Ann Lizy's Patchwork

Mary E. Wilkins (Freeman)

From St. Nicholas Magazine Vol. XVII. No. 1. (November 1889)

Ann Lizy was invited to spend the afternoon and take tea with her friend Jane Baxter, and she was ready to set forth about one o'clock. That was the fashionable hour for children and their elders to start when they were invited out to spend the afternoon.

Ann Lizy had on her best muslin delaine dress, her best embroidered pantalets, her black silk apron, and her flat straw hat with long blue ribbon streamers. She stood in the south room — the sitting-room — before her grandmother, who was putting some squares of patchwork, with needle, thread, and scissors, into a green silk bag embroidered with roses in bead-work.

“There, Ann Lizy,” said her grandmother, “you may take my bag if you are real careful of it, and won't lose it. When you get to Jane's you lay it on the table, and don't have it round when you 're playin' outdoors.”

“Yes, ma'am,” said Ann Lizy. She was looking with radiant, admiring eyes at the bag — its cluster of cunningly wrought pink roses upon the glossy green field of silk. Still there was a serious droop to her mouth; she knew there was a bitter to this sweet.

“Now,” said her grandmother, “I 've put four squares of patchwork in the bag; they 're all cut and basted nice, and you must sew 'em all, over and over, before you play any. Sew 'em real fine and even, or you 'll have to pick the stitches out when you get home.”

Ann Lizy's radiant eyes faded; she hung her head. She calculated swiftly that she could not finish the patchwork before four o'clock, and that would leave her only an hour and a half to eat supper and play with Jane, for she would have to come home at half-past five. “Can't I take two, and do the other two to-morrow, Grandma?” said she.

Her grandmother straightened herself disapprovingly. She was a tall, wiry old woman with strong handsome features showing through her wrinkles. She had been so energetic all her life, and done so much work, that her estimation of it was worn, like scales. Four squares of patchwork sewed with very fine even stitches had, to her, no weight at all; it did not seem like work.

“Well, if a great girl like you can't sew four squares of patchwork in an arternoon, I would n't tell of it, Ann Lizy,” said she. “I don't know what you 'd say if you had to work the way I did at your age. If you can't have time enough to play and do a little thing like that, you 'd better stay at home. I ain't goin' to have you idle a whole arternoon, if I know it. Time 's worth too much to be wasted that way.”

“I 'd sew the others to-morrow,” pleaded Ann Lizy, faintly.

“Oh, you would n't do it half so easy to-morrow; you 've got to pick the currants for the jell' to-morrow. Besides, that does n't make any difference. To-day's work is to-day's work, and it has n't anything to do with to-morrow's. It 's no excuse for idlin' one day, because you do work the next. You take that patchwork, and sit right down and sew it as soon as you get there — don't put it off — and sew it nice too, or you can stay at home — just which you like.”

Ann Lizy sighed, but reached out her hand for the bag. “Now be careful and not lose it,” said her grandmother, “and be a good girl.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Don't run too hard, nor go to climbin' walls, and get your best dress torn.”

“No, ma'am.”

“And only one piece of cake at tea-time.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“And start for home at half-past five.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Little Ann Lizy Jennings, as she went down the walk between the rows of pinks, had a bewildered feeling that she had been to Jane Baxter's to tea, and was home again.

Her parents were dead, and she lived with her Grandmother Jennings, who made her childhood comfortable and happy, except that at times she seemed taken off her childish feet by the energy and strong mind of the old woman, and so swung a little way through the world in her wake. But Ann Lizy received no harm by it.

Ann Lizy went down the road with the bead bag on her arm. She toed out primly, for she had on her best shoes. A little girl, whom she knew, stood at the gate in every-day clothes, and Ann Lizy bowed to her in the way she had seen the parson's wife bow, when out making calls in her best black silk and worked lace veil. The parson's wife was young and pretty, and Ann Lizy admired her. It was quite a long walk to Jane Baxter's, but it was a beautiful afternoon, and the road was pleasant, although there were not many houses. There were green fields and flowering bushes at the sides, and, some of the way, elm-trees arching over it. Ann Lizy would have been very happy had it not been for the patchwork. She had already pieced one patchwork quilt, and her grandmother displayed it to people with pride, saying, “Ann Lizy pieced that before she was eight years old.”

Ann Lizy had not as much ambition as her grandmother, now she was engaged upon her second quilt, and it looked to her like a checked and besprigged calico mountain. She kept dwelling upon those four squares, over and over, until she felt as if each side were as long as the Green Mountains. She calculated again and again how little time she would have to play with Jane — only about and hour, for she must allow a half-hour for tea. She was not a swift sewer when she sewed fine and even stitches, and she knew she could not finish those squares before four o'clock. One hour! — and she and Jane wanted to play dolls, and make wreathes out of oak-leaves, and go down in the lane after thimble-berries, and in the garden for gooseberries — there would be no time for anything!

Ann Lizy's delicate little face under the straw flat grew more and more sulky and distressed, her forehead wrinkled, and her mouth pouted. She forgot to swing her muslin delaine skirts gracefully, and flounced along hitting the dusty meadow-sweet bushes.

Ann Lizy was about half-way to Jane Baxter's house, in a lonely part of the road, when she opened her bead bag and drew out her pocket-handkerchief — her grandmother had tucked that in with the patchwork — and wiped her eyes. When she replaced the handkerchief, she put it under the patchwork, and did not draw up the bag again, but went on, swinging it violently by one string.

When Ann Lizy reached Jane Baxter's gate, she gave a quick, scared glance at the bag. It looked very flat and limp. She did not open it, and she said nothing about it to Jane. They went out to play in the garden. There were so many hollyhocks there that it seemed like a real flower-grove, and the gooseberries were ripe.

Shortly after Ann Lizy entered Jane Baxter's house, a white horse and a chaise passed down the road in the direction from which she had just come. There were three persons in the chaise — a gentleman, lady, and little girl. The lady wore a green silk pelerine, and a green bonnet with pink strings, and the gentleman a blue coat and bell hat. The little girl had pretty long, light curls, and wore a white dress and blue sash. She sat on a little footstool down in front of the seat. They were the parson's wife's sister, her husband, and her little girl, and had been to visit at the parsonage. The gentleman drove the white horse down the road, and the little girl looked sharply and happily at everything by the way. All at once she gave a little cry — “Oh, father, what 's that in the road?”

She saw Ann Lizy's patchwork, all four squares nicely pinned together, lying beside the meadow-sweet bushes. Her father stopped the horse, got out, and picked up the patchwork.

“Why,” said the parson's wife's sister, “some little girl has lost her patchwork; look, Sally!”

“She 'll be sorry, won't she?” said the little girl, whose name was Sally.

The gentleman got back into the chaise, and the three rode off with the patchwork. There seemed to be nothing else to do; there were no houses near and no people of whom to inquire. Besides, four squares of calico patchwork were not especially valuable.

“If we don't find out who lost it, I 'll put it into my quilt,” said Sally. She studied the patterns of the calico very happily, as they rode along; she thought them prettier than anything she had. One had pink roses on a green ground, and she thought that especially charming.

Meantime, while Sally and her father and mother rode away in the chaise with the patchwork, to Whitefield, ten miles distant, where their house was, Ann Lizy and Jane played as fast as they could. It was four o'clock before they went into the house. Ann Lizy opened her bag, which she had laid on the parlor-table with the “Young Lady's Annuals” and “Mrs. Hemans' Poems.” “I s'pose I must sew my patchwork,” said she, in a miserable guilty little voice. Then she exclaimed. It was strange that, well as she knew there was no patchwork there, the actual discovery of nothing at all gave her a shock.

“What's the matter?” asked Jane.

“I 've — lost my patchwork,” said Ann Lizy.

Jane called her mother, and they condoled with Ann Lizy. Ann Lizy sat in one of Mrs. Baxter's rush-bottomed chairs and began to cry.

“Where did you lose it?” Mrs. Baxter asked. “Don't cry, Ann Lizy, maybe we can find it.”

“I s'pose I — lost it comin',” sobbed Ann Lizy.

“Well, I 'll tell you what 't is,” said Mrs. Baxter; “you and Jane had better run up the road a piece, and likely as not you 'll find it; and I 'll have tea all ready when you come home. Don't feel so bad, child, you 'll find it, right where you dropped it.”

But Ann Lizy and Jane, searching carefully along the road, did not find the patchwork where it had been dropped. “Maybe it 's blown away,” suggested Jane, although there was hardly wind enough that afternoon to stir a feather. And the two little girls climbed over the stone walls, and searched in the fields, but they did not find the patchwork. Then another mishap befell Ann Lizy. She tore a three-cornered place in her best muslin delaine, getting over the wall. When she saw that she felt as if she were in a dreadful dream. “Oh, what will Grandma say!” she wailed.

“Maybe she won't scold,” said Jane, consolingly.

“Yes, she will. Oh dear!”

The two little girls went dolefully home to tea. There were hot biscuits, and honey, and tarts, and short gingerbread, and custards, but Ann Lizy did not feel hungry. Mrs. Baxter tried to comfort her; she really saw not much to mourn over, except the rent in the best dress, as four squares of patchwork could easily be replaced; she did not see the true inwardness of the case.

At half-past five, Ann Lizy, miserable and tear-stained, the three-cornered rent in her best dress pinned up, started for home, and then — her grandmother's beautiful bead bag was not to be found. Ann Lizy and Jane both remembered that it had been carried when they set out to find the patchwork. Ann Lizy had meditated bringing the patchwork home in it.

“Aunt Cynthy made that bag for Grandma,” said Ann Lizy in a tone of dull despair; this was beyond tears.

“Well, Jane shall go with you, and help find it,” said Mrs. Baxter, “and I 'll leave the tea-dishes and go too. Don't feel so bad, Ann Lizy, I know I can find it.”

But Mrs. Baxter, and Jane, and Ann Lizy, all searching, could not find the bead bag. “My best handkerchief was in it,” said Ann Lizy. It seemed to her as if all her best things were gone. She and Mrs. Baxter and Jane made a doleful little group in the road. The frogs were peeping, and the cows were coming home. Mrs. Baxter asked the boy who drove the cows if he had seen a green bead bag, or four squares of patchwork; he stared and shook his head.

Ann Lizy looked like a wilted meadow reed, the blue streamers on her hat drooped dejectedly, her best shoes were all dusty, and the three-cornered rent was the feature of her best muslin delaine dress that one saw first. Then her little delicate face was all tear-stains and downward curves. She stood there in the road as if she had not courage to stir.

“Now, Ann Lizy,” said Mrs. Baxter, “you 'd better run right home and not worry. I don't believe your Grandma 'll scold you when you tell her just how 't was.”

Ann Lizy shook her head. “Yes, she will.”

“Well, she 'll be worrying about you if you ain't home before long, and I guess you'd better go,” said Mrs. Baxter.

Ann Lizy said not another word; she began to move dejectedly toward home. Jane and her mother called many kindly words after her, but she did not heed them. She kept straight on, walking slowly until she was home. Her grandmother stood in the doorway watching for her. She had a blue-yarn stocking in her hands, and she was knitting fast as she watched.

“Ann Lizy, where have you been, late as this?” she called out as Ann Lizy came up the walk. “It 's arter six o'clock.”

Ann Lizy continued to drag herself slowly forward, but she made no reply.

“Why don't you speak?”

Ann Lizy crooked her arm around her face and began to cry. Her grandmother reached down, took her by the shoulder, and led her into the house. “What on airth is the matter, child?” said she; “have you fell down?”

“No, ma'am.”

“What does ail you, then? — Ann Lizy Jennings, how come that great three-cornered tear in your best dress?”

Ann Lizy sobbed.

“Answer me.”

“I — tore it gettin' over — the wall.”

“What were you gettin' over walls for in your best dress? I 'd like to know what you s'pose you 'll have to wear to meetin' now. Did n't I tell you not to get over walls in your best dress? Ann Lizy Jennings, where is my bead bag?

“I — lost it.”

“Lost my bead bag?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“How did you lose it, eh?”

“I lost it when — I was lookin' for — my patchwork.”

“Did you lose your patchwork?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“When?”

“When I was — goin' over to — Jane's.”

“Lost it out of the bag?”

Ann Lizy nodded, sobbing.

“Then you went to look for it and lost the bag. Lost your best pocket-handkerchief, too?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Old Mrs. Jennings stood looking at Ann Lizy.

“All that patchwork, cut out and basted jest as nice as could be, your best pocket-handkerchief and my bead bag lost, and your meetin' dress tore,” said she; “well, you 've done about enough for one day. Take off your things and go upstairs to bed. You can't go over to Jane Baxter's again for one spell, and every mite of the patchwork that goes into the quilt you 've got to cut by a thread, and baste yourself, and to-morrow you 've got to hunt for that patchwork and that bag till you find 'em, if it takes you all day. Go right along.”

Ann Lizy took off her hat and climbed meekly upstairs, and went to bed. She did not say her prayers; she lay there and wept. It was about half-past eight, the air coming through the open window was loud with frogs, and katydids, and whippoorwills, and the twilight was very deep, when Ann Lizy arose and crept downstairs. She could barely see her way.

There was a candle lighted in the south room, and her grandmother sat there knitting. Ann Lizy, a piteous little figure in her white nightgown, stood in the door.

“Well, what is it?” her grandmother said, in a severe voice that had a kindly inflection in it.

“Grandma —”

“What is it?”

“I lost my patchwork on purpose. I did n't want — to sew it.”

“Lost you patchwork on purpose!”

“Yes — ma'am,” sobbed Ann Lizy.

“Let it drop out of the bag on purpose?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Well, you did a dreadful wicked thing then. Go right back to bed.”

Ann Lizy went back to bed and to sleep. Remorse no longer gnawed keenly enough at her clear childish conscience to keep her awake, now her sin was confessed. She said her prayers and went to sleep. Although the next morning the reckoning came, the very worst punishment was over for her. Her grandmother held the judicious use of the rod to be a part of her duty toward her beloved little orphan granddaughter, so she switched Ann Lizy with a little rod of birch and sent her forth full of salutary tinglings to search for the bead bag and the patchwork. All the next week Ann Lizy searched the fields and road for the missing articles, when she was not cutting calico patchwork by a thread and sewing over and over. It seemed to her that life was made up of those two occupations, but at the end of a week the search, so far as the bead bag was concerned, came to and end.

On Saturday afternoon the parson's wife called on old Mrs. Jennings. The sweet, gentle young lady in her black silk dress, her pink cheeks, and smooth waves of golden hair gleaming through her worked lace veil entered the north room, which was the parlor, and sat down in the rocking-chair. Ann Lizy and her grandmother sat opposite, and they both noticed at the same moment that the parson's wife held in her hand — the bead bag!

Ann Lizy gave a little involuntary “oh”; her grandmother shook her head fiercely at her, and the parson's wife noticed nothing. She went on talking about the pinks out in the yard, in her lovely low voice.

As soon as she could, old Mrs. Jennings excused herself and beckoned Ann Lizy to follow her out of the room. Then, while she was arranging a square of pound-cake and a little glass of elderberry wine on a tray, she charged Ann Lizy to say nothing about the bead bag to the parson's wife. “Mind you act as if you did n't see it,” said she; “don't sit there lookin' at it that way.”

“But it 's your bead bag, Grandma,” said Ann Lizy in a bewildered way.

“Don't you say anything,” admonished her grandmother. “Now carry this tray in, and be careful you don't spill the elderberry wine.”

Poor Ann Lizy tried her best not to look at the bead bag, while the parson's wife ate pound-cake, sipped the elderberry wine, and conversed in her sweet, gracious way; but it did seem finally to her as if it were the bead bag instead of the parson's wife that was making the call. She kept wondering if the parson's wife would not say, “Mrs. Jennings, is this your bead bag?” but she did not. She made the call and took leave, and the bead bag was never mentioned. It was odd, too, that it was not; for the parson's wife, who had found the bead bag, had taken it with her on her round of calls that afternoon, partly to show it and find out, if she could, who had lost it. But here, it was driven out of her mind by the pound-cake and elderberry wine, or else she did not think it likely that an old lady like Mrs. Jennings could have owned the bag. Younger ladies than she usually carried them. However it was, she went away with the bag.

“Why did n't she ask if it was yours?” inquired Ann Lizy, indignant in spite of her admiration for the parson's wife.

“Hush,” said her grandmother. “You mind you don't say a word out about this, Ann Lizy. I ain't never carried it, and she did n't suspect.”

Now, the bead bag was found after this unsatisfactory fashion; but Ann Lizy never went down the road without looking for the patchwork. She never dreamed how little Sally Putnam, the minister's wife's niece, was in the mean time sewing these four squares over and over, getting them ready to go into her quilt. It was a month later before she found it out, and it was strange that she discovered it at all.

It so happened that, one afternoon in the last of August, old Mrs. Jennings dressed herself in her best black bombazine, her best bonnet and mantilla and mitts, and also dressed Ann Lizy in her best muslin delaine, exquisitely mended, and set out to make a call on the parson's wife. When they arrived the found a chaise and white horse out in the parsonage yard, and the parson's wife's sister and family there on a visit. An old lady, Mrs. White, a friend of Mrs. Jennings's, was also making a call.

Little Ann Lizy and Sally Putnam were introduced to each other, and Ann Lizy looked admiringly at Sally's long curls and low-necked dress, which had gold catches in the sleeves. They sat and smiled shyly at each other.

“Show Ann Lizy your patchwork, Sally,” the parson's wife said presently. “Sally has got almost enough patchwork for a quilt, and she has brought it over to show me,” she added.

Ann Lizy colored to her little slender neck; patchwork was nowadays a sore subject with her, but she looked on as Sally, proud and smiling, displayed her patchwork.

Suddenly she gave a little cry. There was one of her squares! The calico with roses on a green ground was in Sally's patchwork.

Her grandmother shook her head energetically at her, but old Mrs. White had on her spectacles, and she, too, had spied the square.

“Why, Miss Jennings,” she cried, “that 's jest like that dress you had so long ago!”

“Let me see,” said Sally's mother quickly. “Why, yes; that is the very square you found, Sally. That is one; there were four of them, all cut and basted. Why, this little girl did n't lose them, did she?”

Then it all came out. The parson's wife was quick-witted, and she thought of the bead bag. Old Mrs. Jennings was polite, and said it did not matter; but when she and Ann Lizy went home, they had the bead bag, with the patchwork and the best pocket-handkerchief in it.

It had been urged that little Sally Putnam should keep the patchwork, since she had sewed it, but her mother was not willing.

“No,” said she, “this poor little girl lost it, and Sally must n't keep it; it would n't be right.”

Suddenly Ann Lizy straightened herself. Her cheeks were blazing red, but her black eyes were brave.

“I lost that patchwork on purpose,” said she. “I did n't want to sew it. Then I lost the bag while I was lookin' for it.”

There was silence for a minute.

“You are a good girl to tell of it,” said Sally's mother, finally.

Ann Lizy's grandmother shook her head meaningly at Mrs. Putnam.

“I don't know about that,” said she. “Ownin'-up takes away some of the sin, but it don't all.”

But when she and Ann Lizy were on their homeward road, she kept glancing down at her granddaughter's small face. It struck her that it was not so plump and rosy as it had been.

“I think you 've had quite a lesson by this time about that patchwork,” she remarked.

“Yes, ma'am,” said Ann Lizy.

They walked a little farther. The golden-rod and the asters were in blossom now, and the road was bordered with waving fringes of blue and gold. They came in sight of Jane Baxter's house.

“You may stop in Jane Baxter's, if you want to,” said old Mrs. Jennings, “and ask her mother if she can come over and spend the day with you to-morrow. And tell her I say she 'd better not bring her sewing, and she 'd better not wear her best dress, for you and she ain't goin' to sew any, and mebbe you 'll like to go berryin', and play outdoors.”