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Christopher Hill
Christopher Hill

When The Lady Must Wed By Jessie Clever



Having very few people to talk to, Marjoriehad formed the habit of talking to her live pets,of which Roland was her favorite. Her fatherhad given him to her when he was only a monthold, and she had trained him herself, as soon ashe was old enough to bear the saddle, to saynothing of the many romps the two had enjoyedtogether in the days of his colthood. It seemedto her sometimes as if Roland must really understandsome of the things she told him, and now,at her remark about the train, he slackened hispace to a leisurely trot, as if under the impressionthat there was no use in hurrying.




When the Lady Must Wed by Jessie Clever



"But think how frightened your friend musthave been when the train started and you didn'tcome back," said Marjorie, reproachfully. Shedid not know quite what to make of this singularyoung person, who appeared to think nothing ofdeserting her friends, and wandering off by herselfon the prairie.


"I suppose I had once, but I can't rememberthem. The first thing I remember is waking upin a hospital. It was just after the earthquakein San Francisco, and they told me I was foundin the street under some ruins. They thought a[23]stone or something must have fallen on my head,and that was what made me forget everything.Nobody knew whom I belonged to, and I hadonly a nightgown on when I was found, so theycouldn't trace me by my clothes. At first thedoctors thought I would remember soon, andthey used to ask me questions, but I never couldanswer any of them. They kept me at the hospitala long time, but I was always frightenedbecause I couldn't remember anything. At lastwhen I was strong again, and nobody came tolook for me, they said they couldn't keep me thereany longer. They sent me to the 'Home ForThe Friendless in Oakland,' but I had only beenthere a week when Miss Brent came to look for agirl to run errands, and carry home parcels.They told her about me, and she said she wouldtake me, because I might have rich friends, whowould come for me, and pay her well for takingcare of me. So I went to live with her, and sheput an advertisement about me in the newspapers.For a long time I kept hoping some one wouldcome for me, but nobody ever did. Miss Brentwas a dressmaker, and she had a lot of girlsworking for her, but I didn't like any of them,they were so rough, and they used to laugh at me,and call me 'loony.' Miss Brent called me Sally,[24]but I know that isn't my real name. I got sotired running errands, and carrying the heavyboxes home made my back ache. I don't thinkI could have stood it if it hadn't been for Mr.Jackson. He boarded with Miss Brent, and livedin a little room on the top floor. He was veryold, and nobody paid much attention to him, butI was sorry for him, and I used to carry up hismeals, and he talked to me so kindly. He nevermade fun of me, because I couldn't remember,but he lent me books to read, and asked me questionslike the doctors at the hospital. It's veryqueer, but I could always remember how to read.I can write, too, and I can even remember thingsin history, but I can't remember a single thingabout myself. Mr. Jackson said he was sure mymemory would come back some day, and then Iwould be able to find my friends. He died lastwinter, and after that it was dreadful. MissBrent was always busy and cross, and the girlswere worse than ever. A month ago Miss Brenttold us she was going to be married, and give upthe business, and that all the girls would have toleave. Most of them didn't mind, because theyhad homes, but Miss Brent said she didn't knowwhat in the world to do with me. She didn'tthink any one would take me, because I wasn't[25]strong enough to do hard work, and she wasafraid I was too old to go back to the 'Home ForThe Friendless.'


"The wedding was last week, and Mrs. Hickscame on from Kansas. She is Miss Brent's sister,and her husband has a big cattle farm. Mrs.Hicks brought her baby with her, and they gotme to help take care of it, and then Miss Brentpersuaded her sister to take me home with her.I didn't want to go, for I knew I shouldn't likeMrs. Hicks, but Miss Brent said I must. Westarted yesterday, and it was awful. Mrs. Hickskept saying she knew I would never be any useto her, and the baby was so heavy, and cried allthe time. I had just about made up my mind torun away when Mrs. Hicks slapped me, and thatsettled it. I never was slapped before, and Icouldn't stand it."


"Miss Brent thinks all my people must havebeen killed in the earthquake," said Undine, with[34]a sigh. "That might be the reason why nobodyever came to look for me. They say more peoplewere killed than any one knew about. If Icould only remember the very least thing thathappened before, but I can't; it's just as if Icame alive for the first time that day in the hospital.Oh, here comes your aunt; I'll go and helpher with her chair." And dropping her towelon the floor of the porch, Undine darted into thehouse, whence she returned in a moment, carefullyguiding Miss Graham's wheeled chair overthe door-sill.


It was more than an hour later when Mrs.Graham knocked softly at the door of the littleroom which had been given to the strange guest.She waited a moment, and then, receiving no answer,turned the handle and went in. Undinewas lying on the bed, her face buried in the pillow.She was so still that Mrs. Graham thoughtshe must be asleep, and was turning away againwhen there was a slight movement on the bed,and with a long sigh, the girl lifted her head.


"I beg your pardon," said Undine, humbly."I'm afraid you must all think me very silly andtroublesome. I didn't mean to make a fuss, butwhen I heard that boy singing 'Mandalay' itseemed for just a minute as if I were going to remember[40]something, and then it was all goneagain. I thought that perhaps if I lay very stillwith my eyes shut tight, and thought as hard as Icould, it might come again, but it didn't."


"Oh, yes, indeed; I know she is just about myage. Mother has a photograph of her, takenwhen she was a baby, and I've always wished Icould see her. Having a cousin of one's ownage must be almost as good as having a sister.Oh, I do hope she's coming to the ranch!"


"I wonder if I ever had a sister," Undine remarkedirrelevantly. "Somehow I don't believeI had, for when I say the word 'sister' it nevermakes my heart beat the way it does when Isay 'Mother.' I know I had a mother, and Ithink I must have loved her very much."


"The first letter must be to you, of course,and the next to Aunt Jessie. Uncle Henry saysif I write now I can post my letter when we stopat Albuquerque this afternoon. Oh, Motherdarling, was it only this morning that I saidgood-bye to you all? It seems as if I had beenaway a month already.


"I have been a whole night on the train, andwhen I think of how far away from home weare, I can't help being just a little frightened,though it is all very interesting. I postedMother's letter at Albuquerque, where the trainstopped half an hour. Uncle Henry and I got[84]out and walked up and down the platform, and,oh, it was good to get a breath of fresh air! Ireally didn't know that any place could be quiteso stuffy as this train. Everybody seems afraidto have the windows open on account of the cinders,but I think I should prefer even cinders tostuffiness. There were some Indians sellingblankets and baskets, and a good many peoplebought things. They crowded round us, andmade a good deal of fuss, and I heard one ladysay she was afraid of them. Just think of beingafraid of poor harmless Indians! I would haveliked to tell her how foolish she was, but wasafraid Uncle Henry might be displeased. I don'tthink he is a very friendly person, for he hardlyspeaks to any of the passengers on the train, andlast night he told me I talked too much to theblack porter, who was making up the sections.Oh, Aunt Jessie, it was so curious to see himturning all the seats into beds, but you have beenon a sleeping car, and know all about it.


"At about nine o'clock Uncle Henry said hewas sleepy, so we went back to our car, and thatwas when I talked to the porter while he made[86]up the beds. I thought at first that I shouldnever be able to sleep; the train shook so, and wewere going so fast. It was hard work undressingbehind the curtain, but I managed somehow,and even had a wash, though I had to hold on tothe side of the car with one hand while I washedmy face with the other. I did cry a little afterI was in bed, but I don't think any one heard.It was my very first night away from home, youknow, Aunt Jessie dear, but I tried to rememberall the lovely, comforting things you and Mothersaid to me, and I think I must have been prettytired, for before I realized I was getting sleepyI was sound asleep, and I never opened my eyestill it was broad daylight.


While the others were talking, Marjorie,[107]whose eyes had been wandering rapidlyfrom one group to another, had finally fixedthemselves upon the party at the opposite table.They certainly looked attractive; the gentlemanwith the strong, clever face, and hair just turninggray; the pretty, gentle little mother in herblack dress, and the handsome college boy, withmerry blue eyes. It was quite natural that Elsieshould want to know them, but why in the worlddidn't she speak to them herself without waitingto be introduced? It seemed so strange and inhospitableto live in the same house with peopleand not speak to them. So when her aunt hadfinished her remarks about the Randolph family,she turned to Elsie and inquired innocently:


After all, that first evening could scarcely becalled a success. Mr. and Mrs. Carleton werevery kind, and Elsie seemed disposed to befriendly, but Marjorie was conscious of a sensationof disappointment for which she couldscarcely account even to herself. She struggledbravely against the homesickness which threatenedevery moment to overwhelm her, and triedto take an interest in all her new relatives' conversation,but when dinner was over, and theyhad gone upstairs again, she was not sorry toavail herself of Aunt Julia's suggestion that shemust be "quite worn out," and slip quietly offto bed. It was not easy to dispense with theservices of Hortense, who showed an alarmingtendency to linger and offer to assist, but evenshe was finally disposed of, and with a sigh of intenserelief, Marjorie closed her door, switchedoff the electric light, and crept into bed. Then[109]followed a good hearty cry, which somehow madeher feel better, and then, being young andvery tired as well, she fell into a sound, healthysleep, from which she did not awaken until it wasbroad daylight. 041b061a72


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