Who is Mistress Moolly in "A White Heron"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mistress Moolly is the old cow that belongs to Sylvia's grandmother.  The cow is "a plodding, dilatory, provoking creature", but "a valued companion" for little Sylvia, who is "afraid of folks", and lives on the farm with little human contact other than her grandmother, Mrs. Tilley.  Mistress Moolly is a recalcitrant beast, and at milking time it is "her greatest pleasure to hide herself away among the high huckleberry bushes"; although she wears a large bell around her neck, she is crafty enough to stand perfectly still so that its sound will not give her away.  It is Sylvia's job to find the cow and bring it in at the end of each day, and Mrs. Tilley is thankful that she has the young girl with her "to give such valuable assistance".  Though Mistress Moolly's stubbornness occasionally tries even her boundless patience, on the whole Sylvia enjoys her nightly game with the creature.  She has little else with which to occupy her time; "sometimes in pleasant weather it (is) a consolation to look upon the cow's pranks as an intelligent attempt to play hide and seek, and as (Sylvia) (has) no playmates she (lends) herself to this amusement with a good deal of zest".

When the story opens, Sylvia is engaged in her daily activity of fetching Mistress Moolly.  While she is driving the old cow home, she runs into the hunter, her fateful antagonist.