“Rose, that’d be good of you,” he replied. “You could help along a lot. I don’t do my work so well no more. But your poor mother won’t rest in her grave. She was so proud of you, always dreamin’.”
The lamp Rose lighted showed comfortless rooms, with but few articles of furniture. It was with the deft fingers of long practice that the girl spread the faded table-cloth, laid the dishes, ground the coffee, peeled the potatoes, and cut the bread. Then presently she called her father to the meal. He ate in silence, having relapsed once more into the dull gloom natural to him. When he had finished he took up his hat and with slow steps left the room.
“No more study for me,” mused Rose, and she felt both glad and sorry. “What will Bessy say? She won’t like it. I wonder what old Hill did to her. Let her off easy. I won’t get to see Bessy so much now. No more afternoons in the park. But I’ll have the evenings. Best of all, some nice clothes to wear. I might some day have a lovely gown like that Miss Maynard wore the night of the Prom.”
Rose washed and dried the dishes, put them away, and cleaned up the little kitchen in a way that spoke well for her. And she did it cheerfully, for in the interest of this new idea of work she forgot her trouble and discontent. Taking up the lamp she went to her room. It contained a narrow bed, a bureau, a small wardrobe and a rug. The walls held several pictures, and some touches of color in the way of ribbons, bright posters, and an orange-and-blue banner. A photograph of Bessy Bell stood on the bureau and the girl’s beauty seemed like a light in the dingy room.
Rose looked in the mirror and smiled and tossed her curly head. She studied the oval face framed in its mass of curls, the steady gray-blue eyes, the soft, wistful, tenderly curved lips. “Yes, I’m pretty,” she said. “And I’m going to buy nice things to wear.”
Suddenly she heard a pattering on the roof.
“Rain! What do you know about that? I’ve got to stay in. If I spoil that relic of a hat I’ll never have the nerve to go ask for a job.”
She prepared for bed, and placing the lamp on the edge of the bureau, she lay down to become absorbed in a paper-backed novel. The mill-clock was striking ten when she finished. There was a dreamy light in her eyes and a glow upon her face.
“How grand to be as beautiful as she was and turn out to be an heiress with blue blood, and a lovely mother, and handsome lovers dying for her!”
Then she flung the novel against the wall.
“It’s only a book. It’s not true.”
Rose blew out the lamp and went to sleep.
During the night she dreamed that the principal of the High School had called to see her father, and she awoke trembling.