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we admit that it is an honest working hypothesis to say:—we all mean well. Of course, it is a poor little cheap phrase, but what a pathetic truth it tells of all of us!—the truth of effort and of failure; and that is the summing up of human nature— for without effort we should be animals, and without failure we should be gods. Effort means an ideal; and failure means achievement—to a degree. Yes; we mean well. . . . The woman who does not keep her brasses clean would undoubtedly like to see them shining, if only she could afford to employ a parlor maid. The silly person who wears a fine coat and ragged shoes has a keener feeling for what is pretty than what is necessary. Oh, of course she is a great fool;-but if you stop to think of it, it is very pathetic to be a fool! If, by imagination, the pathos of foolishness once strikes us, we shall not want to throw the witty pebble that is all ready between our fingers. An uneasy consciousness will grow in our minds that we are not always overwise ourselves. How it would cut and hurt to have somebody (as clever as ourselves) show up our silliness with an aphorism, or our folly in a neatly turned phrase! And it could be done. We could do it ourselves if the folly was not our own: just think of the things we have done and said “which make the midnight pillow burn with shame”!—just silly things, not bad;—think of the blunders in our housekeeping, which we really wanted to improve; of our well-meant, clumsy truth-telling to a friend; think of
our gushing confidences (which our husbands call “slopping over *), that seemed just real friendship, but that we so deeply regret the next day; think of our petty efforts at economy, prompted by some painful anxiety that nobody knows anything about. How hard we tried 1–we did mean to do the best we could; it was not meanness that made us go and look into the refrigerator to see that that cold potato had not been thrown away, it was just a worried sense of responsibility; no doubt our way of doing it, “snooping about after the servants had gone to bed” (that was the way the stone-throwers expressed it) —no doubt our method was rather foolish; but we did want to do what was right. . . . Yes; Heaven send that no friend with a pocketful of pebbles be tempted by the shine and glimmer of our glass houses;–for, indeed, we meant well! . Here it is—the knowledge in which imagination must take root, if stone-throwing is ever to go out of fashion and the world become a pleasant place to live in, namely, that 'most everybody else means well, too. The creed of the imaginative and kindly heart, which will not throw stones, is brief:
There is so much good in the worst of us,
unless we can do it with truth and sympathy; in other words, with Imagination!
HE new girl at school had curls—golden curls, so long that they actually touched the desk, where Ruth sat. Ruth sat and looked at the - curls. She did not want to take them from the new girl. But despair filled her heart. The world seemed dark. What is there left to do when other people have such curls?—golden curls like little girls in heaven. Ruth had a braid just long enough to bob when she skipped and the ends of her hair stuck out all over. Oh, why should some people have curls, and others never, never as long as they lived : The new girl had a lovely name, too—Alice. Her clothes were funny, though. They were all of one color. Ruth's waist was red,
because her mother had made it from her
own last year's best dress, and her skirt was black, because her grandmother always wore black. Ruth was proud because her clothes were always made out of best dresses. In the cloak-room Ruth could see the new girl’s hat and coat. They were the same color, too. They looked like best clothes. What did it mean? Did Alice's mother let her wear them for every-day?
At recess all the little girls, except the new girl, drew together to whisper. Ruth was rising slowly from her seat, her eyes lingering on the curls which actually touched her desk, when she saw Lucy Stone glance at the new girl. Then Lucy giggled — out loud. Ruth sat down again. Her fists doubled up. She would never speak to Lucy Stone again. After school Ruth lingered, wondering why Alice stayed in her seat. The others were all going. Was she afraid Lucy Stone would laugh at her again? “You’d better hurry,” Ruth said to her. “They’ll shut up school, and then you’ll be shut in and starve to death.” Alice did not move. She bent her head to hide the tears in her eyes. She did not dare speak. She knew her nurse was waiting outside for her. She didn’t want those little girls to see her. She had learned in school that morning that she was too big for a Inurse. Hours seemed to pass. “There's a strange lady at the gate,” Ruth said, looking out of the window. “Maybe she'll come in and whip you if you don’t go.” “I won't go home with her. I won't!”
Ruth caught her breath. “Who is it?” she whispered, in a tremor, putting her arms around Alice. “It’s my nurse.” Ruth looked at Alice with open eyes. She had heard the word, but she did not understand it. She peeped through the window. The lady was dressed all in black. All in black, from head to foot. “I’ll show you another way out,” she whispered, tiptoeing back to Alice. They crept down the broad stair, threaded their way through the halls, and slipped through the back door. “Now run, run like lightning,” whispered Ruth. When they at last stopped to take breath Alice told Ruth that she was staying with her aunt. “Where's your mother? In heaven?” “She’s abroad.” Ruth's thoughts examined this second word. So much it meant, anyway—Alice's mother wasn’t here. “Who does your curls?” she demanded, suddenly, imperatively, with the right one has to ask a new girl. “My nurse,” answered Alice, meekly. “Who washes your ears, Sundays?”
Experiments sometimes have an almost personal interest.
“When your mother's there *
“Nurse gives me a bath every morning. The doctor says no child can be healthy without one.” “Every day!” There was a pause heavy with wonder. “Who hears your prayers when your mother's a–a broad 7" “Oh, my nurse does that, anyway.” “When your mother's there? When she's there?” Ruth's thoughts groped like little searching hands in the dark. Her mind was crowded with things a mother does. She understood a mother sewing your clothes, or singing to you (or spanking you),
== or telling you to do things, or hear
ing your lessons, or tucking you in.
And she understood a mother's being just a presence like that of the apple-blossom tree which did not speak, but shut you in and yet left you a lovely place to play in and showed little patches of blue sky between its branches.
What was a mother a broad?
What was a nurse?
Ruth turned to Alice with a sudden thought. Perhaps a nurse was a mother, too.
“Would your nurse give you a penny, if you asked ”
“No, she mustn't do that.”
has one and you haven’t been bad.
No. Wicked little girls did not have curls. They were much more likely to have a braid just long enough to bob. Ruth, pondering as she went home, knew that. She remembered what she had done yesterday. “Ask your aunt for a penny,” Ruth commanded Alice the next day. (Direct experiments sometimes help.) Alice's aunt did not have a penny. Alice turned over and over the quarter she had given her. She was sure it was not right. She was sure Ruth had said a penny. Her uncle did not have a penny. But the cook did, and holding it tight, Alice ran to school. Ruth was waiting before the fancy-store window. (Experiments sometimes have an almost personal interest.)
Standing before the window, they examined carefully the things for five cents— bedsteads and cradles and lovely pictures in gold frames. Then the things for two cents (mere dallying this, as you turn a piece of candy round and round before deciding on which side to bite).
“There’s a cradle for a penny,” said Ruth at last. “But we haven’t any little doll. And there's a little doll, but then we haven’t any cradle. We might buy the doll, and then some day we'd have another penny and then we’d buy the cradle.”
Alice looked on, in silence. If she spoke she might say the wrong thing.
“Or we might get the cradle and buy the doll next time you had a penny. . . . You can get eight marbles for a cent if you were boys,” said Ruth, meditatively, after a pause (not that it ever occurred to her to get marbles, but it is pleasant to think of all you can get).
“It’s too bad there ain’t any irons here now,” said Ruth, in a tone of condescending pity. “But then they cost five cents. There used to be stoves, too.” There was a look of rapture on her little brown face. She remembered about getting one once. “They were ten cents!”