Author: Dana Gatlin

Chapter II "Your True Friend, Melissa M."

Missy knew, the moment she opened her eyes, that golden June morning, that it was going to be a happy day. Missy, with Poppylinda purring beside her, found this mysterious, irradiant feeling flowing out of her heart almost as tangible as a third live being in her quaint little room. It seemed a sort of left-over, still vaguely attached, from the wonderful dream she had just been having. Trying to recall the dream, she shut her eyes again; Missy’s one regret, in connection with her magical dreams, was that the sparkling essence of them was apt to become dim when she awoke. But now, when she opened her eyes, the suffusion still lingered.

For a long, quiet, blissful moment, she lay smiling at the spot where the sunlight, streaming level through the lace-curtained window, fell on the rose-flowered chintz of the valances. Missy liked those colours very much; then her eyes followed the beam of light to where it spun a prism of fairy colours on the mirror above the high-boy, and she liked that ecstatically. She liked, too, by merely turning her head on the pillow, to glimpse, through the parting of the curtains, the ocean of blue sky with its flying cloud ships, so strange; and to hear the morning song of the birds and the happy hum of insects, the music seeming almost to filter through the lace curtains in a frescoed pattern which glided, alive, along the golden roadway of sunshine. She even liked the monotonous metallic rattle which betold that old Jeff was already at work with the lawnmower.

All this in a silent moment crammed to the full with vibrant ecstasy; then Missy remembered, specifically, the Wedding drawing every day nearer, and the new Pink Dress, and the glory to be hers when she should strew flowers from a huge leghorn hat, and her rapture brimmed over. Physically and spiritually unable to keep still another second, she suddenly sat up.

"Oh, Poppylinda!" she whispered. "I’m so happy—so happy!"

Everyone knows—that is, everyone who knows kittens—that kittens, like babies, listen with their eyes. To Missy’s whispered confidence, Poppylinda, without stirring, opened her lids and blinked her yellow eyes.

"Aren’t you happy, too? Say you’re happy, Poppy, darling!"

Poppy was stirred to such depths that mere eye-blinking could not express her emotion. She opened her mouth, so as to expose completely her tiny red tongue, and then, without lingual endeavour, began to hum a gentle, crooning rumble down somewhere near her stomach. Yes; Poppy was happy.

The spirit of thanksgiving glamorously enwrapped these two all the time Missy was dressing. Like the efficient big girl of twelve that she was, Missy drew her own bath and, later, braided her own hair neatly. As she tied the ribbons on those braids, now crossed in a "coronet" over her head, she gave the ghost of a sigh. This morning she didn’t want to wear her every-day bows; but dutifully she tied them on, a big brown cabbage above each ear. When she had scrambled into her checked gingham "sailor suit," all spick and span, Missy stood eying herself in the mirror for a wistful moment, wishing her tight braids might metamorphose into lovely, hanging curls like Kitty Allen’s. They come often to a "strange child"—these moments of vague longing to overhear one’s self termed a "pretty child"— especially on the eve of an important occasion.

But thoughts of that important occasion speedily chased away consciousness of self. And downstairs in the cheerful dining room, with the family all gathered round the table, Missy, her cheeks glowing pink and her big grey eyes ashine, found it difficult to eat her oatmeal, for very rapture. In the bay window, the geraniums on the sill nodded their great, biossomy heads at her knowingly. Beyond, the big maple was stirring its leaves, silver side up, like music in the breeze. Away across the yard, somewhere, Jeff was making those busy, restful sounds with the lawn-mower. These alluring things, and others stretching out to vast mental distances, quite deadened, for Missy, the family’s talk close at hand.

"When I ran over to the Greenleaf’s to borrow the sugar," Aunt Nettie was saying, "May White was there, and she and Helen hurried out of the dining room when they saw me. I’m sure they’d been crying, and—"

"S-sh!" warned Mrs. Merriam, with a glance toward Missy. Then, in a louder tone: "Eat your cereal, Missy. Why are you letting it get cold?"

Missy brought her eyes back from space with an answering smile. "I was thinking," she explained.

"What of, Missy?" This, encouragingly, from father.

"Oh, my dream, last night."

"What did you dream about?"

"Oh—mountains," replied Missy, somewhat vaguely.

"For the land’s sake!" exclaimed Aunt Nettie. "What ever put such a thing into her head? She never saw a mountain in her life!" Grownups have a disconcerting way of speaking of children, even when present, in the third person. But Aunt Nettie finally turned to Missy with a direct (and dreaded): "What did they look like, Missy?"

"Oh—mountains," returned Missy, still vague.

At a sign from mother, the others did not press her further. When she had finished her breakfast, Missy approached her mother, and the latter, reading the question in her eyes, asked:

"Well, what is it, Missy?"

"I feel—like pink to-day," faltered Missy, half-embarrassed.

But her mother did not ask for explanation. She only pondered a moment.

"You know," reminded the supplicant, "I have to try on the Pink Dress this morning."

"Very well, then," granted mother. "But only the second-best ones."

Missy’s face brightened and she made for the door.

Before she got altogether out of earshot, Aunt Nettie began: "I don’t know that it’s wise to humour her in her notions. ’Feel like pink!’—what in the world does she mean by that?"

Missy was glad the question had not been put to her; for, to have saved her life, she couldn’t have answered it intelligibly. She was out of hearing too soon to catch her mother’s answer:

"She’s just worked up over the wedding, and being a flower-girl and all."

"Well, I don’t believe," stated Aunt Nettie with the assurance that spinsters are wont to show in discussing such matters, "that it’s good for children to let them work themselves up that way. She’ll be as much upset as the bridegroom if Helen does back out."

"Oh, I don’t think old Mrs. Greenleaf would ever let her break it off, now" said Mrs. Merriam, stooping to pick up the papers which her husband had left strewn over the floor.

"She’s hard as rocks," agreed Aunt Nettie.

"Though," Mrs. Merriam went on, "when it’s a question of her daughter’s happiness—"

"A little unhappiness would serve Helen Green leaf right," commented the other tartly. "She’s spoiled to death and a flirt. I think it was a lucky day for young Doc Alison when she jilted him."

"She’s just young and vain," championed Mrs. Merriam, carefully folding the papers and laying them in the rack. "Any pretty girl in Helen’s position couldn’t help being spoiled. And you must admit nothing’s ever turned her head—Europe, or her visits to Cleveland, or anything."

"The Cleveland man is handsome," said Aunt Nettie irrelevantly—the Cleveland man was the bridegroom-elect.

"Yes, in a stylish, sporty kind of way. But I don’t know—" She hesitated a moment, then concluded: "Missy doesn’t like him."

At that Aunt Nettie laughed with genuine mirth. "What on earth do you think a child would know about it?" she ridiculed.

Meanwhile the child, whose departure had thus loosed free speech, was leagues distant from the gossip and the unrest which was its source. Her pink hair bows, even the second-best ones, lifted her to a state which made it much pleasanter to idle in her window, sniffing at the honey-suckle, than to hurry down to the piano. She longed to make up something which, like a tune of water rippling over pink pebbles, was running through her head. But faithfully, at last, she toiled through her hour, and then was called on to mind the Baby.

This last duty was a real pleasure. For she could wheel the perambulator off to the summerhouse, in a secluded, sweet-smelling corner of the yard, and there recite poetry aloud. To reinforce those verses she knew by heart, she carried along the big Anthology which, in its old-blue binding, contrasted so satisfyingly with the mahogany table in the sitting-room. The first thing she read was "Before the Beginning of Years" from "Atalanta in Calydon;" Missy especially adored Swinburne—so liltingly incomprehensible.

The performance, as ever, was highly successful all around. Baby really enjoyed it and Poppylinda as well, both of them blinking in placid appreciation. And as for Missy, the liquid sound of the metres rolling off her own lips, the phrases so beautiful and so "deep," seemed to lift a choking something right up into her throat until she could have wept with the sweet pain of it. She did, as a matter of fact, happy tears, about which her two auditors asked no embarrassing question. Baby merely gurgled, and Poppylinda essayed to climb the declaimer’s skirts.

"Sit down, sad Soul!" Missy’s mood could no longer even attempt to mate with prose. She turned through the pages of the Anthology until she came to another favourite:

So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war, There never was knight like young Lochinvar.

This she read through, with a fine, swinging rhythm. "I think that last stanza’s perfectly exquisite—don’t you?" Missy enquired of her mute audience. And she repeated it, as unctuously as though she were the poet herself. Then, quite naturally, this romance recalled to her the romance next door, so deliciously absorbing her waking and dreaming hours—the romance of her own Miss Princess. Miss Princess- -Missy’s more formal adaptation of Young Doc’s soubriquet for Helen Greenleaf in the days of his romance—was the most beautiful heroine imaginable. And the Wedding was next week, and Missy was to walk first of all the six flower-girls, and the Pink Dress was all but done, and the Pink Stockings—silk!—were upstairs in the third drawer of the high-boy! Oh, it was a golden world, radiant with joy. Of course—it’s only earth, after all, and not heaven—she’d rather the bridegroom was going to be young Doc. But Miss Princess had arranged it this other way—her bridegroom had come out of the East. And the Wedding was almost here! . . . There never was morning so fair, nor grass so vivid and shiny, nor air so soft. Above her head the cherry-buds were swelling, almost ready to burst. From the open windows of the house, down the street, sounds from a patient piano, flattered by distance, betokened that Kitty Allen was struggling with "Perpetual Motion"; Missy, who had finished her struggles with that abomination-to-beginners a month previously felt her sense of beatitude deepen.

Presently into this Elysium floated her mother’s voice, summoning her to the house. Rounding the corner of the back walk with the perambulator, she collided with the grocer-boy. He was a nicemannered boy, picking up the Anthology and Baby’s doll from the ground, and handing them to her with a charming smile. Besides, he had very bright, sparkling eyes. Missy fancied he must be some lost Prince, and inwardly resolved to make up, as soon as alone, a story to this effect.

In the house, mother told her it was time to go to Miss Martin’s to try on the Pink Dress.

Down the street, she encountered Mr. Hackett, the rich bridegroom come out of the East, a striking figure, on that quiet street, in the natty white flannels suggesting Cleveland, Atlantic City, and other foreign places.

"Well, if here isn’t Sappho!" he greeted her gaily. Missy blushed. Not for worlds had she suspected he was hearing her, that unlucky morning in the grape-arbour, when she recited her latest Poem to Miss Princess. Now she smiled perfunctorily, and started to pass him.

But Mr. Hackett, swinging his stick, stood with his feet wide apart and looked down at her.

"How’s the priestess of song, this fine morning?" he persisted.

"All-right," stammered Missy.

He laughed, as if actually enjoying her confusion. Missy observed that his eyes were red-rimmed, and his face a pasty white. She wondered whether he was sick; but he jauntily waved his stick at her and went on his way.

Missy, a trifle subdued, continued hers.

But oh, it is a wonderful world! You never know what any moment may bring you. Adventures fairy-sent surprises, await you at the most unexpected turns, spring at you from around the first corner.

It was around the very first corner, in truth, that Missy met young Doc Alison, buzzing leisurely along in his Ford.

"Hello, Missy," he greeted. "Like a lift?"

Missy would. Young Doc jumped out, and, in a deferential manner she admired very much, assisted her into the little car as though she were a grown-up and lovely young lady. Young Doc was a nice man. She knew him well. He had felt her pulse, looked at her tongue, sent her Valentines, taken her riding, and shown her many other little courtesies for as far back as she could remember. Then, too, she greatly admired his looks. He was tall and lean and wiry. His face was given to quick flashes of smiling; and his eyes could be dreamy or luminous. He resembled, Missy now decided—and marvelled she hadn’t noticed it before—that other young man, Lochinvar, "so faithful in love and so dauntless in war."

When young Doc politely enquired whether she could steal enough time from her errand to turn about for a run up "The Boulevard," Missy acquiesced. She regretted she hadn’t worn her shirred mull hat. But she decided not to worry about that. After all, her appearance, at the present moment, didn’t so much matter. What did matter was the way she was going to look next Wednesday—and she excitedly began telling young Doc about her coming magnificence, "It’s silk organdie," she said in a reverent tone, "and has garlands of rosebuds." She went on and told him of the big leghorn hat to be filled with flowers, of the Pink Stockings—best of all, silk!— waiting, in tissue-paper, in the high-boy drawer.

"Oh, I can hardly wait!" she concluded rapturously.

Young Doc, guiding the car around the street-sprinkling wagon, did not answer. Beyond the wagon, Mr. Hackett, whom the Ford had overtaken, was swinging along. Missy turned to young Doc with a slight grimace.

"’The poor craven bridegroom said never a word,’" she quoted.

Young Doc permitted himself to smile—not too much. "Why don’t you like him, Missy?"

Missy shook her head, without other reply. It would have been difficult for her to express why she didn’t like stylish Mr. Hackett.

"I wish," she said suddenly, "that you were going to be the bridegroom, Doc."

He smiled a wry smile at her. "Well, to tell the truth, I wish so, too, Missy."

"Well, she’ll be coming back to visit us often, and maybe you can take us out riding again."

"Maybe—but after getting used to big imported cars, I’m afraid one doesn’t care much for a Ford."

There was a note of cynicism, of pain, which, because she didn’t know what it was, cut Missy to the heart. It is all very well, in Romance and Poems, to meet with unhappy, discarded lovers—they played an essential part in many of the best ballads in the Anthology; but when that romantic role falls, in real life, on the shoulders of a nice young Doc, the matter assumes a different complexion. Missy’s own ecstasy over the Wedding suddenly loomed thoughtless, selfish, wicked. She longed timidly to reach over and pat that lean brown hand resting on the steering-wheel. Two sentences she formed in her mind, only to abandon them unspoken, when, to her relief, the need for delicate diplomacy was temporarily removed by the car’s slowing to a stop before Miss Martin’s gate.

Inside the little white cottage, however, in Miss Martin’s sittingroom—so queer and fascinating with its "forms," its samples and "trimmings" pinned to the curtains, its alluring display of fashion magazines and "charts," and its eternal litter of varicoloured scraps over the floor—Missy’s momentary dejection could but vanish. Finally, when in Miss Martin’s artfully tilted cheval glass, she surveyed the pink vision which was herself, gone, for the time, was everything of sadness in the world. She turned her head this way and that, craning to get the effect from every angle-the bouffance of the skirt, the rosebuds wreathing the sides, the butterfly sash in the back. Adjured by Miss Martin to stand still, she stood vibrantly poised like a lily-stem waiting the breath of the wind; bade to "lift up your arms," she obeyed and visioned winged fairies alert for flight. Even when Miss Martin, carried away by her zeal in fitting, stuck a pin through the pink tissue clear into the warmer, softer pink beneath, Missy scarcely felt the prick.

But, at the midday dinner-table, that sympathetic uneasiness returned. Father, home from the office, was full of indignation over something "disgraceful" he had heard down town. Though the conversation was held tantalizingly above Missy’s full comprehension, she could gather that the "disgrace" centred in the bachelor dinner which Mr. Hackett had given at the Commercial House the night before. Father evidently held no high opinion of the introduction of "rotten Cleveland performances" nor of the man who had introduced them.

"What ’rotten Cleveland performances’?" asked Missy with lively curiosity.

"Oh, just those late, indigestible suppers," cut in mother quickly. "Rich food at that hour just kills your stomach. Here, don’t you want another strawberry tart, Missy?"

Missy didn’t; but she affected a desire for it, and then a keen interest in its consumption. By this artifice, she hoped she might efface herself as a hindrance to continuation of the absorbing talk. But it is a trick of grown-ups to stop dead at the most thrilling points; though she consumed the last crumb of the tart, her ears gained no reward, until mother said:

"As soon as you’ve finished dinner, Missy, I wish you’d run over to Greenleafs’ and ask to borrow Miss Helen’s new kimono pattern."

Missy brightened. The sight of old Mrs. Greenleaf and Miss Princess, bustling gaily about, would lift this strange cloud gathering so ominously. She asked permission to carry along a bunch of sweet peas, and gathered the kind Miss Princess liked best—pinkish lavender blossoms, a delicious colour like the very fringe of a rainbow.

The Greenleafs’ coloured maid let her in and showed her into the "den" back of the parlour. "I’ll tell Mrs. Greenleaf," she said. "They’re all busy upstairs."

Very busy they must have been, for Missy had restlessly dangled her feet for what seemed hours, before she heard voices approaching the parlour.

"Oh, I won’t—I won’t—" It was Miss Princess’s voice, almost unrecognizably high and quavering.

"Now, just listen a minute, darling—" This unmistakably Mr. Hackett’s languorous, curiously repellent monotone.

"Don’t you touch me!"

Missy, stricken by the knowledge she was eavesdropping, peered about for a means of slipping out. But the only door, portiere-hung, was the one leading into the parlour. And now this concealed poor blundering Missy from the speakers while it allowed their talk to drift through.

That talk, stormy and utterly incomprehensible, filled the child with a growing sense of terror. Accusations, quick pleadings, angry retorts, attempts at explanation, all formed a dreadful muttering background out of which shot, like sharp streaks of lightning, occasional clearly-caught phrases: "Charlie White came home dead drunk, I tell you—" "—You know I’m mad about you, Helen, or I wouldn’t—" "—Oh, don’t you touch me!"

To Missy, trapped and shaking with panic, the storm seemed to have raged hours before she detected a third voice, old Mrs. Greenleaf s, which cut calm and controlled across the area of passion.

"You’d better go out a little while, Porter, and let me talk to her."

Then another interminable stretch of turmoil, this all the more terrifying because less violent.

"Oh, mother-I can’t—" Anger, spent, had given way to broken sobbing.

"I understand how you feel, dear. But you’ll—"

"I despise him!"

"I understand, dear. All girls get frightened and—"

"But it isn’t that, mother. I don’t love him. I can’t go on. Won’t you, this minute, tell him—tell everybody—?"

"Darling, don’t you realize I can’t?" Missy had never before heard old Mrs. Greenleaf’s voice tremble.

"The invitation, and the trousseau, and the presents, and everything. Think of the scandal, dear. We couldn’t. Don’t you see, dear, we can’t back out, now?"


"I almost wish—but don’t you see—?"

"Oh, I can’t stand it another hour!"

"You’re excited, dear," soothingly. "You’d better go rest a while. I’ll have a good talk with Porter. And you go upstairs and lie down. The Carrolls’ dinner—"

"Oh, dinners, luncheons, clothes. I—"

The despairing sound of Miss Princess’s cry, and the throbbing realization that these were calamities she must not overhear, stung Missy to renewed reconnoitering. Tiptoeing over to the window, she fumbled at the fastening of the screen, swung it outward, and, contemplating a jump to the sward below, thrust one foot over the sill.

"Hello, there! What are you up to?"

On the side porch, not twenty feet away, Mr. Hackett was regarding her with amazed and hostile eyes. Missy’s heart thumped against her ribs. Her consternation was not lessened when, tossing away his cigarette with a vindictive gesture, he added: "Stay where you are!"

Missy slackened her hold and crouched back like a hunted criminal. And like a hunted criminal he condemned her, a moment later, to old Mrs. Greenleaf.

"That kid from next door has been snooping in here. I caught her trying to sneak out."

Missy faltered out her explanation.

"I know it wasn’t your fault, dear," said old Mrs. Greenleaf kindly. "What was it you wanted?"

Her errand forgotten, Missy could only attempt a smile and dumbly extend the bouquet.

Old Mrs. Greenleaf took the flowers, then spoke over her shoulder: "I think Helen wants you upstairs, Porter." Missy had always thought she was like a Roman Matron; now it was upsetting to see the Roman Matron so upset.

"Miss Helen’s got a terrible headache and is lying down," said old Mrs. Greenleaf, fussing over the flowers.

"Oh," said Missy, desperately tongue-tied and ill-at-ease.

For a long second it endured portentously still in the room and in the world without; then like a sharp thunder-clap out of a summer sky, a door slammed upstairs. There was a sound of someone running down the steps, and Missy glimpsed Mr. Hackett going out the front door, banging the screen after him.

At the last noise, old Mrs. Greenleaf’s shoulders stiffened as if under a lash. But she turned quietly and said:

"Thank you so much for the flowers, Missy. I’ll give them to her after a while, when she’s better. And you can see her to-morrow."

It was the politest of dismissals. Missy, having remembered the pattern, hurriedly got it and ran home. She had seen a suspicion of tears in old Mrs. Greenleaf’s eyes. It was as upsetting as though the bronze Winged Victory on the parlour mantel should begin to weep.

All that afternoon Missy sought solitude. She refused to play croquet with Kitty Allen when that beautiful and most envied friend appeared. When Kitty took herself home, offended, Missy went out to the remote summerhouse, relieved. She looked back, now, on her morning’s careless happiness as an old man looks back on the heyday of his youth.

Heavy with sympathy, non-comprehension and fear, she brooded over these dark, mysterious hints about the handsome Cleveland man; over young Doc’s blighted love; over Miss Princess’s wanting to "back out"; over old Mrs. Greenleaf’s strange, dominant "pride."

Why did Miss Princess want to "back out"?—Miss Princess with her beautiful coppery hair, and eager parted lips, and eyes of mysterious purple (Missy lingered on the reflection "eyes of mysterious purple" long enough to foreshadow a future poem including that line). Was it because she still loved Doc? If so, why didn’t it turn out all right, since Doc loved her, too? Surely that would be better, since there seemed to be something wrong with Mr. Hackett— even though everybody did talk about what a wonderful match he was. Then they talked about invitations and things as though old Mrs. Greenleaf thought those things counted for more than the bridegroom. Old Mrs. Greenleaf, Missy was sure, loved Miss Princess better than anything else in the world: then how could she, even if she was "proud," twist things so foolishly?

She had brought with her the blue-bound Anthology and a writing-pad and pencil. First she read a little—"Lochinvar" it was she opened to. Then she meditated. Poor Young Doc! The whole unhappy situation was like poetry. (So much in life she was finding, these days, like poetry.) This would make a very sad, but effective poem: the faithful, unhappy lover, the lovely, unhappy bride, the mother keeping them asunder who, though stern, was herself unhappy, and the craven bridegroom who—she hoped it, anyway!—was unhappy also.

In all this unhappiness, though she didn’t suspect it, Missy revelled—a peculiar kind of melancholy tuned to the golden day. She detected a subtle restlessness in the shimmering leaves about her; the scent of the June roses caught at something elusively sad in her. Without knowing why, her eyes filled with tears.

She drew the writing-pad to her; conjured the vision of nice Doc and of Miss Princess, and, immersed in a sea of feeling, sought for words and rhyme:

O, young Doctor Al is the pride of the West, Than big flashy autos his Ford is the best; Ah! courtly that lover and faithful and true. And fair, wondrous fair, the maiden was, too. But O—dire the day! when from Cleveland afar—

A long pause here: "car," "scar," "jar,"—all tried and discarded. Finally sense, rhyme and meter were attuned:

—afar, A dastard she met, their sweet idyl to mar.

He won her away with his glitter and plume And citified ways, while the lover did fume. O, fair dawned the Wedding Day, pink in the East, And folk from all quarters did come for the feast; Gay banners from turrets—


The poet, head bent, absorbed in creation, did not hear.

"Missy! Where are you? Me-lis-sa!"

This time the voice cleaved into the mood of inspiration. With a sigh Missy put the pad and pencil in the Anthology, laid the whole on the bench, and obediently went to mind the Baby. But, as she wheeled the perambulator up and down the front walk, her mind liltingly repeated the words she had written, and she stepped along in time to the rhythm. It was a fine rhythm. And, as soon as she was relieved from duty, she rushed back to the temporary shrine of the Muse. The words, now, flowed much more easily than at the beginning- -one of the first lessons learned by all creative artists.

Gay banners from turrets streamed out in the air And all Maple, Avenue turned out for the pair. Ah! beauteous was she, that white-satin young bride, But sorrow had reddened her deep purple eyes. Each clatter of hoofs from the courtyard below Did summon the blood swift to ebb and then flow; For the gem on her finger, the flower in her hair, Bound not her sad heart to that Cleveland man there.

Ah! who is this riding so fast through Main Street? The gallant young lover—

Again, reiterant and increasingly imperative, summons from the house slashed across her mood. Can’t one’s family ever appreciate the yearning for solitude? However, even amid the talkative circle round the supper-table, Missy felt uplifted and strangely remote.

"Why aren’t you eating your supper, Missy? Just look at that wasted good meat!"

"Meat," though a good rhyme for "street,’ would not work well. "Neat"—"fleet"—Ah! "Fleet!"

Immediately after supper, followed by the inquisitive Poppylinda, Missy took her poem out to the comparative solitude of the back porch steps. It was very sweet and still out there, the sun sinking blood-red over the cherry trees. With no difficulty at all, she went on, inspired:

—Main Street?

The gallant young Doctor in his motor so fleet! So flashing his eye and so stately his form That the bride’s sinking heart with delight did grow warm. But the poor craven bridegroom said never a word; And the parent so proud did champ in her woe.

The knight snatched her swiftly into the Ford, And she smiled as he steered adown the Boulevard; Then away they did race until soon lost to view, And all knew ’twas best for these lovers so true. For where, tell me where, would have gone that bride’s bliss? Who flouts at true love all true happiness must miss!

What matters the vain things of Earth, soon or late, If the heart of a loved one in anguish doth break?

When she came to the triumphant close, among the fragrant cherry blooms the birds were twittering their lullabies. She went in to say her own good night, the Poem, much erased and interlined, tucked in the front of her blouse together with ineffable sensations. But she was not, for all that, beyond a certain concern for material details. "Mother, may I do my hair up in kid-curlers?" she asked.

"Why, this is only Wednesday." Mother’s tone connoted the fact that "waves," rippling artificially either side of Missy’s "part" down to her two braids, achieved a decorative effect reserved for Sundays and special events. Then quickly, perhaps because she hadn’t been altogether unaware of this last visitation of the Heavenly Muse, she added: "Well, I don’t care. Do it up, if you want to."

Then, moved by some motive of her own, she followed Missy upstairs to do it up herself. These occasions of personal service were rare, these days, since Missy had grown big and efficient, and were therefore deeply cherished. But to-night Missy almost regretted her mother’s unexpected ministration; for the paper in her blouse crackled at unwary gestures, and if mother should protract her stay throughout the undressing period, there might come an awkward call for explanations.

And mother, innocently, added one more element to her entangled burden of distress.

"We’ll do it up all over your head, for the Wedding," she said, gently brushing the full length of the fine, silvery-brown strands. "And let it hang in loose curls."

At the conjectured vision, Missy’s eyes began to sparkle.

"And I think a ribbon band the colour of your dress would be pretty," mother went on, parting off a section and wrapping it round a "curler." A sudden remembrance clutched at Missy’s ecstatic reply; the shine faded from her eyes. But mother, engrossed, didn’t observe; more deeply she sank her unintentional barb. "No," she mused aloud, "a garland of little rosebuds would be better, I believe-tiny delicate little buds, tied with a pink bow."

At that, the prospective flower-girl, to have saved her life, could not have repressed the sigh which rose like a tidal wave from her overcharged heart. Mother caught the sigh, and looked at her anxiously. "Don’t you think it would look pretty?" she asked.

Missy nodded mutely. So complex were her emotions that, fearing for self-control, she was glad, just then, that the Baby cried.

As soon as mother had kissed her good night and left her, she pulled out the paper rustling importantly within her blouse, and laid it in the celluloid "treasure box" which sat on the high-boy. Then soberly she finished the operation on her hair, and undressed herself.

Before getting into bed, after her regular prayer was said, she stayed awhile on her knees and put the whole of her seething dilemma before God. "Dear God," she said, "you know how unhappy Miss Princess is and young Doc, too. Please make them both happy, God. And please help me not feel sorry about the Pink Dress. For I just can’t help feeling sorry. Please help us all, dear God, and I’ll be such a good girl, God."

Perhaps it is the biggest gift in the world, to be able to pray. And, by prayer, is not meant the saying over of a formal code, but the simple, direct speaking with God. It is so simple in the doing, so marvellous in its reaction, that the strange thing is that it is not more generally practiced. But there is where the gift comes in: a supreme essence of spirit which must, if the prayer is to achieve its end, be first possessed-a thing possessed by all children not yet quite rid of the glamour of immortality and by some, older, who contrive to hold enough glamour to be as children throughout life. Some call this thing Faith, but there are other names just as good; and the essence lives on forever.

These reflections are not Missy’s. She knelt there, without consciousness of any motive or analysis. She only knew she was telling it all to God. And presently, in her heart, in whispers fainter than the stir of the slumbering leaves outside, she heard His answer. God had heard; she knew it by the peace He laid upon her tumultuous heart.

Steeped in faith, she fell asleep. But not a dreamless sleep. Missy always dreamed, these nights: wonderful dreams—magical, splendid, sometimes vaguely terrifying, often remotely tied up with some event of the day, but always wonderful. And the last dream she dreamed, this eventful night, was marvellous indeed. For it was a replica of the one she had dreamed the night before.

It was an omen of divine portent. No one could have doubted it. Missy, waking from its subtle glamour to the full sunlight streaming across her pillow, hugged Poppylinda, crooned over her and, though preparing to sacrifice that golden something whose prospect had gilded her life, sang her way through the duties of her toilet.

That accomplished, she lifted out her Poem, and wrote at the bottom: "Your true friend, MELISSA M."

Then she tucked the two sheets in her blouse, and scrambled downstairs to be chided again for not eating her breakfast.

After the last spoonful, obligatory and arduous, had been disposed of, she loitered near the hall telephone until there was a clear field, then called Young Doc’s number. What a relief to find he had not yet gone out! Could he stop by her house, pretty soon? Why, what was the matter—Doc’s voice was alarmed—someone sick?

"No, but it’s something very important, Doc."

Missy’s manner was hurried and impressive.

"Won’t it wait?"

"It’s terribly important."

"What is it? Can’t you tell me now, Missy?"

"No—it’s a secret. And I’ve got to hurry up now and hang up the phone because it’s a secret."

"I see. All right, I’ll be along in about fifteen minutes. What do you want me to—"

"Stop by the summerhouse," she cut in nervously. "I’ll be there."

It seemed a long time, but in reality was shorter than schedule, before Young Doc’s car appeared up the side street. He brought it to a stop opposite the summerhouse, jumped out and approached the rendezvous.

Summoning all her courage, she held the Poem ready in her hand.

"Good morning, Missy," he sang out. "What’s all the mystery?"

For answer Missy could only smile—a smile made wan by nervousness— and extend the two crumpled sheets of paper.

Young Doc took them curiously, smiled at the primly-lettered, downhill lines, and then narrowed his eyes to skimming absorption. A strange expression gathered upon his face as he read. Missy didn’t know exactly what to make of his working muscles—whether he was pained or angry or amused. But she was entirely unprepared for the fervour with which, when he finished, he seized her by the shoulders and bounced her up and down.

"Did you make all this up?" he cried. "Or do you mean she really doesn’t want to marry that bounder?"

"She really doesn’t," answered Missy, not too engaged in steeling herself against his crunching of her shoulder bones to register the soubriquet, "bounder."

"Are you sure you didn’t make most of it up?" Young Doc knew well Missy’s strain of romanticism. But she strove to convince him that, for once, she was by way of being a realist.

"She despises him. She can’t bear to go on with it. She can’t stand it another hour. I heard her say so myself." Young Doc, crunching her shoulder bones worse than ever, breathed hard, but said nothing. Missy proffered bashfully:

"I think, maybe, she wants to marry you, Doc."

Young Doc then, just at the moment she couldn’t have borne the vise a second longer, let go her shoulders, and smiled a smile which, for her, would have eased a splintered bone itself.

"We’ll quickly find that out," he said, and his voice was more buoyant than she had heard it in months. "Missy, do you think you could get a note to her right away?"

Missy nodded eagerly.

He scribbled the note on the back of a letter and folded it with the Poem in the used envelope. "There won’t be any answer," he directed Missy, "unless she brings it herself. Just get it to her without anyone’s seeing."

Missy nodded again, vibrant with repressed excitement. "I’ll just pretend it’s a secret about a poem. Miss Princess always helps make secrets about poems."

Evidently Miss Princess did so this time. For, after an eternity of ten minutes, Young Doc, peering through the leaves of the summerhouse, saw Missy and her convoy coming across the lawn. Missy was walking along very solemnly, with only an occasional skip to betray the ebullition within her.

But it was on the tall girl that Young Doc’s gaze was riveted, the slender graceful figure which, for all its loveliness, had something pathetically drooping about it—like a lily with a storm-bruised stem.

Something in Young Doc’s throat clicked, and every last trace of resentment and wounded pride magically dissolved. He went straight to her in the doorway, and for a moment they stood there as if forgetful of everyone else in the world. Neither spoke, as is the way of those whose minds and hearts are full of inarticulate things. Then it was Doc who broke the silence.

"By the way, Missy," he said in quite an ordinary tone, "there are some of those sugar pills in a bag out in the Ford. You’ll find them tucked in a corner of the seat."

Obediently Missy departed to get the treat. And when she returned, not too quickly, Miss Princess was laughing and crying both at once, and Young Doc was openly squeezing both her hands.

"Missy," he hailed, "run in and ask your mother if you can go for a ride. Needn’t mention Miss Princess is going along."

O, it is a wonderful world! Swiftly back at the trysting place with the necessary permission, tucked into the Ford between the two happy lovers, "away they did race until soon lost to view."

And exactly the same happy purpose as that in the Poem! For, halfway down the stretch of Boulevard, Miss Princess squeezed her hand and said:

"We’re going over to Somerville, darling, to be married, and you’re to be one of the witnesses."

Missy’s heart surged with delight—O, it was a wonderful world! Then a dart of remembrance came, and a big tear spilled out and ran down her cheek. Miss Princess, in the midst of a laugh, looked down and spied it.

"Why, darling, what is it?" she cried anxiously.

"My Pink Dress—I just happened to think of it. But it doesn’t really make any difference." However Missy’s eyes were wet and shining with an emotion she couldn’t quite control.

With eyes which were shining with many emotions, the man and girl, over her head, regarded each other. It was the man who spoke first, slowing down the car as he did so.

"Don’t you think we’d better run back to Miss Martin’s and get it?"

For answer, his sweetheart leaned across Missy and kissed him.

A fifteen minutes’ delay, and again the Ford was headed towards Somerville and the County Courthouse; but now an additional passenger, a big brown box, was hugged between Missy’s knees. In the County Courthouse she did not forget to guard this box tenderly all the time Young Doc and Miss Princess were scurrying around musty offices, interviewing important, shirt-sleeved men, and signing papers—not even when she herself was permitted to sign her name to an imposing document, "just for luck," as Doc laughingly said.

Then he bent his head to hear what Miss Princess wanted to whisper to him, and they both laughed some more; and then he said something to the shirtsleeved men, and they laughed; and then—O, it is a wonderful world!—Miss Princess took her into a dusty, paperlittered inner office, lifted the Pink Dress out of the box, dressed Missy up in it, fluffed out the "wave" in her front hair, and exclaimed that she was the loveliest little flower-girl in the whole world.

"Even without the flower-hat and the pink stockings?"

"Even without the flower-hat and the pink stockings," said Miss Princess with such assurance that Missy cast off doubt forever.

After the Wedding—and never in Romance was such a gay, laughing Wedding—when again they were all packed in the Ford, Missy gave a contented sigh.

"I kind of knew it," she confided. "For I dreamed it all, two nights running. Both times I had on the Pink Dress, and both times it was Doc. I’m so happy it’s Doc."

And over her head the other two looked in each other’s eyes.


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Chicago: Dana Gatlin, "Chapter II Your True Friend, Melissa M.," Missy, ed. Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926 in Missy (New York: George E. Wood, 1912), Original Sources, accessed June 8, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D98ISGU9BLPWLQS.

MLA: Gatlin, Dana. "Chapter II "Your True Friend, Melissa M."." Missy, edited by Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926, in Missy, Vol. 22, New York, George E. Wood, 1912, Original Sources. 8 Jun. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D98ISGU9BLPWLQS.

Harvard: Gatlin, D, 'Chapter II "Your True Friend, Melissa M."' in Missy, ed. . cited in 1912, Missy, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 8 June 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D98ISGU9BLPWLQS.