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The Iron Woman   By: (1857-1945)

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THE IRON WOMAN

BY

MARGARET DELAND

" This was the iniquity ... fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness.... " EZEKIEL, xvi., 49

TO MY

PATIENT, RUTHLESS, INSPIRING CRITIC LORIN DELAND

August 12, 1911

ILLUSTRATIONS

"LOOK!" "BLAIR IS IN LOVE WITH ME!" "I THINK YOU ARE REASONABLE ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US" "ELIZABETH, MARRY ME!" "OF COURSE YOU KNOW MY OPINION OF YOU" SHE WHEELED ABOUT, AND STOOD, SWAYING WITH FRIGHT "WILL YOU LIVE? WILL YOU GIVE ME LIFE?" CLUTCHING HER SHOULDER, SHE LOOKED HARD INTO THE YOUNGER WOMAN'S FACE

THE IRON WOMAN

CHAPTER I

"Climb up in this tree, and play house!" Elizabeth Ferguson commanded. She herself had climbed to the lowest branch of an apple tree in the Maitland orchard, and sat there, swinging her white stockinged legs so recklessly that the three children whom she had summoned to her side, backed away for safety. "If you don't," she said, looking down at them, "I'm afraid, perhaps, maybe, I'll get mad."

Her foreboding was tempered by a giggle and by the deepening dimple in her cheek, but all the same she sighed with a sort of impersonal regret at the prospect of any unpleasantness. "It would be too bad if I got mad, wouldn't it?" she said thoughtfully. The others looked at one another in consternation. They knew so well what it meant to have Elizabeth "mad," that Nannie Maitland, the oldest of the little group, said at once, helplessly, "Well."

Nannie was always helpless with Elizabeth, just as she was helpless with her half brother, Blair, though she was ten and Elizabeth and Blair were only eight; but how could a little girl like Nannie be anything but helpless before a brother whom she adored, and a wonderful being like Elizabeth? Elizabeth! who always knew exactly what she wanted to do, and who instantly "got mad," if you wouldn't say you'd do it, too; got mad, and then repented, and hugged you and kissed you, and actually cried (or got mad again), if you refused to accept as a sign of your forgiveness her new slate pencil, decorated with strips of red and white paper just like a little barber's pole! No wonder Nannie, timid and good natured, was helpless before such a sweet, furious little creature! Blair had more backbone than his sister, but even he felt Elizabeth's heel upon his neck. David Richie, a silent, candid, very stubborn small boy, was, after a momentary struggle, as meek as the rest of them. Now, when she commanded them all to climb, it was David who demurred, because, he said, he spoke first for Indians tomahawking you in the back parlor.

"Very well!" said the despot; "play your old Indians! I'll never speak to any of you again as long as I live!"

"I've got on my new pants," David objected.

"Take 'em off!" said Elizabeth. And there is no knowing what might have happened if the decorous Nannie had not come to the rescue.

"That's not proper to do out of doors; and Miss White says not to say 'pants.'"

Elizabeth looked thoughtful. "Maybe it isn't proper," she admitted; "but David, honest, I took a hate to being tommy hocked the last time we played it; so please, dear David! If you'll play house in the tree, I'll give you a piece of my taffy." She took a little sticky package out of her pocket and licked her lips to indicate its contents; David yielded, shinning up the trunk of the tree, indifferent to the trousers, which had been on his mind ever since he had put them on his legs.

Blair followed him, but Nannie squatted on the ground content to merely look at the courageous three.

"Come on up," said Elizabeth. Nannie shook her little blond head. At which the others burst into a shrill chorus: "'Fraid cat! 'fraid cat! 'fraid cat!" Nannie smiled placidly; it never occurred to her to deny such an obviously truthful title. "Blair," she said, continuing a conversation interrupted by Elizabeth's determination to climb, "Blair, why do you say things that make Mamma mad? What's the sense? If it makes her mad for you to say things are ugly, why do you?"

"'Cause," Blair said briefly... Continue reading book >>




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