I wonder why?
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The things that happen in this place are the same things, just like our breakfasts, dinners, and suppers. They wouldn't be interesting to hear about, so while waiting for something real exciting to put down, I am going to write my history. I don't know very much about who I am. I wish my Mother had left a diary about herself, but she didn't.
I know my nurse brought me, but I can't remember what she looked like, and when she went away without me: I never saw nor heard of her again.
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I don't even know her name. I thought it was fine to play in a big yard with a lot of children, and I soon stopped crying for my nurse. I never did see much sense in crying. Everybody was good to me, and not being old enough to know I was a Charity child, and by nature happy, they used to call me Cricket. Sometimes some of them call me that now.
A hundred dozen times I have asked Miss Katherine to tell me something about myself, but in some way she always gets out of it. I know my mother and father are dead, but that's all I do know; and I wouldn't ask Miss Bray if I had to stand alone for ever and ever. Sometimes I believe Miss Katherine knows something she won't tell me, but since I found out she don't like me to ask her I've stopped. And not being able to ask out what I'd like, I think a lot more, and some nights when I can't go to sleep, it gives me an awful sinking feeling right down in my stomach, to think in all this great big world there isn't a human that's any kin to me.
I might have come from the heavens above or the depths below, only I didn't, and being like other girls in size and shape and feelings, I know I once did have a Mother and Father.
But if they had relations they've kept quiet, and it's plain they don't want to know anything about me, never having asked. It would make me miserable—this aloneness would, if I let it. I won't let it.
I have got to look out for Mary Cary, frequently Martha, and when you're miserable you don't get much of anything that's going around. I won't be unhappy. I just won't. I haven't enough other blessings. But not being able to speak out as much as I would like on some things personal, I got into the habit of talking to my other self, which I named Martha, and which I call my secret sister. Martha is my every-day self, like the Bible Martha who did things, and didn't worry trying to find out what couldn't be found out, specially about why God lets Mothers die.
Mary is my Sunday self who wonders and wonders at everything and asks a million questions inside, and goes along and lets people think she is truly Martha when she knows all the time she isn't.
And if I do hold out and write a history of my life, it's going to be a Martha and Mary history; for some days I'm one, some another, and whichever I happen to be is plain to be seen. When I grow up I am going to marry a million-dollar man, so I can travel around the world and have a house in Paris with twenty bath-rooms in it. And I'm going to have horses and automobiles and a private car and balloons, if they are working all right by that time. I hope they will be, for I want something in which I can soar up and sit and look down on other people.
All my life people have looked down on me, passing me by like I was a Juny bug or a caterpillar, and I don't wonder.here
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I'm merely Mary Cary with fifty-eight more just like me. Blue calico, white dots for winter, white calico, blue dots for summer. Black sailor hats and white sailor hats with blue capes for cold weather, and no fire to dress by, and freezing fingers when it's cold, and no ice-water when it's hot. Yes, dear Mary, you and I are going to marry a rich man. Martha is writing to-day.
I will try to love him, but if I can't I will be polite to him and travel alone as much as possible. But I am going to be rich some day. And when I come back to Yorkburg eyes will bulge, for the clothes I am going to wear will make mouths water, they're going to be so grand. Miss Katherine would be ashamed of that and make me ashamed, but this writing is for the relief of feelings.
But there's one thing I'm surer of than I am of being rich, and that is that there are to be no secrets about my children's mother. They are to know all about me I can tell, which won't be much or distinguished, but what there is they're to know. And that's the chief reason I'm going to write my history, so as to remember in case I forget.
Well, now I will begin. I am eleven years and eleven months and three days old. I don't have birthday parties. The Yorkburg Female Orphan Asylum is a large house with a wide hall in the middle, and a wing on one side that makes it look like Major Green, who lost one arm in the war. There are large grounds around the house, and around the grounds is a high brick wall in front and a wooden fence back and sides.
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The children and the chickens use the grounds at the back; the front has grass and flowers, and is for company, which is seldom. Sometimes, just because I can't help it, I chase a chicken through the front so as to know how it feels to run in the grass, which it is forbidden to do. The Asylum is on King Street, almost at the very end, and there isn't much passing, just the Tates and the Gordons and a few others living farther on.
The dining-room is in the basement, half below the ground, and on cloudy days the lamps have to be lighted—that is, they used to. Now we have electric lights, and I just love to turn them on. It's such a grand way to get a thing done, just to press a button. The dining-room has a picture over the mantel of a cow standing in yellow-brown grass, and, though hideous, it's a great comfort. That cow understands our feelings at mealtimes, and we understand hers.
Humane meals are very much like yellow-brown grass, and our clothes are on the same order as our meals. As for our days, if it wasn't for calendars we wouldn't know one from the other, except Sundays, for, unlike the stars mentioned by St. Paul, they differ not. The rising-bell rings at five o'clock, and all except the very littlest get up and clean up until seven, when we march into the dining-room. The calisthenics are fine. At nine we begin recitations. We have a teacher who lives in town, Miss Elvira Strother. She's a good teacher. The older girls help teach the little ones, and next year I'm to help.
This Asylum is over ninety 90 years old, but looks much older. There is just money enough to run it, and it hasn't had any paint or improvements in the memory of man, except the electric lights. The town put those in for safety, and don't charge for them. I wish the town would put in bath-tubs for the same reason. It would make the children much nicer.