THE MOTHER OF "PILLS"
that had a cheap, white
cord ruche at the neck. There wen spots down the
front of her dreM where acids had been spilled and
had taken out the color.
"How particular we are gettin'," she said, turning
the measuring glass round and round on the towel
which hod been wadded into it. "You didn't use to
mind if 1 called you 'Pills' just for fun."
"Well, I mind now."
The girl took a clean towel from a cupboard and
began to polish the showcases, breathing upon them
now and then. She was a good-looking girl. She had
strong, handsome features, and heavy brown hair,
which she wore in a long braid down her back. A
deep red rose was tucked in the girdle of her cotton
gown, and its head lolled to and fro as she worked.
Her hands were not prettily shaped, but sensitive, and
the ends of the fingers were square.
"Well, Mariella. then," said Mrs. Mansfield, still
looking amused; "I was goin' to ask you if you knew
the Indians had all come in on their way home from
Mariella straightened up and looked at her mother.
"Have they, honest, ma?"
"Yes, they have; they're all camped down on the
'' Oh, I wonder where!''
"Why, the Xooksaeks are clear down at the coal
bunkers, an' the Lnmmie* close to Timberline's row;
an' the Alaskas are all on the other side the viaduct."
"Are they goin' to have the canoe race!"
"Yes, I guess so. I guess it'll be about sundown
to-night. There, you forgot to dust that milk shake.
An' you ain't touched that shelf o' patent medi
She set down the last graduate and hung the damp
towel on a nail. Then she came out into the main
part of the store and sat down comfortably behind the
Long before Marietta was born, her father had
opened a drug store in the tiny town of Sehome, on
Puget sound. There was a coal mine under the town.
A tunnel led down into it, and the men working among
the black diamonds, with their families, made up the
town. But there was some trouble, and the mine was
abandoned and flooded with salt water. The men went
away, and for many years Sehome was little more
than a name. A mailboat wheezed up from Seattle
once a week, and two or three storekeepers—Mr.
Mansfield among them —clung to the ragged edge of
hope and waited for the boom. Before it came Mr.
Mansfield was bumped over the terrible road to the
graveyard and laid down among the stones and ferns.
Then Mrs. Mansfield "run" the store. The question,
"Can you fill prescriptions?" was often put to her
fearfully by timid customers, but she was equal to the
"Well, I guess I can," she would say, squaring
about and looking her questioner unwaveringly in the
eye. '' I guess I'd ought to. I 'ye been in the store
with my husband, that's dead, for twenty years. I'm
not a regular, but I'm a practical—an' that's better
than a regular any day."
" It's not so much what you know in a drug store
as what you look like, you know," she sometimes con
fided to admiring friends.
It is true Mrs. Mansfield was often perplexed over
the peculiar curdled appearance of some mixture —
being as untaught in the mysterious ways of emulsions
as a babe —but such trifles were dismissed with a
philosophical sigh, and the prescriptions were handed
over the counter with the complaisance that command
ed confidence. The doctor hinted, with extreme deli
cacy, at times, that his emulsions did not turn out as
smooth as he had expected, or that it would be agree
abla to find some of his aqueous mixtures tinged with
cochineal; or that it was possible to make pills in
such a way that they would not —so to speak —melt in
the patient's mouth before he could swallow them.
But Mrs. Mansfield invariably laughed at him in a
LOS ANGELES HERALD SUNDAY MAGAZINE
Copyright by "Short StorlM."
kiml nf motherly way. and reminded liim tlmt
he ought to be glad to h»va even a "practical "
in a placb like Sehonie. And renlly tliis wu so
true that it was unanswerable, pa Mrs. M:ms
field held the fort; and as her medicines, al
though abominable to swal
low, never killed any one,
Blie was looked upon with
awe and respect by tin- vil
lagers and the men in the
neighboring logging camp.
Si uriella was brought up
in the drug store. Slie had
the benefit of her mother's
experience, and, besides
M«% TTiT.S I Oh,
turned from the door of
tlio drug store and looked
back under bent brows
at her mother, who was
willing graduated glasses
with a stained towel at
the end of the prescrip
'' I wish you wouldn "t
call me tliat," she said;
her tone was Impatient,
but not disrespectful.
Her mother laughed.
She was a big, good
natured looking woman,
with light blue eyes and
■andy eyebrowi and hair.
She wore a black dress
that, she had studied that " dispensatory " —a word,
by the way, which Mrs. Mansfield began with a cap
ital letter because of the mauy pitfalis from which it
had rescued ht-r.
'' Mariella is such a good girl,'' her mother fre
quently declared; "she got a real good education over
at the Whatcom schools, an' she 's such a help in tho
drug store. She does make a beautiful pill."
Indeed, the girl's pill-making accomplishment was
so appreciated by Mrs. Mansfield that she had nick
named her "Pills"-—a name that had been the cause
of much mirth between them.
Mariella was now sixteen, and the long-deferred
"boom" was upon them. Mrs. Mansfield and her
daughter contemplated it from the store door daily
with increasing admiration. The wild clover no longer
vi'lveted the middle of the street. New buildings,
with red, green or blue fronts and nondescript backs,
leaped up on every corner and in between corners.
The hammers and saws made music sweeter than any
brass band to Sehome ears, Day and night the for
ests blazed backward from the town. When there were
no customers in the store Mariella stood in the door,
twisting the rope of the awning round her wrist, and
watched the flames leaping from limb to limb up the
tall, straight fir trees. When Sehome hill was burning
at night it was a magnificent spectacle; like hundreds
of torches dipped into a very hell of fire and lifted to
heaven by invisible hands —while in the east the noble,
white dome of Mount Baker burst out of the darkness
against the lurid sky. The old steamer Idaho came
down from Seattle three times a week now. When
she landed, Mrs. Mansfield and Mariella, and such
customers as chanced to be in the store, hurried
breathlessly back to the little sitting room which over
looked the bay to count the passengers. The old
colony wharf, running a mile out across the tide lands
to deep water, would be '' fairly alive with 'em,''
Mrs. Mansfield declared daily, in an ecstasy of an
ticipation, of the good times their comming foretold.
She counted never less than a hundred and fifty; and
so many walked three and four abreast that it was not
possible to count all.
Really, that summer everything seemed to be going
Mrs. Mansfield's way. Mariella was a comfort to her
mother and an attraction to the store; business was
excellent; her property was worth five times more than
it had ever been before; and, besides —when her
thoughts reached this point Mrs. Mansfield smiled
consciously and blushed—there was Mr. Grover. Mr.
Grover kept the dry goods store next door. He had
come at the very beginning of the boom. He was
slim and dark and forty. Mrs. Mansfield was forty,
and large and fair. Both were "well off;" Mr.
Orover was lonely and "dropped into" Mrs. Mans
field's little sitting room every night. She invited
him to supper frequently, and he told her that her
fried chicken and " cream" potatoes were better
" 'Oh, via!' said Marietta. Her face was like a poppy."
than anything ho had eaten
Bince his mother died. Of
late his intentions were not
to be misunderstood, and
Mrs. Mansfield was already
putting by a cozy sum for a
wedding outfit. Only that
morning she had looked at
herself in the glass more at
tentively than usual while
Combing her hair. Some
thought made her blush and
'' You ought, really, to bo
nshamed," she said, shaking
her head at herself in the
glass as at a gay, young
thing, "to be thinkin' about
gettin' married! With a
big girl like Pills, too. One.
good thing: he really seems to think as much of
i'ills as you do yourself, Airs. Maustield. Thai s wii.u
makes me so—happy, 1 guiss. 1 believe it s tne first
time 1 ever was really happy betore." Whe Digued
unconsciously as she glanced back over her years ot'
married lile. "An' 1 don't know what mases me
so nwtui happy now. But sometimes when 1 get up
of a morniu' 1 just feel as if 1 could go out ou the
hill an' sing—foolish as any of them larks holler ii
'• Mariella," she said, watching the duster in tho
girl's hands, "what made you Hare up so when I
called you 'Pills?' You never done that before, an'
1 don 't see whatever in the world ails you all of a
'' 1 didn 't mean to flare up,'' said Mariella. She
opened the cigar case and arranged the boxes care
iullv. Then she closed it with a snap and looked at
her mother. '' Hut I wish you 'd stop it, ma. Mr.
Urover uaid "
••Well, what 'id he say!"
"lie said it wasn 't a nice name to call a girl by.''
Mariella's face reddened, but she was stooping behind
Mrs. Mansfield drummed on the showcase with
broad fingers and looked thoughtful.
'' Well,'' she said, with significance, after a pause,
"if he don't like it 1 won't do it. We've had lots o'
fun over it, Pills, am 't we—l mean Mariella—but I
gueus he's got a right to say what you'll be called,
Pi —my dear.''
'' Oh, ma! '' said Mariella. Her face was like a
"Well, I guess you won't object, will youf I've
been Wond 'rin' how you felt about it.''
''Oh, ma,'' faltered the girl; "do you think,
honest, he —he "
'' Yes, I do,'' replied her mother, laughing com
fortably and blushing faintly. "I'm sure 01 it. An'
I'm happier 'n I ever was in my life over it. I don't
think I could give you a better stepfather, or one
that w'd think more of you."
Mariella stood up slowly behind the counter and
looked —stared —across the room at her mother in a
dazed, uncomprehending way. The color ebbed slowly
out of her face.
She did not speak, but she felt the muscles about
her mouth jerking. She pressed her lips more tightly
'' I hope you don't think I oughtn 't to marl/
again," said her mother, returning her look without
understanding it in the least. "Your pa's been dead
ten years''—this in an injured tone. '' There ain't
many women oh, good mornin ', Mr. Lester; Mar
iella, '11 you wait on Mr. Lesterf Well"—beaming
good naturedly on her customer—"how's real estate
this mornin'f Any new sales afootf"
MAY 15, 1910.
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