The Blinded Lady

by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

The Blinded Lady lived in a little white cottage by the Mill Dam.

She had twenty-seven cats! And a braided rug! And a Chinese cabinet all full of peacock-feather fans!

Our Father and Mother took us to see them.

It smelt furry.

Carol wore his blue suit. Rosalee wore an almost grown-up dress. I wore my new middy blouse.

We looked nice.

The Blinded Lady looked nice too.

She sat in a very little chair in the middle of a very large room. Her skirts were silk and very fat. They fluffed all around her like a pen-wiper. She had on a white lace cap. There were violets in the cap. Her eyes didn't look blinded.

We sat on the edge of our chairs. And stared at her. And stared. She didn't mind.

All the cats came and purred their sides against our legs. It felt soft and sort of bubbly.

The Blinded Lady recited poetry to us. She recited "Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard." She recited "The Charge of the Light Brigade." She recited "Bingen on the Rhine."

When she got all through reciting poetry she asked us if we knew any.

We did.

We knew "Onward Christian Soldiers," and "Hey Diddle, Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle." And Rosalee knew two verses about

It was many and many a year ago
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee.

We hoped the Blinded Lady would be pleased.

She wasn't!

The Blinded Lady said it wasn't nearly enough just to know the first two verses of anything! That you ought to know all the verses of everything! The Blinded Lady said that every baby just as soon as it was born ought to learn every poem that it possibly could so that if it ever grew up and was blinded it would have something to amuse itself with!

We promised we would!

We asked the Blinded Lady what made her blinded.

She said it was because she made all her father's shirts when she was six years old!

We promised we wouldn't!

"And now," said the Blinded Lady, "I'd like to have the Little Dumb Boy come forward and stand at my knee so I can touch his face!"

Carol didn't exactly like to be called the Little Dumb Boy, but he came forward very politely and stood at the Blinded Lady's knee. The Blinded Lady ran her fingers all up and down his face. It tickled his nose. He looked puckered.

"It's a pleasant face!" said the Blinded Lady.

"We like it!" said my Father.

"Oh very much!" said my Mother.

"Has he always been dumb?" said the Blinded Lady.

"Always," said my Mother. "But never deaf!"

"Oh Tush!" said the Blinded Lady. "Don't be stuffy! Afflictions were meant to talk about!"

"But Carol, you see," said my Mother, "can't talk about his! So we don't!"

"Oh—Tush!" said the Blinded Lady.

She pushed Carol away. She thumped her cane on the braided rug.

"There's one here, isn't there," she said, "that hasn't got anything to be sensitive about? Let the Young Lassie come forward," she said, "so I can touch her face!"

It made Rosalee very pink to have her face explored.

The Blinded Lady laughed as she explored it.

"Ha!" she said. "Age about seventeen? Gold hair? Sky-blue eyes? Complexion like peaches and cream?—Not much cause here," laughed the Blinded Lady, "for this Young Lassie ever to worry when she looks in the glass!"

"Oh but she does!" I cried. "She worries herself most to death every time she looks!—She's afraid her hair will turn gray before Derry comes!"

"S-s-h!" said everybody.

The Blinded Lady cocked her head. She ruffled herself. It looked like feathers.

"Derry?" said the Blinded Lady. "Who's Derry?—A beau?"

My Father gruffed his throat.

"Oh Derry's just a young friend of ours," he said.

"He lives in Cuba," said my Mother.

"Cuba's an island!" I said. "It floats in water! They eat bananas! They have fights! It's very hot! There's lots of moonlight! Derry's father says that when Rosalee's married he'll build a——."

"Hush, Ruthy!" said my Father. "You've talked quite enough already!"

The Blinded Lady patted her skirts. They billowed all around her like black silk waves. It looked funny.

"H-m-m-mmm!" she said. "Let the Child-Who's-Talked-Too-Much-Already come forward now so that I can feel her face!"

I went forward just as fast as I could.

The Blinded Lady touched my forehead.

She smoothed my nose,—my cheeks,—my chin.

"U-m-mmm," she said. "And 'Ruthy' you say is what you call her?"

My Father twinkled his eyes.

"We have to call her something!" he said politely.

"And is this bump on the forehead a natural one?" said the Blinded Lady. "Or an accidental one?"

"Both!" said my Father. "That is, it's pre-em-i-nently natural for our daughter Ruthy to have an accidental bump on her forehead."

"And there are, I infer," said the Blinded Lady, "one or two freckles on either side of the nose?"

"Your estimate," said my Father, "is conservative."

"And the hair?" said the Blinded Lady. "It hasn't exactly the texture of gold."

"'Penny-colored' we call it!" said my Mother.

"And not exactly a new penny at that, is it?" said the Blinded Lady.

"N—o," said my Mother. "But rather jolly all the same like a penny that's just bought two sticks of candy instead of one!"

"And the nose turns up a little?" said the Blinded Lady.

"Well maybe just a—trifle," admitted my Mother.

The Blinded Lady stroked my face all over again. "U-m-m-m," she said. "Well at least it's something to be thankful for that everything is perfectly normal!" She put her hands on my shoulders. She shook me a little. "Never, never, Ruthie," she said, "be so foolish as to complain because you're not pretty!"

"No'm!" I promised.

"Put all the Beauty you can inside your head!" said the Blinded Lady.

"Yes'm!" I promised. "And I've just thought of another one that I know! It's about

You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be——"
 

"Foolish!" said the Blinded Lady. "It wasn't sounds I was thinking of this time, but sights!" She pushed me away. She sighed and sighed. It puffed her all out. "O—h," she sighed. "O—h! Three pairs of Young Eyes and all the World waiting to be looked at!"

She rocked her chair. She rocked it very slowly. It was like a little pain.

"I never saw anything after I was seventeen!" she said. "And God himself knows that I hadn't seen anywheres near enough before that! Just the little grass road to the village now and then on a Saturday afternoon to buy the rice and the meat and the matches and the soap! Just the wood-lot beyond the hill-side where the Arbutus always blossomed so early! Just old Neighbor Nora's new patch-work quilt!—Just a young man's face that looked in once at the window to ask where the trout brook was! But even these pictures," said the Blinded Lady, "They're fading! Fading! Sometimes I can't remember at all whether old Nora's quilt was patterned in diamond shapes or squares. Sometimes I'm not so powerful sure whether the young man's eye were blue or brown! After all, it's more'n fifty years ago. It's new pictures that I need now," she said. "New pictures!"

She took a peppermint from a box. She didn't pass 'em. She rocked her chair. And rocked. And rocked. She smiled a little. It wasn't a real smile. It was just a smile to save her dress. It was just a little gutter to catch her tears.

"Oh dear me—Oh dear me—Oh dear me!" said my Mother.

"Stop your babbling!" said the Blinded Lady. She sniffed. And sniffed. "But I'll tell you what I'll do," she said. "These children can come back here next Saturday afternoon and——."

"Why there's no reason in the world," said my Mother, "why they shouldn't come every day!"

The Blinded Lady stopped rocking. She almost screamed.

"Every day?" she said. "Mercy no! Their feet are muddy! And besides it's tiresome! But they can come next Saturday I tell you! And I'll give you a prize! Yes, I'll give two prizes—for the two best new pictures that they bring me to think about! And the first prize shall be a Peacock Feather Fan!" said the Blinded Lady. "And the second prize shall be a Choice of Cats!"

"A Choice of Cats?" gasped my Father.

The Blinded Lady thumped her cane. She thumped it pretty hard. It made you glad your toes weren't under it.

"Now mind you, Children!" she said.

"It's got to be a new picture! It's got to be something you've seen yourself! The most beautifulest! The most darlingest thing that you've ever seen! Go out in the field I say! Go out in the woods! Go up on the mountain top! And look around! Nobody I tell you can ever make another person see anything that he hasn't seen himself! Now be gone!" said the Blinded Lady. "I'm all tuckered out!"

"Why I'm sure," said my Father, "we never would have come at all if we hadn't supposed that——."

The Blinded Lady shook her cane right at my Father.

"Don't be stuffy!" she said. "But get out!"

We got out.

Old Mary who washed and ironed and cooked for the Blinded Lady showed us the shortest way out. The shortest way out was through the wood-shed. There were twenty-seven little white bowls of milk on the wood-shed floor. There was a cat at each bowl. It sounded lappy! Some of the cats were black. Some of the cats were gray. Some of the cats were white.

There was an old tortoise-shell cat. He had a crumpled ear. He had a great scar across his nose. He had a broken leg that had mended crooked.

Most of the cats were tortoise-shell and black and gray and white! It looked pretty! It looked something the way a rainbow would look if it was fur! And splashed with milk instead of water!

"How many quarts does it take?" said my Mother.

"Quarts?" said Old Mary. She sniffed. "Quarts? It takes a whole Jersey cow!"

The Blinded Lady called Rosalee to come back. I went with her. I held her hand very hard for fear we would be frightened.

There was a White Kitten in the Blinded Lady's Lap. It was a white Angora. It wasn't any bigger than a baby rabbit. It had a blue ribbon on its neck. It looked very pure. Its face said "Ruthy, I'd like very much to be your kitten!"

But the Blinded Lady's face didn't know I was there at all.

"Young Lassie," said the Blinded Lady. "What is the color of your Derry's eyes?"

"Why—why—black!" said Rosalee.

"U-m-mmm," said the Blinded Lady. "Black?" She began to munch a peppermint. "U-m-m-m," she said. She jerked her head. Her nose looked pretty sharp. "That's right, Young Lassie!" she cried. "Love early! Never mind what the old folks say! Sometimes there isn't any late! Love all you can! Love——!" She stopped suddenly. She sank back in her skirts again. And rocked! Her nose didn't look sharp any more. Her voice was all whispers. "Lassie," she whispered, "when you choose your Peacock Feather Fan—choose the one on the top shelf! It's the best one! It's sandal wood! It's——"

My boots made a creak.

The Blinded Lady gave an awful jump!

"There's someone else in this room besides the Young Lassie!" she cried.

I was frightened. I told a lie.

"You're en—tirely mistaken!" I said. I perked Rosalee's hand. We ran for our lives. We ran as fast as we could. It was pretty fast!

When we got out to the Road our Father and Mother were waiting for us. They looked pleasant. We liked their looks very much.

Carol was waiting too. He had his eyes shut. His mouth looked very surprised.

"Carol's trying to figure out how it would feel to be blind," said my Mother.

"Oh!" said Rosalee.

"O—h!" said I.

Carol clapped his hands.

Rosalee clapped her hands.

I clapped my hands.

It was wonderful! We all thought of it at the same moment! We shut our eyes perfectly tight and played we were blinded all the way home!

Our Father and Mother had to lead us. It was pretty bumpy! I peeped some! Rosalee walked with her hands stretched way out in front of her as though she was reaching for something. She looked like a picture. It was like a picture of something very gentle and wishful that she looked like. It made me feel queer. Carol walked with his nose all puckered up as though he was afraid something smelly was going to hit him. It didn't make me feel queer at all. It made me laugh.

It didn't make my Father laugh.

"Now see here, you young Lunatics," said my Father. "If you think your Mother and I are going to drag you up the main village street—acting like this?"

We were sorry, we explained! But it had to be!

When we got to the village street we bumped right into the Old Doctor. We bumped him pretty hard! He had to sit down! I climbed into his lap.

"Of course I don't know that it's you," I said. "But I think it is!"

The Old Doctor seemed pretty astonished. He snatched at my Father and my Mother.

"Great Zounds, Good People!" he cried. "What fearful calamity has overtaken your offspring?"

"Absolutely nothing at all," said my Father, "compared to what is going to overtake them as soon as I get them home!"

"We're playing blinded," said Rosalee.

"We've been to see the Blinded Lady!" I explained.

"We're going to get prizes," said Rosalee. "Real prizes! A Peacock Feather Fan!"

"And the Choice of Cats!" I explained.

"For telling the Blinded Lady next Saturday," cried Rosalee, "the prettiest thing that we've ever seen!"

"Not just the prettiest!" I explained. "But the most preciousest!"

"So we thought we'd shut our eyes!" said Rosalee. "All the way home! And find out what Sight it was that we missed the most!—Sunshine I think it is!" said Rosalee. "Sunshine and all the pretty flickering little shadows! And the way the slender white church spire flares through the Poplar Trees! Oh I shall make up a picture about sunshine!" said Rosalee.

"Oh, Sh—h!" said my Mother. "You mustn't tell each other what you decide. That would take half the fun and the surprise out of the competition!"

"Would—it?" said Rosalee. "Would it?" She turned to the Old Doctor. She slipped into the curve of his arm. The curve of his arm seemed to be all ready for her. She reached up and patted his face. "You Old Darling," she said. "In all the world what is the most beautiful—est sight that you have ever seen?"

The Old Doctor gave an awful swallow.

"Youth!" he said.

"Oh, youth Fiddle-sticks!" said my Father. "How ever would one make a picture of that? All arms and legs! And wild ideas! Believe me that if I ever once get these wild ideas and legs and arms home to-day there will be——"

We never heard what there would be! 'Cause we bumped into the Store-Keeping Man instead! And had to tell him all about it!

Nobody kissed the Store-Keeping Man. He smelt of mice and crackers. We talked to him just as we would have talked to Sugar or Potatoes.

"Mr. Store-Keeping Man," we said. "You are very wise! You have a store! And a wagon! And a big iron safe! And fly-papers besides!—In all the world—what is the most beautifulest thing that you have ever seen?"

The Store-Keeping Man didn't have to worry about it at all. He never even swallowed. The instant he crossed his hands on his white linen stomach he knew!

"My Bank Book!" he said.

My Father laughed. "Now you naughty children," said my Father, "I trust you'll be satisfied to proceed home with your eyes open!"

But my Mother said no matter how naughty we were we couldn't go home without buying pop-corn at the pop-corn stand!

So we had to tell the Pop-Corn Man all about it too! The Pop-Corn Man was very little. He looked like a Pirate. He had black eyes. He had gold rings through his ears. We loved him a good deal!

"In all the world—" we asked the Pop-Corn Man, "what is the most beautiful—est sight that you have ever seen?"

It took the Pop-Corn Man an awful long time to think! It took him so long that while he was thinking he filled our paper bags till they busted! It was a nice bustedness!

"The most beautifulest thing—in all zee world?" said the Pop-Corn Man. "In all zee world? It was in my Italy! In such time as I was no more than one bambino I did see zee peacock, zee great blue peacock stride out through zee snow-storm of apple-blossoms! And dance to zee sun!"

"O—h," said Rosalee. "How pretty!"

"Pretty?" said the Pop-Corn Man. "It was to zee eyes one miracle of remembrances! Zee blue! Zee gold! Zee dazzle! Zee soft fall of zee apple-blossoms!—Though I live to be zee hundred! Though I go blind! Though I go prison! Though my pop-corn all burn up! It fade not! Not never! That peacock! That apple-blossom! That shiver!"

"Our supper will all burn up," said my Mother, "if you children don't open your eyes and run home! Already I think I can smell scorched Ginger-bread!"

We children all opened our eyes and ran home!

My Mother laughed to see us fly!

My Father laughed a little!

We thought about the Peacock as we ran! We thought quite a little about the Ginger-bread! We wished we had a Peacock! We hoped we had a Ginger-bread!

Our Home looked nice. It was as though we hadn't seen it for a long while. It was as though we hadn't seen anything for a long while! The Garden didn't look like Just a Garden any more! It looked like a Bower! Carol's tame crow came hopping up the gravel walk! We hadn't remembered that he was so black! The sun through the kitchen window was real gold! There was Ginger-bread!

"Oh dear—Oh dear—Oh dear!" said Rosalee. "In a world so full of beautiful things—however shall we choose what to tell the Blinded Lady?"

Carol ran to the desk. He took a pencil. He took a paper. He slashed the words down. He held it out for us to see.

"I know what I'm going to choose," said the words.

He took his pencil. He ran away.

Rosalee took her pencil. She ran away. Over her shoulder she called back something. What she called back was "Oh Goody! I know what I'm going to choose!"

I took my Father's pencil. I ran away. I didn't run very far. I found a basket instead. It was a pretty basket. I made a nest for the White Kitten in case I should win it! I lined the nest with green moss. There was a lot of sunshine in the moss. And little blue flowers. I forgot to come home for supper. That's how I chose what I was going to write!

When we woke up the next morning we all felt very busy. It made the day seem funny.

It made every day that happened seem funny.

Every day somebody took somebody's pencil and ran away! My Mother couldn't find anything! Not children! Not pencils!

Rosalee took the Dictionary Book besides.

"Anybody'd think," said my Father, "that this was a Graduation Essay you were making instead of just a simple little word-picture for a Blinded Lady!"

"Word-picture?" said Rosalee. "What I'm trying to make is a Peacock Feather Fan!"

"I wish there were three prizes instead of two!" said my Mother.

"Why?" said my Father.

Carol came and kicked his feet on the door. His hands were full of stones. He wanted a drink of water. All day long when he wasn't sitting under the old Larch Tree with a pencil in his mouth he was carrying stones! And kicking his feet on the door! And asking for a drink of water!

"Whatever in the world," said my Mother, "are you doing with all those stones?"

Carol nodded his head that I could tell.

"He's building something," I said. "Out behind the barn!—I don't know what it is!"

Carol dropped his stones. He took a piece of chalk. He knelt down on the kitchen floor. He wrote big white letters on the floor.

"It's an Ar—Rena," is what he wrote.

"An Arena?" said my Mother. "An Arena?" She looked quite sorry. "Oh Laddie!" she said. "I did so want you to win a prize!—Couldn't you have kept your mind on it just a day or two longer?"

It was the longest week I ever knew! It got longer every day! Thursday was twice as long as Wednesday! I don't seem to remember about Friday! But Saturday came so early in the morning I wasn't even awake when my Mother called me!

We went to the Blinded Lady's house right after dinner. We couldn't wait any longer.

The Blinded Lady pretended she was surprised to see us.

"Mercy me!" she said. "What? Have these children come again? Muddy feet? Chatter? And all?" She thumped her cane! She rocked her chair! She billowed her skirts!

We weren't frightened a bit! We sat on the edge of our chairs and laughed! And laughed!

There was a little white table spread with pink-frosted cookies! There were great crackly glasses of raspberry vinegar and ice! Old Mary had on a white apron!—That's why we laughed! We knew we were expected!

My Father explained it to everybody.

"As long as Carol couldn't speak his piece," he said, "It didn't seem fair that any of the children should speak 'em! So the children have all written their pieces to read aloud and——"

"But as long as Carol wasn't able to read his aloud," cried my Mother, "it didn't seem fair that any of 'em should read theirs aloud! So the children's father is going to read 'em. And——"

"Without giving any clue of course," said my Father, "as to which child wrote which. So that you won't be unduly influenced at all—in any way by—gold-colored hair, for instance or—freckles——"

"Or anything!" said my Mother.

"U-m-m-m," said the Blinded Lady.

"Understanding of course," said my Father, "that we ourselves have not seen the papers yet!"

"Nor assisted in any way with the choice of subject," said my Mother. "Nor with the treatment of it!"

"U-m-m," said the Blinded Lady.

"I will now proceed to read," said my Father.

"So do," said the Blinded Lady.

My Father so did.

He took a paper from his pocket. He cleared his throat. He put on his eye-glasses. He looked a little surprised.

"The first one," he said, "seems to be about 'Ginger-bread'!"

"Ginger-bread?" said the Blinded Lady.

"Ginger-bread!" said my Father.

"Read it!" said the Blinded Lady.

"I will!" said my Father.

Ginger-bread is very handsome! It's so brown! And every time you eat a piece you have to have another! That shows its worth as well as its handsomeness! And besides you can smell it a long way off when you're coming home! Especially when you're coming home from school! It has molasses in it too. And that's very instructive! As well as ginger! And other spices! The Geography is full of them! Molasses comes from New Orleans! Spices come from Asia! Except Jamaica Ginger comes from Drug Stores! There are eggs in ginger-bread too! And that's Natural History and very important! They have to be hen's eggs I think! I had some guineas once and they looked like chipmunks when they hatched. You can't make ginger-bread out of anything that looks like chipmunks! It takes three eggs to make ginger-bread! And one cupful of sugar! And some baking soda! And——

"Oh Tush!" said the Blinded Lady. "That isn't a picture! It's a recipe!—Read another!"

"Dear me! Dear me!" said my Mother. "Now some child is suffering!" She looked all around to see which child it was.

Carol kicked Rosalee. Rosalee kicked me. I kicked Carol. We all looked just as queer as we could outside.

"Read on!" thumped the Blinded Lady.

My Father read on.

"This next one," he said, "seems to be about Soldiers!"

"Soldiers?" said the Blinded Lady. "Soldiers?" She sat up very straight. She cocked her head on one side. "Read it!" she said.

"I'm reading it!" said my Father.

The most scrumptious sight I've ever seen in my life is Soldiers Marching! I saw them once in New York! It was glorious! All the reds and the blues and the browns of the Uniforms! And when the Band played all the different instruments it seemed as though it was really gold and silver music they were playing! It makes you feel so brave! And so unselfish! But most of all it makes you wish you were a milk-white pony with diamond hoofs! So that you could sparkle! And prance! And rear! And run away just for fun! And run and run and run down clattery streets and through black woods and across green pastures snorting fire—till you met more Soldiers and more Bands and more Gold and Silver Music! So that you could prance and sparkle and rear and run away all over again,—with flags flying!

"U-m-m," said the Blinded Lady. "That is pretty! And spirited too!—But—But it doesn't exactly warm the heart.—And no one but a boy, anyway, would want to think about soldiers every day.—Read the next one!" said the Blinded Lady.

"Oh all right," said my Father. "Here's the last one."

"Read it!" said the Blinded Lady.

"I'm trying to!" said my Father. He cleared his throat and put on his eye-glasses all over again. "Ahem!" he said.

"The most beautifulest thing I've ever seen in all my life is my Mother's face. It's so——"

"What?" cried my Mother.

My Father looked at her across the top of his glasses. He smiled. "Your face!" he said.

"W—what?" stammered my Mother.

My Father cleared his throat and began all over again.

The most beautifulest thing I've ever seen in all my life is my Mother's face! It's so pleasant! It tries to make everything so pleasant! When you go away it smiles you away! When you come home it smiles you home! When you're sick it smiles you well! When you're bad it smiles you good! It's so pretty too! It has soft hair all full of little curls! It has brown eyes! It has the sweetest ears!—It has a little hat! The jolliest little hat! All trimmed with do-dabs! And teeny pink roses! And there's a silver ribbon on it! And——

"My Mother had a hat like that!" cried the Blinded Lady.

"Did she?" said my Mother. Her face still looked pretty queer and surprised.

The Blinded Lady perked way forward in her chair. She seemed all out of breath. She talked so fast it almost choked her!

"Yes! Just exactly like that!" cried the Blinded Lady. "My Mother bought it in Boston! It cost three dollars! My Father thought it was an awful price!—She wore it with a lavender dress all sprigged with yellow leaves! She looked like an angel in it! She was an angel! Her hair was brown too!—I haven't thought of it for ages!—And all full of little curls! She had the kindest smile! The minister said it was worth any two of his sermons! And when folks were sick she went anywhere to help them! Anywhere!—She went twenty miles once! We drove the old white horse! I can see it all! My brothers' and sisters' faces at the window waving good-bye! My father cautioning us through his long gray beard not to drive too fast!—The dark shady wood's road! The little bright meadows!—A blue bird that flashed across our heads at the watering trough! The gay village streets! A red plaid ribbon in a shop window! The patch on a peddler's shoe! The great hills over beyond!—There was hills all around us!—My sister Amy married a man from way over beyond! He was different from us! His father sailed the seas! He brought us dishes and fans from China! When my sister Amy was married she wore a white crêpe shawl. There was a peacock embroidered in one corner of it! It was pretty! We curled her hair! There were yellow roses in bloom! There was a blue larkspur!—--"

The Blinded Lady sank back in her chair. She gave a funny little gasp.

"I remember!" she gasped. "The Young Man's eyes were blue! His teeth were like pearls! When he asked the way to the trout brook he laughed and said——"

The Blinded Lady's cheeks got all pink. She clapped her hands. She sank back into her Skirts. Her eyes looked awful queer.

"I see everything!" she cried. "Everything!—Give the Peacock Feather Fan to the Magician!"

Rosalee looked at Carol. Carol looked at me. I looked at Rosalee.

"To the Magician?" said my Father.

"To the Magician?" said my Mother.

"To the Young Darling who wrote about her Mother's Face!" thumped the Blinded Lady.

My Father twisted his mouth.

"Will the 'Young Darling' who wrote about her Mother's Face please come forward—and get the Peacock Feather Fan!" said my Father.

Carol came forward. He looked very ashamed. He stubbed his toe on the braided rug.

"It seems to be our son Carol," said my Father, "who conjured up the picture of—of the blue larkspur!"

"What?" said the Blinded Lady. "What?"

She tapped her foot on the floor. She frowned her brows. "Well—well—well," she said. "It wasn't at all what I intended! Not at all!—Well—well—well!" She began to rock her chair. "But after all," she said, "an agreement is an agreement! And the First Prize is the First Prize!—Let the Little Dumb Boy step forward to the Chinese Cabinet and choose his Peacock Feather Fan!"

Rosalee gave a little cry. It sounded almost like tears. She ran forward. She whispered in Carol's ear.

Carol opened his eyes. He took a chair. He pushed it against the cabinet. He climbed up to the highest shelf. There was a fan as big as the moon! It was sandalwood! It was carved! It was all peacock feathers! Blue! Bronze! It was beautiful! He took it! He went back to his seat! His mouth smiled a little! But he carried the Fan as though it was hot!

"The second prize of course," said the Blinded Lady, "goes to the child who wrote about the soldiers!"

Rosalee stepped forward.

The Blinded Lady took her hand. "It is not exactly as I had wished," said the Blinded Lady. "But a Choice of Cats is a Choice of Cats!—You will find them all in the wood-shed Young Lassie—awaiting your decision! Choose wisely! A good cat is a great comfort!"

We went to the wood-shed to help Rosalee choose her cat.

All the cats purred to be chosen. It was sad. My Father said it wasn't. My Father said one cat was plenty.

The White Persian Kitten lay on a soap box. It looked like Easter Lilies. Rosalee saw it. She forgot all about the fan.

Carol didn't forget about the fan. He stamped his foot. He shook his head. He took Rosalee's hand and led her to the old Tortoise Shell Cat. He put the old Tortoise Shell cat in Rosalee's arms. Rosalee looked pretty surprised. So did the cat.

My sorrow made tears in my eyes. My Mother came running.

"Bless your heart, Ruthy-Girl," she said. "You shall have a Ginger-bread to-night that is a Picture!" She put a little box in my hand. There was a little gold pencil in the box. It was my Mother's best little gold pencil with the agate stone in the end. "Here's Mother's prize, Darling," she said. "The Prize Mother brought for whichever child didn't win the Blinded Lady's prizes! Don't you worry! Mother'll always have a prize for whichever child doesn't win the other prizes!"

My sorrow went away.

We all ran back to the Blinded Lady to thank her for our Beautiful Party. And for the prizes.

My Father made a speech to the Blinded Lady.

"But after all, my dear Madam," he said, "I am afraid you have been cheated!—It was 'new' pictures that you wanted, not old ones!"

The Blinded Lady whacked at him with her cane. She was awful mad.

"How do you know what I want?" she said. "How do you know what I want?"

My Father and my Mother looked at each other. They made little laughs with their eyes.

The Blinded Lady smoothed herself.

"But I certainly am flabbergasted," she said, "about the Old Tom Cat! Whatever in the world made the Young Lassie choose the old battle-scarred Tom?"

Rosalee looked at Carol. Carol looked at me. I looked at the Old Tom.

"Maybe she chose him for—for his historicalness," said my Mother.

"——Maybe," said my Father.

We started for the door. We got as far as the Garden. I remembered something suddenly. I clapped my hands. I laughed right out! "No! She didn't either!" I said. "She chose him for Carol's Ar—Rena—I bet'cher! Carol's going to have him for a Cham—peen! We'll fight him every afternoon! Maybe there'll be tickets!"

"Tickets?" said my Father.

"Oh my dears," said my Mother. "A cat-fight is a dreadful thing!"

My Father looked at the Old Tom! At his battered ears! At his scarred nose! At his twisted eye! The Old Tom looked at my Father! They both smiled!

"Infamous!" said my Father. "How much will the tickets be?"

We went home. We went home through the fields instead of through the village.

Carol held the Peacock Feather Fan as though he was afraid it would bite him.

Rosalee carried the Old Tom as though she knew it would bite her.

When we got to the Willow Tree they changed prizes. It made a difference.

Rosalee carried the Peacock Feather as though it was a magic sail. She tipped it to the breeze. She pranced it. And danced it. It looked fluffy.

Carol carried the Old Tom hugged tight to his breast. The Old Tom looked very historical. Carol looked very shining and pure. He looked like a choir-boy carrying his singing book. He looked as though his voice would be very high.

My Father and Mother carried each other's hands. They laughed very softly to themselves as though they knew pleasant things that no one else knew.

My hand would have felt pretty lonely if I hadn't had the little gold pencil to carry.

I felt pretty tired. I walked pretty far behind.

I decided that when I grew up I'd be a Writer! So that no matter what happened I'd always have a gold pencil in my hand and couldn't be lonely!