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Little Miss By-The-Day   By: (1880-)

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First Page:

LITTLE MISS BY THE DAY

BY LUCILLE VAN SLYKE

Author of "Eve's Other Children"

With A Frontispiece In Color By MABEL HATT

1919

TO GEORDIE

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

PROLOGUE I IN THE BARRED GARDEN II THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS III LOST DREAMS IV THE UNFINISHED SONG V "CERTAIN LEGAL MATTERS" VI THE LAST PRETENDING

PROLOGUE

The older I get the more convinced I become that the most fascinating persons in this world are those elusive souls whom we know perfectly well but whom we never, as children say, "get to meet." They slip out of countries, or towns or rooms even, just before we arrive, leaving us with an inexplicable feeling of having been cheated of something that was rightfully and divinely ours. That's the way I still feel about little Miss By the Day. Perhaps you, too, have been baffled by the will o' the wispishness of that whimsical young person. Perhaps you, too, tried to find her but never did.

She sounded so casual and commonplace when I first began hearing about her that I let her slip through my fingers. She was just a little seamstress who had a "vairee" odd way of speaking; it was quite a long time before I realized that everybody who spoke about her was unconsciously trying to imitate her drawling voice. And then I noticed that everybody who mentioned her smiled dreamily and wondered where on earth she'd come from. I kept hearing, just as you probably did, odd scraps of things she had said, droll adventures in which she had figured, extraordinary and fantastic tales about the house in which she lived. And presently, when it was too late, I found myself listening to regretful murmurings of scores of baffled persons who couldn't find out what had become of her. She suddenly vanished, leaving nothing behind her save her delectable house.

If you'll lend me your pencil a minute I'll show you on the back of this envelope just how that house was situated. You can understand the whole amazing story better if you keep in mind how the church on the corner and the rectory were tucked in beside that great house. For it is a big house, so huge that the six prim brownstones across the street from it look like toy houses. But I've been told that in Brooklyn's early days there was no street, just a long terraced garden that sloped down to the river.

For all that the streets have crowded so disrespectfully about it the whole place still has a sort of "world with out end amen" air perhaps because of the impressive squareness of its structure, great blocks of brownstone joined solidly; perhaps because of the enormous gnarled wistaria vines that stretch above its massive cornices but one does feel as Felicia Day herself did when some one asked her how long she thought it had been there. She said she thought it must have been there "Much, much more than Always it must have been jamais au grand forevaire and more than evaire!"

Maybe, like me, you've passed that house a dozen times and shuddered at the filth of the little street.

[Illustration: Town map.]

I used to hold my breath as I hurried by that dismal old rookery. I thought it the most hideous purgatory that ever sheltered a horde of miserable humans. But you needn't be afraid to pass it now! The immaculate sweetness and serenity of that wee street is like a miracle and the old house is a fairy dream come true.

Its marble steps are softly yellowed with age, an exquisitely wrought iron balcony stretches across the front above the high ceilinged basement and great carved walnut doors open into a wide vestibule with a marble floor exactly like a bit of a gigantic chessboard. The transformation had so astounded me that I was almost afraid to touch the neatly polished beaten silver bell for fear the whole house would vanish.

"Coom in!" cried a Scotchy voice from the basement. So I stepped across the tessellated floor of the hall into the broad drawing room and stared out through the long French doors of the glass room at the green smudge of Battery Park beyond the river... Continue reading book >>




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