Read Chapter IX of The Very Small Person , free online book, by Annie Hamilton Donnell, on ReadCentral.com.

The Little Lover

“I wish I knew for very certain,” the Little Lover murmured, wistfully. The licorice-stick was so shiny and black, and he had laid his tongue on it one sweet instant, so he knew just how good it tasted. If he only knew for very certain of course there was a chance that She did not love licorice sticks. It would be a regular pity to waste it. Still, how could anybody not love ’em

“’Course She does!” exclaimed the Little Lover, with sudden conviction, and the struggle was ended. It had only been a question of Her liking or not liking. That decided, there was no further hesitation. He held up the licorice-stick and traced a wavery little line round it with his finger-nail. The line was pretty near one of its ends the end towards the Little Lover’s mouth.

“I’ll suck as far down as that, just ’xactly,” he said; “then I’ll put it away in the Treasury Box.”

He sat down in his little rocker and gave himself up to the moment’s bliss, first applying his lips with careful exactitude to the dividing-line between Her licorice stick and his.

The moment of bliss ended, the Little Lover got out the Treasury Box and added the moist, shortened licorice-stick to the other treasures in it. There were many of them, an odd assortment that would have made any one else smile. But the Little Lover was not smiling. His small face was grave first, then illumined with the light of willing sacrifice. The treasures were all so beautiful! She would be so pleased, my, my, how please She would be! Of course She would like the big golden alley the best, the very best. But the singing-top was only a tiny little way behind in its power to charm. Perhaps She had never seen a singing-top think o’ that! Perhaps She had never had a great golden alley, or a corkscrew jack-knife, or a canary-bird whistle, or a red and white “Kandy Kiss,” or a licorice-stick! Think o’ that think of how pleased She would be!

“’Course She will,” laughed the Little Lover in his delight. If he only dared to give Her the Treasury Box! If he only knew how! If there was somebody he could ask, but the housekeeper was too old, and Uncle Larry would laugh. There was nobody.

The waiting wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the red-cheeked pear in the Treasury Box, and the softest apple. They made it a little dang’rous to wait.

It had not been very long that he had loved Her. The first Sunday that She smiled at him across the aisle was the beginning. He had not gone to sleep that Sunday, nor since, on any of the smiling Sundays. He had not wanted to. It had been rest enough to sit and watch Her from the safe shelter of the housekeeper’s silken cloak. Her clear, fresh profile, Her pretty hair, Her ear, Her throat he liked to watch them all. It was rest enough, as if, after that, he could have gone to sleep!

She was very tall, but he liked her better for that. He meant to be tall some day. Just now he did not reach But he did not wish to think of that. It troubled him to remember that Sunday that he had measured himself secretly beside Her, as the people walked out of church. It made him blush to think how very little way he had “reached.” He had never told any one, but then he never told any one anything. Not having any mother, and your father being away all the time, and the housekeeper being old, and your uncle Larry always laughing, made it diff’rent ’bout telling things. Of course if you had ’em mothers, and fathers that stayed at home, and uncles that didn’t laugh, but you didn’t. So you ’cided it was better not to tell things.

One Sunday the Little Lover thought he detected Uncle Larry watching Her too. But he was never quite certain sure. Anyway, when She had turned Her beautiful head and smiled across the aisle, it had been at him. The Little Lover was “certain sure” of that! In his shy little way he had smiled back at Her and nodded. The warmth had kept on in his heart all day. That was the day before he found out the Important Thing.

Out in the front hall after supper he came upon a beautiful, tantalizing smell that he failed for some time to locate. He went about with his little nose up-tilted, in a persistent search. It was such a beautiful smell! not powerful and oversweet, but faint and wonderful. The little nose searched on patiently till it found it. There was a long box on the hall-table and the beautiful smell came out under the lid and met the little, up-tilted nose half-way.

“I’ve found it! It’s inside o’ that box!” the Little Lover cried in triumph. “Now I guess I better see what it looks like. Oh! why, it’s posies!” For there, in moist tissue wrappings, lay a cluster of marvellous pale roses, breathing out their subtle sweetness into the little face above them.

“Why, I didn’t know that was the way a beautiful smell looked! I it’s very nice, isn’t it? If it’s Uncle Larry’s, I’m goin’ to ask him Oh, Uncle Larry, can I have it? Can I? I want to put it in Her ” But he caught himself up before he got quite to “Treasury Box.” He could not tell Uncle Larry about that.

The tall figure coming down the hall quickened its steps to a leap towards the opened box on the table. Uncle Larry’s face was flushed, but he laughed he always laughed.

“You little ‘thafe o’ the wurruld’!” he called out. “What are you doing with my roses?”

“I want ’em please,” persisted the child, eagerly, thinking of the Treasury Box and Her.

“Oh, you do, do you? But they’re not for the likes o’ you.”

Sudden inspiration came to the Little Lover. If this was a Treasury Box, if he were right on the edge of finding out how you gave one

“Is is it for a She?” he asked, breathless with interest.

“A ’She’?” laughed Uncle Larry, but something as faint and tender as the beautiful smell was creeping into his face. “Yes, it is for a She, Reggie, the most beautiful She in the world,” he added, gently. He was wrapping the beautiful smell again in the tissue wrappings.

Then it was a Treasury Box. Then you did the treasures up that way, in thin, rattly paper like that. Then what did you do? But he would find out.

“Oh, I didn’t know,” he murmured. “I didn’t know that was the way! Do you send it by the ’spressman, then, Uncle Larry, to to Her, you know? With Her name on?”

Uncle Larry was getting into his overcoat. He laughed. The tender light that had been for an instant in his face he had put away again out of sight.

“No; I’m my own ‘’spressman.’ You’ve got some things to learn, Reg, before you grow up.”

“I’d ravver learn ’em now. Tell me ’em! Tell what you do then.”

The old mocking light was back in Uncle Larry’s eyes. This small chap with the earnest little face was good as a play.

“’Then’? Then, sure, I go to the door and ring the bell. Then I kneel on one knee like this, and hold out the box ”

“The Treasury Box yes, go on.”

“ Like this. And I say, ’Fair One, accept this humble offering, I beseech thee’ ”

“Accept this hum-bul offering, I I beseech thee” the Little Lover was saying it over and over to himself. It was a little hard, on account o’ the queer words in it. He was still saying it after Uncle Larry had gone. His small round face was intent and serious. When he had learned the words, he practised getting down on one knee and holding out an imaginary Treasury Box. That was easier than the queer words, but it made you feel funnier somewhere in your inside. You wanted to cry, and you were a little afraid somebody else would want to laugh.

The next afternoon the Little Lover carried his Treasury Box to Her. He had wrapped all the little treasures carefully in tissue like Uncle Larry’s roses. But there was no beautiful smell creeping out; there was something a little like a smell, but not a beautiful one. The Little Lover felt sorry for that.

She came to the door. It was a little discomposing on account of there being so little time to get your breath in. I-it made you feel funny.

But the Little Lover acted well his part. With a little gasp that was like a sob he sank on one knee and held up the Treasury Box to Her.

“Fair One,” he quivered, softly, “accept this offspring no, I mean this hum-bul offspring, I I oh, I mean please!

She stooped to the level of his little, solemn face. Then suddenly She lifted him, Treasury Box and all, and bore him into a great, bright room.

“Why, Reggie! you are Reggie, aren’t you? You’re the little boy that smiles at me across the aisle in church? I thought so! Well, I am so glad you have come to see me. And to think you have brought me a present, too ”

“I be-seech thee!” quivered the Little Lover, suddenly remembering the queer words that had eluded him before. He drew a long, happy breath. It was over now. She had the Treasury Box in her hand. She would open it by-and-by and find the golden alley and the singing-top and the licorice-stick. He wished he dared tell Her to open it soon on account o’ the softest apple and the red-cheeked pear. Perhaps he would dare to after a little while. It was so much easier, so far, than he had expected.

She talked to him in Her beautiful, low-toned voice, and by-and-by She sat down to the piano and sang to him. That was the ve-ry best. He curled up on the sofa and listened, watching Her clear profile and Her hair and Her pretty moving fingers, in his Little Lover way. She looked so beautiful! it made you want to put your cheek against Her sleeve and rub it very softly back and forth, back and forth, over and over again. If you only dared to!

So he was very happy until he smelled the beautiful smell again. All at once it crept to him across the room. He recognized it instantly as the same one that had crept out from under the lid of Uncle Larry’s box. It was there, in the great, bright room! He slid to his feet and went about tracing it with his little up-tilted nose. It led him across to Her, and then he saw Uncle Larry’s roses on Her breast. He uttered the softest little cry of pain so soft She did not hear it in Her song and crept back to his seat. He had had his first wound. He was only six, but at six it hurts.

It was Uncle Larry’s roses She wore on Her dress then it was roses She liked, not licorice-sticks and golden alleys. Then it was Uncle Larry’s roses, then She must like Uncle Larry. Then oh, then, She would never like him! Perhaps it was Uncle Larry She had smiled at all the time, across the aisle. Uncle Larry “reached” so far! He wouldn’t have to grow.

“She b’longs to Uncle Larry, an’ I wanted Her to b’long to me. Nobody else does I wouldn’t have needed anybody else to, if She had. All I needed to b’long was Her. I wanted Her! I I love Her. She isn’t Uncle Larry’s she’s mine! She’s mine!” The thoughts of the Little Lover surged on turbulently, while the beautiful low song went on. She was singing She was singing to Uncle Larry. The song wasn’t sweet and soft and tender for him. It was sweet and soft and tender for Uncle Larry.

“I hate Uncle Larry!” cried out the Little Lover, but She did not hear. She was lost in the tender depths of the song. It was very late in the afternoon and a still darkness was creeping into the big, bright room. The Little Lover nestled among the cushions of the sofa, spent with excitement and loss, and that new, dread feeling that made him hate Uncle Larry. He did not know its name, and it was better so. But he knew the pain of it.

“Why, Reggie! Why, you poor little man, you’re asleep! And I have been sitting there singing all this time! And it grew quite dark, didn’t it? Oh, poor little man, poor little man, I had forgotten you were here! I’m glad you can’t hear me say it!”

Yes, it was better. But he would have like to feel Her cool cheek against his cheek; he would have felt a little relief in his desolate, bitter heart if he could see how gentle Her face was and the beautiful look there was in Her soft eyes. But perhaps if She was not looking at him if it was at Uncle Larry No, no, Little Lover; it is better to sleep on and not to know.

It was Uncle Larry who carried him home, asleep still, and laid him gently on his own little bed. Uncle Larry’s bearded face was shining in the dark room like a star. The tumult of joy in the man’s heart clamored for utterance. Uncle Larry felt the need of telling some one. So, because he could not help it, he leaned down and shook the Little Lover gently.

“You little foolish chap, do you know what you have lost? You were right there you might have heard Her when She said it! You might have peeped between your fingers and seen Her face angels in Heaven! Her face! with the love-light in it. You poor little chap! you poor little chap! You were right there all the time and you didn’t know. And you don’t know now when I tell you I’m the happiest man alive! You lie there like a little log. Well, sleep away, little chap. What does it matter to you?”

It was the Little Lover’s own guardian-angel who kept him from waking up, but Uncle Larry did not know. He took off the small, dusty shoes and loosened the little clothes, with a strange new tenderness in his big fingers. The familiar little figure seemed to have put on a certain sacredness for having lain on Her cushions and been touched by Her hands. And She had kissed the little chap. Uncle Larry stooped and found the place with his lips.

The visit seemed like a dream to the Little Lover, next morning. How could it have been real when he could not remember coming home at all? He hadn’t come home, so of course he had never gone. It was a dream, still where was the Treasury Box?

“I wish I knew for very certain,” the Little Lover mused. “I could ask Uncle Larry, but I hate Uncle Larry ” Oh! Then it wasn’t a dream. It was true. It all came back. The Little Lover remembered why he hated Uncle Larry. He remembered it all. Lying there in his little bed he smelt the beautiful smell again and followed it up to the roses on Her dress. They were Uncle Larry’s roses, so he hated Uncle Larry. He always would. He did not hate Her, but he would never go to see Her again. He would never nod or smile at Her again in church. He would never be happy again.

Perhaps She would send back the Treasury Box; the Little Lover had heard once that people sent back things when it was all over. It was all over now. He was only six, but the pain in his heart was so big that he did not think to wish She would send back the Treasury Box soon, on account of the softest apple.

The days went by until they made a month, two months, half a year. The pain in the Little Lover’s heart softened to a dreary loneliness, but that stayed on. He had always been a lonely little chap, but not like this. He had never had a mother, and his father had nearly always been away. But this was different. Now he had nobody to love, and he hated Uncle Larry.

That was before the Wonderful Thing happened. One day Uncle Larry brought Her home. He said She was his wife. That was the Wonderful Thing.

The Little Lover ran away and hid. They could not find him for a long time. It was She who found him.

“Why, Reggie! Why, poor little man! Look up. What is it, dear? Reggie, you are crying!”

He did not care. He wanted to cry. But he let Her take him into Her arms.

I wanted to do it!” he sobbed, desolately, his secret out at last.

“Do it? Do what, Reggie?”

“M-marry you. I was goin’ to do it. H-He hadn’t any right to! I hate him I hate him!”

A minute there was silence, except for the soft creak of Her dress as She rocked him. Then She lifted his wet little face to Hers.

“Reggie,” She whispered, “how would a mother do?”

He nestled his cheek against Her sleeve and rubbed it back and forth, back and forth, while he thought. A mother then there would be no more loneliness. Then there would be a place to cuddle in, and somebody to tell things to. “I’d ravver a mother,” the Little Lover said.