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Copy-Cat and Other Stories
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
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Big Sister Solly
IT did seem strange that Sally Patterson, who, according to her own self-estimation, was
the least adapted of any woman in the village, should have been the one chosen by a
theoretically selective providence to deal with a psychological problem.
It was conceded that little Content Adams was a psychological problem. She was the
orphan child of very distant relatives of the rector. When her parents died she had been
cared for by a widowed aunt on her mother's side, and this aunt had also borne the
reputation of being a creature apart. When the aunt died, in a small village in the
indefinite "Out West," the presiding clergyman had notified Edward Patterson of little
Content's lonely and helpless estate. The aunt had subsisted upon an annuity which had
died with her. The child had inherited nothing except personal property. The aunt's house
had been bequeathed to the church over which the clergyman presided, and after her
aunt's death he took her to his own home until she could be sent to her relatives, and he
and his wife were exceedingly punctilious about every jot and tittle of the aunt's personal
belongings. They even purchased two extra trunks for them, which they charged to the
Little Content, traveling in the care of a lady who had known her aunt and happened to be
coming East, had six large trunks, besides a hat-box and two suit-cases and a nailed-up
wooden box containing odds and ends. Content made quite a sensation when she arrived
and her baggage was piled on the station platform.
Poor Sally Patterson unpacked little Content's trunks. She had sent the little girl to school
within a few days after her arrival. Lily Jennings and Amelia Wheeler called for her, and
aided her down the street between them, arms interlocked. Content, although Sally had
done her best with a pretty ready-made dress and a new hat, was undeniably a peculiar-
looking child. In the first place, she had an expression so old that it was fairly uncanny.
"That child has downward curves beside her mouth already, and lines between her eyes,
and what she will look like a few years hence is beyond me," Sally told her husband after
she had seen the little girl go out of sight between Lily's curls and ruffles and ribbons and
Amelia's smooth skirts.
"She doesn't look like a happy child," agreed the rector. "Poor little thing! Her aunt
Eudora must have been a queer woman to train a child."
"She is certainly trained," said Sally, ruefully; "too much so. Content acts as if she were
afraid to move or speak or even breathe unless somebody signals permission. I pity her."
She was in the storeroom, in the midst of Content's baggage. The rector sat on an old
chair, smoking. He had a conviction that it behooved him as a man to stand by his wife
during what might prove an ordeal. He had known Content's deceased aunt years before.