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- Lovey Mary - 5/15 -
AN ACCIDENT AND AN INCIDENT
"Our deeds still travel with us from afar, And what we have been makes us what we are."
Through the assistance of Asia Wiggs, Lovey Mary secured pleasant and profitable work at the factory; but her mind was not at peace. Of course it was a joy to wear the red dress and arrange her hair a different way each morning, but there was a queer, restless little feeling in her heart that spoiled even the satisfaction of looking like other girls and earning three dollars a week. The very fact that nobody took her to task, that nobody scolded or blamed her, caused her to ask herself disturbing questions. Secret perplexity had the same effect upon her that it has upon many who are older and wiser: it made her cross.
Two days after she started to work, Asia, coming down from the decorating-room for lunch, found her in fiery dispute with a red- haired girl. There had been an accident in front of the factory, and the details were under discussion.
"Well, I know all about it," declared the red-haired girl, excitedly, "'cause my sister was the first one that got to her."
"Is your sister a nigger named Jim Brown?" asked Lovey Mary, derisively. "Ever'body says he was the first one got there."
"Was there blood on her head?" asked Asia, trying to stem the tide of argument.
"Yes, indeed," said the first speaker; "on her head an' on her hands, too. I hanged on the steps when they was puttin' her in the ambalance- wagon, an' she never knowed a bloomin' thing!"
"Why didn't you go on with them to the hospital!" asked Lovey Mary. "I don't see how the doctors could get along without you."
"Oh, you're just mad 'cause you didn't see her. She was awful pretty! Had on a black hat with a white feather in it, but it got in the mud. They say she had a letter in her pocket with her name on it."
"I thought maybe she come to long enough to tell you her name," teased her tormentor.
"Well, I do know it, Smarty," retorted the other, sharply: "it's Miss Kate Rider."
Meanwhile in the Cabbage Patch Miss Hazy and Mrs. Wiggs were holding a consultation over the fence.
"She come over to my house first," Mrs. Wiggs was saying, dramatically illustrating her remarks with two tin cans. "This is me here, an' I looks up an' seen the old lady standin' over there. She put me in mind of a graven image. She had on a sorter gray mournin', didn't she, Miss Hazy?"
"Yes, 'm; that was the way it struck me. Bein' gray, I 'lowed it was fer some one she didn't keer fer pertickler."
"An' gent's cuffs," continued Mrs. Wiggs; "I noticed them right off. ''Scuse me,' says she, snappin' her mouth open an' shut like a trap-- ''scuse me, but have you seen anything of two strange children in this neighborhood?' I th'owed my apron over Lovey Mary's hat, that I was trimmin'. I wasn't goin' to tell till I found out what that widder woman was after. But before I was called upon to answer, Tommy come tearin' round the house chasin' Cusmoodle."
"Cusmoodle, the duck. I named it this mornin'. Well, when the lady seen Tommy she started up, then she set down ag'in, holdin' her skirts up all the time to keep 'em from techin' the floor. 'How'd they git here?' she ast, so relieved-like that I thought she must be kin to 'em. So I up an' told her all I knew. I told her if she wanted to find out anything about us she could ast Mrs. Reddin' over at Terrace Park. 'Mrs. Robert Reddin'?' says she, lookin' dumfounded. 'Yes,' says I, 'the finest lady, rich or poor, in Kentucky, unless it's her husband.' Then she went on an' ast me goin' on a hunderd questions 'bout all of us an' all of you all, an' 'bout the factory. She even ast me where we got our water at, an' if you kept yer house healthy. I told her Lovey Mary had made Chris carry out more 'n a wheelbarrow full of dirt ever' night since she had been here, an' I guess it would be healthy by the time she got through."
[Illustration: "'She took on mighty few airs fer a person in mournin'.'"]
Miss Hazy moved uneasily. "I told her I couldn't clean up much 'count of the rheumatism, an' phthisic, an' these here dizzy spells--"
"I bet she didn't git a chance to talk much if you got started on your symptims," interrupted Mrs. Wiggs.
"Didn't you think she was a' awful haughty talker?"
'No, indeed. She took on mighty few airs fer a person in mournin'. When she riz to go, she says, real kind fer such a stern-faced woman, 'Do the childern seem well an' happy?' 'Yes, 'm; they're well, all right,' says I. 'Tommy he's like a colt what's been stabled up all winter an' is let out fer the first time. As fer Mary,' I says, 'she seems kinder low in her mind, looks awful pestered most of the time.' 'It won't hurt her,' says the lady. 'Keep a' eye on 'em,' says she, puttin' some money in my hand,' an' if you need any more, I'll leave it with Mrs. Reddin'.' Then she cautioned me pertickler not to say nothin' 'bout her havin' been here."
"She told me not to tell, too," said Miss Hazy; "but I don't know what we're goin' to say to Mrs. Schultz. She 'most sprained her back tryin' to see who it was, an' Mrs. Eichorn come over twicet pertendin'-like she wanted to borrow a corkscrew driver."
"Tell 'em she was a newfangled agent," said Mrs. Wiggs, with unblushing mendacity--"a' agent fer shoestrings."
THE DAWN OF A ROMANCE
"There is in the worst of fortunes The best of chances for a happy change."
"Good land! you all're so clean in here I'm feared of ketchin' the pneumony."
Mrs. Wiggs stood in Miss Hazy's kitchen and smiled approval at the marvelous transformation.
"Well, now, I don't think it's right healthy," complained Miss Hazy, who was sitting at the machine, with her feet on a soap-box; "so much water sloppin' round is mighty apt to give a person a cold. But Lovey Mary says she can't stand it no other way. She's mighty set, Mis' Wiggs."
"Yes, an' that's jes what you need, Miss Hazy. You never was set 'bout nothin' in yer life. Lovey Mary's jes took you an' the house an' ever'thing in hand, an' in four weeks got you all to livin' like white folks. I ain't claimin' she ain't sharp-tongued; I 'low she's sassed 'bout ever'body in the Patch but me by now. But she's good, an' she's smart, an' some of her sharp corners'll git pecked off afore her hair grows much longer."
"Oh, mercy me! here she comes now to git her lunch," said Miss Hazy, with chagrin. "I ain't got a thing fixed."
"You go on an' sew; I'll mess up a little somethin' fer her. She'll stop, anyway, to talk to Tommy. Did you ever see anything to equal the way she takes on 'bout that child? She jes natchally analyzes him."
Lovey Mary, however, did not stop as usual to play with Tommy. She came straight to the kitchen and sat down on the door-step, looking worried and preoccupied.
"How comes it you ain't singin'?" asked Mrs. Wiggs. "If I had a voice like yourn, folks would have to stop up their years with cotton. I jes find myself watchin' fer you to come home, so's I can hear you singin' them pretty duets round the house."
Lovey Mary smiled faintly; for a month past she had been unconsciously striving to live up to Mrs. Wiggs's opinion of her, and the constant praise and commendation of that "courageous captain of compliment" had moved her to herculean effort.
But a sudden catastrophe threatened her. She sat on the door-step, white and miserable. Held tight in the hand that was thrust in her pocket was a letter; it was a blue letter addressed to Miss Hazy in large, dashing characters. Lovey Mary had got it from the postman as she went out in the morning; for five hours she had been racked with doubt concerning it. She felt that it could refer but to one subject, and that was herself. Perhaps Miss Bell had discovered her hiding- place, or, worse still, perhaps Kate Rider had seen her at the factory and was writing for Tommy. Lovey Mary crushed the letter in her hand; she would not give it to Miss Hazy. She would outwit Kate again.
"All right, honey," called Mrs. Wiggs; "here you are. 'T ain't much of a lunch, but it'll fill up the gaps. Me an' Miss Hazy jes been talkin' 'bout you."
Lovey Mary glanced up furtively. Could they have suspected anything?
[Illustration: "She sat on the door-step, white and miserable."]
"Didn't yer years sorter burn! We was speakin' of the way you'd slicked things up round here. I was a-sayin' even if you was a sorter repeatin'-rifle when it come to answerin' back, you was a good, nice girl."
Lovey Mary smoothed out the crumpled letter in her pocket. "I'm 'fraid I ain't as good as you make me out," she said despondently.
"Oh, yes, she is," said Miss Hazy, with unusual animation; "she's a
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