PRIZE STORIES OF 1924
had other love affairs in the years that followed, but no more children. I twitted her about it one day, and she expressed sincere regret that she didn’t have any more.
“The only trouble it ever caused me,” she said, “was that I couldn’t get enough to eat. I used to eat four or five times a day.” Any other trouble it had caused her was by that time totally forgotten.
I used to try to find out if she realized what had happened to the fathers of her three illegitimate boys, but she didn’t. Hodge’s failure was accounted for by the unexplained loss of his money. Wickwire was “too fond of hunting to pay enough attention to his business.” The change in Stanton which made him ridiculous she attributed to “fool notions” of his wife. Any one of them could have come to her for help and would have got it.
As we talked that day about Hodge and the little college I kept thinking of the ordeal that awaited those pretty, innocent, babbling children when they should face a public-school playground. I had heard my mother say so often, “What will become of those poor children?” that the thought became very painful to me as I sat among them and heard the music of their baby talk and frequent laughter. I wanted to beg Maggie to send them away; but it would have done no good, so I said nothing. I remembered a little boy whose life was made miserable in school because his father had been sent to the county jail for six months. But Maggie’s luck descended to the boys also. Howard Blake, being the eldest, was first to go to school and he, of course, had no bar sinister. He was popular. As the others came on, he had prepared the way for them. They were his devoted admirers and followed him like shadows. I learned that jail was a perfectly understandable disgrace, but illegitimacy was not. Some of the children had been told not to play with the Blake boys, but no reason was given, and the order seemed unjust. The Blake boys had two tremendous assets that parental objection to their society could not overcome. They were good baseball players, and Maggie had the only apple orchard in that part of the state. The Blake boys were a power on any baseball team, and to avoid them was to lock oneself out of that irresistible apple orchard. I suppose it would have been very different if one of the children had been a girl.