stop to think it might be unjust or cruel. Things went on from bad to
worse, until at last I gave up trying to conciliate, and turned on them
like a little wild-cat. I forgot my timidity,--forgot everything but my
desire to be even with them, as I expressed it. But it wasn't an even
conflict,--thirty girls against one; and at length I did something
dreadful. I was going from the school-room to a recitation room with my
ink-bottle; that I had been to have filled, when I met in the hall three
of 'my enemies,' as I called them. In trying to avoid them I ran against
them. They thought I did it purposely, and at once accused me of that,
and other sins I happened to be innocent of, in a way that exasperated
me. I tried to go on, but they barred my progress; and then it was that
I lost all control of myself, and in a sort of frantic fury flung the
ink-bottle that I held straight before me. I could never recall the
details of anything after that. I only remember the screams, the opening
of doors, the teachers hastening up, a voice saying, 'No; only the
dresses are injured; but she might have killed somebody!' In the answers
to their questions the teachers got at something of the truth, not all
of it. They were very much shocked at a state of things they had not
even suspected; but my violence prejudiced them against me, as was
natural, and they had little sympathy for me. Of course I couldn't
remain at the school after that. I was not expelled. My father took me
away, yet I always felt that I went in disgrace."
"They were horrid girls,--horrid!" cried Alice, vehemently.
"No; they were like any ordinary girls who _don't think_. But you see
how different everything might have been if only _one_ of them had
thought to say a kind word to me; had seen that I might have been
suffering, and"--smiling down upon Eva--"been a good Samaritan to me."
"They were horrid, or they _would_ have thought," insisted Alice. "I'm
sure _I_ don't know any girls who would have been so stupid."
"Nor I, nor I," chimed in two or three other voices. But Eva Nelson was
"You are the most ridiculous girl for getting fancies into your head,
Eva; and you never get things right,--never!"
"I think you are very unkind."
"Well, you can think so. _I_ think--"
"Hush!" in a warning voice; "there's some one knocking at the door;"
then, louder, "Come in;" and responsive to this invitation, Janey Miller
"What were you and Eva squabbling about?" she asked, looking at Alice.
"Cordelia Burr!" replied Alice, disdainfully.
"Yes. What do you think? Eva wants to take her up and be intimate with
"Now, Alice, I don't," cried Eva. "I only wanted to be kinder to her.
When Miss Vincent told us that story yesterday, I couldn't help thinking
of Cordelia, and that we might be on the wrong track with _her_, as
those horrid girls were with Miss Vincent."
"'Those horrid girls'! What does she mean, Alice?" asked Janey.
Alice repeated Miss Vincent's story. "And Eva," she went on, "has got it
into her head that Cordelia is like what Miss Vincent was, and that we
are like those horrid girls."
"Not like them; not as bad as they were, _yet_; but we might be if we
kept on, maybe."
"But it isn't the same thing at all, Eva," struck in Janey. "That sweet,
pretty Miss Vincent could never have been anything like Cordelia; and
we--I'm sure none of us have been like those horrid girls. I don't like
Cordelia, but I don't say anything hateful to her, and none of us girls
"But you--we don't want her 'round with us, and we show it. We won't
dance with her if we can help it, and we've managed to keep her out of
things that we were in, a good many times."
"Well, nobody wants a person 'round with them who makes herself so
disagreeable as Cordelia does; and as for dancing with her, she's never
in step, and is always treading upon you and bumping against you; and in
everything else it's just the same."
"Maybe she's shy, as Miss Vincent was."
"Shy! Cordelia Burr shy!" shouted Alice, in derision.
"No; she's anything but shy," said Janey; "she's as uppish and
independent as she can be."
"But maybe she puts that on. Maybe--"
"Maybe she's a princess in disguise!" cried Alice, scornfully.
"Well, I don't care. I think we ought to try and see if perhaps we are
not on the wrong track with her; and I--"
"Now, Eva," and Alice looked up very determinedly, "if you begin to take
notice of Cordelia, there'll be no getting away from her; she'll be
pushing herself in where she isn't wanted, constantly. And there's just
one thing more: I'll say, if you _do_ begin this, you'll have to do it
alone. I won't have anything to do with it; and, you'll see, the rest of
the girls won't; and you'll be left to yourself with Miss Cordelia, and
a nice time you'll have of it."
Eva made no answer. Indeed, she would have found it hard to speak, for
she was choking with tears,--tears that presently found vent in "a good
cry," as Alice and Janey left the room.
What should she do? What _could_ she do with all the girls against her?
If she could only tell Miss Vincent, she could advise her. But Miss
Vincent had been summoned home by illness that very morning.
Poor Eva! the way before her looked extremely difficult. She was very
sensitive, and Miss Vincent's story had made an impression upon her that
could not be got rid of. She was astonished to find it had not made the
same impression upon Alice,--that Alice had not seen in it, as she had,
a clear direction what to do, or what to try to do; and now here was
Janey, as entirely out of sympathy, and Alice had said that all the rest
of the girls would be the same. If Alice was right, it might--it might
make a bad matter worse; it might make the girls dislike Cordelia more,
to--to interfere. For a moment Eva felt that this view of the matter
would solve her difficulty, by exonerating her from undertaking her
task. The next moment there flashed into her mind these words of Miss
Vincent's: "If only one of them had thought to say a kind word to me."
About half an hour later Alice and Janey, with three or four of the
other girls, were practising in the gymnasium together.
"I wonder where Eva is?" whispered Alice. "She's always here at this
time; she is so fond of the gym."
"She didn't like what we said, so perhaps she won't come to-day,"
"Well, I had to say what I did; if I hadn't, Eva would have--But there
she is now," as the door opened. Then aloud, "Eva, Eva, come over here
and try the bars with us."
Eva 's heart gave a little jump of gladness as she accepted this
pleasantly spoken invitation. She hated to be on ill terms with anybody,
and especially with Alice, of whom she was fond; and as she went forward
and swung herself lightly up beside her, she forgot for the moment
everything that was unpleasant.
There was a pretty little running exercise up and down a gently inclined
plane that was in great favor at the school; and when the three swung
down from the bars, Alice proposed that they should try the race-track,
as they called it.
They were just starting off when the door opened, and Cordelia Burr came
in. She stared about her in her odd frowning way, and then hurried
forward to join the runners. Eva gave a little start of recoil. Alice
gave more than a start. She seized Eva and Janey by the wrists, and,
pushing them before her, sent a nod and backward to several others who
had left the bars to come over to the race-track. She did not say even
to herself that she meant to crowd Cordelia out; but the fact was
accomplished, nevertheless, for by the time Cordelia reached the track
there was no room for her. Eva had seen this same kind of stratagem
enacted before, and thought it "fun." Now, with her eyes and ears and
heart open, through Miss Vincent's influence, the fun took on a
different aspect. But what--what ought she to do? What _could_ she do
then? She might slip out and offer her place to Cordelia. But the girls,
and Alice--Alice specially--would be _so_ angry. Oh, no, no, she
couldn't; it wouldn't do to brave them like that! Looking up as she came
to this conclusion, she saw Cordelia standing all alone, her face
flushed with anger or mortification, perhaps both.
"If only one of them had thought to say a kind word to me!" flashed
again through Eva's mind.
"Go on, go on; what are you lagging for?" whispered Alice, as Eva's pace
Eva's eyes were fixed upon Cordelia, who had crossed the room and was
going towards the door.
"Go on, go on; you are stopping us all!" exclaimed Alice, impatiently.
But with a sudden supreme effort Eva flung away her cowardice, and
dashed off the track, crying, "Cordelia! Cordelia!"
Cordelia turned her head a moment, yet without staying her steps.
Eva sprang forward and put out her hand, crying again, "Cordelia!
The runners had all stopped with one accord, as Eva sprang forward. What
was it, what was she going to do, to say, to Cordelia? Even Alice and
Janey, who knew more than the others what was in Eva's mind,--even they
wondered what she was going to do, to say. And when in the next instant
she cried breathlessly, "We--I--didn't mean to crowd you out; it--it
wasn't fair; and--and you'll come back and take my place, Cordelia,
won't you?" they, even Alice and Janey, forgot to be angry; forgot
everything at the moment in their astonishment and an involuntary
admiration for Eva's courage in daring to do as she did--_against them
all_! What Alice might have said or done when that moment had gone, and
her mortification at Eva's disregard of her opinion had had chance to
start afresh, it is impossible to tell, for before that could take
place something very unexpected happened, and this was a most
unlooked-for action on Cordelia's part. They all looked to see her turn
with one of her haughty, or what Alice and Janey called her uppish,
independent glances upon Eva, and reject at once her appeal and offer.
Instead of that--instead of coldness and haughty independence--they saw
her, they heard her, suddenly give a shuddering, sobbing sigh, and then,
dropping her face into her hands, break down utterly in a paroxysm of
tears,--not tears of anger, of violence of any kind, but tears that,
like the shuddering, sobbing sigh, seemed to come from a sore heart
after long repression.
"Oh, Cordelia! Cordelia!" burst out Eva, putting her arm about Cordelia,
"don't, don't cry."
Cordelia could not respond to this appeal, could not stop her tears; but
as Eva bent over her in tender pity, she leaned forward and rested her
head against the arm that encircled her. As the girls who stood watching
saw this, as they saw Eva with her own pocket-handkerchief try to wipe
away those tears, as they heard her say again, "Oh, Cordelia! Cordelia!
don't, don't cry!" they looked at one another in a confused, questioning
sort of way; and then, as they heard Eva speak again and with a breaking
voice, as they saw the bright drops of sympathy and pity and regret
gather in her eyes and roll down her cheeks, they started uneasily, and
one and then another moved forward in a half-frightened, embarrassed
fashion towards the door. Eva glanced up at them reproachfully as they
passed. Were they not going to say a word, not a single word, to
Cordelia? Hadn't they any pity for her; hadn't they any shame for what
they had done? Goaded by these thoughts, she burst out passionately,
"Oh, girls, I should think--" and then broke down completely, and bowed
her head against Cordelia's, unable to say another word. But somebody
else took up her words,--the very words she had used a second
ago,--somebody else whispered,--
"Don't cry, don't cry." At the same moment a hand touched her shoulder,
and she looked up to see--Alice King standing beside her. And then it
seemed as if all the others were anxious to press forward; and one of
them, the youngest of all, little Mary Leslie, a girl of ten, suddenly
"We--we didn't know as you'd care, like this, Cordelia."
And then Cordelia lifted up her swollen tear-stained face, and faltered
out: "Care? How--how could I hel--help caring?"
"But we thought--we thought you didn't like us," said another,
"And I--I thought you hated and despised me, and I thought you'd despise
me more if--if I showed that I cared!" and Cordelia gave another little
sob, and covered her poor disfigured face again.
"Oh, Cordelia, Cordelia!" cried one and then another, pityingly; and
then a voice, it sounded like Alice's, said, "We've been on the wrong
Just here a bell in the hall--the signal to those in the gymnasium that
their half-hour was up--rang sharply out, and ashamed and sorry and
repentant the girls hurried away to their rooms to change their dresses
and prepare for dinner.
"Oh, Alice, Alice, you were so good!" cried Eva, flinging her arms
around Alice's neck the moment they were alone together.
"Good? Don't--don't say that," exclaimed Alice, starting back.
"But you _were_. I--I was so afraid you'd be angry with me. I--"
Alice now flung _her_ arms around her friend, and gave her a little hug,
as she cried: "Oh, Eva, it's you who've been good. I--I've been--a
little fiend, I suppose, and I _was_ horridly angry at first; but when
I--I saw how--that Cordelia really was--that she really felt what she
did, I--oh, Eva!" laughing a little hysterically, "when you stood
mopping up Cordelia's tears, all I could think was, _there's_ a little
"I did truly, and you'll go on as good as you've begun, and end by
liking and loving Cordelia because you pity her, I dare say. But though
I'm going to behave myself, and _bear_ with her, I shall never come up
to that, for she is so queer and so clumsy, and she _does_ dress so! I'm
going to behave myself, though, I am,--I am; but I hope she won't expect
too much, that she won't push forward too fast now."
"Oh, Alice, I don't believe Cordelia's that kind of a girl at all; she's
too proud. I think she's awkward and queer, and don't know about dress
and things, because she's lived 'way out there on the plains, but
she'll improve when she finds we mean to be friendly to her; you see if
And Eva was right. By the end of the term Cordelia had improved so much
in the friendlier atmosphere that surrounded her that she was quite like
another girl. No longer uneasy and suspicious, she lost her
self-consciousness, and with it a good deal of her awkwardness and
apparent ill temper, and began to blossom out happily and cheerily as a
girl should. Even her face brightened and bloomed in this atmosphere,
and by and by she took Eva and Alice and Janey into her confidence so
far that she shyly asked their advice about her dress, and profited by
it to such an extent that Alice could no longer say, "She _does_ dress
"Oh, Laura, I want you to come home with me to-morrow after school and
dine, and stay the evening. We shall be alone together, for mamma and
papa are going out to a dinner-party. You'll come, won't you? Mamma told
me to ask you."
"If it was any other evening."
"Now, Laura, you are not going to say you can't come!"
"I must, Kitty. I have promised to take tea with Esther Bodn."
"Yes, she asked me to fix a day this week when I could come, and I
"But, Laura, can't you postpone it? Tell her how it is,--that mamma and
papa are going away, and that Mary and Agnes are in New York, and I
shall be all alone unless you come. Can't you do that, Laura?"
"I don't want to do that, Kitty."
"Oh, you'd rather go to that little Bodn girl's than to come to me!"
"I didn't say that, and I didn't mean that, Kitty. I meant that I didn't
want to do what you asked, because it wouldn't be polite or kind."
"Well, it seems to me, Laura Brooks, that you are putting on very
ceremonious airs all at once. Didn't you postpone until another day a
visit to Amy Stanton last winter, for just such a reason as this,--that
you might go to Annie Grainger's when her mother went to Baltimore,--and
Amy never thought of its being impolite or unkind."
"But that was different, Kitty."
"Different? Show me where the difference is, please."
"Oh, Kitty, you _know_."
"But I _don't_ know."
Laura's delicate face flushed a little, but after a moment's hesitation
she said: "Esther is--is not like Amy Stanton or you; that is, she
doesn't live in the same way. The Bodns are poor,--quite poor, Kitty."
"Well, I don't see how that alters the case," still obstinately
"Now, Kitty, you _do_ see. Esther is shy and sensitive. She doesn't
visit the people that we do."
"She doesn't visit _anybody_, so far as I know."
"Yes, that is just it," Laura went on eagerly; "and so you see that when
she and her mother have made preparations for company--even one
person--it would put them to a great deal of trouble and inconvenience
to change the time, and it would be unkind and impolite to ask them to
"How do you know that they have made such unusual preparations for you?"
asked Kitty, sarcastically.
Laura flushed again as she answered: "I didn't mean unusual in one way,
but I thought that they didn't often invite company by something that
Esther said. When she asked me to fix a day, she told me that her mother
wasn't very well, and that they didn't keep a servant."
"Not keep a servant! Not a single one! Why, they must be awfully poor,
like common working-people!" exclaimed the young Beacon Street girl, in
a wondering tone.
"Esther isn't common, if she is poor," Laura instantly asserted with
"I don't understand how anybody so poor as that should be sent to Miss
Milwood's school. I shouldn't think they could afford it," went on
Kitty; "why, the place for her is a public school."
"But, Kitty, don't you know that Esther assists Miss Milwood,--that it
is Esther who looks over all the French and German exercises, and makes
the first corrections before mademoiselle takes them?"
"Yes,--why, Esther, you must have noticed, is very proficient in French
and German. She and her mother have lived abroad and here, in French and
German families, to prepare her for being a teacher. She has a great
natural aptitude, too, for languages."
"How in the world did you find all this out, Laura?"
"I didn't _find it out_, as you call it,--there is no secret about
it,--Esther would no doubt have told you as much, if you had got as well
acquainted with her as I have."
"I don't see how you came to get so well acquainted with her. She's nice
enough, but I could always see that she wasn't like the rest of us,--of
"Like the rest of us! She's just as good as the rest of us, and better
than some of us."
"Oh, I dare say," said Kitty, in a patronizing tone.
"She may not be of our set, as you say, Kitty; but when I think of how
Maud and Florence Aplin talk sometimes, I don't feel very proud of
belonging to 'our set.'"
"Yes, I know, Maud and Flo do brag awfully now and then; but they are
nice girls, and it is a nice family, mamma says."
"Every one seems to say that about them, and I've often wondered what
they meant. I'm sure Mr. Aplin isn't very nice. He has no end of money,
I know, but he can be so rude, and Mrs. Aplin is so patronizing. Now,
why should they be called such 'nice people'?"
Kitty straightened herself up, put on a very knowing look, and repeated
parrot-like what she had heard older persons say,--
"Mrs. Aplin was a Windlow."
"What in the world is a Windlow?" asked Laura, rather sarcastically.
Kitty was a worldly young woman, but she was also full of fun; and this
question of Laura's amused her mightily, and with a suppressed giggle
she answered demurely: "I think it has something to do with windows. The
Windlows were English, and I believe their business was to open and shut
the windows in the king's palaces,--perhaps to wash them. This all began
ages ago, and it was considered a great honor, a tip-top thing to do,
especially when the windows were high up. The honor has descended from
generation to generation, and the name with it, I believe. They had some
very ordinary name at the start."
The giggle, that had been suppressed up to this point, now burst forth
in a shout of laughter, wherein Laura herself joined, exclaiming, as she
did so, "Oh, Kitty, you are so ridiculous!"
"Why don't you make a rhyme and say, 'Oh, Kitty, you're so witty'? But,
Laura, it is you who are odd and ridiculous, to pretend that you don't
know that Windlow is one of the oldest names of one of the oldest
families who came over to America in the Mayflower,--regular old
"Now, Kitty, I'm up in my history, if I'm not on this society stuff, and
just let me tell you that those first settlers of America who came over
in the Mayflower were _not_ aristocrats."
"Oh, Laura, when everybody who can, brags of a Mayflower ancestor! I
heard Mrs. Arkwright say to mamma, the other day that the Aplins were of
the real old Mayflower blue blood."
"Then Mrs. Arkwright, with the 'everybody' you tell of, doesn't know
what history says."
"Why, I'm sure I thought that was history."
"Well, it isn't. Last year I went with my father to Plymouth, and he
took me to the famous rock where the Mayflower pilgrims landed, and
afterward he gave me a lovely book called 'The Olden Time,' by Edmund
Sears, that told me all about the pilgrims,--who they were, and why they
came over, and everything, and I remember it said in this book that the
Plymouth pilgrims were constantly confounded--those were the very
words--with the Puritans who came over nine years later to
"But Plymouth is in Massachusetts."
"Yes, I know, but it wasn't in that day. It was simply Plymouth Colony.
The Mayflower sailed by Cape Cod into Plymouth Bay. They named the bay
Plymouth, as they named the town Plymouth, for the old Plymouth in
"Did they name Cape Cod too?"
"No; that name was given years before by Captain Gosnold, an early
"Oh, I know, he caught such a lot of codfish there. I wish he'd never
discovered the place; I hate codfish. But go on with your history
lesson, Miss Brooks. I haven't any Mayflower ancestors, and so I'm more
than resigned to have them taken down from their aristocratic peg."
"But they were lovely people,--lovely; kind and good to everybody,
whether they believed as they did or not, for they had been persecuted
themselves in the old country they had left for their opinions, and they
meant that every one in the new country should worship as they pleased.
They were very intelligent people, too, though, as this history says,
'from the middle and humbler walks of English life.' It was the men who
came over to Massachusetts Bay and settled in Boston who were the
aristocrats, and they were not nearly so liberal and generous as the
Plymouth men. The head ones were stiff and overbearing, and meddled and
interfered with people who didn't think as they did, and made a lot of
strict little laws about all sorts of things, so that the name of
'Puritan' and 'puritanical' came to be used for anything that was
bigoted and narrow-minded; and these names have stuck to all New
England, and papa says that at this day people mix up things, and think
that the Mayflower people and Boston people were all alike."
Kitty Grant gave a little hop, skip, and jump here, to Laura's
astonishment. "Oh, Laura, it's such larks," she cried out. The two girls
were walking down Beacon Street on their way home from school, and Laura
looked about her to see what Kitty had so suddenly discovered to call
out such an exclamation. Seeing nothing unusual, she asked, "_What_ is
Kitty laughed. "Oh, Laura, can't you see that this little fact you have
pulled out from this tangled-up colony business, this dear dreadful
little fact that the Mayflowers were not aristocrats, only--what does
your history book say? Oh, I have it--'from the middle and humbler walks
of English life;' not blue Mayflowers, but common colors--can't you see
that it will be such larks for me to use this little fact like a little
bombshell, when Mrs. Arkwright, or Maud, or Flo Aplin, or any of these
Mayflower braggers begin to hold forth?"
"Why, Kitty, I thought you liked Maud and Flo!"
"I do when they don't give me too much Mayflower. I've always thought,
and so has mamma, that this was their one fault,--that if it wasn't for
that, they would be pretty near perfect; and now--and now, Brooksie, I
shall proceed to be the means of grace that shall make them paragons of
perfection. Oh, Laura, you're a treasure with that head of yours crammed
full of facts, and I'll forgive you anything for this last little fact,
even for neglecting me for that little Bodn girl!"
"I haven't neglected you."
"Well, snubbed me, then."
"Nor snubbed you. I only want to be considerate and polite to Esther;
"What a horrid name she has! Did you ever think of it, Laura--Esther
"I don't think it's horrid at all. I like it."
"B-o-d-n--Bodn--it sounds awfully common."
"Why, Kitty, it's spelled B-o-w-d-o-i-n, the same as our Bowdoin Street,
and pronounced Bod'n, as that is!"
"Is it, really? I didn't know that."
"I'm sure Bowdoin Street sounds well enough."
"Well, yes, I've always rather liked the sound of it; but then, you
know, I always _saw_ and _felt_ the spelling, when I saw it. What in the
world was the pronunciation ever snipped off like that for? It ought to
be pronounced just as it is spelled. I've a good mind to pronounce it so
the next time I speak to Esther."
"No, I wouldn't do that; but you might _think_ of her as Miss Bowdoin,"
answered Laura, dryly.
"Oh, Laura, what a head full of wisdom you've got! I don't see how I
ever lived without you. But--see here, tell me what street Miss Bowdoin
Laura hesitated a moment; then answered, "McVane Street."
"Where is McVane Street, for pity's sake? I never heard of it,--one of
those horrid South End streets, I suppose?"
"No, it is at the West End, beyond Cambridge Street, down by the
"No, no, Laura Brooks, you _don't_ mean that she lives down there by the
"It isn't by the wharves," cried Laura, indignantly.
"Well, it isn't far off. One of the regular old tumble-down streets,
given up long ago to cobblers and tinkers of all kinds, and you're going
to take tea with a girl who lives in that frowsy, dirty place!"
"It isn't frowsy and dirty. It's only an old, unfashionable street, but
not frowsy or dirty. It's quite clean and quiet, and has shade-trees and
little grass plots to some of the houses. Why, it used to be the court
end of the town years ago."
"So was North Bennet Street, and all the rest of the North End; and now
it's turned over to the rag-tag of creation,--Russian Jews, and every
other kind of a foreigner,--and look here!" suddenly interrupting
herself, as a new idea struck her, "I'll bet you anything that this
Esther Bodn is a foreigner,--an emigrant herself of some sort."
"Yes, I'll bet you a pair of gloves,--eight-buttoned ones,--and I don't
believe her name is spelled at all like our Bowdoin Street. I believe
they--her mother and she--spell it that way _to suit themselves_. I
believe it's just Bodn; and that is an outlandish foreign name, if I--"
"Kitty, I think it's positively wicked for you to talk like this,--it's
Kitty laughed, and, wagging her head to and fro, sang in a merry little
"Taffy is a Welshman, Taffy is a thief
Flaunting as a Yankee man; that's my belief."
Laura couldn't help joining in this laugh, Kitty was so droll; but the
laugh died out in the next breath, as she said,--
"Now, Kitty, don't go and talk like this to the other girls; don't--"
"Laura, how _did_ it ever come about that the Bodn invited you to tea?"
"It came about as naturally as this: One day I was going along Boylston
Street, and just as I got to the public library I met Esther coming out
with her arms full of books. I joined her, and insisted upon carrying
some of the books for her; and after a little hesitation she accepted my
offer, and led the way across the Common to the opposite gateway upon
Charles Street. Here she stopped, and held out one hand for the books,
and said, 'It was so kind of you to help me. Thank you very much.'
"'But I'm not going to leave you here,' I said; 'I'll walk home with
you.' 'But it's a long walk to where I live,' she answered. I told her I
didn't think anything of a long walk, and insisted on going further with
her. I felt sorry, however, a minute after, for I saw that I had made a
mistake,--that she didn't want me to go with her; but I didn't know how
to turn back at once then, as she had started up briskly at my
insistence with another 'Thank you.' But when we turned into Cambridge
Street, I began to understand why she didn't want me,--she felt
sensitive and afraid of my criticism; and I don't wonder--"
"Nor I, either," struck in Kitty, in a flippant tone.
"I should have felt sensitive," went on Laura, pityingly, "and I was so
sorry for her; but I was determined to keep on then, and seem to take
no notice, and somehow make her understand that it made no difference to
me where she lived. I felt sorrier and sorrier for her, though, as she
went on down Cambridge Street, past all those liquor and provision and
second-hand furniture shops, with the tenements over them, and I was so
thankful for her when she turned out of all this, and we crossed over
and went into a quiet old street, and came out upon the pretty grounds
of the Massachusetts Hospital; and as soon as I saw these grounds, I
said, 'Oh, how pretty!' and then we turned again, and it was into the
street opposite the hospital. It was almost as quiet as the country
there. There were no shops at all, and the houses, though they looked
old, were in very good repair, and some of them had been freshly
painted, and had little grass plots beside them; and it was before one
of these that Esther stopped, and then she said, 'If we had come over
the hill, the way would have been pleasanter,' and I said just what I
felt,--that I thought it was very pleasant, anyway, when you got there,
and that the sunset must be beautiful from the windows. She was taking
the books from me as I said this, and she looked up at me for a second,
as if she were studying me, and then she asked me if I would like to
come in some bright day, and see her and the sunsets,--that they were
very beautiful from the upper windows. I told her I would like to come
very much, and thanked her for asking me; and then I kissed her, for--"
"And struck up an intimate friendship at once," burst in Kitty,
"No, for this was some weeks ago, and she's only just asked me to set
the day when I could come. Oh, Kitty, you may make fun all you like; but
she is a very interesting girl,--my mother thinks she is too."
"Oh, you've introduced her to your mother, have you?"
"I have told mamma about her, and I brought her in one afternoon to see
the pictures,--she's very fond of pictures,--and mamma asked her to stay
to luncheon, but she couldn't."
"And now it is you who are going to make the first visit, going to
sunsets and tea on McVane Street!"
"Laura! Laura!" called a voice here; and Laura looked up, to see her
brother Jack in his T-cart pulling up at the curbstone. The next minute
she was whirling off with him, bowing good-by to Kitty; and Kitty was
calling after her mischievously,--
"Laura, Laura, tell your brother you are going to take tea with a girl
who lives on McVane Street!"
The spirited horse that young Jack Brooks drove held his attention so
completely at that moment that he had no time to bestow upon anything
else; but when he was well out on the broad, clear roadway of the
"Neck," he turned to his sister, and asked, "What did Kitty Grant; mean
by your going to take tea with a girl who lives on McVane Street?"
"It is one of the girls at Miss Milwood's school,--Esther Bodn."
"How does a girl who lives on McVane Street come to go to Miss Milwood's
"She assists Miss Milwood." And Laura told what she knew of Esther's
assistance in the way of the French and German.
"Oh!" and the young man gave a satisfied sort of nod as he uttered this,
as much as to say, "That explains it;" and then, dismissing the subject
from his mind, turned his whole attention again to his horse, while
Laura drew a deep breath of relief. She had begun to think that if her
brother were to take up Kitty's cry against McVane Street, she might
find her anticipated visit set about with thorns. "But I shall go, I
shall go!" she said to herself, "whatever Jack may say, when mamma says
that I may."
But Jack said no more on that occasion, nor when his mother, the next
day at luncheon, asked Laura what time Miss Bodn expected her, did the
young gentleman make any remark. He had evidently forgotten the matter
altogether; and Laura, without further anxiety, set out upon her little
journey to McVane Street.
Kitty Grant had laughed that morning when Laura had told her that she
was to go to Esther's at four o'clock and leave at six, that she might
be in time for her own dinner hour,--had laughed and said, "Oh, a
regular 'four-to-six,'--a sunset tea! The little Bodn is 'up' on
'sassiety' matters, isn't she? Dear me, I wish _I_ could go with you,--I
never went to a sunset tea. Couldn't you take me along?"
"No, I'm sure I couldn't," Laura had answered, laughing a little, but a
little irritated, nevertheless, at Kitty's tone; and when Kitty had gone
on and declared that nobody could be more appreciative than herself,
Laura had retorted,--
"Yes; but you make great mistakes in your appreciations. You wouldn't
appreciate Esther's own sweetness and refinement at their real worth, if
the carpets and curtains and chairs and things in the house on McVane
Street didn't happen to please your taste."
These words of hers returned to Laura with great force as the door of
the house on McVane Street was opened to her, and she found herself in a
chilly hall, darkly papered and darkly and shabbily carpeted; and when
she followed Esther up the stairs,--for it was Esther who had answered
her ring,--and noted the general dreariness of the whole, she thought
pityingly, "Poor Esther, to be obliged to live in such a dismal
It was in this depressed state of mind that she came to the top of the
stairs. Here Esther was waiting for her; and as she pushed wide open a
door in front of her, she said brightly, "Here we are," and Laura,
turning, stood for a moment dumb with surprise, as she saw a room that
by contrast with the dinginess of the halls looked almost luxurious, for
it was all lightness and brightness and warmth and sweet odors, with
the sunshine streaming in upon a window full of plants, and touching up
a quantity of woodcuts, photographs, and water-colors, with a few oils,
and two or three fine etchings,--all of which pretty nearly hid the ugly
dark wallpaper. A little coal fire in a low grate made things still
brighter, and brought out the soft faded reds of the rug, and purples
and yellows of the worn chintz covers of lounge and chairs. And right in
the lightest and brightest spot of all this lightness and brightness
stood a little claw-footed round table, bearing an old-fashioned
tea-service of china. The sunshine seemed actually to fill up the cups
and spill over into the gilt-bordered saucers, as Laura looked. "It is a
'sunset tea,' indeed," she said to herself; "and if Kitty Grant could
see how pretty and refined were the simple arrangements, she wouldn't
mix Esther up with any horrid common emigrants, if she _does_ live on
McVane Street. Esther a foreigner of any kind! Nothing could be more
absurd. Esther was a New England girl, if ever there was one,--a little
New England girl, who had come up with her mother to Boston from the
Cape perhaps to learn to be a teacher. Yes, that must be the explanation
of McVane Street. The Bodns were people who had come up from the
country, and country people of small means wouldn't be likely to know
where to choose a home."
Laura had all this settled satisfactorily in her mind after she had
chatted awhile with Esther in the sunny room, and taken in more
completely its various details, such as the fishnet drapery by the
windows, the group of shells on the plant-stand, and several photographs
of a sea-coast. And when shown other sea-country treasures,--bits of
coral and ivory and mosses,--things grew plainer than ever, and she
began to have a very clear notion of Esther's past surroundings, and
pictured her mother as one of those neat, trim, anxious-faced little
women she had often seen in her sea or mountain summerings. It was just
when she had got this fancy picture sharply defined that she heard
Esther say, as a door leading from the next room opened,--
[Illustration: A tall, handsome woman smiled a greeting]
"Mother dear, this is my friend Laura Brooks, I've told you about;" and
Laura, rising hastily, turned to see no trim, anxious-faced little
person, but a tall, handsome, dark-eyed woman smiling a greeting to her
daughter's guest over the pot of tea and plate of bread and butter that
she carried. Not in the least like the fancy picture; but who--who was
it she suggested?
All through the little meal this question kept recurring to Laura. Where
_had_ she seen that dark, handsome face before? It recurred to her
again, as she followed the mother and daughter up to the little
third-story room, to see the beautiful sunset effects. Where _had_ she
seen just that profile against such a sunset light? Then all at once, as
the declining beams sent a redder ray across the nose and chin, the
question was answered. The red ray had also illumined Laura's own face,
and Mrs. Bodn, turning suddenly, caught the girl's curiously animated
expression, and asked inquiringly, "What is it, my dear?" and Laura
"Oh, do you know that picture of Walter Scott's 'Rebecca,' painted by
some great English artist, I think? My uncle has a copy of it in his
library, and it is so like you, _so_ like you, Mrs. Bodn. The moment I
saw you I was sure that I had met you before; but just now, when the
sunset lit up your face, I knew at once what made it so familiar. It was
its great resemblance to the 'Rebecca.' Oh, _do_ you know the picture,
"Yes, perfectly well," answered Mrs. Bodn, quietly; "but it was not
painted by an English artist, it was the work of a young German who is
now dead. He was very little known, though he did some fine work."
"And did you know that the picture was so like you, Mrs. Bodn?"
"Well, yes, I knew that it was thought to be like me when it was
painted; and it ought to be, you know, for I sat for it,--I was the
"You were a--a--the model," gasped Laura, in astonishment.
"Yes, I was a--a--the model," answered Mrs. Bodn, repeating Laura's own
halting syllables, with an accent half of amusement, half of sarcasm.
Then, more seriously, she added, "It was years ago, when I was living in
"Esther, where are you?" a voice from the floor below here called out.
"We are up in your room looking at the sunset; it's lovely; come up and
see it," Esther called back. And the next moment Laura was being
introduced to "My cousin, David Wybern,"--a tall, good-looking boy of
fifteen or sixteen, with beautiful dark eyes like Mrs. Bodn's. The next
moment after that, when this tall, good-looking boy, in addressing Mrs.
Bodn, called her "Aunt Rebecca," like a flash these thoughts went flying
through Laura's mind,--
"A model for Rebecca the Jewess, and her own name Rebecca, and her
daughter's and her nephew's names,--Esther, David,--these also Hebrew
names!" What did it signify? Kitty--Kitty would say that it proved _she_
was right,--that they _were_ the very people she had said they were.
But, oh, they were not; they were not of that common kind that Kitty had
classed so scornfully! No matter if her mother _had_ been a model years
ago, it was through poverty, of course, and she was very brave not to be
ashamed of it; and Esther,--Esther was lovely, a girl to be good to, to
be true to, and she, Laura Brooks, would be good to her and true to her,
no matter what happened. Poor Laura, she little knew how this resolve
would be put to the test within the next few hours, for she could not
foresee that the fact of the coachman's forgetfulness to call for her,
as he had been ordered to do, and her consequent acceptance of David
Wybern's attendance, was to bring such a storm about her. It had seemed
the simplest thing in the world, when half-past six struck, and no
carriage came for her, to accept David's attendance, and just as simple,
when the street cars rushed by, without an inch of standing-room, to
walk on and up over the hill to Beacon Street. But in this walk it
happened that her brother had passed her as he drove by with one of his
friends, and he had gone straight home and into the dining-room with the
words, "What does this mean?" and then he proceeded to tell how he had
passed his sister accompanied by a young man or boy who looked to him
like one of the clerks in Weyman & Co.'s importing-house.
What did it mean, indeed? Her father and mother also wondered and
exclaimed; and when Laura appeared, and told them what it meant, there
was a general outcry of disapproval and criticism, led on by her
brother, who told her she should have waited and sent a message to them
by this boy, instead of permitting him to walk home with her. In vain
Laura spoke of the boy's good manners, of the refined aspect of the
little home which she had just visited, and the intelligence and dignity
of Mrs. Bodn and her daughter. Nothing she said seemed to ameliorate the
disapproval or criticism; and at last, stung by a sore sense of
injustice, the girl turned upon her father and said, "Papa, I've always
heard you say that everybody should be judged by their worth, and you've
often and often quoted from that poem of Robert Burns that you are so
fond of, about honest poverty, and I remember two lines particularly,
that you seemed to like most of all,--
"'That sense and worth o'er a' the earth
May bear the prize and a' that;'
"and yet now, now--"
"But, my dear child," as Laura here broke down with a little sob,--"my
dear child, it isn't that these people are poor,--it is because we don't
know anything about them."
"I--I think it is because you _do_ know that--that they live on McVane
Street," faltered Laura.
"Well, that _is_ to know nothing about them, in the sense that father
means," broke in her brother, sharply. "Their living there shows that
they are the kind of people that are out of our class entirely,--people
that we don't _want_ to know. I didn't think it mattered much the other
day, when you told me you were going down there to take tea with your
teacher; but when I find you are to make friends with the young clerks
who are the relations of your teacher, I think it matters a good deal."
"But this clerk, as you call him, has a great deal better manners than
Charley Aplin. He behaves a great deal more like a gentleman."
"And he has a much longer nose," retorted her brother, with a sneering
little laugh. "The fellow's a Jew, I'm certain; he has a regular Jewish
"He has _not_," began Laura, indignantly, and then stopped suddenly. It
was the low trader-type of Jewish face reflected from her brother's mind
that she saw as she spoke; then Mrs. Bodn's beautiful profile and that
of her nephew rose before her! If they--if they--her brother, her
father, could see these faces,--these faces so fine and intelligent, and
saw, too, the likeness that she had seen to the portrait in her uncle's
library,--would they feel differently,--would they do justice to Esther
and her relations, though they _were_ Jews,--would they admit that they
were of the higher type, that they were fit friends for her? No, no, no,
she answered herself, as soon as these questions started up in her mind,
and, stung through all her generous young heart by these instinctive
answers, she burst forth: "You talk about Jews as if there were but one
class,--the lowest class. What if all Americans were judged by the
lowest class? Would you call that fair? And you think the Bodns are the
lowest kind just because they are poor and live on McVane Street! That
great novelist who lived in England and who was prime minister there,
Lord Beaconsfield, was a Jew, and he was proud of it; and the
Mendelssohns were Jews; and there are those wonderful musical novels
Uncle George gave me to read last summer, 'Charles Auchester' and
'Counterparts,' they are full of Jews and their genius--"
"Laura, Laura, there is no need of your talking like this," interrupted
her father; "we are not going to deny the worth or respectability of
your new acquaintances, but it is entirely unnecessary for you to rush
into any intimacy with such strangers."
There was a look in her father's face, as he spoke, that told Laura very
plainly that all she had said had done more harm than good, and that
henceforth there would be no more "sunset teas" with Esther Bodn. All
her little plans, too, for making Esther's life brighter, by welcoming
her into her own home, and bringing her into a better acquaintance with
the other girls, were rendered impossible now. But if she could not be
good to her in this way, she would be more than ever kind and cordial to
her at school, and she would try to enlist Kitty Grant's interest. She
would tell Kitty about that pretty refined home, and ask her to be kind
and cordial too; and she was sure that Kitty would not refuse, for, in
spite of her fun and her worldliness, Kitty had really a kind heart.
Yes, she would enlist Kitty, and Kitty was all powerful. If she once got
interested in a person, she could make everybody else interested. But,
alas, for this scheme!
Alas! because Kitty had already taken her stand on the other side. She
had already told the girls that Esther Bodn lived on McVane Street, in
near neighborhood to a lot of rum-shops and foreigners, and had then
"made fun," in the same rattling way that she had used with Laura,
airing all her little suspicions and suggestions about the name of Bodn,
in the half-frolic fashion that always had such effect upon the
listeners. It had such effect on this occasion, that Laura found that
every girl had passed from indifference to an active prejudice against
Esther. Kitty herself had not meant to produce this result. Indeed,
Kitty had had no meaning whatever but that of amusing herself,--"making
fun;" and when the girls, relishing this "fun," laughed and applauded,
she did not realize that she had done a mischievous thing. Poor Laura,
however, realized everything as the days went by, and she saw Esther
subjected to a certain critical observation. Her only hope was that the
person most interested did not notice this; but one day she came upon
Esther at recess, bending over a pile of exercises, at which she was
apparently hard at work.
"What's the rush, Esther, that you've got to work at recess?" she asked.
Esther murmured an unintelligible reply, and bent her head still lower;
and then it was that Laura, to her dismay, saw a tear drop to the
exercises upon the desk.
"Esther, Esther, what is the matter? Tell me!"
"I--I don't know," faltered Esther, "but things seem different. I always
knew that the girls didn't care very much for me, but they were not
unkind. Now--they--seem unkind some way. Perhaps it's only my fancy,
but--but they seem to look down on me as they didn't before, and--and
sometimes they seem to avoid me, and--I'm just the same as ever,
except--except I'm a good deal shabbier this spring. I've always been
rather shabby, but this spring it's worse, because we've lost some
money,--not much, but it was a good deal to us, and I couldn't have
anything new; and--and there's another thing--one morning I overheard
one of the girls say to Kitty Grant, 'McVane Street, that is enough!'
They must have been talking about me and where I live. Nobody else here
lives on McVane Street, and we--mother and I--wouldn't live there if we
could afford to live where we liked; but we came here strangers, and
this was much the most comfortable place we could find for what we could
pay. I know it's in a disagreeable part of the city; but it _isn't_ bad,
it _isn't_ low, where we are, it's only run down and shabby. But I
thought Boston people were above judging others by such things. I'd
always heard that Boston girls--"
"Boston girls! oh, don't talk to me of Boston girls, don't talk to me of
any girls anywhere," burst in Laura. "I'm sick--sick of girls. Girls
will do things and say things--little, mean, petty things--that boys
would be ashamed to do or say."
"Then you _do_ think it's because of my shabbiness and where I live
that--that has made them--these girls so--so different; but why should
they--all at once? I can't understand."
"Don't try to understand! Don't bother your head about them--they don't
mean--they don't know--they are not worth your notice. You are a long,
long way above them!"
"Mother didn't want to come to Boston to live; but when my uncle John
Wybern, mother's brother, died three years ago,--he died in Munich; he
was an artist, like my father, and we'd all lived together, since my
father's death,--we came on here, as uncle had advised, because he knew
some one here in an importing-house who would get David a situation. He
didn't want David to be an artist. He said it was such an anxious,
hand-to-mouth life, if one didn't make a quick success of it; and _he
knew_, for _he_ hadn't made a success any more than my father
had,--and--and this is why we came here, and are here now on McVane
Street, though my mother didn't want to come. But _I_ wanted to come
from the first. I'd heard and read so much about Boston, I thought I was
sure to be happy here, for I thought the people were so noble and
high-minded, and--" There was a pathetic little faltering break again at
this, which was resolutely repressed, and the sentence resumed with,
"and then I knew my father's people had once--" But at this point,
"Esther," called out Miss Milwood from the doorway, "bring the exercises
into my room, and we'll finish them together."
Almost at that very moment Kitty Grant came running down the aisle,
calling out, "Laura, Laura, are you going this afternoon to the Art
"To hear Monsieur Baudouin? Yes."
"Well, we'll go together, then."
"Very well," mimicking Laura's cool tones; then with a change of voice,
"Laura, what _is_ the matter? You are enough to freeze anybody. What
have I done?"
"You've done a very cruel thing."
"Yes, I sha'n't take back my words,--you have done a very cruel thing."
"For pity's sake, what do you mean?"
"You may well say 'for _pity's_ sake;'" and then Laura burst forth and
repeated, word for word, the conversation that had transpired between
Esther and herself, concluding with, "And you--_you_, Kitty, are to
blame for this, for it is you who have prejudiced the girls against
Esther with your talk about McVane Street and the foreigners in that
"I? Just my little fun about McVane Street and your sunset tea there?"
"Yes, just your little fun! I know what your fun is! Oh, Kitty, Kitty,
I _did_ think you had a kind heart! But to be the means of hurting
anybody, as you have hurt Esther,--it is--it is--"
"Laura, Laura, don't," as Laura here broke down in a little fit of
sobbing. "Of course I didn't know--I didn't think. Oh, dear, I'll tell
the girls I didn't mean a word I said,--that I'm the biggest liar in
town; that Esther is an heiress; that--that--oh, I'll do or say
anything, if you'll only stop crying, Laura. There, there," as Laura
tried to stifle a fresh sob, "that's right, take my handkerchief,--yours
is sopping wet, and--My goodness, there comes Maud Aplin--she _must_ not
see us sniffing and sobbing like this, she'll say we've had a quarrel.
Here, let us go into the little recitation-room, quick now, before she
And into the little recitation-room Laura was very willing to go and
hide her tear-stained face from inquisitive eyes, while Kitty, penitent
and overcome more by the spectacle of these tears than by a sense of her
own shortcomings, followed briskly after, with this cheerful little
running fire of remarks, anent the Art Club lecturer: "I'm just
crazy--_crazy_ to see this Monsieur Baudouin; for what do you think Flo
Aplin says? That he is a real viscomte or marquis, or something of that
sort, but that he came into his title only a year or two ago, and is
much prouder of his reputation as an art authority and critic and his
name, Pierre Baudouin,--it's his own name, you know,--and he won his
reputation under that. The Aplins met him last year in Paris. Windlow
Aplin, who is studying art there, just swears by him, and says the
artists dote on him, and Flo says he is perfectly elegant. Etching is
his great fad now, and he is going to lecture this afternoon on etching
and etchers. Oh, I'm just crazy to see and hear him, aren't you?"
Laura had by this time conquered her tears, thanks to Kitty's
adroitness, and, with a half-humorous, half-grateful appreciation of
this adroitness, she thought to herself as she walked round to the Art
Club with Kitty that afternoon, "Kitty _has_ a good heart, after all."
The Art Club hall was quite full as they entered; but there were seats
well down in front, and there they found most of the school girls under
Miss Milwood's charge. Esther was one of this party; and Kitty made a
great point of leaning forward and bowing to her with much graciousness.
The next moment she was whispering to Laura, "There, didn't I behave
prettily to Esther this time? You'll see now--" But at that instant a
slender dark-eyed gentleman, accompanied by one of the artists, was seen
coming rapidly up the aisle, and, "Look, look, there he is!" cried
Kitty, "and _isn't_ he elegant?"
And Laura looking, as she was told, found no reason to disagree with
"But I _do_ hope," whispered the irrepressible Kitty again, as Monsieur
Baudouin ascended the platform,--"I _do_ hope he is as interesting as he
looks; appearances are deceitful sometimes." But no one of that audience
found Pierre Baudouin's appearance deceitful. He was more than
interesting,--he was enthralling as he went on with his almost loving
consideration of his subject, setting before his hearers, in a melodious
voice and very good English, some of the results of his great knowledge
and experience. You could have heard a pin drop, as the saying goes, so
spell-bound was the audience; and at the end there was a warm outburst
of applause, and then a gathering about him, as he left the platform,
of the various artists, and others who were eager to speak with him. He
was standing with this little group, when Laura, watching and listening
just outside of it, heard him say, "There is a remarkable etching that I
wish I could show you, for it proves completely the theory I have just
placed before you. I saw it but once, in the artist's own studio, as I
was passing through Munich. When a little later I heard that the artist
was dead, and his effects for sale, I tried to buy the etching, but was
told that it had been given to a friend, a Mr. John Wybern. Since then,
I have learned that Mr. Wybern has also died, and I started again on my
search; but it has been fruitless so far, though I still hope I may come
across it, and be able, if not to add it to my collection, to examine it
again. The artist, by the way, is the same one that painted that
remarkable picture, 'Rebecca the Jewess.'"
Laura turned hastily around to look for Esther. She had not to look far.
Esther was just behind her. "Esther, did you hear?" she asked.
"Do you know about the etching?"
[Illustration: She was addressing Monsieur Baudouin]
"Yes, it hangs in our parlor. I wish I dared go forward now and tell
"Oh, Esther, do, do!"
But Esther hung back. Then Laura obeyed an impulse that forever after
filled her with astonishment. She pressed forward, and, before she had
time to think twice, was addressing Monsieur Baudouin, and telling him
what she knew.
"What! you can tell me where this etching is? You can take me to it?" he
exclaimed, with a sort of joyful incredulity.
Laura answered by turning to Esther and saying. "This young lady can
tell you more about it. The etching is in the possession of her family."
"Ah, and this young lady is--"
Laura reached back, seized Esther's hand, and pulled her to her side.
"Is Miss Bodn."
"Mees _Bodn_!" he repeated with a start. "Mees _Bodn_! Ah, pardon me, do
you spell this name B-o-w-d-o-i-n?"
"You do, you do," as Esther answered in the affirmative; "and, pardon
again, are you related to one Henri--Henry, you call it here--Henry
"My father's name was Henry Pierre Bowdoin."
"Then, Mademoiselle," and Monsieur Baudouin stretched out his hand, and
a smile lit up his face, "you must be a relation of mine; and three
years ago, when I was in this country, and tried to find the American
branch of our family that spelled its name Bowdoin and was called Bodn,
but which was originally Baudouin, the old Huguenot name, I was told it
had died out. Where were you then, Mademoiselle?"
"In Munich, where my mother and I had lived with my uncle John Wybern,
since my father's death, years ago."
"Your uncle! John Wybern was your uncle? So--so is it possible, is it
possible? And I find the two objects I have been hunting, so far apart,
together! It is most astonishing and yet most simple. And your
mother--your mother is living? Yes, and you will give me your address,
that I may hasten to pay my respects to her;" and Monsieur whipped out a
little note-book and wrote down, probably with greater satisfaction than
it had ever been written before, "McVane Street."
"Most astonishing and yet most simple," as Monsieur had truly said; yet
to the flock of Miss Milwood's girls, who, well down to the front, had
lost nothing of this surprising interview, it was only "most
astonishing," and to some of them most humiliating and mortifying. Kitty
Grant was the first to voice this mortification, by turning upon them
and saying, as Esther disappeared with Monsieur Baudouin, "Say, girls,
how do you feel now? _I_ feel like one of Cinderella's sisters. Laura
now--Laura, where are you?" But Laura had also disappeared. She wanted
to be by herself and think it over. But what of Esther,--Esther, who had
been neglected and disregarded and despised? What of Esther, as she
stood there, and as she walked away with Monsieur Baudouin? Esther was
the least astonished of them all, for years ago she had been familiar
with the facts of her paternal family history, and knew that she was a
descendant of Pierre Baudouin, a French Huguenot, who had fled to
America to escape religious persecution, and knew that the name Baudouin
had suffered a change to Bowdoin; knew, too, that as Bowdoin it had been
made illustrious in America's annals, and worn the honors of the highest
offices of the State. She knew all this; but she knew also that this was
long ago, and that her father was the last of his name in America, and
when he died, after a wasting illness that exhausted his fortune, there
was little thought given to the fact that the old Huguenot root still
existed in France, though half-playful, half-serious mention had now and
then been made of the kinsfolk in France they would sometime go to seek.
All this Esther had stored away in her memory, so that when Monsieur
Baudouin announced himself as the kinsman from France, it was more like
a long-anticipated event than a surprise. And all this she told to Laura
in the days that followed,--those dear, delightful days, when there was
no difficulty put in the way of going to McVane Street; when McVane
Street, indeed, according to Kitty, became quite the fashion with the
artists flocking to see the wonderful etching, and Monsieur Baudouin
holding forth upon its merits to them as he made himself at home with
his American kinsfolk, who were now discovered to be such charming folk.
Laura sometimes in these days blazed up with indignation and disgust as
she noted the sudden attentions that were bestowed upon Esther and her
mother. No one now spoke of emigrants and foreigners in connection with
these dwellers on McVane Street. Jack Brooks himself seemed to forget
that David Wybern looked like a Jew, even before it was found that David
and all of his people were of the most unmixed Puritan stock!
"And I, too," thought Laura,--"I, too, muddled and mistook things as I
shouldn't, if Esther and her mother had lived in a different quarter. If
they had lived anywhere over the hill, should I have fancied, though
they _were_ so poor, that Mrs. Bowdoin must have been a professional
model? No, no, I should have thought at once, what I _know_ now, that
the artist was her friend, and that she sat to him as a friendly favor,
like any other lady."
But while Laura thus scourged herself with the rest, Esther and her
mother had set her apart from all the rest for their special love and
confidence,--a love and confidence that are as fresh to-day as when the
mother and daughter sailed away with Monsieur Baudouin, a year ago, to
visit their French kinsfolk.
"Number five!" called out shrilly and impatiently the saleswoman at the
lace counter in a great dry-goods establishment. The call was repeated
in a still more impatient tone before there was any response; then there
rushed up a girl of ten or eleven, whose big black eyes looked forth
fearlessly, some people said impudently, from a little peaked face, so
thin and small that it seemed all eyes, and in the neighborhood where
the child lived she was often nicknamed "Eyes."
"Why didn't you come when you were first called?" asked the saleswoman,
"Couldn't; I'se waitin' for somethin'," answered the child, coolly.
"You were staring at and list'nin' to those ladies at the ribbon
counter; I saw you," retorted the saleswoman.
"Well, I tole yer, I'se waitin' for somethin'," the girl answered,
showing two rows of teeth in a mischievous grin.
A younger saleswoman, standing near, giggled.
"Don't laugh at her, Lizzie," rebuked the elder; "she's getting too big
for her boots with her impudence."
"They ain't boots; they're shoes." And a thin little leg was thrust
forward to show a foot encased in a shabby old shoe much too large for
Then, like a flash, the "imp," as the saleswoman often termed her,
seized the parcel that was ready for her, and darted off with it.
"You'll get reported if you don't look out," the saleswoman called after
The "imp" turned her head and winked back at the irritated saleswoman in
such a grotesque fashion that the lively Lizzie giggled again, for which
she was told she ought to be ashamed of herself. Good-natured Lizzie
admitted the truth of this accusation, but declared that Becky was so
funny she "just couldn't help laughing."
"You call it 'funny,'" the other exclaimed; "_I_ call it impudence. She
ain't afraid of anything or anybody. Look at her now! there she is back
at the ribbon counter. I wonder what those swells are talking about,
that she's so taken up with. She's up to some mischief, I'll bet you,
"I guess it's only her fun. She's going to take 'em off by 'n' by," said
This was one of the "imp's" accomplishments,--taking people off. She was
a great mimic, and on rainy days when the girls ate their luncheon in
the room that the firm had allotted to them for that purpose, Miss Becky
would "take off," the various people that had come under her keen
observation during the day. "Private theatricals," the lively Lizzie
called this "taking off," as Becky strutted and minced, with her chin
up, her dress lifted in one hand, while with the other she held a pair
of scissors for an eyeglass, and peered through the bows at a piece of
cloth, which she picked and pecked and commented upon in fine-lady
fashion,--"just like the swells," Lizzie declared. It was quite natural
then for her to conclude that it was fun of this sort that Becky was "up
to," in her close attention to the "swell" customers at the ribbon
counter. "She was studyin' 'em, just as actresses study their
play-parts," Lizzie thought to herself; and half an hour later, when she
met Becky in the lunch-room, she called out to her,--
"Come, Becky, give us the swells at the ribbon counter."
"Eh?" said Becky.
Lizzie repeated her request, and the other girls joined in: "Yes, Becky,
give us the swells at the ribbon counter; we want some fun."
"They warn't funny," answered Becky, shortly.
"Oh! now, Becky, what'd you stand there lis'nin' and lookin' at 'em so
"'Cause they were sayin' somethin' I wanted to hear."
"Of course they were. What was it about, Becky?"
"May-day, flowers and queens and baskets."
"Oh, my! Well, tell us how they said it, Becky."
"I tole yer they warn't funny; they warn't o' that kind that peeks
through them long stick glasses and puckers up their lips. They talked
straight 'long, and said very int'restin' things," said Becky.
"Well, tell us; tell us what 'twas," exclaimed Lizzie.
"Oh, you wouldn't care for what they's talkin' 'bout. They warn't sayin'
anythin' 'bout beaux or clothes," Becky replied with a grin.
A shout of laughter went up from the rest of the company, who all knew
the lively Lizzie's favorite topics. Lizzie joined in the laugh, and
"Never mind, Becky, if I'm not up to your ribbon swells talk; tell us
"Oh, yes! tell us, tell us!" echoed the others.
Becky took a bite out of a slice of bread, and munching it slowly,
"I tole yer once 't was 'bout May-day and flowers and queens and
"What May-day? There's thirty-one of 'em, Becky."
Becky looked staggered for a moment. In her little hard-worked life she
had had small opportunity to learn much out of books, and she had never
happened to hear this rhyming bit:--
"Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone."
Recovering her wits, however, very speedily, she said coolly,--
"The first pleasant one."
"Well, what were they telling about it? What were they going to do the
first pleasant day in May?"
"They didn't say as _they_ was goin' to do anythin'; they was
tellin'--or one of 'em was tellin' t' other one--what folks did when
they's little, and afore that, hundreds o' years ago, how the folks then
used to get all the children together and go out in the country and put
up a great big high pole, and put a lot o' flowers on a string and wind
'em roun' the pole; and then all the children would take hold o' han's
and dance roun' the pole, and one o' the children was chose to be queen,
and had a crown made o' flowers on her head, and the rest o' the
children minded her."
"You'd like _that_,--to be queen and have the rest mind you, Becky,
wouldn't you?" laughed one of the company.
"I bet I would," owned Becky, frankly.
"But what about the baskets?" asked somebody else.
"Oh, the kids," said Becky, forgetting in her present absorbed interest
the term "children,"--which she had learned to use since she had come up
daily from the poor neighborhood where she lived,--"the kids use to fill
a basket with flowers and hang it on the door-knob of somebody's
house,--somebody they knew,--and then ring the bell and run. Golly!
guess _I_ should hev to hang it _inside_ where I lives. I couldn't hang
it on no outside door and hev it stay there long,--them thieves o' alley
boys would git it 'fore yer could turn. I guess, though, they was
country kids who used to hang 'em; but the lady said she was goin' to
try to start 'em up again here in the city."
"What kind o' baskets were they?" asked Lizzie, suddenly sitting up with
a new air of attention.
"Oh, ho!" laughed one of the girls; "Lizzie wants to hang a basket for
somebody _she_ knows!"
"Hush up!" said Lizzie, turning rather red. Then, addressing Becky
again: "Did the lady who was telling about 'em have a basket with her?
Did you see it?"
"No, but she hed a piece o' that pretty wrinkly paper jes' like the
lamp-shades in the winders, and she said the baskets was made o' that,
and she was buyin' some ribbon to match for handles and bows."
"Oh, I _wish_ I could see one of 'em," said Lizzie.
"I went to a kinnergarden school wonst when I was a little kid," struck
in Becky here, "and we was put up there to makin' baskets out o' paper."
"Could you do it now?" asked Lizzie, eagerly.
"Mebbe I could," answered Becky, warily; "but it's a good bit ago."
"When you were young," cried one of the company with a giggle.
"Yes, when I was young," repeated Becky, in exact imitation of the
speaker, whose voice was very flat and nasal.
Everybody laughed, and one of the girls cried: "Becky'll get the best of
you any time." They were all of them impressed with this fact, when, a
few minutes after, the wary Becky agreed to show Lizzie what she knew of
"kinnergarden" basket-making, if Lizzie would agree to pay her for her
trouble by giving her materials enough to make a basket for herself.
"Ain't she a sharp one?" commented one of the girls to another when they
had left the lunch-room.
"Ain't she, though? She'll get what she can, and hold on to what she's
got every time."
"But she's awful good fun. Didn't she take off Matty Kelley's flat
nose-y way of talkin' to a T?"
"Didn't she!" and the two girls laughed anew at the recollection.
Becky was the only one of the parcel-girls who was in the lunch-room
when this talk about May-day took place. The others lived nearer to the
store, and had gone home to their dinners. They were all a trifle older
than Becky, and a good deal larger. For these reasons, as well as for
the fact that they had been in the establishment quite a while when
Becky entered it, they had put on a great many disagreeable airs toward
the pale-faced little girl when she first appeared, and attempted, as
Becky put it, to "boss" her. They soon found, however, that the
new-comer was too much for them. They expected her to be afraid of
them,--to "stand round" for them. But Miss Becky was not in the least
afraid of them, or, for that matter, of anybody; and as soon as she
understood what they meant, she turned upon them the whole force of that
inimitable mimicry of hers, and "took off" their airs in a manner that
soon set the small army of salesmen and saleswomen into such fits of
laughter that the tables were completely turned upon the tormentors,
and they were only too glad to drop their airs and treat Becky with the
respect that pluck and superior power invariably command. But while thus
constrained to decent behavior before Becky's eyes, behind her back they
gave way to the resentment that they felt against her for her triumph
over them, and let no opportunity slip to say slighting things of her.
Good-natured Lizzie would laugh when they said these things to
her,--when they told her that Becky Hawkins was nothin' but one o' that
low lot who lived down amongst that thieving set by the East Cove
alleys,--that jus' as like as not she was a thief herself; that she was
awful close and stingy, anyway, and saved up every scrap she could find;
that they'd seen her themselves pick up old strings and buttons and such
duds from the gutters! But if Lizzie laughed out of her light lively
heart, and declared she didn't believe what they said was true, and
didn't care if it _was_, there were others not so good-natured as
Lizzie, who, though often vastly entertained by Becky, were quite ready
to believe that the spirit of mimicry she possessed had something
lawless about it, especially when she broke forth into the slang of the
street,--"gutter-slang," the other parcel-girls called it,--the
lawlessness seemed to gather a sort of proof. And so it was that, in
spite of the entertainment she afforded, and a certain kind of respect
in which her "smartness" was held, Becky was considered as rather an
outsider, and an object of more or less suspicion.
"A sharp one!" the saleswoman had called her, the other agreeing; and
when the next day, which was also a rainy day, the little company
gathered in the lunch-room again, and Lizzie brought forth a variety of
pretty papers, there was a general watchfulness to see how much Becky
knew, and what she would claim. Two other of the parcel-girls were now
present. They had heard all about the basket-making plan of yesterday,
and pushed forward with great interest. Becky looked at them with
mischief in her eyes, but made no movement to join Lizzie.
"Come," said the older of the two, "why don't you begin, Becky? Lizzie's
waitin', and so are we."
"What _yer_ waitin' for?" asked Becky, with an impudent grin.
"To see how you make the baskets."
"Well, yer'll hev to wait."
"Why, you told Lizzie you'd show her how to make baskets out o' paper!"
"But I didn' say I'se goin' to show anybody else. This ain't a free
kinnergarden. These are private lessons."
A shriek of laughter went up at this, while somebody cried,--
"And private lessons must be paid for, mustn't they, Becky?"
"Every time," answered Becky, with unruffled coolness.
"Where's the private room to give 'em in?" piped out one of the
parcel-girls with a wink at the other.
"In here!" cried Becky, with a sudden inspiration, jumping up and
running into a little fitting-room that had that morning been assigned
to her to sweep and put in order after the lunch hour.
"Good for you!" cried Lizzie, with one of her laughs, as she followed
"And you didn't get ahead o' me _this_ time, either!" called out Becky,
as she bolted the door upon herself and companion.
"You're too sharp for any of _us_, Becky," called back one of the
"_Ain't_ she sharp?" agreed one and another; and "I told you so," said
still another. "She's a regular little cove-sharper, as Lotty said."
Lotty was the older parcel-girl.
And thus, though most of them laughed at Becky's last "move," they were
prejudiced against her for it, and thought it another evidence of her
stinginess and sharpness. They all agreed, however, that she had "got
'round' Lizzie to that extent that that young woman would stand up for
her, anyway, no matter what she'd do or didn't do.
"An' I'll bet yer," said the younger parcel-girl, "she'll lie out o'
that basket bizness, an' get a lot o' paper too. _She_ know how to make
baskets! Not much. You see now when they come out o' the fitting-room
there'll be some excuse that 't ain't done, an' they can't show it
This prophecy was received in silence, but without much sign of
disagreement; and when the fitting-room door finally opened, it was
funny to watch the looks of astonishment that were bestowed upon the
pretty little basket of green and white paper that Lizzie held swung
upon her finger.
"Well, I never! She _did_ know how, didn't she?" exclaimed one of the
[Illustration: the pretty little basket of green and white paper]
"Of course she did," answered Lizzie.
Becky only shrugged her shoulders disdainfully.
"Bet yer she hooked it out o' some shop, and had it in that bag she
carried in," whispered Lotty Riker, the parcel-girl.
"Hush!" warned one of the company.
But it was too late. Becky had heard, and for the first time since she
had been in the store, those about her saw hot wrath blazing from her
eyes as she burst forth savagely,--
"Yer mean low-lived thing yer, yer must be up to sech tricks yerself to
"What is it? What did she say?" asked Lizzie.
Becky repeated Lotty's words, her wrath increasing as she did so.
"Hooked it! You know better, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself,
Lotty Riker," said Lizzie. "Becky and I made the basket ourselves. See
here now!" and, opening one hand, she displayed the ends of the paper
strips as they had been cut off, and where they fitted the protruding
ends on the basket. "But," turning to Becky, "Lotty knows better; she
only wanted to bother you."
"She wanted to bully me! She's been at it ever since I come here,--she
and t' other one. I made 'em stop it wonst, an' I'll make 'em ag'in. I
can stan' a good deal, but I ain't a-goin' to stan' bein' called a
thief, I ain't. I ain't no more a thief 'n they be, if I do live down
Cove way, and don't wear quite so good clo'es as they does. _Hooked
it_!" going a step nearer to the two girls. "I wish we was boys.
I'd--I'd lick yer, I would, the minit I got yer out on the street; but,"
with a disgusted sigh, "I'm a girl, and I carn't. 'Tain't 'spectable for
girls, Tim says, an' I mus'n't. But lemme jes' hear any more sech talk,
an'--I'll _forgit I'm a girl for 'bout five minutes_!"
This conclusion was too much for Lizzie's gravity, and she burst into
one of her infectious laughs. Several of the others joined in, and then
Becky herself gave a sudden little grin.
Lotty Riker and her sister, who had been thoroughly frightened, felt
immensely relieved at this, and for the moment everything seemed the
same as before the outbreak; but it was only seeming. The majority of
the company, without taking into consideration the provocation Becky had
received, thought to themselves: "_What_ a temper!" Becky's wild little
threats, and the way she expressed herself, had made a strong
impression; and when presently Lizzie laughingly asked, "Who's Tim,
Becky?" and Becky had answered in that lawless manner of hers: "Oh, he's
a fren' o' mine,--a great big fightin' gentleman what lives in the house
where we do," there was a general exchange of glances, and a general
conviction that the Riker girls had not been altogether wrong in some of
their statements. And when the next day they heard Miss Becky confide to
Lizzie that she had made "a splendid basket," and was going to hang it
for Tim on that "fust pleasant day of May," they whispered to each
other, "A May-basket for a prize-fighter!"
But they took very good care that the whisper did not reach Becky. She
was "great fun," but they had found out how fiercely she could turn from
The first day of May turned out to be a most beautiful day, bright and
sunny; and when Lizzie hung her pretty basket filled with Plymouth
Mayflowers on the door-knob of a great friend of hers, she laughed, and
wondered if Becky had hung hers for that "fightin' gen'leman, Tim." She
would ask Becky the minute she got to the store. But the minute she got
to the store she had a customer to wait upon, and had no time to bestow
on Becky until she needed her service. Then she called "Number Five;"
but, instead of "Number Five," Lotty Riker responded.
"Where's Becky?" asked Lizzie.
"I dunno. She hain't come in; mebbe she's hangin' that May-basket for
the prize-fighter," giggled Lotty.
Business was very brisk that day, and Lizzie had no leisure for anything
else. But at noon, when she was going out to her lunch, it occurred to
her that Becky had not yet appeared. Where _could_ she be? She had
always been punctual to a minute.
The afternoon was busier than the morning, and once more Becky was
forgotten. It was not until the closing hour--five o'clock--that Lizzie
thought of her again, and then she burst out to Matty and Josie Kelly,
as they were leaving the store together,--
"Where _do_ you suppose Becky Hawkins is? She hasn't been here to-day,
and she's _always_ here, and so punctual."
"Mebbe she's taken it into her head to leave," answered Matty. "'T would
be just like her; she's that independent."
"Catch her leaving when she'd have anything to lose. She'd lose a week's
pay to leave without warning, and she knows it. She's too sharp to do
that," put in Josie, laughing,
"I hope she ain't sick," said Lizzie.
"Sick! _her_ kind don't get sick easy. Those Cove streeters are tough.
Lizzie, how much did she get out of you for showing you how to make that
"Why, what I agreed to give,--enough to make a basket for herself; and
last night, when she was going home, I gave her some of my
Mayflowers,--I had plenty."
"Well, I'm sure you are real generous."
"No, I'm not; it was a bargain."
"Yes, _Becky's_ bargain, and she'd like to have made a bargain with the
rest of us. The idea of taking you off into that fitting-room, so't the
rest of us wouldn't profit by her showing you, and then her talking
about private lessons!"
"Oh, that was only her fun."
"Fun! and when one of the girls said, 'And private lessons must be paid
for, mustn't they, Becky?' and she answered, 'Yes, every time,' do you
think that was only fun?"
"Yes; and if it wasn't, I don't care. She's a right to make a little
something if she can. They're awful poor folks down there on Cove
"Make a little something! Yes, but I guess you wouldn't catch any of the
other girls here making a little something like that out of the friends
she was working alongside of."
"Friends!" exclaimed Lizzie.
"And say, Lizzie," went on Josie, paying no attention to Lizzie's
exclamation, "I'll bet you anything she _sold_ her basket, and very
likely to that prize-fighter,--that Tim."
"I don't care if she did. But don't let's talk any more about her. I
hate to talk about folks, and it doesn't do any good to think bad things
of 'em. But, hark, what's that the newsboys are crying? 'Awful disaster
down--' Where? Stop a minute, I'm going to buy a paper."
"Yes, here it is, awful disaster down in one of the Cove Street
tenement-houses," read Lizzie; and then, bringing up suddenly, she
cried, "Why, girls, girls, that's where Becky lives,--in one of those
"Go on, go on!" urged Matty; and Lizzie went on, and read: "'At six
o'clock this morning one of the most disastrous fires that we have had
for years broke out in the rear of the Cove Street tenement-houses, and,
owing to the high wind and the dryness of the season, it had gained such
headway by the time the engines arrived, that it looked as if not only
the whole block but the adjoining buildings were doomed; but after hours
of untiring effort on the part of the firemen, it was finally brought
under control. Several of the tenements were completely gutted, and the
wildest excitement prevailed as the panic-stricken tenants, with cries
and shrieks of terror, jumped from the windows, or in other ways sought
to save themselves. It is not yet ascertained how many lost their lives
in these attempts, but it is feared that the number is by no means
"I'm going down there! I'm going down there!" Lizzie cried out here,
breaking off her reading, and starting forward at a rapid pace.
"You needn't try to stop me, I'm _going_. Becky's down there somewhere,
and mebbe she's alive and hurt and needs something, and I'm going to
see. _You_ needn't come if you're afraid, but _I'm_ going!"
The two girls offered no further remonstrance, but silently turned; and
the three went on together toward the burned district.
"What yer doin' here?" asked a policeman gruffly, as they entered Cove
Street. "Go back! 't ain't no place for anybody that hain't got business
"I'm looking for little Becky Hawkins,--one of the girls in our store,"
"Yes; do you know her?"
"Should think I did. This is my beat,--known her all her life pretty
"Did she get out,--is she alive?" asked Lizzie, breathlessly.
"Yes, she's alive; she's down there in that corner house with her friend
The policeman's lips moved with a faint odd smile as he said this,--a
smile that Matty and Josie interpreted to mean that Becky was just what
the Riker girls had said she was,--a little Cove Street hoodlum,--while
Tim, the prize-fighter, was probably one of the friends of her family
that the policeman had probably now under arrest down in that "corner
house." Thrilling with this interpretation, Josie pulled at Lizzie's
sleeve, and made a frantic appeal to her to come away as the policeman
had advised, adding,--
"We are decent girls, and--it's a disgrace to have anything to do with
such a lot as Becky and her family and--"
"What yer talkin' 'bout?" suddenly interrupted the policeman,--"what yer
talkin' 'bout? Becky Hawkins a disgrace to yer! Come down here 'n' see
what the Cove Street folks think of Becky Hawkins!" and he wheeled
around as suddenly as he had spoken, and beckoned the girls to follow
They followed him down to the corner house, which stood blackened with
smoke and water, but otherwise uninjured, for it was just here that the
flames had been arrested, and in the hall-way the few poor remnants of
the household goods that had been saved from the other tenements were
huddled together. Pushing past these, the policeman stopped at an open
door whence issued a sound of voices. Lizzie started forward as a
familiar tone struck her ear, and smiling she exclaimed, "That's Becky!"
But the policeman pulled her back. "Wait a minute!" he said.
"Who's that speakin' to me?" called out the familiar voice. "Is it
Lizzie Macdonald from the store?"
"Yes, yes!" and, the policeman no longer holding her back, Lizzie
stepped over the threshold. There were two or three others in the room;
but over and beyond them Lizzie caught sight of Becky's big black eyes,
and hurrying forward cried: "Oh, Becky, I've only just got out of the
store, and just read about the fire, and I thought mebbe you were hurt,
and I came as fast as I could to see if I couldn't do something for you;
but I'm so glad you are all right--But," coming nearer and finding that
Becky was not standing, as she supposed, but propped up on a table,
"you're _not_ all right, are you?"
"No, I--I guess--I'm all wrong," responded Becky, with a queer little
smile, and an odd quaver to her voice.
"Oh, Becky, Becky, they ought to have taken better care of you,--a
little thing like you!"
"'Twas _she_ was takin' care of other folks," spoke up one of the women
in the room.
"Yes, 'twas a-savin' my Tim that did it," broke forth another. "She'd
got down the stairs all safe, and then she thought o' Tim and ran back
for him. She know'd I wasn't to home, and he was all alone; and she
saved him for me,--she saved him for me! She helped him out onto the
roof; 'twas too late for the stairs then, and a fireman got him down the
'scape; but Becky--Becky was behind, and the fire follered so fast, she
made a jump--and fell--oh, Becky! Becky!"
"Hush now!" said the other woman. "Don't keep a-goin' over it; yer worry
her, and it's no use."
"Went back for Tim, saved Tim the prize-fighter!" thought Lizzie, in
"The kid'll be all right soon," broke in another voice here.
Lizzie looked up, and saw a rough fellow, who had just come in, gazing
down at Becky with an expression that strangely softened his hard face.
Becky lifted her eyes at the sound of the voice.
"Hello, Jake," she said faintly.
"Hello, Becky, yer'll be all right soon, won't yer?"
"I'm all right now," said Becky, sleepily, "and Tim's all right. He
didn't get burnt, but the basket and all the pretty flowers did. If I
could make another--"
"_I'll_ make another for you," said Lizzie, pressing forward.
"And hang it for Tim?" asked Becky.
"Yes," answered Lizzie. Something in Lizzie's expression, in her tone,
roused Becky's wandering memory, and with a sudden flash of her old
mischief she said,--
"He's a fren' o' mine. Show up, Tim, and lemme interduce yer."
There was a movement on the other side of the table where Becky lay; and
then Lizzie saw, struggling up from a chair, a tiny crippled body,
wasted and shrunken,--the body of a child of seven with a shapely head
and the face of an intelligent boy of fifteen.
"That's him,--that's Tim,--the fightin' gen'leman I tole yer 'bout,"
said Becky, with a gay little smile at the remembrance of her joke and
how she "played it on 'em," and at the look of astonishment now on
Lizzie's face. And still with the gay little smile, but fainter voice,--
"Yer'll tell 'em, Lizzie,--the girls in the store,--how I played it on
'em; and when I git back--I'll--"
"Give her some air; she's faint," cried one of the women.
The tall young rough, Jake, sprang to the window and pulled it open,
letting in a fresh wind that blew straight up from the grassy banks
beyond the Cove.
"Do yer feel better, Becky?" he asked, as he saw her face brighten.
"I--I feel fus' rate--all well, Jake, and--I--I smell the Mayflowers.
They warn't burnt, were they? And oh, ain't they jolly, ain't they
jolly! Tim, Tim!"
"Yes, yes, Becky," answered Tim, in a shaking voice.
"Wait for me here Tim,--I--I'm goin' to find 'em for yer, Tim,--ther,
ther Mayflowers. They're close by; don't yer smell 'em? Close by--I'm
goin'--to find 'em for yer, Tim!" And with a radiant smile of
anticipation Becky's soul went out upon its happy quest, leaving behind
her the grime and poverty of Cove Street forever.
The two women--and one of them was Becky's aunt with whom the girl had
always lived--broke into sobs and tears; but as the latter looked at the
radiant face, she said suddenly,--
"She's well out of it all."
"But there's them that'll be worse for her goin'," said the other; "and
't ain't only Tim I mean, it's the like o' _him_," nodding towards Jake,
who was slipping quietly out of the room,--"it's the like o' him. They
looked up to her, they did,--bit of a thing as she was. She was that
straight and plucky and gin'rous she did 'em good; she made 'em better.
Jake's often said she was the Cove Street mascot."
And with these words sounding in her ears, Lizzie crept softly from the
room. Just over the threshold, in the shadow of the broken bits of
furniture that had been saved from the fire, she started to see Matty
and Josie still waiting for her.
"What!" she cried, "have you been here all the time--have you seen--have
They nodded; and Matty whispered brokenly,--
"Oh, Lizzie, I ain't never again goin' to think bad things of anybody I
"Nor I, nor I," said Josie, huskily.
"What have you done with those new overshoes, Ally?"
"Put 'em away."
"Well, you can just go and get 'em, then. Come, hurry up, for I want to
wear 'em down town."
But Ally didn't move.
"Ally, do you hear?" cried her cousin Florence.
"Yes, I hear, but I ain't a-going to mind you. The rubbers are mine, and
you've worn 'em about enough already; you're stretching 'em all out, for
your foot is bigger than mine."
"No such thing. I'm not hurting them in the least."