Central Park


3. The Lady Returns

When the victoria, with its two men on the box and with its pair of high-stepping horses, returned to the Park, and skirted the Lake again, and approached the Terrace, the lady sat in it alone. As she came in sight of the Mall she bent forward, eagerly looking for the little girl whom they had almost run over half an hour earlier.

Near the Terrace she saw the pleasant-faced Irishwoman, with her basket of fruit in one hand and the baby in the other arm; the three little children were playing about their mother's feet, while the elder boy and girl were only a few yards away.

The lonely woman in the victoria bade the coachman draw up.

Seeing the carriage stop at the side of the road the Irishwoman came forward, proffering her fruit. Then she recognized the lady and checked her approach, hesitating.

The handsome woman in the carriage smiled, and said, "Which is the little girl we almost ran over?"

"That's the one," answered the mother, indicating the slip of a child who was now clasping the edge of the fruit-basket while staring at the strange lady with wide-open eyes.

"What a pretty child she is!" said the lady. "I hope she is none the worse for her fright?"

"Ye didn't break any bones, if that's what ye mean," the mother responded.

"And how old is she?" was the next question.

"She'll be three years old come Christmas," was the answer.

The lady in the carriage felt in her pocket, and brought out her purse and looked through it.

"Here," she said at last, as she took out a five-dollar gold-piece; "here is something I wish you would give her on Christmas morning as a present from me. Will you?"

"I will that," the mother replied, taking the money, "and gladly too. It's richer than her sisters she'll be now."

"How many children have you?" the lady inquired.

"Six; thank ye, ma'am, for askin'," was the response, "an' all well and hearty."

"Six?" echoed the woman in the victoria, with a hungry gleam in her eyes. "You have six children?"

"It's six I have," the mother answered; "and it's a fine lot they are altogether, though I say it that shouldn't."

The lady put her hand in her purse again.

"Buy something with this for the others," she said, placing a bank-note in the Irishwoman's hands. Then she raised her voice and added, "You may drive on, John!"

As the victoria rolled away to the westward the fruit-vender courtesied, and the children all looked after the carriage with interest.

"That lady must be very rich," said the eldest boy, the one who had the lozenges for sale. "I shouldn't wonder if she had two millions of dollars!"

"She must be very happy," the eldest girl added. "I suppose she can have ice-cream every day, and go to the Seaside Home for two weeks whenever she wants."

"It's a kind heart she has anyway, for all her money," was the mother's comment, as she unfolded the bank-note and saw the X in the corner of it.

Meanwhile the lady in the victoria was eaten with bitter thoughts as the carriage rattled along in the brilliant sunshine beneath the unclouded sky.

"Six children!" she was saying to herself. "That Irishwoman has six children! Why is it that some women have so much luck?" (1893.)