A Start in Life


"A Start in Life," a story by Ruth Suckow.

Please note: Ruth Suckow's writings remain in copyright. This story is presented here with the permission of her executor, Barbara Camamo. It may be downloaded and reproduced for nonprofit educational use only. Click for a finding aid to the Ruth Suckow Papersand further information.

The Switzers were scurrying around to get Daisy ready by the time that Elmer Kruse should get through in town. They had known all week that Elmer might be in for her any day. But they hadn’t done a thing until he appeared. “Oh, it was so rainy today, the roads were so muddy, they hadn’t thought he’d get in until maybe next week.” It would have been the same any other day.

Mrs. Switzer was trying now at the last moment to get all of Daisy’s things into the battered hold-all that lay open on the bed. The bed had not “got made”; and just as soon as Daisy was gone, Mrs. Switzer would have to hurry off to the Woodworths’ where she was to wash today. Daisy’s things were scattered over the dark brown quilt and the rumpled sheets that were dingy and clammy in this damp weather. So was the whole bedroom, with its sloping ceiling and old-fashioned square-paned windows, the commode that they used for a dresser, littered with pin-tray, curlers, broken comb, ribbons, smoky lamp, all mixed up together; the door of the closet open, showing the confusion of clothes and shabby shoes…. They all slept in this room – Mrs. Switzer and Dwight in the bed, the two girls in the cot against the wall.

“Mamma, I can’t find the belt to that plaid dress.”

“Oh, ain’t it somewheres around? Well, I guess you’ll have to let it go. If I come across it I can send it out to you. Someone’ll be going past there.”

She had meant to get Daisy all mended and “fixed up” before she went out to the country. But somehow . . . oh, there was always so much to see to when she came home.

Gone all day, washing and cleaning for other people; it didn’t leave her much time for her own house.

She was late now. The Woodworths liked to have her get the washing out early so that she could do some cleaning too before she left. But she couldn’t help it. She would have to get Daisy off first. She already had on her wraps ready to go, when Elmer came – her cleaning cap, of a blue faded almost into grey, and the ancient black coat with gathered sleeves that she wore over her work dress when she went out to wash.

“What’s become of all your underclothes? They ain’t all dirty, are they?”

“They are, too. You didn’t wash for us last week, mamma.”

“Well, you'll just have to take along what you’ve got. Maybe there’ll be some way of getting the rest to you.”

“EImers come in every week, don’t they?” Daisy demanded.

“Yes, but maybe they won’t always be bringing you in.”

She jammed what she could into the hold-all, thinking with her helpless, anxious fatalism that it would have to do somehow.

“Daisy, you get yourself ready now.”

“I am ready, mamma, I want to put on my other ribbon.”

“Oh, that’s way down in the hold-all somewhere. You needn’t be so anxious to fix yourself up. This ain’t like going visiting.

Daisy stood at the little mirror preening herself – such a homely child, “all Switzer,” skinny, with pale sharp eyes set close together and thin, stringy, reddish hair. But she had never really learned yet how homely she was. She was the oldest, and she got the pick of what clothes were given to the Switzers. Goldie and Dwight envied her. She was important in her small world. She was proud of her blue coat that had belonged to Alice Brooker, the town lawyer’s daughter. It hung unevenly about her bony knees, and the buttons came down too far. Her mother had tried to make it over for her.

Mrs. Switzer looked at her, troubled, but not knowing how she could tell her all the things she ought to be told. Daisy had never been away before except to go to her Uncle Fred’s at Lehigh. She seemed to think that this would be the same. She had so many things to learn. Well, she would find them out soon enough – only too soon. Working for other people – she would learn what that meant. Elmer and Edna Kruse were nice young people. They would mean well enough by Daisy. It was a good chance for her to start in. But it wasn’t the same.

Daisy was so proud. She thought it was quite a thing to be “starting to earn.” She thought she could buy herself so much with that dollar and a half a week. The other children stood back watching her, round-eyed and impressed. They wished that they were going away, like Daisy.

They heard a car come splashing through the mud on low.

“There he is back! Have you got your things on? Goldie – go out and tell him she’s coming.”

“No, me tell him!” Dwight shouted jealously.

“Well, both of you tell him. Land!...”

She tried hastily to put on the cover of the bulging hold-all and to fasten the straps. One of them broke.

“Well, you’ll have to take it the way it is.”

It was an old thing, hadn’t been used since her husband, Mert, had “left off canvassing” before he died. And he had worn it all to pieces.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to go now. He won’t want to wait. I’ll try and send you out what you ain’t got with you.” She turned to Daisy. Her face was working. There was nothing else to do, as everyone said. Daisy would have to help, and she might as well learn it now. Only, she hated to see Daisy go off, to have her starting in. She knew what it meant. “Well you try and work good this summer, so they’ll want you to stay. I hope they’ll bring you in sometimes.”

Daisy’s homely little face grew pale with awe, suddenly, at the sight of her mother crying, at something that she dimly sensed in the pressure of her mother’s thin strong arms. Her vanity in her new importance was somehow shamed and dampened.

Elmer’s big new Buick, mud-splashed but imposing, stood tilted on the uneven road. Mud was thick on the wheels. It was a bad day for driving, with the roads a yellow mass, water lying in all the wheel-ruts. This little road that led past these few houses on the outskirts of town, and up over the hill, had a cold rainy loneliness. Elmer sat in the front seat of the Buick, and in the back was a big box of groceries.

“Got room to sit in there?” he asked genially. “I didn’t get out, it’s so muddy here.”

“No, don’t get out,” Mrs. Switzer said hastily. “She can put this right on the floor there in the back.” She added, with a timid attempt at courtesy, “Ain’t the roads pretty bad out that way?”

“Yes, but farmers get so they don’t think so much about the roads.”

“I s’pose that’s so.”

He saw the signs of tears on Mrs. Switzer’s face, and they made him anxious to get away. She embraced Daisy hastily again. Daisy climbed over the grocery box and scrunched herself into the seat.

“I guess you’ll bring her in with you some time when you’re coming,” Mrs. Switzer hinted.

“Sure. We’ll bring her.”

He started the engine. It roared, half died down as the wheels of the car spun in the thick wet mud.

In that moment Daisy had a startled view of home – the small house standing on a rough rise of land, weathered to a dim color that showed dark streaks from the rain; the narrow sloping front porch whose edge had a soaked gnawed look; the chickens, greyish-black, pecking at the wet ground; their playthings, stones, a wagon, some old pail covers littered about; a soaked, discolored piece of underwear hanging on the line in the back yard. The yard was tussocky and overhung the road with shaggy long grass where the yellow bank was caved in under it. Goldie and Dwight were gazing at her solemnly. She saw her mother’s face – a thin, weak, loving face, drawn with neglected weeping, with its reddened eyes and poor teeth. . . in the old coat and heavy shoes and cleaning-cap, her work-worn hand with its big knuckles clutching at her coat. She saw the playthings they had used yesterday, and the old swing that hung from one of the trees, the ropes sodden, the seat in crooked. . . .

The car went off, slipping on the wet clay. She waved frantically, suddenly understanding that she was leaving them. They waved at her.

Mrs. Switzer stood there a little while. Then came the harsh rasp of the old black iron pump that stood out under the box-elder-tree. She was pumping water to leave for the children before she went off to work.

§ 2

Daisy held on as the car skidded going down the short clay hill. Elmer didn’t bother with chains. He was too used to the roads. But her eyes brightened with scared excitement. When they were down, and Elmer slowed up going along the tracks in the deep wet grass that led to the main road, she looked back, holding on her hat with her small scrawny hand.

Just down this little hill – and home was gone. The big car, the feel of her hold-all under her feet, the fact that she was going out to the country, changed the looks of everything. She saw it all now.

Dunkels’ house stood on one side of the road. A closed-up white house. The windows stared blank and cold between the old shutters. There was a chair with a broken straw seat under the fruit trees. The Dunkels were old Catholic people who seldom went anywhere. In the front yard was a clump of tall pines, the rough brown trunks wet, the green branches, dark and shining, heavy with rain, the ground underneath mournfully sodden and black.

The pasture on the other side. The green grass, lush, wet and cold, and the outcroppings of limestone that held little pools of rain-water in all the tiny holes. Beyond, the low hills gloomy with timber against the lowering sky.

They slid out on to the main road. They bumped over the small wooden bridge above the swollen creek that came from the pasture. Daisy looked down. She saw the little swirls of foam, the long grass that swished with the water, the old rusted tin cans lodged between the rocks.

She sat up straight and important, her thin, homely little face strained with excitement, her sharp eyes taking in everything. The watery mudholes in the road, the little thickets of plum-trees, low and wet, in the dark interlacings. She held on fiercely, but made no sound when the car skidded.

She felt the grandeur of having a ride. One wet Sunday, Mr. Brooker had driven them all home from church, she and Goldie and Dwight packed tightly into the back seat of the car, shut in by the side curtains, against which the rain lashed, catching the muddy scent of the roads. Sometimes they could plan to go to town just when Mr. Pattey was going to work in his Ford. Then they would run out and shout eagerly, “Mr Pattey! Are you going through town?” Sometimes he didn’t hear them. Sometimes he said, with curt good nature, “Well, pile in”; and they all hopped into the truck back. “He says we can go along with him.”

She looked at the black wet fields through which little leaves of bright green corn grew in rows, at showery bushes of sumac along the roadside. A gasoline engine pumping water made a loud desolate sound. There were somber-looking cattle in the wet grass, and lonely, thick-foliaged trees growing here and there in the pastures. She felt her hold-all on the floor of the car, the box of groceries beside her. She eyed these with a sharp curiosity. There was a fresh pineapple – something the Switzers didn’t often get at home. She wondered if Edna would have it for dinner. Maybe she could hint a little to Edna.

She was out in the country. She could no longer see her house even if she wanted to – standing dingy, streaked with rain, in its rough grass on the little hill. A lump came into her throat. She had looked forward to playing with Edna’s children. But Goldie and Dwight would play all morning without her. She was still proud of her being the oldest, of going out with Elmer and Edna; but now there was a forlornness in the pride.

She wished she were in the front seat with Elmer. She didn’t see why he hadn’t put her there. She would have liked to know who all the people were who lived on these farms; how old Elmer’s babies were; and if he and Edna always went to the movies when they went into town on Saturday nights. Elmer must have lots of money to buy a car like this. He had a new house on his farm, too, and Mrs. Metzinger had said that it had plumbing. Maybe they would take her to the movies, too. She might hint about that.

When she had gone to visit Uncle Fred, she had had to go on the train. She liked this better. She hoped they had a long way to go. She called out to Elmer:

"Say, how much farther is your place?”

"What’s that?” He turned around. “Oh, just down the road a ways. Scared to drive in the mud?”

"No, I ain’t scared. I like to drive most any way.”

She looked at Elmer’s back, the old felt hat crammed down, carelessly on his head, the back of his neck with the golden hair on the sunburned skin above the blue of his shirt collar. Strong and easy and slouched a little over the steering-wheel that he handled so masterfully. Elmer and Edna were just young folks; but Mrs. Metzinger said that they had more to start with than most young farmers did, and that they were hustlers. Daisy felt that the pride of this belonged to her too, now.

"Here we are!”

"Oh, is this where you folks live?” Daisy cried eagerly.

The house stood back from the road beyond a space of bare yard with a little scattering of grass just starting – small, modern, painted a bright new white and yellow. The barn was new, too, a big splendid barn of frescoed brick, with a silo of the same. There were no trees. A raw desolate wind blew across the back yard as they drove up beside the back door.

Edna had come out on the step. Elmer grinned at her as he took out the box of groceries, and she slightly raised her eyebrows. She said kindly enough:

"Well, you brought Daisy. Hello, Daisy, are you going to stay with us this summer?”

"I guess so,” Daisy said importantly. But she suddenly felt a little shy and forlorn as she got out of the car and stood on the bare ground in the chilly wind.

"Yes, I brought her along,” Elmer said.

"Are the roads very bad?”

"Kind of bad. Why?”

"Well, I’d like to get over to mamma’s some time today.”

"Oh, I guess they aren’t too bad for that.”

Daisy pricked up her sharp little ears. Another ride. That cheered her.

"Look in the door,” Edna said in a low fond voice, motioning with her head.

Two little round, blond heads were pressed tightly against the screen door. There was a clamor of “Daddy, daddy!” Elmer grinned with a half bashful pride as he stood with the box of groceries, raising his eyebrows with mock surprise and demanding: “Who’s this? What you shoutin’ 'daddy' for? You don’t think daddy’s got anything for you, do you?” He and Edna were going into the kitchen together, until Edna remembered and called back hastily:

"Oh, come in, Daisy!”

Daisy stood, a little left out and solitary, there in the kitchen, as Billy, the older of the babies, climbed frantically over Elmer, demanding candy, and the little one toddled smilingly about. Her eyes took in all of it. She was impressed by the shining blue-and-white linoleum, the range with its nickel and enamel, the bright new woodwork. Edna was laughing and scolding at Elmer and the baby. Billy had made his father produce the candy. Daisy’s sharp little eyes looked hungrily at the lemon drops until Edna remembered her.

"Give Daisy a piece of your candy,” she said.

He would not go up to Daisy. She had to come forward and take one of the lemon drops herself. She saw where Edna put the sack, in a dish high in the cupboard. She hoped they would get some more before long.

"My hold-all’s out there in the car,” she reminded them.

"Oh! Elmer, you go and get it and take it up for her,” Edna said.


"Her valise – or whatever it is – out in the car.”

"Oh, sure,” Elmer said with a cheerful grin.

"It’s kind of an old hold-all,” Daisy said conversationally. “I guess it’s been used a lot. My papa used to have it. The strap broke when mamma was fastening it this morning. We ain’t got any suit-case. I had to take this because it was all there was in the house, and mamma didn’t want to get me a new one.”

Edna raised her eyebrows politely. She leaned over and pretended to smack the baby as he came toddling up to her, then rubbed her cheek against his round head with its funny fuzz of hair.

Daisy watched solemnly. “I didn’t know both of your children was boys. I thought one of ‘em was a girl. That’s what there is at home now - one boy and one girl.”

"Um-hm,” Edna replied absently. “You can go up with Elmer and take off your things, Daisy,” she said. “You can stop and unpack your valise now, I guess, if you’d like to. Then you can come down and help me in the kitchen. You know we got you to help me,” she reminded.

Daisy, subdued, followed Elmer up the bright new stairs. In the upper hall, two strips of very clean rag rug were laid over the shining yellow of the floor. Elmer had put her hold-all in one of the bedrooms.

"There you are!”

She heard him go clattering down the stairs, and then a kind of murmuring and laughing in the kitchen. The back door slammed. She hurried to the window in time to see Elmer go striding off towards the barn.

She looked about her room with intense curiosity. It, too, had a bright varnished floor. She had a bed all of her own – a small, old-fashioned bed, left from some old furnishings, that had been put in this room that had the pipes and the hot-water tank. She had to see everything, but she had a stealthy look as she tiptoed about, started to open the drawers of the dresser, looked out of her window. She put her coat and hat on the bed. She would rather be down in the kitchen with Edna than unpack her hold-all now.

She guessed she would go down where the rest of them were.

§ 3

Elmer came into the house for dinner. He brought in a cold, muddy, outdoor breath with him. The range was going, but the bright little kitchen seemed chilly, with the white oilcloth on the table, the baby’s varnished high chair and his little fat, mottled hands.

Edna made a significant little face at Elmer. Daisy did not see. She was standing back from the stove, where Edna was at work, looking at the baby.

"He can talk pretty good, can”t he? Dwight couldn’t say anything but "mamma" when he was that little.”

Edna”s back was turned. She said meaningly:

"Now, Elmer’s come in to dinner, Daisy, we’ll have to hurry. You must help me get on the dinner. You can cut bread and get things on the table. You must help, you know. That’s what you are supposed to do.”

Daisy looked startled, a little scared and resentful. “Well, I don’t know where you keep your bread.”

"Don’t you remember where I told you to put it this morning? Right over in the cabinet, in that big box. You must watch, Daisy, and learn where things are.”

Elmer, a little embarrassed at the look that Edna gave him, whistled as he began to wash his hands at the sink.

"How’s daddy’s old boy?” he said loudly, giving a poke at the baby’s chin.

As Edna passed him, she shook her head, and her lips just formed: “Been like that all morning!”

He grinned comprehendingly. Then both their faces became expressionless.

Daisy had not exactly heard, but she looked from one to the other, silent and dimly wondering. The queer ache that had kept starting all through the morning, under her interest in Edna’s things and doings, came over her again. She sensed something different in the atmosphere than she had ever known before – some queer difference between the position of herself and of the two babies, a faint notion of what mamma had meant when she had said that this would not be visiting.

"I guess I’m going to have toothache again,” she said faintly.

No one seemed to hear her.

Edna whisked off the potatoes, drained the water. . . . “You might bring me a dish, Daisy.” Daisy searched a long time while Edna turned impatiently and pointed. Edna put the rest of the things on the table herself. Her young, fresh, capable mouth was tightly closed, and she was making certain resolutions.

Daisy stood hesitating in the middle of the room, a scrawny, unappealing little figure. Billy – fat, blond, in "funny, dark blue union-alls –was trotting busily about the kitchen. Daisy swooped down upon him and tried to bring him to the table. He set up a howl. Edna turned, looked astonished, severe.

"I was trying to make him come to the table,” Daisy explained weakly.

"You scared him. He isn’t used to you. He doesn’t like it. Don’t cry, Billy. The girl didn’t mean anything.”

"Here, daddy’ll put him in his place,” Elmer said hastily.

Billy looked over his father’s shoulder at Daisy with suffused, resentful blue eyes. She did not understand it, and felt strangely at a loss. She had been left with Goldie and Dwight so often. She had always made Dwight go to the table. She had been the boss.

Edna said in a cool, held-in voice, “Put these things on the table, Daisy.”

They sat down. Daisy and the other children had always felt it a great treat to eat away from home instead of at their scanty, hastily set table. They had hung around Mrs. Metzinger’s house at noon, hoping to be asked to stay, not offended when told that “it was time for them to run off now.” Her pinched little face had a hungry look as she stared at potatoes and fried ham and pie. But they did not watch and urge her to have more, as Mrs. Metzinger did, and Mrs. Brooker when she took pity on the Switzers and had them there. Daisy wanted more pie. But none of them seemed to be taking more, and so she said nothing. She remembered what her mother had said, with now a faint comprehension: “You must remember you’re out working for other folks, and it won’t be like it is at home.”

After dinner, Edna said: “Now you can wash the dishes, Daisy.”

She went into the next room with the children. Daisy, as she went hesitatingly about the kitchen alone, could hear Edna’s low contented humming as she sat in there rocking, the baby in her lap. The bright kitchen was empty and lonely now. Through the window, Daisy could see the great barn looming up against the rainy sky. She hoped that they would drive to Edna’s mother’s soon.

She finished as soon as she could, and went into the diningroom, where Edna was sewing on the baby’s rompers. Edna went on sewing. Daisy sat down disconsolately. That queer low ache went all through her. She said in a small dismal voice:

"I guess I got the toothache again.”

Edna bit off a thread.

"I had it awful hard a while ago. Mamma come pretty near taking me to the dentist.”

"That’s too bad,” Edna murmured politely. But she offered no other condolence. She gave a secret little smile at the baby asleep on a blanket and a pillow in one corner of the shiny leather davenport.

"Is Elmer going to drive into town tomorrow?”

"Tomorrow? I don’t suppose so.”

"Mamma couldn’t find the belt of my plaid dress and I thought if he was, maybe I could go along and get it. I’d like to have it.”

Daisy’s homely mouth drooped at the corners. Her toothache did not seem to matter to anyone. Edna did not seem to want to see that anything was wrong with her. She had expected Edna to be concerned, to mention remedies. But it wasn’t toothache, that strange lonesome ache all over her. Maybe she was going to be terribly sick. Mamma wouldn’t come home for supper to be told about it.

She saw mamma’s face as in that last glimpse of it – drawn with crying, and yet trying to smile, under the old cleaningcap, her hand holding her coat together. . . .

Edna glanced quickly at her. The child was so mortally unattractive, unappealing even in her forlornness. Edna frowned a little, but said kindly:

"Now you might take Billy into the kitchen out of my way, Daisy, and amuse him.”

"Well, he cries when I pick him up,” Daisy said faintly.

"He won’t cry this time. Take him out and help him play with his blocks. You must help me with the children, you know.”

"Well, if he’ll go with me.”

"He’ll go with you, won’t he, Billy boy? Won’t you go with Daisy, sweetheart?”

Billy stared and then nodded. Daisy felt a thrill of comfort as Billy put his little fat hand in hers and trotted into the kitchen beside her. He had the fattest hands, she thought. Edna brought the blocks and put the box down on the floor beside Daisy.

"Now, see if you can amuse him so that I can get my sewing done.”

"Shall you and me play blocks, Billy?” Daisy murmured.

He nodded. Then he got hold of the box with one hand, tipped out all the blocks on the floor with a bang and a rattle, and looked at her with a pleased proud smile.

"Oh, no, Billy. You mustn’t spill out the blocks. Look, you’re too little to play with them. No, now – now wait! Let Daisy show you. Daisy’ll build something real nice – shall she?”

He gave a solemn nod of consent.

Daisy set out the blocks on the bright linoleum. She had never had such blocks as these to handle before. Dwight’s were only a few old, unmatched, broken ones. Her spirit of leadership came back, and she firmly put away that fat hand of Billy’s whenever he meddled with her building. She could make something really wonderful with these blocks.

"No, Billy, you mustn’t. See, when Daisy’s got it all done, then you can see what the lovely building is.”

She put the blocks together with great interest. She knew what she was going to make – it was going to be a new house; no, a new church. Just as she got the walls up, in came that little hand again, and then with a delighted grunt Billy swept the blocks pell-mell about the floor. At the clatter, he sat back, pursing up his mouth to give an ecstatic "Ooh!”

"Oh, Billy – you mustn’t, the building wasn’t done! Look, you’ve spoiled it. Now you’ve got to sit way off here while I try to build it over again.”

Billy’s look of triumph turned to surprise and then to vociferous protest as Daisy picked him up and firmly transplanted him to another corner of the room. He set up a tremendous howl. He had never been set aside like that before. Edna came hurrying out. Daisy looked at Edna for justification, but instinctively on the defensive.

"Billy knocked over the blocks. He spoiled the building.”

"Wah! Wah!” Billy gave loud heart-broken sobs. The tears ran down his fat cheeks and he held out his arms piteously toward his mother.

"I didn’t hurt him,” Daisy said, scared.

"Never mind, lover,” Edna was crooning. “Of course he can play with his blocks. They’re Billy’s blocks, Daisy,” she said. “He doesn’t like to sit and see you put up buildings. He wants to play too. See, you’ve made him cry now.”

"Do’ wanna stay here,” Billy wailed.

"Well, come in with mother then.” She picked him up, wiping his tears.

"I didn’t hurt him,” Daisy protested.

"Well, never mind now. You can pick up the blocks and then sweep the floor, Daisy. You didn’t do that when you finished the dishes. Never mind,” she was saying to Billy. “Pretty soon daddy’ll come in and we’ll have a nice ride.”

Daisy soberly picked up the blocks and got the broom. What had she done to Billy? He had tried to spoil her building. She always made Dwight keep back until she had finished. Of course it was Daisy, the oldest, who should lead and manage. There had been no one to hear her side. Everything was different. She winked back tears as she swept, poorly and carelessly.

Then she brightened up as Elmer came tramping up on the back porch and then through the kitchen.


"She’s in there,” Daisy offered.

"Want to go now? What! Is the baby asleep?” he asked blankly,

Edna gave him a warning look and the door was closed. Daisy listened hard. She swept very softly. She could catch only a little of what they said – “Kind of hate to go off . . . I know, but if we once start . . . not a thing all day . . . what we got her for. . .” She had no real comprehension of it. She hurried and put away the broom. She wanted to be sure and be ready to go.

Elmer tramped out, straight past her. She saw from the window that he was backing the car out from the shed. She could hear Edna and Billy upstairs, could hear the baby cry a little as he was wakened. Maybe she ought to go out and get on her wraps, too.

Elmer honked the horn. A moment later Edna came hurrying downstairs, in her hat and coat, and Billy in a knitted cap and a red sweater crammed over his union-alls, so that he looked like a little Brownie. The baby had his little coat, too.

Edna called out: “Come in and get this boy, daddy.” She did not look at Daisy, but said hurriedly: “We’re going for a little ride, Daisy. Have you finished the sweeping? Well, then, you can pick up those pieces in the dining-room. We won’t be gone so very long. When it’s a quarter-past five, you start the fire, like I showed you this noon, and slice the potatoes that were left, and the meat. And set the table.”

The horn was honked again.

"Yes! Well, we’ll be back, Daisy. Come, lover, daddy’s in a hurry.”

Daisy stood looking after them. Billy clamored to sit beside his daddy. Edna took the baby from Elmer and put him beside her on the back seat. There was room – half of the big back seat. There wasn’t anything, really, to be done at home. That was the worst of it. They just didn’t want to take her. They all belonged together. They didn’t want to take anyone else along. She was an outsider. They all – even the baby – had a freshened look of expectancy.

The engine roared – they had started; slipping on the mud of the drive, then forging straight ahead, around the turn, out of sight.

§ 4

She went forlornly into the dining-room. The light from the windows was dim now in the rainy, late afternoon. The pink pieces from the baby’s rompers were scattered over the gay rug. She got down on her hands and knees, slowly picking them up, sniffing a little. She heard the Big Ben clock in the kitchen ticking loudly.

That dreadful ache submerged her. No one would ask about it, no one would try to comfort her. Before, there had always been mamma coming home, anxious, scolding sometimes, but worried over them if they didn’t feel right, caring about them. Mamma and Goldie and Dwight cared about her – but she was away out in the country, and they were at home. She didn’t want to stay here, where she didn’t belong. But mamma had told her that she must begin helping this summer.

Her ugly little mouth contorted into a grimace of weeping. But silent weeping, without any tears; because she already had the cold knowledge that no one would notice or comfort.

Last updated April 18, 2021