Pigtails, LTD

How such an odd and curious notion had ever come into Miss Rawlings’s mind, she herself could not possibly have said. When had it come? She could not answer even that question, either. It had simply stolen in little by little like a beam of sunshine into a large room.

Not, of course, into an empty room, for Miss Rawlings had many, many things to think about. She was by far the most important person in the Parish, and everyone — from Archdeacon Tomlington and his two curates, Mr. Moffatt and Mr. Timbs, down to little old Mrs. Ort, the humpbacked charwoman who lived in the top attic of a cottage down by Clopbourne (or, as they called it, Clobburne) Bridge — everyone knew how practical she was.

But once that sunny beam had begun to steal into Miss Rawlings’s mind and into her life, it had lightened up with its precious gold everything that was there. It was nevertheless an extremely fantastic notion, because it could not possibly be true. How could Miss Rawlings ever have lost a little girl if there had never been any little girl to lose? Yet that exactly was Miss Rawlings’s idea. It had flittered into her imagination like a nimble, bright-feathered bird. And once it was really there, she never hesitated to talk about it; not at all. ‘My little girl, you know,’ she’d say, with a little emphatic nod and a pleasant smile on her broad face. Or rather, ‘My little gal ‘ — for she always pronounced the word as if it rhymed with Sal, the short for Sarah. This too was an odd thing; for Miss Rawlings had been brought up by her parents with the very best education, and never mispronounced even such words as ‘Chloe’ or ‘Psyche’ or ‘epitome’ or ‘misled.’ And so far as I know — though that is not very far — there is not a single word of one syllable in our enormous English language that is pronounced like Sal; for Pall Mall, of course, is pronounced Pell Mell. Still, Miss Rawlings did talk about her little girl, and she called her her little gal.

It never occurred to anybody in the Parish — not even to Mrs. Ort — to compare the Little Gal to a gay little bird or to a beam of sunshine. Mrs. Tomlington said, indeed, — and many other persons in the Parish agreed with her, — that it was merely a bee in Miss Rawlings’s bonnet. But whether or not, partly because she delighted in bright colors, and partly because, in fashion or out, she had entirely her own taste in dress, there could not be a larger or brighter or flowerier bonnet for any bee to be in. Apart from puce silk and maroon velvet and heliotrope feathers and ribbons, and pompons and suchlike, Miss Rawlings’s bonnets always consisted of handsome, spreading flowers, — blue-red roses, purple pansies, mauve cineraria, — a complete little garden for any bee’s amusement. And this bee sang rather than buzzed in it the whole day long.

You might almost say it had made a new woman of her. Miss Rawlings had always been active and positive and good-humored and kind. But now her spirits were so much more animated. She went bobbing and floating through the Parish like a gay balloon. Her interest in everything seemed to have first been multiplied by nine, and then by nine again. And eighty-one times anything is a pretty large quantity. Beggars, blind men, gypsies, hawkers, crossing-sweepers, positively smacked their lips when they saw Miss Rawlings come sailing down the street. Her heart was like the Atlantic, and they like rowboats on the deep — especially the blind men. As for her donations to the parochial Funds, they were first doubled, then trebled, then quadrupled.

There was first, for example, the Fund for giving all the little parish girls and boys not only a bun and an orange and a Tree at Christmas and a picnic with Veal and Ham Pie and Ice Pudding in June, but a Jack-in-thegreen on May-day and a huge Guy on November the fifth, with squibs and Roman candles and Chinese crackers and so on. There was not only the Fund for the Delight of Infants of Every Conceivable Description; there was also the Wooden-Legged Orphans Fund. There was the Home for Manx and Tabby Cats; and the Garden by the River with the Willows for Widowed Gentlewomen. There was the Threepenny-Bit-with-a-Hole-in-It Society; and the Organ Grinders’ Sick Monkey and Blanket Fund; and there was the oak-beamed Supper Room in the ‘Three Wild Geese’ for the use of Ancient Mariners — haggis and toadin-the-hole, and plum-duff and jam roly-poly — that kind of thing. And there were many others. If Miss Rawlings had been in another parish, it would have been a sad thing indeed for the cats and widows and orphans and organ monkeys in her own.

With such a power and quantity of money, of course, writing cheques was very much like just writing in birthday books. Still, you can give too much to any Fund; though very few people make the attempt. And Miss Rawlings was a practical woman. Besides, Miss Rawlings knew perfectly well that charity must at any rate begin at home, so all this time she was keeping what the Ancient Mariners at the ‘Three Wild Geese’ called a ‘weather eye’ wide open for her lost Little Gal. But how, it may be asked, could she keep any kind of eye open for a lost Little Gal, when she did n’t know what the lost Little Gal was like? And the answer to that is that Miss Rawlings knew perfectly well.

She may not have known where the absurd notion came from, or when, or why; but she knew that. She knew what the Little Gal looked like as well as a mother thrush knows what an egg looks like; or Sir Christopher Wren knew what a cathedral looks like. But as with the Thrush and Sir Christopher, a good many little things had happened to Miss Rawlings first. And this quite apart from the old wooden doll she used to lug about when she was seven, called Quatta.

One morning, for example, Miss Rawlings had been out in her carriage and was thinking of nothing in particular, just daydreaming, when not very far from the little stone Bridge at Clobburne she happened to glance up at a window in the upper part of a small old house. And at that window there seemed to show a face with dark bright eyes watching her. Just a glimpse. I say ‘seemed,’ for when in the carriage Miss Rawlings rapidly twisted her head to get a better view, she discovered either that there had been nobody there at all, or that the somebody had swiftly drawn back, or that the bright dark eyes were just two close-together flaws in the diamondshaped bits of glass. In the last case what Miss Rawlings had seen was mainly ‘out of her mind.’ But, if so, it went back again and stayed there! It was excessively odd, indeed, how clear a remembrance that glimpse left behind it.

Then again Miss Rawlings, like her great-aunt Felicia, had always enjoyed a weakness for taking naps in the train, the flowers and plumes and bows in her bonnet nodding the while above her head. The sound of the wheels on the iron lines was like a lullaby, the fields trailing softly away beyond the window drowsed her eyes. Whether asleep or not, she would generally close her eyes and appear to be napping. And not once, or twice, but three separate times, owing to a scritch of the whistle or a sudden jolt of the train, she had suddenly opened them again to find herself staring out — rather like a large animal in a field — at a little girl sitting on the opposite seat, who, in turn, had already fixed her eyes on Miss Rawlings’s countenance. In every case there had been a look of intense, patient interest on the little girl’s face.

Perhaps Miss Rawlings’s was a countenance that all little girls are apt to look at with extreme interest — especially when the owner of it is asleep in the train. It was a broad countenance with a small but powerful nose with a round tip. There was a good deal of fresh color in the flat cheeks beneath the treacle-colored eyes; and the hair stood like a wig beneath the huge bonnet. Miss Rawlings, too, had a habit of folding her kid-gloved hands upon her lap as if she were an image. None the less, you could hardly call it only a ‘coincidence’ that these little girls were so much alike, and so much like the face at the window. And so very much like the real lost Little Gal that had always, it seemed, been at the back of Miss Rawlings’s mind.

I don’t mean at all that there was any kind of ghost in Miss Rawlings’s family. Her family was far too practical for that; and her mansion was most richly furnished. All I mean is that all these little girls happened to have a rather narrow face, a brown pigtail, rather small dark-brown bright eyes, and narrow hands, and, except for the one at the window, they wore round beaver hats and buttoned coats. No; there was no ghost there. What Miss Rawlings was after was an absolutely real Little Gal. And her name was Barbara Allan.

This sounds utterly absurd. But so it had come about. For a long time — having talked about her Little Gal again and again to the Archdeacon and Mrs. Tomlington and Mr. Moffatt and other ladies and gentlemen in the Parish — Miss Rawlings had had no name at all for her small friend. But one still, summery evening with a faint red in the sky, while she was wandering gently about her immense drawingroom, she had happened to open a book lying on an ‘occasional’ table. It was a book of poetry — crimson and giltedged, with a brass clasp — and on the very page under her nose she had read this line: —

Fell in love with Barbara Allan.

The words ran through her mind like wildfire. Barbara Allan — it was the name! Or how very like it! An echo? Certainly some words and names are echoes of one another — sisters or brothers once removed, so to speak. Tomlington and Pocklingham, for example; or quince and shrimp; or angelica and cyclamen. All I mean is that the very instant Miss Rawlings saw that printed ‘Barbara Allan’ it ran through her heart like an old tune in a nursery. It was her Little Gal. or ever so near it; as near, that is, as any name can be to a thing — namely, crocus or comfit, or shuttlecock, or mistletoe, or pantry.

Now if Miss Rawlings had been of royal blood and had lived in a fairytale — if, that is, she had been a Queen in Grimm — it would have been a quite ordinary thing that she should be seeking a little lost Princess, or badly in need of one. But, except that her paternal grandfather was a Sir Samuel Rawlings, she was but very remotely connected with royalty. Still, if you think about it, seeing that once upon a time there were only marvelous Adam and beautiful Eve in the Garden, — that is, in the whole wide world, — and seeing that all of Us as well as all of the earth’s Kings and Queens must have descended from them, therefore all of Us must have descended from Kings and Queens. So too with Miss Rawlings. But — unlike Mrs. Tomlington — she had not come down by the grand staircase, so to speak.

Since, then, Miss Rawlings did not live in a fairy-tale or in Grimm, but was a very real person in a very real Parish, her friends and acquaintances were all inclined in private to agree with Mrs. Tomlington that her Little Gal was nothing but a bee in her bonnet. And that the longer it stayed there the louder it buzzed. Indeed, Miss Rawlings almost began to think of nothing else. She became absentminded, quite forgetting her soup and fish and chicken and French roll when she sat at dinner. She left on the gas. She signed cheques for the Funds without looking back at the counterfoils to see what she had last subscribed. She gave brand-new mantles and dolmans away to the Rummagers; ordered coals from her fishmonger’s; rode third-class with a first-class ticket; addressed a postcard to Mrs. Tomfoolington — almost every kind of absent-minded thing, indeed, you can imagine.

And now she was always searching — even in the house sometimes; even in the kitchen-quarters. And her plump country maids would gladly help too. ‘No, m’m, she ain’t here.’ ‘No, m’m, we ain’t a-seed her yet.’ ‘Lor, yes’m, the room’s all ready.’

Whenever Miss Rawlings rose from her chair she would at once peer sharply out of the window to see if any small creature were passing in the street beyond the drive. When she went awalking she was frequently all but run over by cabs and vans and phaetons and gigs, because she was looking the other way after a vanishing pigtail. Not a picture-shop, not a photographer’s could she pass without examining every single face exhibited in the window. And she never met a friend, or the friend of a friend, or conversed with a stranger, without, sure enough, beginning to talk about Young Things. Puppies or kittens or lambs, perhaps, first, and then gradually on to little boys. And then, with a sudden whisk of her bonnet, to Little Girls.

Long, long ago, now, she had learned the whole of ‘Barbara Allan’: —

She had not gane a mile but twa,
When she heard the dead-bell ringing,
And every jow that the dead-bell gied,
It cryed, Woe to Barbara Allan!
‘O mother, mother, make my bed!
O make it saft and narrow!
Since my love died for me to-day,
I ‘ll die for him to-morrow.’

Oh, dear, how sad it was; and you never knew! Could it be, could it be, she cried one day to herself, that the dead lovely Barbara Allan of the poem had got by some means muddled up in Time, and was in actual fact her Little Gal? Could it be that the maiden-name of the wife of Miss Allan’s father had been Rawlings?

Miss Rawlings was far too sensible merely to wonder about things. She at once inquired of Mr. Moffatt — who had been once engaged to her dearest friend, Miss Simon, now no more — whether he knew anything about Barbara Allan’s family. ‘The family, Felicia?’ Mr. Moffatt had replied, his bristling eyebrows high in his head. And when, after a visit to the British Museum, Mr. Moffatt returned with only two or three pages of foolscap closely written over with full particulars of the ballad and with ‘biographical details’ of Bishop Percy and of Allan Ramsay and of Oliver Goldsmith and of the gentleman who had found the oldest manuscript copy of it in Glamis Castle, or some such ancient edifice, and of how enchantingly Samuel Pepys’s friend Mrs.Kwipp used to sing him that air, but nothing else, Miss Rawlings very reluctantly gave up all certainty of this. ‘It still might be my Little Gal’s family,’ she said, ‘and on the other hand it might not.’ And she continued to say over to herself, with infinite sorrow in her deep rich voice, that tragic stanza: —

She had not gane a mile but twa,
When she heard the dead-bell ringing,
And every jow that the dead-bell gied,
It cryed, Woe to Barbara Allan!

And ‘Oh, no! Not Woe,’ she would say in her heart.

Soon after this, Miss Rawlings fell ill. A day or two before she took to her bed she had been walking along Cinnamon Avenue, and had happened to see the pupils of the Miss Miffinses’ Young Ladies’ Seminary taking the air. Now the two last and smallest of these pupils — of the Crocodile, as rude little boys call it - were walking arm in arm with the nice English mistress, chattering away like birds in a bush. Both of them were rather narrow little creatures, both wore beaver hats beneath which dangled brown pigtails. It was yet one more astonishing moment, and Miss Rawlings had almost broken into a run — as much of a run, that is, as, being of so stout and ample a presence, she was capable of — in order to get a glimpse of their faces.

But, alas and alack, the wroughtiron gates of the School were just round the corner of Cinnamon Avenue, and the whole Crocodile had completely disappeared into the great stone porch beyond by the time she had come in sight of the two MonkeyPuzzles on the lawn, and the brass curtain-bands to the windows.

Miss Rawlings stood and gazed at these, for the moment completely forgetting polite manners. The hurry and excitement had made her hot and breathless — and the wind was in the East. It dispirited her, and, instead of ringing the bell and asking for the Miss Miffinses, she had returned home and had at once written an invitation to the whole school to come to tea the following Sunday afternoon. In a moment of absent-mindedness, however, she had left the note on her little rosewood secrétaire beside the silver inkstand that had belonged to Sir Samuel. And two days afterward, — on the Friday, that is, the month being February, — she had been seized with Bronchitis.

It was a rather more severe attack than was usual for Miss Rawlings, even in foggy November, and it made Miss Rawlings’s family physician a little anxious. There was no immediate danger, he explained to Nurse Murphy; still care is care. And, Miss Rawlings being so rich and so important to the Parish, he at once decided to invite an eminent Consultant to visit his patient — a Sir James Jolliboy Geoghehan, who lived in Harley Street and knew more about Bronchitis (Harley Street being also in a foggy parish) than any other medical man in Europe or in the United States of America (which are not usually foggy places).

Fortunately Sir James took quite as bright and sanguine a view of his patient as did Miss Rawlings’s family physician. There Miss Rawlings lay, propped up against her beautiful downpillows with the frills all round, and a fine large pale-blue-ribboned Red Cap stood up on her large head. She was breathing pretty fast and her temperature, according to both the gentlemen’s thermometers, was 102.6 — though that, of course, is all but four degrees lower than a domestic chicken’s temperature every day of its life. A large copper kettle was ejecting clouds of steam from the vast cheerful fire in the vast brass and steel grate, with the Cupids in the chimneypiece. There were medicine bottles on the little table, and not only Nurse Murphy stood on the other side of the bed, but Nurse O’Brien also. And the more solemn she looked the more her face appeared to be creased up in a gentle grin.

Miss Rawlings panted as she looked at them all. Her eye was a little absent, but she too was smiling. For if there was one thing Miss Rawlings was certain to do, it was to be cheerful when most other people would be inclined to be depressed. As she knew she was ill she felt bound to be smiling. She even continued to smile when Sir James murmured, ‘And the tongue?’ And she assured Sir James that, though it was exceedingly kind of him to call, it was n’t in the least necessary. ‘I frequently have bronchitis,’ she explained, ‘but I never die.’ Which sounded a little like ‘rambling.’

When Sir James and the family physician had gone downstairs and were closeted together in the gilded library, Sir James at once asked this question: ‘What, my dear sir, was our excellent patient remarking about a Miss Barbara Allan? Has she a relative of the name?’

At this Miss Rawlings’s family physician looked a little confused. ‘No, no; oh dear, no!’ he exclaimed. ‘It ‘s merely a little fancy, a caprice. Miss Rawlings has a notion there is a little girl belonging to her somewhere — probably of that name, you know. Quite harmless. An aberration. In fact, I indulge it; I indulge it. Miss Rawlings is a most able, sagacious, energetic, philanthropic, practical, generous, and — and — humorous lady. The fancy, you see, has somehow attached itself to the name “Barbara Allan” — a heroine, I believe, in one of Sir Walter Scott’s admirable fictions. Only that. Nothing more.’

Sir James, a tall man, peered down at Miss Rawlings’s family physician over his gold pince-nez. ‘I once had a patient, my dear Dr. Sheppard, ‘ he replied solemnly, in a voice a good deal deeper but not so rich as Miss Rawlings’s, ‘who had the amiable notion that she was the Queen of Sheba and that I was King Solomon. A most practical woman. She left me three hundred guineas in her will, for a mourning ring.’ He thereupon explained — in words that his patient could not possibly have understood, but that Dr. Sheppard understood perfectly — that Miss Rawlings was in no immediate danger and that she was indeed quite a comfortable little distance from Death’s Door. Still, bronchitis is bronchitis; so let the dear lady be humored as much as possible. ‘Let her have the very best nurses, excellent creatures; and all the comforts!’ He smiled as he said these words, as if Dr. Sheppard were a longlost brot her. And he entirely approved, not only of the nice sago-puddings, the grapes, the bee-ootiful beef-juice (with toast or a rusk), the barley water and the physic, but of as many Barbara Allans as Miss Rawlings could possibly desire. And all that he said sounded so much like the chorus of some such old sea-song as ‘Yo-hoho,’ or ‘Away to Rio,’ or ‘The Anchor’s Weighed,’that one almost expected Dr. Sheppard to join in.

Both gentlemen then took their leave and, Dr. Sheppard having escorted Sir James to his brougham, for this was before the days of machine carriages, the two nurses retired from the window and Miss Rawlings sank into a profound nap.

In a few days Miss Rawlings was much, much, much better. Her temperature was 97.4, her breathing no more than twenty-four or -five to the minute. The flush had left her cheeks, and she had finished three whole bottles of medicine. She devoured a slice from the breast of a chicken and even enjoyed her sago pudding. The nurses were pleased.

But, if anything, Miss Rawlings’s illness seemed to have increased her anxiety to find Barbara Allan as quickly as ever she could. After all, you see, we all of us have only a certain number of years to live, and a year lasts only twelve calendar months, and the shortest month is only twenty-eight days, excluding Leap Year. So if you want to do anything badly it is better to begin at once, and go straight on.

The very first day she was out in Mr. Dubbins’s invalid chair she met her dear friend Mr. Moffatt in Combermere Grove, and he stood conversing with her for a while under the boughs of almost as wide a spreading chestnuttree as the village blacksmith’s in the poem. Mr. Moffatt always looked as if he ought to be comforted with a sleek bushy beard. If he had, it is quite certain it would have wagged a good deal as he listened to Miss Rawlings. ‘What I am about to do, my dear Mr. Moffatt, is advertise,’ she cried, and in such a powerful voice that the lowest fronds of the leafing chestnut-tree over her head slightly trembled as they hung a little listlessly on their stalks in the Spring sunshine.

‘Advertise, my dear Felicia?’ cried Mr. Moffatt. ‘And what for?’

‘Why, my dear old friend,’ replied Miss Rawlings, ‘for Barbara Allan, to be sure.’

Mr. Moffatt blinked very rapidly, and the invisible beard wagged more than ever. And he looked hard at Miss Rawlings’s immense bonnet as if he actually expected to see that busy bee; as if he even feared it might be a Queen Bee and would produce a complete hive.

But after bidding him good-bye with yet another wag of the bonnet and a ‘Yes, thank you, Dubbins,’ Miss Rawlings was as good as her word. She always was. Three days afterward there appeared in the Times and in the Morning Post and in the Daily Telegraph, and five days later in the Spectator, the following: —

WANTED as soon as possible, by a lady who has lost her as long as she can remember, a little girl of the name (probably) of Barbara Allan, or of a name that sounds like Barbara Allan. The little girl is about ten years old. She has a rather threecornered-shaped face, with narrow cheekbones, and bright brown eyes. She is slim, with long fingers, and wears a pigtail and probably a round beaver hat. She shall have an exceedingly happy home and Every Comfort, and her friends (or relatives) will be amply rewarded for all the care and kindness they have bestowed upon her, for the first nine years or more of her life.

You should have seen Miss Rawlings reading that advertisement over and over. Her Times that morning had a perfume as of the spices of Ambrosia. But even Miss Rawlings could not have hoped that her advertisement would be so rapidly and spontaneously and abundantly answered. The whole day of every day of the following week her beautiful wrought-iron gate was opening and shutting and admitting all kinds and sorts and shapes and sizes of little girls with brown eyes, long fingers, pigtails, and beaver hats, about ten years of age. And usually an Aunt or a Stepmother or the Matron of an Orphanage or a Female Friend accompanied each candidate.

There were three genuine Barbara Allans. But one had reddish hair and freckles; the second, curly flaxen hair that refused to keep to the pigtailribbon into which it had been tied; and the third, though her hair was brown, had gray speckled eyes, and looked to be at least eleven. Apart from these three, there were numbers and numbers of little girls whose Christian name was Barbara, but whose surname was Allison or Angus or Anson, Mallings, or Bulling, or Dalling, or Spalding, or Bellingham, or Allingham, and so on and so forth. Then there were Marjories and Marcias, and Margarets, Norahs, and Doras, and Rhodas and Marthas, all of the name of Allen, or Allan, or Alleyne, or Alyn, and so on. And there was one little saffron-haired creature who came with a very large Matron, and whose name was Dulcibella Dobbs.

Miss Rawlings, with her broad bright face and bright little eyes, smiled at them all from her chair, questioned their Aunts and their Stepmothers and their Female Friends, and coveted every single one of them, including Dulcibella Dobbs. But you must draw the line somewhere, as Euclid said to his little Greek pupils when he sat by the sparkling waves of the Ægean Sea and drew triangles on the sand. And Miss Rawlings felt in her heart that it was kinder and wiser and more prudent and proper to keep strictly to those little girls with the three-cornered faces, high cheek-bones, ‘really’ brown eyes, and truly appropriate pigtails. With these she fell in love again and again and again.

There was no doubt in the world that she had an exceedingly motherly heart, but very few mothers could so nicely afford to give it rein. Indeed, Miss Rawlings would have drawn the line nowhere, I am afraid, if it had not been for the fact that she had only Ten Thousand Pounds or so a year.

There were tears in her eyes when she bade the others Good-bye. And to everyone she gave, not one bun, not one orange, but a bag of oranges and a bag of buns. And not merely a bag of ordinary Denia oranges and ordinary currant buns, but a bag of Jaffas and a bag of Bath. And she thanked their Guardianesses for having come such a long way, and would they be offended if she paid the fare? Only one was offended, but then her fare had cost only 3d. — 2d. for herself, and 1d. (half price) for the little Peggoty Spalding she brought with her. And Miss Rawlings paid her sixpence.

She kept thirty little ten-year-olds altogether, and you never saw so many young fortunate smiling pigtailed creatures so much alike. And Miss Rawlings, having been so successful, withdrew her advertisements from the Times and the Morning Post and the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator, and she bought a most beautiful Tudor house called Trafford House, with one or two wings to it that had been added in the days of Good Queen Anne, and William and Mary, which stood in entirely its own grounds not ten miles from the Parish boundary. The forest trees in its park were so fine — cedars, sweet chestnuts, and ash and beech and oak — that you could only get a tiny glimpse of its chimneys from the entrance to the drive.

Things are often curious in this world, and coincidences are almost as common as centipedes. So Miss Rawlings was more happy than surprised when, on looking over this mansion, she counted — and to make sure counted again — exactly thirty little bedrooms, with some larger ones over for a matron, a nurse, some parlormaids, some housemaids, some tweenymaids, and a Boy to clean the buttonboots and shoes. When her legal adviser explained to her that this establishment, what with the little chests-of-drawers, basins and ewers, brass candlesticks, oval looking-glasses, dumpety beds, three-legged stools, dimity curtains, woolly rugs, not to speak of chiffoniers, whatnots, hotwater bottles, soup ladles, and so on and so forth, — not to mention a uniform with brass buttons for the man with whiskers at the park gate, — would cost her at least Six Thousand a year, that bee in Miss Rawlings’s bonnet buzzed as if indeed it was a whole hive gone a-swarming.

‘Well, now, my dear Mr. Wilkinson,’ she said, ‘I made a little estimate myself, being a business woman, and it came to £6334.10.0. How reasonable! I shall be over three hundred pounds in pocket.’

So in a few weeks everything was ready — new paint, new gravel on the paths, geraniums in the flower-beds, quilts as neat as daisies on a lawn on the dumpety beds, and the thirty Barbara Allans sitting fifteen a side at the immensely long oak table (where once in Henry VIII’s time monks had eaten their fish on Fridays), the matron with the corkscrew curls at the top and the chief nurse in her starched cap at the bottom. And Miss Rawlings seated in the South bow-window in an old oak chair, with her ebony and ivory stick and her purple bonnet, smiling at her Barbara Allans as if she had mistaken Trafford House for the Garden of Eden.

And I must say every single pigtail of the complete thirty bobbed as merrily as roses in June over that first Grand Tea — blackberry jelly, strawberry jam, homemade bread, plum cake, the best beef-dripping for those who had not a sweet or a milk tooth, Sally Lunns, heather honey, maids-of-honor, and an enormous confection of marchpane, with cupids and comfits and silver bells and thirty little candles standing up in the midst of the table like St. Paul’s Cathedral on the top of Ludgate Hill in the great city of London. It was a lucky thing for the Thirty’s insides that Grand Teas are not everyday teas.

And so, when all the thirty Pigtails had sung a Latin grace put out of English by Mr. Moffatt and set to a tune composed by a beloved uncle of Miss Rawlings’s, who also was now no more, the Grand Tea came to an end. Whereupon the Thirty — looking themselves like yet another Crocodile with very fat joints — came and said good-night to Miss Rawlings, though some of them could scarcely speak. And as Miss Rawlings knew that not all little girls liked being kissed by comparative strangers, she just shook hands with each, and smiled at them as if her motherly heart would almost break. And Dr. Sheppard was Medical Adviser to the thirty little Pigtailers, and Mr. Moffatt came every other Sunday to hear their catechisms.

Miss Rawlings had never been much attached to rules and regulations for other people, though she kept faithfully to a few for herself. She loved everyone to be free and everything to be easy, considering how hard most things are. And this was the Order of the Day with the Pigtails in their Home.

At half-past seven in Summer, and at nine in Winter, the boy in buttons rang an immense bell, its clapper tied round with a swab of cotton-wool, to prevent it from clanging too sonorously. This great quiet bell was not only to waken from their last sweet dreams the slumbering Pigtails in their little beds, but to tell them they had yet another half-an-hour between the blankets before they had to get up. Then hairbrushes, toothbrushes, nailbrushes, as usual. Then ‘When morning gilds the sky,’ and breakfast in the wide white room with the primrose curtains looking out into the garden. And if any Pigtail happened to have been not quite so good as usual on the previous day, she was allowed — if she asked for it — to have a large plateful of porridge with or without salt for a punishment. No less than ninetynine such platefuls were served out in the first year — the Pigtails were so high-spirited. Still, it can be imagined what a thirtyfold sigh of relief went up when breakfast on December 31 was over and there had n’t been a hundredth.

From 9 A.M. to 12 M. the Pigtails were one and all exceedingly busy. Having made their beds, they ran out into the garden and woods — some to bathe in the stream, some to listen to the birds, some to talk, and some to sing; some to paint, some to play, and some to read, and some to dance; some just to sit; and some high up in a beech tree to learn poems, to make up poems, even to read each other’s. It all depended on the weather. The sun shone, the rooks cawed, the green silken leaves whispered; and Miss Rawlings would stand looking up at them in their verdurous perch as fondly as a cat at a canary. There was not at last a flower or a tree or an insect or a star in those parts, or a bird or a little beast or a fish or a toadstool or a moss or a pebble, that the little Pigtails did not know by heart. And the more they knew them the more closely they looked at them, and the more closely they looked at them the more they loved them and the more they knew them — round and round and round, and round.

From twelve to one there were ‘Lessons.’ Then dinner, and tongues like jackdaws raiding a pantry for silver spoons. In the afternoon those who went for a walk toward the stranger parts went for a walk. Some stayed at home in a little parlor and sang in chorus together like a charm of wild birds. Some did their mending and darning, their hemming and featherstitching, and some did sums. Some played on the fiddle, and some looked after their bullfinches, and bunnies, and bees, and guinea pigs and ducks. Then there were the hens and the doves and the calves and the pigs to feed, and the tiny motherless lambs, too (when lambs there were), with bottles of milk. And sometimes of an afternoon Miss Rawlings would come in and sit at a window just watching her Pigtails, or would read them a story. And Dr. Sheppard asseverated not once but three times over that if she went on bringing them sweetmeats and candies and lollipops and suckets to such an extent not a single sound white ivory tooth of their nine hundred or so would be left in the Pigtails’ heads. So Miss Rawlings kept to Sundays.

At five was tea-time: jam on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; jelly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; and both on Sundays. From six to seven there were ‘ Lessons,’ and when the little Pigtails were really tired, which was always before nine, they just skipped off to bed. Some of them had munched their supper biscuits and were snug in bed, indeed, even before the rest had sung the evening hymn. And the evening hymn was always ‘Eternal Father’ — for being all of them so extremely happy they could not but be ‘in peril on the sea’ just as sailors are, for happiness may fly away like birds in corn, or butterflies before rain. And on Sundays they sang ‘Lead, Kindly Light’ too, because Miss Rawlings’s mother had once been blessed by the great and blessed Cardinal Newman. And one Pigtail played the accompaniment on the fiddle, and one on the sweet-tongucd viola, and one on the harpsichord; for since Miss Rawlings had read ‘Barbara Allan’ she had given up pianofortes. And then, sleepy and merry and chattering, they all trooped up to bed.

So this was their Day. And all night, unseen, the stars shone in their splendor above the roof of Trafford House, or the white-faced moon looked down upon the sleeping garden and the doves and the pigs and the lambs and the flowers. And at times there was a wind in the sky among the clouds, and sometimes frost in the dark hours settled like meal wheresoever its cold brightness might find a lodging. And when the little Pigtails awoke there would be marvelous cold fronds and flowerets on their windowpanes, and even sometimes a thin crankling slat of ice in their water-jugs. On which keen winter mornings you could hear their teeth chattering like monkeys cracking nuts. And so time went on.

On the very next June 1, there was a prodigious Garden Party at Trafford House, with punts on the lake and refreshments and lemonade in a tent in the park, and all the Guardianesses and Aunts and Stepmothers and Matrons and Female Friends were invited to come and see Miss Rawlings’s little Pigtails. And some brought their sisters, and some their nieces and nephews. There were Merry-go-Rounds, Aunt Sallies. Frisk-and-Come-Easies, A Punch and Judy Show, a Fat Man, a fortuneteller, and three marvelous acrobats from Hongkong. And there were quantities of things to eat and lots to see, and Kiss-in-the-Ring, and all broke up after fireworks and ‘God Save the Queen ‘ at half-past nine.

The house, as I keep on saying, was called Trafford House, but the Home was called ‘The Home of all the little Barbara Allans and suchlike, with Brown Eyes, Narrow Cheek-bones, Beaver Hats, and Pigtails, Ltd.’ And it was ‘limited’ because there could be only thirty of them, and time is not Eternity.

And now there were only three things that prevented Miss Rawlings from being too intensely happy to go on being alive; and these three were as follows: (a) She wanted to live always at the House: but how could the Parish get on without her? (b) What was she going to do when the Pigtailers became twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and so forth, and Grown-Up? And (c) How could she ever possibly part with any of them or get any more?

For, you see, Miss Rawlings’s first-ofall Barbara Allan was aged ten, and had somehow managed to stay there. But because, I suppose, things often go right in this world when we are not particularly noticing them, and don’t know how, all these difficulties simply melted away like butter in the sun.

In the first place, Miss Rawlings did at last — in 1888, to be exact, one year after Queen Victoria’s first Jubilee — did, I say, at last go to live at the Home of all the little Barbara Allans and suchlike, with Brown Eyes, Beaver Hats, and Pigtails, Ltd. She was called The Matron’s Friend, so as not to undermine the discipline. When her Parish wanted her, which was pretty often, the Parish (Thirty or Forty strong) came to see her in her little parlor overlooking the pond with the punts and the water lilies.

Next — though how, who can say? — the little Pigtails somehow did not grow up, even though they must have grown older. Something queer happened to their Time. It cannot have been what just the clocks said. If there was n’t more of it, there was infinitely more in it. It was like air and dew and sunbeams and the South Wind to them all. You simply could not tell what next. And, apart from all that wonderful learning, apart even from the jam and jelly and the Roast beef of Old England, they went on being just the right height and the right heart for ten. Their brown eyes never lost their light and sparkle. No wrinkles ever came in their three-cornered faces with the high cheek-bones, and not a single gray or silver hair into their neat little pigtails — that could at any rate be seen.

Next, therefore, Miss Rawlings never had to part with any of them or to look or advertise for any more.

Yet another peculiar thing was that Miss Rawlings grew more and more like a Pigtail herself. She grew younger. She laughed like a schoolgirl. Her face became a little narrower, even the cheek-bones seemed not to be so wide. As for her bonnets, as time ‘went on’ they grew up instead of broadwise. And when she sat in Church with the Thirty, in the third pew down from Mrs. Tomlington’s, you might almost have supposed she was a widish pigtail, just a little bit dressed up.

It is true that in the very secretest corner of her heart of hearts she was still looking for the one and only absolute little Barbara Allan of her lifelong daydream; but that is how things go. And the thought of it brought only a scarcely perceptible grave glance of hope and inquiry into her round brown eyes. And underneath — oh, dear me, yes — she was almost too happy and ordinary and good-natured and homely to be telling this story about at all.

We all die at last — just journey on — and so did Miss Rawlings. And so did the whole of the Thirty, and the matron, and the chief nurse, and Mr. Moffatt, and Dr. Sheppard, and the Man with whiskers at the park gates, and the Boy who cleaned the buttonboots; parlor-maids, tweeny-maids, Mr. Tomlington, and all. And if you would like to see the Old House and the little graves, you take the first turning on the right as you leave the Parish Church on your left, and walk on until you come to a gatepost beyond the milestone.

A path crossing the fields — sometimes of wheat, sometimes of turnips, sometimes of barley or oats or swedes — leads to a farm in the hollow with a duckpond, guinea fowl roosting in the pines at evening, and a lovely old thatched barn where the fantailed doves croon in the sunshine. You then cross the yard and come to a lane beside a wood of thorn and hazel. This bears a little East, and presently, after ascending the hill beyond the haystack, you will see — if it is still there — the Home of all the little Barbara Allans and suchlike, with Brown Eyes, Beaver Hats, and Pigtails, Ltd.

And not very far away is a little smooth-mown patch of turf with a beautiful thatched wall around it, which Mr. Moffatt consecrated himself. And there, side by side, sleep the Little Thirty, with their pigtails beside their narrow bones. And there the tweenymaids, the parlor-maids, the Man with whiskers at the park gate, and the Boy who cleaned the button-boots, lie. And there Miss Rawlings, too. And when the last trump sounds, up they will get as happy as wood larks, and as sweet and fresh as morning mushrooms. But if you want to hear any more about that, please read the Poems of Mr. William Blake.