A Little Girl in Old San Francisco
talks with her mother that did not always seem pleasant. He took very little notice of
her, in her secret heart she felt afraid of him, though he was seldom really cross to
her. And then he went away and did not appear again until the winter, when there
seemed a great deal of talking and business, and he brought a boxful of clothes for
them, and seemed in excellent spirits. He was in business in Boston, and would
move them all there at once, if grandmother would consent, but she was old, and
had had a stroke, and could not get about without a cane. The old house was hers
and she would finish out her days there. Of course, then, her mother could not go.
She had a new, warm woollen frock and a cloak that was the envy of the other
children, and absolute city shoes that she could only wear on Sunday, and, of course,
were presently outgrown.
She studied up everything she could concerning Boston, but her mother would not
talk about it. In the summer, grandmother had another stroke and then was
bedridden. It was a poor little village, and everybody had hard work to live,
summers were especially busy, and winters were long and hard. Grandmother was
fretful, and wandered a little in her mind. Now and then a neighbor came in to spell
Mrs. Westbury, and there was always some mysterious talking that her mother did
not care for her to hear. Grandmother lived more than a year and was a helpless
burden at the last. After she had gone the poor mother sank down, overwhelmed
with trouble. David Westbury had persuaded the old lady to sign over the house for
a business venture he was to make in Boston that would put him on the road to
fortune. And now it was found that he had decamped, that there had been no
business but speculating, and she no longer had a home for herself and her child.
They were very poor. People bore straits bravely in those days and suffered in
silence. The poor mother grew paler and thinner and had a hard cough. In the spring
they would be homeless. By spring she would be—and what would happen to the
child! A little bound-out girl, perhaps.
Laverne was not taken into these sorrowful confidences. She did not go to school,
her mother needed to be waited upon. One bright afternoon she went out to skate
on the creek. The school children joined her, and it was almost dark when they
started for home. The little girl's heart upbraided her, but she had carried in the last
armful of wood, and had not told her mother. What would they do to -morrow!
She went in hesitatingly. Oh, how good and warm the room felt and two candles
were burning. A man sat beside the stove with a sort of frank, bright, yet weather -
beaten face, a mop of chestnut-colored hair, a beard growing up to his very mouth,
but with the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen, merry blue eyes, too, that looked
as if there was just a twinkle back of the lashes.
"This is my little girl, Laverne," said her mother. "We have always called her Verne,
seeing there were three of the same name. And this is"—the mother's tone had a
curious tremble in it, as if she caught her breath—"this is Uncle Jason."
The first glance made them friends. They both smiled. She was like her mother in
the young days, and had the same dimple in her cheek, and the one in her chin
where the children used to hold a buttercup. She put out both hands . They had been
so lonely, so