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The Wishing Moon

Louise Elizabeth Dutton




  Author of "The Goddess Girl"

  "'_Oh, Judith, won't you speak to me?_'"]

  Publisher's logo]

  Illustrated by Everett Shinn

  Garden City New YorkDoubleday, Page & Company1916

  Copyright, 1916, byLouise Dutton

  All rights reserved, including that oftranslation into foreign languages,including the Scandinavian

  Copyright, 1916, The Metropolitan Magazine Company


  "'Oh, Judith, won't you speak to me?'" _Frontispiece_ (See page 239)


  "'I know what this means,' she asserted" 128

  "'Shut your eyes'" 166

  "'Judith, you don't hate me? Say it--say it'" 180


  The Wishing Moon


  A little girl sat on the worn front doorsteps of the Randall house. Shesat very still and straight, with her short, white skirts fluffeddaintily out on both sides, her hands tightly clasped over her thinknees, and her long, silk-stockinged legs cuddled tight together. Shewas bare-headed, and her short, soft hair showed silvery blonde in thefading light. Her hair was bobbed. For one miserable month it had beenthe only bobbed head in Green River. Her big, gray-green eyes had afugitive, dancing light in them. The little girl had beautiful eyes.

  The little girl was Miss Judith Devereux Randall. She was eleven yearsold, and she felt happier to-night than she remembered feeling in allthe eleven years of her life.

  The Randalls' lawn was hedged with a fringe of lilac and syringa bushes,with one great, spreading horse-chestnut tree at the corner. The housedid not stand far back from the street. The little girl could see agenerous section of Main Street sloping past, dark already undershadowing trees. The street was empty. It was half-past six, andsupper-time in Green River, but the Randalls did not have supper, theydined at night, like the Everards. To-night mother and father weredining with the Everards, and the little girl had plans of her own.

  Father was dressed, and waiting, shut in the library. Mother wasdressing in her big corner room upstairs, with all the electric lightslighted. The little girl could see them, if she turned her head, butmother was very far away, in spite of that, for her door was locked, andyou could not go in. You could not watch her brush her long, wonderfulhair, or help her into her evening gown. Mother's evening gown was blackthis summer, with shiny spangles--a fairy gown. Mother had to be alonewhile she dressed, because she was going to the Everards'.

  There were two Everards, the Colonel, who was old because his hair waswhite, and his wife, who wore even more beautiful clothes than mother.She had heard her father say that the Colonel had made the town, and shehad heard Norah, the cook, say that he owned the town. She had an ideathat these two things were not quite the same, though they soundedalike, for father was fond of the Colonel, and Norah was not. At anyrate, he was president of the bank--father and Norah agreed aboutthat--and he lived in a house at the edge of the town, in what used tobe a part of Larribees' woods. Father used to go Mayflowering there, butnow nobody could.

  The house was ugly, with things sticking out all over it, towers andbalconies and cupolas, and it was the little girl's twin. She was bornthe year the Everards settled in Green River.

  "And you're marked with it," Norah said, in one of their serious talks,when Mollie, the second girl, was out, and the two had the kitchen tothemselves. Norah was peeling apples for a pie, and allowing herunlimited ginger-snaps, straight from the jar. "Marked with it, MissJudy."


  "That house, and what goes on in it."

  "What does go on?"

  "You'll know soon enough."

  "I'm not marked with it. I've got a birthmark, but it's a strawberry, onmy left side, like the princesses have in the fairy tales."

  "You are a kind of a princess, Miss Judy."

  "Is that a bad thing to be, Nana?"

  "It's a lonesome thing."

  "My strawberry's fading. Mother says it will go away."

  "It won't go away. What we're born to be, we will be, Miss Judy----.Bless your heart, you're crying, with the big eyes of you. What for,dear?"

  "I don't know. I don't want to be a princess. I don't want to belonesome. I hate the Everards."

  "Well, there's many to say that now, and there'll be more to say itsoon." Norah muttered this darkly, into her yellow bowl of apples, butJudith heard: "Here, eat this apple, child. You musn't hate anybody."

  "I do. I hate the Everards."

  Queer things came into your head to say when you were talking withNorah, who had an aunt with the second sight, and told beautiful fairytales herself, and even believed in fairies; Judith did not. TheEverards gave Judith and no other little girl in town presents atChristmas, and invited Judith and no other little girl to lunch. Theyhad a great deal to do with her trouble, her serious trouble, which shewould not discuss even with Norah. But she did not really hate theEverards--certainly not to-night. She was too happy.

  Judith was going out to hang May-baskets.

  So was every other little girl in town who wanted to, and it was awonderful thing to be doing to-night. It was really May night, by theweather as well as the calendar--the kind of night that Norah's fairiesmeant should come on the first of May: warm, with a tiny chill creepinginto the air as the dark came, a pleasant, shivery chill, as if theremight really be fairies or ghosts about. It was still and clear. Onestar, that had just come up above the horse-chestnut tree, looked verysmall and bright and close, as if it had climbed up into the sky out ofthe dark, clustering leaves of the tree.

  This was the star that Judith usually wished on, but she could wish onthe moon to-night; Norah had told her so; wish once instead of threenights running, and get her wish whether she thought of the red fox'stail or not. The new moon of May was a wishing moon.

  A wishing moon! The small white figure on the steps cuddled itself intoa smaller heap. Judith sighed happily and closed her eyes. She was goingwith the others. She had her wish already.

  It was Judith's great trouble that she was not like other little girls.Until she was six Judith had a vague idea that she was the only child inthe world. Then she tried to make friends with two small, dirty girlsover the back fence, and found out that there were other children, butshe must not play with them. One day Norah found her crying in thenursery because she could not think what to play, and soon after WillardNash, the fat little boy next door, came to dinner and into her life,and after that, Eddie and Natalie Ward, from the white house up thestreet, and Lorena Drew, from over the river. Still other children cameto her parties, so many that she could not remember their names. ThenJudith's trouble began. She was not like them.

  She did not look like them; her clothes were not made by a seamstress,but came from city shops, and had shorter skirts, and stuck out indifferent places. She could not do what they did; Mollie called for herat nine at evening parties, and she usually had to go to bed half anhour after dinner, before it was dark. She had to do things that theydid not do: make grown-up calls with her mother and wear gloves, andtake lessons in fancy dancing instead of going to dancing school.

  But she had gone to school now for almost a year, a private school inthe big billiard-room at the Larribees', but a real school, with otherchildren in it. They did not make fun of her clothes, or the way shepronounced her words, very often now. She belonged to a secret societywith Rena and Natalie. She had spent one night with Natalie, though shehad to come home before breakfast. The other children did not know shewas different, but Judith knew.

/>   Unexpected things might be required of her at a moment's notice: to beexcused from school and pass cakes at a tea at the Everards'; to leave apicnic before the potatoes were roasted, because Mollie had appeared,inexorable; unaccountable things, but she was to be safe to-night. Maynight was not such a wonderful night for any little girl as it was forJudith.

  The lights were on in Nashs' parlour, and not turned off in thedining-room, which meant that the rest of the family were not throughsupper, but Willard was. Presently she heard three loud, unmelodiouswhistles, his private signal, and a stocky figure pushed itself througha gap in the hedge which looked, and was, too small for it, and Judithrubbed her eyes and sat up--it crossed the lawn to her.

  "Good morning, Merry Sunshine," said Willard, ironically.

  "I wasn't asleep."

  "You were."

  "I heard you coming."

  "You did not."

  "I did so."

  These formalities over, she made room for him eagerly on the steps.Willard looked fatter to Judith after a meal, probably because she knewhow much he ate. His clean collar looked much too clean and white in thedark, and he was evidently in a teasing mood, but such as he was, hewas her best friend, and she needed him.

  "Willard, guess what I'm going to do?"

  "I don't know, kid." Willard's tone implied unmistakably that he did notwant to know.


  Judith's voice thrilled. Willard stared at her. Her eyes looked widerthan usual, and very bright. She was smiling a strange little smile, anda rare dimple, which he really believed she had made with a slatepencil, showed in her cheek. The light in her face was something new tohim, something he did not understand, and therefore being of masculinemind, wished to remove.

  "You're going to miss it to-night for one thing, kid," he stateddeliberately.

  "Oh, am I?" Judith dimpled and glowed.

  "We're going to stay out until ten. Vivie's not going." Willard's bigsister had chaperoned the expedition the year before. Now it was to goout unrestrained into the night.

  "That's lovely."

  Willard searched his brain for more overwhelming details.

  "We've got a dark lantern."

  "That's nice."

  "I got it. It's father's. He won't miss it. It's hidden in the Drews'barn. We're going to meet at the Drews, to fool them. They'll bewatching the Wards'."

  "They will?"




  Judith drew an awed, ecstatic breath. He was touching now on the chiefperil and charm of the expedition. Hanging May-baskets, conferring anelaborately-made gift upon a formal acquaintance, was not the object ofit--nothing so philanthropic; it was the escape after you had hung them.You went out for adventure, to ring the bell and get away, to brave thedangers of the night in small, intimate companies. And the chief danger,which you fled from through the dark, was the paddies.

  She did not know much about them. She would not show her ignorance byasking questions. But there were little boys with whom a state of warexisted. They chased you, even fought with you, made a systematicattempt to steal your May-baskets. They were mixed up in her mind withgnomes and pirates. She was deliciously afraid of them. She hardlythought they had human faces. She understood that they were most of themIrish, and that it was somehow a disgrace for them to be Irish, thoughher own Norah was Irish and proud of it.

  "Sure!" said Willard. "Irish boys. Paddies from Paddy Lane. Ed got ablack eye last year. We'll get back at them. It will be some evening."Judith did not look jealous or wistful yet. "The whole crowd's going."

  "Yes, I know," thrilled Judith. "Oh, Willard----"

  "Oh, Willard," he mimicked. Judith pronounced all the letters in hisname, which was not the popular method. "Oh, Willard, what do you thinkI heard Viv say to the Gaynor girl about you?"

  "Don't know. Willard, won't the paddies see the dark lantern?"

  "Viv said you were as pretty as a doll, but just as stiff and stuck-up,"pronounced Willard sternly. "And your father's only the cashier of thebank, and just because the Everards have taken your mother up is noreason for her to put on airs and get a second girl and get intodebt----"

  He broke off, discouraged. Judith did not appear to hear him. After themasculine habit, as he could not control the situation, he rose toleave.

  "Well, so long, kid. I've got to go to the post-office."

  Even the mention of this desirable rendezvous, which was denied to herbecause Mollie always brought home the evening mail in a black silkbag, did not dim the dancing light in Judith's eyes. She put a hand onhis sleeve.


  "Well, kid?"

  "Willard, don't you wish I was going to-night?"

  "What for, to fight the paddies, or carry the dark lantern?"

  "I could fight," said Judith, with a little quiver in her voice, as ifshe could.

  "Fight? You couldn't even run away. They'd"--Willard hissed itmysteriously--"they'd get you."

  "No, they wouldn't, because"--something had happened to her eyes, sothat they did not look tantalizing--"you'd take care of me, Willard,"she announced surprisingly, "wouldn't you?"

  "Forget it," murmured Willard, flattered.

  "Wouldn't you?"




  "Well--I am. Father made mother let me. I'm going with you."

  The words she had been trying to say were out at last in a hushed voice,because her heart was beating hard, but they sounded beautiful to her,like a kind of song. Perhaps Willard heard it, too. He really was herbest friend, and he did not look so fat, after all, in the twilight. Shewaited breathlessly.

  "You are?"

  Judith nodded. She could not speak.

  "Well!" Willard's feelings were mixed, his face was not fashioned toexpress a conflict of emotions, and words failed him, too. "You're aqueer kid. Why didn't you tell me before?"

  "Aren't you glad, Willard?"

  "You'll get sleepy."

  "Aren't you glad?"

  "Sure I'm glad. But you can't run, and you are a cry-baby."

  These were known facts, not insults, but now Judith's eyes had stoppeddancing.

  "Judy, are you mad with me?"


  "You're the queerest kid." Up the street, he caught sight of a member ofa simpler sex than Judith's. "There's Ed coming out of the gate. I'vegot to see him about something. See you later. Don't be mad. So long!"

  The house was astir behind Judith. Father was opening and shuttingdoors, and hunting for things. Norah was helping mother into her wrapsand scolding. Somebody was telephoning. Mother's carriage was late.

  But it was turning into the yard now, a big, black hack from the Inn,with a white horse. Judith liked white horses best. The front dooropened, and her father, very tall and blond, with his shirt-frontshowing white, and her mother, with something shiny in her black hair,swept out.

  "Look who's here," said her father, and picked her up with his handsunder her elbows. "Going to paint the town red to-night, son?"

  "Red?" breathed Judith. How strong father was, and how beautiful motherwas. She smelled of the perfume in the smallest bottle on thetoilet-table. How kind they both were. "Red?"

  "Harry, you see she doesn't care a thing about going. She'd be betteroff in bed. Careful, baby! Your hair is catching on my sequins. Put herdown, Harry. You'll spoil the shape of her shoulders some day."

  "Don't you want to go, son?"

  "I--" Judith choked, "I----"

  "Well, she's not crazy about it, is she?"

  "Then do send her to bed."

  "No, you can't break your promise to a child, Minna."

  "Prig," said mother sweetly, as if a prig were a pleasant thing to be."All right, let her go, then. Oh, Harry, look at that horse. They'vesent us the knock-kneed old white corpse again."

  Mother hurried him into the carriage, and it clattered out of the yard.They did not look back. They were always i
n a hurry, and rather crosswhen they went to the Everards. For once she was glad to see them go,such a dreadful crisis had come and passed. How could father think shedid not want to go, father who used to hang May-baskets himself? Norahwas calling her, but she did not answer. Norah was cross to-night. Shedid not know how happy Judith was.

  Nobody knew, but now Judith did not want to tell. She did not wantsympathy. She was not lonely. This secret was too important to tell.And, before her eyes, a lovely and comforting thing was happening,silently and suddenly, as lovely things do happen. Quite still on thesteps, a white little figure, alone in a preoccupied world, but calm inspite of it, Judith looked and looked.

  Above the horse-chestnut tree, so filmy and faint that the star lookedbrighter than ever, so pale that it was not akin to the stars or theflickering lights in the street, but to the dark beyond, whereadventures were, so friendly and sweet that it could make the wish inyour heart come true, whether you were clever enough to wish it out loudor not, hung the wishing moon.