Molly and Betsy began to climb the hill to Putney Farm. It was a very warm night for May, and little Molly began to puff for breath. “Let’s sit down on this rock awhile and rest,” she said.
They were half-way up the hill now. From the rock they could see the lights in the farmhouses scattered along the valley road and on the side of the mountain opposite them, like big stars fallen from the multitude above. Betsy lay down on the rock and looked up at the stars. After a silence little Molly’s chirping voice said, “Oh, I thought you said we were going to march up to ’Lias in school and give him his clothes. Did you forget about that?”
Betsy gave a wriggle of shame as she remembered that plan. “No, we didn’t forget it,” she said. “We thought this would be a better way.”
“But how’ll ’Lias know who to thank?” asked Molly.
“That’s no matter,” said Betsy. Yes, it was Elizabeth-Ann-that-was who said that. And meant it, too. She was not even thinking of what she was saying. Between her and the stars, thick over her in the black, soft sky, she saw again that dirty, disordered room and the little boy, all alone, asleep with a piece of dry bread in his bony little fingers.
She looked hard and long at that picture, all the time seeing the quiet stars through it. And then she turned over and hid her face on the rock. She had said her “Now I lay me” every night since she could remember, but she had never prayed till she lay there with her face on the rock, saying over and over, “Oh, God, please, please, please make Mr. Pond adopt ’Lias.”
THE NEW CLOTHES FAIL
All the little girls went early to school the next day, eager for the first glimpse of ’Lias in his new clothes. They now quite enjoyed the mystery about who had made them, and were full of agreeable excitement as the little figure was seen approaching down the road. He wore the gray trousers and the little blue shirt; the trousers were a little too long, the shirt a perfect fit. The girls gazed at him with pride as he came on the playground, walking briskly along in the new shoes, which were just the right size. He had been wearing all winter a pair of cast-off women’s shoes. From a distance he looked like another child. But as he came closer ... oh! his face! his hair! his hands! his finger-nails! The little fellow had evidently tried to live up to his beautiful new raiment, for his hair had been roughly put back from his face, and around his mouth and nose was a small area of almost clean skin, where he had made an attempt at washing his face. But he had made practically no impression on the layers of encrusted dirt, and the little girls looked at him ruefully. Mr. Pond would certainly never take a fancy to such a dreadfully grimy child! His new, clean clothes made him look all the worse, as though dirty on purpose!