“What have you thought, Luclarion? Something, of course.”
“She wants a real smart girl—for two dollars a week. She can’t get her, because she ain’t. And I kind of felt as though I should like to put in. Seemed to me it was a—but there! I haven’t any right to stump you.”
“Wouldn’t it be rather an aggravation? I don’t suppose you would mean to stay altogether?”
“Not unless—but don’t go putting it into my head, Mrs. Ripwinkley. I shall feel as if I was. And I don’t think it goes quite so far as that, yet. We ain’t never stumped to more than one thing at a time. What she wants is to be straightened out. And when things once looked my way, she might get a girl, you see. Anyhow, ’twould encourage Pinkie, and kind of set her going. Pinkie likes things nice; but it’s such a Hoosac tunnel to undertake, that she just lets it all go, and gets off up-stairs, and sticks a ribbon in her hair. That’s all she can do. I s’pose ’twould take a fortnight, maybe?”
“Take it, Luclarion,” said Mrs. Ripwinkley, smiling. Luclarion understood the smile.
“I s’pose you think it’s as good as took. Well, perhaps it is—spoke for. But it wasn’t me, you know. Now what’ll you do?”
“Go into the kitchen and make the pudding.”
“We are not stumped for then, you know.”
“There was a colored girl here yesterday, from up in Garden Street, asking if there was any help wanted. I think she came in partially, to look at the flowers; the ’sturtiums are splendid, and I gave her some. She was awfully dressed up,—for colors, I mean; but she looked clean and pleasant, and spoke bright. Maybe she’d come, temporary. She seemed taken with things. I know where to find her, and I could go there when I got through with the gruel. Mrs. Scarup must have that right off.”
And Luclarion hurried away.
It was not the first time Mrs. Ripwinkley had lent Luclarion; but Miss Grapp had not found a kitchen mission in Boston heretofore. It was something new to bring the fashion of simple, prompt, neighborly help down intact from the hills, and apply it here to the tangle of city living, that is made up of so many separate and unrecognized struggles.
When Hazel came home from school, she went all the way up the garden walk, and in at the kitchen door. “That was the way she took it all,” she said; “first the flowers, and then Luclarion and what they had for dinner, and a drink of water; and then up-stairs, to mother.”
To-day she encountered in the kitchen a curious and startling apparition of change.
A very dusky brown maiden, with a petticoat of flashing purple, and a jacket of crimson, and extremely puzzling hair tied up with knots of corn color, stood in possession over the stove, tending a fricassee, of which Hazel recognized at once the preparation and savor as her mother’s; while beside her on a cricket, munching cold biscuit and butter with round, large bites of very white little teeth, sat a small girl of five of the same color, gleaming and twinkling as nothing human ever does gleam and twinkle but a little darkie child.