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The Magic Cape
by [?]

That had been upon the question of lunch. Teacher had noticed that Becky frequently remained at school during the luncheon hour, but that she never ate anything. Other little girls sometimes urged refreshment upon her in vain. Miss Bailey, wise by this time in the laws of kosher and of traff, the clean and the unclean, according to Mosaic dietary laws, suggested a glass of milk at a neighboring dairy, or a roll from the delicatessen shop across the street. Any one of her charges would starve cheerfully to death or at the hospital ward before they would touch any of her food. She was a Christian, and though they loved her, learned from her, and honored her, they, like Shylock of old, would not eat with her. And Becky Zabrowsky, adding pride unto faith, and manners unto both, would smile her heart-breaking smile, shake her bandage-bowed head, and go on starving.

“Teacher, I tells you s’cuse, I don’t needs I shall eat,” was her always courteous answer. And not all Miss Bailey’s tact or wiles could prevail against it.

It was at about this time that Miss Bailey in her unofficial capacity accepted an invitation to a costume dance. Looking through old trunks and long-neglected shelves, she came upon a little tight-fitting shoulder cape of prehistoric date and fashion. It was such a cape as you can find in some of Du Maurier’s drawings. It pinned the wearer’s arms to her side, it gagged her tightly around the throat, it was of velvet, and its color was royal blue.

Constance Bailey, peering back into the dim vista of the years, could remember the pride and happiness which she had felt when her over-indulgent grandmother had given her, then a child of about twelve, this gorgeous garment. She could remember how it had dwarfed and faded the rest of her wardrobe, how she had wept to wear it upon all possible and impossible occasions, and how tragic had been the moment when it refused to meet across her loving breast.

Here, she thought triumphantly, was something before which the Zabrowsky spirit would break down. It did not in any way suggest the useful, serviceable, humiliating, charitable devotion. It was gay and festive, palpably a gift, and Teacher, with many misgivings but some hope, submitted it to Becky’s consideration. She represented that she had herself outgrown it, that she had no costume with which it could appropriately be worn, that it was menaced by moths, a prey to creases, and a responsibility under which she could no longer find peace or security. Under the circumstances, she pleaded, would Becky relieve her of it? And Becky was delighted, translated, enchanted. She would never allow that cape to hang with the ordinary outdoor apparel of the other members of the class. It rested in her desk when she was busy, and she lulled it in her arms when she was not. Before coming into this shining fortune she had been rather looked down upon by other members of the class, and had avoided publicity in every possible way. She had with chattering teeth and livid lips assured her more warmly clad classmates that she was “all times too hot on the skin,” and that her mamma considered her Sunday coat too stylish to wear at school. But, girded in blue velvet, she was another child. Once the most retiring of the class, she now became the least so. Once the most studious, she now yearned to be sent on outpost duty, on small shopping expeditions for her teacher, to the Principal’s office, or to other class rooms with notes or with new students. And upon all these expeditions she wore an air of conscious correctness and the royal-blue velvet cape. She had once been the most truthful of small persons, but the glory of the cape tinged everything, and she allowed the other children to infer–nay, she even definitely stated–that this was the Sunday coat earlier referred to, and that she was wearing it to school because it had been superseded by another even more wonderful. Her auditors were too impressed to be unconvinced, and, to cover her very literal nakedness in every other respect, she invented for herself an entirely new disease.