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The Turn of the Tide by Eleanor H. Porter

The Turn of the Tide

The Story of How Margaret Solved Her Problem


subjects: Fiction

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Like many impoverished children living in the slums of New York around the turn of the twentieth century, Margaret Kendall has faced more than her fair share of adversity in life. When a series of remarkable coincidences and events serve to reunite her with her mother, she is certain that her problems are over. But her new life back home comes with its own set of challenges and conflicts. Will this spunky protagonist be able to navigate the pitfalls of family life?

205 pages with a reading time of ~3.25 hours (51453 words), and first published in 1908. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Margaret had been home two hours–two hours of breathless questions, answers, tears, and laughter–two hours of delighted wandering about the house and grounds.

In the nursery she had seen the little woolly dog that lay on the floor just as she had left it five years before; and out on the veranda steps she had seen the great stone lions that had never quite faded from her memory. And always at her side had walked the sweet-faced lady of her dreams, only now the lady was very real, with eyes that smiled on one so lovingly, and lips and hands that kissed and caressed one so tenderly.

“And this is home–my home?” Margaret asked in unbelieving wonder.

“Yes, dear,” answered Mrs. Kendall.

“And you are my mother, and I am Margaret Kendall, your little girl?”


“And the little dog on the floor–that was mine, and–and it’s been there ever since?”

“Yes, ever since you left it there long ago. I–I could not bear to have any one move it, or touch it.”

“And I was lost then–right then?”

“No, dear. We traveled about for almost a year. You were five when I lost you.” Mrs. Kendall’s voice shook. Unconsciously she drew Margaret into a closer embrace. Even now she was scarcely sure that it was Margaret–this little maid who had stepped so suddenly out of the great silence that had closed about her four long years before.

Margaret laughed softly, and nestled in the encircling arms.

“I like it–this,” she confided shyly. “You see, I–I hain’t had it before. Even the dream-lady didn’t do–this.”

“The dream-lady?”

Margaret hesitated. Her grave eyes were on her mother’s face.

“I suppose she was–you,” she said then slowly. “I saw her nights, mostly; but she never stayed, and when I tried to catch her, she–she was just air–and wasn’t there at all. And I did want her so bad!”

“Of course you did, sweetheart,” choked Mrs. Kendall, tremulously. “And didn’t she ever stay? When was it you saw her–first?”

Margaret frowned.

“I–don’t–seem–to know,” she answered. She was thinking of what Dr. Spencer had told her, and of what she herself remembered of those four years of her life. “You see first I was lost, and Bobby McGinnis found me. Anyhow, Dr. Spencer says he did, but I don’t seem to remember. Things was all mixed up. There didn’t seem to be anybody that wanted me, but there wouldn’t anybody let me go. And they made me sew all the time on things that was big and homely, and then another man took me and made me paste up bags. Say, did you ever paste bags?”

“No, dear.” Mrs. Kendall shivered.

“Well, you don’t want to,” volunteered Margaret; and to her thin little face came the look that her mother had already seen on it once or twice that afternoon–the look of a child who knows what it means to fight for life itself in the slums of a great city. “They ain’t a mite nice–bags ain’t; and the paste sticks horrid, and smells.”

“Margaret, dearest!–how could you bear it?” shuddered Mrs. Kendall, her eyes brimming with tears.

Margaret saw the tears, and understood–this tender, new-found mother of hers was grieved; she must be comforted. To the best of her ability, therefore, Margaret promptly proceeded to administer that comfort.

“Pooh! ‘twa’n’t nothin’,” she asserted stoutly; “besides, I runned away, and then I had a tiptop place–a whole corner of Mis’ Whalen’s kitchen, and jest me and Patty and the twins to stay in it. We divvied up everythin’, and some days we had heaps to eat–truly we did–heaps! And I went to Mont-Lawn two times, and of course there I had everythin’, even beds with sheets, you know; and—-”

“Margaret, Margaret, don’t, dear!” interrupted her mother. “I can’t bear even to think of it.”

Margaret’s eyes grew puzzled.

“But that was bang-up–all of it,” she protested earnestly. “Why, I didn’t paste bags nor sew buttons, and nobody didn’t strike me for not doin’ ‘em, neither; and Mis’ Whalen was good and showed me how to make flowers–for pay, too! And—-”

“Yes, dear, I know,” interposed Mrs. Kendall again; “but suppose we don’t think any more of all that, sweetheart. You are home now, darling, right here with mother. Come, we will go out into the garden.” To Mrs. Kendall it seemed at the moment that only God’s blessed out-of-doors was wide enough and beautiful enough to clear from her eyes the pictures Margaret’s words had painted.

Out in the garden Margaret drew a long breath.

“Oh!” she cooed softly, caressing with her cheek a great red rose. “I knew flowers smelled good, but I didn’t find it out for sure till I went to Mont-Lawn that first time. You see the kind we made was cloth and stiff, and they didn’t smell good a mite–oh, you’ve picked it!” she broke off, half-rapturously, half-regretfully, as Mrs. Kendall placed in her hands the great red rose.

“Yes, pick all you like, dear,” smiled Mrs. Kendall, reaching for another flower.

“But they’ll die,” stammered Margaret, “and then the others won’t see them.”

“The–‘others’? What others, dear?”