Little Lucy Rose
by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
BACK of the rectory there was a splendid, long hill. The ground receded
until the rectory garden was reached, and the hill was guarded on either
flank by a thick growth of pines and cedars, and, being a part of the land
appertaining to the rectory, was never invaded by the village children.
This was considered very fortunate by Mrs. Patterson, Jim's mother, and
for an odd reason. The rector's wife was very fond of coasting, as she was
of most out-of-door sports, but her dignified position prevented her from
enjoying them to the utmost. In many localities the clergyman's wife might
have played golf and tennis, have rode and swum and coasted and skated,
and nobody thought the worse of her; but in The Village it was different.
Sally had therefore rejoiced at the discovery of that splendid, isolated
hill behind the house. It could not have been improved upon for a long,
perfectly glorious coast, winding up on the pool of ice in the garden and
bumping thrillingly between dry vegetables. Mrs. Patterson steered and Jim
made the running pushes, and slid flat on his chest behind his mother. Jim
was very proud of his mother. He often wished that he felt at liberty to
tell of her feats. He had never been told not to tell, but realized, being
rather a sharp boy, that silence was wiser. Jim's mother confided in him,
and he respected her confidence. "Oh, Jim dear," she would often say,
"there is a mothers' meeting this afternoon, and I would so much rather go
coasting with you." Or, "There's a Guild meeting about a fair, and the ice
in the garden is really quite smooth."
It was perhaps unbecoming a rector's wife, but Jim loved his mother better
because she expressed a preference for the sports he loved, and considered
that no other boy had a mother who was quite equal to his. Sally Patterson
was small and wiry, with a bright face, and very thick, brown hair, which
had a boyish crest over her forehead, and she could run as fast as Jim.
Jim's father was much older than his mother, and very dignified, although
he had a keen sense of humor. He used to laugh when his wife and son came
in after their coasting expeditions.
"Well, boys," he would say, "had a good time?"
Jim was perfectly satisfied and convinced that his mother was the very
best and most beautiful person in the village, even in the whole world,
until Mr. Cyril Rose came to fill a vacancy of cashier in the bank, and
his daughter, little Lucy Rose, as a matter of course, came with him.
Little Lucy had no mother. Mr. Cyril's cousin, Martha Rose, kept his
house, and there was a colored maid with a bad temper, who was said,
however, to be invaluable "help."
Little Lucy attended Madame's school. She came the next Monday after Jim
and his friends had planned to have a chicken roast and failed. After Jim
saw little Lucy he thought no more of the chicken roast. It seemed to him
that he thought no more of anything. He could not by any possibility have
learned his lessons had it not been for the desire to appear a good
scholar before little Lucy. Jim had never been a self-conscious boy, but
that day he was so keenly worried about her opinion of him that his usual
easy swing broke into a strut when he crossed the room. He need not have
been so troubled, because little Lucy was not looking at him. She was not
looking at any boy or girl. She was only trying to learn her lesson.
Little Lucy was that rather rare creature, a very gentle, obedient child,
with a single eye for her duty. She was so charming that it was sad to
think how much her mother had missed, as far as this world was concerned.
The minute Madame saw her a singular light came into her eyes—the
light of love of a childless woman for a child. Similar lights were in the
eyes of Miss Parmalee and Miss Acton. They looked at one another with a
sort of sweet confidence when they were drinking tea together after school
in Madame's study.
"Did you ever see such a darling?" said Madame. Miss Parmalee said she
never had, and Miss Acton echoed her.
"She is a little angel," said Madame.
"She worked so hard over her geography lesson," said Miss Parmalee, "and
she got the Amazon River in New England and the Connecticut in South
America, after all; but she was so sweet about it, she made me want to
change the map of the world. Dear little soul, it did seem as if she ought
to have rivers and everything else just where she chose."
"And she tried so hard to reach an octave, and her little finger is too
short," said Miss Acton; "and she hasn't a bit of an ear for music, but
her little voice is so sweet it does not matter."
"I have seen prettier children," said Madame, "but never one quite such a
Miss Parmalee and Miss Acton agreed with Madame, and so did everybody
else. Lily Jennings's beauty was quite eclipsed by little Lucy, but Lily
did not care; she was herself one of little Lucy's most fervent admirers.
She was really Jim Patterson's most formidable rival in the school. "You
don't care about great, horrid boys, do you, dear?" Lily said to Lucy,
entirely within hearing of Jim and Lee Westminster and Johnny Trumbull and
Arnold Carruth and Bubby Harvey and Frank Ellis, and a number of others
who glowered at her.
Dear little Lucy hesitated. She did not wish to hurt the feelings of boys,
and the question had been loudly put. Finally she said she didn't know.
Lack of definite knowledge was little Lucy's rock of refuge in time of
need. She would look adorable, and say in her timid little fluty voice, "I
don't—know." The last word came always with a sort of gasp which was
alluring. All the listening boys were convinced that little Lucy loved
them all individually and generally, because of her "I don't—know."
Everybody was convinced of little Lucy's affection for everybody, which
was one reason for her charm. She flattered without knowing that she did
so. It was impossible for her to look at any living thing except with soft
eyes of love. It was impossible for her to speak without every tone
conveying the sweetest deference and admiration. The whole atmosphere of
Madame's school changed with the advent of the little girl. Everybody
tried to live up to little Lucy's supposed ideal, but in reality she had
no ideal. Lucy was the simplest of little girls, only intent upon being
good, doing as she was told, and winning her father's approval, also her
Martha Rose was quite elderly, although still good-looking. She was not
popular, because she was very silent. She dressed becomingly, received
calls and returned them, but hardly spoke a word. People rather dreaded
her coming. Miss Martha Rose would sit composedly in a proffered chair,
her gloved hands crossed over her nice, gold-bound card-case, her chin
tilted at an angle which never varied, her mouth in a set smile which
never wavered, her slender feet in their best shoes toeing out precisely
under the smooth sweep of her gray silk skirt. Miss Martha Rose dressed
always in gray, a fashion which the village people grudgingly admired. It
was undoubtedly becoming and distinguished, but savored ever so slightly
of ostentation, as did her custom of always dressing little Lucy in blue.
There were different shades and fabrics, but blue it always was. It was
the best color for the child, as it revealed the fact that her big, dark
eyes were blue. Shaded as they were by heavy, curly lashes, they would
have been called black or brown, but the blue in them leaped to vision
above the blue of blue frocks. Little Lucy had the finest, most delicate
features, a mist of soft, dark hair, which curled slightly, as mist curls,
over sweet, round temples. She was a small, daintily clad child, and she
spoke and moved daintily and softly; and when her blue eyes were fixed
upon anybody's face, that person straightway saw love and obedience and
trust in them, and love met love half-way. Even Miss Martha Rose looked
another woman when little Lucy's innocent blue eyes were fixed upon her
rather handsome but colorless face between the folds of her silvery hair;
Miss Martha's hair had turned prematurely gray. Light would come into
Martha Rose's face, light and animation, although she never talked much
even to Lucy. She never talked much to her cousin Cyril, but he was rather
glad of it. He had a keen mind, but it was easily diverted, and he was
engrossed in his business, and concerned lest he be disturbed by such
things as feminine chatter, of which he certainly had none in his own
home, if he kept aloof from Jenny, the colored maid. Hers was the only
female voice ever heard to the point of annoyance in the Rose house.
It was rather wonderful how a child like little Lucy and Miss Martha lived
with so little conversation. Martha talked no more at home than abroad;
moreover, at home she had not the attitude of waiting for some one to talk
to her, which people outside considered trying. Martha did not expect her
cousin to talk to her. She seldom asked a question. She almost never
volunteered a perfectly useless observation. She made no remarks upon
self-evident topics. If the sun shone, she never mentioned it. If there
was a heavy rain, she never mentioned that. Miss Martha suited her cousin
exactly, and for that reason, aside from the fact that he had been devoted
to little Lucy's mother, it never occurred to him to marry again. Little
Lucy talked no more than Miss Martha, and nobody dreamed that she
sometimes wanted somebody to talk to her. Nobody dreamed that the dear
little girl, studying her lessons, learning needlework, trying very
futilely to play the piano, was lonely; but she was without knowing it
herself. Martha was so kind and so still; and her father was so kind and
so still, engrossed in his papers or books, often sitting by himself in
his own study. Little Lucy in this peace and stillness was not having her
share of childhood. When other little girls came to play with her. Miss
Martha enjoined quiet, and even Lily Jennings's bird-like chattering
became subdued. It was only at school that Lucy got her chance for the
irresponsible delight which was the simple right of her childhood, and
there her zeal for her lessons prevented. She was happy at school,
however, for there she lived in an atmosphere of demonstrative affection.
The teachers were given to seizing her in fond arms and caressing her, and
so were her girl companions; while the boys, especially Jim Patterson,
looked wistfully on.
Jim Patterson was in love, a charming little poetical boy-love; but it was
love. Everything which he did in those days was with the thought of little
Lucy for incentive. He stood better in school than he had ever done
before, but it was all for the sake of little Lucy. Jim Patterson had one
talent, rather rudimentary, still a talent. He could play by ear. His
father owned an old violin. He had been inclined to music in early youth,
and Jim got permission to practise on it, and he went by himself in the
hot attic and practised. Jim's mother did not care for music, and her
son's preliminary scraping tortured her. Jim tucked the old fiddle under
one round boy-cheek and played in the hot attic, with wasps buzzing around
him; and he spent his pennies for catgut, and he learned to mend
fiddle-strings; and finally came a proud Wednesday afternoon when there
were visitors in Madame's school, and he stood on the platform, with Miss
Acton playing an accompaniment on the baby grand piano, and he managed a
feeble but true tune on his violin. It was all for little Lucy, but little
Lucy cared no more for music than his mother; and while Jim was playing
she was rehearsing in the depths of her mind the little poem which later
she was to recite; for this adorable little Lucy was, as a matter of
course, to figure in the entertainment. It therefore happened that she
heard not one note of Jim Patterson's painfully executed piece, for she
was saying to herself in mental singsong a foolish little poem, beginning:
There was one little flower that bloomed
Beside a cottage door.
When she went forward, little darling blue-clad figure, there was a murmur
of admiration; and when she made mistakes straight through the poem,
There was a little flower that fell
On my aunt Martha's floor,
for beginning, there was a roar of tender laughter and a clapping of
tender, maternal hands, and everybody wanted to catch hold of little Lucy
and kiss her. It was one of the irresistible charms of this child that
people loved her the more for her mistakes, and she made many, although
she tried so very hard to avoid them. Little Lucy was not in the least
brilliant, but she held love like a precious vase, and it gave out perfume
better than mere knowledge.
Jim Patterson was so deeply in love with her when he went home that night
that he confessed to his mother. Mrs. Patterson had led up to the subject
by alluding to little Lucy while at the dinner-table.
"Edward," she said to her husband—both she and the rector had been
present at Madame's school entertainment and the tea-drinking afterward—"did
you ever see in all your life such a darling little girl as the new
cashier's daughter? She quite makes up for Miss Martha, who sat here one
solid hour, holding her card-case, waiting for me to talk to her. That
child is simply delicious, and I was so glad she made mistakes."
"Yes, she is a charming child," assented the rector, "despite the fact
that she is not a beauty, hardly even pretty."
"I know it," said Mrs. Patterson, "but she has the worth of beauty."
Jim was quite pale while his father and mother were talking. He swallowed
the hot soup so fast that it burnt his tongue. Then he turned very red,
but nobody noticed him. When his mother came up-stairs to kiss him good
night he told her.
"Mother," said he, "I have something to tell you."
"All right, Jim," replied Sally Patterson, with her boyish air.
"It is very important," said Jim.
Mrs. Patterson did not laugh; she did not even smile. She sat down beside
Jim's bed and looked seriously at his eager, rapt, shamed little boy-face
on the pillow. "Well?" said she, after a minute which seemed difficult to
Jim coughed. Then he spoke with a blurt. "Mother," said Jim, "by and by,
of course not quite yet, but by and by, will you have any objection to
Miss Lucy Rose as a daughter?"
Even then Sally Patterson did not laugh or even smile. "Are you thinking
of marrying her, Jim?" asked she, quite as if her son had been a man.
"Yes, mother," replied Jim. Then he flung up his little arms in pink
pajama sleeves, and Sally Patterson took his face between her two hands
and kissed him warmly.
"She is a darling, and your choice does you credit, Jim," said she. "Of
course you have said nothing to her yet?"
"I thought it was rather too soon."
"I really think you are very wise, Jim," said his mother. "It is too soon
to put such ideas into the poor child's head. She is younger than you,
isn't she, Jim?"
"She is just six months and three days younger," replied Jim, with
"I thought so. Well, you know, Jim, it would just wear her all out, as
young as that, to be obliged to think about her trousseau and housekeeping
and going to school, too."
"I know it," said Jim, with a pleased air. "I thought I was right,
"Entirely right; and you, too, really ought to finish school, and take up
a profession or a business, before you say anything definite. You would
want a nice home for the dear little thing, you know that, Jim."
Jim stared at his mother out of his white pillow. "I thought I would stay
with you, and she would stay with her father until we were both very much
older," said he. "She has a nice home now, you know, mother."
Sally Patterson's mouth twitched a little, but she spoke quite gravely and
reasonably. "Yes, that is very true," said she; "still, I do think you are
wise to wait, Jim."
When Sally Patterson had left Jim, she looked in on the rector in his
study. "Our son is thinking seriously of marrying, Edward," said she.
The rector stared at her. She had shut the door, and she laughed.
"He is very discreet. He has consulted me as to my approval of her as
daughter and announced his intention to wait a little while."
The rector laughed; then he wrinkled his forehead uneasily. "I don't like
the little chap getting such ideas," said he.
"Don't worry, Edward; he hasn't got them," said Sally Patterson.
"I hope not."
"He has made a very wise choice. She is that perfect darling of a Rose
girl who couldn't speak her piece, and thought we all loved her when we
"Well, don't let him get foolish ideas; that is all, my dear," said the
"Don't worry, Edward. I can manage him," said Sally.
But she was mistaken. The very next day Jim proposed in due form to little
Lucy. He could not help it. It was during the morning intermission, and he
came upon her seated all alone under a hawthorn hedge, studying her
arithmetic anxiously. She was in blue, as usual, and a very perky blue bow
sat on her soft, dark hair, like a bluebird. She glanced up at Jim from
under her long lashes.
"Do two and seven make eight or ten? If you please, will you tell me?"
"Say, Lucy," said Jim, "will you marry me by and by?"
Lucy stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"Will I what?"
"Marry me by and by?"
Lucy took refuge in her little harbor of ignorance. "I don't know," said
"But you like me, don't you, Lucy?"
"I don't know."
"Don't you like me better than you like Johnny Trumbull?"
"I don't know."
"You like me better than you like Arnold Carruth, don't you? He has curls
and wears socks."
"I don't know."
"When do you think you can be sure?"
"I don't know."
Jim stared helplessly at little Lucy. She stared back sweetly.
"Please tell me whether two and seven make six or eleven, Jim," said she.
"They make nine," said Jim.
"I have been counting my fingers and I got it eleven, but I suppose I must
have counted one finger twice," said little Lucy. She gazed reflectively
at her little baby-hands. A tiny ring with a blue stone shone on one
"I will give you a ring, you know," Jim said, coaxingly.
"I have got a ring my father gave me. Did you say it was ten, please,
"Nine," gasped Jim.
"All the way I can remember," said little Lucy, "is for you to pick just
so many leaves off the hedge, and I will tie them in my handkerchief, and
just before I have to say my lesson I will count those leaves."
Jim obediently picked nine leaves from the hawthorn hedge, and little Lucy
tied them into her handkerchief, and then the Japanese gong sounded and
they went back to school.
That night after dinner, just before Lucy went to bed, she spoke of her
own accord to her father and Miss Martha, a thing which she seldom did.
"Jim Patterson asked me to marry him when I asked him what seven and two
made in my arithmetic lesson," said she. She looked with the loveliest
round eyes of innocence first at her father, then at Miss Martha. Cyril
Rose gasped and laid down his newspaper.
"What did you say, little Lucy?" he asked.
"Jim Patterson asked me to marry him when I asked him to tell me how much
seven and two made in my arithmetic lesson."
Cyril Rose and his cousin Martha looked at each other.
"Arnold Carruth asked me, too, when a great big wasp flew on my arm and
Cyril and Martha continued to look. The little, sweet, uncertain voice
"And Johnny Trumbull asked me when I 'most fell down on the sidewalk; and
Lee Westminster asked me when I wasn't doing anything, and so did Bubby
"What did you tell them?" asked Miss Martha, in a faint voice.
"I told them I didn't know."
"You had better have the child go to bed now," said Cyril. "Good night,
little Lucy. Always tell father everything."
"Yes, father," said little Lucy, and was kissed, and went away with
When Martha returned, her cousin looked at her severely. He was a fair,
gentle-looking man, and severity was impressive when he assumed it.
"Really, Martha," said he, "don't you think you had better have a little
closer outlook over that baby?"
"Oh, Cyril, I never dreamed of such a thing," cried Miss Martha.
"You really must speak to Madame," said Cyril. "I cannot have such things
put into the child's head."
"Oh, Cyril, how can I?"
"I think it is your duty."
"Cyril, could not—you?"
Cyril grinned. "Do you think," said he, "that I am going to that elegant
widow schoolma'am and say, 'Madame, my young daughter has had four
proposals of marriage in one day, and I must beg you to put a stop to such
proceedings'? No, Martha; it is a woman's place to do such a thing as
that. The whole thing is too absurd, indignant as I am about it. Poor
So it happened that Miss Martha Rose, the next day being Saturday, called
on Madame, but, not being asked any leading question, found herself
absolutely unable to deliver herself of her errand, and went away with it
"Well, I must say," said Madame to Miss Parmalee, as Miss Martha tripped
wearily down the front walk—"I must say, of all the educated women
who have really been in the world, she is the strangest. You and I have
done nothing but ask inane questions, and she has sat waiting for them,
and chirped back like a canary. I am simply worn out."
"So am I," sighed Miss Parmalee.
But neither of them was so worn out as poor Miss Martha, anticipating her
cousin's reproaches. However, her wonted silence and reticence stood her
in good stead, for he merely asked, after little Lucy had gone to bed:
"Well, what did Madame say about Lucy's proposals?"
"She did not say anything," replied Martha.
"Did she promise it would not occur again?"
"She did not promise, but I don't think it will."
The financial page was unusually thrilling that night, and Cyril Rose, who
had come to think rather lightly of the affair, remarked, absent-mindedly;
"Well, I hope it does not occur again. I cannot have such ridiculous ideas
put into the child's head. If it does, we get a governess for her and take
her away from Madame's." Then he resumed his reading, and Martha, guilty
but relieved, went on with her knitting.
It was late spring then, and little Lucy had attended Madame's school
several months, and her popularity had never waned. A picnic was planned
to Dover's Grove, and the romantic little girls had insisted upon a May
queen, and Lucy was unanimously elected. The pupils of Madame's school
went to the picnic in the manner known as a "strawride." Miss Parmalee sat
with them, her feet uncomfortably tucked under her. She was the youngest
of the teachers, and could not evade the duty. Madame and Miss Acton
headed the procession, sitting comfortably in a victoria driven by the
colored man Sam, who was employed about the school. Dover's Grove was six
miles from the village, and a favorite spot for picnics. The victoria
rolled on ahead; Madame carried a black parasol, for the sun was on her
side and the day very warm. Both ladies wore thin, dark gowns, and both
felt the languor of spring.
The straw-wagon, laden with children seated upon the golden trusses of
straw, looked like a wagonload of blossoms. Fair and dark heads, rosy
faces looked forth in charming clusters. They sang, they chattered. It
made no difference to them that it was not the season for a straw-ride,
that the trusses were musty. They inhaled the fragrance of blooming boughs
under which they rode, and were quite oblivious to all discomfort and
unpleasantness. Poor Miss Parmalee, with her feet going to sleep, sneezing
from time to time from the odor of the old straw, did not obtain the full
beauty of the spring day. She had protested against the straw-ride.
"The children really ought to wait until the season for such things," she
had told Madame, quite boldly; and Madame had replied that she was well
aware of it, but the children wanted something of the sort, and the hay
was not cut, and straw, as it happened, was more easily procured.
"It may not be so very musty," said Madame; "and you know, my dear, straw
is clean, and I am sorry, but you do seem to be the one to ride with the
children on the straw, because"—Madame dropped her voice—"you
are really younger, you know, than either Miss Acton or I."
Poor Miss Parmalee could almost have dispensed with her few years of
superior youth to have gotten rid of that straw-ride. She had no parasol,
and the sun beat upon her head, and the noise of the children got horribly
on her nerves. Little Lucy was her one alleviation. Little Lucy sat in the
midst of the boisterous throng, perfectly still, crowned with her garland
of leaves and flowers, her sweet, pale little face calmly observant. She
was the high light of Madame's school, the effect which made the whole.
All the others looked at little Lucy, they talked to her, they talked at
her; but she remained herself unmoved, as a high light should be. "Dear
little soul," Miss Parmalee thought. She also thought that it was a pity
that little Lucy could not have worn a white frock in her character as
Queen of the May, but there she was mistaken. The blue was of a peculiar
shade, of a very soft material, and nothing could have been prettier. Jim
Patterson did not often look away from little Lucy; neither did Arnold
Carruth; neither did Bubby Harvey; neither did Johnny Trumbull; neither
did Lily Jennings; neither did many others.
Amelia Wheeler, however, felt a little jealous as she watched Lily. She
thought Lily ought to have been queen; and she, while she did not dream of
competing with incomparable little Lucy, wished Lily would not always look
at Lucy with such worshipful admiration. Amelia was inconsistent. She knew
that she herself could not aspire to being an object of worship, but the
state of being a nonentity for Lily was depressing. "Wonder if I jumped
out of this old wagon and got killed if she would mind one bit?" she
thought, tragically. But Amelia did not jump. She had tragic impulses, or
rather imaginations of tragic impulses, but she never carried them out. It
was left for little Lucy, flower-crowned and calmly sweet and gentle under
honors, to be guilty of a tragedy of which she never dreamed. For that was
the day when little Lucy was lost.
When the picnic was over, when the children were climbing into the
straw-wagon and Madame and Miss Acton were genteelly disposed in the
victoria, a lamentable cry arose. Sam drew his reins tight and rolled his
inquiring eyes around; Madame and Miss Acton leaned far out on either side
of the victoria.
"Oh, what is it?" said Madame. "My dear Miss Acton, do pray get out and
see what the trouble is. I begin to feel a little faint."
In fact, Madame got her cut-glass smelling-bottle out of her bag and began
to sniff vigorously. Sam gazed backward and paid no attention to her.
Madame always felt faint when anything unexpected occurred, and smelled at
the pretty bottle, but she never fainted.
Miss Acton got out, lifting her nice skirts clear of the dusty wheel, and
she scuttled back to the uproarious straw-wagon, showing her slender
ankles and trimly shod feet. Miss Acton was a very wiry, dainty woman,
full of nervous energy. When she reached the straw-wagon Miss Parmalee was
climbing out, assisted by the driver. Miss Parmalee was very pale and
visibly tremulous. The children were all shrieking in dissonance, so it
was quite impossible to tell what the burden of their tale of woe was; but
obviously something of a tragic nature had happened.
"What is the matter?" asked Miss Acton, teetering like a humming-bird with
"Little Lucy—" gasped Miss Parmalee.
"What about her?"
"She isn't here."
"Where is she?"
"We don't know. We just missed her."
Then the cry of the children for little Lucy Rose, although sadly
wrangled, became intelligible. Madame came, holding up her silk skirt and
sniffing at her smelling-bottle, and everybody asked questions of
everybody else, and nobody knew any satisfactory answers. Johnny Trumbull
was confident that he was the last one to see little Lucy, and so were
Lily Jennings and Amelia Wheeler, and so were Jim Patterson and Bubby
Harvey and Arnold Carruth and Lee Westminster and many others; but when
pinned down to the actual moment everybody disagreed, and only one thing
was certain—little Lucy Rose was missing.
"What shall I say to her father?" moaned Madame.
"Of course, we shall find her before we say anything," returned Miss
Parmalee, who was sure to rise to an emergency. Madame sank helpless
before one. "You had better go and sit under that tree (Sam, take a
cushion out of the carriage for Madame) and keep quiet; then Sam must
drive to the village and give the alarm, and the strawwagon had better go,
too; and the rest of us will hunt by threes, three always keeping
together. Remember, children, three of you keep together, and, whatever
you do, be sure and do not separate. We cannot have another lost."
It seemed very sound advice. Madame, pale and frightened, sat on the
cushion under the tree and sniffed at her smelling-bottle, and the rest
scattered and searched the grove and surrounding underbrush thoroughly.
But it was sunset when the groups returned to Madame under her tree, and
the strawwagon with excited people was back, and the victoria with Lucy's
father and the rector and his wife, and Dr. Trumbull in his buggy, and
other carriages fast arriving. Poor Miss Martha Rose had been out calling
when she heard the news, and she was walking to the scene of action. The
victoria in which her cousin was seated left her in a cloud of dust. Cyril
Rose had not noticed the mincing figure with the card-case and the
The village searched for little Lucy Rose, but it was Jim Patterson who
found her, and in the most unlikely of places. A forlorn pair with a
multiplicity of forlorn children lived in a tumble-down house about half a
mile from the grove. The man's name was Silas Thomas, and his wife's was
Sarah. Poor Sarah had lost a large part of the small wit she had
originally owned several years before, when her youngest daughter, aged
four, died. All the babies that had arrived since had not consoled her for
the death of that little lamb, by name Viola May, nor restored her full
measure of under-wit. Poor Sarah Thomas had spied adorable little Lucy
separated from her mates by chance for a few minutes, picking wild
flowers, and had seized her in forcible but loving arms and carried her
home. Had Lucy not been such a silent, docile child, it could never have
happened; but she was a mere little limp thing in the grasp of the
over-loving, deprived mother who thought she had gotten back her own
beloved Viola May.
When Jim Patterson, big-eyed and pale, looked in at the Thomas door, there
sat Sarah Thomas, a large, unkempt, wild-visaged, but gentle creature,
holding little Lucy and cuddling her, while Lucy, shrinking away as far as
she was able, kept her big, dark eyes of wonder and fear upon the woman's
face. And all around were clustered the Thomas children, unkempt as their
mother, a gentle but degenerate brood, all of them believing what their
mother said. Viola May had come home again. Silas Thomas was not there; he
was trudging slowly homeward from a job of wood-cutting. Jim saw only the
mother, little Lucy, and that poor little flock of children gazing in
wonder and awe. Jim rushed in and faced Sarah Thomas. "Give me little
Lucy!" said he, as fiercely as any man. But he reckoned without the
unreasoning love of a mother. Sarah only held little Lucy faster, and the
poor little girl rolled appealing eyes at him over that brawny, grasping
arm of affection.
Jim raced for help, and it was not long before it came. Little Lucy rode
home in the victoria, seated in Sally Patterson's lap. "Mother, you take
her," Jim had pleaded; and Sally, in the face and eyes of Madame, had
gathered the little trembling creature into her arms. In her heart she had
not much of an opinion of any woman who had allowed such a darling little
girl out of her sight for a moment. Madame accepted a seat in another
carriage and rode home, explaining and sniffing and inwardly resolving
never again to have a straw-ride.
Jim stood on the step of the victoria all the way home. They passed poor
Miss Martha Rose, still faring toward the grove, and nobody noticed her,
for the second time. She did not turn back until the straw-wagon, which
formed the tail of the little procession, reached her. That she halted
with mad waves of her parasol, and, when told that little Lucy was found,
refused a seat on the straw because she did not wish to rumple her best
gown and turned about and fared home again.
The rectory was reached before Cyril Rose's house, and Cyril yielded
gratefully to Sally Patterson's proposition that she take the little girl
with her, give her dinner, see that she was washed and brushed and freed
from possible contamination from the Thomases, who were not a cleanly lot,
and later brought home in the rector's carriage. However, little Lucy
stayed all night at the rectory. She had a bath; her lovely, misty hair
was brushed; she was fed and petted; and finally Sally Patterson
telephoned for permission to keep her overnight. By that time poor Martha
had reached home and was busily brushing her best dress.
After dinner, little Lucy, very happy and quite restored, sat in Sally
Patterson's lap on the veranda, while Jim hovered near. His innocent
boy-love made him feel as if he had wings. But his wings only bore him to
failure, before an earlier and mightier force of love than his young heart
could yet compass for even such a darling as little Lucy. He sat on the
veranda step and gazed eagerly and rapturously at little Lucy on his
mother's lap, and the desire to have her away from other loves came over
him. He saw the fireflies dancing in swarms on the lawn, and a favorite
sport of the children of the village occurred to him.
"Say, little Lucy," said Jim.
Little Lucy looked up with big, dark eyes under her mist of hair, as she
nestled against Sally Patterson's shoulder.
"Say, let's chase fireflies, little Lucy."
"Do you want to chase fireflies with Jim, darling?" asked Sally.
Little Lucy nestled closer. "I would rather stay with you," said she in
her meek flute of a voice, and she gazed up at Sally with the look which
she might have given the mother she had lost.
Sally kissed her and laughed. Then she reached down a fond hand and patted
her boy's head. "Never mind, Jim," said Sally. "Mothers have to come