Axidava

A Story For Men

This little story will be a disappointment to women who read it. They will all say: “I don’t see anything in that.” Probably there isn’t much.

Mrs. Jessamine lives in Houston. You can meet any number of ladies every day out walking on Main Street that resemble her very much. She is not famous or extraordinary in any way. She has a nice family, is in moderate circumstances and lives in her own house. I would call her an average woman if that did not imply that some were below the average, which would be an ungallant insinuation. Mrs. Jessamine is a genuine woman. She always steps on a street car with her left foot first, wears her snowiest lace-trimmed sub-skirts on muddy days, and can cut a magazine, wind a clock, pick walnuts, open a trunk and clean out an inkstand, all with a hairpin. She can take twenty dollars worth of trimming and make over an old dress so you couldn’t tell it from a brand new fifteen dollar one. She is intelligent, reads the newspapers regularly and once cut a cooking recipe out of an old magazine that took the prize offered by a newspaper for the best original directions for making a green tomato pie. Her husband has such confidence in her household management that he trusts her with the entire housekeeping, sometimes leaving her in charge until a late hour of the night.

Mrs. Jessamine is thoughtful, kindhearted and an excellent manager. She has two children, a little boy of 7 and a little girl of 4, of whom she is extravagantly fond. The Jessamines are going to keep a cook as soon as Mr. Jessamine’s salary is raised, but just at present Mrs. Jessamine is doing her own work.

While she is attending to her duties she gives the children a paper of needles, the scissors, some sample packages of aniline dyes and a box of safety matches to play with, and during the intervals of baking and sweeping the rooms she rushes in, kisses and cuddles them and then flies back to her work singing merrily.

*

One afternoon last week Mrs. Jessamine was lying on the bed reading a Sunday paper. The children were blowing soap bubbles with some old pipestems of Mr. Jessamine’s that he had discarded because they were full of nicotine.

Mrs. Jessamine was reading an account of some cruel treatment of children that had been unearthed by the Gerry Society, and the tears came to her eyes as she thought of the heartless and criminally careless mothers of the land who are the cause of so much suffering to their innocent little ones.

Presently she fell asleep and dreamed this dream:

She was all alone in a great room. She heard the doorbell snap and footsteps leaving and dying away in the hall outside. The room was a strange one, and she went about to examine it. She paused in front of a mirror and saw her reflection, and lo, she was a little child, in a white pinafore, with wide-open, wondering eyes and tangled dark curls.

She heard the front door below stairs close and the gate open and shut. She began to play around the room with some dolls and pictures, and for a while was quite happy.

She undressed and dressed her doll and talked to it soothingly and put it to bed. She could see out the window, but there were some big trees growing in the yard and the wind blew a branch against the corner of the house, making a queer noise that rather frightened her. Then she saw the closet door standing open and a lot of different shaped bottles on a low shelf. She dragged a chair in front of the shelf and climbed into it. The bottles had all kinds of pretty colored liquids in them and she found some that she could pull the corks from quite easily. She tasted one or two of the corks. Some of them were sweet and nice and one was bitter and badtasting. One bottle was full of something clear like water, so she got that one and pulled out the cork, but the bottle slipped from her hand, fell to the floor and broke. Where the liquid spilled it fumed and sputtered and turned green, and a kind of hot, biting vapor arose. She climbed down and began to feel lonesome and scared. She called “Mamma,” three or four times loudly, but all the house was still. Then she began to cry and ran to the door. Just then she thought she heard something scratch behind the bed, and she screamed and beat upon the door with her hands, crying for her mamma to come. Nobody answered her.

Then she listened fearfully for a little and crept over and got her dolly from its bed and crouched in a corner whimpering and hugging her doll tightly, with her heart beating wildly, and watching the dark place under the bed with frightened eyes.

Presently she saw a pretty red box on a table and curiosity for the moment overcame her fear. She opened the box and saw a lot of funny little sticks, with little round heads on them. She played with them on the floor, building little pigpens and fences and houses.

In changing her position her heel fell upon the little sticks and the next moment a big blaze flared up, caught her dress, and with a loud scream she ran to the locked door, wrapped in burning, stinging flames, in an agony of pain and horror.

*

Mrs. Jessamine awoke with a start and sprang wildly from the bed. The children were playing merrily on the floor, and she ran to them and caught them in her arms in thankfulness that the terrible dream was over. How she wished for someone to whom she could relate it and gain sympathy. Three blocks away lived Mrs. Flutter, her best friend and confidante. Not for a long time had Mrs. Jessamine had a dream that made such an impression upon her mind.

She hastily put on her hat and cloak and said:

“Now, be good children till I come back.” Then she went out, locked the door and hurried away to Mrs. Flutter’s.

That is all.

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