Her life, her rearing, how interesting they must have been! What a pity I had not listened more attentively!
“They say you have much to do with asylums here.”
Evidently, when roles do not exist in life for certain characters, God has to create them. And thus He had to create a role in an asylum for my friend, for so she became from the instant she spoke of children as she did. It was the poorest and neediest of asylums; and the poor little orphaned wretches—but it is better not to speak of them. How can God ever expect to rear children without their mothers!
But the role I craved to create for my friend was far different—some good, honest bourgeois interior, where lips are coarse and cheeks are ruddy, and where life is composed of real scenes, set to the real music of life, the homely successes and failures, and loves and hates, and embraces and tears, that fill out the orchestra of the heart; where romance and poetry abound au naturel; and where—yes, where children grow as thick as nature permits: the domestic interior of the opera porter, for instance, or the clockmaker over the way. But what a loss the orphan-asylum would have suffered, and the dreary lacking there would have been in the lives of the children! For there must have been moments in the lives of the children in that asylum when they felt, awake, as they felt in their sleep when they dreamed their mothers were about them.
She was coming down on the boat from Cincinnati, the little convent girl. Two sisters had brought her aboard. They gave her in charge of the captain, got her a state-room, saw that the new little trunk was put into it, hung the new little satchel up on the wall, showed her how to bolt the door at night, shook hands with her for good-by (good-bys have really no significance for sisters), and left her there. After a while the bells all rang, and the boat, in the awkward elephantine fashion of boats, got into midstream. The chambermaid found her sitting on the chair in the state-room where the sisters had left her, and showed her how to sit on a chair in the saloon. And there she sat until the captain came and hunted her up for supper. She could not do anything of herself; she had to be initiated into everything by some one else.