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Mary Lamb
by [?]

And so shy little Mary Lamb wondered what it was her mother kept locked up in the bottom drawer of the bureau, and Mary was told that children must not ask questions–little girls should be seen and not heard.

At night, Mary would dream of the things that were in that drawer, and sometimes great, big, black things would creep out through the keyhole and grow bigger and bigger until they filled the room so full that you couldn’t breathe, and then little Mary would cry aloud and scream, and her father would come with a strap that was kept on a nail behind the kitchen-door and teach her better than to wake everybody up in the middle of the night.

Yet Mary loved her mother, and sought in many ways to meet her wishes, and all the time her mother kept the bureau-drawer locked, and away somewhere on a high shelf was hidden all tenderness–all the gentle, loving words and the caresses which children crave.

And little Mary’s life seemed full of troubles, and the world a grievous place where everybody misunderstands everybody else; and at nighttime she would often hide her face in the pillow and cry herself to sleep.

But when she was ten years of age a great joy came into her life–a baby brother came! And all the love in the little girl’s heart was poured out for the puny baby boy. Babies are troublesome things, anyway, where folks are awful poor and where there are no servants and the mother is not so very strong. And so Mary became the baby’s own little foster-mother, and she carried him about, and long before he could lisp a word she had told him all the hopes and secrets of her heart, and he cooed and laughed, and lying on the floor, kicked his heels in the air and treated hope and love and ambition alike.

I can not find that Mary ever went to school. She stayed at home and sewed, did housework, and took care of the baby. All her learning came by absorption. When the boy was three years old she taught him his letters, and did it so deftly and well that he used to declare he could always read–and this is as it should be. When seven years of age the boy was sent to the Blue-Coat School. This was brought about through the influence of Mr. Salt, for whom John Lamb worked. Mr. Salt was a Bencher, and be it known a Bencher in England is not exactly the same thing as a Bencher in America. Mr. Salt took quite a notion to little Mary Lamb, and once when she came to his office with her father’s dinner, the honorable Bencher chucked her under the chin, said she was a fine little girl, and asked her if she liked to read. And when she answered, “Oh, yes, sir!” and then added, “If you please!” the Bencher laughed, and told her she was welcome to take any book in his library. And so we find she spent many happy hours in the great man’s library; and it was through her importunities that Mr. Salt got banty Charles the scholarship in Christ’s Hospital School.

Now the Blue-Coat boys are a curiosity to every sight-seer in London–and have been for these hundred years and more. Their long-tailed blue coats, buckle-shoes, and absence of either hats or caps bring the Yankee up with a halt. To conduct an American around to the vicinity of Christ’s Hospital and let him discover a “Blue-Coat” for himself is a sensation. The costume is exactly the same as that worn by Edward, “the Boy King,” who founded the school; and these youngsters, like the birds, never grow old. You lean against the high iron fence, and looking through the bars watch the boys frolic and play, just as visitors looked in the Eighteenth Century; and I’ve never been by Christ’s Hospital yet when curious people did not stand and stare. And one thing the Blue-Coats seem to prove, and that is that hats are quite superfluous.