AUNT ISABEL'S HOUSE
Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her
Josephine Lawrence website;
please do not use on other sites without permission
A tall, thin chauffeur opened the door for them, and Rosa lifted Elizabeth Ann in. The red-capped porter put the hag in, and the chauffeur closed the door. Then the car started.
"Mrs. Wood sick?" repeated Rosa, putting her arm around her to steady Elizabeth Ann as the car shot around a curve. "Oh, no, she is all right. But she was asleep when I left the house."
Mother had told Elizabeth Ann not to ask too many questions, so she thought it would perhaps be impolite to ask more about her Aunt Isabel. But it was now almost eight o'clock, and at home, on the ranch, everyone was up and dressed long before eight every morning.
"Are you hungry?" said Rosa, smiling so that her pretty, even teeth showed, between her red lips.
"Yes, a little," admitted Elizabeth Ann.
There was so much to see through the windows of the closed car, that presently she stood up to look out. There seemed, to be as many people on the sidewalks and. crossing the street as there had been in the station. She wondered how many people there were in New York.
"Here we are!" said Rosa suddenly. The car had stopped, before a high building with many windows and. two great green bushes growing in green pots on either side of the glass door. As Elizabeth Ann stepped to the sidewalk, she saw something that made her cry out.
"Is that the ocean?" she asked excitedly.
You see, Elizabeth Ann had never seen the ocean, so no wonder she was excited. But this, Rosa told her, was only a river.
Then she hurried her into the house before the little girl could, ask more questions. There was a boy with many brass buttons on his coat who took their bag and led them to an elevator. Elizabeth Ann tried to count the floors as they went up, but she could not count fast enough. The elevator stopped, and she followed Rosa into a green-carpeted hall. Rosa took a key from her purse and opened a square white door.
"I'll take you right to your room and you can take off your things," said Rosa kindly. "I guess Annie has breakfast all ready for you."
The room into which she took Elizabeth Ann was beautiful. It was pink and white and fitted with the prettiest white-enameled furniture she had ever seen. It was smaller than the usual-sized furniture, too, and the bed and dresser and table and rocking-chair were all the right height for her. There were pink curtains at the windows, and when she went to look out, she saw that her room faced the lovely gray river.
"Your auntie had this room all done over for you," explained Rosa, hanging Elizabeth Ann's hat and coat in the closet. "She'll be glad to see you when she wakes up. She was at a party last night and that is why she had to sleep late this morning."
Elizabeth Ann tried not to feel "queer" as she followed Rosa into the dining-room. She had counted on finding Aunt Isabel like Mother, and it was rather disappointing to have to wait to love her. However, she was a sensible little girl and she did not make other people unhappy when she could not have her own way.
"I know you're half-starved!" cried a red-faced, stout woman, bustling into the dining-room with a plate of hot, buttered toast. "There, sit down, dear, do, and I'll bring you a cup of the best cocoa you ever drank."
This, Rosa said, was Annie. She surely knew how to make good cocoa. Before breakfast was over, Elizabeth Ann felt as though she knew Rosa and Annie very well indeed.
After breakfast Elizabeth Ann did not know exactly what to do. Rosa had changed her suit and put on a blue house dress and she was helping Annie. There were more rooms in Aunt
Elizabeth Ann would have bugged her she held her off, it was plain that she was very glad to see her.
"Would you like to go to bed, dear?" Aunt Isabel asked. "You wouldn't? I thought perhaps you were tired. I couldn't come to meet you because I was out late last night and I had to rest up for to-night when I am going out again. Well, if you don't want to go to sleep again, suppose you get up and tidy your hair and frock a bit and we'll have lunch."
Elizabeth Ann knew that Aunt Isabel had no little girl, but if she had not known it before, the way her aunt tied her hair-ribbon would have told her so. Mother always tied the ribbon in a pretty bow that stood up nicely, but Aunt Isabel tied it so loosely that it came off before Elizabeth Ann reached the dining- room. Rosa had to tie it again for her. Aunt Isabel only laughed and said that perhaps Rosa had better tie all the hair-ribbons while she was visiting them.
Rosa, in a white apron, served the lunch, and very grown-up and important Elizabeth Ann felt sitting opposite Aunt Isabel. They had roses for a center-piece, and so many silver forks and spoons that she wondered if she could polish them all. At home she always cleaned the silver for Mother.
The dessert was charlotte russe and while they were eating it Uncle Ralph came in. Uncle Ralph was Aunt Isabel's husband, and Elizabeth Ann knew him from his photograph which stood beside Aunt Isabel's on the mantel at home.
He lifted her right out of her chair and kissed her.
"Well, ready to go to school with me tomorrow?" he asked cheerfully.
Then he kissed Aunt Isabel and sat down at the place Rosa had been fixing for him at the table.
"You so seldom come home to lunch, Ralph," said Aunt Isabel, pouring him a cup of coffee. "And haven't you changed your mind about school for this child?"
"No, her father wants her to go to public school, and I think it's best, too," Uncle Ralph replied. "You see, Elizabeth Ann," he said, turning to her, "your daddy thought you'd be happier if you had a little work to do every day, so we decided to start you in school. Rosa or I will take you till you think you can find the way yourself."
Elizabeth Ann beamed at this news. She was eager to go to school.
"I can help you after school, Aunt Isabel," she said happily. "Mother says I'm very useful for my age."
"I'm sure you are," agreed Aunt Isabel quickly, smiling her lovely smile that made Elizabeth Ann feel pleasant all over. "Why don't you drink your coffee, dear?"
Elizabeth Ann looked uncomfortable. It was Uncle Ralph who understood.
"Little girls don't drink coffee, Isabel," he said. "Do they, dear? Milk is so much better for them."
Aunt Isabel sent Rosa for a glass of milk. and Elizabeth Ann was glad that she had not had to explain that Mother did not allow her to drink coffee.
Uncle Ralph went away after lunch, and Aunt Isabel, it seemed, was going out, too. She put on a beautiful hat with purple grapes on it and a fur scarf that reached almost to the tops of her pretty gray shoes.
"Would you like to go out with Rosa and walk along the Drive?" she asked Elizabeth Ann kindly.
Elizabeth Ann did not know where the Drive was, but she thought it would be very nice to go outdoors and play a little while. So she and Rosa and Aunt Isabel went down together in the elevator, and Aunt Isabel got into the shiny automobile which was waiting for her and drove away.
"You'll see plenty of little girls over here," said Rosa, waiting for several automobiles to pass and then hurrying Elizabeth Ann across the street.
Sure enough, there were ever so many little girls about her own age playing on the sidewalk or sitting quietly on the seats. There were babies, too, fat babies and thin babies, some laughing and a few crying. Little boys went up and down on kiddie-cars or rode velocipedes on the cinder path.
"See the boy and girl on horseback?" said Rosa, pointing out two ponies and their riders who flashed by. "Isn't this a nice place to play? You can come over here every pleasant afternoon when school is out and play by yourself; I can see from the window if you are all right."
Elizabeth Ann's fascinated gaze was on the still, gray river.
"What's that?" she asked suddenly.
ROSA AND HER FAMILY
Rosa looked in the direction Elizabeth Ann was pointing. Two tall wire cages stood up against the sky.
"That's a battleship," Rosa explained. "Haven't you ever seen one before?"
Elizabeth Ann shook her head.
"My goodness," said Rosa. "My little brother can tell you each kind of boat every time he sees one. He's going to be in the navy when he grows up."
They had been walking on the cement path and now they came to a bench where there were two vacant seats. Elizabeth Ann pulled Rosa toward the bench.
"Let's sit down," she suggested, "and you tell me about your little brother! I wish I had a little brother, or a sister."
Rosa laughed good-naturedly and sat down on the bench.
"I have three little brothers and four little sisters," she said, much to her hearer's astonishment. "That's a houseful, isn't it?"
"Oh dear, and I haven't one," sighed Elizabeth Ann.
"But you have your dear mother and father," said Rosa, her smile sobering. "My sister Katie has to be a mother to the rest, for our mother died when Mary-that's the baby -was a year old, and my father soon after. You ought to see Mary; she has such yellow curls and blue eyes and she is always laughing."
"I wish she was my little sister," said Elizabeth Ann. "Mr. Robert-he was so good to me on the train, Rosa-told me that the way to make wishes come true is by doing all we can to help. That doesn't mean I could help make Mary my little sister, does it?"
"No, not exactly," answered Rosa slowly. "I can't explain it very well, but I think he meant that just making wishes and not doing anything will never make the wishes come true; we must be willing to work and to wait--" Rosa did not finish her sentence, but seemed to be thinking of something else.
Elizabeth Ann was silent a moment and then she touched Rosa's hand gently.
"Tell me some more?" she begged.
"More about what?" Rosa asked merrily.
"More about your little brothers and sisters," said Elizabeth Ann.
So Rosa told her about Katie, the little mother to them all, who was sixteen and who could cook and keep house and sew, and who made David stand in a corner with his face to the wall when he was naughty. David was a twin, Rosa said, to Joseph, and they were six years old. Peter was twelve and he did a great deal to help, for he had a paper route after school and in the summertime drove the horse and wagon for the corner grocery man. Then there was four-year-old Mary, Rosa said, and Elsie, the ten-year-old, beside the little lame Ruth, who was seven.
"She's just my age!" cried Elizabeth Ann when she heard about Ruth. "What made her lame? Does it hurt?"
'"Not very much," replied Rosa. "You mustn't feel sorry, dear. When she is a little older, she is going to have an operation and be all well again. That is what we are all saving money for."
"Then she won't always be lame ? " she asked eagerly.
"No indeed," said Rosa. "We hope she will be just like other little girls in a few years."
If it had not been for Rosa in the days that followed, Elizabeth Ann might have found it hard to keep her promise to Mother to be a brave and happy little girl. She went to school, to be sure, Rosa taking her and coming for her all the first week because, if you have lived on a ranch and never gone to even a country school, it is confusing to be put down suddenly in a great four-story brick building with hundreds of strange children and clanging bells and so many different kinds of lessons to be learned at once. The school was not very near Aunt Isabel's apartment and there were a number of busy streets to be crossed before you came to it. She was very glad to have Rosa's kind hand to hold fast to when they hurried over between the rows of noisy automobiles.
It seemed to Elizabeth Ann that Aunt Isabel did not like her school. She never said so, but she gave orders that the little girl was to change her frock as soon as she came in and be freshly bathed and dressed. And Aunt Isabel never asked questions about school, though Uncle Ralph did on the rare evenings when he was home. Fortunately she could tell all the school news to Rosa, who was always interested and who always understood what she was talking about.
Aunt Isabel liked Rosa, though.
"She is an exceptional girl," Elizabeth Ann once heard her say to a friend who was calling. "She does this kind of work because she can earn more money and save more, and she is anxious to provide for the education of her brothers and sisters. I don't know what I should have done without her while my little niece is here."
The "little niece" wondered what she should have done without Rosa, too. Aunt Isabel was beautiful and she was sweet and kind, but she was not Mother. She was not used to little girls, for one thing, and then she was always going somewhere. She had no time at all to play with her, or to read to her or tell her stories. She never went walking along the Drive with her or explained the cabinet to her.
The cabinet was a great delight. Elizabeth Ann had discovered it one day while waiting for Rosa to finish her dusting and take a walk with her.
"What's in here?" she had asked, pointing to a mahogany carved case with a glass door and a little brass key in the lock.
"Those are your uncle's carvings," said Rosa, turning the key and opening the door. "See all the tiny, tiny things! They were carved by hand hundreds of years ago, some of them, and are worth a lot of money. Your uncle has been collecting them for years."
"I have a little elephant like that!" cried Elizabeth Ann, pointing to a piece of white carving. "Mr. Robert gave it to me. I keep it on a blue ribbon in my handkerchief box."
Rosa had heard all about Mr. Robert and she knew all the train friends by name. She had seen the photographs in Elizabeth Ann's locket, too, but she had not seen the elephant.
"Is it just like this one?" she asked.
Elizabeth Ann ran to get her precious elephant, and they saw that it was exactly like the one Uncle Ralph had. Indeed, if it had not been hung on the blue ribbon they might easily have mixed them, that is, until she saw that while her elephant had green eyes those in Uncle Ralph's elephant were blue.
"Well, anyway, it's worth a lot of money and you must take care of it," advised Rosa, going on with her dusting.
Elizabeth Ann put her elephant back in the handkerchief box and came back to handle the things in Uncle Ralph's cabinet. Rosa knew that she was a careful little girl, and could be trusted not to drop any of the delicate carvings. Rosa told her stories about them, interesting stories, for some had come from China and some from India and some were set with sparkly stones and others were wonderfully carved. There were a row of elephants, and tiny but perfect dogs, and little monkeys, as well as figures of men and women. After that, Elizabeth Ann often played with the things in the cabinet, but she was always careful to put them back exactly as she found them.
She did not dream that the cabinet could get her into mischief, but, dear me, we never do know what is going to land us in mischief, do we?
Elizabeth Ann had been going to school now for several weeks, and for one week all by herself without Rosa, when she asked Emma Spinelli to come home with her one afternoon. It was Rosa's afternoon out and she knew that there would be no one to talk to except Annie. Annie was as nice as could be, but she was always knitting when she wasn't cooking, and she did not like to be talked to when she was knitting because then she could not count the stitches.
Emma Spinelli sat in the seat behind her in school, and she had told Elizabeth Ann what the bells meant and when to sit down and when to get up. Emma had gone to public school in New York ever since she could remember. Emma said she would like to go home with her and that her mother wouldn't worry, as long as she came home in time for supper.
But when they reached the entrance to the apartment, she hung back.
"Oh, gee, I don't want to go in there!" she said. "The elevator man will chase me out."
"He will not!" answered Elizabeth Ann indignantly. "Come on, Emma, and I'll show you the elephants."
The boy who wore so many brass buttons and ran the elevator smiled at Elizabeth Ann and stared at Emma, but he did not say anything. Emma stared back at him and at the palms in the hall and at all the pretty things in Aunt Isabel's rooms when they reached the apartment. Annie let them in and said, "All right," when Elizabeth Ann explained that she had brought a little girl home to play with her.
"You're crazy for someone to play with, aren't you?" said Annie, smiling.
ELIZABETH ANN MAKES FRIENDS
Emma thought that Elizabeth Ann's room was lovely, but she did not think much of Nancy, who sat in state in the rocking chair.
"I don't care much for dolls," explained Emma. "I like to roller skate better."
Elizabeth Ann had intended to show her guest Nancy's trunk filled with clothes, but after that it did not seem to be the thing to do. So she took her into the room where Uncle Ralph's cabinet was and showed her the carvings.
"Open the door and let me see them," said Emma, so Elizabeth Ann turned the little brass key that always stood in the lock, and Emma began to handle the green and white and blue figures.
"Let's put 'em down on the floor," she suggested when she had seen everything in the cabinet. "We can play Noah's Ark."
"Aunt Isabel might not like it," answered Elizabeth Ann slowly.
"Did she ever say not to take them out?" asked Emma scornfully.
"No, she never said anything about it."
"Well, then, what are you making a fuss for?" inquired Emma. "Anyway, I thought you said they belonged to your uncle. Did he ever say not to take them out?"
"No, he never did," said her friend uncomfortably.
If Elizabeth Ann had stopped to think, she might have remembered that she had never asked Uncle Ralph, but she did not stop to think; instead, she began to hand the carvings down to Emma, who sat on the floor.
When they had everything out of the cabinet, they began to play. Emma knew how to play Noah's Ark beautifully, and Elizabeth Ann, who had often wished for a little girl to play with, as Annie said, was having the nicest time she had ever had in this big house, when she heard Aunt Isabel's voice:
"Children! What are you doing?"
Aunt Isabel stood in the doorway, a big bunch of violets pinned on the front of her frock. She looked very tall and pretty, and her small niece was most uncomfortable.
"What little girl is this?" asked Aunt Isabel.
"She's Emma Spinelli," said Elizabeth Ann. "I asked her to come home and play with me. She's in my class at school, Aunt Isabel."
"Did you ask me if you might bring her home?" asked her aunt.
"No'm," murmured Elizabeth Ann.
"And who gave you permission to take the things out of the cabinet?" said Aunt Isabel.
"Did Rosa-but no, it is her afternoon off."
"No - nobody did. We thought you wouldn't mind," stammered Elizabeth Ann.
Emma Spinelli was not a bit of help. She just stood there and stared at Aunt Isabel. "Well, pick all the things up and put them back in the cabinet and I will ask .Annie to get you some cocoa and cake," said Aunt Isabel.
"And then I think Emma had better run along home; it is half-past four and her mother will be wondering where she is."
Emma enjoyed the cocoa and cake immensely, but Elizabeth Ann could scarcely touch hers. She knew now that it was wrong to have taken the things from the cabinet without asking, and wrong to have invited Emma without first asking Aunt Isabel. At home there were no little girls to ask in for the afternoon, and here Aunt Isabel was so seldom home that she was more used to asking Rosa for permission and help.
"I wish Mother and Daddy had taken me to Japan," she thought, the tears coming into her eyes.
As soon as Emma had finished her cocoa and cake, she put on her hat and coat and disappeared into the elevator on her way home.
"I had a great time," she assured Elizabeth Ann, kissing her good-bye.
Emma did not seem to mind at all that Aunt Isabel was not pleased to find the cabinet carvings scattered all over the pink rug.
Elizabeth Ann expected to be scolded and she went slowly back to Aunt Isabel's room after taking Emma to the elevator. But when she knocked on the door and her aunt called "Come in," to her surprise she found Aunt Isabel lying down on her lounge in a blue-and- white dressing grown and looking at her smilingly. She opened her arms and Elizabeth Ann ran into them.
"Now tell me all about it, darling," said Aunt Isabel.
So she heard about Emma Spinelli and about school and Elizabeth Ann's wish that she had a little sister to play with. Then Aunt Isabel explained that when Elizabeth Ann wanted to bring a playmate home with her, it was al- ways best to ask first, and that while she might play with the things in the cabinet and not break them, another little girl might easily hurt the fragile curios that had cost Uncle Ralph so much time and money to collect.
They talked a long while together and then they had dinner cozily alone, for Uncle Ralph was kept at his office and telephoned that he would meet Aunt Isabel downtown at the theater to which they were going. On the nights when Rosa was away, Annie usually helped Elizabeth Ann to get ready for bed, but tonight Aunt Isabel herself unbuttoned the hard buttons and heard her say her prayers. Then she tucked her into bed and kissed her good-night.
"I wish it was always this way," Elizabeth Ann whispered to Nancy, when Aunt Isabel in her shimmering gown that smelled of violets had gone away down the hall.
Elizabeth Ann was a sociable little girl and she soon made many friends. School did not take up all the day-only from nine till three o'clock-and that left her plenty of time for play. She learned the name of the elevator boy and of the janitor, who lived in the cellar and who had three small sons.
"They're limbs," he would say, shaking his head at her when she asked him about them.
"Perfect limbs, that's what they are."
"What are limbs?" Elizabeth Ann asked once of Rosa.
"He means they are up to mischief," replied Rosa. "Your aunt wouldn't want you to use that word. A janitor can talk that way, but you mustn't."
The janitor's boys went to the same school that Elizabeth Ann did, but she did not often see them. They went earlier than she did in the morning, so that they would have more time to play, and they would not walk home with her at night because she was a girl and they did not want to walk with girls. Their names were Jerry and Charles and Albert, and they were in a more advanced grade than her own.
One Saturday morning Rosa was too busy to go out with Elizabeth Ann, and she wandered downstairs hoping to find someone to play with. She now knew a number of little girls who played on the Drive and she thought she might meet one of them. But at the door she found Jerry and Albert and Charles.
"Where you going?" Albert, the oldest, asked her.
"Just out to play," she answered. "What are you doing?"
"We're playing a brand-new game," announced Albert mysteriously. "Bet you don't know what it is."
"Could I play it?" she asked eagerly.
"You'd be scared," retorted Albert. "Wouldn't she, Charles?"
"No, I wouldn't," she pleaded. "Let me play it, please, Albert."
"Promise you won't cry or tell on us or anything?" said Albert.
Elizabeth Ann promised, and the three boys said she might play with them.
They led her around to a square, cemented open space called the service court. This was where the bundles and parcels sent to the people who lived in the apartments came before they were sent upstairs to the different apartments.
"We're playing firemen," said Albert. "We make believe the house is on fire and somebody has to rescue the people. You can be a fireman, and you get on this and we pull you up; then when you've rescued the people, we pull you down."
"This" was the big dumb-waiter that carried parcels up and down. Elizabeth Ann had often seen Rosa and Annie take things off the shelves. She thought it would be fun to ride on it, and Albert and Jerry lifted her up before she could change her mind.
The dumb-waiter had not been built for passengers, and she had to curl up into a little knot and be careful that her fingers or feet did not stick out anywhere.
"All ready? Here goes!" shouted Albert.
The dumb-waiter shot up suddenly, and Elizabeth Ann screamed. She could not help it. The motion made her dizzy and she was in pitch darkness, for as soon as the waiter left the ground the light was shut out. She felt herself going up and up and up. She began to cry.
Then the dumb-waiter stopped. She had no idea where she was, and when a door opened somewhere and a white light streamed in upon her, she was even more frightened.
"Who are you? Mercy on us, where did you come from?" asked a good-natured voice.
"I'm Elizabeth Ann Loring, please," answered the little girl politely.
"Come in and visit me, Miss Loring," said the voice.
On to chapter 7
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