“Your mother is a witch,” she told Nan scornfully. “Red-haired women are always witches.” Then she and Faith fell out about the rooster. Mary said its tail was too short. Faith angrily retorted that she guessed God know what length to make a rooster’s tail. They did not “speak” for a day over this. Mary treated Una’s hairless, one-eyed doll with consideration; but when Una showed her other prized treasure—a picture of an angel carrying a baby, presumably to heaven, Mary declared that it looked too much like a ghost for her. Una crept away to her room and cried over this, but Mary hunted her out, hugged her repentantly and implored forgiveness. No one could keep up a quarrel long with Mary—not even Nan, who was rather prone to hold grudges and never quite forgave the insult to her mother. Mary was jolly. She could and did tell the most thrilling ghost stories. Rainbow Valley seances were undeniably more exciting after Mary came. She learned to play on the jew’s-harp and soon eclipsed Jerry.
“Never struck anything yet I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it,” she declared. Mary seldom lost a chance of tooting her own horn. She taught them how to make “blow-bags” out of the thick leaves of the “live-forever” that flourished in the old Bailey garden, she initiated them into the toothsome qualities of the “sours” that grew in the niches of the graveyard dyke, and she could make the most wonderful shadow pictures on the walls with her long, flexible fingers. And when they all went picking gum in Rainbow Valley Mary always got “the biggest chew” and bragged about it. There were times when they hated her and times when they loved her. But at all times they found her interesting. So they submitted quite meekly to her bossing, and by the end of a fortnight had come to feel that she must always have been with them.
“It’s the queerest thing that Mrs. Wiley hain’t been after me,” said Mary. “I can’t understand it.”
“Maybe she isn’t going to bother about you at all,” said Una. “Then you can just go on staying here.”
“This house ain’t hardly big enough for me and old Martha,” said Mary darkly. “It’s a very fine thing to have enough to eat—I’ve often wondered what it would be like—but I’m p’ticler about my cooking. And Mrs. Wiley’ll be here yet. She’s got a rod in pickle for me all right. I don’t think about it so much in daytime but say, girls, up there in that garret at night I git to thinking and thinking of it, till I just almost wish she’d come and have it over with. I dunno’s one real good whipping would be much worse’n all the dozen I’ve lived through in my mind ever since I run away. Were any of you ever licked?”
“No, of course not,” said Faith indignantly. “Father would never do such a thing.”
“You don’t know you’re alive,” said Mary with a sigh half of envy, half of superiority. “You don’t know what I’ve come through. And I s’pose the Blythes were never licked either?”