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“Of course I can't have what the others have. I 'm too homely,” murmured Deborah. “But I hate her when she talks like that.” The corners of her mouth drooped, and her eyes filled with tears. There were so many things Deborah hated: the bare, angular house perched on the hillside, the plainness of her daily living, the vision she saw reflected in the mirror, —a small figure clothed in checked-brown gingham, and a pale face with drooping mouth and hair drawn tightly back into two braids. She could have seen eyes blue as gentians if she had looked long enough, but she always turned away after the first glance. “I don't love a thing but my garden,” thought Deborah. “It 's the only beautiful thing I have. Maybe I love Aunty Jones a little scrap, and I used to love Josie, because she 's so pretty. I hate ugly things. I'm going to hate people now, too. I hate Josie when she talks like that.” Pretty Josie Fenton walked on down the hill with Fred Dillon, unconscious that her words had been overheard. “It 's too bad Debby is so homely,” she had said carelessly. Deborah watched them out of sight. She would have given all she owned to walk unconcernedly down the street with Fred. He was so merry and good-looking; any girl would be glad to have him for a friend. She picked up her trowel from the
door-sill, and went slowly down the walk, her back to the ugly, little house. She knelt among her flowers, and laid a caressing hand on the nearest. The garden was gay now with foxglove and sweet-william and columbine. Later it would run riot with tiger-lilies and larkspur and hollyhocks. “I love you ! I love you!” she whispered passionately. “You ’re the only thing I have to love. Why do I have to be so ugly when I hate ugly things with all my soul!” She dug vigorously among her pansies for some time. Presently she left the trowel sticking in the earth, and settled back, her hands clasped around her brown gingham knees. She was too shy to have friends to talk to; she was used to thinking things out for herself. “I am ugly,” she thought, “and Aunty Jones is ugly, and the house is ugly. It must hurt everybody to look at us all, for ugliness is hateful. Why can't the world just be full of beauty P” For a long time, she sat thinking about it, and then she slowly went back to her pansies. “I suppose really to make all the world beautiful, every one ought to put a little beauty into it. All I have is my garden, but that 's the prettiest in town, and I can make it prettier even than it is. It 's the only point I have to start from, but I'll do it. I sha'n't pay any more attention to people, whether they 're pretty or not. I 'm going to hate people, and hate ugly things all my life, and just give myself up to putting beauty into the world.” She rose to her feet and surveyed her garden with a dreamy look. Her eyes showed the blue in this direct glance, and the corners of her mouth did not droop quite so pitifully. She had at least an object in life. “Yes,” she said. “The larkspur is in just the right place, and the hollyhocks will be lovely against the fence. The phlox needs thinning, but it 's time to go and help Aunty Jones get dinner now.” As she walked back toward the house, her eyes traveled farther up the hill. A new house was rising on the hilltop, and the newly graded earth made more raw ugliness in the landscape. “It 's a beautiful house,” thought Deborah. “It makes ours worse than ever by contrast. But it will take forever to get the new look off the place. How lovely rock-pinks would be on that slope" A sudden thought struck her, so daring that it sent the unaccustomed color over her face. Was this a broader chance in her mission of bringing beauty into the world? Could she take it out of the confines of her own little garden and spread it abroad 2 “Oh, I could n’t I 'd never dare s” she exclaimed. “I 've plenty of pinks, and they spread like lightning, but I 'd never dare offer Mr. Danvers any.” She could not get the thought out of her mind, however. Every morning for a week, with a quick-beating heart, she watched Mr. Danvers walk by on his visit of inspection to his new house. Then one day, before she knew she had done it, she had opened the gate and was speaking to him. “Rock-pinks would be lovely on that slope,” she gasped, her cheeks aflame. “I have lots of them. Could I plant some out there?” Mr. Danvers looked at her quizzically. “You ’re the girl with the pretty garden, are n't you?” he said, “and we are neighbors. I've tried to speak to you before, but you always looked the other way. And you want to share with me? That's very kind of you.” “Don’t you mind?” stammered Deborah. “I shall be very grateful. I 'm not much at flowers, and Mrs. Danvers won't be coming till later, for I want things settled before she arrives.” “And could I put a little bunch of pink phlox by the barn ?” asked Deborah, eagerly. “The color will be so pretty against the gray.”
Copyright, 1912, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.
“It will be extremely pretty. Do whatever you want to. How do you like my house?” “I love to look at it,” said Deborah, fervently. The glow stayed on Deborah's face all through dinner-time. She had never before spoken to a stranger of her own accord, and it was exciting. So was the permission to pour some of the beauty of her own little garden-plot into her neighbor's wide domain. “I’m really doing it !” she thought. “I’m really putting beauty into the world out of my own garden '" Then she stopped, struck by a sudden thought. Was she going to be able to carry out perfectly her plan of hating people as she spread beauty 2 How could she hate Mr. Danvers while she was giving him flowers out of her garden? She did not have time to find an answer to her question just then, for transplanting kept her very busy. Josie Fenton's father was building the house, and he watched Deborah with interest as, day by day, she came over with a new perennial clump to tuck into its fitting nook. Deborah did not know he was watching her until he spoke to her. “Are you sharing up that white piny? It's the handsomest one in town.” “Do you think so?” Deborah asked shyly. “I did n't know any one ever noticed it.” “When it 's in bloom, I come down this way just to look at it.” Mr. Fenton said. “Oh, do you ?” Deborah asked, with a little smile. She did not often smile. Then she added, shyly, “Would you like a root, too?” “Indeed I would, if it won't be robbing you.” “I’d like to give it to you,” Deborah answered, and went home wondering if she could leave out from her hating the people who loved flowers. She dug so hard at her peony roots that before she knew it she had kneed a hole straight through her brown gingham frock. She showed it in dismay to Aunty Jones. “Never mind,” said the kind, old lady. “It's an old one. You go up to the store this afternoon and get you some new gingham, and I 'll make you some new dresses. I 'm slack of work just now ; and I don't read as easy as I did once.” To the second brown gingham, clean and starched, Deborah added a brown sailor hat over hair tied tightly with a brown ribbon, and went to the store. She had to wait a long time for attention, for an automobile stood outside, and the two ladies who owned it were inside buying many things. Deborah sat patiently on a high stool and waited. She looked a good deal at the young lady who was matching embroidery silk, for she was very pretty. Presently the young
other brown; buy blue, to match your eyes. See, there 's a lovely piece up there.” “Why,” faltered Deborah, “I 've always had brown.” "But that 's no reason you always should. The blue costs the sarme, and pretty things are much nicer to look at than ugly ones, are n't they?” said her new friend, with a smile. "Oh, yes!” exclaimed Deborah. The young lady had the blue-and-white check pulled down, and held it against Deborah's face. Her cheeks flushed, and her eyes were bright as she looked up. "It's very becoming,” said the older lady, with a satisfied nod. “I am going to make you a present of a blue hair-ribbon to match, so that when you look in the glass and find how nice you look,
what I tell you. Just wear blue always, and never touch another inch of brown. Wait a minute I have a hat out in the car that would just suit you, I know, and it is n't my style at all. Will you take it to remember my little sermon? My mother's ribbon will make you remember to be good, and my hat will make you remember to wear becoming clothes. They 're both very important.” The young lady dashed out to find the hat, and dashed back to leave it on Deborah's lap. Then she smiled once more, and she and her mother buzzed off in the automobile, leaving Deborah's head buzzing as fast as the car. She went home, scarcely knowing who she was, the blue gingham and the blue hair-ribbon done up in one parcel, and the hat—such a pretty one !—in another.