Because of all these things the children had a kind of contempt for her mingled with a curious awe.
She was so polite with grown people that it was fairly embarrassing. She always arose from her chair when they entered the room, always picked up the things they dropped and never interrupted. And yet she could carry on a long conversation with them. She never said, “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, ma’am.” Instead, she said, “Yes, Mrs. Brine,” or “No, Miss Allison,” and she looked whomever she was talking with straight in the eye.
She would play with the little children as willingly as with the bigger ones. Often when the older girls and boys were in school, she would bring out a lapful of toys and spend the whole morning with the little ones. When Granny called her, she would give all the toys away, dividing them with a careful justice. And, yet, whenever children bought things of her in the shop, she always expected them to pay the whole price. You can see how the neighborhood would fairly buzz with talk about her.
As for Maida—with all this newness of friend-making and out-of-doors games, it is not to be wondered that her head was a jumble at the end of each day. In that delicious, dozy interval before she fell asleep at night, all kinds of pretty pictures seemed to paint themselves on her eyelids.
Now it was Rose-Red swaying like a great overgrown scarlet flower from the bars of a lamp-post. Now it was Dicky hoisting himself along on his crutches, his face alight with his radiant smile. Now it was a line of laughing, rosy-cheeked children, as long as the tail of a kite, pelting to goal at the magic cry “Liberty poles are bending!” Or it was a group of little girls, setting out rows and rows of bright-colored paper-dolls among the shadows of one of the deep old doorways. But always in a few moments came the sweetest kind of sleep. And always through her dreams flowed the plaintive music of “Go in and out the windows.” Often she seemed to wake in the morning to the Clarion cry, “Hoist the sail!”
It did not seem to Maida that the days were long enough to do all the things she wanted to do.
One morning, Laura Lathrop came bustling importantly into the shop. “Good morning, Maida,” she said; “you may come over to my house this afternoon and play with me if you’d like.”
“Thank you, Laura,” Maida answered. To anybody else, she would have added, “I shall be delighted to come.” But to Laura, she only said, “It is kind of you to ask me.”
“From about two until four,” Laura went on in her most superior tone. “I suppose you can’t get off for much longer than that.”
“Granny is always willing to wait on customers if I want to play,” Maida explained, “but I think she would not want me to stay longer than that, anyway.”
“Very well, then. Shall we say at two?” Laura said this with a very grown-up air. Maida knew that she was imitating her mother.