E-text prepared by Al Haines
MARY ROSE OF MIFFLIN
FRANCES R. STERRETT
Author of The "Jam Girl" and "Up the Road with Sallie"
Illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright
[Frontispiece: "'It's an e-normous house, isn't it!' she said in surprise"]
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
Copyright, 1910, by D. Appleton and Company
TO THE MEMORY OF
MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER
WHO MADE A VERY FRIENDLY
PLACE IN THIS BIG WORLD
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'It's an e-normous house, isn't it!' she said in surprise" . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece
"'You can't ever know, Aunt Kate, how splendid it is to wear skirts'"
"Shelves and birdcage had all disappeared"
"'I haven't seen a canary bird for years,' she murmured"
"'It's a squirrel! A really truly squirrel in this big city!'"
"Mary Rose was perched on a chair across from him and was telling him of Mifflin"
"There on the wide window seat was the self-supporting cat"
"'Why didn't you come home before, Mary Rose?' Miss Thorley asked"
MARY ROSE OF MIFFLIN
"It's there in every lease, plain as print," Larry Donovan insisted. "No childern, no dogs an' no cats. It's in every lease."
"I don't care if it is!" Kate Donovan's face was as red as a poppy and she spoke with a determination that exactly matched her husband's. "You needn't think I'm goin' to turn away my own sister's only child? Who should take care of her if I don't? Tell me that, Larry Donovan, an' be ashamed of yourself for askin' me to send her away!"
"Sure, an' I'd like the little thing here as much as you, Kate, dear," Larry said soothingly, and in her heart Mrs. Donovan knew that he meant it. "But it isn't every day that a man picks up a job like this, janitor of a swell apartmen' buildin', an' if we take in a kid when the lease says plain as can be, no childern, no dogs an' no cats, I'll lose the job an' then how'll I put a roof over your heads an' bread in your stomachs? That's why I'm again' it."
"A clever man like you'll find a way." Mrs. Donovan's confidence was both flattering and stimulating. If a woman expects her husband to do things he just has to do them. He has no choice. "Don't you worry. You haven't been out of work since we were married 'cept the three months you was laid up with inflamm't'ry rheumatiz. The way I look at it is this: the good Lord must have meant us to have Mary Rose or he wouldn't have taken her mother an' her father an' all her relations but us. Seems if he didn't send us any of our own so we'd have plenty of room in our hearts an' home for her. She's a present to us straight from the Lord."
"That may be, Kate," Larry scratched his puzzled head. "But will the agents, will Brown an' Lawson look at it that way? The lease says——"
"Bother the lease!" Mrs. Donovan interrupted him impatiently. "What's the lease got to do with a slip of a girl who's been left an orphan down in Mifflin?"
"That's just what I'm tryin' to tell you." Larry clung to his temper with all of his ten fingers, for it was irritating to have her refuse to understand. "If we took Mary Rose in here to live don't you s'pose all those up above," he jerked his thumb significantly toward the ceiling, "'d know it an' make trouble? God knows they make enough as it is. They're a queer lot of folks under this roof, Kate, and that's no lie. Folks—they're cranks!" explosively. "When one isn't findin' fault another is. When I've heat enough for ol' Mrs. Johnson it's too hot for Mrs. Bracken. Mrs. Schuneman on the first floor has too much hot water an' Miss Adams on the third too little. Mrs. Rawson won't stand for Mrs. Matchan's piano an' Mrs. Matchan kicks on Mrs. Rawson's sewin' machine. Mr. Jarvis never gets his newspaper an' Mrs. Lewis al'ys gets two. Mrs. Willoughby jumps on me if a pin drops in the hall. She can't stand no noise since her mother died. She don't do nothin' but cry. I don't blame her man for stayin' away. I'd as soon be married to a fountain. When they can't find anythin' else to jaw me about they take the laundries. An' selfish! There isn't one can see beyond the reach of his fingers. I used to think that folks were put into the world to be friendly an' helpful to each other but I've learned different." He sighed and shook his head helplessly. "Mrs. Bracken on the first floor has lived here as long as we have, two years nex' October, an' I've yet to hear her give a friendly word to anyone in the house. When little Miss Smith up on the third was sick las' winter did her nex' door neighbor lend a hand? She did not. She was just worried stiff for fear she'd catch somethin'. She gave me no peace till Miss Smith was out of the house an' into a hospital. Peace! I've forgot there was such a word. They won't stand for any kid in the house when the lease says no childern, no dogs an' no cats."
"You can't tell me anythin' about them!" Mrs. Donovan agreed with pleasant promptness. It is always agreeable to have one's estimate of human nature endorsed. "An' the most of 'em look like thunder clouds when you meet 'em. Ain't it queer, Larry, how few folks look happy when a smile's 'bout the cheapest thing a body can wear? An' it never goes out of style. I know I never get tired seein' one on old or young. All folks can't be rich nor han'some but most of us could look pleasant if we thought so, seems if. I want to tell that to little Miss Macy every time I see her, but I know full well she'd say I was impudent, so I keep my mouth shut. Maybe the tenants won't stand for a child in the house. They haven't wit to see that the Lord had his good reasons when he invented the fam'ly. But there's some way. There must be! An' we've got to find it, Larry Donovan. Are you goin' to wash Mrs. Rawson's windows today?" She changed the subject abruptly. "She called me up twice yesterday to see they needed it, as if I had nothin' to do but traipse aroun' after her."
Larry understood exactly how she felt. He had been called up more than twice to see the windows and had promised to clean them within twenty-four hours. Before he went away he patted his wife's shoulder and said again: "It isn't that I don't want the little thing here, Kate. She'd be good for both of us. It's bad for folks to grow old 'thout young ones growin' up around 'em, but a job's a job. It wouldn't be easy for a man to get another as good as this at this time of year. See the home it gives you."
He looked proudly around the pleasant basement living-room. Open doors led into the dining-room and hall from which more doors opened into kitchen and sleeping-rooms. There was a small room at the end of the hall in which Mrs. Donovan kept her sewing machine but for which, in the last twenty-four hours, she had found another use. The apartment was very comfortable and Mrs. Donovan kept it as neat as wax. There was never any dust on her floors if the fault-finding tenants did say there was in the halls.
Mrs. Donovan was proud of her home also, but she frowned as she glanced about her. "There's plenty of room for one more," she grumbled. "That little room beyond ours is just the place for a child. But go on, Larry, we'll think of a way. We've got to! It shan't ever be said that Kate Donovan turned away her only sister's only child. Do you mind when Mary married Sam Crocker? It was thought to be a big step up for the daughter of an Irish carpenter to marry a Crocker, the son of ol' Judge Crocker an' a lawyer himself. Seems if there never was a prettier girl than Mary an' she was happy till she died. An' now Sam's dead, too. He wasn't the man his father was. He couldn't keep money an' he couldn't earn it. Mary used to feel sorry for me, Larry, because you weren't a Crocker, but if she could see us now an', seems if, I believe she can, she mus' be glad I got a good honest hard workin' Irishman. You've a good job an' a little money in the bank. You don't owe no man a penny. That's more'n Sam Crocker could ever say an' tell the truth!"
For two years Larry Donovan had been the proud janitor of the Washington Apartment House. He had moved in before the building was fairly completed and felt that it belonged to him quite as much as to the owner, whose name he did not know, for all business was transacted through the rental agents, Brown and Lawson.
It was an attractive building. The center of the red brick front, with its rather ornate entrance, was pushed back some ten feet. The rectangular space that was left was neatly bisected by the cement walk. On either side were grassy squares, like pocket handkerchiefs, man's size, with clumps of shrubbery in the corners for monograms. The Washington was long and broad and low, not more than three stories high, but it had an air of comfort and also of pretension that was lacking in many of the taller apartment houses whose shoulders it could not begin to touch. Under the low roof were some twenty apartments of different sizes and the occupant of each was bound by lease not to introduce a child nor a cat nor a dog. No one showed the least desire to introduce any one of the three but each went his way and insisted on his full rights with a selfish disregard of the rights and conveniences of others in a way that at first had made Larry Donovan's mouth pop wide open in amazement. Even now that he was used to it he was often surprised.
And to the Washington with its lease forbidding children and pets had come a letter from Mifflin telling of the sudden death of Mrs. Donovan's brother-in-law. Samuel Crocker had been an unsuccessful man, as the world counts success, and had left nothing behind him but his little daughter, Mary Rose.
"It's her age that's again' her," thought Mrs. Donovan, when she was alone. "If she were a couple of years older there couldn't be any objection. Well, for the lan's sakes!" Her face broke into a broad grin. "There isn't any reason why we should—nobody need ever know," she murmured cryptically.
Ten minutes later she was busy in the little room at the end of the hall. When Larry came back he stumbled over the machine she had pushed out of her way.
"Hullo," he said. "What's up?"
Mrs. Donovan lifted a smiling face. "I'm gettin' ready."
"For what?" he asked stupidly.
"For my niece, Mary Rose Crocker." She turned around and stood before him, a scrub-cloth in her hand.
Larry frowned. "I thought we'd finished with that, Kate. I told you about the leases. You'll have to board Mary Rose in Mifflin or send her to a convent."
"Board!" The scrub-doth, a very banner of defiance, was waved an inch in front of his nose. "Board out my own niece, a kid of eleven? I think I see myself, Larry Donovan. An' aren't you ashamed to have such thoughts, you, a decent man? A little thing that needs a mother's care. An' who should give it to her but me, her own aunt? The Lord had his plans when he took away all her other relations an' I ain't one to interfere."
"It means the loss of my job," objected Larry sullenly.
"It does not." There was another flourish of the scrub-cloth. "Listen to me, Larry Donovan. Is there anyone in this house 't knows how old Mary Rose is? Does Mrs. Bracken or that crosspatch Miss Adams or the weepin' willow, Mrs. Willoughby, know she isn't eleven? Who's to tell 'em if we keep our mouths shut? It ain't none of their business though, seems if, there isn't one that'd be beyond makin' it their business. I'll grant you that. Your old lease, more shame to it, says childern ain't allowed here. Mary Rose is a child but if she takes after her mother's fam'ly, an' I know in my heart she does, she'll be a big up-standin' girl, a girl anyone 'd take for fourteen. Maybe fifteen. Why, when her mother was twelve she weighed a hundred an' twenty-five pounds. I've known women of fifty that didn't weigh that!" triumphantly. "Don't you worry, Larry, dear. I've got it all planned out. There's the clothes your sister left here when she an' Ella went West las' fall. Ella was fourteen an' her clothes 'll just fit Mary Rose or I miss my guess. They'll make her look every minute of fourteen. An' a girl of fourteen isn't a child. Why, the state that's again' child labor lets a girl of fourteen go to work if she can get a permit, so we've got the law on our side. You see how easy it is, Larry?" She beamed with pride at the solution she had found for the problem that had tormented her ever since the letter had come from Mifflin.
"Do you mean you're goin' to tell lies about your own niece?" demanded Larry incredulously.
Mrs. Donovan looked at him sadly. "Why should I tell lies?" she asked sweetly. "Sure, it's no lie to say Mary Rose is goin' on fourteen. I ain't denyin' it'll be some time before she gets to fourteen but she's goin' on fourteen more'n she is on ten. If the tenants take a wrong meaning from my words is it my fault? No, Larry," firmly. "I wouldn't tell lies for nobody an' I wouldn't let Mary Rose tell lies. We al'ys had our mouths well scoured out with soft soap when we didn't tell the truth. But it ain't no lie to say a child's goin' on fourteen when she is."
A taxicab stopped before the Washington Apartment House and a slim boyish little figure hopped out and stared up at the roof of the long red brick building that towered so far above.
"It's an e-normous house, isn't it!" she said in surprise.
"Here, Mary Rose." A hand reached out a basket and then a birdcage. "I'll go in with you."
"You're awfully good, Mrs. Black." Mary Rose looked at her with loving admiration. "Of course, I'd have come here all right by myself for daddy always said there was a special Providence to look after children and fools and that was why we were so well taken care of, but it certainly did make it pleasant for me to have you come all the way."
"It certainly made it pleasant for me," Mrs. Black said, and it had. Mary Rose was so enthusiastic on this, her first trip away from Mifflin, that she had amused Mrs. Black, who had made the journey to Waloo so many times that it had become nothing but a necessary bore. She was sorry that they had arrived at Mary Rose's destination. "Now, where do we find your aunt?" She, too, looked up at the red brick building that faced them so proudly.
"My Uncle Larry's the janitor of this splendid mansion!" Mary Rose told her joyously, although there was a trace of awe in her birdlike voice. The mansion seemed so very, very large to her. "Is janitor the same as owner, Mrs. Black? It's—it's——" she drew a deep breath as if she found it difficult to say what it was. "It's wonderful! There isn't one house in all Mifflin so big and grand, is there? It looks more," she cocked her head on one side, "like the new Masonic Temple on Main Street than anybody's home."
"So it does," agreed Mrs. Black, leading the way into the vestibule, where she found a bell labeled "Janitor."
When Kate Donovan answered it she saw a pleasant-faced, smartly clad woman with a child in a neat, if shabby, boy's suit of blue serge, belted blouse over shrunken knickerbockers. She knew at once that they had come to look at the vacant apartment on the second floor.
"An I'll have to tell her we don't have no childern here," she said to herself, and she sighed. "I wish Larry had a place in a house that was overrun with childern. Seems if I hate to tell her how it is."
But the pleasant-faced smartly clad woman smiled at her as no prospective tenant had ever smiled and asked sweetly: "Is this Mrs. Donovan?"
Before Kate Donovan could admit it the boyish little figure ran to her.
"My Aunt Kate! I know it is. It's my Aunt Kate!"
"My soul an' body!" murmured the startled Mrs. Donovan, staring stupidly at the child embracing her knees.
"I brought your little niece," began Mrs. Black.
"Niece!" gasped Mrs. Donovan in astonishment, for the figure at her knees did not look like any niece she had ever seen. "Sure, it's a boy!"
The little face upturned to her broke into a radiant smile. "That's what everyone says. But I'm not a boy, I'm not! Am I, Mrs. Black? I'm a girl and my name's Mary Rose and I'm almost eleven——"
"H-sh, h-sh, dearie!" Mrs. Donovan's hand slipped over the red lips and she sent a quick glance over her shoulder. Bewildered and surprised as she was she realized that her niece's age was not to be shouted out in the vestibule of the Washington in any such joyous fashion. "My soul an' body," she murmured again as she looked at the sturdy little figure in knickerbockers. "You're Mary Rose Crocker?" she asked doubtfully. She almost hoped she wasn't.
"Mary Rose Crocker," repeated the red lips and the knickerbockered legs jumped up and down.
"My soul an' body!" Mrs. Donovan murmured helplessly. "Will you come down to my rooms, ma'am," she said to Mrs. Black, as she tried to remember her manners and not think how she was to tell Larry the truth. Why, this child was undersized rather than over. Her mother might have weighed a hundred and twenty-five pounds when she was twelve but Mary Rose couldn't weigh seventy. Dear, dear, why couldn't she just as well have been bigger? But after one glance at the glowing little face, Kate Donovan would have lost almost everything rather than her right to take care of diminutive Mary Rose.
Mrs. Black smiled at her. She liked her honest good-natured face. It was a shining door-plate for the big heart behind it. She had been rather worried over Mary Rose's only living relative, for she was fond of Mary Rose and wanted her to have a real home.
"Thank you, but I fear I must go on. Our train was a little late. I am glad to have met you and if you like Mary Rose half as much as I do you will think you are a lucky woman to have her always with you. Good-by, Mary Rose. Thank you for coming with me."
Mary Rose threw her arms about her friend. "Thank you for bringing me," she whispered.
"Have you everything? Her trunk is at the station and she has the check," she explained to Mrs. Donovan. "Good-by." And with another kiss for Mary Rose she was gone. They could hear the purr of the taxicab as it dashed up the street.
Mary Rose drew a deep breath. "It's very pleasant to get to the end of a journey," she began a trifle tremulously. Mary Rose was beginning to feel a bit forlorn at being left alone with an aunt she had never seen before. "Mrs. Black's a very kind lady and she brought me here in a taxicab. It's very pleasant riding in a taxicab."
"I've no doubt it is," remarked Mrs. Donovan, who knew taxicabs only by sight. "Now, Mary Rose, we'll go down to my rooms. Is this your canary?" She looked oddly at the bird-cage.
"Yes, that's Jennie Lind. I couldn't leave her behind and Mrs. Black said you'd be sure to have room for her, for all she needs is a window to hang in and everybody has at least one window. Your house is very large, isn't it?" admiringly. "It makes me think of a palace, although it is something like the new Masonic Temple in Mifflin. Do you live in the cellar?" she asked in astonishment as her aunt led the way down the basement stairs. "I've never lived in a cellar before. In Mifflin our cellar had only room for jellies and pickles and a closet for vegetables, turnips and parsnips, you know."
"This isn't a cellar," she was told rather sharply. "It's a basement."
"Oh!" Mary Rose tried to see the difference between a cellar and a basement and had little difficulty, for nothing could have been more different from the little Mifflin cellar with its swinging shelf for preserves and pickles, its dark closet for vegetables, than Aunt Kate's basement apartment. The sun streamed into the windows, only half of which were below the level of the street, and the rooms looked very bright and pleasant to tired Mary Rose.
"It's—it's very pleasant," she said. "But do you always live down here?" She couldn't understand why her aunt should choose rooms in the cellar when she had such a large house.
Her aunt did not answer her but asked a question of her own. "Mary Rose, what makes you dress like that, like a boy?" She couldn't imagine why.
Mary Rose regarded her small person with a blush and a frown. "I know. Isn't it horrid? I'd lots rather wear girls' clothes, but you see these saved washing, and Lena, who took care of daddy and me, made a fuss about the washing almost every week, so daddy said boys' clothes were pleasanter than arguments. Aunt Kate," her voice was tragic, "I'm 'most eleven years old and I haven't ever had a white dress with a blue sash in all my life. I never even had a hair ribbon!"
"My soul an' body!" murmured Aunt Kate, and derived no more satisfaction from the exclamation than she had the other times she had used it.
"Don't you think boys should wear boys' clothes and girls girls' clothes, Aunt Kate? Of course, if you have to think of the washing, too, I won't say a word and I'll try to be happy in these. But I do hate them. I think little girls' clothes are beautiful. All my life I've wanted a white dress with lace on it and a blue sash. Gladys Evans has one. She wore it at the church social. I spoke a piece and I had to wear these ugly clothes. It hurt my pride awful but daddy said that was because I didn't look at it right, that if I had the right kind of an eye I'd see washing in a white dress instead of beauty. But I guess it's hard to see right when you haven't ever had anything but boys' clothes. Oh, Aunt Kate!" she put her arms around her aunt. "I do think that it is good of you to want me to live with you. You're the only relation I have out of Heaven. I don't quite understand about that, when Gladys Evans has four sisters and a brother and three aunts and two uncles and a pair of grandfathers and even one grandmother. It doesn't seem just fair, does it? But I think you're nicer than all of hers put together. One of her aunts is cross-eyed and another lives in California and one of her uncles is stingy," she whispered. "You—you're beautiful!" And she hugged her again.
Mrs. Donovan dropped weakly into a chair and her arms went around Mary Rose. She had never realized how empty they had been until they enclosed Mary Rose.
"You didn't say anything about bringing my friends with me," went on Mary Rose happily, "but of course I couldn't leave Jenny Lind and George Washington behind. George Washington has the same name as your house," she gurgled. "Wouldn't you like to see him?" She slipped from her aunt's arms to the chair where she had put her basket. There had been sundry angry upheavals of the cover but it was tightly tied with a stout string. Mrs. Donovan had scarcely noticed it. She had been too bewildered to see anything but Mary Rose.
Mary Rose untied the basket cover but before she could raise it a big maltese cat had pushed it aside and jumped to the floor and stood stretching himself in front of Mrs. Donovan's horrified eyes.
"Mary Rose!" she cried. It was all she could say.
"Isn't he a beauty?" Mary Rose turned shining eyes to her as she patted her pet. "I've had him ever since he was a weeny kitten. Mrs. Campbell gave him to me when I had the tonsilitis. We adore each other. You see his mother is dead and so is mine. We're both orphans."
And she caught the orphaned George Washington to her and hugged him. "I've a dog, too, but I left him in Mifflin."
"Thank God for that," murmured Mrs. Donovan under her breath.
"His name is Solomon," went on Mary Rose. "He was such a wise little puppy that daddy said he should have a wise name. The superintendent of schools made out a list for me and I copied each one on a separate piece of paper and let the puppy take his choice. He took Solomon and daddy said he showed his sense for Solomon was the very wisest of all. But that shows just how smart Solomon was even as a puppy. Jimmie Bronson's taking care of him until I send for him. He said he'd just as soon I never sent, but of course I will as soon as I can. Do you see Jenny Lind, George Washington?" She took the cat's head in her hands and turned it to the cage in which Jenny Lind hopped restlessly. "They aren't the friends I'd like them to be," she explained almost apologetically to her aunt. "Sometimes it worries me. Dear me, I wish I could have a talk with Noah! Don't you often wonder how he managed in the ark? It must have been hard with cats and mice and snakes and birds and lions and people. Daddy thought Noah must have been a fine animal tamer, like the one in the circus Gladys Evans' father took us to, only better, of course. Don't you think you'll like George Washington?" she asked timidly, rather puzzled by her aunt's silence.
"He's a beautiful cat," gulped Mrs. Donovan, who was more puzzled than Mary Rose. What should she do? What could she do? She took both Mary Rose and George Washington in her arms. "Listen to me, Mary Rose, for a minute. You know your Uncle Larry is janitor of this building?"
"It's a fine building," admiringly. "He must be awful rich."
"He isn't rich at all," hurriedly. "If he was he wouldn't be a janitor. A janitor is the man who takes care of it——"
"Oh," Mary Rose was frankly disappointed. "I thought he owned it."
"You see other folks live here, lots of them, an' the man who owns it won't let them have any cats or dogs," she hesitated, she hated to say it, "or childern in it. It's in the lease. A lease is the same as a law."
"Won't have any cats or dogs or children!" Mary Rose's voice was shrill with astonishment and her eyes were as big as saucers. "Why, everybody has children! They always have had. Don't you remember, even Adam and Eve? In Mifflin everyone has children."
"It's different in Waloo. You see the man who owns this house thinks childern are noisy an' destructive." She tried her best to find an excuse for the unknown owner. "He doesn't know, of course. He's probably a cross old bachelor."
"But I'm a child," wailed Mary Rose suddenly. "Wha-what are you going to do with me?" Her face whitened.
Her aunt put her hand under the little chin and turned Mary Rose's startled face up so that the two pairs of eyes looked directly into each other. "You're not a child, Mary Rose. You're a great big girl goin' on fourteen. Don't ever forget that. If anyone asks you how old you are you just tell 'em you're goin' on fourteen. That's what you are, you know."
"Yes," doubtfully. "But I have to go to eleven first and then to twelve and thirteen——"
"Waloo folks don't care about that," her aunt interrupted quickly. "They don't care to hear about any but the fourteen. Don't you ever forget."
"I won't," promised Mary Rose solemnly, too puzzled just then to think it out. "But what about George Washington? He's just a cat." She looked dubiously at George Washington and shook her head. Nothing could be made of him but a cat. "An orphan cat!" she added firmly.
"I know, dearie." Aunt Kate's arms tightened around her. "An' I hate to ask you to give him up. I know you love him but if you keep him here it may mean that your uncle will lose his job an' if he did that there wouldn't be any roof over our heads nor bread for our stomachs."
"Oh!" Mary Rose stared at her. "Would that cross old bachelor owner make him not be janitor?"
Her aunt nodded. "We'll have to find someone to take care of him—just for a while," she added quickly as she saw two big tears in Mary Rose's blue eyes. "Some day, please God, we'll have a home where we can have him with us."
Mary Rose stood very still, trying in vain to understand this strange world to which she had come, a world where children and cats and dogs were not considered precious and desirable. Suddenly a bell rang.
"That's Mrs. Rawson," murmured Aunt Kate. "I'll bet she wants me to run up an' look at her windows again. I'll be right back, Mary Rose," she promised as she hurried away to answer the insistent jangle of Mrs. Rawson's bell.
Left alone, Mary Rose caught George Washington to her heart and stood staring about the room. She shook her head. This might be a beautiful palace but she was very much afraid that she was not going to like it. She walked slowly into the next room and then to the kitchen, whose windows faced the alley.
Across the driveway she could see a broad open space, the yard of a rambling old-fashioned house. A man was cleaning an automobile and through the open window Mary Rose could hear his cheery whistle. There was something about the old-fashioned house and the spacious yard that reminded Mary Rose of Mifflin, where people loved children and had pets. The puzzled frown left her face, and clutching George Washington closer she went out of the back door and across the alley.
"If you please," she said, her heart beating so fast that she was almost choked, "would you take a cat to board?"
She had to say it a second time before the man heard her. He looked up in surprise. He had a frank, pleasant face with twinkling eyes and Mary Rose liked him at once.
"Hullo, brother," he said, quite as cordially as a Mifflin man would have spoken. "And where did you drop from?"
"I didn't drop," answered literal Mary Rose. "I came across the alley," and she nodded toward the big apartment house. It now turned a white brick face to her. Mary Rose almost forgot her errand when she saw that. In Mifflin houses were the same color all the way around. "Why—why, it's two-faced!" she cried. "The front is all red and now the back is all white. It's just like an enchanted palace."
"It is an enchanted palace," grumbled the man.
Mary Rose flew to his side. "Oh, is there a princess there? A beautiful princess?" she begged.
The man colored under the tan the sun and wind had spread over his face. "There is," he admitted, "a most beautiful princess."
"And a witch?" insisted Mary Rose. "A wicked witch?" The color flew into her face also.
"The wickedest witch that could ever enslave a beautiful princess. Her darned old name is Independence!"
Mary Rose did not understand and she thought it was an odd name for a witch but she wished to know more. "And is the prince there?" she demanded thirstily.
The man's face turned redder than before. "The prince is here," he said sadly. "Right here. And he might as well be in Jericho," he added under his breath.
"I've heard the Presbyterian minister speak of Jericho but I never read of it in any fairy-tale. Oh, dear! I hope the prince won't go there. I want him to stay here and rescue the pretty princess from that wicked witch In-independence," she stumbled over the unfamiliar word.
The man looked at her. He had to look away down to find her, for he was tall, over six feet, and Mary Rose was not much more than half that, but when he finally did find her Mary Rose was amazed to see the look of determination that came into his sunburned face.
"He'll do it," he said, half under his breath. "It's all very well for a girl to be independent, but she needn't be so darned independent that she won't listen to a word a man says."
"I don't think I understand," Mary Rose ventured to say when there was a long pause.
Her new friend laughed. "No, of course, you don't." He put his hands on her shoulders. "As man to man," he said, "the modern girl is getting to be almost too much of a problem for the modern man. I don't suppose you understand that, either. But wait ten or fifteen years and you will. Godfrey! I feel sorry for you. If they keep on as they've started what will they be in ten years? Did you say you were living over there?" He looked toward the white wall.
Mary Rose nodded her yellow head. "I thought perhaps you might like to take a cat to board. An orphan cat," she explained pityingly.
Jerry Longworthy swallowed a laugh when he saw that there was real trouble in her face. "Suppose you climb into the car and tell me why you're looking for a boarding place for an orphan cat?"
Mary Rose smiled radiantly as she obeyed and, with George Washington cuddled against her, she told him all about it.
"My Uncle Larry," she began very importantly, "is the janitor of that wonderful two-faced palace."
"Is he, indeed," remarked Jerry Longworthy, lighting his pipe.
"But he doesn't own it. At first I thought he did. I used to live in Mifflin, where there aren't any houses like that. Every family has its own house. Some of them are little but Mrs. Black's is as big as yours. She brought me to Waloo and we had a taxicab all the way."
"All the way!" Mr. Jerry showed a proper amount of astonishment. "That was a treat."
"It was to me," simply. "There aren't any taxicabs in Mifflin, just one old hack that was made before the war, Mr. Day said, and that's a very long time ago."
"It is," agreed Mr. Jerry. "Longer than either you or I can remember. I expect you are all of ten years old?"
"I'm older than that." She would have told him how much older but she remembered what Aunt Kate had said. "I'm going on fourteen." It sounded so aged that she felt quite important. "And my name is Mary Rose Crocker."
"Mary Rose?" He lifted his eyebrows, and Mary Rose knew at once that he was thinking that boys' clothes and girls' names do not usually go together. She flushed.
"I wear them to save washing," she said with a certain dignity as she touched the shrunken knickerbockers. "Girls' clothes are a lot of trouble. Lena said they weren't worth it."
"I'm sure she's right. You're only a little ahead of the style. All girls'll be wearing them soon, no doubt. They're that independent. How old is the orphan George?" He changed a subject that was evidently so painful to Mary Rose.
"He's 'most five. I got him when I had tonsilitis, when I was six," unconsciously betraying to anyone who could add five to six the secret Aunt Kate had begged her to keep. "And we've never been separated a whole day. But now," she swallowed the lump in her throat and went on bravely, "you see the owner of that palace won't have any children nor any dogs nor any cats in it."
"I know." Mr. Jerry seemed to know everything. "What are you going to do?"
"If we kept him Uncle Larry would lose the janitor and we wouldn't have a roof over our heads nor bread for our stomachs, so I thought if I could find a pleasant place for him to board near by I could see him often. I couldn't give him away, for Aunt Kate says perhaps the Lord'll give us a real home some day where we can all be together. When I saw your house it made me think of Mifflin and I wondered if you had a cat and if you hadn't if you would like to board one?" Her face was painfully serious as she lifted It to Jerry Longworthy.
"Well," he considered the question gravely. "Can you pay his board?"
"I've a dollar and forty-three cents. The forty-three cents I saved and the dollar Mr. Black gave me when he took me to the train in Mifflin. How much should a cat's board be?" anxiously.
"How much milk does he drink? Milk's seven cents a quart in Waloo."
"Oh, not more than a quart a day," eagerly. "And he's almost too fat now."
"A quart a day would be seven times seven——"
"I know. I know all my tables up to twelve times twelve. That would be forty-nine cents. Do you think fifty cents would be enough?"
"I should think fifty cents a week very good board for a cat. Suppose we go in and see what my Aunt Mary has to say."
His Aunt Mary proved to be a plump lady with a round rosy face, who agreed with Mary Rose that children and cats and dogs were most desirable additions to a family. She seemed quite glad to take George Washington as a boarder and thought that fifty cents a week was enough to charge as long as Mary Rose solemnly promised to come over every day and help take care of him. Mary Rose promised most solemnly.
"I'm so glad." She beamed on Mr. Jerry and his Aunt Mary and hugged George Washington. "It's a great relief to find a pleasant boarding place. I can pay for two weeks, almost three weeks now," she offered.
Mr. Jerry started to speak but his Aunt Mary shook her head and he shut his mouth with the words inside.
"We don't take board in advance for a cat," said his Aunt Mary in a way that told Mary Rose such a thing was never done. "In fact, we've never taken a cat to board before. I think it will be more satisfactory if we wait until the end of the week, when we can tell just how much milk he will drink," she added soberly.
"He's awfully greedy." Mary Rose looked sadly at the greedy George Washington. "But he's always had all he wanted. I can't tell you how much obliged I am and I'll come over every day. It's awfully good of you to take him when you haven't any other boarders."
"I'd take you, too, if I could," Mr. Jerry's Aunt Mary murmured as she went to get a ginger cooky.
"I'm going to find the beautiful princess," Mary Rose told Mr. Jerry, when she said good-by to him a few minutes later. "And when I do shall I tell her that the prince is not going to Jericho?"
"Do," he said and his face went all red again. "Tell her that he's going to stay right here on the job, that he will never give her up."
"Never give her up," repeated Mary Rose. She tried to say it as firmly as he had said it and she waved her hand as she went across the alley and into the back door of the Washington, with a most delicious thrill at entering such a two-faced building.
Mr. Jerry looked after her and frowned. Then he shook his fist at the Washington.
"You are an enchanted palace," he told it sternly. "If it weren't for doggone places like you, girls would have to stay at home. They couldn't go out in the world and grow so independent that they think work is the biggest thing in creation. Oh, Godfrey! it isn't normal for any girl to like a job better than a perfectly good man. When I think of Elizabeth Thorley wasting herself on advertisements for Bingham and Henderson's sickening jams when she might be making a Heaven for me it sends my temperature up until I'm afraid of spontaneous combustion. She wouldn't care if I did blow up and turn to ashes. She wouldn't care what happened to me so long as she could send out a new poster for peach marmalade. She wants to live her own life and not be tied down to a man or a home," he groaned. "Darn these feministic ideas, anyway! I wish I had been my own grandfather. The girl he wanted wasn't on any old factory payroll."
He had been in love with Elizabeth Thorley ever since one night, almost a year ago, when he had looked across a room and seen her red-brown hair, her oval face with its uplifted pointed chin, and met her laughing eyes. He had held her gaze for the fraction of a moment and in that time his heart had stopped beating. When it began again the world was a very different place to him. But, alas, it was not a different place to her. She had suffered no magical change by the short interchange of glances.
They had been the best of friends. They had a certain similarity of tastes and interests, for he was an architect and she was an advertising artist. But when he asked for more than friendship she tilted her white chin a bit higher and told him frankly that she was not the type of girl to want or think of marriage; that all she wished was her work and she thanked her lucky stars every night of her life that she had enough of it to be independent.
"Marriage to me is a many-headed dragon," she said. "It eats up a girl's individuality, her ambitions, her talents. Oh, yes, it does! I've seen it too many times not to know, and I want to keep Elizabeth Thorley's personality for her as long as she lives. I shan't merge it in that of any man."
She valued his friendship; she would like to keep it always, she added, but she did not want his love. She did not want any man's love. That was why Mr. Jerry shook his fist at the white face of the Washington and swore that he loathed the idea of feminine independence, loathed it from the very bottom of his heart.
"Why, Mary Rose, wherever have you been?" demanded startled Mrs. Donovan, when Mary Rose, a trifle breathless and minus George Washington, slipped into the basement flat. "I've been lookin' everywhere for you."
"I'm sorry but I just had to find a boarding place for George Washington. Oh, Aunt Kate, do you suppose there's any way a girl like me can earn fifty cents every week?"
When Larry Donovan saw his niece she had changed her shabby boy's suit of blue serge for the clothes that Ella Murphy had outgrown. Ella had astonished and disgusted her mother by lengthening herself, in a single night, it seemed to the outraged Mrs. Murphy, to such an extent that a new outfit was necessary.
"It may be well enough for asparagus and tulips to grow like that, but it's all wrong for a girl," she had said resentfully. "I just wish the Power that lengthened her had to find her dresses and petticoats and things to make her decent to go to the grandmother that's never seen her. Here I am, all but ready to start, an' I have to get her new clothes. Childern may be a blessing, there's folks that say they are, but there's times I can't see anything but the worry and the expense of 'em."
So the lengthened Ella's discarded garments had been left behind for Mrs. Donovan to dispose of. They had been packed away and forgotten until Mary Rose arrived and reminded her Aunt Kate that a perfectly good outfit for a girl of fourteen was in one of her closets.
Fortunately Ella had been slim as well as tall and the middy blouse that Mrs. Donovan tried on Mary Rose did not look too much as if it had been made for her grandmother. The bright plaid skirt trailed on the floor but Aunt Kate turned back the hem which still left the skirt hanging considerably below Mary Rose's shabby shoe tops, much to her delight.
She hung over the machine, her tongue clattering an unwearied accompaniment to the whir of the wheel, as Mrs. Donovan sewed the basted hem.
"Did you know there was an enchanted princess in your house, Aunt Kate?" she demanded excitedly.
Mrs. Donovan had not known it and her surprise made her break her thread. When Mary Rose had explained she grunted something.
"You mean the girl that Mr. Longworthy's crazy about? She's up above an' won't have nothin' to do with men. 'I don't want nothin' in my life but my work,' says she to me, herself. That's all very well for now but let her wait a few years an' she'll sing a different tune or I miss my guess. She ain't enchanted, Mary Rose, she's just pig-headed an' young."
Mary Rose was disappointed. "Mr. Jerry said she was under the spell of the wicked witch, Independence," she insisted. "Wasn't it good of him to take George Washington to board? It's such a relief to have found a pleasant place so near. I'm sure they'll be friendly to him."
Mrs. Donovan mentally planned to slip across the alley and see Mr. Jerry and his Aunt Mary herself about George Washington's board as she looked into the earnest little face so near her own.
"Sure, they will," she said above the whir of the machine. "But you mustn't make friends of everyone you meet, Mary Rose. A city isn't like the country. I suppose you knew everyone in Mifflin?"
"Everyone," with an emphatic shake of her head. "Animals and vegetables as well as people. And everyone knew me."
"Well, it won't be that way in Waloo," Mrs. Donovan explained. "No one knows you an' you don't know anyone. You mustn't go makin' up to strangers. A little girl can't tell who's good an' who's bad."
"She can if she has the right kind of an eye," Mary Rose told her eagerly. "Daddy said so over and over again. He said the good Lord never made bad people because it would be a waste of time and dust when he could just as well make them good. And if you had the right kind of an eye you could see that there was good in every single person. Daddy said I had the right kind. Mine's blue but it isn't in the color, for his eyes were brown and they were right, too. It's something," she hesitated as she tried to explain what was so very dear and simple to her. "It's something to do with the inside and your heart. I shouldn't wonder, Aunt Kate, if you had the right kind. Isn't it easier for you to see that people are kind and good than it is to see them bad?"
It wasn't for Aunt Kate. A two-years' residence in the basement of the Washington had about convinced her that all human nature was sour but she disliked to tell Mary Rose so when Mary Rose so plainly expected her to agree that the world was inhabited by a superior sort of angel. She snipped her threads and drew the plaid skirt from under the needle.
Mary Rose fairly squealed with delight when she was in the white middy blouse and the skirt flapped about her ankles in such a very grown-up manner. Mary Rose's yellow hair had always been bobbed but no one had seen that it was trimmed before she left Mifflin and it hung in rather straight lanky locks about her elfish face. Some of the locks were long enough to be drawn under one of Ella's discarded red hair ribbons and Aunt Kate pinned back the others. The result was a very different Mary Rose from the one who had jumped out of the taxicab a few hours ago. She climbed on a chair and looked at her reflection in the mirror of her aunt's bureau.
"I do think it's too lovely!" she cried rapturously. "You can't ever know, Aunt Kate, how splendid it is to wear skirts. Sometimes," she whispered confidentially, "I used to wonder if I really was a girl. You don't think it will make too much washing?" anxiously. "I shouldn't want to be a burden to you. But I do love this skirt! I wish Gladys Evans could see me!"
She was still admiring her new clothes in the mirror when her Uncle Larry came in.
"Hullo," he said in a loud cheery voice. "Who's this? Kate, Mrs. Bracken wants to see you."
Mary Rose tore her eyes from the fascinating reflection in the mirror that she could scarcely believe was herself, and looked at the big broad-shouldered man in the doorway. He had been frowning but the frown slipped away from his forehead when he gazed into Mary Rose's blue eyes, so that he looked very kind and friendly. Mary Rose jumped from the chair and ran over to him.
"I'm Mary Rose," she said a bit shyly. This unknown uncle was so big and strong and he was janitor of this strange two-faced palace. A janitor sounded powerful and important even if Aunt Kate had explained that he wasn't, so that Mary Rose felt a little shy with him.
"Mary Rose, eh?" He picked her up and raised her in his arms until her face was on a level with his. "Sure, I think you're more of a Rose than a Mary," he added as he kissed the face that was as pink as any flower.
Her arms met around his neck. "That's because I'm so happy to be with you and Aunt Kate," she whispered. "You know, after daddy went to Heaven there wasn't anyone in the whole world that belonged to me in Mifflin but George Washington, and my dog that Jimmie Bronson borrowed, and Jenny Lind, and now to have a great big uncle and a beautiful aunt of my very own m-makes me very happy."
"Who's George Washington?" asked Uncle Larry as he found a chair and sat down with her in his arms.
Mary Rose told him about her cat, which was boarding across the alley, and Uncle Larry thought to himself that he would go over and make sure that the cat was all right. It was a thundering shame the child couldn't have her pet with her. He'd like to tell the owner of the Washington a few things if he knew who he was and if there was no fear of losing his job.
"And Jenny Lind," Mary Rose was saying eagerly. "I must show you Jenny Lind." She slipped down and ran into the next room to come back with a birdcage. "Aunt Kate says I may keep her here because there isn't one word in that law about canary birds."
"No, thank God, there isn't," said Uncle Larry. "The old grouch must have forgotten about them." He admired Jenny Lind as much as Mary Rose could wish.
"The real Jenny Lind was a girl with a bird in her throat," Mary Rose explained as she leaned against his knee. "My own grandfather heard it and he told daddy and daddy told me that to hear her sing made a man think he was in Heaven. So when Mrs. Lenox gave me this beautiful bird for my very own, of course, I named her Jenny Lind. Mrs. Lenox called her Cleopatra. Wasn't that a silly name for a bird? Mrs. Lenox must have liked it or she wouldn't have given it to anything. Isn't it the luckiest thing that everyone hasn't the same likes? Just suppose everyone had been like my father and my mother and all the little girls were named Mary Rose? I think it's the most beautiful name in the entire dictionary, but Gladys Evans in Mifflin said it was common. She counted up and she knew seven Marys, with her grandmother and old Mrs. Wilcox, who's deaf and half blind, and four Roses. But there wasn't one Mary Rose!" triumphantly. "And that made all the difference in the world. My daddy chose the Mary because he said there wasn't a better name for a little girl to have for her own and my little mother chose the Rose because she said I was just like a flower when she saw me first. Don't you like it, Uncle Larry?"
"I do!" Uncle Larry could not have told her how much he liked it, but as he listened to her chatter he wondered how on earth Kate was going to make the tenants of the Washington think the child was fourteen.
"And I like your name," Mary Rose was kind enough to say. "And Aunt Kate's, too," she added, as Aunt Kate came back from her interview with Mrs. Bracken.
"Her girl's gone," she said in answer to Uncle Larry's question. "I don't wonder. That's the fourth in three weeks. Seems if she only stays home long enough to hire an' discharge 'em. She heard I had a niece with me an' she wants her to go up every mornin' an' wash the dishes till she gets another girl. So, Mary Rose, if you really want to earn money to pay for George Washington's board, here's a chance."
"Oh!" Mary Rose slid to the floor and clapped her hands. "I do think this is the most wonderful world that ever was. I just wish for something and then I have it."
"That'll happen just so long as you wish for what you can get," Aunt Kate told her.
When Mary Rose was tucked in bed, where she told Aunt Kate she felt like a long green pickle in a glass jar because she never had slept in a cellar—a basement—before, and they always had pickles in their cellar, Aunt Kate explained to her husband about Mrs. Bracken.
"I couldn't say anythin', but, of course, she'd come. Mrs. Bracken had the nerve to tell me she knew Mary Rose wasn't a child for childern weren't allowed in the buildin'. What was I to do, Larry Donovan, but say she'd wash her dirty old dishes? It won't hurt Mary Rose an' I'll give her a hand if she needs it. Isn't it a pity though that Mary Rose couldn't have taken more after her mother's fam'ly? Seems if I never saw such a small eleven-year-old as she is."
Enveloped in a blue and white checked gingham apron of her aunt's, Mary Rose washed Mrs. Bracken's dishes. Mrs. Donovan had brought her up to the apartment and Mary Rose had looked curiously around the rather bare and empty halls. There was something in the atmosphere of them that made her catch Mrs. Donovan by the hand.
"It feels like the Presbyterian Church in the middle of the week," she whispered. "It doesn't seem as if anyone really lived here, Aunt Kate."
"You'll find folks live here," Mrs. Donovan said grimly as she unlocked the Bracken door. "We don't ever get a chance to forget 'em."
Mrs. Bracken had gone out with her husband and there was no one in the apartment that seemed so big and grand to Mary Rose's unsophisticated eyes. But Aunt Kate sniffed at the untidy kitchen and living-room.
"Seems if it was just about as important for a woman to make a home as a club," she said under her breath as she picked up papers and straightened chairs in the living-room. She found the dish pan and showed Mary Rose what to do.
"I know how to wash dishes, Aunt Kate." Mary Rose was in a fever to begin. "I washed them for Lena and no one could be more particular than she was. We got our hot water out of a kettle instead of a pipe." She watched with interest the water run steaming from the faucet. "Wouldn't it be grand if Mrs. Bracken had a little girl so we could wash dishes together? I don't mind doing them all by myself a bit, Aunt Kate. I'm glad to do it. I know there's nothing so splendid as a girl being useful. Daddy told me that and Mr. Mann, the minister, and Gladys Evans' grandmother and all the other grown-uppers. But I think the grandest part is to earn George Washington's board. It's splendid to have someone besides yourself to work for," she added with a very adult air.
She sang to herself as she worked, after Aunt Kate had left her.
"Where have you been, Billie boy, Billie boy? Where have you been, charming Billie? I've been to see my wife, she's the treasure of my life, She's a young thing and can't leave her mother."
It was Lena's favorite song and it had many verses. Mary Rose sang them all with gusto.
"If I didn't make a noise I'd be scared of the quiet," she thought. "I never was in a home that was so little like a home. It's because there isn't anything alive in it. There isn't even a Lady Washington geranium." She was astonished that there wasn't, for in Mifflin pots of geraniums and other plants were always to be seen in sunny windows. "It gives you a hollow feeling—not empty for bread and butter but for people," she decided.
Mary Rose had never lived where there were no live things. "Dogs and cats and birds help to make you feel friendly toward all the world. And so do plants. I guess that's true of all the things God made," she thought as she hung up the dish pan on the nail Aunt Kate had pointed out.
She stood in the doorway, looking back at the clean and tidy kitchen with considerable satisfaction. She had done it all herself and it would have pleased even the critical Lena.
A door across the hall opened suddenly and Mary Rose swung around and looked into the curious face of an elderly woman who was almost as broad as she was tall. Her round face wore a scowl and the corners of her mouth turned straight down.
"Good morning," Mary Rose said in the neighborly fashion that was in vogue in Mifflin.
"H-m." The fat lady eyed her over gold spectacles. "Can't Mrs. Bracken get a full-grown girl to do her work? I thought she was against child labor."
She laughed unpleasantly.
"I'm not working regular," Mary Rose said quickly, with a blush because she was not so large as the fat lady thought she should be. "I'm Mrs. Donovan's niece and I've just come from Mifflin. I'm only washing Mrs. Bracken's dishes until she gets another girl, so I can earn money to pay for George Washington's board."
"George Washington's board?" echoed the fat lady. "Come here, Mina," she called over her shoulder, "and listen to this child. Who's George Washington?" She was frankly curious and so was the maid, who had joined her.
"He's my cat. I've had him ever since I had tonsilitis. Aunt Kate says the law won't let him live here with me, so I'm boarding him over there." And she nodded in the direction of the alley and the hospitable Mr. Jerry.
"Cats here? I should say not!" exclaimed Mrs. Schuneman. She watched Mary Rose as she carefully locked the door of the Bracken apartment. The child puzzled her and when Mrs. Schuneman was puzzled over anything or anyone she had to find out all about them. She had nothing else to do. Once she had been an active harassed woman, busy with the problem of how she was to support herself and her two daughters, but just when the problem seemed about to be too much for her to solve a brother died and left her money enough to live comfortably for the remainder of her life. She had moved from the crowded downtown rooms to the more pretentious Washington and tried to think that she was happier for the change, but really she was very lonely and discontented. Miss Louise Schuneman was too busy with church work and Miss Lottie Schuneman had a bridge club four afternoons a week and went to the matinee and the moving picture shows the other afternoons, so that neither of them was a companion for their mother. Mrs. Schuneman had nothing to do but wonder about the neighbors she did not know and tell her maid how much admired her daughters were and how hard she had worked herself until the good God had seen fit to take her brother from his packing plant. "If you're the janitor's niece you can come in and clean up the mess the plumber made on my floor. It isn't the place of the girl I pay wages to, to clean up the dirt the workmen make."
"Isn't it?" Mary Rose did not know and she followed Mrs. Schuneman into the living-room. "What a pleasant room," she said, when she crossed the threshold, for the sun streamed in through the windows in a way that made even a rather garish decoration seem attractive.
Mrs. Schuneman's grim face relaxed a trifle. "It ought to be pretty," she grumbled. "It cost enough but it don't suit Louise. And Lottie don't like the rug. She says it's too red. But I like red," she snapped. "It's a thankless task to try and please girls who think they know more than their old mother."
"There is a lot of red in it." Mary Rose had to admit that much. "But red is a cheerful color. It makes you feel very warm and comfortable."
"It isn't cheerful to my girls. They won't stay at home, always away, and their old mother left alone. When they were little I gave them all the time I could spare from my work and now they leave me by myself. They think because I have a girl to cook and wash I don't need them."
Mary Rose did not understand and she stood there, just beyond the threshold, uncertainly. But if she did not understand why Mrs. Schuneman's daughters did not stay in the room with the red tug, she realized that Mrs. Schuneman was lonely.
"It's too bad you haven't a pet," she suggested. "A dog or a cat is a lot of company. Why—" a sudden thought came to her. "Just wait a minute. I'll be right back," she called as she ran out of the room.
Before Mrs. Schuneman fairly realized that she had gone she was back with Jenny Lind in her cage.
"I thought perhaps you might like to have Jenny Lind spend the day with you," she said breathlessly. "She isn't just the same as a grown up daughter, but she's lots of company and she sings—she sings," she was rather at a loss to tell how well Jenny Lind could sing, "like a seraphim! They sing in the Bible and sound so grand I've always wanted to hear one though I know there isn't a seraphim that could sing sweeter than Jenny Lind. You can put the cage in that window. She loves the sunshine and she'll sing and sing until you forget you are lonely."
"My gracious me!" murmured Mrs. Schuneman, staring from the eager face to the sleek yellow bird. "I haven't had a canary since I was a girl in my father's house."
"Uncle Larry said the law doesn't say you can't have birds here. It's cats and dogs and children."
"Yes, yes. I know." Mrs. Schuneman walked up to the cage and looked at Jenny Lind, who looked at her with her bright bead-like eyes before she burst into joyous song. "Now, why didn't I think of a canary?" Mrs. Schuneman demanded sharply. "There isn't any reason why I shouldn't have one."
"You're perfectly welcome to Jenny Lind until you get one of your own." Mary Rose was delighted to have Jenny Lind received so cordially. "She'll be glad to spend the day with you. She's a very friendly bird."
"I'll be glad to have her. Perhaps you'll stay, too." Mrs. Schuneman surprised herself more than she did Mary Rose by the invitation that popped so suddenly from her mouth. She had never asked anyone in the Washington to spend the day with her before. "Tell me where you came from and what's your name and how old you are?"
"I came from Mifflin and my name's Mary Rose Crocker and I'm almost el—I mean I'm going on fourteen." She remembered the secret she had with Aunt Kate just in time. A second more and it would have been too late.
Mrs. Schuneman regarded her over the gold spectacles. "Going on fourteen?" she repeated. "You're very small for your age. Why, when my Lottie was fourteen she would have made two of you."
Mary Rose squirmed. The unjust criticism was very hard to bear. She just had to murmur faintly that it would be some time before she would reach fourteen.
"H-m, I thought so." Mrs. Schuneman looked very wise, as if she understood perfectly and there is no doubt that she understood more than Mary Rose. "Well, well," she said, while Mary Rose, scarlet and mortified, stood twisting the corner of Aunt Kate's apron.
"I—I hope you won't tell," she said hurriedly, her eyes on the red rug, "because it's something of a secret on account of the law for this house. I don't understand exactly but Aunt Kate does."
"I've no doubt she does." The corners of Mrs. Schuneman's mouth were pulled down farther than they had been and she looked very, very stern until Jenny Lind broke into joyous song again, when the corners of Mrs. Schuneman's mouth tilted up, slightly. "Well, well," she said again, but not quite so crossly. "So long as you behave yourself and aren't a nuisance I shan't say a word. Where I lived before my brother left me his money there were more children than a body could count. Such a noise and confusion all the time. I was glad to get away from them and come up here where there couldn't be any children——"
"Nor any dogs nor cats," murmured Mary Rose sadly.
"But maybe that's why the place hasn't seemed like home to me."
"Of course it is." Mary Rose knew. "I never heard of a home without children. There wasn't one in all Mifflin." She tried to imagine such a thing but she couldn't do it. "It wouldn't be a home," she decided emphatically.
Mrs. Schuneman regarded her curiously before she gave herself another surprise. "Suppose you go and ask your aunt if you can go out with me and find a bird? I believe you would choose a good one. Louise and Lottie can make a fuss if they want to but I never said a word when they bought a phonograph and a bird will be more company for an old lady than a machine."
They had a wonderful time finding a canary. They visited several shops where birds of many kinds were offered for sale. Mary Rose quite lost her heart to a great red and green poll parrot with fierce red-rimmed eyes.
"You'd never be lonesome if you had him," she whispered. "He could really talk to you."
"Damn! Damn! Damn!" remarked Poll Parrot pleasantly, as if to show that he really could talk. "Polly wants a cracker. Oh, damn! Damn! Fools and idiots! Damn!"
"It isn't conversation I care for. It's too much like having a man around again." Mrs. Schuneman was quite shocked.
After they had made their choice and had a bird in a neat little wooden cage and had bought a fine brass cage for a permanent home they stopped at a confectioner's for a sundae. Mary Rose's cheeks were as pink as pink as they sat at the little table and ate ice cream and discussed a name for the new member of the Schuneman family. They finally agreed on Germania in deference to Mrs. Schuneman's love for her native country and Mary Rose's firm belief that a bird's name should be suggestive of music. "And I've heard that lots of music was made in Germany," she said.
Altogether it was a very pleasant afternoon and they went back to the Washington very happily. Mrs. Schuneman carried Germania in the temporary wooden cage and Mary Rose proudly bore the brass cage. As they went up the steps a man brushed past them. He was tall and thin and had a nervous irritable manner that one felt as well as saw. Mary Rose locked up and smiled politely.
"Good afternoon," she said.
The tall thin man did not answer her. He did not even look at her but hurried on up the stairs.
"That's Mr. Wells," Mrs. Schuneman explained in a hoarse whisper that must have followed Mr. Wells up the stairs and caught him at the first landing. "He's an awful grouch. He's over the Brackens, but if Lottie is entertaining one of her bridge clubs and he's at home he's sure to send his Jap man down to ask her to make less noise. I've never spoken to him in my life. I don't see how you dared."
"I always spoke to people in Mifflin." Mary Rose couldn't understand why she shouldn't speak to people in Waloo.
"Folks don't speak to folks in Waloo unless they've been introduced," Mrs. Schuneman told her gloomily. "The good God knows I've had to learn that. And you're too young to know good from bad," she began, as Aunt Kate had, but Mary Rose interrupted her to explain that she could, that she had the right kind of an eye, and he tried to tell her what the right kind of an eye was.
"You look through your heart with it," vaguely. "I don't understand just how for your eyes are here," she touched her face, "and your heart's here," and her hand tapped her small chest. "But that's what daddy said. He called it the friendly eye. Being friendly to people, he said, was as if you had a candle in your heart and the light shines through your eyes. Oh, Mrs. Schuneman, I do believe Germania is going to like it here." For Germania was twittering as if she did find her new home to her liking.
They had scarcely transferred Germania from the wooden cage to the shining brass one and hung it in the window when Miss Lottie Schuneman came in. Mary Rose looked at her eagerly. Could she be the enchanted princess Mr. Jerry had spoken of? But Miss Lottie was short and plump like her mother and her face was round and rosy. She did not bear the faintest resemblance to any princess Mary Rose had ever read of. It was disappointing.
"What have you there?" Miss Lottie asked at once. "You can't have pets in this flat, you know."
"You can have canary birds," Mary Rose told her quickly. "Uncle Larry said the law never spoke of them."
"Uncle Larry said that, did he?" Miss Lottie began but her mother broke in with an eagerness that was very different from the querulous way in which she usually spoke:
"I've got to have something alive here to keep me company. You don't know how lonesome it is for a woman to have nothing to do when she's been as busy as I was. There isn't anyone for me to talk to but Mina, and she's paid to work, not to listen. You and Louise bought a phonograph. I guess I can have a bird if I want one."
"My word!" Miss Lottie put her hands on her hips and stared at her mother. She laughed softly, indulgently. "Sure, you can have a bird if you want one. But don't let it wake me up mornings."
"Wouldn't you just as soon be wakened by a bird singing as a steam radiator sizzling?" asked Mary Rose. "Unless you live all by yourself on a desert island you've got to be wakened by some kind of a noise. I think a bird singing is just about the most beautiful noise that ever was."
"So do I," agreed Mrs. Schuneman. "And you needn't worry, Lottie Schuneman. I don't complain of your phonograph nights, I leave that to Mr. Wells, and you needn't find fault with my bird mornings."
"I'm not finding fault, far be it from me; only when Mr. Wells sends down word that your new pet is a nuisance you can answer him yourself."
"How could anyone say a bird was a nuisance?" Mary Rose was shocked. "Why, it can't be that late!" for the dock on the mantel called out five times and she looked at it in wide-eyed amazement. Never had an afternoon run away any faster. "I must go. I've had a perfectly wonderful time, Mrs. Schuneman, and I hope that Germania will be happy with you in her new home."
There was a wistful note in her voice that reminded Mrs. Schuneman that Mary Rose had recently come to a new home. She patted Mary Rose on the shoulder and told her to come again.
"Come whenever you like. I'm alone most of the time and you can be free with me," meaningly. "My tongue isn't hung in the middle to wag at both ends."
"You can't have a kid running in and out all the time," objected Miss Lottie, when Mary Rose had gone.
Mrs. Schuneman stopped snapping her fingers at Germania and looked at her daughter. "There isn't much about this house that you let me have as I want it. You took me away from my old friends and brought me up here where it's so stylish I don't know a soul. I wonder I haven't lost my voice, I've so little chance to use it. We've been here for seven months now and though there's dozens and dozens of people pass my door every night and morning, there's not one of them ever stops. The janitor and his wife are the only ones I can talk to and I have to find fault to get them up here. You and Louise are out all day. You don't stay here."
"You don't have to stay here, either," yawned Miss Lottie. She had heard all that before, very, very often. "We've told you a million times to go out."
"Where'll I go?" asked her mother sharply. "Where'll I go? I can't run about the streets and the stores six days in the week. A woman's got to be home some time and if I find that child amuses me I'm going to have her here when I want her. You needn't say another word, Lottie Schuneman. So long as I pay the bills I'll have something to say about my own house."
"I was only telling you the kid might be a nuisance," muttered Miss Lottie.
"And I was telling you I'd do as you do, choose my own friends. That child's the only soul that has ever looked at me in a friendly way since I came to this house and I'm going to see her when I want to."
Mrs. Donovan could scarcely believe her ears when Mary Rose poured out the story of the afternoon.
"Old Lady Schuneman's been crosser than two sticks ever since she came here. Maybe it is because she's lonesome, I dunno. Seems if a canary won't do much for her but, for the land's sakes, Mary Rose, don't put one in every flat."
"Wouldn't that be grand!" Mary Rose stopped paring potatoes for supper to look at her aunt with admiration. "It would be like living inside an organ, wouldn't it. I think it would be perfectly lovely."
When Mary Rose went up to Mrs. Bracken's the next morning she took Jenny Lind with her and placed the cage on the kitchen table.
"I can't bear to be alone," she had explained to Aunt Kate. "If I don't have a friend with me I feel as if I was shut up in a dark closet."
First Mary Rose went into the big living-room and picked up papers, straightened the chairs and raised the shades as she had seen her aunt do the day before. It was a very splendid room to Mary Rose but there was something about it that made her frown as she stood in the doorway.
"It needs something. Even the chairs don't look as if they really knew each other. It doesn't feel as if people ever had a good time in it." She shook her head and thought of the shabby sitting-room in Mifflin—not big enough to swing a cat in, daddy had said—where she and daddy and Jenny Lind and George Washington and Solomon and Lena had been crowded together. Everyone had had good times there.
She winked back a tear as she went down the hall. She glanced in at an open door and stopped short as she found that she was looking into the black eyes of a woman on the bed.
"Are you Mrs. Donovan's niece?" the woman said faintly. "Come in. Gracious, but you're small for your age! You washed up very nicely yesterday. I didn't close my eyes last night and I'm not feeling well today, so I'm not going to get up for a while. I wish you would tell your uncle that Mrs. Matchan can't practice this morning. I must get some sleep. What's that in the kitchen?" she demanded as she heard a happy chirp-chirp.
"That's Jenny Lind." Mary Rose was all sympathy for this lovely lady who could not sleep. For a moment she had thought that she might be the enchanted princess but if she was Mrs. Bracken she was a married lady and Mary Rose had never heard of a married princess. All the princesses she knew ceased to exist when they began to live happily ever after.
"Jenny Lind?" asked Mrs. Bracken.
"My canary. I brought her for company. I never was in a house by myself and it's lonely if you're only going on fourteen," faltered Mary Rose, fully conscious that Mrs. Bracken did not care for canaries.
"Well, I can't have her in my kitchen. She makes me nervous. Put her out in the hall and shut the bedroom door. When you have washed the dishes I may let you make a cup of tea." And she closed the black eyes which had looked at Mary Rose in such a chilly way.
Mary Rose went out on tiptoe. She meant to close the door softly but she was so indignant that it would slam. Put her Jenny Lind out in the hall where cats could get her? She would not. Even if cats were forbidden to enter the Washington some cat might not know the law and slip in. She would take no risk. She nodded encouragingly at the bird as she looked about the kitchen. Near the sink was an open cupboard with three shelves, broad and high enough to hold a birdcage. She would put the cage on the lowest shelf and then if Mrs. Bracken came out, she would push the door shut.
"You'd better go to sleep too, Jenny Lind," she cautioned in a low voice. "The lady doesn't like you. She thinks you're noisy." She did not tell Jenny Lind what she thought of the lady, but shut her lips firmly and began her work. She did not sing that morning. She did not even look up to smile and nod to Jenny Lind, but kept her eyes on her dishes, her lips pressed into an indignant red button.
Suddenly there was a whir—a rattle—and she did look up to see that the cupboard had vanished. Shelves and birdcage had all disappeared. Nothing was left but a vacant space and an open door. Mary Rose dropped the dish she held. Fortunately it was a kitchen bowl, but it would have been the same if it had been one of the best cups.
"Why—why!" gasped Mary Rose. She tried to put her head in the space where the shelves had been to see where Jenny Lind had gone.
"Jenny Lind!" she shrieked suddenly. She could not help it. If your pet canary was suddenly snatched from you by some mysterious power, I rather fancy you would shriek, too. "Jenny Lind!"
The crash of the kitchen bowl or Mary Rose's astonished shriek brought Mrs. Bracken from her bed. She stood in the doorway, one hand clutching the kimono she had thrown around her.
"You must be more quiet," she said crossly. "How can I sleep when you are making such a noise? And if you break any more dishes I shall have to charge you for them. It's pure carelessness."
"It's Jenny Lind," gulped Mary Rose, too frightened to think of dishes. And she tried to make Mrs. Bracken understand that Jenny Lind had been there, in that hole in the wall, and that now—Oh, where was she?
Mrs. Bracken shrugged her shoulders. "It's the dumbwaiter," she yawned. "Your bird has gone up to Mr. Wells or possibly higher. If it's Mr. Wells I don't suppose you'll see the bird again. He's a very peculiar man."
Mary Rose did not wait to hear another word. With Aunt Kate's big blue and white checked apron on, the dish mop in her hand, and a great fear in her heart, she dashed up the stairs and pounded on the door of the apartment above. Mr. Wells came himself and if he had looked cross and forbidding the night before he looked a thousand times crosser and more forbidding now. Indeed, he exactly fulfilled Mary Rose's idea of an ogre.
"Please don't hurt Jenny Lind," sobbed Mary Rose, as soon as she could gather breath to speak. "I'll take her right away."
"Hurt who? Who's Jenny Lind?" growled the ogre.
"My bird! my Jenny Lind! She came up to your house with a dumbwaiter." Mary Rose hadn't the faintest idea of what a dumbwaiter was and it sounded horrible to her. "Please, please, give her to me at once!" She fairly danced in her impatience. She would have rushed into the apartment but Mr. Wells stood in the doorway.
"The dumbwaiter?" Mary Rose had never heard a more unfriendly voice. He called to someone behind him and a Japanese man came and peered under Mr. Wells' arm as he held it against the frame of the door.
"Sako has taken nothing from the dumbwaiter this morning," Mr. Wells said very coldly after he had exchanged a few words with his servant. "But if you have lost your bird it is only what you must expect. Pets are not allowed in this house." And he scowled fiercely enough to frighten anyone but the owner of a lost canary.
"They are if they're not children nor cats nor dogs," insisted tearful Mary Rose. "Uncle Larry said the law never says one word about birds. Oh, are you quite sure Jenny Lind isn't in your house?" she wailed.
"I told you we have taken nothing from the dumbwaiter," impatiently. He thought he was wonderfully patient with the child. He could have ordered her out of the building at once. "Your bird may have gone up to the next floor."
"Perhaps she has." Mary Rose was on the stairs before he finished the sentence. "I'm sorry for bothering you," she called back, "but if one of your family was lost I rather think you'd try to find her."
Her voice rang out shrill and clear and it was such an unexpected sound in the Washington, where children's voices were forbidden, that old Mrs. Johnson opened her door in a spasm of curiosity. She closed it abruptly when she met the cold unfriendly glance of Mr. Wells' black eyes, and shook in her shoes.
Four doors faced Mary Rose when she reached the third floor. She knocked on all of them not to waste time. Two doors remained firmly closed. The other two opened simultaneously. In one stood a girl with yellow hair and blue eyes and in the other was a young man who promptly changed the morose expression he had put on when he rose for a pleasanter one as he glanced across at Miss Blanche Carter before he even looked at Mary Rose. Miss Carter looked at Mary Rose first and then at Mr. Robert Strahan.
"Oh, please," Mary Rose was almost, if not quite, in tears, "have you seen Jenny Lind?"
They stared at her. The only Jenny Lind they had ever heard of had been quietly in her grave for many years. They looked at each other. Mr. Strahan added a satisfied grin to his pleasant expression, for he had wished to know Miss Carter ever since he had met her on the stairs the day after he had moved into the Washington, but Fate had refused to bring them together. He determined to make the most of this rare opportunity as he kindly questioned Mary Rose.
"Who is Jenny Lind?"
"My canary," sobbed Mary Rose. "I put her on the shelf in Mrs. Bracken's kitchen and she—she disappeared!"
"Cats," suggested Mr. Strahan with a very knowing glance for Miss Carter.
Mary Rose shook her head. "Cats aren't allowed here. It was a dumbwaiter, Mrs. Bracken said." Her voice was filled with anguish. How hateful city life was!
"Oh! I thought it was the milkman." Miss Carter turned and ran into her flat, Mary Rose at her heels. After a moment's hesitation, in which he called himself a bashful idiot, Mr. Strahan deserted his doorway for his neighbor's. On the top shelf of a cupboard like that which had been in Mrs. Bracken's kitchen Mary Rose saw a bottle of milk. She groaned. But Miss Carter gave a pull somewhere and sent it higher. There on the lower shelf, swinging unconcernedly in her cage, was Jenny Lind. Mary Rose gave a joyous shriek.
"I thought I'd never see her again. I can't thank you, but I'll remember you as long as I live. I—I feel as if you'd saved her life." She shivered as she remembered the snap of Mr. Wells' black eyes, the click of his heavy jaw, when he had said that pets were not allowed in the building.
"What is all this excitement?" questioned a soft voice behind them, and Mary Rose whirled around and stared at another girl.
Now that her anxiety in regard to Jenny Lind was relieved, Mary Rose had time to think of other things. She brushed the tears from her eyes, and her face was wreathed with a dewy smile as she asked eagerly:
"Please, which—which of you is the enchanted princess?" One of them must be. She knew it by a funny prickle down her back.
Both girls laughed, the yellow-haired one and the brown.
"Princesses aren't enchanted now." Miss Carter pulled a lock of Mary Rose's yellow hair. "They have their eyes too wide open."
"But Mr. Jerry said there was, that in this very house was a most beautiful princess who was under the spell of a wicked witch. He said the old witch's name was Independence." Her words fairly ran over each other, she was so afraid something would happen before she could deliver Mr. Jerry's message to the princess. "And he said to tell the princess that the prince wasn't ever going to Jericho, but was going to stay right here on the job."
Miss Carter looked significantly at the brown-haired girl. "That message isn't for me," she told Mary Rose. "Independence and I are strangers. I can't bear the thing. I quite agree with Mr. Jerry that she is an old witch. Isn't someone a picture, Bess," she asked, "with her birdcage and checked apron?"
"She surely is." The impatient frown that had marred Miss Thorley's face at the mere mention of Mr. Jerry's name slipped away. "I must paint her. She'll make a fine ad. Who are you, honey?"
And Mary Rose told them who she was and how she had come from Mifflin to make her home with Aunt Kate and Uncle Larry in the cellar-basement, she meant; and how she had had to board out George Washington and had taken Jenny Lind to Mrs. Bracken's for company while she earned money to pay for George Washington's board.
"By jinks, what a jolly story," murmured Mr. Strahan who still clung to his neighbor's doorway and his opportunity. The two girls looked at him and the three smiled involuntarily.
"I must go back and finish the dishes," Mary Rose announced suddenly. "Mrs. Bracken won't like it if I stay away any longer. I'm sorry I bothered you," she smiled tremulously. "But I just had to find Jenny Lind. Thank you for your trouble. Good-by."
"Come and see us again?" The invitation came in a chorus.
Mary Rose stopped abruptly. "Is that an honest and true invitation?" she asked doubtfully. "Aunt Kate said I mustn't ever be a nuisance to the tenements because children aren't allowed here. I'm not a child, she said, because I'm going on fourteen, but I had to promise to be careful of the tenements."
"Bless the baby," murmured Miss Carter as she and Mr. Strahan stood in the hall and watched Mary Rose's head go down, down.
"I thought children were barred?" asked Mr. Strahan quickly, he was so afraid that Miss Carter would disappear also.
"I thought pets were barred, too. She's a quaint little thing. I suppose she is homesick. A city apartment house is not like a home in a small town," she said, as if she knew, and she sighed.
"It is not!" He agreed with her emphatically. He had come from a small town himself and he knew. "I think I'll make a little story out of this. I'm a newspaper man, you know, and there isn't anything a city editor likes better than he does a human interest story. I have a hunch that there is a lot of human interest in that kid."
"I fancy you are right. I'm a librarian myself, and I should be at my library this blessed moment. I'd far rather go down and help Mary Rose," and she laughed scornfully because she had such simple tastes.
He looked as if he admired them. "If you feel that way you surely aren't under the spell of that wicked witch Independence that Mary Rose talks of." There was nothing scornful in his laugh. It held so little scorn and so much admiration that she flushed.
"Independence!" she shrugged her shoulders. "I learned long ago that independence is just another word for loneliness. My friend, Miss Thorley, doesn't agree with me. We have very warm arguments over it."
"They haven't been warm enough to disturb me. You're very quiet neighbors. Doesn't the very quiet get on your nerves sometimes? It's something just to hear people, when you are alone and have no one to talk to."
"Lonely! You?" She was astonished. "I don't see how a young man could be lonely." Evidently her idea of masculine life was a merry round of social pleasure.
His laugh was a trifle bitter. "A man can be lonely for exactly the same reason a girl can," he asserted. "I've lived here for three months, and this is the first time I've spoken to you."
The color deepened in her cheeks. "I suppose I shouldn't be talking to you now but—Mary Rose—and we are neighbors. One does get so suspicious living with suspicious people," apologetically.
"Please don't be suspicious of me. I'm the most harmless man in Waloo. I'm too busy hanging on to my job to be dangerous. I propose a vote of thanks to Mary Rose for bringing us together. All in favor say aye. The ayes have it." He held out his hand.
She laughed consciously, but after a second she gave him her fingers. "It is pleasant to be able to speak to one's neighbors," she admitted with a hint of formality that in some way pleased Mr. Strahan.
Mary Rose stopped at Mr. Wells' door as she went downstairs. It would be but friendly to tell him that Jenny Lind was found, he must be anxious. But she hesitated before she rapped on the door, very gently this time.
Mr. Wells had not lost any of his grimness when he opened it. He had on his hat and he looked to Mary Rose's startled eyes as tall as the steeple of the Presbyterian Church in Mifflin.
"Well, what now?" he snapped.
Mary Rose caught her breath. "I thought you would like to know that Jenny Lind is safe." She lifted the cage so that he could see for himself how safe and comfortable Jenny Lind was. "She was on the lowest shelf of the dumbwaiter. The enchanted princess's milk bottle was on the top shelf." And she chuckled. Now that she was no longer frightened, Jenny Lind's adventure seemed a joke.
It was not a joke to Mr. Wells. "A city apartment house is no place for pets—or children," he said and shut the door.
Mary Rose stared at the mahogany panels. "Crosspatch," she whispered. And then she said it louder, "Crosspatch!"
The door opened as if by magic and Mr. Wells came out and shut it behind him.
"Did you say anything?" he asked coldly.
Mary Rose was too startled and too honest not to tell the truth.
"I said crosspatch," she faltered and waited bravely for the deluge.
The two looked at each other. The tall man with the nervous, irritable face and the little girl with the birdcage in her hand. She did not say that she had called him a crosspatch, and kindly Discretion whispered in Mr. Wells' ear that it would be wise to leave well enough alone. Without another word he stalked by Mary Rose down the stairs.
Mary Rose followed meekly. "It's a lucky thing, Jenny Lind, that you were not on his dumbwaiter. He's not what I call a very friendly man," she murmured.
She told Mr. Jerry all about it that afternoon when she ran over to see how George Washington was doing as a boarder. Mr. Jerry watched her curiously.
"Poor little kid," he thought. "She's up against it for fair with a cold-blooded bunch like that." He was very sympathetic and kind and quite enthusiastic over his new boarder. He cheered Mary Rose amazingly and lifted her to the seventh heaven of delight when he suggested that she should ride downtown with him in the automobile when he went for his Aunt Mary.
"You may take Jenny Lind and George Washington with you," he was good enough to say.
Mary Rose's dancing feet moved in a more sedate measure. "I think Jenny Lind has had ride enough for one day. And George Washington likes his four feet better than he does an automobile. He won't mind if we leave him behind."
"Then you may sit on the front seat with me," Mr. Jerry promised.
"It's very exciting living in the city," sighed Mary Rose, when she was on the front seat beside him. "I've been here only three days and see all that's happened. Oh, there's the lady who found Jenny Lind—and the enchanted princess, too!" she cried as they passed Miss Thorley and Miss Carter. "Isn't that the enchanted princess, Mr. Jerry?" She twisted around so that she could look into his face. He colored and his eyes seemed to darken as he spoke to the two girls. Miss Thorley nodded curtly, but Miss Carter waved a friendly hand. "My," sighed Mary Rose, "if I were a prince I wouldn't let any old witch Independence keep her enchanted."
"I wonder how you would prevent it," muttered Mr. Jerry under his breath. "Saying and doing, Mary Rose, are two very separate and distinct things."
"I know." Mary Rose felt quite capable of discussing the subject. "Mr. Mann, the Presbyterian minister in Mifflin, preached a whole sermon about that. He said the Lord didn't ever give you what you want right off quick. You had to work for it, and the more precious it was the harder you had to work. I should think that a beautiful princess would be the most precious thing a prince could work for, shouldn't you?"
Mr. Jerry took his hand from the wheel to squeeze Mary Rose's brown fingers. "I should!" he said solemnly. "I do, Mary Rose, I do!"
Strange as the Washington seemed to Mary Rose, it was not very different from any other large city apartment house where people lived side by side for months, for years, sometimes, without becoming acquainted. It was not worth while, some said; neighbors change too often. You don't know who people are, others thought. In such close quarters one cannot afford to know undesirable people. The advantage of an apartment house is that you don't have to know your neighbors, murmured a third group. Consequently the tenants came and went and one could count on a hand and have fingers to spare, the few who exchanged greetings when they met on the stairs.
This was an appalling state of affairs to country-bred Mary Rose, who had been brought up in a friendly atmosphere. In Mifflin everyone knew everyone and was interested in what happened. When joy came to a neighbor there was general rejoicing, and when sorrow touched a family there was a universal sympathy, while the little between pleasures and perplexities lost nothing and gained considerably by the knowledge that they were shared with others. Mary Rose was intensely interested in this new phase of life, if she could not understand it. It amazed her when she counted how many people were over her small head.
"In Mifflin I didn't have anyone but God and the angels," she told Aunt Kate, "but here there's the Schunemans and the Rawsons and the Blakes and Mr. Jarvis and Miss Adams and Mrs. Matchan and Miss Proctor and Mr. Wilcox and his friend. In Mifflin we lived side by side, you know, and not up and down. We ought all to be friends when we live so close together, shouldn't we?" wistfully.
Aunt Kate tried her best to tell her that they were all friends, but she couldn't do it.
"What's the good of tellin' her folks are friendly when they don't look friendly? Seems if a body can't frown with her face an' smile with her heart at the same time. An' frowns are just as catchin' as germs. You naturally don't pat a growlin' dog an' so you don't smile at a frownin' person. I've al'ys seen more frowns 'n smiles in the Washington."
But Mary Rose did her best to make friends, because that was what she had done always and because that was the only way she knew how to live. And one by one her unconscious little efforts to unlock the gates of reserve that suspicion and indifference and consciousness had placed over the hearts and lips of the people she was thrown with began to make some impression.
Even Mrs. Willoughby, who had wept ever since her mother died, smiled when she saw the little girl in the checked apron that was so much too big for her, with her birdcage in her hand, and forgot to complain of the unusual noise in the hall. Mary Rose smiled, too, and when Mrs. Willoughby spoke of Jenny Lind, Mary Rose offered to loan her bird.
"She'll make you feel happier," she said. "She did me, when my daddy went to be with my little mother in Heaven. Jenny Lind can't talk," she admitted regretfully, "but she can sing and she's—she's so friendly!"
And Mr. Willoughby came down that very night and thanked the Donovans for the loan of Jenny Lind and for what Mary Rose had said and done. Larry Donovan and his wife looked at each other after he had gone. It was not often that they were thanked by a tenant.
Miss Adams would have died before she would have confessed to anyone but Mary Rose that she hated Waloo, she hated the Washington. Mary Rose looked at her with wide open eyes, too astonished to be shocked that anyone could hate a world that was as beautiful and as full of wonderful surprises as Mary Rose found this world to be.
"I don't see how you can be lonesome when there are people above you and below you and in front of you and behind you and right across from you. Why, you're almost entirely surrounded by neighbors," she cried, as if Miss Adams could not be almost entirely surrounded by anything more desirable. "There are almost as many people in this house as there are in the Presbyterian Church in Mifflin and no one was ever lonely there except on week days. Don't you like your neighbors?"