THE LADY OF THE DECORATION
By Frances Little
To All Good Sisters, And To Mine In Particular
THE LADY OF THE DECORATION
SAN FRANCISCO, July 30, 1901.
My dearest Mate:
Behold a soldier on the eve of battle! I am writing
this in a stuffy
little hotel room and I don't dare stop whistling for a minute. You
could cover my courage with a postage
stamp. In the morning I sail for
the Flowery Kingdom, and if the roses are waiting
to strew my path it
is more than they have done here for the past few years. When the
train pulled out from home and I saw that crowd of loving, tearful
faces fading away, I believe that for a few moments I realized the
of death! I was leaving everything that was dear to
me on earth, and going out into the dark unknown, alone.
Of course it's for the best, the disagreeable
always is. You are
responsible, my beloved
cousin, and the consequences be on your
head. You thought my salvation
lay in leaving Kentucky and seeking my
fortune in strange lands. Your tender sensibilities shrank
me exposed to the world as a young widow who is not sorry. So you
"shipped me some-wheres East of Suez" and tied me up with a four
But, honor bright, Mate, I don't believe in your heart you can blame
me for not being sorry! I stuck it out to the last,--faced neglect,
humiliations, and days and nights of anguish, almost losing my
self-respect in my effort to fulfil
my duty. But when death suddenly
put an end to it all, God alone knows what a relief
it was! And how
curiously it has all turned out! First my taking
course just to please you, and to keep my mind off things that ought
not to have been. Then my sudden release
from bondage, and the
dreadful manner of it, my awkward
position, my dependence,--and in the
midst of it all this sudden offer to go to Japan and teach in a
Isn't it ridiculous, Mate? Was there ever anything so absurd
as my lot
being cast with a band of missionaries? I, who have never missed a
Kentucky Derby since I was old enough to know a bay from a sorrel! I
guess old Sister Fate doesn't want me to be a one part star. For
eighteen years I played pure comedy, then tragedy
for seven, and now I
am cast for a character
Nobody will ever know what it cost me to come! All of them were so
terribly opposed to it, but it seems to me that I have spent my entire
life going against the wishes of my family. Yet I would lay down my
life for any one of them. How they have stood by me and loved me
through all my blind blunders. I'd back my mistakes against anybody
else's in the world!
Then Mate there was Jack. You know how it has always been with
Jack. When I was a little girl, on up to the time I was married, after
that he never even looked it, but just stood by me and helped me like
a brick. If it hadn't been for you and for him I should have put an
end to myself long ago. But now that I am free, Jack has begun right
where he left off seven years ago. It is all worse than useless; I am
everlastingly through with love and sentiment. Of course we all know
that Jack is the salt of the earth, and it nearly kills me to give him
pain, but he will get over it, they always do, and I would rather for
him to convalesce without me than with me. I made him promise not to
write me a line, and he just looked at me in that quiet, quizzical way
and said: "All right, but you just remember that I'm waiting, until
you are ready to begin life over again with me."
Why it would be a death blow to all his hopes if he married me! My
widow's mite consists of a wrecked life, a few debts, and a worldly
notion that a brilliant
young doctor like himself has no right to
throw away all his chances in order to establish a small hospital for
incurable children. Whenever I think of his giving up that
long-cherished dream of studying in Germany, and buying ground for the
hospital instead, I just gnash my teeth.
Oh! I know that you think it is grand and noble and that I am horrid
to feel as I do. Maybe I am. At any rate you will acknowledge
have done the right thing for once in coming away. I seem to have been
a general blot on the landscape, and with your help I have erased
myself. In the meanwhile, I wish to Heaven my heart would ossify!
The sole power that keeps me going now is your belief
in me. You have
always claimed that I was worth something, in spite of the fact that I
have persistently proven that I was not. Don't you shudder
risk you are taking? Think of the responsibility
for me in
a Board of Missions! I'll stay bottled up as tight as I know how, but
suppose the cork _should_ fly?
Poor Mate, the Lord was unkind
when he gave me to you for a cousin.
Well it's done, and by the time you get this I will probably be well
on my sea-sick way. I can't trust myself to send any messages to the
family. I don't even dare send my love to you. I am a soldier lady,
and I salute
ON SHIP-BOARD. August 8th, 1901.
It's so windy that I can scarcely hold the paper down but I'll make
the effort. The first night I came aboard, I had everything to
myself. There were eighty cabin passengers and I was the only lady on
deck. It was very rough but I stayed up as long as I could. The blue
devils were swarming so thick around me that I didn't want to fight
them in the close quarters of my state-room. But at last I had to go
below, and the night that followed was a terror. Such a storm raged as
I had never dreamed of, the ship rocked and groaned, and the water
dashed against the port-holes; my bag played tag with my shoes, and my
trunk ran around the room like a rat hunting
for its hole. Overhead
the shouts of the captain could be heard above the answering shouts of
the sailors, and men and women hurried
panic-stricken through the
Through it all I lay in the upper berth and recalled all the unhappy
nights of the past seven years; disappointment, heartache,
disillusionment, disgust; they followed each other in silent
review. Every tender memory and early sentiment
that might have
lingered in my heart was ruthlessly murdered by some stronger memory
of pain. The storm without was nothing to the storm within, I felt
indifferent as to the fate of the vessel. If she floated or if she
sank, it was one and the same to me.
When morning came something had happened to me. I don't know what it
was, but my past somehow seemed to belong to someone else. I had taken
a last farewell
of all the old burdens, and I was a new person in a
I put on my prettiest cap and my long coat and went up on deck. Oh, my
dear, if you could only have seen the sight that greeted me! It was
the limpest, sickest crowd I ever encountered! They were pea-green
with a dash of yellow, and a streak
of black under their eyes, pale
around the lips and weak in their knees. There was only one other
woman besides myself who was not sick, and she was a missionary
short hair, and a big nose. She was going around with some tracts
asking everybody if they were Christians. Just as I came up she
tackled a big, dejected
who was huddled in a corner.
"Brother, are you a Christian?"
"No, no," he muttered impatiently. "I'm a Norwegian."
Now what that man needed was a cocktail, but it was not for me to
At table I am in a corner with three nice old gentlemen and one young
German. They are great on story-telling, and I've told all of mine,
most of yours and some I invented. One of the old gentlemen is a
missionary; when he found that I was distantly connected with the fold
he immediately called me "Dear Sister". If I were at home I should
call him "Dear Pa", but I am on my good behavior.
The eating is fairly good, only sometimes it is so hot with curry and
spice that it nearly takes my breath. My little Chinese waiter
entirely too solicitous for my comfort. No amount
induce him to leave my plate until I have finished, after a few
mouthfuls he whisks it away and brings me another relay. After
pressing upon me dishes of every kind, he insists on my filling up all
crevices with nuts and raisins, and after I have eaten, and eaten, he
looks hurt, and says regretfully: "Missy sickee, no eatee."
There is one other person, who is just as solicitous. The little
German watches my every mouthful
with round solemn
eyes, and insists
upon serving everything to me. He looks bewildered when anyone tells a
funny story, and sometimes asks for an explanation. He has been
around the world twice, and is now going to China for three years for
the Society of Scientific Research. He seems to think I am the
greatest curio he has yet encountered in his travels.
The chief excitement
of our trip so far has been the day in
Honolulu. I wanted to sing for joy when we sighted land. The trees and
grass never looked so beautiful as they did that morning in the
brilliant sunshine. It took us hours to land on account
of the red
tape that had to be unwound, and then there was an extra delay of
which I was the innocent
cause. The quarantine doctor was inspecting
the ship, and after I had watched him examine the emigrants, and had
gotten my feelings wrought
up over the poor miserable
swarming below, I found a nice quiet nook on the shelter deck where I
snuggled down and amused myself watching the native boys swim. The
water on their bronze
bodies made them shine in the sunlight, and they
played about like a shoal of young porpoises. I must have stayed there
an hour, for when I came down there was considerable
stir on board. A
passenger was missing
and we were being held while a search of the
ship was made. I was getting most excited when the purser, who is the
sternest and best looking man you ever saw, came up and pounced upon
me. "Have you been inspected?" he demanded, eyeing me from head to
foot. "Not any more than at present," I answered meekly. "Come with
me," he said.
I asked him if he was going to throw me overboard, but he was too full
of importance to smile. He handed me over to the doctor saying: "Here
is the young woman that caused the delay." Young woman, indeed! but I
was to be crushed yet further for the doctor looked over his glasses
and said: "Now how did we miss that?"
But on to Honolulu! I don't wonder people go wild over it. It is as if
all the artists in all the world had spilled their colors over one
spot, and Nature had sorted them out at her own sweet will. I kept
wondering if I had died and gone to Heaven! Marvelous palms, and
tropical plants, and all hanging
in a softly
dreaming silence that
went to my head like wine.
I started out to see the city, with two old ladies and a girl from
South Dakota, but Dear Pa and Little Germany joined the party. Oh!
Mate how I longed for you! I wanted to tie all those frousy old freaks
up in a hard knot and pitch them into the sea! The girl from South
Dakota is a little better than the rest, but she wears a jersey!
There _are_ real tailor-made people on board, but I don't dare
associate with them. They play bridge
most of the time and if I
hesitated near them I'd be lost. I'll play my part, never fear, but I
hereby swear that I will not dress it!
STILL ON BOARD. August 18th.
I am writing
this in my berth with the curtains drawn. No I am not a
bit sea-sick, just popular. One of the old ladies is teaching me to
knit, the short-haired missionary
reads aloud to me, the girl from
South Dakota keeps my feet covered up, and Dear Pa and Little Germany
assist me to eat.
The captain has had a big bathing tank rigged up for the ladies, and I
take a cold plunge
every morning. It makes me think of our old days at
up at the Cape. Didn't we have a royal time that summer
and weren't we young and foolish? It was the last good time I had for
many a long day--but there, none of that!
Last night I had an adventure, at least it was next door to one. I was
sitting up on deck when Dear Pa came by and asked me to walk with him.
After several rounds we sat down on the pilot house steps. The moon
was as big as a wagon wheel and the whole sea flooded with silver,
while the flying fishes played hide and seek in the shadows. I forgot
all about Dear Pa and was doing a lot of thinking on my own account
when he leaned over and said:
"I hope you don't mind talking to me. I am very, very lonely." Now I
thought I recognized a grave symptom, and when he began to tell me
about his dear departed, I knew it was time to be going.
"You have passed through it," he said. "You can sympathize."
I crossed my fingers in the dark. "We are both seeking a life work in
a foreign field--" he began again, but just here the purser passed. He
almost stumbled over us in the dark and when he saw me and my elderly
friend, he actually
Don't you dare tell Jack about this, I should never hear the last of
Can you realize that I am three whole weeks from home? I do, every
second of it. Sometimes when I stop to think what I am doing my heart
almost bursts! But then I am so used to the heartache that I might be
lonesome without it; who knows?
If I can only do what is expected of me, if I can only pick up the
pieces of this smashed-up life of mine and patch them into a decent
whole that you will not be ashamed
of, then I will be content.
The first foreign word I have learned
is "Alohaoe", I think it means
"my dearest love to you." Any how I send it laden with the tenderest
meaning. God bless and keep you all, and bring me back to you a wiser
and a gladder woman.
KOBE. August 18th, 1901.
Actually in Japan! I can scarcely believe it, even with all this
strange life going on about me. This morning a launch
came out to the
steamer bringing Miss Lessing and Miss Dixon, the two missionaries in
whose school I am to work. When I saw them, I must confess
heart went down in my boots! Theirs must have done the same thing, for
we stood looking at each other as awkwardly
as if we belonged to
different planets. The difference began with our heels and extended
right on up to the crown of our hats. Even the language we spoke
seemed different, and when I faced the prospect
of living with such
utter strangers, I wanted to jump overboard!
My fellow passengers suddenly became very dear, I clung to everything
about that old steamer
as the last link that bound me to America.
As we came down the gang plank, I was introduced to "Brother Mason"
and "Brother White", and we all came ashore
together. I felt for all
the world like a convict
sentenced to four years in the
penitentiary. When we reached the Hotel, I fled to my room and flung
myself on the bed. I knew I might as well have it out. I cried for two
hours and thirty-five minutes, then I got up and washed my face and
looked out of the window.
It was all so strange and picturesque
that I got interested before I
knew it. By and by Miss Lessing came in. Now that her hat was off I
saw that she had a very sweet face with pretty dark hair and a funny
behind her eyes that made me think of you. She told me
how she had come out to Japan when she was a young girl, and how she
had built up the school, and all she longed to do for it. Then she
said, "Your coming seems like the direct answer to prayer. It has been
one of my dearest dreams to have a Kindergarten for the little ones,
it just seems too good to be true!" And she looked at me out of her
writing [´raitiŋ] n.书写；写作；书法 (初中英语单词)postage [´pəustidʒ] n.邮费；邮资 (初中英语单词)waiting [´weitiŋ] n.等候；伺候 (初中英语单词)beloved [bi´lʌvd] a.为….所爱的 n.爱人 (初中英语单词)fulfil [ful´fil] vt.履行；完成；执行 (初中英语单词)relief [ri´li:f] n.救济；援救；减轻 (初中英语单词)release [ri´li:s] vt&n.释放；放松；赦免 (初中英语单词)absurd [əb´sə:d] a.荒谬的，可笑的 (初中英语单词)tragedy [´trædʒidi] n.悲剧；惨案；灾难 (初中英语单词)character [´kæriktə] n.特性；性质；人物；字 (初中英语单词)useless [´ju:sləs] a.无用的，无价值的 (初中英语单词)sentiment [´sentimənt] n.情绪；多愁善感 (初中英语单词)brilliant [´briliənt] a.灿烂的；杰出的 (初中英语单词)whenever [wen´evə] conj.&ad.无论何时 (初中英语单词)acknowledge [ək´nɔlidʒ] vt.(公开)承认；感谢 (初中英语单词)meanwhile [´mi:n´wail] n.&ad.其间；同时 (初中英语单词)belief [bi´li:f] n.相信；信仰，信条 (初中英语单词)responsibility [ri,spɔnsə´biliti] n.责任(心)；职责；任务 (初中英语单词)standing [´stændiŋ] n.持续 a.直立的 (初中英语单词)salute [sə´lu:t] n.&v.招呼；行礼；敬礼 (初中英语单词)aboard [ə´bɔ:d] ad.&prep.在…上 (初中英语单词)terror [´terə] n.恐怖；惊骇 (初中英语单词)disappointment [,disə´pɔintmənt] n.失望；挫折 (初中英语单词)disgust [dis´gʌst] n.厌恶 vt.令(人)作呕 (初中英语单词)vessel [´vesəl] n.容器；船；脉管 (初中英语单词)farewell [feə´wel] int.再见 n.&a.告别 (初中英语单词)foreigner [´fɔrinə] n.外国人 (初中英语单词)breath [breθ] n.呼吸；气息 (初中英语单词)amount [ə´maunt] n.总数；数量 v.合计 (初中英语单词)argument [´ɑ:gjumənt] n.辩论；争论；论证 (初中英语单词)solemn [´sɔləm] a.严肃的；隆重的 (初中英语单词)explanation [,eksplə´neiʃən] n.解释；说明；辩解 (初中英语单词)scientific [,saiən´tifik] a.科学(上)的 (初中英语单词)research [ri´sə:tʃ] n.&vi.调查；探究；研究 (初中英语单词)excitement [ik´saitmənt] n.兴奋；骚动；煽动 (初中英语单词)sunshine [´sʌnʃain] n.日光，阳光 (初中英语单词)account [ə´kaunt] vi.说明 vt.认为 n.帐目 (初中英语单词)innocent [´inəsənt] a.无罪的；单纯的 (初中英语单词)wrought [rɔ:t] work 的过去式(分词) (初中英语单词)miserable [´mizərəbəl] a.悲惨的；可怜的 (初中英语单词)sunlight [´sʌnlait] n.日光 (初中英语单词)considerable [kən´sidərəbəl] a.重要的；值得重视 (初中英语单词)missing [´misiŋ] a.缺掉的；失踪的 (初中英语单词)marvelous [´mɑ:viləs] (=marvellous) a.奇异的 (初中英语单词)softly [´sɔftli] ad.软化地；柔和地 (初中英语单词)plunge [plʌndʒ] v.插进 n.投入；冲击 (初中英语单词)cottage [´kɔtidʒ] n.村舍；小屋；小别墅 (初中英语单词)actually [´æktʃuəli] ad.事实上；实际上 (初中英语单词)ashamed [ə´ʃeimd] a.惭愧；不好意思 (初中英语单词)confess [kən´fes] vt.供认；坦白；承认 (初中英语单词)prospect [´prɔspekt, prəs´pekt] n.景色；境界 v.勘察 (初中英语单词)steamer [´sti:mə] n.汽船；轮船；蒸笼 (初中英语单词)ashore [ə´ʃɔ:] ad.向岸上 (初中英语单词)twinkle [´twiŋkl] vi.&n.闪烁；眨眼 (初中英语单词)loving [´lʌviŋ] a.爱的，有爱情的 (高中英语单词)bitterness [´bitənis] n.苦味；辛酸；苦难 (高中英语单词)disagreeable [,disə´gri:əbl] a.令人不悦的 (高中英语单词)salvation [sæl´veiʃən] n.救助；拯救 (高中英语单词)kentucky [kən´tʌki] n.肯塔基 (高中英语单词)anguish [´æŋgwiʃ] n.(极度的)痛苦；苦恼 (高中英语单词)awkward [´ɔ:kwəd] a.笨拙的；为难的 (高中英语单词)ridiculous [ri´dikjuləs] a.荒谬的；可笑的 (高中英语单词)comedy [´kɔmidi] n.喜剧；喜剧场面 (高中英语单词)landscape [´lændskeip] n.风景；景色；风景画 (高中英语单词)shudder [´ʃʌdə] n.&vi.震颤；发抖 (高中英语单词)hurried [´hʌrid] a.仓促的，慌忙的 (高中英语单词)streak [stri:k] n.纹理 v.用线条(条纹) (高中英语单词)missionary [´miʃənəri] a.传教(士)的 n.传教士 (高中英语单词)cocktail [´kɔkteil] n.&a.鸡尾酒(的) (高中英语单词)bronze [brɔnz] n.青铜(器) (高中英语单词)saying [´seiŋ, ´sei-iŋ] n.言语；言论；格言 (高中英语单词)hanging [´hæŋiŋ] n.绞刑 a.悬挂着的 (高中英语单词)dakota [də´kəutə] n.&a.达科他人(语) (高中英语单词)symptom [´simptəm] n.症状，症候 (高中英语单词)learned [´lə:nid] a.有学问的，博学的 (高中英语单词)launch [lɔ:ntʃ] vt.发动 n.发射；汽艇 (高中英语单词)theirs [ðeəz] pron.他们的 (高中英语单词)convict [kən´vikt, ´kɔnvikt] vt.证明…有罪 n.罪犯 (高中英语单词)picturesque [,piktʃə´resk] a.似画的；别致的 (高中英语单词)flowery [´flauəri] a.多花的 (英语四级单词)bondage [´bɔndidʒ] n.奴役；束缚 (英语四级单词)unkind [,ʌn´kaind] a.不客气的；不和善的 (英语四级单词)impatiently [im´peiʃəntli] ad.不耐烦地，急躁地 (英语四级单词)waiter [´weitə] n.侍者，服务员 (英语四级单词)mouthful [´mauθful] n.一口；少量 (英语四级单词)meekly [´mi:kli] ad.温顺地；卑恭屈节地 (英语四级单词)overboard [´əuvəbɔ:d] ad.向船外；到水中 (英语四级单词)bridge [bridʒ] n.桥(梁)；鼻梁；桥牌 (英语四级单词)awkwardly [´ɔ:kwədli] a.笨拙地；棘手地 (英语四级单词)shrank [ʃræŋk] shrink的过去式 (英语六级单词)taking [´teikiŋ] a.迷人的 n.捕获物 (英语六级单词)august [ɔ:´gʌst] a.尊严的；威严的 (英语六级单词)hunting [´hʌntiŋ] n.打猎 (英语六级单词)dejected [di´dʒektid] a.垂头丧气的 (英语六级单词)departed [di´pɑ:tid] a.已往的；已故的 (英语六级单词)