From the Juvenile Instructor, January 1911 –
The Lucky One.
“Of course I shall be the one. I’m oldest,” said Edith.
“No, I shall, because you went away last, and I didn’t,” said Ruth.
“I need a change for my health,” said Anna, with a drawn-down mouth that might truly be the sign of pain, but with rosy cheeks which could be the sign of a very healthy girl.
“Whoever goes,” said Mrs. Stone, “will have not only the visit, but the new clothes.”
“Then it will have to be me, because I haven’t a thing left over from last year, and must have new clothes anyway,” said Edith.
“I think I might be the one,” said Anna, “for I have a new winter suit, already.”
“Which fits me as well as you, and could be borrowed,” added Ruth.
“Children! Children!” cried Mrs. Stone, in despair. “What would Aunt Nell say if she were to hear you quarreling over her invitation? She writes: ‘I love all three of my nieces so much that I don’t know which one I want to visit me next, so I will leave it for them to decide. Send along the girl who needs the change, and I promise her as nice a time as I know how to give.’”
But, instead of filling them with contrition, this reading of the letter made their desire to go all the stronger.
“Think of the sleigh rides behind the gray pair, all nestled down in those soft black furs!” said Anna, with a sigh, drawing the folds of an afghan about her, and half closing her eyes.
“I presume you hear the jingling of the sleigh bells now,” said Ruth. “A person with such a vivid imagination as you’ve got doesn’t need to go away to enjoy things.”
“Well, mother,” said Edith, with a very grown-up air. “I think somebody ought to go who will do credit to the family, and of course I’ve been out more and know how to act in society better than these children.”
“These children!” screamed Ruth and Anna, in a derisive chorus; but Mrs. Stone held up her fingers with a warning gesture, and then, to the surprise of all, she buried her face in her hands and sobbed – yes, mother was crying!
The three girls looked at each other in dismay. “Mother!” cried Edith, gently, “what have we done?”
“I am so tired of it all,” burst out the sobbing woman. “It has been so ever since your father died. Things no sooner get to running smoothly than there is a great fuss over who shall have a new dress, or whose boots are the shabbiest, or who shall go on the picnic. When there are three children there ought to be money enough to divide by three, not by one. I can’t decide for you any more. You must choose some way yourselves.”
The slow tears ran down her cheek. Edith noticed how pale and wrinkled it was. There used to be the color there when father was alive. And what a shabby dress!
“Mother, I’ve decided who shall go, and it’s not myself. Will you all consent? and, mother, dear, will you let me do all the contriving, about clothes and packing, so that you needn’t have a thing to decide about it till the day comes to go.”
Mrs. Stone wiped the tears. “I am very much ashamed,” she said. “Of course I’ll help get any one of you ready. It was the disputing that troubled me.”
“Just this once, let me, mother,” said Edith. “It will do me good, truly.”
So Mrs. Stone consented, and the two younger girls were borne away to Edith’s room. “Which of us is it?” asked Ruth.
“Neither,” said Edith.
“Why, Edith Stone!” said Anna; “you selfish thing, to choose yourself.”
“I didn’t,” said Edith. “It’s – it’s – mother!”
“Mother!” echoed Ruth.
“Why, she wasn’t even asked,” said Anna.
“No, but Aunt Nell would rather have her than all three of us put together, if she had any idea she’d come. Girls,” and Edith’s voice trembled, “the money has been divided into three parts when it ought to have been four. Does mother ever have a new dress? Does she ever go to a picnic or trolley riding? Do we choose her to have the extra orange or the Christmas present that’s not marked for anybody? No! We’re selfish, that’s what we are.”
“But will she go?” said Anna.
“She’ll have to,” said Edith. “Ruth, you run straight down to Mercy’s, and say that we’ve decided to change the blue suit for a black one. Anna hasn’t worn it, and there was a lovely plain black for the same price. You don’t mind, do you, Anna?”
“I’ll wear my old one till it falls off,” said that young girl, “and imagine it’s stylish,” with a wink at Ruth.
“Her bonnet is all right, and how thankful I am my new silk waist is a plain black one, and too large. It will just fit mother.”
“And I’ll get boots for her instead of skates for me,” said Ruth, “and let her choose any of my stocks she likes, and – and she may take my new belt buckle, if she’ll be very careful of it.”
A note was dispatched to Aunt Nell, and the loving planning went on, till the day for the visit came, and the mother was still in ignorance. She had thought it wise to let Edith arrange things this time, and had not tried to solve the mystery.
At 10 o’clock the three girls stood before her. “In one hour,” began Edith, “the expressman stops at this house for the trunk of the one who is to visit Aunt Nell.”
“Which is no evidence, as the same trunk would go, whatever person went,” put in Anna.
“That trunk is now packed,” said Edith.
“And the contents not to be poked over or criticized by the traveler,” said Ruth. “And articles lent are to be considered the person’s own.”
“The ticket is bought,” said Anna.
“The person’s pocketbook properly filled, with the name and address within, in case of accident,” said Ruth.
“And the lucky girl is –?” smiled the mother.
“Mother!” cried the three voices in chorus.
And in telling about it all to Aunt Nell, Mrs. Stone said that if those artful daughters of hers had given her longer than one hour to think of it she would have decided not to come, and that she was glad they hadn’t.