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A Miracle Play
by [?]

The widow Darter’s house was set on a hill. It was a story-and-a-half cottage, of stucco, to which sun and wind and frost had offered their kind offices, mellowing pleasantly its original glare of white. In summer a trumpet-vine draped the ugly little piazza which Emmy’s “art-needle work” had helped build, and which she and her mother admired with simple hearts. The big burr oak and the maples hid the house from the road, but the grassy knoll in front of the house was bare, and from this vantage-ground one could see the shallow curve of whitish-brown where the village street climbed the hill, the chimneys of the houses below, and, afar off, the trains roaring through the prairies. All the village was interested in the railway, but Emmy had an especial and intimate interest because her sweetheart was the local agent. He had been her sweetheart during five years, in any one of which he would have been proud and glad to marry her; yet this was the fifth year of their betrothal, and Emmy was drearily reflecting that they were no nearer the chance to spend their lives together the fifth than the first.

Emmy was hanging out clothes. It was four o’clock in the afternoon, but she had just brought out the large basket and was pinning the garments to the line, while Virginia, her sister, a little girl in short skirts and a blue checked apron, helped with the less cumbrous stockings and handkerchiefs. The child was pretty. She had a fresh color and curly yellow hair. Emmy’s hair was black, and twisted in a braid about a shapely head. It shone like silk. But her eyes were gray, soft, and liquid. She was slender, with a youthful litheness in her motions, and her white arms flashed as they moved backward and forward in her work. The sleeves of her blue gown were rolled up; the gown itself was plainly her work-a-day garb, but there was a white lawn tie at her neck and the gown was both neat and becoming; in short, she was an attractive little creature who did not neglect her looks even of a wash-day.

The widow Darter sat on the piazza in a large rocking-chair. She rocked. As she rocked, she moaned piteously. At intervals she changed the sibilant moan into a hollow groaning sound. “Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” wailed the widow. “Um-m! um-m! um-m-m-m!”

The little girl flung a frown of impatience over her shoulder. “I don’t see why mamma makes such an awful racket!” she snapped.

“She suffers,” said Emmy.

“Well, she needn’t holler so if she does,” cried Virginia, rebelliously. “I know she wouldn’t let me holler when I stubbed my toe. It hurt awful, too!”

Emmy said nothing.

“Say, are you going to the picnic with Bert to-morrow afternoon?” said the child.

“No, Jinny, I don’t see how I can. Mother’s so sick.”

“Well, I told Bert I was willing to take care of mamma; and he said he’d buy me a new doll if I would. I guess he wants you to go awful.”

“Oh-h dear! Oh-h dear!” droned the sufferer on the piazza.

“Well, I can’t,” said Emmy. “I wish you’d run and ask mother if she wants anything.”

“She don’t; she’s been going on that way all the afternoon.” But Jinny granted the request after the easy-going manner of her age; she turned on her heel and sent a shout at her mother–“Say, mamma! you want anything?”

Mrs. Darter shook her head. The din of woe swelled in volume.

“I s’pose she wants you to read to her; she says I don’t read with expression,” said the little girl. “But we’re all read out; you put off the washing to read the end of A Romance of Two Worlds, and we’ve got to wait until No. 9 comes in! Albert said he’d sent for a whooping big pile of books from Davenport; you can get ’em at the dry-goods stores for five cents a book. And Mrs. Conner’ll bring them up, won’t she, when she comes? She’s got to go for her boarder.” Emmy nodded. Mrs. Darter groaned more softly, a sign that she was distracted by something from her own griefs of mind or body. Jinny chattered on. “Miss Ann Bigelow told me Mrs. Conner’s going to have a girl from the University of Chicago for a boarder this time, but she’s only coming for a week. Sibyl Edmunds knows her well. And, Emmy, she takes pictures, and she’s going to bring her camera.”