The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day—a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste. Every floor must be spotless, every chair dustless, and every bed without a wrinkle. Ninety-seven squirming little orphans must be scrubbed and combed and buttoned into freshly starched ginghams; and all ninety-seven reminded of their manners, and told to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ whenever a Trustee spoke.
It was a distressing time; and poor Jerusha Abbott, being the oldest orphan, had to bear the brunt of it. But this particular first Wednesday, like its predecessors, finally dragged itself to a close. Jerusha escaped from the pantry where she had been making sandwiches for the asylum’s guests, and turned upstairs to accomplish her regular work. Her special care was room F, where eleven little tots, from four to seven, occupied eleven little cots set in a row. Jerusha assembled her charges, straightened their rumpled frocks, wiped their noses, and started them in an orderly and willing line towards the dining-room to engage themselves for a blessed half hour with bread and milk and prune pudding.
Then she dropped down on the window seat and leaned throbbing temples against the cool glass. She had been on her feet since five that morning, doing everybody’s bidding, scolded and hurried by a nervous matron. Mrs. Lippett, behind the scenes, did not always maintain that calm and pompous dignity with which she faced an audience of Trustees and lady visitors. Jerusha gazed out across a broad stretch of frozen lawn, beyond the tall iron paling that marked the confines of the asylum, down undulating ridges sprinkled with country estates, to the spires of the village rising from the midst of bare trees.
The day was ended—quite successfully, so far as she knew. The Trustees and the visiting committee had made their rounds, and read their reports, and drunk their tea, and now were hurrying home to their own cheerful firesides, to forget their bothersome little charges for another month. Jerusha leaned forward watching with curiosity—and a touch of wistfulness—the stream of carriages and automobiles that rolled out of the asylum gates. In imagination she followed first one equipage, then another, to the big houses dotted along the hillside. She pictured herself in a fur coat and a velvet hat trimmed with feathers leaning back in the seat and nonchalantly murmuring ‘Home’ to the driver. But on the door-sill of her home the picture grew blurred.
Jerusha had an imagination—an imagination, Mrs. Lippett told her, that would get her into trouble if she didn’t take care—but keen as it was, it could not carry her beyond the front porch of the houses she would enter. Poor, eager, adventurous little Jerusha, in all her seventeen years, had never stepped inside an ordinary house; she could not picture the daily routine of those other human beings who carried on their lives undiscommoded by orphans.
You are wan-ted
In the of-fice,
And I think you’d
Better hurry up!
Tommy Dillon, who had joined the choir, came singing up the stairs and down the corridor, his chant growing louder as he approached room F. Jerusha wrenched herself from the window and refaced the troubles of life.
‘Who wants me?’ she cut into Tommy’s chant with a note of sharp anxiety.
Mrs. Lippett in the office,
And I think she’s mad.
Tommy piously intoned, but his accent was not entirely malicious. Even the most hardened little orphan felt sympathy for an erring sister who was summoned to the office to face an annoyed matron; and Tommy liked Jerusha even if she did sometimes jerk him by the arm and nearly scrub his nose off.
Jerusha went without comment, but with two parallel lines on her brow. What could have gone wrong, she wondered. Were the sandwiches not thin enough? Were there shells in the nut cakes? Had a lady visitor seen the hole in Susie Hawthorn’s stocking? Had—O horrors!—one of the cherubic little babes in her own room F ‘sauced’ a Trustee?
The long lower hall had not been lighted, and as she came downstairs, a last Trustee stood, on the point of departure, in the open door that led to the porte-cochere. Jerusha caught only a fleeting impression of the man—and the impression consisted entirely of tallness. He was waving his arm towards an automobile waiting in the curved drive. As it sprang into motion and approached, head on for an instant, the glaring headlights threw his shadow sharply against the wall inside. The shadow pictured grotesquely elongated legs and arms that ran along the floor and up the wall of the corridor. It looked, for all the world, like a huge, wavering daddy-long-legs.
Jerusha’s anxious frown gave place to quick laughter. She was by nature a sunny soul, and had always snatched the tiniest excuse to be amused. If one could derive any sort of entertainment out of the oppressive fact of a Trustee, it was something unexpected to the good. She advanced to the office quite cheered by the tiny episode, and presented a smiling face to Mrs. Lippett. To her surprise the matron was also, if not exactly smiling, at least appreciably affable; she wore an expression almost as pleasant as the one she donned for visitors.
‘Sit down, Jerusha, I have something to say to you.’ Jerusha dropped into the nearest chair and waited with a touch of breathlessness. An automobile flashed past the window; Mrs. Lippett glanced after it.
‘Did you notice the gentleman who has just gone?’
‘I saw his back.’
‘He is one of our most affluential Trustees, and has given large sums of money towards the asylum’s support. I am not at liberty to mention his name; he expressly stipulated that he was to remain unknown.’
Jerusha’s eyes widened slightly; she was not accustomed to being summoned to the office to discuss the eccentricities of Trustees with the matron.
‘This gentleman has taken an interest in several of our boys. You remember Charles Benton and Henry Freize? They were both sent through college by Mr.—er—this Trustee, and both have repaid with hard work and success the money that was so generously expended. Other payment the gentleman does not wish. Heretofore his philanthropies have been directed solely towards the boys; I have never been able to interest him in the slightest degree in any of the girls in the institution, no matter how deserving. He does not, I may tell you, care for girls.’
‘No, ma’am,’ Jerusha murmured, since some reply seemed to be expected at this point.
‘To-day at the regular meeting, the question of your future was brought up.’
Mrs. Lippett allowed a moment of silence to fall, then resumed in a slow, placid manner extremely trying to her hearer’s suddenly tightened nerves.
‘Usually, as you know, the children are not kept after they are sixteen, but an exception was made in your case. You had finished our school at fourteen, and having done so well in your studies—not always, I must say, in your conduct—it was determined to let you go on in the village high school. Now you are finishing that, and of course the asylum cannot be responsible any longer for your support. As it is, you have had two years more than most.’
Mrs. Lippett overlooked the fact that Jerusha had worked hard for her board during those two years, that the convenience of the asylum had come first and her education second; that on days like the present she was kept at home to scrub.
‘As I say, the question of your future was brought up and your record was discussed—thoroughly discussed.’
Mrs. Lippett brought accusing eyes to bear upon the prisoner in the dock, and the prisoner looked guilty because it seemed to be expected—not because she could remember any strikingly black pages in her record.
‘Of course the usual disposition of one in your place would be to put you in a position where you could begin to work, but you have done well in school in certain branches; it seems that your work in English has even been brilliant. Miss Pritchard, who is on our visiting committee, is also on the school board; she has been talking with your rhetoric teacher, and made a speech in your favour. She also read aloud an essay that you had written entitled, «Blue Wednesday».’
Jerusha’s guilty expression this time was not assumed.
‘It seemed to me that you showed little gratitude in holding up to ridicule the institution that has done so much for you. Had you not managed to be funny I doubt if you would have been forgiven. But fortunately for you, Mr.—, that is, the gentleman who has just gone—appears to have an immoderate sense of humour. On the strength of that impertinent paper, he has offered to send you to college.’
‘To college?’ Jerusha’s eyes grew big. Mrs. Lippett nodded.
‘He waited to discuss the terms with me. They are unusual. The gentleman, I may say, is erratic. He believes that you have originality, and he is planning to educate you to become a writer.’
‘A writer?’ Jerusha’s mind was numbed. She could only repeat Mrs.
‘That is his wish. Whether anything will come of it, the future will show. He is giving you a very liberal allowance, almost, for a girl who has never had any experience in taking care of money, too liberal. But he planned the matter in detail, and I did not feel free to make any suggestions. You are to remain here through the summer, and Miss Pritchard has kindly offered to superintend your outfit. Your board and tuition will be paid directly to the college, and you will receive in addition during the four years you are there, an allowance of thirty-five dollars a month. This will enable you to enter on the same standing as the other students. The money will be sent to you by the gentleman’s private secretary once a month, and in return, you will write a letter of acknowledgment once a month. That is—you are not to thank him for the money; he doesn’t care to have that mentioned, but you are to write a letter telling of the progress in your studies and the details of your daily life. Just such a letter as you would write to your parents if they were living.
‘These letters will be addressed to Mr. John Smith and will be sent in care of the secretary. The gentleman’s name is not John Smith, but he prefers to remain unknown. To you he will never be anything but John Smith. His reason in requiring the letters is that he thinks nothing so fosters facility in literary expression as letter-writing. Since you have no family with whom to correspond, he desires you to write in this way; also, he wishes to keep track of your progress. He will never answer your letters, nor in the slightest particular take any notice of them. He detests letter-writing and does not wish you to become a burden. If any point should ever arise where an answer would seem to be imperative—such as in the event of your being expelled, which I trust will not occur—you may correspond with Mr. Griggs, his secretary. These monthly letters are absolutely obligatory on your part; they are the only payment that Mr. Smith requires, so you must be as punctilious in sending them as though it were a bill that you were paying. I hope that they will always be respectful in tone and will reflect credit on your training. You must remember that you are writing to a Trustee of the John Grier Home.’
Jerusha’s eyes longingly sought the door. Her head was in a whirl of excitement, and she wished only to escape from Mrs. Lippett’s platitudes and think. She rose and took a tentative step backwards. Mrs. Lippett detained her with a gesture; it was an oratorical opportunity not to be slighted.
‘I trust that you are properly grateful for this very rare good fortune that has befallen you? Not many girls in your position ever have such an opportunity to rise in the world. You must always remember—’
‘I—yes, ma’am, thank you. I think, if that’s all, I must go and sew a patch on Freddie Perkins’s trousers.’
The door closed behind her, and Mrs. Lippett watched it with dropped jaw, her peroration in mid-air.
The Letters of
Miss Jerusha Abbott
Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith
215 FERGUSSEN HALL 24th September
Here I am! I travelled yesterday for four hours in a train. It’s a funny sensation, isn’t it? I never rode in one before.
College is the biggest, most bewildering place—I get lost whenever I leave my room. I will write you a description later when I’m feeling less muddled; also I will tell you about my lessons. Classes don’t begin until Monday morning, and this is Saturday night. But I wanted to write a letter first just to get acquainted.
It seems queer to be writing letters to somebody you don’t know. It seems queer for me to be writing letters at all—I’ve never written more than three or four in my life, so please overlook it if these are not a model kind.
Before leaving yesterday morning, Mrs. Lippett and I had a very serious talk. She told me how to behave all the rest of my life, and especially how to behave towards the kind gentleman who is doing so much for me. I must take care to be Very Respectful.
But how can one be very respectful to a person who wishes to be called
John Smith? Why couldn’t you have picked out a name with a little
personality? I might as well write letters to Dear Hitching-Post or
I have been thinking about you a great deal this summer; having somebody take an interest in me after all these years makes me feel as though I had found a sort of family. It seems as though I belonged to somebody now, and it’s a very comfortable sensation. I must say, however, that when I think about you, my imagination has very little to work upon. There are just three things that I know:
I. You are tall.
II. You are rich.
III. You hate girls.
I suppose I might call you Dear Mr. Girl-Hater. Only that’s rather insulting to me. Or Dear Mr. Rich-Man, but that’s insulting to you, as though money were the only important thing about you. Besides, being rich is such a very external quality. Maybe you won’t stay rich all your life; lots of very clever men get smashed up in Wall Street. But at least you will stay tall all your life! So I’ve decided to call you Dear Daddy-Long-Legs. I hope you won’t mind. It’s just a private pet name we won’t tell Mrs. Lippett.
The ten o’clock bell is going to ring in two minutes. Our day is divided into sections by bells. We eat and sleep and study by bells. It’s very enlivening; I feel like a fire horse all of the time. There it goes! Lights out. Good night.
Observe with what precision I obey rules—due to my training in the
John Grier Home.
Yours most respectfully,
To Mr. Daddy-Long-Legs Smith
I love college and I love you for sending me—I’m very, very happy, and so excited every moment of the time that I can scarcely sleep. You can’t imagine how different it is from the John Grier Home. I never dreamed there was such a place in the world. I’m feeling sorry for everybody who isn’t a girl and who can’t come here; I am sure the college you attended when you were a boy couldn’t have been so nice.
My room is up in a tower that used to be the contagious ward before they built the new infirmary. There are three other girls on the same floor of the tower—a Senior who wears spectacles and is always asking us please to be a little more quiet, and two Freshmen named Sallie McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton. Sallie has red hair and a turn-up nose and is quite friendly; Julia comes from one of the first families in New York and hasn’t noticed me yet. They room together and the Senior and I have singles. Usually Freshmen can’t get singles; they are very scarce, but I got one without even asking. I suppose the registrar didn’t think it would be right to ask a properly brought-up girl to room with a foundling. You see there are advantages!
My room is on the north-west corner with two windows and a view. After you’ve lived in a ward for eighteen years with twenty room-mates, it is restful to be alone. This is the first chance I’ve ever had to get acquainted with Jerusha Abbott. I think I’m going to like her.
Do you think you are?
They are organizing the Freshman basket-ball team and there’s just a chance that I shall get in it. I’m little of course, but terribly quick and wiry and tough. While the others are hopping about in the air, I can dodge under their feet and grab the ball. It’s loads of fun practising—out in the athletic field in the afternoon with the trees all red and yellow and the air full of the smell of burning leaves, and everybody laughing and shouting. These are the happiest girls I ever saw—and I am the happiest of all!
I meant to write a long letter and tell you all the things I’m learning
(Mrs. Lippett said you wanted to know), but 7th hour has just rung, and
in ten minutes I’m due at the athletic field in gymnasium clothes.
Don’t you hope I’ll get in the team?
PS. (9 o’clock.)
Sallie McBride just poked her head in at my door. This is what she said:
‘I’m so homesick that I simply can’t stand it. Do you feel that way?’
I smiled a little and said no; I thought I could pull through. At least homesickness is one disease that I’ve escaped! I never heard of anybody being asylum-sick, did you?
Did you ever hear of Michael Angelo?
He was a famous artist who lived in Italy in the Middle Ages. Everybody in English Literature seemed to know about him, and the whole class laughed because I thought he was an archangel. He sounds like an archangel, doesn’t he? The trouble with college is that you are expected to know such a lot of things you’ve never learned. It’s very embarrassing at times. But now, when the girls talk about things that I never heard of, I just keep still and look them up in the encyclopedia.
I made an awful mistake the first day. Somebody mentioned Maurice Maeterlinck, and I asked if she was a Freshman. That joke has gone all over college. But anyway, I’m just as bright in class as any of the others—and brighter than some of them!
Do you care to know how I’ve furnished my room? It’s a symphony in brown and yellow. The wall was tinted buff, and I’ve bought yellow denim curtains and cushions and a mahogany desk (second hand for three dollars) and a rattan chair and a brown rug with an ink spot in the middle. I stand the chair over the spot.
The windows are up high; you can’t look out from an ordinary seat. But I unscrewed the looking-glass from the back of the bureau, upholstered the top and moved it up against the window. It’s just the right height for a window seat. You pull out the drawers like steps and walk up. Very comfortable!
Sallie McBride helped me choose the things at the Senior auction. She has lived in a house all her life and knows about furnishing. You can’t imagine what fun it is to shop and pay with a real five-dollar bill and get some change—when you’ve never had more than a few cents in your life. I assure you, Daddy dear, I do appreciate that allowance.
Sallie is the most entertaining person in the world—and Julia Rutledge Pendleton the least so. It’s queer what a mixture the registrar can make in the matter of room-mates. Sallie thinks everything is funny—even flunking—and Julia is bored at everything. She never makes the slightest effort to be amiable. She believes that if you are a Pendleton, that fact alone admits you to heaven without any further examination. Julia and I were born to be enemies.
And now I suppose you’ve been waiting very impatiently to hear what I am learning?
I. Latin: Second Punic war. Hannibal and his forces pitched camp at Lake Trasimenus last night. They prepared an ambuscade for the Romans, and a battle took place at the fourth watch this morning. Romans in retreat.
II. French: 24 pages of the Three Musketeers and third conjugation, irregular verbs.
III. Geometry: Finished cylinders; now doing cones.
IV. English: Studying exposition. My style improves daily in clearness and brevity.
V. Physiology: Reached the digestive system. Bile and the pancreas next time. Yours, on the way to being educated,
PS. I hope you never touch alcohol, Daddy? It does dreadful things to your liver.
I’ve changed my name.
I’m still ‘Jerusha’ in the catalogue, but I’m ‘Judy’ everywhere else. It’s really too bad, isn’t it, to have to give yourself the only pet name you ever had? I didn’t quite make up the Judy though. That’s what Freddy Perkins used to call me before he could talk plainly.
I wish Mrs. Lippett would use a little more ingenuity about choosing babies’ names. She gets the last names out of the telephone book—you’ll find Abbott on the first page—and she picks the Christian names up anywhere; she got Jerusha from a tombstone. I’ve always hated it; but I rather like Judy. It’s such a silly name. It belongs to the kind of girl I’m not—a sweet little blue-eyed thing, petted and spoiled by all the family, who romps her way through life without any cares. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that? Whatever faults I may have, no one can ever accuse me of having been spoiled by my family! But it’s great fun to pretend I’ve been. In the future please always address me as Judy.
Do you want to know something? I have three pairs of kid gloves. I’ve had kid mittens before from the Christmas tree, but never real kid gloves with five fingers. I take them out and try them on every little while. It’s all I can do not to wear them to classes.
(Dinner bell. Goodbye.)
What do you think, Daddy? The English instructor said that my last paper shows an unusual amount of originality. She did, truly. Those were her words. It doesn’t seem possible, does it, considering the eighteen years of training that I’ve had? The aim of the John Grier Home (as you doubtless know and heartily approve of) is to turn the ninety-seven orphans into ninety-seven twins.
The unusual artistic ability which I exhibit was developed at an early age through drawing chalk pictures of Mrs. Lippett on the woodshed door.
I hope that I don’t hurt your feelings when I criticize the home of my youth? But you have the upper hand, you know, for if I become too impertinent, you can always stop payment of your cheques. That isn’t a very polite thing to say—but you can’t expect me to have any manners; a foundling asylum isn’t a young ladies’ finishing school.
You know, Daddy, it isn’t the work that is going to be hard in college. It’s the play. Half the time I don’t know what the girls are talking about; their jokes seem to relate to a past that every one but me has shared. I’m a foreigner in the world and I don’t understand the language. It’s a miserable feeling. I’ve had it all my life. At the high school the girls would stand in groups and just look at me. I was queer and different and everybody knew it. I could FEEL ‘John Grier Home’ written on my face. And then a few charitable ones would make a point of coming up and saying something polite. I HATED EVERY ONE OF THEM—the charitable ones most of all.
Nobody here knows that I was brought up in an asylum. I told Sallie McBride that my mother and father were dead, and that a kind old gentleman was sending me to college which is entirely true so far as it goes. I don’t want you to think I am a coward, but I do want to be like the other girls, and that Dreadful Home looming over my childhood is the one great big difference. If I can turn my back on that and shut out the remembrance, I think, I might be just as desirable as any other girl. I don’t believe there’s any real, underneath difference, do you?
Anyway, Sallie McBride likes me!
I’ve just been reading this letter over and it sounds pretty un-cheerful. But can’t you guess that I have a special topic due Monday morning and a review in geometry and a very sneezy cold?
I forgot to post this yesterday, so I will add an indignant postscript.
We had a bishop this morning, and WHAT DO YOU THINK HE SAID?
‘The most beneficent promise made us in the Bible is this, «The poor ye have always with you.» They were put here in order to keep us charitable.’
The poor, please observe, being a sort of useful domestic animal. If I hadn’t grown into such a perfect lady, I should have gone up after service and told him what I thought.
I’m in the basket-ball team and you ought to see the bruise on my left shoulder. It’s blue and mahogany with little streaks of orange. Julia Pendleton tried for the team, but she didn’t get in. Hooray!
You see what a mean disposition I have.
College gets nicer and nicer. I like the girls and the teachers and the classes and the campus and the things to eat. We have ice-cream twice a week and we never have corn-meal mush.
You only wanted to hear from me once a month, didn’t you? And I’ve been peppering you with letters every few days! But I’ve been so excited about all these new adventures that I MUST talk to somebody; and you’re the only one I know. Please excuse my exuberance; I’ll settle pretty soon. If my letters bore you, you can always toss them into the wastebasket. I promise not to write another till the middle of November.
Yours most loquaciously,
Listen to what I’ve learned to-day.
The area of the convex surface of the frustum of a regular pyramid is half the product of the sum of the perimeters of its bases by the altitude of either of its trapezoids.
It doesn’t sound true, but it is—I can prove it!
You’ve never heard about my clothes, have you, Daddy? Six dresses, all new and beautiful and bought for me—not handed down from somebody bigger. Perhaps you don’t realize what a climax that marks in the career of an orphan? You gave them to me, and I am very, very, VERY much obliged. It’s a fine thing to be educated—but nothing compared to the dizzying experience of owning six new dresses. Miss Pritchard, who is on the visiting committee, picked them out—not Mrs. Lippett, thank goodness. I have an evening dress, pink mull over silk (I’m perfectly beautiful in that), and a blue church dress, and a dinner dress of red veiling with Oriental trimming (makes me look like a Gipsy), and another of rose-coloured challis, and a grey street suit, and an every-day dress for classes. That wouldn’t be an awfully big wardrobe for Julia Rutledge Pendleton, perhaps, but for Jerusha Abbott—Oh, my!
I suppose you’re thinking now what a frivolous, shallow little beast she is, and what a waste of money to educate a girl?
But, Daddy, if you’d been dressed in checked ginghams all your life, you’d appreciate how I feel. And when I started to the high school, I entered upon another period even worse than the checked ginghams.
The poor box.
You can’t know how I dreaded appearing in school in those miserable poor-box dresses. I was perfectly sure to be put down in class next to the girl who first owned my dress, and she would whisper and giggle and point it out to the others. The bitterness of wearing your enemies’ cast-off clothes eats into your soul. If I wore silk stockings for the rest of my life, I don’t believe I could obliterate the scar.
LATEST WAR BULLETIN!
News from the Scene of Action.
At the fourth watch on Thursday the 13th of November, Hannibal routed the advance guard of the Romans and led the Carthaginian forces over the mountains into the plains of Casilinum. A cohort of light armed Numidians engaged the infantry of Quintus Fabius Maximus. Two battles and light skirmishing. Romans repulsed with heavy losses.
I have the honour of being,
Your special correspondent from the front,
PS. I know I’m not to expect any letters in return, and I’ve been warned not to bother you with questions, but tell me, Daddy, just this once—are you awfully old or just a little old? And are you perfectly bald or just a little bald? It is very difficult thinking about you in the abstract like a theorem in geometry.
Given a tall rich man who hates girls, but is very generous to one quite impertinent girl, what does he look like?
You never answered my question and it was very important.
ARE YOU BALD?
I have it planned exactly what you look like—very satisfactorily—until I reach the top of your head, and then I AM stuck. I can’t decide whether you have white hair or black hair or sort of sprinkly grey hair or maybe none at all.
Here is your portrait:
But the problem is, shall I add some hair?
Would you like to know what colour your eyes are? They’re grey, and your eyebrows stick out like a porch roof (beetling, they’re called in novels), and your mouth is a straight line with a tendency to turn down at the corners. Oh, you see, I know! You’re a snappy old thing with a temper.
I have a new unbreakable rule: never, never to study at night no matter how many written reviews are coming in the morning. Instead, I read just plain books—I have to, you know, because there are eighteen blank years behind me. You wouldn’t believe, Daddy, what an abyss of ignorance my mind is; I am just realizing the depths myself. The things that most girls with a properly assorted family and a home and friends and a library know by absorption, I have never heard of. For example:
I never read Mother Goose or David Copperfield or Ivanhoe or Cinderella or Blue Beard or Robinson Crusoe or Jane Eyre or Alice in Wonderland or a word of Rudyard Kipling. I didn’t know that Henry the Eighth was married more than once or that Shelley was a poet. I didn’t know that people used to be monkeys and that the Garden of Eden was a beautiful myth. I didn’t know that R. L. S. stood for Robert Louis Stevenson or that George Eliot was a lady. I had never seen a picture of the ‘Mona Lisa’ and (it’s true but you won’t believe it) I had never heard of Sherlock Holmes.
Now, I know all of these things and a lot of others besides, but you can see how much I need to catch up. And oh, but it’s fun! I look forward all day to evening, and then I put an ‘engaged’ on the door and get into my nice red bath robe and furry slippers and pile all the cushions behind me on the couch, and light the brass student lamp at my elbow, and read and read and read one book isn’t enough. I have four going at once. Just now, they’re Tennyson’s poems and Vanity Fair and Kipling’s Plain Tales and—don’t laugh—Little Women. I find that I am the only girl in college who wasn’t brought up on Little Women. I haven’t told anybody though (that WOULD stamp me as queer). I just quietly went and bought it with $1.12 of my last month’s allowance; and the next time somebody mentions pickled limes, I’ll know what she is talking about!
(Ten o’clock bell. This is a very interrupted letter.)
I have the honour to report fresh explorations in the field of geometry. On Friday last we abandoned our former works in parallelopipeds and proceeded to truncated prisms. We are finding the road rough and very uphill.
The Christmas holidays begin next week and the trunks are up. The corridors are so filled up that you can hardly get through, and everybody is so bubbling over with excitement that studying is getting left out. I’m going to have a beautiful time in vacation; there’s another Freshman who lives in Texas staying behind, and we are planning to take long walks and if there’s any ice—learn to skate. Then there is still the whole library to be read—and three empty weeks to do it in!
Goodbye, Daddy, I hope that you are feeling as happy as I am.
PS. Don’t forget to answer my question. If you don’t want the trouble of writing, have your secretary telegraph. He can just say:
Mr. Smith is quite bald,
Mr. Smith is not bald,
Mr. Smith has white hair.
And you can deduct the twenty-five cents out of my allowance.
Goodbye till January—and a merry Christmas!
Towards the end of the Christmas vacation. Exact date unknown
Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon—the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.
Your five gold pieces were a surprise! I’m not used to receiving Christmas presents. You have already given me such lots of things—everything I have, you know—that I don’t quite feel that I deserve extras. But I like them just the same. Do you want to know what I bought with my money?
I. A silver watch in a leather case to wear on my wrist and get me to recitations in time.
II. Matthew Arnold’s poems.
III. A hot water bottle.
IV. A steamer rug. (My tower is cold.)
V. Five hundred sheets of yellow manuscript paper. (I’m going to commence being an author pretty soon.)
VI. A dictionary of synonyms. (To enlarge the author’s vocabulary.)
VII. (I don’t much like to confess this last item, but I will.) A pair of silk stockings.
And now, Daddy, never say I don’t tell all!
It was a very low motive, if you must know it, that prompted the silk stockings. Julia Pendleton comes into my room to do geometry, and she sits cross-legged on the couch and wears silk stockings every night. But just wait—as soon as she gets back from vacation I shall go in and sit on her couch in my silk stockings. You see, Daddy, the miserable creature that I am but at least I’m honest; and you knew already, from my asylum record, that I wasn’t perfect, didn’t you?
To recapitulate (that’s the way the English instructor begins every other sentence), I am very much obliged for my seven presents. I’m pretending to myself that they came in a box from my family in California. The watch is from father, the rug from mother, the hot water bottle from grandmother who is always worrying for fear I shall catch cold in this climate—and the yellow paper from my little brother Harry. My sister Isabel gave me the silk stockings, and Aunt Susan the Matthew Arnold poems; Uncle Harry (little Harry is named after him) gave me the dictionary. He wanted to send chocolates, but I insisted on synonyms.
You don’t object, do you, to playing the part of a composite family?
And now, shall I tell you about my vacation, or are you only interested in my education as such? I hope you appreciate the delicate shade of meaning in ‘as such’. It is the latest addition to my vocabulary.
The girl from Texas is named Leonora Fenton. (Almost as funny as Jerusha, isn’t it?) I like her, but not so much as Sallie McBride; I shall never like any one so much as Sallie—except you. I must always like you the best of all, because you’re my whole family rolled into one. Leonora and I and two Sophomores have walked ‘cross country every pleasant day and explored the whole neighbourhood, dressed in short skirts and knit jackets and caps, and carrying shiny sticks to whack things with. Once we walked into town—four miles—and stopped at a restaurant where the college girls go for dinner. Broiled lobster (35 cents), and for dessert, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup (15 cents). Nourishing and cheap.
It was such a lark! Especially for me, because it was so awfully different from the asylum—I feel like an escaped convict every time I leave the campus. Before I thought, I started to tell the others what an experience I was having. The cat was almost out of the bag when I grabbed it by its tail and pulled it back. It’s awfully hard for me not to tell everything I know. I’m a very confiding soul by nature; if I didn’t have you to tell things to, I’d burst.
We had a molasses candy pull last Friday evening, given by the house matron of Fergussen to the left-behinds in the other halls. There were twenty-two of us altogether, Freshmen and Sophomores and juniors and Seniors all united in amicable accord. The kitchen is huge, with copper pots and kettles hanging in rows on the stone wall—the littlest casserole among them about the size of a wash boiler. Four hundred girls live in Fergussen. The chef, in a white cap and apron, fetched out twenty-two other white caps and aprons—I can’t imagine where he got so many—and we all turned ourselves into cooks.
It was great fun, though I have seen better candy. When it was finally finished, and ourselves and the kitchen and the door-knobs all thoroughly sticky, we organized a procession and still in our caps and aprons, each carrying a big fork or spoon or frying pan, we marched through the empty corridors to the officers’ parlour, where half-a-dozen professors and instructors were passing a tranquil evening. We serenaded them with college songs and offered refreshments. They accepted politely but dubiously. We left them sucking chunks of molasses candy, sticky and speechless.
So you see, Daddy, my education progresses!
Don’t you really think that I ought to be an artist instead of an author?
Vacation will be over in two days and I shall be glad to see the girls again. My tower is just a trifle lonely; when nine people occupy a house that was built for four hundred, they do rattle around a bit.
Eleven pages—poor Daddy, you must be tired! I meant this to be just a short little thank-you note—but when I get started I seem to have a ready pen.
Goodbye, and thank you for thinking of me—I should be perfectly happy except for one little threatening cloud on the horizon. Examinations come in February.
Yours with love,
PS. Maybe it isn’t proper to send love? If it isn’t, please excuse. But I must love somebody and there’s only you and Mrs. Lippett to choose between, so you see—you’ll HAVE to put up with it, Daddy dear, because I can’t love her.
UZUN OYOQ AMAKIJON
Har oyning birinchi chorshanbasi qo`rquv bilan kutiladigan, mardlik bilan yengib o`tiladigan va tezda unutiladigan – haqiqatdan ham vahimali kun edi. Har bir qavat yog` tushsa yalagudek toza, barcha stollar changsiz va hamma krovatlar g`ijimsiz holda bo`lishi shart edi. To`qson yetti mitti yetim bolalar oq yuvib, oq taralgan, yangi ohorlangan pijamalar kiygizib, o`zlarini qanday tutishlari, maxsus Vasiy gapirgan vaqtda “Ha, ser”, “Yo`q, ser” deb javob qaytarishlari uqtirilgan edi.
Ushbu silla quriydigan paytda yetim bolalarning ichida eng kattasi bo`lgan Jerusha asosiy yumushlarni o`z zimmasiga olishga majbur edi. Ammo bu o`zgacha birinchi chorshanba ham avvalgilari kabi o`z nihoyasiga yetdi. Jerusha mehmonlar uchun sendvich tayyorlaydigan maxsus xonasidan qochib chiqib, kundalik ishlarini bajarish uchun yuqoriga ko`tarildi. U to`rt yoshdan yeti yoshgacha bo`lgan o`n bir nafar bolakaylarning mitti krovatlari qator joy olgan “F” harfli xonaga ma’sul edi. Jerusha o`z vazifalariga kirishdi, tartibsiz holdagi kiyimlarni saranjomladi, og`iz-burunlarini tozalab, intizomli va shay turgan bolalarni non, sut hamda olxo`rili pudding bilan siylanadigan huzurli yarimsoatlik ovqatlanish uchun oshxonaga bir qator qilib ergashtirib ketdi.
Shundan so`ng, deraza tokchasiga o`tirib, qaynoq chakkasi bilan muzdek oynaga suyandi. U tonggi beshdan buyon tik oyoqda barchaning buyruqlarini bajarib, jizzaki yetimxona mudirasining koyishlari-yu shoshirishlariga dosh berayotgandi. Missis Lippett, aslini olganda, har doim ham Vasiylar va tashrif buyuruvchi xonimlarga ko`ringanidek o`zini vazmin va sipo tutmaydi. Jerusha muzlagan maysazorning keng
maydoniga termuldi, narigi tarafda yetimxona chegarasini bildirib turgan baland temir panjara, pastki tomonda mamlakat hududi bo`ylab yoyilgan tog` tizmalari mavj urib turar, qishloqdagi qirrador tomlar yaproqsiz daraxtlar orasidan ko`rinib turardi.
Uning fikricha, kun juda ham omadli yakunga yetdi. Vasiylar va qo`mita a’zolari davra qurib, hisobotlarni o`qib, choy ichishdi, endi o`z uylariga – quvnoq oilaviy hayotlariga oshiqishar, kichik xarajatli ovoragarchilikni kelasi oygacha unutishga urinishardi. Jerusha qiziquvchanlik va ma’yuslik bilan oldinga suyanib, yetimxona darvozasidan chiqib ketayotgan foytun va mashinalar oqimini kuzatdi. Xayolida birinchi foytunga keyin boshqasiga ergashdi, qiyalikdagi katta uylarga yo`l oldi. O`zini mo`ynali palto va pat bilan bezatilgan baxmal shlyapada, orqa o`rindiqqa o`tirib haydovchiga ‘Uyga hayda’ deb beparvogina pichirlayotgandek tasavvur qildi. Biroq uyining ostonasiga yetganida uning tasavvuri xiralashib ketdi.
Lippet xonimning “Agar bunga chek qo`ymasang muammolar ichida qolasan” deyishiga qaramasdan xayolga cho`mgandi. Uning tasavvur dunyosi qanchalik keng bo`lmasin, kirmoqchi bo`lgan uylarining eshik oldidan kira olmas edi. Bechora, sabrsiz, sarguzashttalab jajji Jerusha , o`n yetti yillik umri davomida biror marta ham oddiy uyga oyoq bosmagan, yetimlarga g`amxo`rlik qilmaydigan boshqa odamlarning kundalik hayot tarzi qanday bo`lishini tasavvur qila olmas edi.
- Jerusha-aa, seni chaqirishyapti, menimcha shoshilishing kera-aak!
Xor jamoasiga qo`shilgan Tommi Dillon zinadan ko`tarilib, yo`lak bo`ylab kuylab kelardi, “F” xonaga yaqinlashgan sayin uning qo`shig`i baland eshitila boshladi.
- Kim meni izlayapti?- Tommining qo`shig`ini bezovtalik bilan bo`lib so`radi.
- Missis Lippet , o`ylashimcha u aqldan ozgan…Omiin.
Tommi taqvodorlardek aytgan so`zlari to`laqonli zarda bilan chiqmadi. Hattoki eng hissiz yetim bola ham gunohkor opaning g`azablangan mudira bilan yuzlashishini istamasdi. Tommi bo`lsa, ba`zida qo`lidan siltalashi va burnini yulib olgudek ishqalab
yuvishiga qaramasdan Jerushani yaxshi ko`rardi.
Jerusha lom-mim demay chiqib ketdi, lekin peshonasida ikki parallel chiziq paydo bo`ldi. Nima bo`lishi mumkin, deya uning boshi qotgandi. Sendvichlar yetarlicha ingichka emasmidi? Pirogdan yong`oq po`chog`i chiqqan bo`lsa-ya? Yoki… O, yo`q! uning “F” xonasidagi biror mittivoyi Vasiyning ust-boshini qayla bilan siyladimikin?
Pastki qavatdagi uzun yo`lakchada chiroqlar yoqilmagan edi. U zinadan tushib kelganida darvozaga qarab ochiladigan eshik yonida ketishga tayyor bo`lib turgan so`nggi Vasiy turardi. Jerushada bu kishi haqida qisqagina taassurot paydo bo`ldi, erkakning bo`yi ancha baland edi. Vasiy ochiq eshikdan hovlidagi egri yo`lakda turgan mashinaga qarab qo`l silkitardi. Mashina o`t olib, yorqin nurlarida uning soyasi ko`rindi. Mashina yurishi bilan kishining noodatiy novcha qo`l va oyoqlarining soyasi koridor poli va devorlari bo`ylab yura boshladi. Go`yo, bahaybat uzunoyoq hasharot o`rmalab ketayotgandek ko`rindi.
Jerushaning bezovtalik hissini zumda tabassum egalladi. U tabiatan quvnoq qiz edi, kichik bir sabab ham uning kulgusiga yetarli bo`lardi. U kichik bir hodisadan xursand bo`lib yuqoriga ko`tarildi va Missis Lippetga kulib turib yuzlandi. Uni ajablantirgan holda mudira ham kulib bo`lmasa-da, deyarli mehmonlarni kutib olgani kabi ochiq yuz bilan kutib oldi.
- O`tir, Jerusha. Senga aytadigan gapim bor.- Jerusha eng yaqin stulga o`tirib, nafas chiqarmay kutib turdi. Tashqarida mashina g`izillab o`tib ketdi. Lippet xonim ortidan nazar tashladi.
- Hozirgina ketgan janobga e`tibor berdingmi?
- Uning ortidan ko`rdim xolos.
- U eng puldor Vasiylarimizdan biri, yetimxonaga yordam tariqasida katta pul mablag`lari ajratgan. Uning ismini aytolmayman, bu sir bo`lib qolishini qat’iy talab qilgan.
Jerushaning ko`zlari xiyol kattalashdi, u Vasiylarning injiqliklarini muhokama qilish uchun mudiraning xonasiga chaqirtirishlariga odatlanmagan edi.
- Bu janob bir necha bolalarimizga qiziqish bildirgan. Charles Belton va Henriy Freizlarni eslaysana? Ikkovlari ham shu janob … orqali kollejga yuborilgan va ikkovlari ham sahiylik bilan ajratilgan pullarni o`zlarining tirishqoqliklari va erishgan muvaffaqiyatlari bilan qaytardilar. Boshqachasiga qarzni qaytarishlarini janob istamaydilar.
Uning saxovatpeshaligi faqatgina o`g`il bolalarga qaratilgan, muassasamizdagi qizlar qanchalik munosib bo`lmasinlar, eng kichik darajada bo`lsa unda qiziqish uyg`ota olmadim. Senga shuni ayta olamanki, u qizlar haqida qayg`urmaydi.
- Lekin mem, – Jerusha, go`yoki undan javob kutilgandek kalovlandi.
- Bugungi yig`ilishda sening kelajaging masalasi o`rtaga qo`yildi.
Missis Lippet bir zum jimib qoldi, so`ng Jerushani noqulay holga soluvchi nihoyatda vazminlik bilan davom etdi.
- Odatda, o`zing bilasan, 16 yoshga to`lgan bolalar bu yerda qolmaydi, lekin sen bundan mustasnosan. Maktabimizni 14 yoshda a`lo baholarga bitirding, xulqingni hisobga olmaganda, albatta, – seni qishloqdagi yuqori maktabga o`qishga yubordik. Mana uni ham yakunlayapsan, bundan buyon yetimxona senga g`amxo`rlik qila olmaydi. Shundoq ham boshqalarga qaraganda ikki yil uzoqroq qolding.
Missis Lippet Jerusha shu ikki yil mobaynida zimmasidagi vazifalarni bajarib kelganini, o`qishidan ham yetimxona manfaatlarini ustun qo`yganini nazardan qochirdi, har safargidek, Jerusha bugun ham uylarni yuvib tozalagandi.
- Aytganimdek, sening kelajaging masalasi muhokama qilindi, to`laqonli muhokama qilindi. Albatta, sening o`rningda bo`lgan qizlar o`zi uchun boshqa joy, ish qidirgan bo`lardi, ammo sen maktabda turli fanlarni yaxshi o`zlashtirding, ayniqsa, ingliz tilidagi yozma ishlaring buning yaqqol dalilidir.
Vasiylik qo`mitasi va maktabimiz kengashi a’zosi Miss Prichard adabiyot o`qituvching bilan suhbatlashdi va senga xayrixohlik bildirdi. Shu bilan birga, “Qora chorshanba” nomli inshoyingni baland ovozda o`qidi.
Bu safar Jerushaning yuzi gunohkorona tus olmadi. – Senga shuncha yaxshiliklar qilgan bu dargohga minnatdorchiliging shu yo`l bilan kalaka qilish orqali bildirgansan, menimcha. Agar hikoyang qiziqarli bo`lmaganida, gunohingdan o`tishimiz amri mahol edi. Ammo, baxtingga Mister, ya`ni hozirgina ketgan janob haqiqiy kulgu shinavandasi ekan. Mana shu bir parcha qog`ozning kuchi bilan seni kollejga o`qishga yuborishni taklif qildi.
- Kollejga? – Jerushaning ko`zlari kattalashib ketdi. Missis Lippet bosh irg`ab tasdiqladi.
- U shartnoma shartlarini kelishish uchun meni kutib turdi. Ular juda ham noodatiy. Aytishim mumkinki, bu janob juda ham ajoyib kishi. U senda o`ziga xoslik bor deb hisoblayapti va yozuvchi bo`lib yetishishing uchun o`qitishni rejalashtiryapti.
- Yozuvchi? – Jerusha hayratdan qotib qolgandi. Missis Lippetning so`zlarini takrorlay olayotgandi, xolos.
- Bu uning xohishi. Bundan biror narsa chiqadimi yo`qmi buni kelajak ko`rsatadi. U seni ulkan mustaqil imkoniyatlar bilan birga pul bilan mustaqil muomala qilmagan qiz bola uchun ancha katta hisoblangan mablag` bilan ham ta`minlaydi. Lekin u masalani ipidan ignasigacha o`zi rejalashtirib chiqdi, biror bir taklif kiritishga imkonim qolmadi. Yozda shu yerda qolasan, Prichard xonim iltifot bilan sening ust-boshing bilan shug`ullanishini taklif qildi. O`qish puli to`g`ridan-to`g`ri kollejga o`tkaziladi, bundan tashqari to`rt yil mobaynida oyiga 35 $ dan olib turasan. Bu senga qolgan talabalar bilan teng bo`lishing uchun yetarli bo`ladi. Pul oyda bir marta shaxsiy kotib orqali yuborib turiladi, evaziga minnatdorchilik yuzasidan oyda bir bor xat yozib turasan. Bu pul uchun minnatdorlik emas, bu uni qiziqtirmaydi, balki, kundalik
hayoting hamda o`qishdagi yutuqlaring haqida batafsil ma`lumot berishing kerak bo`ladi. Xat ota-onang hayot bo`lganida yozadigandek bo`lishi kerak.
Xatlar Jon Smit nomiga yozilgan va kotib tomonidan yuboriladigan bo`ladi. Janobning ismi Jon Smit emas, u ismi noma`lum qolishi tarafdori. Xat yozishni talab qilishidan maqsad, uning fikricha, hech bir narsa xat yozishchalik badiiy tasvir ifodasini yuksaltira olmaydi. Modomiki, oilang yo`q ekan shu usulda yozishingni istaydi, shuningdek, yutuqlaringni kuzatib borish istagida. U senga umuman xat yozmaydi, va bunga zarracha ham e`tabor bermaydi. U xat yozishni juda yomon ko`radi va unga ortiqcha yuk bo`lishingni xohlamaydi. Agarda uning javobi zarur bo`lib qolsa, masalan seni o`qishdan chetlatishsa , umid qilamanki bunday bo`lmaydi, uning kotibi Janob Grigsga murojaat qilishing mumkin. Oylik xatlar o`ta majburiy – ular janob Smit talab qilgan yagona to`lov, shunday ekan, sendan to`lanayotgan hisob varog`i kabi aniqlik puxtalik talab etiladi. Aminmanki, xatlaring doimo hurmat va ehtirom ila yoziladi. Unutma, sen Jon Grayer nomidagi yetimxona vasiyiga xat yozyapsan.
Jerushaning ko`zlari uzoq vaqt eshikka termuldi. Uning boshi hayajondan gir aylanar, faqatgina Missis Lippetning tuturiqsiz gaplaridan qochib chiqib, xayol surishni istardi. U o`rnidan turib ortga qadam tashladi. Missis Lippet uni ishora bilan to`xtatdi, va`z o`qish uchun qulay imkoniyatni boy bermadi.
- Ishonamanki, boshingga qo`ngan baxt qushidan chuqur minnatdorsan. Sening holatingdagi ko`pgina qizlar hayotda oyoqqa turish imokoniga ega emas. Shuni doim yodda tutginki…
- Xo`p bo`ladi mem, minnatdorman. O`ylashimcha, agar hammasi shu bo`lsa, borishim zarur, Freddi Perkinsning ishtonchasiga yamoq solishim kerak.
Uning ortidan eshik yoplib, Missis Lippetning so`zlari havoga uchganicha qoldi.
Miss Jerusha Abbotning Uzun oyoq amakijon Janob Smitga yozgan xatlari
215 Fergyusson Hol 24-sentabr
Yetimlarni kollejga yuboruvchi qadrli mehribon Vasiy
Mana men! Kecha 4 soat davomida poyezdda sayohat qildm. Bu kulgili hodisa, shunday emasmi? Avvallari hech ham sayohat qilmaganman.
Kollej dunyodagi eng katta va betartib joy – xonamdan chiqishim bilan adashib qolaman. Yaxshiroq o`rganib olganimdan keyin tasvirlayman, hozir esa o`quv mashg`ulotlarim haqida aytib bermoqchiman. Bugun shanba tungi payt, dushanba kuni ertalabdan darslar boshlanadi. Lekin bu xatni shunchaki tanishish uchun yozishni istadim.
O`zing bilmagan odamingga xat yozish biroz g`alati. Bu men uchun yanayam g`alatiroq, chunki umrim davomida 3-4 martagina xat yozganman, agar risoladagidek bo`lmasa, bunga ko`z yumishingizni so`rayman.
Kecha ertalab ketishimdan avval, Missis Lippet bilan o`rtamizda jiddiy suhbat bo`ldi. U menga bundan buyon, ayniqsa, menga shuncha yaxshiliklar qilgan mehribon kishiga nisbatan o`zimni qanday tutishim kerakligini uqtirdi. Men juda ham odobli bo`lishga harakat qilishim kerak.
Ammo o`zini Jon Smit deb atashlarini xohlovchi kishini qanday hurmat qilishim mumkin? Nahotki shaxsiyatingizni tasvirlovchi ism tanlay olmasangiz?
Butun yoz davomida siz haqingizda o`yladim, shuncha yillardan keyin birov menga qiziqish bildirdi, oilam topilgandek bo`ldi go`yo. Xuddi men kimgadir tegishliman, va bu juda yoqimli hodisa. Shuni aytishim kerakki, siz haqingizda o`ylaganimda tasavvur dunyoyim torlik qiladi. Siz haqingizda 3 narsanigina bilaman:
- Siz baland bo`ylisiz.
- Siz boysiz.
- Qizlarni yomon ko`rasiz.
Sizni qizlarni yoqtirmaydigan muhtaram janob deb ayta olaman, chamamda. Faqat shu jihatgina biroz ranjitadi. Yoki janob boyvachcha desammikin, yo`q bu yo`l
bilan nafsoniyatingizga tegishim mumkin, siz uchun pul eng muhim narsadek, go`yo.
Shunday qilib, sizga uzun oyoqli amakijon deb murojaat qilishga qaror qildim. Qarshilik bildirmaysiz deb umid qilaman. Bu shunchaki erkalab chaqiruvchi ism, bu haqida Missis Lippetga aytmaymiz.
Ikki daqiqadan so`ng soat 10 ga bong uradi. Kunimiz qo`ng`iroqlar orqali qismlarga bo`lingan. Biz qo`ng`iroqlarga qarab ovqatlanamiz, uxlaymiz va o`qiymiz. Bu kishini jonlantirib yuboradi, hamma vaqt o`zimni qayergadir shoshayotgandek his qilaman. Mana, u jiringlayapti. Chiroqlarni o`chirish zarur. Xayrli tun.
E`tibor bering-a, qoidalarga qanchalik aniqlik bilan rioya etaman, buning barchasiga Jon Grayer yetimxonasida olgan tarbiyam sababchidir. Hurmat va ehtirom ila Jerusha Abbot, uzun oyoq amakijonga.
Qadrli uzun oyoq amakijon, bugun 1-oktabr,
Men kollejni, meni bu yerga yuborganingiz uchun sizni yaxshi ko`raman, men juda-juda baxtiyorman, har bir lahzadan shunchalik zavqlanyapmanki, ko`zimga uyqu ilinmayapti. Bu yer Jon Grayer yetimxonasidan qanchalar farq qilishini tasavvur ham qila olmaysiz. Dunyoda shunday joy bor ekani tushimga ham kirmagandi. Qiz bola bo`lmagan va bu yerga kela olmaydiganlarga achinaman, bu yer siz qatnagan kollejdan yaxshiligiga ishonchim komil.
Mening xonam yangi kasalxona qurilguncha izolyator vazifasini o`tagan binoning yuqorisida joylashgan. Shu qavatda yana uch qiz yashaydi, birinchisi, yuqori kursda o`qiydigan ko`zoynakli, har doim “Iltimos, sekinroq” deb takrorlayveradigan qiz bo`lsa, qolgani yangi kelganlar Selli Makbrayd va Juliya Rutlej Pendlton. Selli malla soch, qayrilma burun, samimiy qiz edi, Nyu Yorklik oliy nasab oilaga mansub Juliya hali meni payqamadi ham. Ular ikkisi bir xonada yashashadi, men bilan yuqori kurs qiz alohida xonalarda yashaymiz.
Odatda birinchi kurslarga alohida xona berilmasdi, ular juda oz, lekin men so`ramasam ham berishdi. Menimcha, ro`yxatga oluvchi asrandi qiz bilan tarbiyali qizning bir xonada bo`lishi yaxshi emas deb o`ylagan. Ko`rib turganingizdek, ustunlik men tomonda!
Xonam shimoli-g`arbiy burchakda bo`lib, ikkita derazali va manzaraga ega. O`n sakkiz yil mobaynida bir xonada yigirma kishi bo`lib yashashdan so`ng, bu yolg`izlik rohat bag`ishlayapti. Jerusha Abbotni anglashim uchun ilk marta imkoniyat paydo bo`ldi. Menimcha uni yaxshi ko`rib qolyapman. Sizchi?
Birinchi kurslarning basketbol jamoasini tuzishyapti, meni qabul qilish ehtimollari bor. To`g`ri men kichkinaginaman, lekin juda epchil, uddaburon va chayirman. Boshqalar oyog`i yerdan uzilguncha, oyoqlari ostidan chiqib hiyla ishlatib, to`pga ega chiqaman. Mashg`ulotlar qanchalik quvnoq o`tishini bilsangiz edi, tushdan so`ng sport maydonchasida, xazonrezgi daraxtlar, yoqilgan barglarning isi bilan to`yingan havo, hamma kulgan, qiyqirib o`ynagan. Ular men ko`rgan qizlarning eng baxtiyorlari bo`lsa, men ular orasida eng baxtiyoriman!
O`rganayotganlarim haqida uzundan-uzun xat yozish niyatida edi, (Misses Lippet siz shuni istashingizni aytgandi) lekin hozirgina soat yettiga bong urdi, 10 daqiqada sport kiyimida maydonchada bo`lishim kerak. Nima deb o`ylaysiz, meni jamoaga olisharmikin?
Hamisha sizniki bo`lib qoluvchi Jerusha Abbot
Aytgandek (soat 9)
Selli Makbrayd hozirgina eshigimni qoqib, shunday dedi:
- Uyimni judayam sog`indim, sen ham sog`indingmi?
Men ohista kulib, yo`q deb javob qildim. Yolg`iz uy sog`inchi azobidan forig` bo`lgan edim. Biror kimning yetimxonani sog`inganini eshitmaganman, sizchi?
Mikel Anjelo haqida eshitganmisiz? U o`rta asrlarda Italiyada yashagan mashhur rassom. Ingliz tili adabiyoti darsidagi hamma u haqida biladiganga o`xshaydi, men uni Arxangel ( jon oluvchi farishta) deb o`ylaganim uchun butun sinf ustimdan kuldi. Xuddi Arxangelga o`xshab eshitiladi, shunday emasmi? Kollejdagi muammo shundaki, siz hech qachon o`rganmagan narsalarni bilishingiz talab qilinadi. Ba`zida bu juda qiyin. Ammo hozir, qizlar bilmagan narsam haqida so`rab qolgudek bo`lsalar, sukut saqlab turaman, keyinroq ensiklopediyalardan qidirib bilib olaman.
Ilk kundanoq qo`pol xato qilib qo`ydim. Kimdir, Mouris Materlink haqida gapirganida u ham birinchi kursmi deb so`radm. Bu hangoma butun kollej bo`ylab yoyildi. Nima bo`lganda ham boshqalar kabi aqlliman, ba`zilardan esa bilimdonroqman.
Selli dunyodagi eng xushchaqchaq qiz bo`lsa Juliya Rutlej Pendlton uning mutlaqo aksi. Ro`yxatga oluvchining turli fe`l-atvor egalarini bir xonadosh qilgani juda g`alati. Selli uchun arzimas narsa ham qiziqarli bo`lsa, Juliya uchun har qanday narsa ham zerikarli tuyuladi. U quvnoq bo`lishga harakat ham qilmaydi. Agar siz Pendlton bo`lsangiz shuning o`zi hech qanday mushkulotsiz jannatga tushishingiz uchun yetarli deb ishonadi. Juliya va men dushman bo`lish uchun yaratilganmiz.
Menda yangi qat’iy qoida bor: ertaga qanchalik ko`p yozma topshiriqlar bo`lmasin,hech qachon va hech qachon kechqurun dars qilmayman. O`rniga shunchaki kitob o`qiyman, o`qishim shart, bilasiz, 18 yil ortda qolgan. Tasavvur ham qila olmaysiz, miyam jaholat domiga botib qolgan, o`zligimni endi anglayapman.
Umrim bino bo`lib, na Devid Kopperfildni, na Ayvenhoni, na Zolushka, na Ko`k soqol, Robinzon Kruzo, Jeyn Eyr, na Alisa mo`jizalar mamlakatida, va na Redyard Kiplingdan bir jumlani o`qimaganman. Genriy VIII ning ko`p bora uylanganini, Shellining shoir bo`lganini, odamlarning qachonlardir maymun bo`lganini, Jannat bog`i afsona ekanini, R.L.S. Robert Luis Stivenson nomini bildirishini, Jorj Eliot ayol kishi bo`lganini bilmasdim. Mona Liza portretini ko`rmaganman, (ishonishingiz qiyin, lekin bu haqiqat) Sherlok Xolms haqida eshitmaganman.
Hozir bulardan tashqari yana ko`p narsalarni bilaman, ammo ko`rib turganingizdek, yana qancha narsalarning o`rnini to`ldirishim kerak. Lekin bu juda ham qiziqarli. Kun davomida sabrsizlik bilan oqshom tushishini kutaman, keyin eshigimga “Bezovta qilinmasin” degan yozuvni ilib qo`yamanu, bejirim qizil rangli xalatimni va junli shippagimni kiyib, orqamga yostiqlarni qo`yib olgancha lampani yoqib, o`qiyveraman , o`qiyveraman, o`qiyveraman. Bitta kitob kamlik qiladi, birvarakayiga to`rttasini o`qiyman. Bular Tenniysonning she`rlari, Manmanlik yarmarkasi, Kiplingning Oddiy hikoyalari va mazax qilmang, Kichik xonimlar. Kichik xonimlarni o`qib katta bo`lmagan kollejdagi yagona qiz ekanimni angladim. Bu haqida hech kimga aytmadim (ularga juda g`alati bo`lib ko`rinishim mumkin). Shunchaki do`konga borib oylik pulimdan 1,12 dollarga sotib oldim.
(soat 10ga bong urdi. Judayam uzilishlarga boy xat bo`ldi-da)
Keyingi haftadan Rojdestvo ta`tili boshlanadi, jomadonlar taxt. Yo`laklar shunchalik liq to`laki, bazo`r o`tasan kishi, hamma hayajonda, go`yoki o`qish keyingi darajaga tushib qolgandek. Ta`tilni ajoyib o`tkazmoqchiman, bu yerda Texaslik qiz qolar ekan, u bilan uzoq sayohatlar qilmoqchimiz, agar muz bo`lsa konkida uchishni o`rganmoqchimiz. Qolaversa butun boshli kutubxona muntazir, ularni o`qish uchun esa roppa-rosa uch hafta vaqt bor.
Xayr amakijon, umid qilamanki, xuddi mendek baxtiyorsiz.
Doim sizniki bo`lib qoluvchi Judi.
Aytgancha. Savolimga javob berishni unutmang. Agar yozib o`tirishni istamasangiz, kotibingizga telegramma yuborishini ayting. U shunchaki:
Janob Smit butunlay kal, yoki Janob Smit kal emas, yo bo`lmasam Janob Smitning sochiga oq oralagan desa, shuning o`zi kifoya.
Oylik pulimdan 25 sent chegirib qolishingiz mumkin.
Yanvargacha xayr, Rojdestvo muborak!
Ta`tilning so`nggi kunlari, aniq sana ma`lum emas.
Qadrli uzun oyoq amakijon!
Sizlarda ham qor yog`yaptimi? Hammayoq oq rangga burkangan, yog`ayotgan qor parchalari xuddi bodroqqa o`xshaydi. Kun tunga o`rnini bo`shatib berayotgan vaqt, quyosh endigina biroz siyohrang tepalikka og`gan paytdagi so`nggi nurlarda deraza tokchasida o`tirib sizga xat yozyapman.
Sizning 5 ta tilla tangangiz kutilmagan sovg`a bo`ldi! Rojdestvo sovg`alarini olishga o`rganmaganman. Shundoq ham menga ko`p narsalar berdingiz, o`ylashimcha qo`shimcha sovg`alarga munosib emasman. Nima bo`lganda ham juda-juda xursandman. Bu pullarga nimalar olganimni bilgingiz kelyaptimi?
- Charm tasmali kumush soat – bilagimga taqish va mashg`ulotlarga o`z vaqtida borishim uchun
- Metyu Arnoldning she`rlari
- Jun gilamcha (bino sovuq)
- 500 dona sariq bosma qog`oz (yaqin kelajakda yozuvchi bo`lmoqchiman)
- Sinonimlar lug`ati (yozuvchining so`z boyligini oshirish uchun)
- (Oxirgi narsani aytishni istamasdim, lekin aytishim kerak) Bir juft ipak paypoq.
Amakijon, endi menga hamma narsani aytib bermayapsan demang! Bilishingiz kerakki, paypoqlarni eslatib turuvchi arzimas sabab bor. Juliya Pendlton har kuni kechqurun xonamga geometriyadan dars qilish uchun kirib, ipak paypoq kiygan oyoqlarini chalishtirib o`tiradi. Ozginadan keyin ta`tildan qaytishi bilanoq, uning divanida ipak paypoqlarimda o`tiraman. Ko`rdingizmi amakijon, qanday mitti maxluqchaman, lekin haqman, yetimxonadagi tavsifnomalarimdan qanday ekanligimni bilsangiz kerak-a?
Ana endi, ta`tilim haqida aytib bersam, yoki faqat o`qishim bilan qiziqasizmi? Texaslik qizning ismi Leonora Fenton (Jerusha kabi kulgili to`g`rimi?). U menga yoqadi, lekin Selli Mak Braydchalik emas. Hech kimni Sellidek yaxshi ko`rmasam kerak – siz bundan mustasnosiz. Sizni hammadan ham yaxshi ko`rishim kerak, chunki siz butun oilamni o`zingizda jam qilgansiz. Leonora, men va ikki nafar ikkinchi kurs qiz har kuni sayohat qildik, butun tevarak-atrofni aylanib chiqdik. Bir marta shahar ichida 4 milya yurib kollej qizlari tushlikka boradigan restoranga kirdik. Juda maroqli bo`ldi, ayniqsa menga. Chunki bu yetimxonadan tubdan farq qilardi.
Ikki kundan keyin ta`til nihoyasiga yetadi, qizlarni yana ko`rishimdan xursandman. Bino huvillab qolgan, 400 kishiga mo`ljallangan joyda 9 kishi qolgani uchun jaranglab ovozlar eshitilardi.
11 bet – bechora amakijonim, charchab ketgan bo`lsangiz kerak! Kichkina minnatdorchilik xati bo`ladi deb o`ylagandim, lekin hali ham nihoyasiga yetolmayapman.
Xayr, g`amxo`rligingiz uchun rahmat, juda baxtliman, kichik tashvishimdan tashqari – fevralda imtihonlar. Sevgi ila Judi
Aytgancha, sevgi ila deb yuborishim balki xatodir? Agar shunday bo`lsa, iltimos kechiring. Lekin kimnidir yaxshi ko`rishim kerak-ku, siz va Lippet xonimdan biringizni tanlashim mumkin xolos, shunday ekan, ko`nikishingizga to`g`ri keladi. Chunki Lippet xonimni yaxshi ko`rish qo`limdan kelmaydi.