Miss Theodosia's Heartstrings





[Illustration: Slowly her delicate fingers undid the ravages of

Stefana's patient endeavors. FRONTISPIECE.]







Slowly her delicate fingers undid the ravages of Stefana's patient


"We've all got beautiful names, except poor Elly"

"If you are thinking of putting me anywhere, put me into a story like


Evangeline established a stage of action outside the window

Miss Theodosia's Heartstrings


"Mercy gracious!"


The last utterance was Miss Theodosia Baxter's. She was a woman of few

words at all times where few sufficed. One sufficed now. The child on

her front porch, with a still childlier child on the small area of her

knees, was not a creature of few words, but now extreme surprise limited

speech. She was stricken with brevity,--stricken is the word--to match

Miss Theodosia's.

Downward, upward, each gazed into the other's surprised face. The

childlier child, jouncing pleasantly back and forth, viewed them both


It was the child who regarded the situation, after a moment of mental

adjustment, as humorous. She giggled softly.

"Mercy gracious! How you surprised me' 'n' Elly Precious, an' me 'n'

Elly Precious surprised you! I don't know which was the whichest! We

came over to be shady just once more. We didn't s'pose you would come

home till to-morrow, did we, Elly Precious?"

"I came last night," Miss Theodosia replied with crispness. She stood in

her doorway, apparentlywaiting for something which--apparently--was not

to happen. The child and Elly Precious sat on in seeming calm.

"Yes'm. Of course if you hadn't come, you wouldn't be standin' there

lookin' at Elly Precious--isn't he a darlin' dear? Wouldn't you like to

look at his toes?"

It was Miss Theodosia Baxter's turn to say "Mercy gracious!" but she did

not say it aloud. It was her turn, too, to see a bit of humor in the

situation on her front porch.

"Not--just now," she said rather hastily. She could not remember ever to

have seen a baby's toes. "I've no doubt they are--are excellent toes."

The word did not satisfy her, but the suitableadjective was not at


"Mercy gracious! That's a funny way to talk about toes! Elly Precious's

are pink as anything--an' six--yes'm! I've made consid'able money out of

his toes. Yes," with rising pride at the sight of Miss Theodosia's

surprise, "'leven cents, so far. I only charged Lelia Fling a cent for

two looks, because Lelia's baby's dead. I've got three cents out o' her;

she says five of Elly Precious's remind her of her baby's toes. Isn't it

funny you can't make boys pay to look at babies' toes, even when they's

such a lot? Only just girls. Stefana says it's because girls are

ungrown-up mothers. Mercy gracious! speakin' of Stefana an' mothers,

reminds me--"

The shrill little voice stopped with a suddenness that made the woman in

the door fear for Elly Precious; it seemed that he must be jolted from

his narrow perch.

Miss Theodosia had wandered up and down the world for three years in be

search of something to interest her, only to come home and find it here

upon the upper step of her own front porch. She stepped from the doorway

and sat down in one of the wicker rockers. She had plenty of time to be

interested; there was really no haste for unpacking and settling back

into her little country rut.

"What about 'Stefana and mothers'?" she prodded gently. A cloud had

settled on the child's vivid little face and threatened to overshade the

childlier child, as well. "I suppose 'Stefana' is a Spanish person,

isn't she?" The name had a definitely foreign sound.

"Oh, no'm--just a United States. We're all United States. Mother named

her; we've all got beautiful names, except poor Elly. Mother hated to

call him Elihu, but there was Grandfather gettin' older an' older all

the time, an' she dassen't wait till the next one. She put it off an'

off with the other boys, Carruthers an' Gilpatrick--he's dead. She just

couldn't name any of 'em Elihu, till Grandfather scared her, gettin' so

old. She was afraid there wouldn't be time, an' there wasn't any to

spare. Grandfather's dead now--she's thankful enough she didn't wait any

longer. He was so pleased. He said he could depart this life easier,

leavin' an Elihu Flagg behind him. An', anyway, Mother says Elly can

call himself his middle name, if he'd ruther, when he's twenty-one--his

middle name's Launcelot."

Elihu Launcelot, at this juncture, toppled over against the little flat

breast of his nurse, asleep--or in a swoon; Miss Theodosia had her

fears. There seemed sufficient swooning cause.

"Stefana," she prompted again, her interest advancing at a rapid pace,

"and mothers--"

"Stefana's our oldest. She's goin' to run us while Mother's away. She's

got a job before her! All I can do is 'tend Elly Precious--we're all

boys, but us. But, of course, runnin' the family isn't the real

trouble--not what made Mother cry."

Miss Theodosia sat forward in her chair.

"What made Mother cry?" she asked. The child shifted her heavy burden

the better to turn her head. She regarded the beautiful white lady


"You," she stated briefly.

This time Miss Theodosia said it aloud and with a surprising ease, as if

of long custom--"Mercy gracious!"

"Oh, I didn't mean you're to blame; you can't help Aunt Sarah tumblin'

down the cellar stairs an' Mother not bein' able to do you up."

"Do me--up?"

"Yes'm--white-wash you. Mother was sure you'd let her, an' we were goin'

to send Carruthers to a deaf 'n' dumb school after you'd wore white

clo'es enough. He isn't dumb, but he's deaf. He can't hear Elly Precious

laugh--only yell. Mother heard that you always wore white dresses an'

she most hugged herself--she hugged us. She said you'd prob'ly find out

what a good white-washer she was an' let her white-wash you. But, now,

Aunt Sarah's went an' fell down cellar."

"Whitewash--whitewash?" queried Miss Theodosia.

"Yes'm, you didn't think Mother was a washwoman, did you? Of course she

could, but it doesn't pay's well. She only whitewashes--white clo'es,

you know, dresses an' shirtwaists. She says it's her talent that the

Lord's gave her, an' she's goin' to make it gain ten talents for

Carruthers. But Aunt Sarah--"

"Never mind Aunt Sarah. Unless--do you mean your mother has had to go

away from home?"

"Yes'm, to see to Aunt Sarah. They were twins when they were babies.

Mother cried, because she said of course you'd have to be done up while

she was gone, an' so she'd lost you. She said you'd been her bacon light

ever since she heard you was comin' home an' wore so many white clo'es."

The garrulous little voice might have run on indefinitely but for the

abrupt appearance, here, of a slender girl in an all-enwrapping gingham

apron. She came hurrying up Miss Theodosia's front walk.

"Well, Evangeline Flagg, I hope you're blushing crimson scarlet

red--helping yourself to folks's doorsteps that's got back from Europe!

I hope--" but the newcomer got no further, for, quite suddenly, she

found herself blushing crimsonscarlet red, in the grip of a

disconcerting thought.

"I suppose it's just as bad to help yourself to doorsteps when folks

aren't here as when they are," she said slowly, "but you mustn't blame

Mother. She'd never've allowed Evangeline and Elly, if we'd had a single

sol-i-ta-ry tree. Or been on the shady side. Or had a porch. Elly's been

pindly, and Mother felt obliged to save his life. It's been terribly

hot. Here, Evangeline Flagg, you give Elly here, an' you run home an'

keep the soup-kettle from burning on. Don't you wait until it smells!

I've got an errand to do here."

The child, Evangeline, relinquished her burden and turned slowly away.

But she halted at the foot of the steps.

"This is Stefana," she introduced politely. "Stefana, you ain't _goin'

to_? You look 'xactly as if you was. Mercy gracious!"

[Illustration: "We've all got beautiful names except poor Elly."]

"Yes," Stefana returned gravely, "I am. Now, you go. Remember the soup!"

Miss Theodosia's interested gaze left the retreating little figure and

came back to Stefana and Elly Precious. She was pleasantly aware of her

own immaculate daintiness in her crisp white dress. Only Theodosia

Baxter would have dreamed of arraying herself in white to unpack and

settle. Her friends declared she made a fetich of her white raiment; it

was a well-known fact among them that she was extremely "fussy" about

its laundering.

"One, two, three," counted the slender girl, over the baby's bald little

head, "only three tucks, an' the lace not terribly full on the edges.

I'm thankful there aren't any ruffles, but, there, I suppose there are

on some o' the others, aren't there? I'll have to manage the ruffles. I

mean, if--oh, I mean, won't you please let me do you up? Just till Aunt

Sarah's bone knits--so to save you for Mother? I'll try so hard! If I

don't, Charlotte Lovell will--she's the only other one. She's a

beautiful washer and ironer, but none of her children are deaf, and she

hasn't any, anyway. I didn't dare to come over and ask you, but I kept

thinking of poor Mother and how she's been 'lotting on earning all that

money. There, I've asked you--please don't answer till I've counted ten.

When we were little, Mother always said for us to; it was safer. One,

two, three--" she counted rapidly, then swung about facing Miss

Theodosia. "You can say 'no,' now," she said, with a difficult little


Miss Theodosia had been, in a way, counting ten herself. She had had

time to remember her very strict injunctions to those to whom she

entrusted her beloved white gowns--to pull out the lace with careful

fingers, not to iron it; to iron embroidered portions over many

thicknesses of flannel, and never, never, never on the right side; to

starch the dresses just enough and not too much. All these thoughts

flashed through her mind while Stefana counted ten. But it was without

accompaniment of injunctions that Miss Theodosia answered on that

wistful little stroke of ten. In her soul she felt the futility of


"Yes," answered Miss Theodosia.

Stefana whirled, at the risk of Elihu Launcelot.

"Oh--oh, what? You mean I can do you up, honest? Starch you, and iron

you, too--of course, I could wash you. Oh, if I could drop Elly Precious

I'd get right up and dance!"

"Give Elly Precious to me, and go ahead, my dear," said the White Lady

with a smile.

But Stefana shook her head. She was covertly studying the white dress

once more. It was very white--she could detect no promising spots or

creases, and she drew a sigh even in the midst of her rejoicing. If a

person only sat on porches, in chairs, how often did white dresses need

doing up? Miss Theodosia interpreted the sigh and look.

"Oh, I've three of them rolled up in my trunk; aren't three enough to

begin on? And shirtwaists--I'm sure I don't know how many of those. I'll

go and get them now."

In the hall she stopped at the mirror, jibing at the image confronting

her. "You've done it this time, Theodosia Baxter! When you can't bear a

wrinkle! But, there, don't look so scared--daughters inherit their

mothers' talents, plenty of times. And you need only try it once, of


After Stefana had gone away, doubly laden with clothes and bulky baby,

Miss Theodosia remained on her porch. She found herself leaning over and

parting her porch-vines, to get a glimpse of the little house next door.

She had always loathed that little house with its barefaced poverties

and uglinesses, and it had been a great relief to her to have it stand

vacant in past years. She had left it vacant when she started upon her

last globe-trotting. Now here it was teeming with life, and here she was

aiding and abetting it! What new manner of Theodosia Baxter was this?

"You'd better get up and globe-trot again, Woman, and not unpack," she

uttered, with a lone woman's habit of talking to herself. "You were

never made to live in a house like other people--to sit on porches and

rock. And certainly, Theodosia Baxter, you were never made to live next

to that little dry-goods box. It will turn you gray, poor thing." She

felt a gentle pity for herself, then gentle wrath seized her. Why had

she come home, anyway? Already she was lonely and restless. Why--could

anybody tell her why--had she weakly yielded to two small girls? Her

dear-beloved white dresses! And she could not go back on her

promise--not on a Baxter promise! There was, indeed, the release of

going away again, back to her globe-trotting--

"I might write to Cornelia Dunlap," Miss Theodosia thought. "Maybe she

is sorry she came home, too."

Cornelia Dunlap had been her recent comrade of the road. They had

traveled to many far places together. What would Cornelia say to that

little conference of three--and a baby--on the front porch?

"My dear," wrote Miss Theodosia, "you will think I have been swapped in

my cradle since I left you! 'That is no fellow tramp of mine,' you will

say, 'That woman being victimized by children in knee-high dresses!

Theodosia Baxter nothing!'"--for Cornelia Dunlap in moments of surprise

resorted sometimes to slang, which she claimed was a sturdyvehicle of

speech. "You will set down your teacup hard," wrote on Miss

Theodosia,--"I know you are drinking tea!--when I tell you the little

story of the Whitewashing of Theodosia Baxter. But shall I tell it? Why

expose Theodosia Baxter's weaknesses when hitherto she has posed as

strong? Soberly, Cornelia, I am as much surprised at myself as you will

be (oh, I shall tell it!). Do you remember your Mother Goose? The little

astonished old lady who took a nap beside the road and woke to find her

petticoats cut off at her knees? 'Oh, lawk-a-daisy me, can this be I!'

cried she. I'm not sure those were just her words, but they will do. Oh,

lawk-a-daisy me, can this be Theodosia Baxter! The Astonished Little Old

Lady, if I remember my Mother Goose, resorted to the simple expedient of

going home and letting her little dog decide if she were she. But I have

no little dog.

"They were so earnest to whitewash me, Cornelia! The whole scheme was

such a plucky little one and Baxters, from the dawn of creation, have

admired pluck. The lively, chatterbox-one was 'Evangeline' and the quiet

one who should have been an Evangeline was what the other one ought to

have been,--a 'Stefana,' suggestive of flashing, dark eyes under a lace

mantilla, with ways to match the eyes. So does fate play her little

jokes. The baby--but what do I know of babies or you know of babies? He

had six toes and I might have seen them for nothing; so do we miss our

opportunities. He was named for his grandfather just in time, but the

  • delicate [´delikət] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.精美的;微妙的   (初中英语单词)
  • anywhere [´eniweə] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.无论何处;任何地方   (初中英语单词)
  • extreme [ik´stri:m] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.尽头的 n.极端   (初中英语单词)
  • upward [´ʌpwəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.&ad.向上(的);以上   (初中英语单词)
  • doorway [´dɔ:wei] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.门口   (初中英语单词)
  • waiting [´weitiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.等候;伺候   (初中英语单词)
  • hastily [´heistili] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.急速地;草率地   (初中英语单词)
  • suitable [´su:təbəl, ´sju:-] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.合适的,适当的   (初中英语单词)
  • remind [ri´maind] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.提醒;使记(想)起   (初中英语单词)
  • gently [´dʒentli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.温和地;静静地   (初中英语单词)
  • definitely [´definitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.明确地;绝对   (初中英语单词)
  • grandfather [´grænd,fɑ:ðə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(外)祖父;祖先   (初中英语单词)
  • surprising [sə´praiziŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.惊人的;意外的   (初中英语单词)
  • cellar [´selə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.地窑,地下室   (初中英语单词)
  • talent [´tælənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.天才;才干;天资   (初中英语单词)
  • slender [´slendə] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.细长的;微薄的   (初中英语单词)
  • scarlet [´skɑ:lit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.猩红色 a.猩红的   (初中英语单词)
  • errand [´erənd] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.差使,使命   (初中英语单词)
  • gravely [´greivli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.庄重地,严肃地   (初中英语单词)
  • well-known [,wel´nəun] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.著名的,众所周知的   (初中英语单词)
  • extremely [ik´stri:mli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.极端地;非常地   (初中英语单词)
  • terribly [´terəbli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.可怕地   (初中英语单词)
  • beloved [bi´lʌvd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.为….所爱的 n.爱人   (初中英语单词)
  • promising [´prɔmisiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.有希望的;有为的   (初中英语单词)
  • glimpse [glimps] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&v.瞥见   (初中英语单词)
  • relief [ri´li:f] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.救济;援救;减轻   (初中英语单词)
  • vacant [´veikənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.空虚的,无表情的   (初中英语单词)
  • lonely [´ləunli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.孤独的;无人烟的   (初中英语单词)
  • restless [´restləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.没有休息的   (初中英语单词)
  • release [ri´li:s] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt&n.释放;放松;赦免   (初中英语单词)
  • conference [´kɔnfərəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.讨论(会);会谈   (初中英语单词)
  • cradle [´kreidl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.摇篮;发源地   (初中英语单词)
  • earnest [´ə:nist] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.认真的 n.认真;诚恳   (初中英语单词)
  • scheme [ski:m] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.计划;阴谋,诡计   (初中英语单词)
  • creation [kri´eiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.创作;作品;创造   (初中英语单词)
  • lively [´laivli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.活泼的;热烈的   (初中英语单词)
  • stricken [´strikən] 移动到这儿单词发声  strike的过去分词   (高中英语单词)
  • pleasantly [´plezntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.令人愉快地;舒适地   (高中英语单词)
  • apparently [ə´pærəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.显然,表面上地   (高中英语单词)
  • shrill [ʃril] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.(声音)尖锐的   (高中英语单词)
  • thankful [´θæŋkfəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.感激的;欣慰的   (高中英语单词)
  • crimson [´krimzən] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.&n.深(紫)红(的)   (高中英语单词)
  • newcomer [´nju:,kʌmə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.新来的人;移民   (高中英语单词)
  • politely [pə´laitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.温和地;文雅地   (高中英语单词)
  • strict [strikt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.严厉的;精确的   (高中英语单词)
  • starch [stɑ:tʃ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.淀粉 vt.给…上浆   (高中英语单词)
  • detect [di´tekt] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.发觉;侦察   (高中英语单词)
  • rejoicing [ri´dʒɔisiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.高兴;欢呼   (高中英语单词)
  • inherit [in´herit] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.继承;遗传   (高中英语单词)
  • sturdy [´stə:di] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.坚强的;坚定的   (高中英语单词)
  • hitherto [,hiðə´tu:] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.至今,迄今   (高中英语单词)
  • utterance [´ʌtərəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.发音;言辞;所说的话   (英语四级单词)
  • humorous [´hju:mərəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.富于幽默的,诙谐的   (英语四级单词)
  • seeming [´si:miŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.表面上的 n.外观   (英语四级单词)
  • adjective [´ædʒiktiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.形容词   (英语四级单词)
  • indefinitely [in´defənitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.模糊地;无限期地   (英语四级单词)
  • raiment [´reimənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.衣饰   (英语四级单词)
  • flannel [´flænl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.法兰绒   (英语四级单词)
  • vehicle [´vi:ikəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.车辆;媒介物   (英语四级单词)
  • soberly [´səubəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.严肃地;清醒地   (英语四级单词)
  • expedient [ik´spi:diənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.合适的 n.权宜之计   (英语四级单词)
  • immaculate [i´mækjulit] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.纯洁的;无瑕疵的   (英语六级单词)
  • charlotte [´ʃɑ:lət] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.水果奶油布丁   (英语六级单词)
  • washer [´wɔʃə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.洗衣机(人)   (英语六级单词)
  • doubly [´dʌbli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.加倍地,双重地   (英语六级单词)
  • suggestive [sə´dʒestiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.暗示的;启发的   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 17:20:13
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