"The older I get the more convinced I become that the most fascinating persons in this world are those elusive souls whom we know perfectly well but whom we never, as children say, 'get to meet.' They slip out of countries, or towns - or rooms even - just before we arrive, leaving us with an inexplicable feeling of having been cheated or something that was rightfully and divinely ours. That's the way I still feel about little Miss By-the-Day. Perhaps you, too, have been baffled by the will-o'-the-wispishness of that whimsical young person. Perhaps you, too, tried to find her but never did.
"She sounded so casual and commonplace when I first began hearing about her that I let her slip through my fingers. She was just a little seamstress who had a 'vairee' odd way of speaking; it was quite a long time before I realized that everybody who spoke about her was unconsciously trying to imitate her drawling voice. And then I noticed that everybody who mentioned her smiled dreamily and wondered where on earth she'd come from. I kept hearing, just as you probably did, odd scraps of things she had said, droll adventures in which she had figured, extraordinary and fantastic tales about the house in which she lived. And presently, when it was too late, I found myself listening to regretful murmurings of scores of baffled persons who couldn't find out what had become of her. She suddenly vanished, leaving nothing behind her save her delectable house."
Little Miss By-the-Day was a novel by Lucille van Slyke, published 1919 by Frederick A. Stokes Co in New York. It belonged to my mother and I discovered it among our books as a child and probably read it when I was about ten. It's the story of a French girl of old New Orleans, who's parents (of course) die, and she is taken away from their grand old mansion by her grandfather to another manorial dwelling that has become quite ramshackle somewhere in the country-side. While there, she nurses her aged ailing grandfather, and recreates her mother's gardens, based on her mother's original plan for the gardens in a book which she finds among her mother's things.
Later, after her grandfather has passed away, she becomes aware that she has inherited the old mansion in New Orleans, travels there and finds it has been subdivided into rooms and apartments and let out to immigrants. (Immigrants always seem to get short shrift in our country, and they do in this book too.) She is not pleased, but moves into one of the apartments and takes work as a seamstress by-the-day in order to be able to pay off back taxes and fines to fully repossess the house. Slowly she is able to regain possession of her house bit by bit.
In her travels she finds destitute poets and sculptors and other artists and brings them home with her, ensconcing them in rooms in her mansion and trying to encourage them not to give up hope, to keep writing, sculpting, drawing, whatever. She adds little touches around the house that she knows will cheer them up. She has a certain something about her that some people at her various day-jobs notice while others do not. In the end she restores her home, creates a community of happy successful artists (quite an accomplishment! lol) and is reunited with her long-lost love.
I was simply mermerized by this book as a girl, and have read it several times as an adult. To me, as a healer, it is such a great book about healing! I feel that I learned the value of patience and time and process and synchronicity from her finding of her mother's garden plan and her ability to reconnect with her lost mother by recreating her garden. Then she applies what she knows to her next challenge which is 'out in the world' - the restoration of her family's house to a place that protects and nurtures artists. Gad, I loved this book! Just had to tell you about it.
Also, might mention that it seems like I am doing something similar in my own life, which is really just too weird!