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MaeandJimMcGarritysataloneatalittleroundtableinbackofthesalooneatingtheirusual
hurriedandsilentsupper.Unexpectedly,sheplacedherhandonhisarm.Hetrembledatthe
unexpectedtouch.Hissmalllighteyeslookedintoherlargemahogany-coloredonesandsaw
pityinthem.
"Itwon'tworkout,Jim,"shesaidgently.Excitementchurnedupinhim."Sheknows!"hethought.
"Why...why...
sheunderstands
."
"There'sanoldsaying,"Maecontinued."Moneywon'tbuyeverything."
"Iknow,"hesaid."I'llletthemgo,then."
"Waituntilacoupleofweeksafterherkidisborn.Givethemashow."Shegotupandwalked
outtothebar.
McGarritysatthere,tornapartbyhisfeelings."Weheldaconversation,"hethoughtinwonder.
"Nonameswerementionedandnothingwassaidexactly,inthewords.ButsheknewwhatI
wasthinkingandIknewwhatshewasthinking."Hehurriedafterhiswife.Hewantedtoholdon
tothatunderstanding.HesawMaestandingattheendofthebar.Ahuskyteamsterhadhis
armaroundherwaistandwaswhisperingsomethinginherear.Shehadherhandoverher
mouthtoholdbackherlaughter.AsMcGarritycamein,theteamsterremovedhisarm
sheepishlyandmoveddowntostandwithagroupofmen.AsMcGarritywentbehindthebar,
helookedintohiswife'seyes.Theywereblankandhadnounderstandinginthem.McGarrity's
facefellintotheoldlinesofgrievousdisappointmentashestartedhisevening'swork.
MaryRommelywasgettingold.ShewasnolongerabletogoaboutBrooklynalone.Shehada
longingtoseeKatiebeforeherconfinement,soshegavetheinsurancecollectoramessage.
"Whenawomangivesbirth,"shetoldhim,"deathholdsherhandforalittlewhile.Sometimes
hedoesn'tletgo.TellmyyoungestdaughterthatIwouldseeheroncemorebeforehertime
comes."
Thecollectorgavethemessage.ThefollowingSunday,Katiewentovertoseehermother,
takingFranciewithher.Neeleybeggedoff,sayinghehadpromisedtopitchfortheTenEycks
whoweretryingtogetupaballgameinthelots.
Sissy'skitchenwasbigandwarmandsunnyandspotlesslyclean.GranmaMaryRommelywas
sittingby thestoveinalowrocker.Itwastheonlypieceoffurnitureshehadbroughtfrom
Austriaandithadstoodbythehearthinherfamily'shutformorethanahundredyears.
Sissy'shusbandsatby thewindow,holdingthebabywhilehegaveititsbottle.AfterMaryand
Sissyhadbeengreeted,FrancieandKatiegreetedhim.
"Hello,John,"saidKatie.
"Hello,Kate,"heanswered.
"Hello,UncleJohn."
"Hello,Francie."
Heneversaidanotherwordduringtheentirevisit.Franciestaredathim,wonderingabouthim.
Thefamilyregardedhimastemporary,astheyhadregardedSissy'sotherhusbandsandlovers.
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Franciewonderedwhetherhe,himself,felttemporary.HisrealnamewasStevebutSissy
alwaysreferredtohimas"myJohn"andwhenthefamilyspokeofhim,theycalledhim"The
John"or"Sissy'sJohn."Franciewonderedwhetherthemeninthepublishinghousewherehe
workedcalledhimJohn,too.Didheeverprotest?Didheeversay,"Lookhere,Sissy.Myname
isSteveandnotJohn.AndtellyoursisterstocallmeSteve,too."
"Sissy,you'regettingstouter,"mamawassaying.
"It'snaturalforawomantoputonalittleweightaftershe'shadababy,"saidSissywitha
straightface.ShesmiledatFrancie."Wouldyouliketoholdthebaby,Francie?"
"Oh,yes!"
Withoutaword,Sissy'stallhusbandgotup,gaveoverthebabyanditsbottletoFrancie,and
stillwithoutaword,walkedoutoftheroom.Noonecommentedonhisgoing.
Franciesatinhisvacatedchair.Shehadneverheldababyinherarmsbefore.Shetouched
thebaby'ssoftroundcheekwithherfingersasshehadseenJoannado.Athrillstartedather
fingertips,wentupherarm,andthroughherentirebody."WhenIgetbig,"shedecided,"I'll
alwayshaveanewbabyinthehouse."
Whilesheheldthebaby,shelistenedtomamaandgranmatalkingandwatchedSissymaking
upamonth'ssupplyofnoodles.Sissytookaballofstiffyellowdough,rolleditflatwiththe
rollingpin,thenrolledtheflatdoughuplikeajellyroll.Withasharpknife,shecuttherollinto
paper-thinstrips,unwoundthestripsandhungthemonarackmadeofslenderdowelsticks,
whichstoodbeforethekitchenstove.Thiswastodryoutthenoodles.
FranciefeltthattherewassomethingdifferentaboutSissy.Shewasn'ttheoldAuntSissy.It
wasn'tthatshewasabitlessslenderthanusual;thebeingdifferentwassomethingthatdidnot
havetodowiththewayshelooked.Franciepuzzledoverit.
MaryRommelywantedtoheareverywordofnewsandKatietoldhereverything,startingfrom
theendandworkingback.FirstshetoldofthechildrenworkingforMcGarrity's,andhowthe
moneytheybroughtinwaskeepingthem.ThenshewentbacktothedayMcGarrityhadsatin
herkitchenandtalkedaboutJohnny.Sheendedupwithsaying:
"Itellyou,Mother,ifMcGarrityhadn'tcomealongwhenhedid,Idon'tknowwhatwouldhave
happened.Iwassolow,thatjustafewnightsbeforethat,IhadprayedtoJohnnytohelpme.
Thatwasfoolish.Iknow."
"Notfoolish,"saidMary."Heheardyouandhehelpedyou."
"Aghostcan'thelpanyone,Mother,"saidSissy.
"Ghostsarenotalwaysthosewhopassthroughcloseddoors,"saidMaryRommely."Katiehas
toldhowherhusbandusedtotalktothissaloonman.Inallthoseyearsofthetalking,Yohnny
gaveawaypiecesofhimselftothisman.WhenKatiecalledonhermanforhelp,thepiecesof
himcametogetherinthisman,anditwasYohnnywithinthesaloonman'ssoulthatheardand
cametoherhelp."
Francieturneditoverinhermind."Ifthatisso,"shethought,"thenMr.McGarritygaveusback
allthosepiecesofpapawhenhetalkedsolongabouthim.Thereisnothingofpapainhimnow.
Maybethat'swhywecan'ttalktohimthewayhewantsusto."
Whenitwastimetoleave,SissygaveKatieashoeboxfullofnoodlestotakehome.AsFrancie
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kissedhergrandmotheringoodbye,MaryRommelyheldhercloseandwhisperedinherown
language:
"Inthemonthtocome,giveuntothymothermorethanobedienceandrespect.Shewillhave
greatneedofloveandunderstanding."
Franciedidn'tunderstandawordofwhathergrandmotherhadsaid,butsheanswered,"Yes,
Granma."
Goinghomeinthetrolley,Francieheldtheshoeboxin
her
lapbecausemamahadnolapnow.
Franciethoughtdeepthoughtsduringtheride."IfwhatgranmaMaryRommelysaidistrue,then
itmustbethatnooneeverdies,really.Papaisgone,buthe'sstillhereinmanyways.He'shere
inNeeleywholooksjustlikehimandinmamawhoknewhimsolong.He'shereinhismother
whobeganhimandwhoisstillliving.MaybeIwillhaveaboysomedaywholookslikepapa
andhasallofpapa'sgoodwithoutthedrinking.Andthatboywillhaveaboy.Andthatboywill
haveaboy.Itmightbethereisnorealdeath."HerthoughtswenttoMcGarrity."Noonewould
everbelievetherewasanypartofpapain
him
."ShethoughtofMrs.McGarrityandhowshe
hadmadeiteasyforhertositdownandeatthatjello.SomethingclickedinFrancie'smind!She
knewallofasuddenwhatwasdifferentaboutSissy.Shespoketohermother.
"AuntSissydoesn'tusethatstrongsweetperfumeanymore,doesshe,Mama?"
"No.Shedoesn'thaveto,anymore."
"Why?"
"She'sgotherbabynowandamantolookafterherandthebaby."
Franciewantedtoaskmorequestionsbutmamahadhereyesclosedandwasleaningher
headbackagainsttheseat.ShelookedwhiteandtiredandFranciedecidednottobotherher
anymore.She'dhavetofigureitoutforherself.
"Itmustbe,"shethought,"thatthisusingstrongperfumeistiedupsomehowwithawoman
wantingababyandwantingtofindamanwhocangiveherababyandlookafteritandher
too."Sheputthatnuggetofknowledgeawaywithalltheothersthatshewascontinually
collecting.
Franciewasbeginningtogetaheadache.Shedidn'tknowwhetheritwascausedby the
excitementofholdingthebaby,thebouncingtrolleycar,theideaofpapaorthediscoveryabout
Sissy'sperfume.Maybeitwasbecauseshewasgettingupsoearlyinthemorningsnow,and
beingsobusyallday.Maybeitwasbecauseitwasthetimeinthemonthwhenshecouldlook
foraheadacheanyhow.
"Well,"Franciedecided,"Iguessthethingthatisgivingmethisheadacheislife-andnothing
elsebut."
"Don'tbesilly,"saidmamaquietly,stillleaningbackwithhereyesclosed."AuntSissy'skitchen
wastoohot.Ihaveaheadache,myself."
Franciejumped.Wasitgettingsothatmamacouldlookrightintohermind,evenwithhereyes
closed?Thensherememberedthatshehadforgottenshewasthinkingandhadsaidthatlast
thoughtaboutlifeoutloud.Shelaughedforthefirsttimesincepapahaddiedandmama
openedhereyesandsmiled.
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XXXIX
FRANCIEandNeeleywereconfirmedinMay.Franciewasalmostfourteenandahalfyearsold
andNeeleywasjustayearyounger.Sissy,whowasanexpertseamstress,madeFrancie's
simplewhitemuslindress.Katiemanagedtobuyherwhitekidslippersandapairoflongwhite
silkstockings.TheywereFrancie'sfirstsilkstockings.Neeleyworetheblacksuithegotforhis
father'sfuneral.
Therewasalegendintheneighborhoodthatanythreewishesmadeonthatday,wouldcome
true.Onehadtobeanimpossiblewish,anotherawishthatyoucouldmakecometrueyourself,
andthethirdhadtobeawishforwhenyougrewup.Francie'simpossiblewishwasthather
straightbrownhairchangeintogoldencurlyhairlikeNeeley's.Hersecondwishwasthatshe'd
haveanicespeakingvoicelikemamaandEvyandSissy,andherthirdwish,forwhenshewas
grownup,wasthatshe'dtravelallovertheworld.Neeleywished,one:thathe'dbecomevery
wealthy;two,thathe'dgetbettermarksonhisreportcard;and,three:thathewouldn'tdrinklike
papawhenhegrewup.
Therewasaniron-boundconventioninBrooklynthatchildrenmusthavetheirpicturetakenby
aregularphotographerwhentheywereconfirmed.Katiecouldn'taffordtohavepicturesmade.
ShehadtobecontentwithlettingFlossieGaddis,whohadaboxcamera,takeasnapshot.
Flossposedthemontheedgeofthesidewalkandsnappedthepicture,unawarethatatrolley
lumberedbyattheinstantofexposure.Shehadthesnapshotenlargedandframedand
presentedittoFrancieasaConfirmationDaypresent.
Sissywastherewhenthepicturearrived.Katiehelditandtheyallexamineditoverher
shoulder.Franciehadneverbeenphotographedbefore.Forthefirsttime,shesawherselfas
otherssawher.Shewasstandingstiffandstraightontheedgeofthecurb,herbacktothe
gutterandherdressblowingsidewiseinthewind.Neeleystoodclosetoher,wasaheadtaller,
andlookedverywealthyandhandsomeinhisfreshlypressedblacksuit.Thesunhadslanted
overtheroofsinsuchawaythatNeeleywasinthesunandhisfacewasclearandbright,while
Francielookeddarkandangryintheshadow.Behindboth,wastheblurredtrolleygoingby.
Sissysaid,"Ibetthat'stheonlyconfirmationpictureintheworldwithatrolleycarinit."
"It'sagoodpicture,"saidKatie."Theylookmorenaturalstandingonthestreetthaninfrontof
thepicture-man'scardboardchurchwindow."Shehungitupoverthemantelpiece.
"Whatnamedidyoutake,Neeley?"Sissyasked.
"Papa's.Now,I'mCorneliusJohnNolan."
"That'sagoodnameforasurgeon,"commentedKatie.
"Itookmama'sname,"saidFrancieimportantly."NowmyfullnameisMaryFrancesKatherine
Nolan."Franciewaited.Mamadid
not
saythatwasagoodnameforawriter.
"Katie,haveyouanypicturesofJohnny?"Sissyasked.
"No.Justtheoneofbothofustakenonourweddingday.Why?"
"Nothing.Onlytimepassesso,doesn'tit?"
"Yes,"sighedKatie."That'soneofthefewthingswecanbesureof."
ConfirmationwasoverandFranciedidn'thavetogotoinstructionanymore.Shehadanextra
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hourdailywhichshewasdevotingtothenovelshewaswritingtoprovetoMissGarnder,the
newEnglishteacher,thatshe
did
knowaboutbeauty.
Sinceherfather'sdeath,FranciehadstoppedwritingaboutbirdsandtreesandMyImpressions.
Becauseshemissedhimso,shehadtakentowritinglittlestoriesabouthim.Shetriedtoshow
that,inspiteofhisshortcomings,hehadbeenagoodfatherandakindlyman.Shehadwritten
threesuchstorieswhichweremarked"C"insteadoftheusual"A."Thefourthcamebackwitha
linetellinghertoremainafterschool.
Allthechildrenhadgonehome.MissGarnderandFranciewerealoneintheroomwiththebig
dictionaryinit.Francie'slastfourcompositionslayonMissGarnder'sdesk.
"What'shappenedtoyourwriting,Frances?"askedMissGarnder.
"Idon'tknow."
"Youwereoneofmybestpupils.Youwrotesoprettily.Ienjoyedyourcompositions.Butthese
lastones..."sheflickedatthemcontemptuously.
"Ilookedupthespellingandtookpainswithmypenmanshipand..."
"I'mreferringtoyoursubjectmatter."
"Yousaidwecouldchooseourownsubjects."
"Butpoverty,starvationanddrunkennessareuglysubjectstochoose.Wealladmitthesethings
exist.Butonedoesn'twriteaboutthem."
"Whatdoesonewriteabout?"Unconsciously,Franciepickeduptheteacher'sphraseology.
"Onedelvesintotheimaginationandfindsbeautythere.Thewriter,liketheartist,muststrive
forbeautyalways."
"Whatisbeauty?"askedthechild.
"IcanthinkofnobetterdefinitionthanKeats':'Beautyistruth,truthbeauty.'"
Francietookhercourageintohertwohandsandsaid,"Thosestoriesarethetruth."
"Nonsense!"explodedMissGarnder.Then,softeninghertone,shecontinued:"Bytruth,we
meanthingslikethestarsalwaysbeingthereandthesunalwaysrisingandthetruenobilityof
manandmother-loveandloveforone'scountry,"sheendedanti-climatically.
"Isee,"saidFrancie.
AsMissGarndercontinuedtalking,Francieansweredherbitterlyinhermind.
"Drunkennessisneithertruthnorbeauty.It'savice.Drunkardsbelonginjail,notinstories.And
poverty.Thereisnoexcuseforthat.There'sworkenoughforallwhowantit.Peoplearepoor
becausethey'retoolazytowork.There'snothingbeautifulaboutlaziness.
(Imaginemamalazy!)
"Hungerisnotbeautiful.Itisalsounnecessary.Wehavewell-organizedcharities.Nooneneed
gohungry."Franciegroundherteeth.Hermotherhatedtheword"charity"aboveanywordin
thelanguageandshehadbroughtupherchildrentohateittoo.
"NowI'mnotasnob,"statedMissGarnder."Idonotcomefromawealthyfamily.Myfatherwas
aministerwithaverysmallsalary."
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(Butit
was
asalary,MissGarnder.)
"Andtheonlyhelpmymotherhadwasasuccessionofuntrainedmaids,mostlygirlsfromthe
country."
(Isee.Youwerepoor,MissGarnder,poorwithamaid.)
"Manytimeswewerewithoutamaidandmymotherhadtodoallthehouseworkherself."
(Andmymother,MissGarnder,hastodoallherownhousework,andyes,tentimesmore
cleaningthan
that
.)
"Iwantedtogotothestateuniversitybutwecouldn'taffordit.Myfatherhadtosendmetoa
smalldenominationalcollege."
(Butadmityouhadnotrouble
going
tocollege.)
"Andbelieveme,you'repoorwhenyougotosuchacollege.Iknowwhathungeris,too.Time
andtimeagainmyfather'ssalarywasheldupandtherewasnomoneyforfood.Oncewehad
toliveonteaandtoastforthreedays."
(Soyouknowwhatitistobehungry,too.)
"ButI'dbeadullpersonifIwroteaboutnothingbutbeingpoorandhungry,wouldn'tI?"Francie
didn'tanswer."
Wouldn't
I?"repeatedMissGarnderemphatically.
"Yesma'am."
"Nowyourplayforgraduation."Shetookathinmanuscriptfromherdeskdrawer."Someparts
areverygoodindeed;otherparts,you'vegoneoff.Forinstance,"sheturnedapage,"hereFate
says:'AndYouth,whatisthyambition?'Andtheboyanswers:'Iwouldbeahealer.Iwouldtake
thebrokenbodiesofmenandmendthem.'Now
that's
abeautifulidea,Frances.Butyouspoilit
here.'Fate:That'swhatthouwould'stbe.Butsee!Thisiswhatthoushaltbe.'Lightshineson
oldmansolderingbottomofashcan.OldMan:'Ah,onceIthoughttobeamenderofmen.Now
I'mamenderof..."MissGarnderlookedupsuddenly."Youdidn'tbyanychancemeanthatto
befunny,didyou,Frances?"
"Oh,no,ma'am."
"Afterourlittletalkyoucanseewhywecan'tuseyourplayforgraduation."
"Isee."Francie'sheartallbutbroke.
"NowBeatriceWilliamshasacuteidea.Afairywavesawandandgirlsandboysincostume
comeoutandthere'soneforeachholidayintheyearandeachonesaysalittlepoemaboutthe
holidayherepresents.It'sanexcellentideabutunfortunatelyBeatricecannotmakerhymes.
Wouldn'tyouliketotakethatideaandwritetheverses?Beatricewouldn'tmind.Wecanputa
noteontheprogramthattheideacomesfromher.That'sfairenough,isn'tit?"
"Yes,ma'am.ButIdon'twanttouseherideas.Iwanttousemyown."
That'scommendable,ofcourse.Well,Iwon'tinsist."Shestoodup."I'vetakenallthistimewith
youbecauseIhonestlybelievethatyouhavepromise.Nowthatwe'vetalkedthingsout,I'm
sureyou'llstopwritingthosesordidlittlestories."
Sordid.Francieturnedthewordover.Itwasnotinhervocabulary.
"Whatdoesthatmean-sordid?""What-did-I-tell-you-when-you-don't-know-a-word,"
sing-songedMissGarnderdrolly.
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"Oh!Iforgot."Franciewenttothebigdictionaryandlookeduptheword.Sordid:
Filthy
.Filthy?
Shethoughtofherfatherwearingafreshdickyandcollareverydayofhislifeandshininghis
wornshoesasoftenastwiceaday.
Dirty
.Papahadhisownmugatthebarbershop.
Base
.
Franciepassedthatupnotknowingexactlywhatitmeant.
Gross
.Never!Papawasadancer.
Hewasslenderandquick.Hisbodywasn'tgross.
Alsomeanandlow
.Sheremembereda
hundredandonelittletendernessesandactsofthoughtfulnessonthepartofherfather.She
rememberedhoweveryonehadlovedhimso.Herfacegothot.Shecouldn'tseethenextwords
becausethepageturnedredunderhereyes.SheturnedonMissGarnder,herfacetwisted
withfury.
"Don'tyou
ever
dareusethatwordaboutus!"
"Us?"askedMissGarnderblankly."Weweretalkingaboutyourcompositions.Why,Frances!"
Hervoicewasshocked."I'msurprised!Awell-behavedgirllikeyou.Whatwouldyourmother
sayifsheknewyouhadbeenimpertinenttoyourteacher?"
Franciewasfrightened.ImpertinencetoateacherwasalmostareformatoryoffenseinBrooklyn.
"Pleaseexcuseme.Pleaseexcuseme,"sherepeatedabjectly."Ididn'tmeanit."
"Iunderstand,"saidMissGarndergently.SheputherarmaroundFrancieandledhertothe
door."Ourlittletalkhasmadeanimpressiononyou,Isee.Sordid
is
anuglywordandI'mglad
youresentedmyusingit.Itshowsthatyouunderstand.Probablyyoudon'tlikemeanymore,
butpleasebelievethatIspokeforyourowngood.Somedayyou'llrememberwhatIsaidand
you'llthankmeforit."
Franciewishedadultswouldstoptellingherthat.Alreadytheloadofthanksinthefuturewas
weighingherdown.Shefiguredshe'dhavetospendthebestyearsofherwomanhoodhunting
uppeopletotellthemthattheywererightandtothankthem.
MissGarnderhandedherthe"sordid"compositionsandtheplay,saying,"Whenyougethome,
burntheseinthestove.Applythematchtothemyourself.Andastheflamesrise,keepsaying:
'Iamburningugliness.Iamburningugliness.'"
Walkinghomefromschool,Francietriedtofigurethewholethingout.SheknewMissGarnder
wasn'tmean.ShehadspokenforFrancie'sgood.Onlyitdidn'tseemgoodtoFrancie.She
begantounderstandthatherlifemightseemrevoltingtosomeeducatedpeople.She
wondered,whenshegoteducated,whethershe'dbeashamedofherbackground.Wouldshe
beashamedofherpeople;ashamedofhandsomepapawhohadbeensolighthearted,kind
andunderstanding;ashamedofbraveandtruthfulmamawhowassoproudofherownmother,
eventhoughgranmacouldn'treadorwrite;ashamedofNeeleywhowassuchagoodhonest
boy?No!No!Ifbeingeducatedwouldmakeherashamedofwhatshewas,thenshewanted
noneofit."ButI'llshowthatMissGarnder,"shevowed."I'llshowherI'vegotanimagination.I
certainlywillshowher."
Shestartedhernovelthatday.ItsheroinewasSherryNola,agirlconceived,bornandbrought
upinswelteringluxury.ThestorywascalledTHISISIanditwastheuntruestoryofFrancie's
life.
Franciehadtwentypageswrittennow.Sofar,itrantominutedescriptionsofthelush
furnishingsofSherry'shouse,rhapsodiesoverSherry'sexquisiteclothes,andcoursebycourse
accountsoffabulousmealsconsumedbytheheroine.
Whenitwasfinished,FrancieplannedtoaskSissy'sJohntotakeitovertohisshopandgetit
publishedforher.Franciehadafinedreamabouthowitwouldbewhenshepresentedher
booktoMissGarnder.Thescenewasallworkedoutinhermind.Shewentoverthedialogue.
FRANCIE
(
AsshegivesbooktoMissGarnder
.)
Ibelieveyou'llfindnothingsordidinthis.Pleaseconsideritasmyterm'swork.Ihopeyouwon't
minditsbeingpublished.
(
MissGarnder'sjawdropsopen.Francietakesnonotice
.)
It'sabiteasiertoreadprint,don'tyouthink?
(
AsMissGarnderreads,Franciestaresoutwindow,unconcernedly
.)
MISSGARNDER
(
Afterreading
.)
WhyFrances!Thisiswonderful!
FRANCIE
What?
(
Withastartofremembrance
.)
Oh,thenovel.Idasheditoffatoddmoments.Itdoesn'ttakelongtowritethingsofwhichyou
knownothing.Whenyouwriteofactualthings,ittakeslonger,becauseyouhaveto
live
them
first.
Franciecrossedthatout.Shewouldn'twantMissGarndertosuspectherfeelingshadbeenhurt.
Sherewroteit.
FRANCIE
What?
(
Recalling
.)
Oh!Thenovel.I'mgladyoulikeit.
MISSGARNDER
(
Timidly
.)
Frances,could...couldIaskyoutoautographitforme?
FRANCIE
Butofcourse.
(
MissGarnderuncapsherfountainpenandpresentsit,pen-pointendtowardsherself,to
Francie.Franciewrites:"ComplimentsofM.FrancesK.Nolan."
)
MISSGARNDER
(
Examiningautograph
.)
Whatadistinctivesignature!
FRANCIE
It'smerelymylegalname.
MISSGARNDER
(
Timidly
.)
Frances?
FRANCIE
Pleasefeelasfreetospeaktomeasintheolddays.
MISSGARNDER
CouldIaskyoutowrite,"Tomyfriend,MurielGarnder"aboveyoursignature?
FRANCIE
(
Afterabarelyperceptiblepause
.)
Andwhynot?
(
Withatwistedsmile
.)
I'vealwayswrittenwhatyouaskedmetowrite.
(
Writesinscription
.)
MISSGARNDER
(
Lowwhisper
.)
Thankyou.
FRANCIE
MissGarnder...notthatitmatters,now...butwouldyougradethiswork...justforoldtimes'
sake?
(
MissGarndertakesredpencil.Writeslarge"APlus"onbook
.)
ItwassucharosydreamthatFranciestartedthenextchapterinafeverofexcitement.She'd
writeandwriteandgetitdonequicklysothedreamcouldcometrue.Shewrote:
"Parker,"SherryNolaaskedherpersonalmaid,"what'scookgivingusfordinnertonight?"
"Breastofpheasantunderglass,Ibelieve,withhothouseasparagusandimportedmushrooms
andpineapplemousse,MissSherry."
"Itsoundshorriblydull,"observedSherry.
"Yes,MissSherry,"agreedthemaidrespectfully.
"Youknow,Parker,I'dliketoindulgeawhimofmine."
"Yourwhimsarethehousehold'scommands."
"I'dliketoseealotofsimpledesertsandchoosemydinnerfromamongthem.Pleasebringme
adozencharlotterusse,somestrawberryshortcakeandaquartoficecream-makeitchocolate,
adozenladyfingersandaboxofFrenchchocolates."
"Verygood,MissSherry."
Adropofwaterfellonthepage.Francielookedup.No,theroofwasn'tleaking,itwasmerely
hermouthwatering.Shewasvery,veryhungry.Shewenttothestoveandlookedintothepot.
Ithadapaleboneinit,surroundedbywater.Therewassomebreadinthebreadbox.Itwasa
bithardbutbetterthannothing.Shecutasliceandpouredacupofcoffeeanddippedthe
breadintothecoffeetosoftenit.Assheate,shereadwhatshehadjustwritten.Shemadean
astonishingdiscovery.
"Lookhere,FrancieNolan,"shetoldherself,"inthisstoryyou'rewritingexactlythesamething
youwroteinthosestoriesMissGarnderdidn'tlike.Here,you'rewritingthatyou'reveryhungry.
Onlyyou'rewritingitinatwistedround-aboutsillyway."
Furiouswiththenovel,sherippedthecopy-bookapartandstuffeditintothestove.Whenthe
flamesbeganlickingonit,herfuryincreasedandsheranandgotherboxofmanuscriptsfrom
underherbed.Carefullyputtingasidethefouraboutherfather,shecrammedtherestofthem
intothestove.Shewasburningallherpretty"A"compositions.Sentencescameoutclearerfor
aninstantbeforeasheetblackenedandcrumbled.
Agiantpoplar,tallandhigh,sereneand
coolagainstthesky
.Another:
Softlytheblueskiesarchoverhead.'TisaperfectOctoberday
.
Theendofanothersentence...
hollyhockslikedistilledsunsetsandlarkspurlikeconcentrateof
heaven
.
"IneversawapoplarandI
read
somewhereabouttheskyarchingandIneversawthose
flowersexceptinaseedcatalogue.AndIgotA'sbecauseIwasagoodliar."Shepokedthe
paperstomakethemburnfaster.Astheychangedintoashes,shechanted,"Iamburning
ugliness.Iamburningugliness."Asthelastflamediedaway,sheannounceddramaticallyto
thewaterboiler,"Theregoesmywritingcareer."
Allofasudden,shewasfrightenedandlonely.Shewantedherfather,shewantedherfather.
He
couldn't
bedead,hejustcouldn'tbe.Inalittlewhile,he'dcomerunningupthestairssinging,
"
MollyMalone
."She'dopenthedoorandhe'dsay,"Hello,PrimaDonna."Andshe'dsay,"Papa,
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