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The Rose-Garden Husband

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The Liberry Teacher lifted her eyes from a half-made catalogue-card, eyed the relentlessly slow clock and checked a long wriggle of purest, frankest weariness. Then she gave a furtive glance around to see if the children had noticed she was off guard; for if they had she knew the whole crowd might take more liberties than they ought to, and have to be spoken to by the janitor. He could do a great deal with them, because he understood their attitude to life, but that wasn't good for the Liberry Teacher's record.

It was four o'clock of a stickily wet Saturday. As long as it is anything from Monday to Friday the average library attendant goes around thanking her stars she isn't a school-teacher; but the last day of the week, when the rest of the world is having its relaxing Saturday off and coming to gloat over you as it acquires its Sunday-reading best seller, if you work in a library you begin just at noon to wish devoutly that you'd taken up scrubbing-by-the-day, or hack-driving, or porch-climbing or—anything on earth that gave you a weekly half-holiday!

So the Liberry Teacher braced herself severely, and put on her reading-glasses with a view to looking older and more firm. "Liberry Teacher," it might be well to explain, was not her official title. Her description on the pay-roll ran "Assistant for the Children's Department, Greenway Branch, City Public Library." Grown-up people, when she happened to run across them, called her Miss Braithwaite. But "Liberry Teacher" was the only name the children ever used, and she saw scarcely anybody but the children, six days a week, fifty-one weeks a year. As for her real name, that nobody ever called her by, that was Phyllis Narcissa.

She was quite willing to have such a name as that buried out of sight. She had a sense of fitness; and such a name belonged back in an old New England parsonage garden full of pink roses and nice green caterpillars and girl-dreams, and the days before she was eighteen: not in a smutty city library, attached to a twenty-five-year-old young woman with reading-glasses and fine discipline and a woolen shirt-waist!

It wasn't that the Liberry Teacher didn't like her position. She not only liked it, but she had a great deal of admiration for it, because it had been exceedingly hard to get. She had held it firmly now for a whole year. Before that she had been in the Cataloguing, where your eyes hurt and you get a little pain between your shoulders, but you sit down and can talk to other girls; and before that in the Circulation, where it hurts your feet and you get ink on your fingers, but you see lots of funny things happening. She had started at eighteen years old, at thirty dollars a month. Now she was twenty-five, and she got all of fifty dollars, so she ought to have been a very happy Liberry Teacher indeed, and generally she was. When the children wanted to specify her particularly they described her as "the pretty one that laughs." But at four o'clock of a wet Saturday afternoon, in a badly ventilated, badly lighted room full of damp little unwashed foreign children, even the most sunny-hearted Liberry Teacher may be excused for having thoughts that are a little tired and cross and restless.

She flung herself back in her desk-chair and watched, with brazen indifference, Giovanni and Liberata Bruno stickily pawing the colored Bird Book that was supposed to be looked at only under supervision; she ignored the fact that three little Czechs were fighting over the wailing library cat; and the sounds of conflict caused by Jimsy Hoolan's desire to get the last-surviving Alger book away from John Zanowski moved her not a whit....