Sample P15 from Loretta Burrough, "The Open Door," Good Housekeeping, 152: 5 (May, 1961), 117-118. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,004 words 462 (23.1%) quotesP15

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Loretta Burrough, "The Open Door," Good Housekeeping, 152: 5 (May, 1961), 117-118.

Note: Gregg [0260] Greg [0340]

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`` They make us conformists look good '' .

`` That's a peculiar way to think '' . It wasn't just the obnoxious birds that had ruffled her own feathers , of course ; ; she knew that . It was Jim's `` little '' sister Myra , the unreliable , irresponsible , forever flyaway , Myra . She's a year older than I am , Lucy told herself .

`` Come , come '' , Jim said , jollying Lucy a little . `` I love you . Susan ready '' ? ?

Lucy listened . Obviously , Susan was not . Upstairs , busy feet , showering like raindrops , pattered around her room . Susan would be visiting her grandmother for only a few days , but even at seven she was a prudent soul ; ; she always packed for a lifetime , just in case . `` Not yet . Every doll in the house must be going with her '' .

`` She'd better step on it . It's a long way to Websterville '' . Jim's fine young face was an expressive one , too ; ; as he looked at her , it registered anxiety . `` You know '' , he said . `` Myra wanted me to thank you for taking Cathy . It'll be only a couple of weeks before she finds a home for them in Paris -- but even so , she wants you to know that she's awfully grateful '' .

Lucy did not believe him ; ; Myra appreciated nothing . Jim had put the thanks in his sister's mouth .

`` Darling '' -- she said , and the single word mingled love and exasperation in an equal blend . `` She should have told me herself . And will it be only a couple of weeks ? ? Remember what happened the last time '' ? ?

Leaving Cathy with them , Myra had gone out to the Coast for a supposedly brief visit ; ; but she had stayed all winter , and Cathy had stayed all winter too -- with them . Lucy suspected that Myra would never have come home if Gregg , Myra's husband , hadn't gone out to fetch her . `` That was an awfully long two weeks '' .

For an otherwise silent moment , Jim's keys jingled nervously in his pocket . `` But she promised -- This will be different '' , he said at last . `` You've got to admit she was smart to scare up this fine government job over there -- she'll get a home for herself and Cathy in no time . You'll see , Myra's settling down '' . On the defensive , he added , `` I wish you'd think what it must be like for her to be without Greg , to be a new widow , a young widow '' .

`` It depends on the widow '' . Lucy had an idea that Myra loved it . And not for one moment did she believe that Myra had settled down . It seemed to Lucy that all their married life , she and Jim had been doing nothing but rescue his sister from the constant crises that were her way of life . Remembering that succession of disasters , she now considered Cathy , an ominous child-cloud on her horizon .

It was not that she disliked Cathy . The youngster drew her , troubled her depths ; ; whenever Lucy saw her , she tried , without noise or fuss , to give her the warmth she had never had from Myra . But Cathy was Myra's responsibility , not hers .

`` I wouldn't even be surprised '' , she said unhappily , `` if Myra tried to leave her with us forever '' . Myra loved big cities ; ; thousands of miles away -- in Paris , of all places -- she might forget she had ever been a mother . Lucy knew her too well to find it impossible .

`` That's a horrible thing to accuse her of '' ! ! Jim was so indignant it was obvious that no matter what he said , he too had seen the looming specter of a forever-Cathy . He went to the foot of the stairs and shouted up , fiercely , `` Susan ! ! Susan ! ! Get moving '' ! !

A startled piping sound returned .

`` Don't yell at Susan '' , Lucy said . Was it only a few nights ago that they had been standing together in front of the house looking at the moon-washed river ? ? Their arms around each other , they had been talking of the present and the future ; ; their talk and their feeling had been as deep and warm , as steeped in light , as the air around them . Then , from within the still , sleeping house , the telephone had rung ; ; Myra , with her news , was on the other end of the line .

Jim turned back from the stairway and looked at her . His dark brows , which had been lowered in anger , smoothed . `` Please '' , he said . `` There isn't a chance of Myra's letting anything like that happen . Let's stay friends '' .

But they weren't just friends , Lucy thought ; ; they were husband and wife , and Myra had no right muddling and chilling their marriage . The only thing that had ever come between them was that worthless , selfish sister of his . Lucy was sick of it .

`` Well , at last '' , she said , because Susan was clattering down the stairs .

Susan looked like an overwhelmed baby nurse ; ; her arms were straining with a burden of dolls . `` I'm ready '' , she announced .

`` Do you need that big bundle '' ? ? Jim said . His voice had sharp edges , as though he knew very well Lucy and he were not friends at the moment . `` All that junk '' ? ?

Susan stared at him with hurt blue eyes that gushed an instant grief ; ; to her , each of her dolls was a real person with a living heart .

`` Now , now '' , Lucy said , approaching Susan with a handkerchief , mopping skillfully . `` Your father didn't mean it , Susan '' . She gave Jim a quick , shape-up look of warning . `` She'll take every one of them '' .

Jim groaned , but he lifted Susan's suitcase and said , in a gentler tone , `` Sure -- the entire thousand . And when you get back from Grandma's , Cathy will be here to play with you . Nice '' ? ?

`` No '' , Susan said , grappling with her outsized armload of dolls with a Scrooge-like effect .

And at this point , Lucy thought , there should be a lecture on little cousins' sharing dolls -- but she could sympathize with Susan ; ; there ought to be a limit to sharing , too .

That was one more reason she didn't look forward to Cathy's visit , short or long ; ; the last one had been a Lilliputian war . She suspected that Cathy had been competing with Susan for attention that she had never had .

`` Well '' , Jim said , out of the silence , `` let's get going , dolls and all '' .

When the car , with Susan's hands waving wildly from the rear window , disappeared down the driveway , Lucy stood looking after its pale dust . The day was brilliant around her -- flower-scented , crisp with breeze -- yet her inner turmoil darkened it . She had let Jim go with a chilly good-by , a chillier kiss . She was sorry , and angry at herself , because never in their life together had she done that . She turned and began to walk toward the house .

At the feeding station , the raffish group of cowbirds again bobbed and gobbled over the ground , but now , gorgeous among them , was a beautiful red cardinal , radiant in its feathered vestments . The handsome bird was solitary ; ; its mate must be at home , silently guarding their nest . She had better stay there , Lucy thought ; ; the sly female cowbirds took instant advantage of nests without sentinels .

Well , Lucy ? ? She said to herself , abandoning the cardinals and the cowbirds . She had a day of things to do ; ; among them , she had to prepare the guest room . How long would it be occupied ? ? She wondered , with a baffled feeling of helplessness . As long as the unscrupulous Myra chose ? ? For a moment , her mind returned again to the strange , flying world of birds , and she said to herself . It isn't only birds that dump their children in other people's nests .

In the sunshine of late afternoon , Lucy stood looking at the ready guest room . There were new yellow curtains , bright as a child's life ought to be , a new bedspread , lively with hopping rabbits , and hanging from the ceiling was an airy Mother Goose Mobile , spinning slowly in the breeze . A row of little hangers waited for a child's clothes in the neatly empty closet ; ; since Myra had always put most of Greg's money on her own back , Lucy suspected that no more than a few of that long row would be needed . The closet was faintly fragrant with lavender , and as Lucy shut the door an unhappy memory slipped into her mind , like a lavender ghost : Greg's house , on the day he was buried , and the child , pale , silent , baffled , watching the funeral guests with panicky eyes . Many times since his death that memory had worried and troubled her .

Out in the hall , the upstairs phone shrilled , and the small ghost vanished . When she picked up the receiver , her mother's cheerful voice was there .

`` Websterville Junction calling '' , she said . `` I just thought I'd let you know . Myra dropped Cathy this morning , and Jim picked Cathy up and left Susan a few hours ago . I'd have phoned sooner but I've been busy '' .

`` I can imagine '' ! ! Susan was an active character ; ; for Mother to be able to call , Susan must be napping now , surrounded by her multitude of dolls . Lucy drew out the chair and sat down ; ; she relaxed a little , and some of the tension went out of her . You could think yourself as grown up as Methuselah , yet the maternal voice still kept its comforting magic . `` How was Cathy '' ? ?

`` Subdued . But Myra was the merriest widow I ever saw '' .

On her way to the airport , on her way to Paris -- you bet , Lucy said to herself . `` I've been fixing up the guest room for Cathy '' .

There was a momentary pause , and then her mother said , `` How long is she supposed to stay '' ? ?

`` Just for a couple of weeks , till Myra finds a place for them '' .

`` Well '' -- This time there was a long silence , while the telephone hummed faintly with a voiceless life .

Puzzled , Lucy stared at the flowered wallpaper ; ; her mother was forthright ; ; she was not usually given to mysterious silences . Was she thinking along the same lines Lucy was -- that it was quite possible Cathy might be left with her for good ? ? `` You mean once Myra gets to Paris '' ? ? Once the soft , pretty moth found the bright light she had always wanted ? ?

Suddenly , seekingly , Lucy asked , `` Mother , do you know something I don't know '' ? ?

Again there was that curious pause , and then her mother said , `` I guess I do . Just before Myra left -- She was saying good-by to Cathy , and she didn't realize I was near '' . She hesitated , as though hunting over words and ways of putting them . `` Cathy was in tears , of course , and I heard Myra say , ' Now be good , and at Christmastime I'll send you a wonderful present from Paris ' '' .

Shocked speechless , Lucy sat there . Then she jumped to her feet , the elastic phone cord uncoiling like a black snake . `` Christmastime ! ! '' Then it was no bogey she had dreamed up ; ; it was only too true . Myra had no intention whatever of sending for Cathy in two weeks .

For a moment , anger darkened the hallway about her , and when she found her voice , anger thickened it . `` That does it '' ! ! She said . `` I'll keep Cathy for two weeks . Then , if Myra does nothing about fetching her , I'll pack her right back to her mother -- if I have to take her myself '' ! ! Her hand tightened on the receiver . `` And that's what I'm going to tell Jim '' . For Lucy , the day's nagging to-and-fro had come to an abrupt end .

As she hung up , she saw through the hall's open window the purple-black flying of the cowbirds' wings , and heard their grotesque singing . Cowbird Myra ! ! She's not going to get away with it .

Cathy is tired , Lucy thought , watching them come slowly up the path . The child's thin legs were plodding . She trudged along slowly , both hands clutching a tired teddy bear . She was at the moment just a small , walking package , being delivered to her aunt's and uncle's house . Unlike Susan , she was traveling light ; ; the worn teddy bear , a tiny suitcase that Jim carried , and the clothes she wore , were all she had . Lucy glancing at the miniature case , knew there would not be enough in it for the shortest of stays ; ; they would have to buy things for her . She opened the door .