A child in a faded tam-o’-shanter that had once been baby blue, and a shoddy coatofaglaring,unpropitiousnewness,wassittinguncomfortablyontheedge ofahansomseat,andgazingsoberlyoutatthetrafficofFifthAvenue. Theyoungmanbesideher,ablond,sleek,narrow-headedyouthineye-glasses, wasliterallymakingconversationwithher.Thatis,hewasengagedinapalpable effort to make conversation—to manufacture out of the thin crisp air of that NovembermorningandtherandomimpressionsoftheirprogressuptheAvenue, somethingwithageneralresemblancetotête-à-têtedialogueasheunderstoodit. Hewassucceedingonlyindifferently. “See,Eleanor,”hepointedbrightlywithhissticktotheflowershoptheywere 2 passing,“seethatbuildingwiththeredroof,andallthosewindowboxes.Don’t youthinkthoselittletreesinpotsoutsidelooklikeChristmastrees?Sometimes whenyourAuntsBeulahandMargaretandGertrude,whomyouhaven’tmetyet —thoughyouareonyourwaytomeetthem,youknow—sometimeswhenthey have been very good, almost good enough to deserve it, I stop by that little flowershopandbuyachastehalfdozenofgardeniasandtheiraccessories,and dividethemamongthethree.” “Do you?” the child asked, without wistfulness. She was a good child, David Bolling decided,—a sporting child, willing evidently to play when it was her turn, even when she didn’t understand the game at all. It was certainly a new kindofgamethatshewouldbesosoonexpectedtoplayherpartin,—arather seriouskindofgame,ifyouchosetolookatitthatway. David himself hardly knew how to look at it. He was naturally a conservative young man, who had been brought up by his mother to behave as simply as possibleonalloccasions,andtoavoidtheconspicuousastacitlyandtactfullyas 3 one avoids a new disease germ. His native point of view, however, had been somewhatdeflectedbyhisassociations.Hisintimatecircleconsistedofasetof
people who indorsed his mother’s decalogue only under protest, and with the moststringentreservations.Thatis,theywereyoungandhealthy,andsomewhat overcharged with animal spirits, and their reactions were all very intense and emphatic. Hewastryingatthisinstanttolookrathermoreasifhewerelikelytomeetone ofhisownfriendsthanoneofhismother’s.Hismother’sfriendswouldnothave understood his personal chaperonage of the shabby little girl at his elbow. Her hair was not even properly brushed. It looked frazzled and tangled; and at the corner of one of her big blue eyes, streaking diagonally across the pallor in whichitwasset,wasalineofdirt,—atearmark,itmighthavebeen,thoughthat didn’tmakethegeneraleffectanylessuntidy,Davidthought;onlyatriflemore uncomfortablypathetic.Shewasanicelittlegirl,thatfactwasbecomingmore and more apparent to David, but any friend of his mother’s would have wondered, and expressed him or herself as wondering, why in the name of all sensitivenesshehadnottakenataxicab,oratleastsomethinginthenatureofa closed vehicle, if he felt himself bound to deliver in person this curious little strangertowhatevermysteriousdestinationshewasfor. “Ithoughtyou’dlikeahansom,Eleanor,betterthanataxi-cab,becauseyoucan seemore.You’veneverbeeninthispartofNewYorkbefore,Iunderstand.” “No,sir.” “YoucameupfromColhassettlastSaturday,didn’tyou?Mrs.O’Farrelwroteto your grandmother to send you on to us, and you took the Saturday night boat fromFallRiver.” “Yes,sir.” “Didyoutravelalone,Eleanor?” “AfriendofGrandpa’scameuponthetrainwithme,andleftmeonthevessel. HetoldthecoloredladyandgentlemantoseeifIwasallright,—Mr.Porterand Mrs.Steward.” “Andwereyouallright?”David’seyestwinkled. “Yes,sir.” “Notseasick,norhomesick?” The child’s fine-featured face quivered for a second, then set again into impassive stoic lines, and left David wondering whether he had witnessed a vibration of real emotion, or the spasmodic twitching of the muscles that is so
characteristicoftheruralpublicschool. “Iwasn’tseasick.” “Tell me about your grandparents, Eleanor.” Then as she did not respond, he repeatedalittlesharply,“Tellmeaboutyourgrandparents,won’tyou?” Thechildstillhesitated.DavidbowedtothewifeofaStandardOildirectorina passing limousine, and one of the season’s prettiest débutantes, who was walking; and because he was only twenty-four, and his mother was very, very ambitiousforhim,hewonderedifthetearsmudgeonthefaceofhiscompanion hadbeenevidentfromthesidewalk,anddecidedthatitmusthavebeen. “Idon’tknowhowtotell,”thechildsaidatlast,“Idon’tknowwhatyouwant metosay.” “Idon’twantyoutosayanythinginparticular,justingeneral,youknow.” David stuck. The violet eyes were widening with misery, there was no doubt aboutit.“Game,cleanthrough,”hesaidtohimself.Aloudhecontinued.“Well, youknow,Eleanor.—Neversay‘Well,’ifyoucanpossiblyavoidit,becauseit’s a flagrant Americanism, and when you travel in foreign parts you’re sure to regretit,—well,youknow,ifyouaretobeinameasuremyward—andyouare, mydear,aswellasthewardofyourAuntsBeulahandMargaretandGertrude, and your Uncles Jimmie and Peter—I ought to begin by knowing a little somethingofyourantecedents.ThatiswhyIsuggestedthatyoutellmeabout your grandparents. I don’t care what you tell me, but I think it would be very suitableforyoutotellmesomething.AretheynativeCapeCodders?I’maNew Englandermyself,youknow,soyoumaybeperfectlyfrankwithme.” “They’renotsummerfolks,”thechildsaid.“TheyjustliveinColhassettallthe yearround.Theyliveinabigwhitehouseonthedepotroad,butthey’resoold now,theycan’tkeepitup.Ifitwaspainteditwouldbearealprettyhouse.” “Yourgrandparentsarenotverywelloffthen?” The child colored. “They’ve got lots of things,” she said, “that Grandfather brought home when he went to sea, but it was Uncle Amos that sent them the moneytheylivedon.Whenhediedtheydidn’thaveany.” “Howlonghashebeendead?” “TwoyearsagoChristmas.” “Youmusthavehadsomemoneysincethen.”
“Not since Uncle Amos died, except for the rent of the barn, and the pasture land,andafewthingslikethat.” “Youmusthavehadmoneyputaway.” “No,” the little girl answered. “We didn’t. We didn’t have any money, except whatcameinthewayIsaid.Wesoldsomeold-fashioneddishes,andalittlebit ofcranberrybogfortwenty-fivedollars.Wedidn’thaveanyothermoney.” “But you must have had something to live on. You can’t make bricks without straw, or grow little girls up without nourishing food in their tummies.” He caughtanunexpectedflickerofaneyelash,andrealizedforthefirsttimethatthe child was acutely aware of every word he was saying, that even his use of English was registering a poignant impression on her consciousness. The thoughtstrangelyembarrassedhim.“WesaytummiesinNewYork,Eleanor,”he explainedhastily.“It’sdonehere.TheNewEnglandstomick,however,isalmost entirely obsolete. You’ll really get on better in the circles to which you are so soon to be accustomed if you refer to it in my own simple fashion;—but to returntoourmuttons,Eleanor,whichisFrenchforgettingdowntocases,again, youmusthavehadsomethingtoliveonafteryouruncledied.Youarealivenow. Thatwouldalmostseemtoprovemycontention.” “Wedidn’thaveanymoney,butwhatIearned.” “But—whatyouearned.Whatdoyoumean,Eleanor?” The child’s face turned crimson, then white again. This time there was no mistakingthewaveofsensitiveemotionthatsweptoverit. “Iworkedout,”shesaid.“Imadeadollarandahalfaweekrunningerrands,and takingcareofasickladyvacations,andnightsafterschool.Grandmahadthat shock,andGrandpa’sbacktroubledhim.Hetriedtogetworkbuthecouldn’t. HedidallhecouldtakingcareofGrandma,andtendingthegarden.Theyhated tohavemeworkout,buttherewasnobodyelseto.” “Afamilyofthreecan’tliveonadollarandahalfaweek.” “Yes,sir,theycan,iftheymanage.” “Wherewereyourneighborsallthistime,Eleanor?Youdon’tmeantotellme thatthegood,kindlypeopleofCapeCodwouldhavestoodbyandletalittlegirl likeyousupportafamilyaloneandunaided.It’spreposterous.” “Theneighborsdidn’tknow.TheythoughtUncleAmosleftussomething.Lots ofCapeCodchildrenworkout.TheythoughtthatIdiditbecauseIwantedto.”
“Isee,”saidDavidgravely. Thewheeloftheircabbecameentangledinthatofasmartdeliverywagon.He watcheditthoughtfully.Thenhetookoffhisglasses,andpolishedthem. “Through a glass darkly,” he explained a little thickly. He was really a very youngyoungman,andoncebelowthesurfaceofwhathewaspleasedtobelieve averyworldlyandcynicalmanner,hehadaprofounddepthoftendernessand humansympathy. ThenastheyjoggedonthroughtheFifty-ninthStreetendofthePark,looking strangely seared and bereft from the first blight of the frost, he turned to her again.Thistimehistonewasasseriousasherown. “Whydidyoustopworkingout,Eleanor?”heasked. “TheladyIwastendingdied.Therewasn’tnobodyelsewhowantedme.Mrs. O’Farrelwasarelationofhers,andwhenshecametothefuneral,Itoldherthat IwantedtogetworkinNewYorkifIcould,—andthenlastweekshewroteme that the best she could do was to get me this place to be adopted, and so—I came.” “Butyourgrandparents?”Davidasked,andrealizedalmostashespokethathe hadhisfingeronthespringofthetragedy. “Theyhadtotakehelpfromthetown.” Thechildmadeabravestrugglewithhertears,andDavidlookedawayquickly. He knew something of the temper of the steel of the New England nature; the fierce and terrible pride that is bred in the bone of the race. He knew that the child before him had tasted of the bitter waters of humiliation in seeing her kindred“helped”bythetown.“Goingouttowork,”heunderstood,hadbrought thefamilypridelow,buttakinghelpfromthetownhadleveledittothedust. “Thereis,youknow,asmallsalarythatgoeswiththisbeingadoptedbusiness,” heremarkedcasuallyafewsecondslater.“YourAuntsGertrudeandBeulahand Margaret, and your three stalwart uncles aforesaid, are not the kind of people whohavebeenbroughtuptoexpectsomethingfornothing.Theydon’texpectto adoptaperfectlygoodorphanwithoutmoneyandwithoutprice,merelyforthe privilegeofexperimentation.No,indeed,anorphaningoodstandingofthebest NewEnglandextractionoughttoexactforherservicesasalaryofatleastfifteen dollarsamonth.Iwouldn’tconsenttotakeacentless,Eleanor.” “Wouldn’t you?” the child asked uncertainly. She sat suddenly erect, as if an
actual burden had been dropped from her shoulders. Her eyes were not violet, Daviddecided,hehadbeendeceivedbythedepthoftheircoloring;theywere blue,Mediterraneanblue,andherlasheswereaninchandahalflongatthevery least.Shewasnotonlypretty,shewasgoingtobebeautifulsomeday.Astrange premonitionstruckDavidofafutureinwhichthislong-lashed,stoicbabywasin somewayinextricablybound. “Howoldareyou?”heaskedherabruptly. “Tenyearsolddaybeforeyesterday.” TheyhadbeenmakingtheirwaythroughthePark;thesearer,yellowerParkof lateNovember.ItlookeddullerandmorecheerlessthanDavideverremembered it.Theleavesrattledonthetrees,andthesunwentdownsuddenly. “ThisisCentralPark,”hesaid.“Inthespringit’sverybeautifulhere,andallthe peopleyouknowgomotoringordrivingintheafternoon.” He bowed to his mother’s milliner in a little French runabout. The Frenchman stared frankly at the baby blue tam-o’-shanter and the tangled golden head it surmounted. “Joseph could make you a peachy tam-o’-shanter looking thing of blue velvet; I’llbetIcoulddrawhimapicturetocopy.YourUncleDavid,youknow,isan artistofasort.” For the first time since their incongruous association began the child met his smile;herfacerelaxedeversolittle,andthelipsquivered,butshesmiledashy, littledawningsmile.Therewastrustinitandconfidence.Davidputouthishand topathers,butthoughtbetterofit. “Eleanor,” he said, “my mother knows our only living Ex-president, and the Countess of Warwick, one Vanderbilt, two Astors, and she’s met Sir Gilbert Parker,andRudyardKipling.Shealsoknowsmanyofthestarsandsatellitesof upperFifthAvenue.Shehas,aswell,familyconnectionsofsomuchweightand stolidity that their very approach, singly or in conjunction, shakes the earth underneaththem.—Iwishwecouldmeetthemall,Eleanor,everyblessedoneof them.”
“I wonder how a place like this apartment will look to her,” Beulah said thoughtfully.“Iwonderifitwillseemelegant,orcrampedtodeath.Iwonderif shewilltaketoitkindly,orwithanillconcealedcontemptforitslimitations.” “Thepoorlittlethingwillprobablybesofrightenedandhomesickbythetime Davidgetsherhere,thatshewon’tknowwhatkindofaplaceshe’sarrivedat,” Gertrudesuggested.“Oh,Iwouldn’tbeinyourshoesforthenextfewdaysfor anythingintheworld,BeulahPage;wouldyou,Margaret?” Thethirdgirlinthegroupsmiled. “Idon’tknow,”shesaidthoughtfully.“Itwouldberatherfuntobeginit.” “I’dratherhaveherforthefirsttwomonths,andgetitoverwith,”Beulahsaid decisively.“It’llbehangingoveryourheadlongaftermyordealisover,andby thetimeIhavetohaveheragainshe’llbeabsolutelyintraining.Youdon’tcome until the fifth on the list you know, Gertrude. Jimmie has her after me, then 15 Margaret,thenPeter,andyou,andDavid,ifhehasgotupthecouragetotellhis motherbythattime.” “Butifhehasn’t,”Gertrudesuggested. “Hecanworkitoutforhimself.He’sgottotakethechildtwomonthslikethe restofus.He’sagreedto.” “Hewill,”Margaretsaid,“I’veneverknownhimtogobackonhiswordyet.” “TrustMargarettostickupforDavid.Anyway,I’vetakentheprecautiontoput itinwriting,asyouknow,andthedocumentisfiled.” “We’renotadoptingthisinfantlegally.” “No,Gertrude,wecan’t,—yet,butmorallyweare.Sheisn’taninfant,she’sten yearsold.Iwishyougirlswouldtakethematteralittlemoreseriously.We’ve
bound ourselves to be responsible for this child’s whole future. We have undertakenhermoral,socialandreligiouseducation.Herbodyandsoulareto be—” “Equallydividedamongus,”Gertrudecutin. Beulahscornedtheinterruption. “—heldsacredlyintrustbythesixofus,severallyandcollectively.” “Whyhaven’tweadoptedherlegallythen?”Margaretasked. “Well,yousee,therearepracticalobjections.Youhavetobeacorporationoran institutionorsomething,toadoptachildasagroup.Achildcan’thavethreesets of parents in the eyes of the law, especially when none of them is married, or have the leastintention ofbeing married,toeachother.—Idon’tseewhatyou wanttokeeplaughingat,Gertrude.It’sallalittleunusualandmodernandthat sortofthing,butIdon’tthinkit’sfunny.Doyou,Margaret?” “Ithinkthatit’sfunny,butIthinkthatit’sserious,too,Beulah.” “Idon’tseewhat’sfunnyabout—”Beulahbeganhotly. “You don’t see what’s funny about anything,—even Rogers College, do you, darling?Itisfunnythoughforthebunchofustoundertaketheupbringingofa childtenyearsold;tomakeourselvesfinanciallyandspirituallyresponsiblefor it.It’salotmorethanfunny,Iknow,butitdoesn’tseemtomeasifIcouldgoon withitatall,untilsomebodywaswillingtoadmitwhatascreamthewholething is.” “We’lladmitthat,ifthat’sallyouwant,won’twe,Beulah?”Margaretappealed. “If I’ve got this insatiable sense of humor, let’s indulge it by all means,” Gertrudelaughed.“Goon,chillun,goon,I’lltrytobegoodnow.” “I wish you would,” Margaret said. “Confine yourself to a syncopated chortle whileIgetafewfactsoutofBeulah.Ididmostofmyvotingonthisproposition byproxy,whileIwashavingthemeaslesinquarantine.Beulah,didIunderstand youtosayyougotholdofyourvictimthroughMrs.O’Farrel,yourseamstress?” “Yes,whenwedecidedwe’ddothis,wethoughtwe’dgetachildaboutsix.We couldn’t have her any younger, because there would be bottles, and expert feeding, and well, you know, all those things. We couldn’t have done it, especially the boys. We thought six would be just about the right age, but we simply couldn’t find a child that would do. We had to know about its
antecedents.Welookedthroughtheorphanasylums,buttherewasn’tanything pure-blooded American that we could be sure of. We were all agreed that we wantedpureAmericanblood.IknewMrs.O’FarrelhadrelativesonCapeCod. Youknowwhatthatstockis,agoodsea-faringstrain,andaraceofwonderfully finewomen,‘atavisticaristocrats’IrememberanauthorintheAtlanticMonthly called them once. I suppose you think it’s funny to groan, Gertrude, when anybodymakesaliteraryallusion,butitisn’t.Well,anyway,Mrs.O’Farrelknew about this child, and sent for her. She stayed with Mrs. O’Farrel over Sunday, andnowDavidisbringingherhere.She’llbehereinaminute.” “WhyDavid?”Gertrudetwinkled. “Why not David?” Beulah retorted. “It will be a good experience for him, besidesDavidissoamusingwhenhetriestobe,Ithoughthecoulddivertheron theway.” “It isn’t such a crazy idea, after all, Gertrude.” Margaret Hutchinson was the youngest of the three, being within several months of her majority, but she looked older. Her face had that look of wisdom that comes to the young who have suffered physical pain. “We’ve got to do something. We’re all too full of energy and spirits, at least the rest of you are, and I’m getting huskier every minute,totwirlourhandsanddonothing.Noneofuseverwantstobemarried, —that’ssettled;butwedowanttobeuseful.We’reaunitedgroupoftheclosest kind of friends, bound by the ties of—of—natural selection, and we need a purposeinlife.Gertrude’sarealartist,buttherestofusarenot,and—and—” “What could be more natural for us than to want the living clay to work on? That’stheidea,isn’tit?”Gertrudesaid.“IcanbeseriousifIwantto,Beulahland, but, honestly, girls, when I come to face out the proposition, I’m almost afraid to. What’ll I do with that child when it comes to be my turn? What’ll Jimmiedo?Buyherastringofpearls,andshowherthenightlifeofNewYork verylikely.How’llIbreakittomymother?That’sthecheerfullittleechoinmy thoughtsnightandday.Howdidyoubreakittoyours,Beulah?” Beulahflushed.Herseriousbrowneyes,deepbrownwithwine-coloredlightsin them,metthoseofeachofherfriendsinturn.Thenshelaughed. “Well, I do know this is funny,” she said, “but, you know, I haven’t dared tell her.She’llbeawayforamonth,anyway.AuntAnnishere,butI’monlytelling herthatI’mhavingalittlegirlfromthecountrytovisitme.” OccasionallythearchitectofanapartmentontheupperwestsideofNewYork —bypureaccident,itwouldseem,sincethegeneralrunofsuchapartmentsisso
uncomfortable,andunfriendly—hitsuponaplanforagroupofroomsthatareat once graciously proportioned and charmingly convenient, while not being an absolute offense to the eye in respect to the details of their decoration. Beulah Pageandhermotherlivedinsuchanapartment,andtheyhadmanagedwitha few ancestral household gods, and a good many carefully related modern additionstothem,tomakeoftheireightroomsandbath,tosaynothingofthe ubiquitousbutler’s-pantry,somethingveryremarkablyresemblingahome,inits mostdelightfulconnotation:anditwasinthedrawingroomofthishomethatthe threegirlsweregathered. Beulah,theyoungerdaughterofawidowedmother—nowvisitinginthehome of the elder daughter, Beulah’s sister Agatha, in the expectation of what the Victorians refer to as an “interesting event”—was technically under the chaperonageofherAuntAnn,asolemnlittlespinsterwithnocontrolwhatever overthemovementsofherdeterminedyoungniece. Beulahwasjustoutofcollege,—justout,infact,ofthemosthigh-mindedofall the colleges for women;—that founded by Andrew Rogers in the year of our Lordeighteenhundredandsixty-one.Thereisprobablyagreaterpercentageof purposefulyoungwomengraduatedfromRogersCollegeeveryyear,thanfrom any other one of the communities of learning devoted to the education of women; and of all the purposeful classes turned out from that admirable institution,Beulah’sclasscouldwithoutexaggerationbedesignatedasthemost purposefulclassofthemall.ThatBeulahwasnotthemostpurposefulmember of her class merely argues that an almost abnormally high standard of purposefulnesswasmaintainedbypracticallyeveryindividualinit. AtRogerseverygraduatingclasshasitsfad;itspropagandaforacrusadeagainst themoststartlingevilsoftheworld.Oneyear,thesacredoutlinesofthehuman figure are protected against disfigurement by an ardent group of young classicists in Grecian draperies. The next, a fierce young brood of vegetarians challengealethargicworldtomortalcombatoveranArgentinesirloin.Theyear of Beulah’s graduation, the new theories of child culture that were gaining serious headway in academic circles, had filtered into the class rooms, and Beulah’s mates had contracted the contagion instantly. The entire senior class went mad on the subject of child psychology and the various scientific prescriptionsforthedirectionoftheyoungidea. It was therefore primarily to Beulah Page, that little Eleanor Hamlin, of Colhassett, Massachusetts, owed the change in her fortune. At least it was to Beulahthatsheowedtheinitialinspirationthatsetthewheelofthatfortunein
motion; but it was to the glorious enterprise and idealism of youth, and the courage of a set of the most intrepid and quixotic convictions that ever quickened in the breasts of a mad half dozen youngsters, that she owed the actualfulfillmentofheradventure. Thesoundofthedoor-bellbroughtthethreegirlstotheirfeet,butthefootfallsin thecorridor,double quicktime, andaccentuated, announcedmerelythearrival of Jimmie Sears, and Peter Stuyvesant, nicknamed Gramercy by common consent. “Hasshecome?”Peterasked. ButJimmiestruckanattitudeinthemiddleofthefloor. “Mydaughter,oh!mydaughter,”hecried.“Thissuspenseiskillingme.Forthe loveofMike,children,whereisshe?” “She’scoming,”Beulahanswered;“David’sbringingher.” Gertrude pushed him into the chaise-lounge already in the possession of Margaret,andsqueezedinbetweenthem. “Hold my hand, Jimmie,” she said. “The feelings of a father are nothing, —nothingincomparisontothosewhichsmolderinthematernalbreast.Lookat Beulah,howwhitesheis,andMargaretistremblingthisminute.” “I’mtrembling,too,”Petersaid,“orifI’mnottrembling,I’mfrightened.” “We’reallfrightened,”Margaretsaid,“butwe’regame.” Thedoor-bellrangagain. “Theretheycome,”Beulahsaid,“oh!everybodybegoodtome.” ThefamiliarfigureoftheirgoodfriendDavidappearedonthethresholdatthis instant,andbesidehimanodd-lookinglittlefigureinashoddyclothcoat,anda faded blue tam-o’-shanter. There was a long smudge of dirt reaching from the cornerofhereyewelldownintothemiddleofhercheek.Akindofcomposite gasp went up from the waiting group, a gasp of surprise, consternation, and panic.Notoneofthefivecouldhavetoldatthatinstantwhatitwasheexpected tosee,orhowhisimaginationofthechilddifferedfromtheconcretereality,but amazement and keen disappointment constrained them. Here was no figure of romance and delight. No miniature Galatea half hewn out of the block of humanity, waiting for the chisel of a composite Pygmalion. Here was only a grubby,littleunkemptchild,likeallotherchildren,butnotsopresentable.
“What’s the matter with everybody?” said David with unnatural sharpness. “I want to present you to our ward, Miss Eleanor Hamlin, who has come a long way for the pleasure of meeting you. Eleanor, these are your cooperative parents.” Thechild’ssetgazefollowedhisgestureobediently.Davidtookthelittlehandin his,andledtheownerintotheheartofthegroup.Beulahsteppedforward. “ThisisyourAuntBeulah,Eleanor,ofwhomI’vebeentellingyou.” “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Aunt Beulah,” the little girl said, as Beulahputoutherhand,stilluncertainly. Thenthefivesawastrangethinghappen.Theimmaculate,inscrutableDavid— the aristocrat of aristocrats, the one undemonstrative, super-self-conscious member of the crowd, who had been delegated to transport the little orphan chieflybecausetheerrandwassoincongruousamissiononwhichtodespatch him—David put his arm around the neck of the child with a quick protecting gesture,andthengatheredhercloseinhisarms,wheresheclung,quiveringand sobbing,theunkemptcurlsstragglinghelplesslyoverhisshoulder. HestrodeacrosstheroomwhereMargaretwasstillsittinguprightinthechaiselounge,herdove-grayeyeswide,herlipsparted. “Here,youtakeher,”hesaid,withoutceremony,andslippedhisburdenintoher arms. “Welcometoourcity,Kiddo,”Jimmiesaidinhisthroat,butnobodyheardhim. Peter,whosehabititwastowalkupanddownendlesslywhereverhefeltmostat home, paused in his peregrination, as Margaret shyly gathered the rough little headtoherbosom.Thechildmethisgazeashedidso. “Weweren’tquiteuptoscratch,”hesaidgravely. Beulah’seyesfilled.“Peter,”shesaid,“Peter,Ididn’tmeantobe—nottobe—” ButPeterseemednottoknowshewasspeaking.Thechild’seyesstillheldhim, andhe stoodgazingdownather,hishandsomeheadthrownslightlyback;his facedeeplyintent;hiseyessoftened. “I’myourUnclePeter,Eleanor,”hesaid,andbentdowntillhislipstouchedher forehead.
Eleanor walked over to the steam pipes, and examined them carefully. The terriblerattlingnoisehadstopped,ashadalsothechokingandgurglingthathad kept her awake because it was so like the noise that Mrs. O’Farrel’s aunt, the sickladyshehadhelpedtotakecareof,madeconstantlyforthelasttwoweeks of her life. Whenever there was a sound that was anything like that, Eleanor couldnothelpshivering.Shehadneverseensteampipesbefore.WhenBeulah hadshownhertheroomwhereshewastosleep—aroomallinblue,babyblue, and pink roses—Eleanor thought that the silver pipes standing upright in the corner were a part of some musical instrument, like a pipe organ. When the rattlingsoundhadbegunshethoughtthatsomeonehadcomeintotheroomwith her,andwastuningit.Shehaddrawnthepinksilkpuffcloselyaboutherears, andtriednottobefrightened.Tryingnottobefrightenedwasthewayshehad 28 to spent a good deal of her time since her Uncle Amos died, and she had had lookoutforhergrandparents. Now that it was morning, and the bright sun was streaming into the windows, she ventured to climb out of bed and approach the uncanny instrument. She tripped on the trailing folds of that nightgown her Aunt Beulah—it was funny thatalltheseladiesshouldcallthemselvesheraunts,whentheywerereallyno relationtoher—hadinsistedonherwearing.Herownnightdresshadbeenleftin the time-worn carpetbag that Uncle David had forgotten to take out of the “handsome cab.” She stumbled against the silver pipes. They were hot; so hot that the flesh of her arm nearly blistered, but she did not cry out. Here was anothermysteriousproblemofthekindthatNewYorkpresentedateveryturn, tobesilentlyaccepted,anddealtwith. Her mother and father had once lived in New York. Her father had been born here, in a house with a brownstone front on West Tenth Street, wherever that was.SheherselfhadlivedinNewYorkwhenshewasababy,thoughshehad beenborninhergrandfather’shouseinColhassett.ShehadlivedinCincinnati, 29
Ohio,too,untilshewasfouryearsold,andherfatherandmotherhaddiedthere, bothinthesameweek,ofpneumonia.Shewishedthismorning,thatshecould rememberthehousewheretheylivedinNewYork,andthethingsthatwerein it. There was a knock on the door. Ought she to go and open the door in her nightdress?Oughtshetocallout“Comein?”Itmightbeagentleman,andher Aunt Beulah’s nightdress was not very thick. She decided to cough, so that whoeverwasoutsidemightunderstandshewasinthere,andhadheardthem. “MayIcomein,Eleanor?”Beulah’svoicecalled. “Yes,ma’am.”Shestartedtogetintobed,butMiss—Miss—thenearershewas toher,theharderitwastocallheraunt,—AuntBeulahmightthinkitwastime shewasup.Shecompromisedbysittingdowninachair. Beulah had passed a practically sleepless night working out the theory of Eleanor’s development. The six had agreed on a certain sketchily defined method of procedure. That is, they were to read certain books indicated by Beulah,andtofollowthegeneralschedulethatshewastoworkoutandadaptto theindividualneedsofthechildherself,duringthefirstphaseoftheexperiment. Shefeltthatshehadmanagedthereceptionbadly,thatshehadnotdoneorsaid the right thing. Peter’s attitude had shown that he felt the situation had been clumsilyhandled,anditwasshewhowasresponsibleforit.Peterwastookind tocriticizeher,butshehadvowedinthemuffleddepthsofafeverishpillowthat thereshouldbenomoreflagrantflawsintheconductofthecampaign. “Didyousleepwell,Eleanor?”sheasked. “Yes,ma’am.” “Areyouhungry?” “No,ma’am.” Theconversationlanguishedatthis. “Haveyouhadyourbath?” “Ididn’tknowIwastohaveone.” “Nicelittlegirlshaveabatheveryday.” “Do they?” Eleanor asked. Her Aunt Beulah seemed to expect her to say somethingmore,butshecouldn’tthinkofanything. “I’lldrawyourbathforyouthismorning.Afterthisyouwillbeexpectedtotake
ityourself.” Eleanorhadseenbathroomsbefore,butshehadneverbeeninabath-tub.Ather grandfather’s, she had taken her Saturday night baths in an old wooden washtub, which had water pouredinitfromthetea kettle. When Beulah closed the dooronhershesteppedgingerlyintothetub:thewaterwastwicetoohot,but shedidn’tknowhowtoturnthefaucet,orwhethershewasexpectedtoturnit. Mrs. O’Farrel had told her that people had to pay for water in New York. PerhapsAuntBeulahhaddrawnallthewatershecouldhave.Sheusedthesoap sparingly. Soap was expensive, she knew. She wished there was some way of discovering just how much of things she was expected to use. The number of towelsdistressedher,butshefinallytookthelittlestanddriedherself.Theheat ofthewaterhadnearlyparboiledher. Afterthat,shetriedtodoblindlywhatshewastold.Therewasagirlinablack dress and white apron that passed her everything she had to eat. Her Aunt Beulahtoldhertohelpherselftosugarandtocreamforheroatmeal,fromoff thisgirl’stray.Herhandtrembledagooddeal,butshewasfortunateenoughnot tospillany.Afterbreakfastshewassenttowashherhandsinthebathroom;she turned the faucet, and used a very little water. Then, when she was called, she wentintothesitting-roomandsatdown,andfoldedherhandsinherlap. Beulahlookedatherwithsomeperplexity.Thechildwasdocileandwilling,but sheseemedunexpectedlystupidforagirltenyearsold. “Haveyoueverbeenexaminedforadenoids,Eleanor?”sheaskedsuddenly. “No,ma’am.” “Say,‘no,AuntBeulah.’Don’tsay,‘no,ma’am’and‘yes,ma’am.’Peopledon’t say‘no,ma’am’and‘yes,ma’am’anymore,youknow.Theysay‘no’and‘yes,’ andthenmentionthenameofthepersontowhomtheyarespeaking.” “Yes, ma’am,” Eleanor couldn’t stop herself saying it. She wanted to correct herself.“No,AuntBeulah,no,AuntBeulah,”butthewordsstuckinherthroat. “Well,trytoremember,”Beulahsaid.Shewasthinkingofthecaseinabookof psychologythatshehadbeenreadingthatmorning,ofagirlwhowas“paleand sleepylooking,expressionlessofface,carelessofherpersonalappearance,”who after an operation for adenoids, had become “as animated and bright as before shehadbeenlethargicanddull.”ShewaspleasedtoseethatEleanor’sfinehair hadbeenscrupulouslycombed,andneatlybraidedthismorning,notbeingable torealize—ashowshouldshe?—thattheconditionofEleanor’sfinespunlocks
onherarrivalthenightbefore,hadbeenattributabletothefactthattheO’Farrel babyhadstolenhercomb,andEleanorhadbeentooshytomentionthefact,and hadcombedherhairmermaid-wise,throughherfingers. “This morning,” Beulah began brightly, “I am going to turn you loose in the apartment,andletyoudowhatyoulike.Iwanttogetanideaofthethingsyou do like, you know. You can sew, or read, or drum on the piano, or talk to me, anythingthatpleasesyoumost.Iwantyoutobehappy,that’sall,andtoenjoy yourselfinyourownway.” “Givethechildabsolutefreedominwhichtodemonstratetheworthandvalueof itsego,”—thatwaswhatshewasdoing,“keepingitcarefullyunderobservation whileyoudeterminetheindividualtrendalongwhichtoguideitsdevelopment.” Thelittlegirllookedaboutherhelplessly.Theroomwasverylargeandbright. The walls were white, and so was the woodwork, the mantle, and some of the furniture.Gayfiguredcurtainshungatthewindows,andtherewerelittlestools, and chairs, and even trays with glass over them, covered with the same bright coloredmaterial.Eleanorhadneverseenaroomanythinglikeit.Therewasno center-table,nocrayonportraitsofdifferentmembersofthefamily,noeasels,or scarvesthrownoverthecornersofthepictures.Therewerenotmanypictures, andthosethatthereweredidn’tseemtoEleanorlikepicturesatall,theywereall soblurryandsmudgy,—exceptingoneofabeautifullady.Shewouldhaveliked tohaveaskedthenameofthatlady,—butherAuntBeulah’seyeswereuponher. Sheslippeddownfromherchairandwalkedacrosstheroomtothewindow. “Well,dear,whatwouldmakethisthehappiestdayyoucanthinkof?”Beulah asked,inthetoneshewasgiventousewhensheaskedGertrudeandMargaret andJimmie—butnotoftenPeter—whattheyexpectedtodowiththeirlives. Eleanorturnedadesperatefacefromthewindow,fromtherowofblandelegant apartmentbuildingsshehadbeencontemplatingwithunseeingeyes. “DoIhaveto?”sheaskedBeulahpiteously. “Havetowhat?” “Havetoamusemyselfinmyownway?Idon’tknowwhatyouwantmetodo.I don’tknowwhatyouthinkthatIoughttodo.” A strong-minded and spoiled younger daughter of a widowed mother—whose chiefanxietyhadbeentoanticipatethewantsofherchildrenbeforetheywere expressed—with an independent income, and a beloved and admiring circle of intimate friends, is not likely to be imaginatively equipped to explore the