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The Magic Cape
by [?]

“Say, Becky,” one of the little girls in her class asked her, “don’t you never put yourself on mit underwear nor underclothes? Ain’t you scared you should to get cold in your bones? My mamma, she puts me on mit all from wool underwear–costs twenty-seven cents a suit by Grand Street–and I puts them on when the school opens, and I don’t takes them off to the fourth of July.”

“Oh,” retorted Becky, with more truth than she knew, “it ain’t so awful healthy you should make like that. My mamma says it is healthy for me the wind shall come on my skin. She says sooner no wind comes outside of your skin, no blood could go inside of your skin. And don’t you know how teacher says what somebody what ain’t got blood going in them is dead ones?”

“Und you likes,” marvelled her friend, “you likes the wind shall blow on you?”

“Sure,” lied Becky, with a shiver, and she certainly had her wish.

But these appearances were only kept up for the eyes of the common herd. In the sanctuary of Teacher’s confidence she was more unreserved, and whenever she could secure that young lady’s kind ear, she bombarded it with gratitude and with reports of the impression made in the neighborhood of her one-roomed home by the shining splendor of that precious gift.

“Sooner I comes on mine house,” she reported, “sooner all the ladies opens the doors and rubbers on mine cape. Sooner I walks by my block all the children wants I shall let them wear it. Only I won’t let nobody wear it the while it is a present off of you.”

“That’s very nice of you,” smiled Miss Bailey, not surprised at this new delicacy of feeling in so small and unfortunate and sorely tried a heart. “Very nice of you indeed.”

“Sure I won’t let anybody wear it,” reiterated Becky, “not ‘out they pays me a penny for walkin’ up and down the block, and two cents for walkin’ all round the block mit mine stylish from-plush cape.”

“Of course not,” Teacher agreed, hastily adjusting herself to this standard of right dealing.

“No, ma’am,” said Becky. “I should never leave nobody have nothings what you gives me ‘out they pays me good. The lady of our floor, she goes on a dancing-ball over yesterday, and she wants I shall leave her put her on mit mine cape–she’s a awful little lady–only she don’t wants she shall pay me. Und so I ain’t let her take it, the while you gives it to me, and I am loving much mit you.”

A teacher who gains the confidence of her small charges, even to a slight degree, is sure to be made familiar with their family history unto the third or fourth generation. And so Teacher knew that the poverty of Becky’s home life was embittered and made even harder to bear by the contrasting elegance of an aunt, who lived, amid rank and fashion, in the “tony” purlieus of Cherry Street. Her abode consisted, according to her smarting small relative, of “a room and a closet,” a lavish and extravagant area for a household as small as hers.

“Why,” Becky informed Miss Bailey, with upturned palms, upscrewed shoulders, and upturned eyes, “my aunt, she ain’t got only five children and three boarders!”

It had been the habit of this rich and fashionable dame to pay visits of state and ceremony to her less fortunate sister-in-law, whose abode differed from hers only by the subtraction of the room. There, in the chaste consciousness of an incredible wig and an impenetrable shawl, she would monopolize many hundreds of cubic feet of space and air; indulge in conversations of the elegant and fashionable kind, which, so Becky reported to her teacher, “makes the tears in my mamma’s eyes, and gives my papa shamed feelings,” and caused an epidemic of ill-temper, with resulting slaps and kicks and yelling among her nephews and nieces.