Her Own People (1905)

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The Taunton School had closed for the summer holidays. Constance Foster and Miss Channing went down the long, elm-shaded street together, as they generally did, because they happened to board on the same block downtown.

Constance was the youngest teacher on the staff, and had charge of the Primary Department. She had taught in Taunton school a year, and at its close she was as much of a stranger in the little corps of teachers as she had been at the beginning. The others thought her stiff and unapproachable; she was unpopular in a negative way with all except Miss Channing, who made it a profession to like everybody, the more so if other people disliked them. Miss Channing was the oldest teacher on the staff, and taught the fifth grade. She was short and stout and jolly; nothing, not even the iciest reserve, ever daunted Miss Channing.

"Isn't it good to think of two whole blessed months of freedom?" she said jubilantly. "Two months to dream, to be lazy, to go where one pleases, no exercises to correct, no reports to make, no pupils to keep in order. To be sure, I love them every one, but I'll love them all the more for a bit of a rest from them. Isn't it good?"

A little satirical smile crossed Constance Foster's dark, discontented face, looking just then all the more discontented in contrast to Miss Channing's rosy, beaming countenance.

"It's very good, if you have anywhere to go, or anybody who cares where you go," she said bitterly. "For my own part, I'm sorry school is closed. I'd rather go on teaching all summer."

"Heresy!" said Miss Channing. "Rank heresy! What are your vacation plans?"

"I haven't any," said Constance wearily. "I've put off thinking about vacation as long as I possibly could. You'll call that heresy, too, Miss Channing."

"It's worse than heresy," said Miss Channing briskly. "It's a crying necessity for blue pills, that's what it is. Your whole mental and moral and physical and spiritual system must be out of kilter, my child. No vacation plans! You must have vacation plans. You must be going somewhere."

"Oh, I suppose I'll hunt up a boarding place somewhere in the country, and go there and mope until September."

"Have you no friends, Constance?"

"No—no, I haven't anybody in the world. That is why I hate vacation, that is why I've hated to hear you and the others discussing your vacation plans. You all have somebody to go to. It has just filled me up with hatred of my life."

Miss Channing swallowed her honest horror at such a state of feeling.

"Constance, tell me about yourself. I've often wanted to ask you, but I was always a little afraid to. You seem so reserved and—and, as if you didn't want to be asked about yourself."

"I know it. I know I'm stiff and hateful, and that nobody likes me, and that it is all my own fault. No, never mind trying to smooth it over, Miss Channing. It's the truth, and it hurts me, but I can't help it. I'm getting more bitter and pessimistic and unwholesome every day of my life. Sometimes it seems as if I hated all the world because I'm so lonely in it. I'm nobody. My mother died when I was born—and Father—oh, I don't know. One can't say anything against one's father, Miss Channing. But I had a hard childhood—or rather, I didn't have any childhood at all. We were always moving about. We didn't seem to have any friends at all. My mother might have had relatives somewhere, but I never heard of any. I don't even know where her home was. Father never would talk of her. He died two years ago, and since then I've been absolutely alone."

"Oh, you poor girl," said Miss Channing softly.

"I want friends," went on Constance, seeming to take a pleasure in open confession now that her tongue was loosed. "I've always just longed for somebody belonging to me to love. I don't love anybody, Miss Channing, and when a girl is in that state, she is all wrong. She gets hard and bitter and resentful—I have, anyway. I struggled against it at first, but it has been too much for me. It poisons everything. There is nobody to care anything about me, whether I live or die."

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