MoboReader > Literature > Faith Gartney's Girlhood

   Chapter 5 SOMETHING HAPPENS.

Faith Gartney's Girlhood By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 27421

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Athirst! athirst! The sandy soil

Bears no glad trace of leaf or tree;

No grass-blade sigheth to the heaven

Its little drop of ecstasy.

"Yet other fields are spreading wide

Green bosoms to the bounteous sun;

And palms and cedars shall sublime

Their rapture for thee,-waiting one!"

"Take us down to see the apple woman," said Master Herbert, going out with Glory and the baby one day when his school didn't keep, and Mrs. Grubbling had a headache, and wanted to get them all off out of the way.

Bridget Foye sat at her apple stand in the cheery morning sunlight, red cheeks and russets ranged fair and tempting before her, and a pile of roasted peanuts, and one of delicate molasses candy, such as nobody but she knew how to make, at either end of the board.

Bridget Foye was the tidiest, kindliest, merriest apple woman in all Mishaumok. Everybody whose daily path lay across that southeast corner of the Common, knew her well, and had a smile, and perhaps a penny for her; and got a smile and a God-bless-you, and, for the penny, a rosy or a golden apple, or some of her crisp candy in return.

Glory and the baby, sitting down to rest on one of the benches close by, as their habit was, had one day made a nearer acquaintance with blithe Bridget. I think it began with Glory-who held the baby up to see the passing show of a portion of a menagerie in the street, and heard two girls, stopping just before her to look, likewise, say they'd go and see it perform next day-uttering something of her old soliloquy about "good times," and why she "warn't ever in any of 'em." However it was, Mrs. Foye, in her buxom cheeriness, was drawn to give some of it forth to the uncouth-looking, companionless girl, and not only began a chat with her, after the momentary stir in the street was over, and she had settled herself upon her stool, and leaning her back against a tree, set vigorously to work again at knitting a stout blue yarn stocking, but also treated Bubby and Baby to some bits of her sweet merchandise, and told them about the bears and the monkeys that had gone by, shut up in the gay, red-and-yellow-painted wagons.

So it became, after this first opening, Glory's chief pleasure to get out with the children now and then, of a sunny day, and sit here on the bench by Bridget Foye, and hear her talk, and tell her, confidentially, some of her small, incessant troubles. It was one more life to draw from-a hearty, bright, and wholesome life, besides. She had, at last, in this great, tumultuous, indifferent city, a friendship and a resource.

But there was a certain fair spot of delicate honor in Glory's nature that would not let her bring Bubby and Baby in any apparent hope of what they might get, gratuitously, into their mouths. She laid it down, a rule, with Master Herbert, that he was not to go to the apple stand with her unless he had first put by a penny for a purchase. And so unflinchingly she adhered to this determination, that sometimes weeks went by-hard, weary weeks, without a bit of pleasantness for her; weeks of sore pining for a morsel of heart food-before she was free of her own conscience to go and take it.

Bridget told stories to Herbert-strange, nonsensical fables, to be sure-stuff that many an overwise mother, bringing up her children by hard rule and theory, might have utterly forbidden as harmful trash-yet that never put an evil into his heart, nor crowded, I dare to say, a better thought out of his brain. Glory liked the stories as well, almost, as the child. One moral always ran through them all. Troubles always, somehow, came to an end; good creatures and children got safe out of them all, and lived happy ever after; and the fierce, and cunning, and bad-the wolves, and foxes, and witches-trapped themselves in their own wickedness, and came to deplorable ends.

"Tell us about the little red hen," said Herbert, paying his money, and munching his candy.

"An' thin ye'll trundle yer hoop out to the big tree, an' lave Glory an' me our lane for a minute?"

"Faith, an' I will that," said the boy-aping, ambitiously, the racy Irish accent.

"Well, thin, there was once't upon a time, away off in the ould country, livin' all her lane in the woods, in a wee bit iv a house be herself, a little rid hin. Nice an' quite she was, and nivir did no kind o' harrum in her life. An' there lived out over the hill, in a din o' the rocks, a crafty ould felly iv a fox. An' this same ould villain iv a fox, he laid awake o' nights, and he prowled round shly iy a daytime, thinkin' always so busy how he'd git the little rid hin, an' carry her home an' bile her up for his shupper. But the wise little rid hin nivir went intil her bit iv a house, but she locked the door afther her, an' pit the kay in her pocket. So the ould rashkill iv a fox, he watched, an' he prowled, an' he laid awake nights, till he came all to skin an' bone, on' sorra a ha'porth o' the little rid hin could he git at. But at lasht there came a shcame intil his wicked ould head, an' he tuk a big bag one mornin', over his shouldher, and he says till his mother, says he, 'Mother, have the pot all bilin' agin' I come home, for I'll bring the little rid hin to-night for our shupper.' An' away he wint, over the hill, an' came craping shly and soft through the woods to where the little rid hin lived in her shnug bit iv a house. An' shure, jist at the very minute that he got along, out comes the little rid hin out iv the door, to pick up shticks to bile her taykettle. 'Begorra, now, but I'll have yees,' says the shly ould fox, and in he shlips, unbeknownst, intil the house, an' hides behind the door. An' in comes the little rid hin, a minute afther, with her apron full of shticks, an' shuts to the door an' locks it, an' pits the kay in her pocket. An' thin she turns round-an' there shtands the baste iv a fox in the corner. Well, thin, what did she do, but jist dhrop down her shticks, and fly up in a great fright and flutter to the big bame acrass inside o' the roof, where the fox couldn't get at her?

"'Ah, ha!' says the ould fox, 'I'll soon bring yees down out o' that!' An' he began to whirrul round, an' round, an' round, fashter an' fashter an' fashter, on the floor, after his big, bushy tail, till the little rid hin got so dizzy wid lookin', that she jist tumbled down off the bame, and the fox whipped her up and popped her intil his bag, and shtarted off home in a minute. An' he wint up the wood, an' down the wood, half the day long, with the little rid hin shut up shmotherin' in the bag. Sorra a know she knowd where she was, at all, at all. She thought she was all biled an' ate up, an' finished, shure! But, by an' by, she renumbered herself, an' pit her hand in her pocket, and tuk out her little bright schissors, and shnipped a big hole in the bag behind, an' out she leapt, an' picked up a big shtone, an' popped it intil the bag, an' rin aff home, an' locked the door.

"An' the fox he tugged away up over the hill, with the big shtone at his back thumpin' his shouldhers, thinkin' to himself how heavy the little rid hin was, an' what a fine shupper he'd have. An' whin he came in sight iv his din in the rocks, and shpied his ould mother a-watchin' for him at the door, he says, 'Mother! have ye the pot bilin'?' An' the ould mother says, 'Sure an' it is; an' have ye the little rid hin?' 'Yes, jist here in me bag. Open the lid o' the pot till I pit her in,' says he.

"An' the ould mother fox she lifted the lid o' the pot, and the rashkill untied the bag, and hild it over the pot o' bilin' wather, an' shuk in the big, heavy shtone. An' the bilin' wather shplashed up all over the rogue iv a fox, an' his mother, an' shcalded them both to death. An' the little rid hin lived safe in her house foriver afther."

"Ah!" breathed Bubby, in intense relief, for perhaps the twentieth time. "Now tell about the girl that went to seek her fortune!"

"Away wid ye!" cried Bridget Foye. "Kape yer promish, an' lave that till ye come back!"

So Herbert and his hoop trundled off to the big tree.

"An' how are yees now, honey?" says Bridget to Glory, a whole catechism of questions in the one inquiry. "Have ye come till any good times yit?"

"Oh, Mrs. Foye," says Glory, "I think I'm tied up tight in the bag, an' I'll never get out, except it's into the hot water!"

"An' havint ye nivir a pair iv schissors in yer pocket?" asks Bridget.

"I don't know," says poor Glory, hopelessly. And just then Master Herbert comes trundling back, and Bridget tells him the story of the girl that went to seek her fortune and came to be a queen.

Glory half thinks that, some day or other, she, too, will start off and seek her fortune.

The next morning, Sunday-never a holiday, and scarcely a holy day to her-Glory sits at the front window, with the inevitable baby in her arms.

Mrs. Grubbling is upstairs getting ready for church. After baby has his forenoon drink, and is got off to sleep-supposing he shall be complaisant, and go-Glory is to dust up, and set table, and warm the dinner, and be all ready to bring it up when the elder Grubbling shall have returned.

Out at the Pembertons' green gate she sees the tidy parlor maid come, in her smart shawl and new, bright ribbons; holding up her pretty printed mousseline dress with one hand, as she steps down upon the street, and so revealing the white hem of a clean starched skirt; while the other hand is occupied with the little Catholic prayer book and a folded handkerchief. Actually, gloves on her hands, too. The gate closes with a cord and pulley after her, and somehow the hem of the fresh, outspreading crinoline gets caught in it, as it shuts. So she turns half round, and takes both hands to push it open and release herself. Doing so, something slips from between the folds of her handkerchief, and drops upon the ground. A bright half dollar, which was going to pay some of her little church dues to-day. And she hurries on, never missing it out of her grasp, and is halfway down the side street before Glory can set the baby suddenly on the carpet, rush out at the front door, regardless that Mrs. Grubbling's chamber window overlooks her from above, pick up the coin, and overtake her.

"I saw you drop it by the gate," is all she says, as she puts it into Katie Ryan's hand.

Katie stares with surprise, turning round at the touch upon her shoulder, and beholding the strange figure, and the still stranger evidence of honesty and good will.

"Indeed, and I'm thoroughly obliged to ye," says she, barely in time, for the odd figure is already retreating up the street. "It's the red-headed girl over at Grubbling's," she continues to herself. "Well, anyhow, she's an honest, kind-hearted crature, and I'll not forget it of her."

Glory has made another friend.

"Well, Glory McWhirk, this is very pretty doings indeed!" began Mrs. Grubbling, meeting the little handmaiden at the parlor door. "So this is the way, is it, when my back is turned for a minute? That poor baby dumped down on the floor, to crawl up to the hot stove, or do any other horrid thing he likes, while you go flacketting out, bareheaded, into the streets, after a topping jade like that? You can't have any high-flown acquaintances while you live in my house, I tell you now, once and for all. Are you going to take up that baby or not?" Mrs. Grubbling had been thus far effectually heading Glory off, by standing square in the parlor doorway. "Or perhaps, I'd better stay at home and take care of him myself," she added, in a tone of superlative irony.

Poor Glory, meekly murmuring that it was only to give back some money the girl had dropped, slid past her mistress submissively, like a sentry caught off his post and warned of mortal punishment, and shouldered arms once more; that is, picked up the baby, who, as if taking the cue from his mother, and made conscious of his grievance, had at this moment begun to cry.

Glory had a good cry of her own first, and then, "killing two birds with one stone," pacified herself and the baby "all under one."

After this, Katie Ryan never came out at the green gate, of a Sunday on the way to church, or of a week day to run down the little back street of an errand, but she gave a glance up at the Grubblings' windows; and if she caught sight of Glory's illumined head, nodded her own, with its pretty, dark-brown locks, quite pleasant and friendly. And between these chance recognitions of Katie's, and the good apple woman's occasional sympathy, the world began to brighten a little, even for poor Glory.

Still, good times went on-grand, wonderful good times-all around her. And she caught distant glimpses, but "wasn't in 'em."

One day, as she hurried home from the grocer's with half-a-dozen eggs and two lemons, Katie ran out from the gate, and met her halfway down Budd Street.

"I've been watchin' for ye," said she. "I seen ye go out of an errand, an' I've been lookin' for ye back. There's to be a grand party at our house to-morrow night, an' I thought maybe ye'd like to get lave, an' run over to take a peep at it. Put on yer best frock, and make yer hair tidy, an' I'll see to yer gettin' a good chance."

Poor Glory colored up, as Mrs. Grabbling might have done if the President's wife had bidden her. Not so, either. With a glow of feeling, and an oppression of gratitude, and a humility of delight, that Mrs. Grubbling, under any circumstances whatever, could have known nothing about.

"If I only can," she managed to utter, "and, anyhow, I'm sure I'm thankful to ye a thousand times."

And that night she sat up in her little attic room, after everybody e

lse was in bed, mending, in a poor fashion, a rent in the faded "best frock," and sewing a bit of cotton lace in the neck thereof that she had picked out of the ragbag, and surreptitiously washed and ironed.

Next morning, she went about her homely tasks with an alacrity that Mrs. Grubbling, knowing nothing of the hope that had been let in upon her dreariness, attributed wholly to the salutary effect of a "good scolding" she had administered the day before. The work she got out of the girl that Thursday forenoon! Never once did Glory leave her scrubbing, or her dusting, or her stove polishing, to glance from the windows into the street, though the market boys, and the waiters, and the confectioners' parcels were going in at the Pembertons' gate, and the man from the greenhouse, even, drove his cart up, filled with beautiful plants for the staircase.

She waited, as in our toils we wait for Heaven-trusting to the joy that was to come.

After dinner, she spoke, with fear and trembling. Her lips turned quite white with anxiety as she stood before Mrs. Grubbling with the baby in her arms.

"Please, mum," says Glory, tremulously, "Katie Ryan asked me over for a little while to-night to look at the party."

Mrs. Grubbling actually felt a jealousy, as if her poor, untutored handmaid were taking precedence of herself.

"What party?" she snapped.

"At the Pembertons', mum. I thought you knew about it."

"And what if I do? Maybe I'm going, myself."

Glory opened her eyes wide in mingled consternation and surprise.

"I didn't think you was, mum. But if you is--"

"You're willing, I suppose," retorted her mistress, laughing, in a bitter way. "I'm very much obliged. But I'm going out to-night, anyhow, whether it's there or not, and you can't be spared. Besides, you needn't think you're going to begin with going out evenings yet a while. At your age! A pretty thing! There-go along, and don't bother me."

Glory went along; and only the baby-of mortal listeners-heard the suffering cry that went up from her poor, pinched, and chilled, and disappointed heart.

"Oh, baby, baby! it was too good a time! I'd ought to a knowed I couldn't be in it!"

Only a stone's throw from those brightly lighted windows of the Pembertons'! Their superfluous radiance pouring out lavishly across the narrow street, searched even through the dim panes behind which Glory sat, resting her tired arms, after tucking away their ordinary burden in his crib, and answering Herbert's wearisome questions, who from his trundle bed kept asking, ceaselessly:

"What are they doing now? Can't you see, Glory?"

"Hush, hush!" said Glory, breathlessly, as a burst of brilliant melody floated over to her ear. "They're making music now. Don't you hear?"

"No. How can I, with my head in the pillow? I'm coming there to sit with you, Glory." And the boy scrambled from his feed to the window.

"No, no! you'll ketch cold. Besides, you'd oughter go to sleep. Well-only for a little bit of a minute, then," as Herbert persisted, and climbing upon her lap, flattened his face against the window pane.

Glory gathered up her skirt about his shoulders and held him for a while, begging him uneasily, over and over, to "be a good boy, and go back to bed." No; he wouldn't be a good boy, and he wouldn't go back to bed, till the music paused. Then, by dint of promising that if it began again she would open the window a "teenty little crack," so that he might hear it better, she coaxed him to the point of yielding, and tucked him, chilly, yet half unwilling, in the trundle.

Back again, to look and listen. And, oh, wonderful and unexpected fortune! A beneficent hand has drawn up the white linen shade at one of the back parlor windows to slide the sash a little from the top. It was Katie, whom her young mistress, standing with her partner at that corner of the room, had called in from the hall to do it.

"No, no," whispered the young lady, hastily, as her companion moved to render her the service she desired, "let Katie come in. She'll get such a good look down the room at the dancers." There was no abated admiration in the young man's eye, as he turned back to her side, and allowed her kindly intention to be fulfilled.

Did Katie surmise, in her turn, with the freemasonry of her class, how it was with her humble friend over the way-that she couldn't get let out for the evening, and that she would be sure to be looking and listening from her old post opposite? However it was, the linen shade was not lowered again, and there between the lace and crimson curtains stood revealed the graceful young figure of Edith Pemberton, in her floating ball robes, with the wreath of morning-glories in her hair.

"Oh, my sakes and sorrows! Ain't she just like a princess? Ain't it a splendid time? And I come so near to be in it! But I ain't; and I s'pose I shan't ever get a chance again. Maybe Katie'd get me over of a common workday though, some time, to help her a bit or so. Wouldn't I be glad to?"

"Oh, for gracious, child! Don't ever come here again. You'll catch your death. You'll have the croup and whooping cought, and everything to-morrow." This to Herbert, who had of course tumbled out of bed again at Glory's first rapturous exclamation.

"No, I won't!" cried the boy, rebelliously; "I'll stay as long as I like. And I'll tell my ma how you was a-wantin' to go away and be the Pembertons' girl. Won't she lam you when she hears that?"

"You can tell wicked lies if you want to, Master Herbert; but you know I never said such a word, nor ever thought of it. Of course I couldn't if I wanted to ever so bad."

"Couldn't live there? I guess not. Think they'd have a girl like you? What a lookin' you'd be, a-comin' to the front door answerin' the bell!"

Here the doorbell rang suddenly and sharply, and Master Herbert fancying, as did Glory, that it was his mother come back, scrambled into his bed again and covered himself up, while the girl ran down to answer the summons.

It was Katie Ryan, with cakes and sweetmeats.

"I've jist rin in to fetch ye these. Miss Edith gave 'em me, so ye needn't be feared. I knows ye're sich an honest one. An' it's a tearin' shame, if ever there was, that ye couldn't come over for a bit of diversion. Why don't ye quit this?"

"Oh, hush!" whispered Glory, with a gesture up the staircase, where she had just left the little pitcher with fearfully long ears. "And thank you kindly, over and over, I'm sure. It's real good o' you to think o' me so-oh!" And Glory couldn't say anything more for a quick little sob that came in her throat, and caught the last word up into a spasm.

"Pooh! it's just nothing at all. I'd do something better nor that if I had the chance; an' I'd adwise ye to get out o' this if ye can. Good-by. I've set the parlor windy open, an' the shade's up. I knew it would jist be a conwenience."

Glory ran up the back stairs to the top of the house, and hid away the sweet things in her own room to "make a party" with next day. And then she went down and tented over the crib with an old woolen shawl, and set a high-backed rocking chair to keep the draft from Herbert, and opened the window "a teenty crack." In five minutes the slight freshening of the air and the soothing of the music had sent the boy to sleep, and watchful Glory closed the window and set things in their ordinary arrangement once more.

Next morning Herbert made hoarse complaint.

"What did you let him do, Glory, to catch such a cold?" asked Mrs. Grabbling.

"Nothing, mum, only he would get out of bed to hear the music," replied the girl.

"Well, you opened the window, you know you did, and Katie Ryan came over and kept the front door open. And you said how you wished you could go over there and do their chores. I told you I'd tell."

"It's wicked lies, mum," burst out Glory, indignant.

"Do you dare to tell him he lies, right before my face, you good-for-nothing girl?" shrieked the exasperated mother. "Where do you expect to go to?"

"I don't expect to go nowheres, mum; and I wouldn't say it was lies if he didn't tell what wasn't true."

"How should such a thing come into his head if you didn't say it?"

"There's many things comes into his head," answered Glory, stoutly, "and I think you'd oughter believe me first, when I never told you a lie in my life, and you did ketch Master Herbert fibbing, jist the other day, but."

Somehow, Glory had grown strangely bold in her own behalf since she had come to feel there was a bit of sympathy somewhere for her in the world.

"I know now where he learns it," retorted the mistress, with persistent and angry injustice.

Glory's face blazed up, and she took an involuntary step to the woman's side at the warrantless accusation.

"You don't mean that, mum, and you'd oughter take it back," said she, excited beyond all fear and habit of submission.

Mrs. Grubbling raised her hand passionately, and struck the girl upon the cheek.

"I mean that, then, for your impudence! Don't answer me up again!"

"No, mum," said Glory, in a low, strange tone; quite white now, except where the vindictive fingers had left their crimson streaks. And she went off out of the room without another word.

Over the knife board she revolved her wrongs, and sharpened at length the keen edge of desperate resolution.

"Please, mum," said she, in the old form of address, but with quite a new manner, that, in the little dependant of less than fifteen, startled the hard mistress, "I ain't noways bound to you, am I?"

She propounded her question, stopping short in her return toward the china closet through the sitting room.

"Bound? What do you mean?" parried Mrs. Grubbling, dimly foreshadowing to herself what it would be if Glory should break loose, and go.

"To stay, mum, and you to keep me, till I'm growed up," answered Glory, briefly.

"There's no binding about it," replied the mistress. "Of course I wouldn't be held to anything of that sort. I shan't keep you any longer than you behave yourself."

"Then, if you please, mum, I think I'll go," said Glory. And she burst into a passion of tears.

"Humph! Where?" asked Mrs. Grubbling.

"I don't know, yet," said Glory, the sarcasm drying her tears. "I s'pose I can go to a office."

"And where'll you get your meals and your lodgings till you find a place?" The cat thought she had her paw on the mouse, now, and could play with her as securely and cruelly as she pleased.

"If you go away at all," continued Mrs. Grubbling, with what she deemed a finishing stroke of policy, "you go straight off. I'll have no dancing back and forth to offices from here."

"Do you mean right off, this minute?" asked Glory, aghast.

"Yes just that. Pack up and go, or else let me hear no more about it."

The next thing in Glory's programme of duty was to lay the table for dinner. But she went out of the room, and slowly off, upstairs.

Pretty soon she came down again, with her eyes very tearful, and her shabby shawl and bonnet on.

"I'm going, mum," said she, as one resolved to face calmly whatever might befall. "I didn't mean it to be sudden, but it are. And I wouldn't never a gone, if I'd a thought anybody cared for me the leastest bit that ever was. I wouldn't mind bein' worked and put upon, and not havin' any good times; but when people hates me, and goes to say I doesn't tell the truth"-here Glory broke down, and the tears poured over her stained cheeks again, and she essayed once more to dry them, which reminded her that her hands again were full.

"It's some goodies-from the party, mum"-she struggled to say between short breaths and sobs, "that Katie Ryan give me-an' I kept-to make a party-for the children, with-to-day, mum-when the chores was done-and I'll leave 'em-for 'em-if you please."

Glory laid her coals of fire upon the table as she spoke. Master Herbert eyed them, as one utterly unconscious of a scorch.

"I s'pose I might come back and get my bundle," said Glory, standing still in the hope of one last kindly or relenting word.

"Oh, yes, if you get a place," said her mistress, dryly, affecting to treat the whole affair as a childish, though unwonted burst of petulance.

But Glory, not daring, unbidden, even to kiss the baby, went steadily and sorrowfully out into the street, and drew the door behind her, that shut with a catch lock, and fastened her out into the wide world.

Not stopping to think, she hurried on, up Budd and down Branch Street, and across the green common path to the apple stand and Bridget Foye.

"I've done it! I've gone! And I don't know what to do, nor where to go to!"

"Arrah, poor little rid hin! So, ye've found yer schiasors, have ye, an' let yersel' loose out o' the bag? Well, it's I that is glad, though I wouldn't pit ye up till it," says Bridget Foye.

Poor little red hen. She had cut a hole, and jumped out of the bag, to be sure; but here she was, "all alone by herself" once more, and the foxes-Want and Cruelty-ravening after her all through the great, dreary wood!

This day, at least, passed comfortably enough, however, although with an undertone of sadness-in the sunshine, by Bridget's apple stand, watching the gay passers-by, and shaping some humble hopes and plans for the future. For dinner, she shared Mrs. Foye's plain bread and cheese, and made a dessert of an apple and a handful of peanuts. At night Bridget took her home and gave her shelter, and the next day she started her off with a "God bless ye and good luck till ye," in the charge of an older girl who lodged in the same building, and who was also "out after a place."

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