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- Lovey Mary - 1/15 -


LOVEY MARY

BY

ALICE HEGAN RICE

AUTHOR OF "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch"

1903

TO

CALE YOUNG RICE WHO TAUGHT ME THE SECRET OF PLUCKING ROSES FROM A CABBAGE PATCH

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I A CACTUS-PLANT II A RUNAWAY COUPLE III THE HAZY HOUSEHOLD IV AN ACCIDENT AND AN INCIDENT V THE DAWN OF A ROMANCE VI THE LOSING OF MR. STUBBINS VII NEIGHBORLY ADVICE VIII A DENOMINATIONAL GARDEN IX LABOR DAY X A TIMELY VISIT XI THE CHRISTMAS PLAY XII REACTION XIII AN HONORABLE RETREAT XIV THE CACTUS BLOOMS

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"They met at the pump." ..... Frontispiece

"'Now the Lord meant you to be plain.'"

"'Come here, Tom, and kiss your mother.'"

"''T ain't no street...; this here is the Cabbage Patch.'"

"She puffed her hair at the top and sides."

"'She took on mighty few airs fer a person in mournin'.'"

"She sat on the door-step, white and miserable." 67

"Mrs. Wiggs took pictures from her walls and chairs from her parlor to beautify the house of Hazy."

"Mr. Stubbins, sitting in Mrs. Wiggs's most comfortable chair, with a large slice of pumpkin-pie in his hand."

"'Stick out yer tongue.'"

"Asia held out her hands, which were covered with warm red mitts."

"Master Robert Redding was right side up again, sobbing himself quiet in Lovey Mary's arms."

"'Have you ever acted any?' he asked."

"Europena stepped forward."

"Sang in a high, sweet voice, 'I Need Thee Every Hour.'"

"'Haven't you got any place you could go to?'"

Susie Smithers at the keyhole

"Lovey Mary waved until she rounded a curve."

LOVEY MARY

CHAPTER I

A CACTUS-PLANT

For life, with all it yields of joy and woe, And hope and fear,... Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love,-- How love might be, hath been indeed, and is. BROWNING'S "A Death in the Desert."

Everything about Lovey Mary was a contradiction, from her hands and feet, which seemed to have been meant for a big girl, to her high ideals and aspirations, that ought to have belonged to an amiable one. The only ingredient which might have reconciled all the conflicting elements in her chaotic little bosom was one which no one had ever taken the trouble to supply.

When Miss Bell, the matron of the home, came to receive Lovey Mary's confession of repentance, she found her at an up-stairs window making hideous faces and kicking the furniture. The depth of her repentance could always be gaged by the violence of her conduct. Miss Bell looked at her as she would have looked at one of the hieroglyphs on the Obelisk. She had been trying to decipher her for thirteen years.

Miss Bell was stout and prim, a combination which was surely never intended by nature. Her gray dress and tight linen collar and cuffs gave the uncomfortable impression of being sewed on, while her rigid black water-waves seemed irrevocably painted upon her high forehead. She was a routinist; she believed in system, she believed in order, and she believed that godliness was akin to cleanliness. When she found an exception to a rule she regarded the exception in the light of an error. As she stood, brush in hand, before Lovey Mary, she thought for the hundredth time that the child was an exception.

"Stand up," she said firmly but not unkindly. "I thought you had too much sense to do your hair that way. Come back to the bath-room, and I will arrange it properly."

Lovey Mary gave a farewell kick at the wall before she followed Miss Bell. One side of her head was covered with tight black ringlets, and the other bristled with curl-papers.

"When I was a little girl," said Miss Bell, running the wet comb ruthlessly through the treasured curls, "the smoother my hair was the better I liked it. I used to brush it down with soap and water to make it stay."

Lovey Mary looked at the water-waves and sighed.

"If you're ugly you never can get married with anybody, can you, Miss Bell?" she asked in a spirit of earnest inquiry.

Miss Bell's back became stiffer, if possible, than before.

"Marriage isn't the only thing in the world. The homelier you are the better chance you have of being good. Now the Lord meant you to be plain"--assisting Providence by drawing the braids so tight that the girl's eyebrows were elevated with the strain. "If he had meant you to have curls he would have given them to you."

[Illustration: "'Now the Lord meant you to be plain'"]

"Well, didn't he want me to have a mother and father?" burst forth Lovey Mary, indignantly, "or clothes, or money, or nothing? Can't I ever get nothing at all 'cause I wasn't started out with nothing?"

Miss Bell was too shocked to reply. She gave a final brush to the sleek, wet head and turned sorrowfully away. Lovey Mary ran after her and caught her hand.

"I'm sorry," she cried impulsively. "I want to be good. Please-- please--"

Miss Bell drew her hand away coldly. "You needn't go to Sabbath-school this morning," she said in an injured tone; "you can stay here and think over what you have said. I am not angry with you. I never allow myself to get angry. I don't understand, that's all. You are such a good girl about some things and so unreasonable about others. With a good home, good clothes, and kind treatment, what else could a girl want?"

Receiving no answer to this inquiry, Miss Bell adjusted her cuffs and departed with the conviction that she had done all that was possible to throw light upon a dark subject.

Lovey Mary, left alone, shed bitter tears on her clean gingham dress. Thirteen years ought to reconcile a person even to gingham dresses with white china buttons down the back, and round straw hats bought at wholesale. But Lovey Mary's rebellion of spirit was something that time only served to increase. It had started with Kate Rider, who used to pinch her, and laugh at her, and tell the other girls to "get on to her curves." Curves had signified something dreadful to Lovey Mary; she would have experienced real relief could she have known that she did not possess any. It was not Kate Rider, however, who was causing the present tears; she had left the home two years before, and her name was not allowed to be mentioned even in whispers. Neither was it rebellion against the work that had cast Lovey Mary into such depths of gloom; fourteen beds had been made, fourteen heads had been combed, and fourteen wriggling little bodies had been cheerfully buttoned into starchy blue ginghams exactly like her own.

Something deeper and more mysterious was fermenting in her soul-- something that made her long passionately for the beautiful things of life, for love and sympathy and happiness; something that made her


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