Everybody in the Marshall household
was excited on the evening of the concert at the Harbour
Light Hotel everybody, even to Little Joyce,
who couldn’t go to the concert because there
wasn’t anybody else to stay with Denise.
Perhaps Denise was the most excited of them all Denise,
who was slowly dying of consumption in the Marshall
kitchen chamber because there was no other place in
the world for her to die in, or anybody to trouble
about her. Mrs. Roderick Marshall thought it
very good of herself to do so much for Denise.
To be sure, Denise was not much bother, and Little
Joyce did most of the waiting on her.
At the tea table nothing was talked
of but the concert; for was not Madame Laurin, the
great French Canadian prima donna, at the hotel,
and was she not going to sing? It was the opportunity
of a lifetime the Marshalls would not have
missed it for anything. Stately, handsome old
Grandmother Marshall was going, and Uncle Roderick
and Aunt Isabella, and of course Chrissie, who was
always taken everywhere because she was pretty and
graceful, and everything that Little Joyce was not.
Little Joyce would have liked to go
to the concert, for she was very fond of music; and,
besides, she wanted to be able to tell Denise all
about it. But when you are shy and homely and
thin and awkward, your grandmother never takes you
anywhere. At least, such was Little Joyce’s
Little Joyce knew quite well that
Grandmother Marshall did not like her. She thought
it was because she was so plain and awkward and
in part it was. Grandmother Marshall cared very
little for granddaughters who did not do her credit.
But Little Joyce’s mother had married a poor
man in the face of her family’s disapproval,
and then both she and her husband had been inconsiderate
enough to die and leave a small orphan without a penny
to support her. Grandmother Marshall fed and
clothed the child, but who could make anything of such
a shy creature with no gifts or graces whatever?
Grandmother Marshall had no intention of trying.
Chrissie, the golden-haired and pink-cheeked, was
Grandmother Marshall’s pet.
Little Joyce knew this. She did
not envy Chrissie but, oh, how she wished Grandmother
Marshall would love her a little, too! Nobody
loved her but Denise and the little black doll.
And Little Joyce was beginning to understand that
Denise would not be in the kitchen chamber very much
longer, and the little black doll couldn’t tell
you she loved you although she did, of course.
Little Joyce had no doubt at all on this point.
Little Joyce sighed so deeply over
this thought that Uncle Roderick smiled at her.
Uncle Roderick did smile at her sometimes.
“What is the matter, Little Joyce?” he
“I was thinking about my black doll,”
said Little Joyce timidly.
“Ah, your black doll. If
Madame Laurin were to see it, she’d likely want
it. She makes a hobby of collecting dolls all
over the world, but I doubt if she has in her collection
a doll that served to amuse a little girl four thousand
years ago in the court of the Pharaohs.”
“I think Joyce’s black
doll is very ugly,” said Chrissie. “My
wax doll with the yellow hair is ever so much prettier.”
“My black doll isn’t ugly,”
cried Little Joyce indignantly. She could endure
to be called ugly herself, but she could not bear to
have her darling black doll called ugly. In her
excitement she upset her cup of tea over the tablecloth.
Aunt Isabella looked angry, and Grandmother Marshall
said sharply: “Joyce, leave the table.
You grow more awkward and careless every day.”
Little Joyce, on the verge of tears,
crept away and went up the kitchen stairs to Denise
to be comforted. But Denise herself had been
crying. She lay on her little bed by the low window,
where the glow of the sunset was coming in; her hollow
cheeks were scarlet with fever.
“Oh! I want so much to
hear Madame Laurin sing,” she sobbed. “I
feel lak I could die easier if I hear her sing just
one leetle song. She is Frenchwoman, too, and
she sing all de olé French songs de
olé songs my mudder sing long ’go.
Oh! I so want to hear Madame Laurin sing.”
“But you can’t, dear Denise,”
said Little Joyce very softly, stroking Denise’s
hot forehead with her cool, slender hand. Little
Joyce had very pretty hands, only nobody had ever
noticed them. “You are not strong enough
to go to the concert. I’ll sing for you,
if you like. Of course, I can’t sing very
well, but I’ll do my best.”
“You sing lak a sweet bird,
but you are not Madame Laurin,” said Denise
restlessly. “It is de great Madame I want
to hear. I haf not long to live. Oh, I know,
Leetle Joyce I know what de doctor look
lak and I want to hear Madame Laurin sing
’fore I die. I know it is impossible but
I long for it so just one leetle song.”
Denise put her thin hands over her
face and sobbed again. Little Joyce went and
sat down by the window, looking out into the white
birches. Her heart ached bitterly. Dear
Denise was going to die soon oh, very soon!
Little Joyce, wise and knowing beyond her years, saw
that. And Denise wanted to hear Madame Laurin
sing. It seemed a foolish thing to think of,
but Little Joyce thought hard about it; and when she
had finished thinking, she got her little black doll
and took it to bed with her, and there she cried herself
At the breakfast table next morning
the Marshalls talked about the concert and the wonderful
Madame Laurin. Little Joyce listened in her usual
silence; her crying the night before had not improved
her looks any. Never, thought handsome Grandmother
Marshall, had she appeared so sallow and homely.
Really, Grandmother Marshall could not have the patience
to look at her. She decided that she would not
take Joyce driving with her and Chrissie that afternoon,
as she had thought of, after all.
In the forenoon it was discovered
that Denise was much worse, and the doctor was sent
for. He came, and shook his head, that being really
all he could do under the circumstances. When
he went away, he was waylaid at the back door by a
small gypsy with big, black, serious eyes and long
“Is Denise going to die?”
Little Joyce asked in the blunt, straightforward fashion
Grandmother Marshall found so trying.
The doctor looked at her from under
his shaggy brows and decided that here was one of
the people to whom you might as well tell the truth
first as last, because they are bound to have it.
“Yes,” he said.
“Very soon, I’m afraid. In a few
days at most.”
“Thank you,” said Little Joyce gravely.
She went to her room and did something
with the black doll. She did not cry, but if
you could have seen her face you would have wished
she would cry.
After dinner Grandmother Marshall
and Chrissie drove away, and Uncle Roderick and Aunt
Isabella went away, too. Little Joyce crept up
to the kitchen chamber. Denise was lying in an
uneasy sleep, with tear stains on her face. Then
Little Joyce tiptoed down and sped away to the hotel.
She did not know just what she would
say or do when she got there, but she thought hard
all the way to the end of the shore road. When
she came out to the shore, a lady was sitting alone
on a big rock a lady with a dark, beautiful
face and wonderful eyes. Little Joyce stopped
before her and looked at her meditatively. Perhaps
it would be well to ask advice of this lady.
“If you please,” said
Little Joyce, who was never shy with strangers, for
whose opinion she didn’t care at all, “I
want to see Madame Laurin at the hotel and ask her
to do me a very great favour. Will you tell me
the best way to go about seeing her? I shall be
much obliged to you.”
“What is the favour you want
to ask of Madame Laurin?” inquired the lady,
“I want to ask her if she will
come and sing for Denise before she dies before
Denise dies, I mean. Denise is our French girl,
and the doctor says she cannot live very long, and
she wishes with all her heart to hear Madame Laurin
sing. It is very bitter, you know, to be dying
and want something very much and not be able to get
“Do you think Madame Laurin will go?”
asked the lady.
“I don’t know. I
am going to offer her my little black doll. If
she will not come for that, there is nothing else
I can do.”
A flash of interest lighted up the
lady’s brown eyes. She bent forward.
“Is it your doll you have in
that box? Will you let me see it?”
Little Joyce nodded. Mutely she
opened the box and took out the black doll. The
lady gave an exclamation of amazed delight and almost
snatched it from Little Joyce. It was a very peculiar
little doll indeed, carved out of some black polished
“Child, where in the world did you get this?”
“Father got it out of a grave
in Egypt,” said Little Joyce. “It
was buried with the mummy of a little girl who lived
four thousand years ago, Uncle Roderick says.
She must have loved her doll very much to have had
it buried with her, mustn’t she? But she
could not have loved it any more than I do.”
“And yet you are going to give
it away?” said the lady, looking at her keenly.
“For Denise’s sake,”
explained Little Joyce. “I would do anything
for Denise because I love her and she loves me.
When the only person in the world who loves you is
going to die, there is nothing you would not do for
her if you could. Denise was so good to me before
she took sick. She used to kiss me and play with
me and make little cakes for me and tell me beautiful
The lady put the little black doll
back in the box. Then she stood up and held out
“Come,” she said.
“I am Madame Laurin, and I shall go and sing
Little Joyce piloted Madame Laurin
home and into the kitchen and up the back stairs to
the kitchen chamber a proceeding which would
have filled Aunt Isabella with horror if she had known.
But Madame Laurin did not seem to mind, and Little
Joyce never thought about it at all. It was Little
Joyce’s awkward, unMarshall-like fashion to go
to a place by the shortest way there, even if it was
up the kitchen stairs.
Madame Laurin stood in the bare little
room and looked pityingly at the wasted, wistful face
on the pillow.
“This is Madame Laurin, and
she is going to sing for you, Denise,” whispered
Denise’s face lighted up, and she clasped her
“If you please,” she said
faintly. “A French song, Madame de
olé French song dey sing long ’go.”
Then did Madame Laurin sing.
Never had that kitchen chamber been so filled with
glorious melody. Song after song she sang the
old folklore songs of the habitant, the songs
perhaps that Evangeline listened to in her childhood.
Little Joyce knelt by the bed, her
eyes on the singer like one entranced. Denise
lay with her face full of joy and rapture such
joy and rapture! Little Joyce did not regret
the sacrifice of her black doll never could
regret it, as long as she remembered Denise’s
“T’ank you, Madame,”
said Denise brokenly, when Madame ceased. “Dat
was so beautiful de angel, dey cannot sing
more sweet. I love music so much, Madame.
Leetle Joyce, she sing to me often and often she
sing sweet, but not lak you oh, not lak
“Little Joyce must sing for
me,” said Madame, smiling, as she sat down by
the window. “I always like to hear fresh,
childish voices. Will you, Little Joyce?”
“Oh, yes.” Little
Joyce was quite unembarrassed and perfectly willing
to do anything she could for this wonderful woman who
had brought that look to Denise’s face.
“I will sing as well as I can for you. Of
course, I can’t sing very well and I don’t
know anything but hymns. I always sing hymns
for Denise, although she is a Catholic and the hymns
are Protestant. But her priest told her it was
all right, because all music was of God. Denise’s
priest is a very nice man, and I like him. He
thought my little black doll your
little black doll was splendid. I’ll
sing ‘Lead, Kindly Light.’ That is
Denise’s favourite hymn.”
Then Little Joyce, slipping her hand
into Denise’s, began to sing. At the first
note Madame Laurin, who had been gazing out of the
window with a rather listless smile, turned quickly
and looked at Little Joyce with amazed eyes.
Delight followed amazement, and when Little Joyce
had finished, the great Madame rose impulsively, her
face and eyes glowing, stepped swiftly to Little Joyce
and took the thin dark face between her gemmed hands.
“Child, do you know what a wonderful
voice you have what a marvellous voice?
It is it is I never heard such
a voice in a child of your age. Mine was nothing
to it nothing at all. You will be a
great singer some day far greater than
I yes. But you must have the training.
Where are your parents? I must see them.”
“I have no parents,” said
the bewildered Little Joyce. “I belong to
Grandmother Marshall, and she is out driving.”
“Then I shall wait until your
Grandmother Marshall comes home from her drive,”
said Madame Laurin decidedly.
Half an hour later a very much surprised
old lady was listening to Madame Laurin’s enthusiastic
“How is it I have never heard
you sing, if you can sing so well?” asked Grandmother
Marshall, looking at Little Joyce with something in
her eyes that had never been in them before as
Little Joyce instantly felt to the core of her sensitive
soul. But Little Joyce hung her head. It
had never occurred to her to sing in Grandmother Marshall’s
“This child must be trained
by-and-by,” said Madame Laurin. “If
you cannot afford it, Mrs. Marshall, I will see to
it. Such a voice must not be wasted.”
“Thank you, Madame Laurin,”
said Grandmother Marshall with a gracious dignity,
“but I am quite able to give my granddaughter
all the necessary advantages for the development of
her gift. And I thank you very much for telling
me of it.”
Madame Laurin bent and kissed Little
Joyce’s brown cheek.
“Little gypsy, good-by.
But come every day to this hotel to see me. And
next summer I shall be back. I like you because
some day you will be a great singer and because today
you are a loving, unselfish baby.”
“You have forgotten the little
black doll, Madame,” said Little Joyce gravely.
Madame threw up her hands, laughing.
“No, no, I shall not take your little black
doll of the four thousand years. Keep it for a
mascot. A great singer always needs a mascot.
But do not, I command you, take it out of the box
till I am gone, for if I were to see it again, I might
not be able to resist the temptation. Some day
I shall show you my dolls, but there is not
such a gem among them.”
When Madame Laurin had gone, Grandmother
Marshall looked at Little Joyce.
“Come to my room, Joyce.
I want to see if we cannot find a more becoming way
of arranging your hair. It has grown so thick
and long. I had no idea how thick and long.
Yes, we must certainly find a better way than that
stiff braid. Come!”
Little Joyce, taking Grandmother Marshall’s
extended hand, felt very happy. She realized
that this strange, stately old lady, who never liked
little girls unless they were pretty or graceful or
clever, was beginning to love her at last.