Mairuna (ca. early 1922)


Part 1: Kittens
Chapter 1: The Birth in the Barn

Mairuna, a girl of eleven, lived in a little stone house, trained all over with vines and flowers, with only her father and her old blind grandmother. Grandmother had not been blind always but still she had learned to do many fascinating things. She earned a few cents a day by making reed baskets and Mairuna loved to see her weave the reeds with amazing rapidity for even one who was not blind. Grandmother had traveled a lot when she had been young and she told little Mairuna fascinating stories of the things she had seen in France, Greece, Italy, India, Japan, and even Australia. She enchanted Mairuna by telling her about the deep sea diving for pearls and wonderful things off Australia, and Mairuna had determined to go there and see for herself. Her father was very busy and so she was left to herself a good deal of the time. One of her greatest pleasures was to slip away into the small barn in which were two handsome horses, one of which was her own, begin by giving her some little pieces of corn or an apple or two, and then mounting up a small step-ladder which led to the hay-loft, then slipping away in a passage which led to a windowless, dark, close, crowded storeroom. For hours at a time she would explore among the dusty old furniture, sometimes discovering strange old jewels or old coins, one of which had been coined in Joan of Arc’s time. It had a hole in the centre and Mairuna wore it around her neck, for Joan was her favorite heroine. Once, when she had been in the storeroom, and emerged very dusty and sooty, she had sat in the hay-loft and listened to the stamping of the horses down below. Suddenly she realized that Starre, her horse, had not been taken out that day and, running down hastily, she washed herself up a bit, told the grandmother that she was going out to meet her father, Mr. Vendras, and saddled and bridled Starre.

Starre was a very amiable horse indeed, she never bit or kicked, and she loved her little mistress, Mairuna. Then Mairuna led her out on the little gravel road bordered with flowers, mounted her, and shouted “goodbye.” Then she said: “Go on, Starre,” and they were off.

Her father worked at a large office on Beacon Street; Mairuna knew the place very well. It was just half a mile from the house. Mairuna reached the office, asked for her father, and the answer caused her a terrible shock. “He left an hour ago.”

“Left an hour ago? What could it mean?” thought Mairuna. Of course if he had left an hour ago he would be home by this time, for certainly it would not take an hour for a strong, healthy man to walk half a mile. She shuddered. Suddenly her colour returned to her pale face. Why had she not thought of it before? He himself had said that he was out of paper and a few other articles he needed for his work, and the store where he got them was five miles away, in the center of the city. She knew where it was, too. So she decided to go and see if he was there. So away Starre and Mairuna trotted at a brisk, beautiful pace. She finally reached the store, and, when she inquired here, this answer too caused her a shock. “He is very sick, we are just about to send for a doctor,” said the kind man that she knew.

“Let me go on my horse,” she said. “Starre is not strong enough to bear a full-grown person, and with me he goes very fast indeed.”

“All right,” said the kind-hearted gentleman.

So off Mairuna and Starre galloped for the nearest doctor. Happily, Dr. Fisher was the family doctor.

“Well, my girl,” said he, when he had heard her story, “we will get there as fast as possible.”

“Yes, sir,” said Mairuna. “My horse cannot carry you, but come with all speed in your auto, and I will follow with her.”

This plan was agreed on and Mairuna got to the house on Starre five minutes behind the car. Starre was all out of breath, and so Mairuna left him at the kind-hearted man’s house, which was next to the store. There he had a drink and some hay and Mairuna led him forth from the stable greatly revived.

“And now, little girl,” said the doctor, “your papa must go to the hospital immediately. I will take him in my own car.”

Mairuna blushed bright as a rose. “Oh, sir,” she said, quietly, “you are so kind. God help you make him well. I must go home now or grandmother will worry. So goodbye.”

She and Starre galloped home, Mairuna thinking sadly: “Oh, if Daddy dies what shall I do?” She put Starre in her stall, but took no pleasure in it, as she usually did. She meant to go to her grandmother, tell her her story, then hear some of grandmother’s stories, and try to forget her own. Starre was put safely away, and just as Mairuna was about to open a small door which opened into the house she caught sight of her beautiful big yellow cat, Golden-fur, creeping softly towards the ladder which led to the hay-loft, as if she didn’t want to be heard or seen. When she saw that Mairuna saw her she turned and spit at her, then turned away shame-facedly and walked in the opposite direction of the hay-loft, as if she had never in the world intended to go there. Mairuna went in and told her grandmother her story as she had first intended, but finished up with “the mystery of the cat,” as she said.

“Well,” said grandmother “I think I know, but I’m not going to tell you, but I advise to search the hay-loft thoroughly. It’s just the place for what I think it is.”

So Mairuna, thoroughly mystified, searched the loft the next day. After an hour of hunting she thought she heard a faint rustling in the hay. And out marched Golden-fur carrying a kitten, six inches long, just like Golden-fur herself. Back she went, this time bringing out a sleek black kitten a very little longer, all black except for one little white spot just below its neck. Twice more she went and came the first time bringing a snow-white kitten, and the second a pearly-grey one. They were the dearest little things Mairuna had ever seen. Her favorites were the grey and the black. The black one she named Amber-eyes, the grey one Pearl, the white one Snow, and the yellow one Amber. For two hours she played with them (at least, she sat and watched them, for they were too young to play) and at the end of that time she took Amber-eyes and Pearl to her grandmother.

“Well,” she said when she felt one of the soft, comforting bundles put into her lap, “so your hunt was successful.”

“Yes,” said Mairuna, “it was, very.”

And then the old grandmother asked her to describe them to her, and this Mairuna did so skillfully that the grandmother said she could almost see them.

“But,” said she, after Mairuna had finished, “you must put them back with the others now, for the mother will worry.” But at that very moment in marched Golden-fur, indignantly seized Pearl by the neck, and took her away. In a few moments she returned and took Amber-eyes, undoubtedly to the hay-loft.

Chapter 2: A Good Ride

One day, when Mairuna got down to the barn, she had a bright idea. Why not take the two horses, her own Starre and Snow-white, who was pure white, and go for a little ride in the country with the doctor’s little girl Katherine, who was ten to Mairuna’s eleven? With that idea in her head she harnessed up Snow-white and Starre, hitched them together, and away they went. After a little while she reached the doctor’s house, knocked on the door, and waited, leaving the two horses hitched to a nearby tree.

It was quite a while before the door opened and when it was it was a very cross-looking man that looked out.

“What do you mean,” he cried fiercely, “by disturbing my pleasant nap?”

“I didn’t know,” said Mairuna. “Is—is the doctor in?”

“No,” he said, “an’ I’m glad he isn’t. He would be disgusted.”

“Well—“ began Mairuna. But he shut the door abruptly in her face.

In a few moments it was opened again and the same man looked out.

“What do you mean?” he cried, as he had before.

“B-b-by wh-what,” stammered poor Mairuna.

“By hangin’ ‘round here impudently,” he replied, still very fiercely.

“If—if the doctor isn’t in, is Katherine?” ventured Mairuna again.

Katherine herself interrupted.

“Oh yes,” she said, “here I am.” Then in a quite different tone, as she recognized Mairuna: “Oh, Mairuna, is that you?”

“Yes,” said Mairuna, “it’s I.”

“Oh,” gasped Katherine, “I’m so glad to see you!”

“I thought perhaps we could go on my two horses into the country for a little ride.”

“Oh,” said Katherine again, and then stopped. She couldn’t think of the right words. “Did you bring the other horse all the way over here, just for me?”

Mairuna laughed.

“It wasn’t any trouble,” she said. “I just hitched them together and so came. Listen, couldn’t you scribble a note to the doctor or telephone or something and tell him that you’re going?”

So that was what they agreed to do and the doctor, who was at the hospital, hastily consented.

After they had made necessary preparations and packed a small lunch, they mounted, Mairuna on Starre and Katherine on Snow-white. Then they were off, headed for the seashore. They stopped very often at a fountain to give the horses water, and once they turned in at the pasture of a friend of Katherine where they let them feed about fifteen minutes. After about half an hour they reached the shore and there they hitched the horses and dabbled in the clear, golden sand where they found any number of odd, beautiful shells which they put into a little bag Katherine had brought for the purpose. For almost an hour they dabbled there in the sand, then they agreed it was time to eat. So they unpacked their little lunch and the hard-boiled eggs, deviled egg and meat sandwiches with little date cup-cakes with white frosting tasted mighty good.  When they had finished they packed their rubbish and one remaining sandwich neatly away back in the lunch-box. Then they mounted the horses again, and they, being given a good rest, were very jubilant as a result. As they trotted along side by side Mairuna told about the kitten-hunt and ended by inviting Katherine to her house to see them, but to take one of her old dresses in case they wanted to visit the grimy little storeroom.

Many people looked at the handsome little caravan as they rode on, and they certainly were worth looking at. Two little girls both mounted on very handsome, well-groomed ponies usually does attract attention.

Katherine agreed to come and see the kittens, as Mairuna had suggested a short time before. So, on the way, they stopped at the house of the doctor’s, left their lunch-box, and took one of Katherine’s old dresses; then, remounting, they rode to Mairuna’s house, there to spend many a happy hour.

Chapter 3: Joy in the Barn

The first thing they did was to feed the horses with hay, some corn, and some apples, with a pail of water, and then, after they were put away, they put on their old dresses and climbed up into the hay-loft.

There they sat in the hay and they covered themselves all over with it. Pearl, Amber-eyes, Amber, and Snow were happily playing around. Katherine was much taken with Amber.

“You know,” Mairuna said, finally, “if you love Amber so I will give her to you, and put her under the care of the old Mother-cat.”

“Oh,” Katherine gasped, “oh, you can’t, you don’t love me as much as that, you are mocking me.” (She thought of many things to say, but none of them came out well enough.)

“Of course I’m not mocking you,” said Mairuna indignantly. “Well,” she said, abruptly changing the subject, “the kitten is yours. Suppose you stay here and play with them and I will go down and get a piece of paper and a string to see if they will play with it.” To which Katherine agreed cheerfully, and played quietly with Amber. Amber-eyes, Snow, and Pearl played together. Amber-eyes had an exceptionally long piece of hay and he was chewing it while Pearl tried to get it away from him. She would seize at it, he would run from her, and in doing so it would trip him up, and he would roll over and over, leaving the straw of hay to Pearl. Then he would get it away from her again.

Presently Mairuna returned with a piece of string and a little ball of paper attached to the end. This they drew across the floor. Amber-eyes was the first to tackle it. He rushed up from behind, sprung on it with all his force, and, when it was dragged out of his grasp he rushed at it again. Pearl readily followed suit. Mairuna dropped it. Pearl seized it immediately and rushed around with it so that the other kittens couldn’t get it. Little Amber was a little frightened, but occasionally he made little darts at it. “Get it, Amby, get it!” said Katherine.

At last they all got tired of the game, especially the kittens, who cuddled down close to Golden-fur who had now arrived on the scene. So they decided to go into the little storeroom with a flashlight and see what they could find. This time an old trunk with a dusty key in the lock attracted all four eyes. The key turned very hard, for the lock was rather rusty, but, at last, after fifteen minutes of patient trying they managed to turn it. And what was in the trunk was certainly worth the labour. For there were funny, ancient costumes, beautiful beads of brown and silver, and some beautiful gauze dresses, one of which was bright rose, made in the form of a big beautiful bow, shaped for the body in the middle. There was with the dress a wreath of artificial rose-buds with pink beads on the wonderful velvet of the flowers. This dress was wonderful with Mairuna’s black glossy hair and bright black-brown eyes. Another dress, which Katherine was crazy about, was a beautiful brown colour with some glittering amber beads, big and little on it, and a few bows of brown velvet. Mairuna found, to her intense delight, a little plain silver watch with a black velvet wrist ribbon. This watch was in a little brown leather bag and, best of all, they heard when it was wound a faint ticking, like that of a cricket. So they set it and clasped it around Mairuna’s wrist. They also found in a little box a plain gold ring on the inner edge of which was engraved something which could not be made out and ‘1651.’ They continued their search but found nothing more except old dresses, except a tiny goblet on which was engraved:

Sabrina Medici Vendras
In the Year

Chapter 4: Unexpected

To Katherine’s intense delight the kitten, Amber, was taken home and put under the care of the old Mother-cat, and Katherine was given the brown dress that they had found and she had liked so much.

When she went home at last Mairuna went in to Grandmother, and told her for an hour or more about the wonderful things that had happened that day. And then they had supper and went to bed early.

The next morning after breakfast Mairuna said: “Now grandmother, I really must go and see how Father is. If he is better, I can never repay the doctor. Even if he isn’t, the doctor is so, so kind.”

“All right, honey, goodbye,” replied Grandmother.

Mairuna went down to the barn, fed the horses, mounted Starre, and was off. For almost a mile they cantered very fast, and then settled down into a lagging trot. After Starre had rested a minute Mairuna said: “Go on, Starre,” and they broke into another canter, slightly slower than before. After quite a while they reached the doctor’s house. Katherine opened the door and Mairuna enquired for the doctor.

“He is at the hospital,” replied Katherine.

“Well, dear,” said Mairuna, “I mustn’t stop to play, I really mustn’t, so goodbye. I must go to him immediately.”

“Mairuna,” said Katherine, “listen, I’m going with you. Papa bought me a pony because I told him I loved Snow-white so much.”

“Oh, how wonderful,” breathed Mairuna. “I know exactly how it is when one first has a pony—I felt as if—as if—oh, I don’t know what, when Father bought Starre. You see, Starre is only four years old and Snow-white is seven. When Starre was bought I began to ride, so, you see, I hadn’t ridden on Snow-white at all before we had Starre. That’s why I love Starre so much more. Snow-white was Mother’s pony—she had a beautiful harness for her, but we lost it.”

“Yes, yes,” said Katherine, “I want to show you Breena. You must harness her for me though, for I haven’t had her but last evening, so I haven’t learned how yet.”

So they went into the barn and Katherine showed off Breena, a not especially handsome specimen of an eight-year-old horse, of a brown colour, badly groomed, with a good many scars on its skin, and a dirty, smudged, irregular white spot on its forehead.

“Oh,” said Katherine, when Breena was harnessed with amazing rapidity with Mairuna’s nimble little fingers, “up to this time I have thought Breena was handsome, but oh, she is ugly in comparison with Starre!” She certainly was. There was no doubt about that.

Mairuna was embarrassed. She knew that it was a lie to say that Breena was handsome, but she didn’t want to hurt Katherine’s feelings by saying that she was not.

“Well,” she admitted sheepishly, “perhaps the man you bought her off didn’t take good care of his horses, for I think maybe if you washed her up, and trimmed that mane and tail of hers, she would be more handsome.”

Well it was agreed that Mairuna was to stay at Katherine’s house and wash up Breena after she had been to the hospital to see the doctor about her father. So off they went together, and when they got there they hitched up the horses outside the door and went in. Dr. Fisher was just going out and he met them in the hall. Mairuna enquired with her heart thumping wildly. Dr. Fisher held her close as he said:

“Your poor dear father is much worse. We think that he has not an hour to live, and—”

But Mairuna tore herself loose, shut the door with a pretty hard bang, unhitched Starre, and said not a word to Katherine. But before she had even mounted Starre she turned to Katherine and said: “Oh, I am ashamed. I was thinking. Come now, you ride Starre and I will ride Breena.”

So this was agreed on, but Mairuna shuddered to touch Breena, much more to let a person that owns such a horse as Breena touch Starre. But before they had gone a pace Starre turned to Mairuna and looked at her so sadly that it went to the girl’s very heart. And so they changed without another word. Mairuna noticed the ugly lopping pace of poor Breena, while Starre trotted along as prettily as anything.

When they got to Katherine’s house they washed up poor ugly Breena, but even when she was washed she was still ugly in comparison to dainty little Starre. Katherine was quite delighted, thanked Mairuna cordially, and said she thought that Breena now was almost as handsome as Starre. Mairuna invited her to take one of her old dresses again and ride over to Mairuna’s house and explore among the old furniture again or play in the hay-loft. She said that she would be delighted to and she thought she could stay all day for dinner and supper. When they asked the doctor they found, to their intense delight, that Katherine could, but it was more to Katherine’s delight than Mairuna’s because all the time a sad thought kept pulling at her heart, that — but she tried to think of something else.

Chapter 5: More Joy in the Barn

They rode to Mairuna’s house galloping almost all the way, and there they put the horses up, letting Breena occupy an old stall which was not occupied at the present. When this was done they went immediately up into the hay-loft. The two kittens were playing there very happily, for they were now in the most playful stage almost. Pearl had the same old piece of paper and string that they had played with the day before and Amber-eyes was growling threateningly to get it away from her. “Good for you, Pearly, my love,” said Mairuna, for Pearl was her favorite kitten. For an hour and a half they played there in the loft, covering themselves with mounds of hay and drawing the kittens into the mounds with them. Every time Mairuna said: “Well, shall we go into the storeroom now?” Katherine would say: “No, not quite yet,” and several times it happened the other way. Finally they decided to mount Starre and Snow-white and lead Breena down the long meadow in back of the house, let the horses play and feed in the long grass, and they, themselves, go down to the little river, six feet across, and play there in the sand. So this they did and the horses fed and browsed very quietly while the two delighted children played there almost two hours. Before they knew it it was dinner-time, for Mairuna happened to glance at her little watch that she had found the day before, and it was half-past one. So in they went, and they made the old grandmother very happy indeed by telling her all about the good times they had had together.

Right after dinner they went up into the loft again and this time they did go into the little storeroom. They found a little crumpled book written in some strange tongue that they couldn’t make a word out of. They also found a little trunk which was unlocked and when they opened it they found more beautiful costumes like those they had found before. There was one dress with a golden skirt of gold gauze stiffly starched with a black velvet boddice. And another dress had a skirt about the same with a tight waist of the same colour and material, with a little black velvet ribbon at the neck. It had golden slippers and a wreath to match and they were all of the same colour and material. This dress fitted Mairuna exactly, and it was wonderful with her black hair and eyes.

They found rich heaps of wonderful soft green, white, golden, and purple gauze. “Oh,” said Mairuna, finally, “I have an idea.”

“What,” said Katherine expectantly, “what idea have you?”

“Well, I was thinking,” began Mairuna, “that if we could hang a lantern from this old bent nail in the ceiling and swept out the room, or moved some of the old furniture into another storeroom we have, and put a carpet down, we could—”

“Yes, yes,” cried Katherine, “we could fix it all up and—”

“And—and—” interrupted Mairuna.

“And make it our playroom and a secret, and dress up here, and—”

“And pretend we were all sorts of things—anything that would go with the costumes, you know.”

“Oh, yes, wouldn’t it be fun?” And in their glee the two girls hugged each other and spun round and round.

“And oh,” said Mairuna, “you know that old blue velvet rug we found once—”

“Yes,” replied Katherine rapturously, “I believe it would just fit the floor, and—and—”

“We could hang some of those old couch covers up on the walls; it would be a real, not pretend, fairy palace. They have queens and princesses, you know,” she added.

“You would be princess and I queen,” said Katherine, “because that wonderful queen-like dress we found just fits me, and that gold gauze princess-like dress just fits you.”

“Exactly,” agreed Mairuna, nodding. “Let’s begin now.

“I don’t know,” began Katherine, with a crestfallen face. “We couldn’t ever move these great heavy trunks and things. But listen,” she added, “we can telephone and see if Charles won’t come over. We won’t tell him what we’re going to do, we’ll just tell him it’s a secret, he loves secrets, you know, and if we tell him it’s a secret he’ll be more likely to come than he would if we just told him what it is.”

(Charles was Katherine’s big brother.)

Mairuna reeled. The idea was so charming that—oh—everything.

“It takes you, Katherine,” she said. “If you hadn’t thought of that we certainly wouldn’t have done it because, as you say, I’m sure we couldn’t move these trunks. Let’s try one to make sure.”

So they both pushed and pushed at one of the smallest trunks, but they couldn’t budge it. So Charles was speedily summoned by the telephone and, to their great delight, he said he would be right over. Sure enough fifteen minutes later he arrived, in an auto.

“Well, well,” he said, “now let’s see what it is I’m wanted to do.”

Charles promised not to tell anybody and so they told him all about it. He was almost as delighted as they were, and with his help they speedily transferred all the furniture to another storeroom just the same, only with no furniture. This done Charles examined the wall carefully. At last he gave a little start and made a motion with his hand: “Look here,” he whispered, “here’s an electric light socket. If you had a bulb of the right size you wouldn’t have to bother with a lantern.” An exclamation of delight followed his speech and Mairuna said:

“Well, Charles, we have a box of old electric light bulbs of various kinds. Maybe one would fit.” And so Mairuna brought the box and after trying several, they found one that would fit. And to their great delight it worked perfectly.

“Well, girls,” said Charles, finally, “I’ve got to go now. Anna (the maid) said not to be gone long. So long.”

“Oh, Charles, goodbye,” said Mairuna, “and thanks ever and ever so much for what you’ve done for us.”

“Yes, thanks a lot,” echoed Katherine.

Well, the next thing was that Mairuna went into the loft to get an old broom. And they swept out the dust, and it certainly made a huge pile. Then they took the old blue velvet rug and it just fitted the floor. And they put up some gaudy couch-covers on the walls by way of some books which were in the old box of rubbish with the bulbs.

“Katherine,” said Mairuna, after this was done, “let’s get that big beautiful old chair that we always thought looked like a queen’s throne. We could pretend it is, you know.”

“Oh, yes,” agreed Katherine.

This chair was not heavy, but it was beautiful, covered with blue and purple velvet. Goodness knows what it was that made Mairuna glance at her watch, but when she did she gave a startled jump and said: “Half-past seven!”

So of course they went down, and had supper. During the happy meal they told Grandmother all about it, and she was very much delighted, and clapped her old wrinkled hands and laughed with them. After supper they heard the telephone ring and it was Charles wanting to know why Katherine wasn’t home, for it was eight. So Mairuna said that it was because they had been so happy in the loft that they had forgotten all about suppertime and they had only just got through supper, and asked also if Katherine couldn’t stay overnight, and Charles said she could.

Suddenly Mairuna looked at Katherine in despair. “Oh,” said she, “the horses are still out in the meadow.” And so of course the next thing was to bring them in.

“Now children,” said Grandmother, “you can only play until nine o’clock and then you must go to bed.”

“All right,” said Katherine, “but may we play in the barn?” She looked at Grandmother and Mairuna questioningly. They both nodded.

“Well then,” said Katherine, “do come now, Maira.”

So they went into the loft, and from thence into the little storeroom that they had fixed up so nicely. Together they managed to transfer one of the little trunks back into their room again. Into this they put all the nicest dresses and things they had found. These included the ‘princess-like’ dress which was the one of all golden gauze described a short time ago; the ‘queen-like’ dress which was black velvet with wonderful embroideries of different-coloured gauze, and heavy white and gold lace around the sleeves and the collar; also a dress with a sea-green full flouncy skirt with some pale white gauze over it, a snow-white guimpe, and a black velvet boddice with a golden ribbon to lace it up with. Also the little dress described some time ago, a bright rose bow coloured and shaped; but, best of all a dress with a skirt which stuck out straight like a ballet dancer’s of brown gauze bordered with bright yellow flowers, with two tight yellow bracelets with butterflies on them, and a band of gold for the head bordered with golden butterflies decreasing in size towards the back and the biggest one in front. There was amid the lot of old furniture an old sofa with four brown cushions, and they took these for the person in the chair to put her feet on.

After this was done Mairuna looked at her watch and found, to her great delight, that it was only twenty minutes past eight o’clock.

“Katherine,” said she, “we have forty minutes. Do you want to get dressed up now, you in the queen’s dress and I in the princess’s, and pretend that is what we are?”

“Why yes,” said Katherine. “I’d just love to. But i want to get in the green dress with the black bodice, and why don’t you get in the golden one with the black bodice. Then we should be two princesses alike.”

“Yes,” replied Mairuna, “and I think there’s room for two in that chair.” And so there was.

But before they had even got dressed Mairuna said:

“Listen, I’m going into the other room and get that nice little table. We can set it with that old green china, you know, and we could scatter that big box of artificial flowers and we might pretend they were food. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“It takes you, Mairuna,” said Katherine, the way Mairuna had done to her. Together they moved from one room to another the old beautiful table, which was not quite four feet long and about two feet wide or a little more. They covered it with a green gauze cloth and then set it with the lovely old white china with green leaves on it, and it was very lovely indeed. Then they got the box of beautiful artificial bunches and garlands of beautifully made flowers. And they hung the garlands on the same tacks that held up the old couch covers on the walls, put some in their hair (the separate ones), and tucked some into their bodices for they now had got dressed up. By the time they had got dressed it was just half-past eight, and so they had plenty of time to play ‘princess.’ So they played happily in the little room until nine o’clock, then they speedily got undressed, put their dresses into the trunk, and said goodnight to the little room. Then they went downstairs merrily.

Chapter 6: Sadness in Its True Form

In the morning they ate a hearty breakfast and then—alas! I wish Mairuna hadn’t thought of her father. If she hadn’t this joy in the hayloft would have gone on forever. But she did, and said wildly: “Grandmother. I forgot! Think! Father is probably dead and gone already and oh! Think! I was so happy and forgetful yesterday. How could I? And why! Oh why didn’t you remind me? Oh, how wicked it was of me—oh—to be so happy at such a time. Why—oh, why didn’t you?”

“Now, now, hush dear,” said the grandmother soothingly. “I didn’t remind you, because I liked to see that you were so happy, and I knew that if you thought of him you would be miserable all the afternoon. I think myself that it wasn’t wicked at all. I think it was the best thing to do. And listen. Maybe he isn’t dead after all. Why don’t you go and see?”

“Yes, yes, I certainly will now,” said Mairuna, emphatically, “so, goodbye, Katherine lets harness up the horses.” They harnessed them up, mounted them, and rode off at a swift gallop. For a mile and a half they galloped along and then they went slower and slower until a trot was reached. By that time they were very near the hospital, where they were pretty sure they should find Dr. Fisher. Sure enough there he was just going in.

“Oh,” began poor Mairuna, “I mean—is—is he alive?”

“You poor dear child,” he began, “your father is—has—is—er—oh, I am so sorry for you, darling, yes, he is—er—”

It is not easy for anybody to say that her father is dead. And it was exceptionally hard for poor Dr. Fisher.

“Dead,” finished poor Mairuna. “Dead!” she screamed wildly. “Dead!” Her voice rose so high that it was almost a squeak.

“Wait!” commanded the poor embarrassed doctor, as she tore herself loose from him. “Wait!”

“What for?” asked Mairuna, coming back.

“Your father—er—said to you—er—as he—er—stammered: ‘Tell her that it is in left room from hay-loft in wall.’”

“What,” said Mairuna, “that what?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what he means by that,” replied the doctor.

“Well, goodbye,” said Mairuna.

She and Katherine rode to the doctor’s house where Katherine dismounted, said a cordial goodbye, and Mairuna rode on alone. She put Starre in her stall and went in to her grandmother regardless of the two kittens who tumbled out to meet her.

“Oh,” she cried, “he is dead, and he left me a message and I don’t know what it means, and will you help me?”

“To be sure, I will help you,” said Grandmother clasping her close. “Now, what is the message?”

Mairuna told her.

“To be sure,” said Grandmother, after she had thought a few minutes. “He means your fortune. Let’s see, it’s the room you fixed up is on the left of the loft, isn’t it?”

“Oh yes,” said Mairuna. “I see.”

“Well,” said Grandmother, “you must pull down some of those couch-covers you speak of and examine the wall for it.”

So Mairuna scampered off upstairs and to the little room, pulled down the covers, and examined the wall carefully. Finally she saw a little keyhole with a tiny golden key in it. She turned it and it revealed a little shelf on which was a big canvas bag. In it was piles and piles of money. There was on top a little slip which read: ‘The Total Sum: $30000000.’

She ran back with it to her grandmother and her grandmother said: “Now you must put that right in the bank. You will get 1,50000 [sic] dollars every single year, and that will take you through, unless you buy two or three cars every year.”

All day they talked together, and when evening came they went to bed early. In the morning she rose and, to her great dismay, she found poor old Grandmother lying peacefully in bed, dead. And that same fateful day Charles, ignorant of the fact that Grandmother was dead, telephoned to Mairuna that the doctor had suddenly been smitten by a terrible illness and he had died and that he and Katherine were going with their aunt across to France. Then indeed Mairuna felt herself deserted of all mankind.

She went into the barn where Starre and Snow-white were feeding quietly. “Starre,” she said, “Starre.” The horse looked up. “Starre,” she said, “you are my only friend—the only one I have to love, and the only one that loves me—for you love me, don’t you Starre?”

[Barbara crossed out the rest of the text on the nineteenth page of “Mairuna” (the text involved selling Snow-white to a farmer for $600). I think she abandoned the story altogether — and that Farksolia was forming in her mind.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *