Calico, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
It was about time for the four-o'clock train.
After all, I wonder if it is worth telling,—such a simple, plotless
record of a young girl's life, made up of Mondays and Tuesdays and
Wednesdays, like yours or mine. Sharley was so exactly like other
people! How can it be helped that nothing remarkable happened to her?
But you would like the story?
It was about time for the four-o'clock train, then.
Sharley, at the cost of half a sugar-bowl (never mind syntax; you know I
mean the sugar, not the glass), had enticed Moppet to betake himself out
of sight and out of mind till somebody should signify a desire for his
engaging presence; had steered clear of Nate and Methuselah, and was
standing now alone on the back doorsteps opposite the chaise-house. One
could see a variety of things from those doorsteps,—the chaise-house,
for instance, with the old, solid, square-built wagon rolled into it
(Sharley passed many a long "mending morning" stowed in among the
cushions of that old wagon); the great sweet-kept barn, where the sun
stole in warm at the chinks and filtered through the hay; the well-curb
folded in by a shadow; the wood-pile, and the chickens, and the
kitchen-garden; a little slope, too, with a maple on it and shades of
brown and gold upon the grass; brown and golden tints across the hills,
and a sky of blue and gold to dazzle one. Then there was a flock of
robins dipping southward. There was also the railroad.
Sharley may have had her dim consciousness of the cosey barn and
chicken's chirp, of brown and gold and blue and dazzle and glory; but
you don't suppose that was what she had outgeneralled Moppet and
stolen the march upon Nate and Methuselah for. The truth is, that the
child had need of none of these things—neither skies nor dazzle nor
glory—that golden autumn afternoon. Had the railroad bounded the
universe just then, she would have been content. For Sharley was only a
girl,—a very young, not very happy, little girl,—and Halcombe Dike was
coming home to spend the Sunday.
Halcombe Dike,—her old friend Halcombe Dike. She said the words over,
apologizing a bit to herself for being there to watch that railroad. Hal
used to be good to her when she was bothered with the children and more
than half tired of life. "Keep up good courage, Sharley," he would say.
For the long summer he had not been here to say it. And to-night he
would be here. To-night—to-night! Why should not one be glad when one's
old friends come back?
Mrs. Guest, peering through the pantry window, observed—and observed
with some motherly displeasure, which she would have expressed had it
not been too much trouble to open the window—that Sharley had put on
her barbe,—that black barbe with the pink watered ribbons run through
it. So extravagant in Sharley! Sharley would fain have been so
extravagant as to put on her pink muslin too this afternoon; she had
been more than half inclined to cry because she could not; but as it was
not orthodox in Green Valley to wear one's "best clothes" on week-days,
except at picnics or prayer-meetings, she had submitted, sighing, to her
sprigged calico. It would have been worth while, though, to have seen
her half an hour ago up in her room under the eaves, considering the
question; she standing there with the sleeves of her dressing-sack
fallen away from her pink, bare arms, and the hair clinging loose and
moist to her bare white neck; to see her smooth the shimmering
folds,—there were rose-buds on that muslin,—and look and long, hang it
up, and turn away. Why could there not be a little more rose-bud and
shimmer in people's lives! "Seems to me it's all calico!" cried Sharley.
Then to see her overturning her ribbon-box! Nobody but a girl knows how
girls dream over their ribbons.
"He is coming!" whispered Sharley to the little bright barbe, and to the
little bright face that flushed and fluttered at her in the glass,—"He
Sharley looked well, waiting there in the calico and lace upon the
doorstep. It is not everybody who would look well in calico and lace;
yet if you were to ask me, I could not tell you how pretty Sharley is,
or if she is pretty at all. I have a memory of soft hair—brown, I
think—and wistful eyes; and that I never saw her without a desire to
stroke her, and make her pur as I would a kitten.
How stiff and stark and black the railroad lay on its yellow ridge!
Sharley drew her breath when the sudden four-o'clock whistle smote the
air, and a faint, far trail of smoke puffed through the woods, and wound
over the barren outline.
Her mother, seeing her steal away through the kitchen-garden, and down
the slope, called after her:—
"Charlotte! going to walk? I wish you'd let the baby go too. Well, she
I will not assert that Sharley did not hear. To be frank, she was rather
tired of that baby.
There was a foot-path through the brown and golden grass, and Sharley
ran over it, under the maple, which was dropping yellow leaves, and down
to the knot of trees which lined the farther walls. There was a nook
here—she knew just where—into which one might creep, tangled in with
the low-hanging green of apple and spruce, and wound about with
grape-vines. Stooping down, careful not to catch that barbe upon the
brambles, and careful not to soil so much as a sprig of the clean light
calico, Sharley hid herself in the shadow. She could see unseen now the
great puffs of purple smoke, the burning line of sandy bank, the
station, and the uphill road to the village. Oddly enough, some old
Scripture words—Sharley was not much in the habit of quoting
Scripture—came into her thoughts just as she had curled herself
comfortably up beside the wall, her watching face against the
grape-leaves: "But what went ye out for to see?" "What went ye out for
to see?" She went on, dreamily finishing, "A prophet? Yea, I say unto
you, and more than a prophet," and stopped, scarlet. What had prophets
to do with her old friend Halcombe Dike?
Ah, but he was coming! he was coming! To Sharley's eyes the laboring,
crazy locomotive which puffed him asthmatically up to the little depot
was a benevolent dragon,—if there were such things as benevolent
dragons,—very horrible, and she was very much afraid of it; but very
gracious, and she should like to go out and pat it on the shoulder.
The train slackened, jarred, and stopped. An old woman with thirteen
bundles climbed out laboriously. Two small boys turned somersaults from
the platform. Sharley strained her wistful eyes till they ached. There
was nobody else. Sharley was very young, and very much disappointed, and
she cried. The glory had died from the skies. The world had gone out.
She was sitting there all in a heap, her face in her hands, and her
heart in her foolish eyes, when a step sounded near, and a voice humming
an old army song. She knew it; he had taught it to her himself. She knew
the step; for she had long ago trained her slippered feet to keep pace
with it. He had stepped from the wrong side of the car, perhaps, or her
eager eyes had missed him; at any rate here he was,—a young man, with
honest eyes, and mouth a little grave; a very plainly dressed young
man,—his coat was not as new as Sharley's calico,—but a young man with
a good step of his own,—strong, elastic,—and a nervous hand.
He passed, humming his army song, and never knew how the world lighted
up again within a foot of him. He passed so near that Sharley by
stretching out her hand could have touched him,—so near that she could
hear the breath he drew. He was thinking to himself, perhaps, that no
one had come from home to meet him, and he had been long away; but then,
it was not his mother's fashion of welcome, and quickening his pace at
the thought of her, he left the tangle of green behind, and the little
wet face crushed breathless up against the grape-leaves, and was out of
sight and knew nothing.
Sharley sprang up and bounded home. Her mother opened her languid eyes
wide when the child came in.
"Dear me, Charlotte, how you do go chirping and hopping round, and me
with this great baby and my sick-headache! I can't chirp and hop. You
look as if somebody'd set you on fire! What's the matter with you,
What was the matter, indeed! Sharley, in a little spasm of
penitence,—one can afford to be penitent when one is happy,—took the
baby and went away to think about it. Surely he would come to see her
to-night; he did not often come home without seeing Sharley; and he had
been long away. At any rate he was here; in this very Green Valley where
the days had dragged so drearily without him; his eyes saw the same sky
that hers saw; his breath drank the same sweet evening wind; his feet
trod the roads that she had trodden yesterday, and would tread again
to-morrow. But I will not tell them any more of this,—shall I, Sharley?
She threw her head back and looked up, as she walked to and fro through
the yard with the heavy baby fretting on her shoulder. The skies were
aflame now, for the sun was dropping slowly. "He is here!" they said. A
belated robin took up the word: "He is here!" The yellow maple glittered
all over with it: "Sharley, he is here!"
"The butter is here," called her mother relevantly from the house. "The
butter is here now, and it's time to see about supper, Charlotte."
"More calico!" said impatient Sharley, and she gave the baby a jerk.
Whether he came or whether he did not come, there was no more time for
Sharley to dream that night. In fact, there seldom was any time to dream
in Mrs. Guest's household. Mrs. Guest believed in keeping people busy.
She was busy enough herself when her head did not ache. When it did, it
was the least she could do to see that other people were busy.
So Sharley had the table to set, and the biscuit to bake, and the tea to
make, and the pears to pick over; she must run upstairs to bring her
mother a handkerchief; she must hurry for her father's clothes-brush
when he came in tired, and not so good-humored as he might be, from his
store; she must stop to rebuild the baby's block-house, that Moppet had
kicked over, and snap Moppet's dirty, dimpled fingers for kicking it
over, and endure the shriek that Moppet set up therefor. She must
suggest to Methuselah that he could find, perhaps, a more suitable
book-mark for Robinson Crusoe than his piece of bread and molasses, and
intimate doubts as to the propriety of Nate's standing on the
table-cloth and sitting on the toast-rack. And then Moppet was at that
baby again, dropping very cold pennies down his neck. They must be made
presentable for supper, too, Moppet and Nate and Methuselah,—Methuselah,
Nate, and Moppet; brushed and washed and dusted and coaxed and scolded
and borne with. There was no end to it. Would there ever be any end to
it? Sharley sometimes asked of her weary thoughts. Sharley's life, like
the lives of most girls at her age, was one great unanswered question.
It grew tiresome occasionally, as monologues are apt to do.
"I'm going to holler to-night," announced Moppet at supper, pausing in
the midst of his berry-cake, by way of diversion, to lift the cat up by
her tail. "I'm going to holler awful, and make you sit up and tell me
about that little boy that ate the giant, and Cinderella,—how she lived
in the stove-pipe,—and that man that builded his house out of a bungle
of straws: and—well, there's some more, but I don't remember 'em just
now, you know."
"I am," glared Moppet over his mug. "You made me put on a clean collar.
You see if I don't holler an' holler an' holler an' keep-a-hollerin'!"
Sharley's heart sank; but she patiently cleared away her dishes, mixed
her mother's ipecac, read her father his paper, went upstairs with the
children, treated Moppet with respect as to his buttons and boot-lacing,
and tremblingly bided her time.
"Well," condescended that young gentleman, before his prayers were over,
"I b'lieve—give us our debts—I'll keep that hollerin'—forever 'n
ever—Namen—till to-morrow night. I ain't a—bit—sleepy, but—" And
nobody heard anything more from Moppet.
The coast was clear now, and happy Sharley, with bright cheeks, took her
little fall hat that she was trimming, and sat down on the front
doorsteps; sat there to wait and watch, and hope and dream and flutter,
and sat in vain. Twilight crept up the path, up to her feet, folded her
in; the warm color of her plaided ribbons faded away under her eyes, and
dropped from her listless fingers; with them had faded her bit of a hope
for that night; Hal always came before dark.
"Who cares?" said Sharley, with a toss of her soft, brown head. Somebody
did care nevertheless. Somebody winked hard as she went upstairs.
However, she could light a lamp and finish her hat. That was one
comfort. It always is a comfort to finish one's hat. Girls have
forgotten graver troubles than Sharley's in the excitement of hurried
A bonnet is a picture in its way, and grows up under one's fingers with
a pretty sense of artistic triumph. Besides, there is always the
question: Will it be becoming? So Sharley put her lamp on a cricket, and
herself on the floor, and began to sing over her work. A pretty sight it
was,—the low, dark room with the heavy shadows in its corners; all the
light and color drawn to a focus in the middle of it; Sharley, with her
head bent—bits of silk like broken rainbows tossed about her—and that
little musing smile, considering gravely, Should the white squares of
the plaid turn outward? and where should she put the coral? and would it
be becoming after all? A pretty, girlish sight, and you may laugh at it
if you choose; but there was a prettier woman's tenderness underlying
it, just as a strain of fine, coy sadness will wind through a mazourka
or a waltz. For who would see the poor little hat to-morrow at church?
and would he like it? and when he came to-morrow night,—for of course
he would come to-morrow night,—would he tell her so?
When everybody else was in bed and the house still, Sharley locked her
door, furtively stole to the bureau-glass, shyly tied on that hat, and
more shyly peeped in. A flutter of October colors and two great brown
eyes looked back at her encouragingly.
"I should like to be pretty," said Sharley, and asked the next minute to
be forgiven for the vanity. "At any rate," by way of modification, "I
should like to be pretty to-morrow."
She prayed for Halcombe Dike when she kneeled, with her face hidden in
her white bed, to say "Our Father." I believe she had prayed for him now
every night for a year. Not that there was any need of it, she reasoned,
for was he not a great deal better than she could ever be? Far above
her; oh, as far above her as the shining of the stars was above the
shining of the maple-tree; but perhaps if she prayed very hard they
would give one extra, beautiful angel charge over him. Then, was it not
quite right to pray for one's old friends? Besides—besides, they had a
pleasant sound, those two words: "Our Father."
"I will be good to-morrow," said Sharley, dropping into sleep.
"Mother's head will ache, and I can go to church. I will listen to the
minister, and I won't plan out my winter dresses in prayer-time. I won't
be cross to Moppet, nor shake Methuselah. I will be good. Hal will help
me to be good. I shall see him in the morning,—in the morning."
Sharley's self-knowledge, like the rest of her, was in the bud yet.
Her Sun-day, her one warm, shining day, opened all in a glow. She danced
down stairs at ten o'clock in the new hat, in a haze of merry colors.
She had got breakfast and milked one cow and dressed four boys that
morning, and she felt as if she had earned the right to dance in a haze
of anything. The sunlight quivered in through the blinds. The leaves of
the yellow maple drifted by on the fresh, strong wind. The church-bells
rang out like gold. All the world was happy.
"Charlotte!" Her mother bustled out of the "keeping-room" with her hat
on. "I've changed my mind, Sharley, and feel so much better I believe I
will go to church. I'll take Methuselah, but Nate and Moppet had better
stay at home with the baby. The last time I took Moppet he fired three
hymn-books at old Mrs. Perkins,—right into the crown of her bonnet, and
in the long prayer, too. That child will be the death of me some day. I
guess you'll get along with him, and the baby isn't quite as cross as he
was yesterday. You'd just as lief go in the afternoon, I suppose? Pin
my shawl on the shoulder, please."
But Sharley, half-way down the stairs, stood still. She was no saint,
this disappointed little girl. Her face, in the new fall hat, flushed
angrily and her hands dropped.
"O mother! I did want to go! You're always keeping me at home for
something. I did want to go!"—and rushed up stairs noisily, like a
child, and slammed her door.
"Dear me!" said her mother, putting on her spectacles to look after
her,—"dear me! what a temper! I'm sure I don't see what difference it
makes to her which half of the day she goes. Last Sunday she must go in
the afternoon, and wouldn't hear of anything else. Well, there's no
accounting for girls! Come, Methuselah."
Is there not any "accounting for girls," my dear madam? What is the
matter with those mothers, that they cannot see? Just as if it never
made any difference to them which half of the day they went to church!
Well, well! we are doing it, all of us, as fast as we can,—going the
way of all the earth, digging little graves for our young sympathies,
one by one, covering them up close. It grows so long since golden
mornings and pretty new bonnets and the sweet consciousness of watching
eyes bounded life for us! We have dreamed our dreams; we have learned
the long lesson of our days; we are stepping on into the shadows. Our
eyes see that ye see not; our ears hear that which ye have not
considered. We read your melodious story through, but we have read other
stories since, and only its haec fabula docet remains very fresh. You
will be as obtuse as we are some day, young things! It is not neglect;
it is not disapproval,—we simply forget. But from such forgetfulness
may the good Lord graciously deliver us, one and all!
There! I fancy that I have made for Mrs. Guest—sitting meantime in her
cushioned pew (directly behind Halcombe Dike), and comfortably looking
over the "Watts and Select" with Methuselah—a better defence than ever
she could have made for herself. Between you and me, girls,—though you
need not tell your mother,—I think it is better than she deserves.
Sharley, upstairs, had slammed her door and locked it, and was pacing
hotly back and forth across her room. Poor Sharley! Sun and moon and
stars were darkened; the clouds had returned after the rain. She tore
off the new hat and Sunday things savagely; put on her old
chocolate-colored morning-dress, with a grim satisfaction in making
herself as ugly as possible; pulled down the ribboned chignon which she
had braided, singing, half an hour ago (her own, that chignon); screwed
her hair under a net into the most unbecoming little pug of which it was
capable, and went drearily down stairs. Nate, enacting the cheerful
drama of "Jeff Davis on a sour apple-tree," hung from the balusters,
purple, gasping, tied to the verge of strangulation by the energetic
Moppet. The baby was calmly sitting in the squash-pies.
Halcombe Dike, coming home from church that morning a little in advance
of the crowd, saw a "Pre-raphaelite" in the doorway of Mr. Guest's barn,
and quietly unlatching the gate came nearer to examine it. It was worth
examining. There was a ground of great shadows and billowy hay; a pile
of crimson apples struck out by the light through a crack; two children
and a kitten asleep together in a sunbeam; a girl on the floor with a
baby crawling over her; a girl in a chocolate-colored dress with yellow
leaves in her hair,—her hair upon her shoulders, and her eyelashes wet.
She looked up to see him standing there with his grave, amused smile.
Her first thought was to jump and run; her second, to stand fire.
"Well, Mr. Halcombe! Moppet's stuck yellow leaves all over me; my hair's
down; I've got on a horrid old morning-dress; look pretty to see
company, don't I?"
"Besides," said Sharley, "I've been crying, and my eyes are red."
"So I see."
"No, you don't, for I'm not looking at you."
"But I am looking at you."
"What were you crying about, Sharley!"
"Because my grandmother's dead," said Sharley, after some reflection.
"Ah, yes, I remember! about '36, I think, her tombstone gives as the
date of that sad event?"
"I think it's wicked in people to laugh at people's dead grandmothers,"
said Sharley, severely. "You ought to be at church."
"So I was."
"I wasn't; mother wouldn't—" But her lip quivered, and she stopped. The
memory of the new hat and Sunday dress, of the golden church-bells, and
hush of happy Sabbath-morning thoughts came up. That he should see her
now, in this plight, with her swollen eyes and pouting lips, and her
heart full of wicked discontent!
"Wouldn't what, Sharley?"
"Don't!" she pleaded, with a sob; "I'm cross; I can't talk. Besides, I
shall cry again, and I won't cry again. You may let me alone, or you
may go away. If you don't go away you may just tell me what you have
been doing with yourself this whole long summer. Working hard, of
course. I don't see but that everybody has to work hard in this world! I
hate this world! I suppose you're a rich man by this time?"
The young man looked at the chocolate dress, the yellow leaves, the
falling hair, and answered gravely,—a little coldly, Sharley
thought,—that his prospects were not encouraging just now. Perhaps they
never had been encouraging; only that he in his young ardor had thought
so. He was older now, and wiser. He understood what a hard pull was
before young architects in America,—any young architect, the best of
young architects,—and whether there was a place for him remained to be
proved. He was willing to work hard, and to hope long; but he grew a
little tired of it sometimes, and so—He checked himself suddenly. "As
if," thought Sharley, "he were tired of talking so long to me! He
thought my question impertinent." She hid her face in her drooping hair,
and wished herself a mile away.
"There was something you once told me about some sort of buildings?" she
ventured, timidly, in a pause.
"The Crumpet Buildings. Yes, I sent my proposals, but have not heard
from them yet; I don't know that I ever shall. That is a large affair,
rather. The name of the thing would be worth a good deal to me if I
succeeded. It would give me a start, and—"
"Ough!" exclaimed Sharley. She had been sitting at his feet, with her
face raised, and red eyes forgotten, when, splash! an icy stream of
water came into her eyes, into her mouth, down her neck, up her sleeves.
She gasped, and stood drenched.
"O, it's only a rain-storm," said Moppet, appearing on the scene with
his empty dipper. "I got tired of sleeping. I dreamed about three
giants. I didn't like it. I wanted something to do. It's only my
rain-storm, and you needn't mind it, you know."
Dripping Sharley's poor little temper, never of the strongest, quivered
to its foundations. She took hold of Moppet without any observation, and
shook him just about as hard as she could shake. When she came to her
senses her mother was coming in at the gate, and Halcombe Dike was gone.
* * * * *
"I s'pose I've got to 'tend to that hollering to-night," said Moppet,
with a gentle sigh.
This was at a quarter past seven. Nate and Methuselah were in bed. The
baby was asleep. Moppet had thrown his shoes into the water-pitcher but
twice, and run down stairs in his nightgown only four times that
evening; and Sharley felt encouraged. Perhaps, after all, he would be
still by half past seven; and by half past seven—If Halcombe Dike did
not come to-night, something was the matter. Sharley decided this with a
sharp little nod.
She had devoted herself to Moppet with politic punctiliousness. Would he
lie at his lazy length, with his feet on her clean petticoat, while she
bent and puzzled over his knotted shoestrings? Very well. Did he signify
a desire to pull her hair down and tickle her till she gasped? She was
at his service. Should he insist upon being lulled to slumber by the
recounted adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, Red Riding-Hood, and Tommy
Tucker? Not those exactly, it being thought proper to keep him in a
theologic mood of mind till after sundown, but he should have David and
Goliath and Moses in the bulrushes with pleasure; then Moses and Goliath
and David again; after that, David and Goliath and Moses, by way of
variety. She conducted every Scriptural dog and horse of her
acquaintance entirely round the globe in a series of somewhat apocryphal
adventures. She ransacked her memory for biblical boys, but these met
with small favor. "Pooh! they weren't any good! They couldn't play
stick-knife and pitch-in. Besides, they all died. Besides, they weren't
any great shakes. Jack the Giant-Killer was worth a dozen of 'em, sir!
Now tell it all over again, or else I won't say my prayers till next
After some delicate plotting, Sharley manoeuvred him through "Now I lay
me," and tucked him up, and undertook a little Sunday-night catechizing,
"Has Moppet been a good boy to-day?"
"Well, that's a pretty question! Course I have!"
"But have you had any good thoughts, dear, you know?"
"O yes, lots of 'em! been thinking about Blessingham."
"Who? O, Absalom!"
"O yes, I've been thinking about Blessingham, you know; how he must have
looked dreadful funny hanging up there onto his hair, with all the darts
'n things stickin' into him! _Would_n't you like to seen him! No, you
needn't go off, 'cause I ain't begun to be asleep yet."
Time and twilight were creeping on together. Sharley was sure that she
had heard the gate shut, and that some one sat talking with her mother
upon the front doorsteps.
"O Moppet! _Could_n't you go to sleep without me this one night,—not
this one night?" and the hot, impatient tears came in the dark.
"O no," said immovable Moppet, "of course I can't; and I 'spect I'm
going to lie awake all night too. You'd ought to be glad to stay with
your little brothers. The girl in my library-book, she was glad,
Sharley threw herself back in the rocking-chair and let her eyes brim
over. She could hear the voices on the doorsteps plainly; her mother's
wiry tones and the visitor's; it was a man's voice, low and less
frequent. Why did not her mother call her? Had not he asked to see her?
Had he not? Would nobody ever come up to take her place? Would Moppet
never go to sleep? There he was peering at her over the top of the
sheet, with two great, mischievous, wide-awake eyes. And time and
twilight were wearing on.
Let us talk about "affliction" with our superior, reproving smile!
Graves may close and hearts may break, fortunes, hopes, and souls be
ruined, but Moppet wouldn't go to sleep; and Sharley in her
rocking-chair doubted her mother's love, the use of life, and the
benevolence of God.
"I'm lying awake to think about Buriah," observed Moppet, pleasantly.
"David wanted to marry Buriah's wife. She was a very nice woman."
Silence followed this announcement.
"Sharley? you needn't think I'm asleep,—any such thing. Besides, if you
go down you'd better believe I'll holler! See here: s'pose I'd slung my
dipper at Hal Dike, jest as David slung the stone at Go-li—"
Another silence. Encouraged, Sharley dried her tears and crept half-way
across the floor. Then a board creaked.
"O Sharley! Why don't people shut their eyes when they die? Why, Jim
Snow's dorg, he didn't. I punched a frog yesterday. I want a drink of
Sharley resigned herself in despair to her fate. Moppet lay broad and
bright awake till half past eight. The voices by the door grew silent.
Steps sounded on the walk. The gate shut.
"That child has kept me up with him the whole evening long," said
Sharley, coming sullenly down. "You didn't even come and speak to him,
mother. I suppose Halcombe Dike never asked for me?"
"Halcombe Dike! Law! that wasn't Halcombe Dike. It was Deacon Snow,—the
old Deacon,—come in to talk over the revival. Halcombe Dike was at
meeting, your father says, with his cousin Sue. Great interest up his
way, the Deacon says. There's ten had convictions since Conference
night. I wish you were one of the interested, Sharley."
But Sharley had fled. Fled away into the windy, moonless night, down
through the garden, out into the sloping field. She ran back and forth
through the grass with great leaps, like a wounded thing. All her worry
and waiting and disappointment, and he had not come! All the thrill and
hope of her happy Sunday over and gone, and he had not come! All the
winter to live without one look at him,—and he knew it, and he would
"I don't care!" sobbed Sharley, like a defiant child, but threw up her
hands with the worlds and wailed. It frightened her to hear the sound of
her own voice—such a pitiful, shrill voice—in the lonely place. She
broke into her great leaps again, and so ran up and down the slope, and
felt the wind in her face. It drank her breath away from her after a
while; it was a keen, chilly wind. She sat down on a stone in the middle
of the field, and it came over her that it was a cold, dark place to be
in alone; and just then she heard her father calling her from the yard.
So she stood up very slowly and walked back.
"You'll catch your death!" fretted her mother, "running round bareheaded
in all this damp. You know how much trouble you are when you are sick,
too, and I think you ought to have more consideration for me, with all
my care. Going to bed? Be sure and not forget to put the baby's gingham
apron in the wash."
Sharley lighted her kerosene lamp without reply. It was the little
kerosene with the crack in the handle. Some vague notion that everything
in the world had cracked came to her as she crept upstairs. She put her
lamp out as soon as she was in her room, and locked her door hard. She
sat down on the side of the bed and crossed her hands, and waited for
her father and mother to come upstairs. They came up by and by and went
to bed. The light that shone in through the chink under the door went
out. The house was still.
She went over to the window then, threw it wide open, and sat down
crouched upon the broad sill. She did not sob now nor wail out. She did
not feel like sobbing or wailing. She only wanted to think; she must
think, she had need to think. That this neglect of Halcombe Dike's meant
something she did not try to conceal from her bitter thoughts. He had
not neglected her in all his life before. It was not the habit, either,
of this grave young man with the earnest eyes to do or not to do without
a meaning. He would put silence and the winter between them. That was
what he meant. Sharley, looking out upon the windy dark with
straight-lidded eyes, knew that beneath and beyond the silence of the
winter lay the silence of a life.
The silence of a life! The wind hushed into a moment's calm while the
words turned over in her heart. The branches of a cherry-tree, close
under her sight, dropped lifelessly; a homesick bird gave a little,
still, mournful chirp in the dark. Sharley gasped.
"It's all because I shook Moppet! That's it. Because I shook Moppet this
morning. He used to like me,—yes, he did. He didn't know how cross and
ugly I am. No wonder he thought such a cross and ugly thing could never
be—could never be—"
She broke off, crimson. "His wife?" She would have said the words
without blush or hesitation a week ago. Halcombe Dike had spoken no word
of love to her. But she had believed, purely and gravely, in the deeps
of her maiden thought, that she was dear to him. Gravely and purely too
she had dreamed that this October Sunday would bring some sign to her of
He had been toiling at that business in the city now a long while.
Sharley knew nothing about business, but she had fancied that, even
though his "prospects" were not good, he must be ready now to think of a
home of his own,—at least that he would give her some hope of it to
keep through the dreary, white winter. But he had given her nothing to
keep through the winter, or through any winter of a wintry life;
nothing. The beautiful Sunday was over. He had come, and he had gone.
She must brush away the pretty fancy. She must break the timid dream.
So that grave, sweet word had died in shame upon her lips. She should
not be his wife. She should never be anybody's wife.
The Sunday Night Express shrieked up the valley, and thundered by and
away in the dark. Sharley leaned far out into the wind to listen to the
dying sound, and wondered what it would seem like to-morrow morning when
it carried him away. With its pause one of those sudden hushes fell
again upon the wind. The homesick bird fluttered about a little, hunting
for its nest.
"Never to be his wife!" moaned Sharley. What did it mean? "Never to be
his wife?" She pressed her hands up hard against her two temples, and
Moppet and the baby, and her mother's headaches; milking the cow, and
kneading the bread, and darning the stockings; going to church in old
hats,—for what difference was it going to make to anybody now, whether
she trimmed them with Scotch plaid or sarcenet cambric?—coming home to
talk over revivals with Deacon Snow, or sit down in a proper way, like
other old people, in the house with a lamp, and read Somebody's Life and
Letters. Never any more moonlight, and watching, and strolling! Never
any more hoping, or wishing, or expecting, for Sharley.
She jumped a little off her window-sill; then sat down again. That was
it. Moppet, and the baby, and her mother, and kneading, and milking,
and darning, for thirty, for forty, for—the dear Lord, who pitied her,
only knew how many years.
But Sharley did not incline to think much about the Lord just then. She
was very miserable, and very much alone and unhelped. So miserable, so
alone and unhelped, that it never occurred to her to drop down right
there with her despairing little face on the window-sill and tell Him
all about it. O Sharley! did you not think He would understand?
She had made up her mind—decidedly made up her mind—not to go to sleep
that night. The unhappy girls in the novels always sit up, you know.
Besides, she was too wretched to sleep. Then the morning train went
early, at half past five, and she should stay here till it came.
This was very good reasoning, and Sharley certainly was very unhappy,—as
unhappy as a little girl of eighteen can well be; and I suppose it
would sound a great deal better to say that the cold morning looked in
upon her sleepless pain, or that Aurora smiled upon her unrested eyes,
or that she kept her bitter watch until the stars grew pale (and a fine
chance that would be to describe a sunrise too); but truth compels me to
state that she did what some very unhappy people have done before
her,—found the window-sill uncomfortable, cramped, neuralgic, and
cold,—so undressed and went to bed and to sleep, very much as she would
have done if there had been no Halcombe Dike in the world. Sharley was
not used to lying awake, and Nature would not be cheated out of her
rights in such a round, young, healthful little body.
But that did not make her much the happier when she woke in the cold
gray of the dawn to listen for the early train. It was very cold and
very gray, not time for the train yet, but she could not bear to lie
still and hear the shrill, gay concert of the birds, to watch the day
begin, and think how many days must have beginning,—so she crept
faintly up and out into the chill. She wandered about for a time in the
raw, brightening air. The frost lay crisp upon the short grass; the
elder-bushes were festooned with tiny white tassels; the maple-leaves
hung fretted with silver; the tangle of apple-trees and spruces was
powdered and pearled. She stole into it, as she had stolen into it in
the happy sunset-time so long ago—why! was it only day before
yesterday?—stole in and laid her cheek up against the shining, wet
vines, which melted warm beneath her touch, and shut her eyes. She
thought how she would like to shut and hide herself away in a place
where she could never see the frescoed frost or brightening day, nor
hear the sound of chirping birds, nor any happy thing.
By and by she heard the train coming, and footsteps. He came springing
by in his strong, man's way as he had come before. As before, he passed
near—how very near!—to the quivering white face crushed up against the
vine-leaves, and went his way and knew nothing.
The train panted and raced away, shrieked a little in a doleful,
breathless fashion, grew small, grew less, grew dim, died from sight in
pallid smoke. The track stood up on its mound of frozen bank, blank and
mute, like a corpse from which the soul had fled.
Sharley came into the kitchen at six o'clock. The fire was burning hotly
under the boiler. The soiled clothes lay scattered about. Her mother
stood over the tubs, red-faced and worried, complaining that Sharley had
not come to help her. She turned, when the girl opened the door, to
scold her a little. The best of mothers are apt to scold on Monday
Sharley stood still a moment and looked around. She must begin it with a
washing-day then, this other life that had come to her. Her heart might
break; but the baby's aprons must be boiled—to-day, next week, another
week; the years stretched out into one wearisome, endless washing-day.
O, the dreadful years! She grew a little blind and dizzy, sat down on a
heap of table-cloths, and held up her arms.
"Mother, don't be cross to me this morning,—don't O mother, mother,
mother! I wish there were anybody to help me!"
* * * * *
The battle-fields of life lie in ambush. We trip along on our smiling
way and they give no sign. We turn sharp corners where they hide in
shadow. No drum-beat sounds alarum. It is the music and the dress-parade
to-night, the groaning and the blood to-morrow.
Sharley had been little more than a child, in her unreasoning young
joy, when she knotted the barbe at her throat on Saturday night. "I am
an old woman now," she said to herself on Monday morning. Not that her
saying so proved anything,—except, indeed, that it was her first
trouble, and that she was very young to have a trouble. Yet, since she
had the notion, she might as well, to all intents and purposes, have
shrivelled into the caps and spectacles of a centenarian. "Imaginary
griefs are real." She took, indeed, a grim sort of pleasure in
thinking that her youth had fled away, and forever, in thirty-six hours.
However that might be, that October morning ushered Sharley upon
battle-ground; nor was the struggle the less severe that, she was so
young and so unused to struggling.
I have to tell of nothing new or tragic in the child's days; only of the
old, slow, foolish pain that gnaws at the roots of things. Something was
the matter with the sunsets and the dawns. Moonrise was an agony. The
brown and golden grass had turned dull and dead. She would go away up
garret and sit with her fingers in her ears, that she might not hear the
frogs chanting in the swamp at twilight.
One night she ran away from her father and mother. It chanced to be an
anniversary of their wedding-day; they had kissed each other after tea
and talked of old times and blushed a little, their married eyes
occupied and content with one another; she felt with a sudden, dreary
bitterness that she should not be missed, and so ran out into the field
and sat down there on her stone in the dark. She rather hoped that they
would wonder where she was before bedtime. It would be a bit of comfort.
She was so cold and comfortless. But nobody thought of her; and when she
came weakly up the yard at ten o'clock, the door was locked.
For a week she went about her work like a sleepwalker. Her future was
settled. Life was over. Why make ado? The suns would set and the moons
would rise: let them; there would always be suns to set and moons to
rise. There were dinners to get and stockings to mend; there would
always be dinners to get and stockings to mend. She was put into the
world for the sake of dinners and stockings, apparently. Very well; she
was growing used to it; one could grow used to it. She put away the
barbe and the pink muslin, locked her ribbon-box into the lower drawer,
gave up crimping her hair, and wore the chocolate calico all day. She
went to the Thursday-evening conference, discussed the revival with
Deacon Snow, and locked herself into her room one night to put the lamp
on the bureau before the glass and shake her soft hair down about her
colorless, inexpectant face, to see if it were not turning gray. She was
disappointed to find it as brown and bright as ever.
But Sharley was very young, and the sweet, persistent hopes of youth
were strong in her. They woke up presently with a sting like the sting
of a frost-bite.
"O, to think of being an old maid, in a little black silk apron, and
having Halcombe Dike's wedding-cards laid upon a shelf!"
She was holding the baby when this "came all over her," and she let him
drop into the coal-hod, and sat down to cry.
What had she done that life should shut down before her in such cruel
bareness? Was she not young, very young to be unhappy? She began to
fight a little with herself and Providence in savage mood; favored the
crimped hair and Scotch plaids again, tried a nutting-party and a
sewing-circle, as well as a little flirtation with Jim Snow. This lasted
for another week. At the end of that time she went and sat down alone
one noon on a pile of kindlings in the wood-house, and thought it over.
"Why, I can't!" her eyes widening with slow terror. "Happiness won't
come. I can't make it. I can't ever make it. And O, I'm just at the
beginning of everything!"
Somebody called her just then to peel the potatoes for dinner. She
thought—she thought often in those days—of that fancy of hers about
calico-living. Was not that all that was left for her? Little dreary,
figures, all just alike, like the chocolate morning-dress? O, the
rose-bud and shimmer that might have been waiting somewhere! And O, the
rose-bud and shimmer that were forever gone!
The frosted golds of autumn melted into a clear, sharp, silvered
winter, carrying Sharley with them, round on her old routine. It never
grew any the easier or softer. The girl's little rebellious feet trod it
bitterly. She hated the darning and the sweeping and the baking and the
dusting. She hated the sound of the baby's worried cry. She was tired of
her mother's illnesses, tired of Moppet's mischief, tired of
Methuselah's solemnity. She used to come in sometimes from her walk to
the office, on a cold, moonlight evening, and stand looking in at them
all through the "keeping-room" window,—her father prosing over the
state of the flour-market, her mother on the lounge, the children
waiting for her to put them to bed; Methuselah poring over his
arithmetic in his little-old-mannish way; Moppet tying the baby and the
kitten together,—stand looking till the hot, shamed blood shot to her
forehead, for thought of how she was wearied of the sight.
"I can't think what's got into Sharley," complained her mother; "she has
been as cross as a bear this good while. If she were eight years old,
instead of eighteen, I should give her a good whipping and send her to
Poor Sharley nursed her trouble and her crossness together, in her
aggrieved, girlish way, till the light went out of her wistful eyes, and
little sharp bones began to show at her wrists. She used to turn them
about and pity them. They were once so round and winsome!
Now it was probably a fact that, as for the matter of hard work,
Sharley's life was a sinecure compared to what it would be as the wife
of Halcombe Dike. Double your toil into itself, and triple it by the
measure of responsibility, and there you have your married life, young
girls,—beautiful, dim Eden that you have made of it! But there was
never an Eden without its serpent, I fancy. Besides, Sharley, like the
rest of them, had not thought as far as that.
Then—ah then, what toil would not be play-day for the sake of Halcombe
Dike? what weariness and wear could be too great, what pain too keen, if
they could bear it together?
O, you mothers! do you not see that this makes "a' the difference"? You
have strength that your daughter knows not of. There are hands to help
you over the thorns (if not, there ought to be). She gropes and cuts her
way alone. Be very patient with her in her little moods and
selfishnesses. No matter if she might help you more about the baby: be
patient. Her position in your home is at best an anomalous one,—a grown
woman, with much of the dependence of a child. She must have all the
jars and tasks and frets of family life, without the relief of
housewifely invention and authority. God and her own heart will teach
her in time what she owes to you. Never fear for that. But bear long
with her. Do not exact too much. The life you give her did not come at
her asking. Consider this well; and do not press the debt beyond its
"I don't see that there is ever going to be any end to anything!"
gasped Sharley at night between Moppet's buttons.
This set her to thinking. What if one made an end?
She went out one cold, gray afternoon in the thick of a snow-storm and
wandered up and down the railroad. It was easy walking upon the
sleepers, the place was lonely, and she had come out to be alone. She
liked the beat of the storm in her face for a while, the sharp turns of
the wind, and the soft touch of the snow that was drifting in little
heaps about her feet. Then she remembered of how small use it was to
like anything in the world now, and her face grew as wild as the storm.
Fancy yourself hemmed in with your direst grief by a drifting sleet in
such a voiceless, viewless place as that corpse-like track,—the
endless, painless track, stretching away in the white mystery, at peace,
like all dead things.
What Sharley should have done was to go home as straight as she could
go, put on dry stockings, and get her supper. What she did was to
linger, as all people linger, in the luxury of their first
wretchedness,—till the uncanny twilight fell and shrouded her in. Then
a thought struck her.
A freight-train was just coming in, slowly but heavily. Sharley, as she
stepped aside to let it pass, fixed her eyes upon it for a moment, then,
with a little hesitation, stopped to pick up a bit of iron that lay at
her feet,—a round, firm rod-end,—and placed it diagonally upon the
rail. The cars rumbled by and over it. Sharley bent to see. It was
crushed to a shapeless twist. Her face whitened. She sat down and
shivered a little. But she did not go home. The Evening Accommodation
was due now in about ten minutes.
Girls, if you think I am telling a bit of sensational fiction, I wish
you would let me know.
"It would be quick and easy," thought Sharley. The man of whom she had
read in the Journal last night,—they said he must have found it all
over in an instant. An instant was a very short time! And forty
years,—and the little black silk apron,—and the cards laid up on a
shelf! O, to go out of life,—anywhere, anyhow, out of life! No, the
Sixth Commandment had nothing to do with ending one's self!
An unearthly, echoing shriek broke through the noise of the
storm,—nothing is more unearthly than a locomotive in a storm. Sharley
stood up,—sat down again. A red glare struck the white mist, broadened,
Sharley laid her head down with her small neck upon the rail, and—I am
compelled to say that she took it up again faster than she laid it down.
Took it up, writhed off the track, tumbled down the banking, hid her
face in a drift, and crouched there with the cold drops on her face till
the hideous, tempting thing shot by.
"I guess con-sumption would be—a—little better!" she decided,
crawling to her feet.
But the poor little feet could scarcely carry her. She struggled to the
street, caught at the fences for a while, then dropped.
Somebody stumbled over her. It was Cousin Sue—Halcombe Dike's Cousin
"Deary me!" she said; and being five feet seven, with strong Yankee arms
of her own, she took Sharley up in them, and carried her to the house as
if she had been a baby.
Sharley did not commit the atrocity of fainting, but found herself
thoroughly chilled and weak. Cousin Sue bustled about with brandy and
blankets, and Sharley, watching her through her half-closed eyes,
speculated a little. Had she anybody's wedding-cards laid up on a
shelf? She had the little black apron at any rate. Poor Cousin Sue!
Should she be like that? "Poor Cousin Charlotte!" people would say.
Cousin Sue had gone to see about supper when Sharley opened her eyes and
sat strongly up. A gentle-faced woman sat between her and the light, in
a chair cushioned upon one side for a useless arm. Halcombe had made
that chair. Mrs. Dike had been a busy, cheery woman, and Sharley had
always felt sorry for her since the sudden day when paralysis crippled
her good right hand; three years ago that was now; but she was not one
of those people to whom it comes natural to say that one is sorry for
them, and she was Halcombe's mother, and so Sharley had never said it.
It struck her freshly now that this woman had seen much ill-fortune in
her widowed years, and that she had kept a certain brave, contented look
in her eyes through it all.
It struck her only as a passing thought, which might never have come
back had not Mrs. Dike pushed her chair up beside her, and given her a
long, quiet look straight in the eyes.
"It was late for you to be out in the storm, my dear, and alone."
"I'd been out a good while. I had been on—the track," said Sharley,
with a slight shiver. "I think I could not have been exactly well. I
would not go again. I must go home now. But oh"—her voice sinking—"I
wish nobody had found me, I wish nobody had found me! The snow would
have covered me up, you see."
She started up flushing hot and frightened. What had she been saying to
But Halcombe's mother put her healthy soft hand down on the girl's shut
fingers. Women understand each other in flashes.
"My dear," she said, without prelude or apology, "I have a thing to say
to you. God does not give us our troubles to think about; that's all. I
have lived more years than you. I know that He never gives us our
troubles to think about."
"I don't know who's going to think about them if we don't!" said
Sharley, half aggrieved.
"Supposing nobody thinks of them, where's the harm done? Mark my words,
child: He sends them to drive us out of ourselves,—to drive us out.
He had much rather we would go of our own accord, but if we won't go we
must be sent, for go we must. That's just about what we're put into this
world for, and we're not fit to go out of it till we have found this
Now the moralities of conversation were apt to glide off from Sharley
like rain-drops from gutta-percha, and I cannot assert that these words
would have made profound impression upon her had not Halcombe Dike's
mother happened to say them.
Be that as it may, she certainly took them home with her, and pondered
them in her heart; pondered till late in her feverish, sleepless night,
till her pillow grew wet, and her heart grew still. About midnight she
jumped out into the cold, and kneeled, with her face hidden in the bed.
"O, I've been a naughty girl!" she said, just as she might have said it
ten years ago. She felt so small, and ignorant, and weak that night.
Out of such smallness, and ignorance, and weakness great knowledge and
strength may have beautiful growth. They came in time to Sharley, but it
was a long, slow time. Moppet was just as unendurable, the baby just as
fretful, life just as joyless, as if she had taken no new outlook upon
it, made no new, tearful plans about it.
"Calico! calico!" she cried out a dozen times a day; "nothing but
But by and by it dawned in her thoughts that this was a very little
matter to cry out about. What if God meant that some lives should be
"all just alike," and like nothing fresh or bonnie, and that hers should
be one? That was his affair. Hers was to use the dull gray gift he
gave—whatever gift he gave—as loyally and as cheerily as she would
use treasures of gold and rose-tint. He knew what he was doing. What he
did was never forgetful or unkind. She felt—after a long time, and in a
quiet way—that she could be sure of that.
No matter about Halcombe Dike, and what was gone. No matter about the
little black aprons, and what was coming. He understood all about that.
He would take care of it.
Meantime, why could she not as well wash Moppet's face with a pleasant
word as with a cross one? darn the stockings with a smile as well as a
frown? stay and hear her mother discuss her headaches as well as run
away and think of herself? Why not give happiness since she could not
have it? be of use since nobody was of much use to her? Easier saying
than doing, to be sure, Sharley found; but she kept the idea in mind as
the winter wore away.
She was thinking about it one April afternoon, when she had stolen out
of the house for a walk in the budding woods. She had need enough of a
walk. It was four weeks now since she had felt the wide wind upon her
face; four weeks pleasantly occupied in engineering four boys through
the measles; and if ever a sick child had the capacity for making of
himself a seraph upon earth it was Moppet. It was a thin little face
which stood out against the "green mist" of the unfurling leaves as
Sharley wandered in and out with sweet aimlessness among the elms and
hickories; very thin, with its wistful eyes grown hollow; a shadow of
the old Sharley who fluttered among the plaid ribbons one October
morning. It was a saddened face—it might always be a saddened face—but
a certain pleasant, rested look had worked its way about her mouth, not
unlike the rich mellowness of a rainy sunset. Not that Sharley knew much
about sunsets yet; but she thought she did, which, as I said before,
amounts to about the same thing.
She was thinking with a wee glow of pleasure how the baby's arms clung
around her neck that morning, and how surprised her mother looked when
Methuselah cried at her taking this walk. As you were warned in the
beginning, nothing remarkable ever happened to Sharley. Since she had
begun in practice to approve Mrs. Dike's theory, that no harm is done if
we never think of our troubles, she had neither become the village idol,
nor in any remarkable degree her mother's pride. But she had
nevertheless cut for herself a small niche in the heart of her home,—a
much larger niche, perhaps, than the excellent Mrs. Guest was well aware
"I don't care how small it is," cried Sharley, "as long as I have room
to put my two feet on and look up."
And for that old pain? Ah, well, God knew about that, and
Sharley,—nobody else. Whatever the winter had taught her she had bound
and labelled in her precise little way for future use. At least she had
learned—and it is not everybody who learns it at eighteen,—to wear her
life bravely—"a rose with a golden thorn."
I really think that this is the place to end my story, so properly
polished off with a moral. So many Sharleys, too, will never read
beyond. But being bound in honor to tell the whole moral or no moral, I
must add, that while Sharley walked and thought among her hickories
there came up a thunder-storm. It fell upon her without any warning. The
sky had been clear when she looked at it last. It gaped at her now out
of the throats of purple-black clouds. Thunders crashed over and about
her. All the forest darkened and reeled. Sharley was enough like other
girls to be afraid of a thunder-storm. She started with a cry to break
her way through the matted undergrowth; saw, or felt that she saw, the
glare of a golden arrow overhead; threw out her hands, and fell crushed,
face downward, at the foot of a scorched tree.
When she opened her eyes she was sitting under a wood-pile. Or, to
speak more accurately, she was sitting in Mr. Halcombe Dike's lap, and
Mr. Halcombe Dike was under the wood-pile.
It was a low, triangular wood-pile, roofed with pine boards, through
which the water was dripping. It stood in the centre of a large
clearing, exposed to the rain, but safe.
"Oh!" said Sharley.
"That's right," said he, "I knew you were only stunned. I've been
rubbing your hands and feet. It was better to come here than to run the
blockade of that patch of woods to a house. Don't try to talk."
"I'm not," said Sharley, with a faint little laugh, "it's you that are
talking"; and ended with a weak pause, her head falling back where she
had found it, upon his arm.
"I wouldn't talk," repeated the young man, relevantly, after a
profound silence of five minutes. "I was coming 'across lots' from the
station. You fell—Sharley, you fell right at my feet!"
He spoke carelessly, but Sharley, looking up, saw that his face was
"I believe I will get down," she observed, after some consideration,
lifting her head.
"I don't see how you can, you know," he suggested, helplessly; "it pours
as straight as a deluge out there. There isn't room in this place for
two people to sit."
So they "accepted the situation."
The clouds broke presently, and rifts of yellow light darted in through
the fragrant, wet pine boards. Sharley's hair had fallen from her net
and covered her face. She felt too weak to push it away. After some
thought Halcombe Dike pushed it away for her, reverently, with his
strong, warm hand. The little white, trembling face shone out. He turned
and looked at it—the poor little face!—looked at it gravely and long.
But Sharley, at the look, sat up straight. Her heart leaped out into the
yellow light. All her dreary winter danced and dwindled away. Through
the cracks in the pine boards a long procession of May-days came filing
in. The scattering rain-drops flamed before her. "All the world and all
the waters blushed and bloomed." She was so very young!
"I could not speak," he told her quietly, "when I was at home before. I
could never speak till now. Last October I thought"—his voice sinking
hoarsely—"I thought, Sharley, it could never be. I could barely eke out
my daily bread; I had no right to ask you—to bind you. You were very
young; I thought, perhaps, Sharley, you might forget. Somebody else
might make you happier. I would not stand in the way of your happiness.
I asked God to bless you that morning when I went away in the cars,
Something in her face he could not understand. All that was meant by
the upturned face perhaps he will never understand. She hid it in her
bright, brown hair; put her hand up softly upon his cheek and cried.
"If you would like to hear anything about the business part of it—"
suggested the young man, clearing his throat. But Sharley "hated
business." She would not hear.
"Not about the Crumpet Buildings? Well, I carried that affair
They came out under the wide sky, and walked home hand in hand. All the
world was hung with crystals. The faint shadow of a rainbow quivered
across a silver cloud.
The first thing that Sharley did when she came home was to find Moppet
and squeeze him.
"O Moppet, we can be good girls all the same if we are happy, can't we?"
"No, sir!" said injured Moppet. "You don't catch me!"
"But O Moppet, see the round drops hanging and burning on the blinds!
And how the little mud-puddles shine, Moppet!"
Out of her pain and her patience God had brought her beautiful answer.
It was well for Sharley. But if such answer had not come? That also
would have been well.