Copy-Cat and Other Stories HTML version
ANNIE HEMPSTEAD lived on a large family canvas, being the eldest of six children.
There was only one boy. The mother was long since dead. If one can imagine the
Hempstead family, the head of which was the Reverend Silas, pastor of the Orthodox
Church in Lynn Corners, as being the subject of a mild study in village history, the high
light would probably fall upon Imogen, the youngest daughter. As for Annie, she would
apparently supply only a part of the background.
This afternoon in late July, Annie was out in the front yard of the parsonage, assisting her
brother Benny to rake hay. Benny had not cut it. Annie had hired a man, although the
Hempsteads could not afford to hire a man, but she had said to Benny, "Benny, you can
rake the hay and get it into the barn if Jim Mullins cuts it, can't you?" And Benny had
smiled and nodded acquiescence. Benny Hempstead always smiled and nodded
acquiescence, but there was in him the strange persistency of a willow bough, the
persistency of pliability, which is the most unconquerable of all. Benny swayed
gracefully in response to all the wishes of others, but always he remained in his own
inadequate attitude toward life.
Now he was raking to as little purpose as he could and rake at all. The clover-tops, the
timothy grass, and the buttercups moved before his rake in a faint foam of gold and green
and rose, but his sister Annie raised whirlwinds with hers. The Hempstead yard was large
and deep, and had two great squares given over to wild growths on either side of the
gravel walk, which was bordered with shrubs, flowering in their turn, like a class of
children at school saying their lessons. The spring shrubs had all spelled out their floral
recitations, of course, but great clumps of peonies were spreading wide skirts of gigantic
bloom, like dancers courtesying low on the stage of summer, and shafts of green-white
Yucca lilies and Japan lilies and clove-pinks still remained in their school of bloom.
Benny often stood still, wiped his forehead, leaned on his rake, and inhaled the bouquet
of sweet scents, but Annie raked with never-ceasing energy. Annie was small and slender
and wiry, and moved with angular grace, her thin, peaked elbows showing beneath the
sleeves of her pink gingham dress, her thin knees outlining beneath the scanty folds of the
skirt. Her neck was long, her shoulder-blades troubled the back of her blouse at every
movement. She was a creature full of ostentatious joints, but the joints were delicate and
rhythmical and charming. Annie had a charming face, too. It was thin and sunburnt, but
still charming, with a sweet, eager, intentto-please outlook upon life. This last was the
real attitude of Annie's mind; it was, in fact, Annie. She was intent to please from her toes
to the crown of her brown head. She radiated good will and lovingkindness as fervently
as a lily in the border radiated perfume.
It was very warm, and the northwest sky had a threatening mountain of clouds.
Occasionally Annie glanced at it and raked the faster, and thought complacently of the
water-proof covers in the little barn. This hay was valuable for the Reverend Silas's