Elizabeth Ann began to undress. She was only half-awake; and that made her feel only about half her age, which wasn’t very great, the whole of it, and she felt like just crooking her arm over her eyes and giving up! She was too forlorn! She had never slept with anybody before, and she had heard ever so many times how bad it was for children to sleep with grown-ups. An icy wind rattled the windows and puffed in around the loose old casings. On the window-sill lay a little wreath of snow. Elizabeth Ann shivered and shook on her thin legs, undressed in a hurry, and slipped into her night-dress. She felt just as cold inside as out, and never was more utterly miserable than in that strange, ugly little room, with that strange, queer, fat old woman. She was even too miserable to cry, and that is saying a great deal for Elizabeth Ann!
She got into bed first, because Aunt Abigail said she was going to keep the candle lighted for a while and read. “And anyhow,” she said, “I’d better sleep on the outside to keep you from rolling out.”
Elizabeth Ann and Aunt Abigail lay very still for a long time, Aunt Abigail reading out of a small, worn old book. Elizabeth Ann could see its title, “Essays of Emerson.” A book with, that name had always laid on the center table in Aunt Harriet’s house, but that copy was all new and shiny, and Elizabeth Ann had never seen anybody look inside it. It was a very dull-looking book, with no pictures and no conversation. The little girl lay on her back, looking up at the cracks in the plaster ceiling and watching the shadows sway and dance as the candle flickered in the gusts of cold air. She herself began to feel a soft, pervasive warmth. Aunt Abigail’s great body was like a stove.
It was very, very quiet, quieter than any place Elizabeth Ann had ever known, except church, because a trolley-line ran past Aunt Harriet’s house and even at night there were always more or less hangings and rattlings. Here there was not a single sound except the soft, whispery noise when Aunt Abigail turned over a page as she read steadily and silently forward in her book. Elizabeth Ann turned her head so that she could see the round, rosy old face, full of soft wrinkles, and the calm, steady old eyes which were fixed on the page. And as she lay there in the warm bed, watching that quiet face, something very queer began to happen to Elizabeth Ann. She felt as though a tight knot inside her were slowly being untied. She felt—what was it she felt? There are no words for it. From deep within her something rose up softly ... she drew one or two long, half-sobbing breaths ... .
[Illustration: “Do you know,” said Aunt Abigail, “I think it’s going to be real nice, having a little girl in the house again.”]
Aunt Abigail laid down her book and looked over at the child. “Do you know,” she said, in a conversational tone, “do you know, I think it’s going to be real nice, having a little girl in the house again.”