A letter and A meeting.
Nearly a week later Joyce sat at her desk, hurrying to finish a letter before the postman’s arrival.
“Dear Jack,” it began.
“You and Mary will each get a letter this week. Hers is the fairy tale that Cousin Kate told me, about an old gate near here. I wrote it down as well as I could remember. I wish you could see that gate. It gets more interesting every day, and I’d give most anything to see what lies on the other side. Maybe I shall soon, for Marie has a way of finding out anything she wants to know. Marie is my new maid. Cousin Kate went to Paris last week, to be gone until nearly Christmas, so she got Marie to take care of me.
“It seems so odd to have somebody button my boots and brush my hair, and take me out to walk as if I were a big doll. I have to be very dignified and act as if I had always been used to such things. I believe Marie would be shocked to death if she knew that I had ever washed dishes, or pulled weeds out of the pavement, or romped with you in the barn.
“Yesterday when we were out walking I got so tired of acting as if I were a hundred years old, that I felt as if I should scream. ‘Marie,’ I said, ’I’ve a mind to throw my muff in the fence-corner and run and hang on behind that wagon that’s going down-hill.’ She had no idea that I was in earnest. She just smiled very politely and said, ’Oh, mademoiselle, impossible! How you Americans do love to jest.’ But it was no joke. You can’t imagine how stupid it is to be with nobody but grown people all the time. I’m fairly aching for a good old game of hi spy or prisoner’s base with you. There is nothing at all to do, but to take poky walks.
“Yesterday afternoon we walked down to the river. There’s a double row of trees along it on this side, and several benches where people can wait for the tram-cars that pass down this street and then across the bridge into Tours. Marie found an old friend of hers sitting on one of the benches,—such a big fat woman, and oh, such a gossip! Marie said she was tired, so we sat there a long time. Her friend’s name is Clotilde Robard. They talked about everybody in St. Symphorien.
“Then I gossiped, too. I asked Clotilde Robard if she knew why the gate with the big scissors was never opened any more. She told me that she used to be one of the maids there, before she married the spice-monger and was Madame Robard. Years before she went to live there, when the old Monsieur Ciseaux died, there was a dreadful quarrel about some money. The son that got the property told his brother and sister never to darken his doors again.
[Illustration: Out with Marie.]
“They went off to America, and that big front gate has never been opened since they passed out of it. Clotilde says that some people say that they put a curse on it, and something awful will happen to the first one who dares to go through. Isn’t that interesting?