Missy's Room by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Mrs. Falconer and Miss Bailey walked home together through the fine
blue summer afternoon from the Ladies' Aid meeting at Mrs. Robinson's.
They were talking earnestly; that is to say, Miss Bailey was talking
earnestly and volubly, and Mrs. Falconer was listening. Mrs. Falconer
had reduced the practice of listening to a fine art. She was a thin,
wistful-faced mite of a woman, with sad brown eyes, and with
snow-white hair that was a libel on her fifty-five years and girlish
step. Nobody in Lindsay ever felt very well acquainted with Mrs.
Falconer, in spite of the fact that she had lived among them forty
years. She kept between her and her world a fine, baffling reserve
which no one had ever been able to penetrate. It was known that she
had had a bitter sorrow in her life, but she never made any reference
to it, and most people in Lindsay had forgotten it. Some foolish ones
even supposed that Mrs. Falconer had forgotten it.
"Well, I do not know what on earth is to be done with Camilla Clark,"
said Miss Bailey, with a prodigious sigh. "I suppose that we will
simply have to trust the whole matter to Providence."
Miss Bailey's tone and sigh really seemed to intimate to the world at
large that Providence was a last resort and a very dubious one. Not
that Miss Bailey meant anything of the sort; her faith was as
substantial as her works, which were many and praiseworthy and
The case of Camilla Clark was agitating the Ladies' Aid of one of the
Lindsay churches. They had talked about it through the whole of that
afternoon session while they sewed for their missionary box—talked
about it, and come to no conclusion.
In the preceding spring James Clark, one of the hands in the lumber
mill at Lindsay, had been killed in an accident. The shock had proved
nearly fatal to his young wife. The next day Camilla Clark's baby was
born dead, and the poor mother hovered for weeks between life and
death. Slowly, very slowly, life won the battle, and Camilla came back
from the valley of the shadow. But she was still an invalid, and would
be so for a long time.
The Clarks had come to Lindsay only a short time before the accident.
They were boarding at Mrs. Barry's when it happened, and Mrs. Barry
had shown every kindness and consideration to the unhappy young widow.
But now the Barrys were very soon to leave Lindsay for the West, and
the question was, what was to be done with Camilla Clark? She could
not go west; she could not even do work of any sort yet in Lindsay;
she had no relatives or friends in the world; and she was absolutely
penniless. As she and her husband had joined the church to which the
aforesaid Ladies' Aid belonged, the members thereof felt themselves
bound to take up her case and see what could be done for her.
The obvious solution was for some of them to offer her a home until
such time as she would be able to go to work. But there did not seem
to be anyone who could offer to do this—unless it was Mrs. Falconer.
The church was small, and the Ladies' Aid smaller. There were only
twelve members in it; four of these were unmarried ladies who boarded,
and so were helpless in the matter; of the remaining eight seven had
large families, or sick husbands, or something else that prevented
them from offering Camilla Clark an asylum. Their excuses were all
valid; they were good, sincere women who would have taken her in if
they could, but they could not see their way clear to do so. However,
it was probable they would eventually manage it in some way if Mrs.
Falconer did not rise to the occasion.
Nobody liked to ask Mrs. Falconer outright to take Camilla Clark in,
yet everyone thought she might offer. She was comfortably off, and
though her house was small, there was nobody to live in it except
herself and her husband. But Mrs. Falconer sat silent through all the
discussion of the Ladies' Aid, and never opened her lips on the
subject of Camilla Clark despite the numerous hints which she
Miss Bailey made one more effort as aforesaid. When her despairing
reference to Providence brought forth no results, she wished she dared
ask Mrs. Falconer openly to take Camilla Clark, but somehow she did
not dare. There were not many things that could daunt Miss Bailey, but
Mrs. Falconer's reserve and gentle aloofness always could.
When Miss Bailey had gone on down the village street, Mrs. Falconer
paused for a few moments at her gate, apparently lost in deep thought.
She was perfectly well aware of all the hints that had been thrown out
for her benefit that afternoon. She knew that the Aids, one and all,
thought that she ought to take Camilla Clark. But she had no room to
give her—for it was out of the question to think of putting her in
"I couldn't do such a thing," she said to herself piteously. "They
don't understand—they can't understand—but I couldn't give her
Missy's room. I'm sorry for poor Camilla, and I wish I could help her.
But I can't give her Missy's room, and I have no other."
The little Falconer cottage, set back from the road in the green
seclusion of an apple orchard and thick, leafy maples, was a very tiny
one. There were just two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. When Mrs.
Falconer entered the kitchen an old-looking man with long white hair
and mild blue eyes looked up with a smile from the bright-coloured
blocks before him.
"Have you been lonely, Father?" said Mrs. Falconer tenderly.
He shook his head, still smiling.
"No, not lonely. These"—pointing to the blocks—"are so pretty. See
my house, Mother."
This man was Mrs. Falconer's husband. Once he had been one of the
smartest, most intelligent men in Lindsay, and one of the most trusted
employees of the railroad company. Then there had been a train
collision. Malcolm Falconer was taken out of the wreck fearfully
injured. He eventually recovered physical health, but he was from that
time forth merely a child in intellect—a harmless, kindly creature,
docile and easily amused.
Mrs. Falconer tried to dismiss the thought of Camilla Clark from her
mind, but it would not be dismissed. Her conscience reproached her
continually. She tried to compromise with it by saying that she would
go down and see Camilla that evening and take her some nice fresh
Irish moss jelly. It was so good for delicate people.
She found Camilla alone in the Barry sitting-room, and noticed with a
feeling that was almost like self-reproach how thin and frail and
white the poor young creature looked. Why, she seemed little more
than a child! Her great dark eyes were far too big for her wasted
face, and her hands were almost transparent.
"I'm not much better yet," said Camilla tremulously, in response to
Mrs. Falconer's inquiries. "Oh, I'm so slow getting well! And I
know—I feel that I'm a burden to everybody."
"But you mustn't think that, dear," said Mrs. Falconer, feeling more
uncomfortable than ever. "We are all glad to do all we can for you."
Mrs. Falconer paused suddenly. She was a very truthful woman and she
instantly realized that that last sentence was not true. She was not
doing all she could for Camilla—she would not be glad, she feared, to
do all she could.
"If I were only well enough to go to work," sighed Camilla. "Mr. Marks
says I can have a place in the shoe factory whenever I'm able to. But
it will be so long yet. Oh, I'm so tired and discouraged!"
She put her hands over her face and sobbed. Mrs. Falconer caught her
breath. What if Missy were somewhere alone in the world—ill,
friendless, with never a soul to offer her a refuge or a shelter? It
was so very, very probable. Before she could check herself Mrs.
Falconer spoke. "My dear, don't cry! I want you to come and stay with
me until you get perfectly well. You won't be a speck of trouble, and
I'll be glad to have you for company."
Mrs. Falconer's Rubicon was crossed. She could not draw back now if
she wanted to. But she was not at all sure that she did want to. By
the time she reached home she was sure she didn't want to. And yet—to
give Missy's room to Camilla! It seemed a great sacrifice to Mrs.
She went up to it the next morning with firmly set lips to air and
dust it. It was just the same as when Missy had left it long ago.
Nothing had ever been moved or changed, but everything had always been
kept beautifully neat and clean. Snow-white muslin curtains hung
before the small square window. In one corner was a little white bed.
Missy's pictures hung on the walls; Missy's books and work-basket were
lying on the square stand; there was a bit of half-finished fancy
work, yellow from age, lying in the basket. On a small bureau before
the gilt-framed mirror were several little girlish knick-knacks and
boxes whose contents had never been disturbed since Missy went away.
One of Missy's gay pink ribbons—Missy had been so fond of pink
ribbons—hung over the top of the mirror. On a chair lay Missy's hat,
bright with ribbons and roses, just as Missy had laid it there on the
night before she left her home.
Mrs. Falconer's lips quivered as she looked about the room, and tears
came to her eyes. Oh, how could she put these things away and bring a
stranger here—here, where no one save herself had entered for fifteen
years, here in this room, sacred to Missy's memory, waiting for her
return when she should be weary of wandering? It almost seemed to the
mother's vague fancy, distorted by long, silent brooding, that her
daughter's innocent girlhood had been kept here for her and would be
lost forever if the room were given to another.
"I suppose it's dreadful foolishness," said Mrs. Falconer, wiping her
eyes. "I know it is, but I can't help it. It just goes to my heart to
think of putting these things away. But I must do it. Camilla is
coming here today, and this room must be got ready for her. Oh, Missy,
my poor lost child, it's for your sake I'm doing this—because you may
be suffering somewhere as Camilla is now, and I'd wish the same
kindness to be shown to you."
She opened the window and put fresh linen on the bed. One by one
Missy's little belongings were removed and packed carefully away. On
the gay, foolish little hat with its faded wreath of roses the
mother's tears fell as she put it in a box. She remembered so plainly
the first time Missy had worn it. She could see the pretty, delicately
tinted face, the big shining brown eyes, and the riotous golden curls
under the drooping, lace-edged brim. Oh, where was Missy now? What
roof sheltered her? Did she ever think of her mother and the little
white cottage under the maples, and the low-ceilinged, dim room where
she had knelt to say her childhood's prayer?
Camilla Clark came that afternoon.
"Oh, it is lovely here," she said gratefully, looking out into the
rustling shade of the maples. "I'm sure I shall soon get well here.
Mrs. Barry was so kind to me—I shall never forget her kindness—but
the house is so close to the factory, and there was such a whirring
of wheels all the time, it seemed to get into my head and make me wild
with nervousness. I'm so weak that sounds like that worry me. But it
is so still and green and peaceful here. It just rests me."
When bedtime came, Mrs. Falconer took Camilla up to Missy's room. It
was not as hard as she had expected it to be after all. The wrench was
over with the putting away of Missy's things, and it did not hurt the
mother to see the frail, girlish Camilla in her daughter's place.
"What a dear little room!" said Camilla, glancing around. "It is so
white and sweet. Oh, I know I am going to sleep well here, and dream
"It was my daughter's room," said Mrs. Falconer, sitting down on the
chintz-covered seat by the open window.
Camilla looked surprised.
"I did not know you had a daughter," she said.
"Yes—I had just the one child," said Mrs. Falconer dreamily.
For fifteen years she had never spoken of Missy to a living soul
except her husband. But now she felt a sudden impulse to tell Camilla
about her, and about the room.
"Her name was Isabella, after her father's mother, but we never called
her anything but Missy. That was the little name she gave herself when
she began to talk. Oh, I've missed her so!"
"When did she die?" asked Camilla softly, sympathy shining, starlike,
in her dark eyes.
"She—she didn't die," said Mrs. Falconer. "She went away. She was a
pretty girl and gay and fond of fun—but such a good girl. Oh, Missy
was always a good girl! Her father and I were so proud of her—too
proud, I suppose. She had her little faults—she was too fond of dress
and gaiety, but then she was so young, and we indulged her. Then Bert
Williams came to Lindsay to work in the factory. He was a handsome
fellow, with taking ways about him, but he was drunken and profane,
and nobody knew anything about his past life. He fascinated Missy. He
kept coming to see her until her father forbade him the house. Then
our poor, foolish child used to meet him elsewhere. We found this out
afterwards. And at last she ran away with him, and they were married
over at Peterboro and went there to live, for Bert had got work there.
We—we were too hard on Missy. But her father was so dreadful hurt
about it. He'd been so fond and proud of her, and he felt that she had
disgraced him. He disowned her, and sent her word never to show her
face here again, for he'd never forgive her. And I was angry too. I
didn't send her any word at all. Oh, how I've wept over that! If I had
just sent her one little word of forgiveness, everything might have
been different. But Father forbade me to.
"Then in a little while there was a dreadful trouble. A woman came to
Peterboro and claimed to be Bert Williams's wife—and she was—she
proved it. Bert cleared out and was never seen again in these parts.
As soon as we heard about it Father relented, and I went right down
to Peterboro to see Missy and bring her home. But she wasn't
there—she had gone, nobody knew where. I got a letter from her the
next week. She said her heart was broken, and she knew we would never
forgive her, and she couldn't face the disgrace, so she was going away
where nobody would ever find her. We did everything we could to trace
her, but we never could. We've never heard from her since, and it is
fifteen years ago. Sometimes I am afraid she is dead, but then again I
feel sure she isn't. Oh, Camilla, if I could only find my poor child
and bring her home!
"This was her room. And when she went away I made up my mind I would
keep it for her just as she left it, and I have up to now. Nobody has
ever been inside the door but myself. I've always hoped that Missy
would come home, and I would lead her up here and say, 'Missy, here is
your room just as you left it, and here is your place in your mother's
heart just as you left it,' But she never came. I'm afraid she never
Mrs. Falconer dropped her face in her hands and sobbed softly. Camilla
came over to her and put her arms about her.
"I think she will," she said. "I think—I am sure your love and
prayers will bring Missy home yet. And I understand how good you have
been in giving me her room—oh, I know what it must have cost you! I
will pray tonight that God will bring Missy back to you."
When Mrs. Falconer returned to the kitchen to close the house for the
night, her husband being already sound asleep; she heard a low, timid
knock at the door. Wondering who it could be so late, she opened it.
The light fell on a shrinking, shabby figure on the step, and on a
pale, pinched face in which only a mother could have recognized the
features of her child. Mrs. Falconer gave a cry.
"Missy! Missy! Missy!"
She caught the poor wanderer to her heart and drew her in.
"Oh, Missy, Missy, have you come back at last? Thank God! Oh, thank
"I had to come back. I was starving for a glimpse of your face and
of the old home, Mother," sobbed Missy. "But I didn't mean you should
know—I never meant to show myself to you. I've been sick, and just as
soon as I got better I came here. I meant to creep home after dark and
look at the dear old house, and perhaps get a glimpse of you and
Father through the window if you were still here. I didn't know if you
were. And then I meant to go right away on the night train. I was
under the window and I heard you telling my story to someone. Oh,
Mother, when I knew that you had forgiven me, that you loved me still
and had always kept my room for me, I made up my mind that I'd show
myself to you."
The mother had got her child into a rocking-chair and removed the
shabby hat and cloak. How ill and worn and faded Missy looked! Yet her
face was pure and fine, and there was in it something sweeter than had
ever been there in her beautiful girlhood.
"I'm terribly changed, am I not, Mother?" said Missy, with a faint
smile. "I've had a hard life—but an honest one, Mother. When I went
away I was almost mad with the disgrace my wilfulness had brought on
you and Father and myself. I went as far as I could get away from you,
and I got work in a factory. I've worked there ever since, just making
enough to keep body and soul together. Oh, I've starved for a word
from you—the sight of your face! But I thought Father would spurn me
from his door if I should ever dare to come back."
"Oh, Missy!" sobbed the mother. "Your poor father is just like a
child. He got a terrible hurt ten years ago, and never got over it. I
don't suppose he'll even know you—he's clean forgot everything. But
he forgave you before it happened. You poor child, you're done right
out. You're too weak to be travelling. But never mind, you're home
now, and I'll soon nurse you up. I'll put on the kettle and get you a
good cup of tea first thing. And you're not to do any more talking
till the morning. But, oh, Missy, I can't take you to your own room
after all. Camilla Clark has it, and she'll be asleep by now; we
mustn't disturb her, for she's been real sick. I'll fix up a bed for
you on the sofa, though. Missy, Missy, let us kneel down here and
thank God for His mercy!"
Late that night, when Missy had fallen asleep in her improvised bed,
the wakeful mother crept in to gloat over her.
"Just to think," she whispered, "if I hadn't taken Camilla Clark in,
Missy wouldn't have heard me telling about the room, and she'd have
gone away again and never have known. Oh, I don't deserve such a
blessing when I was so unwilling to take Camilla! But I know one
thing: this is going to be Camilla's home. There'll be no leaving it
even when she does get well. She shall be my daughter, and I'll love
her next to Missy."