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John Culver brought them home and as they left the car Mrs. Horton inquired, “Is your apartment comfortable, John?””
Perfectly comfortable, thank you,” said Culver.
“You are married?” Mrs. Horton continued.
“Yes,” replied Culver.
“One little girl,” said Culver, glancing at Rosanna with a smile.
Mrs. Horton saw the look. She said nothing, but when Rosanna sat before her at the great round table, eating her luncheon, Mrs. Horton remarked, “Of course, Rosanna, you will make no effort whatever to meet the child living over the garage. Unless you make the opportunity, she will never see you, thanks to the arrangement of the windows. She is a child that it would be impossible for you to know.”
Rosanna did not reply.
“Rosanna?” said her grandmother sharply.
“Yes, grandmother,” sighed poor Rosanna.
After luncheon Mrs. Horton dressed and was driven away to a bridge party. Rosanna practiced scales for half an hour, talked French with her governess for another long half, and then wandered out into the garden and commenced to wonder about the child over the garage. How old was she? What was she like? Rosanna wished she could see her. There was a rustic seat near the garage and Rosanna went over and curled up on its rough lap. She stared and stared at the garage, but the blank brick walls with their curtains of vines gave her no hint.
It seemed as though she had been sitting there for hours when she fancied a small voice called, “Hello, Rosanna!”
Rosanna sat perfectly still, staring at the brick wall.
“Hello, Rosanna!” said the voice again softly. It was a strangely sweet, gentle voice and seemed to come from the air. Rosanna cast a startled glance above her.
There was a little laugh. “Look in the tree,” said the pleasant voice.
Rosanna, mouth open, eyes popping, looked up.
A big tree growing in the alley, close outside the brick wall, leaned its biggest bough in a friendly fashion over Rosanna’s garden. High up something blue fluttered among the thick leaves. Then the branches parted, and a face appeared. Rosanna continued to stare.
The little girl in the tree waved her hand.
“You don’t know me, do you, Rosanna?” she teased. “But I know you. You are Rosanna Horton, and you live in that lovely, lovely house and this is your garden. Is that your playhouse over there? And oh, is there an honest-for-truly pony in that little barn? Dad says there really is. Is there?” She stopped for breath, and beamed down on Rosanna.
“How did you get up there?” said Rosanna. She was not allowed to climb trees.
“Father made a little ladder and fastened it to the trunk with wires so it won’t hurt the wood. If Mrs. Horton doesn’t mind, he is going to fix a little platform up here. There is a splendid place for it. Then I can study up here where it is all cool and breezy and whispery. Don’t you like to hear the leaves whisper? He is going to put a rail around it so we won’t fall off.”
“Who is we?” asked Rosanna. “Have you brothers and sisters?”
“No, I haven’t,” said the little girl. “Mother says it is my greatest misfortune. She says that I shall have to make a great many friends to make up for it, and that if I don’t I will grow selfish. Wouldn’t you hate to be selfish? I ‘spect you have dozens and dozens of little girls to play with. How happy you must make everybody with your lovely garden and things! My mother says that is what things are for: to share with people. She says it is just like having two big red apples. If you eat them both, why, you don’t feel good in your tummy; but if you give one to some one, you[Pg 11] feel good everywhere, and you have a good time while you are eating them and get better acquainted, and it just does you good. Do little girls come to see you every day?”
“No,” said Rosanna, “I don’t know any little girls. My grandmother won’t let me.”
“Won’t let you?” said the girl in the tree in a shocked tone. “Why won’t she let you?”
“She says I would learn to speak bad grammar and use slang, and grow up to be vulgar.”
“Goodness me!” said the stranger. She sat rocking on her bough for a few minutes. Then: “Why would you have to learn bad things of other girls?” she demanded. “I wouldn’t let anybody teach me anything I didn’t want to know. I should think it would be nice to have you teach them good grammar if you know it, and not to use slang, and all that. She must think you are soft! My mother says if you are made of putty, you will get dented all over and never be more than an unshapely lump, but if you are made of good stone, you can be carved into something lovely and lasting. But that is just your grandmother,” said the girl. “Where is your mother? Is she off visiting?”
“She is dead,” said Rosanna. A wave of unspeakable longing for the lost young mother swept over her and her lip trembled as she spoke.
“Oh, poor, poor Rosanna!” said the little tree girl softly. “Oh, Rosanna, I feel so sorry! If you ever want to borrow mine, I wish you would! My mother says that when a woman has even just one child in her heart, it grows so big that it can hold and love all the children in the world. You borrow her any time you need her, Rosanna!” Then feeling that perhaps the conversation ought to take a livelier strain, she did not wait for Rosanna to answer, but continued, “I wish somebody hadn’t built this apartment over your garage so that none of the windows look out on your garden. We are going to hate that, aren’t we?”
“Grandmother had it built that way so we would not see the people living there,” Rosanna explained.
“Oh!” said the tree girl. “Well, of course you know that I live there now. We came two days ago, and my name is Helen Culver. We would love to play together, wouldn’t we?”
“Oh, indeed we would!” said Rosanna.
“Well, then we will,” said Helen joyfully. “I must go now. I think it is practice time. I will see you after luncheon. Good-bye!” and she slid down the tree and disappeared.
Rosanna went skipping to the house. She was so happy. It was not her practice time, but she was going to practice because Helen was so engaged. Her mind was full of Helen as she sat doing finger exercises and scales. How lovely and clean and bright she looked with her big, blue eyes and blond docked hair! Her teeth were so white and pretty and her voice was so soft and low. And she had a dimple! It was Rosanna’s dream to have a dimple in her thin little cheek.
Rosanna commenced to play scales. She took the C scale—it was so easy that she could think. She was so happy that she played it in a very prancy way, up and down, up and down. Then it commenced to stumble and go ve-ry, v-e-r-y slowly. Rosanna had had an awful thought. The same thought had really been there all the time, but her heart was making such a happy noise that she wouldn’t let herself hear it. Now, however, it made such a racket she just had to listen. Over and over with the scales it said loudly and harshly, “Will your grandmother let you play with that little girl who lives over the garage? Will your grandmother even let you know that little girl who lives over the garage? Will she? Will she?”
Rosanna Horton knew the answer perfectly well.