Part 2 out of 4
Ruth laughed,--not aloud, only a little single breath, over her work.
Dakie Thayne leaned back.
"What,--if you please,--Miss Ruth?"
"I was thinking of the opportunities _down_," Ruth answered.
It was several days after this that the young party drifted together
again, on the Westover lawn. A plan was discussed. Mrs. Van Alstyne
had walked over with Olivia and Adelaide Marchbanks, and it was she
who suggested it.
"Why don't you have regular practisings," said she, "and then a
meeting, for this and the archery you wanted to get up, and games for
a prize? They would do nicely together."
Olivia Marchbanks drew up a little. She had not meant to launch the
project here. Everything need not begin at Westover all at once.
But Dakie Thayne broke in.
"Did you think of that?" said he. "It's a capital idea."
"Ideas are rather apt to be that," said Adelaide Marchbanks. "It is
the carrying out, you see."
"Isn't it pretty nearly carried out already? It is only to organize
what we are doing as it is."
"But the minute you _do_ organize! You don't know how difficult it is
in a place like this. A dozen of us are not enough, and as soon as you
go beyond, there gets to be too much of it. One doesn't know where to
"Or to skip?" asked Harry Goldthwaite, in such a purely bright,
good-natured way that no one could take it amiss.
"Well, yes, to skip," said Adelaide. "Of course that's it. You don't
go straight on, you know, house by house, when you ask people,--down
the hill and into the town."
"We talked it over," said Olivia. "And we got as far as the Hobarts."
There Olivia stopped. That was where they had stopped before.
"O yes, the Hobarts; they would be sure to like it," said Leslie
Goldthwaite, quick and pleased.
"Her ups and downs are just like yours," said Dakie Thayne to Ruth
It made Ruth very glad to be told she was at all like Leslie; it gave
her an especially quick pulse of pleasure to have Dakie Thayne say so.
She knew he thought there was hardly any one like Leslie Goldthwaite.
"O, they _won't_ exactly do, you know!" said Adelaide Marchbanks, with
an air of high free-masonry.
"Won't do what?" asked Cadet Thayne, obtusely.
"Suit," replied Olivia, concisely, looking straight forward without
any air at all.
"Really, we have tried it since they came," said Adelaide, "though
what people _come_ for is the question, I think, when there isn't
anything particular to bring them except the neighborhood, and then it
has to be Christian charity in the neighborhood that didn't ask them
to pick them up. Mamma called, after a while; and Mrs. Hobart said she
hoped she would come often, and let _the girls_ run in and be
sociable! And Grace Hobart says '_she_ hasn't got tired of
croquet,--she likes it real well!' They're that sort of people, Mr.
"Oh! that's very bad," said Dakie Thayne, with grave conclusiveness.
"The Haddens had them one night, when we were going to play commerce.
When we asked them up to the table, they held right back, awfully
stiff, and couldn't find anything else to say than,--out quite loud,
across everything,--'O no! they couldn't play commerce; they never
did; father thought it was just like any gambling game!'"
"Plucky, anyhow," said Harry Goldthwaite.
"I don't think they meant to be rude," said Elinor Hadden. "I think
they really felt badly; and that was why it blurted right out so. They
didn't know _what_ to say."
"Evidently," said Olivia. "And one doesn't want to be astonished in
that way very often."
"I shouldn't mind having them," said Elinor, good-naturedly. "They are
kind-hearted people, and they would feel hurt to be left out."
"That is just what stopped us," said Adelaide. "That is just what the
neighborhood is getting to be,--full of people that you don't know
what to do with."
"I don't see why we _need_ to go out of our own set," said Olivia.
"O dear! O dear!"
It broke from Ruth involuntarily. Then she colored up, as they all
turned round upon her; but she was excited, and Ruth's excitements
made her forget that she was Ruth, sometimes, for a moment. It had
been growing in her, from the beginning of the conversation; and now
she caught her breath, and felt her eyes light up. She turned her face
to Leslie Goldthwaite; but although she spoke low she spoke somehow
clearly, even more than she meant, so that they all heard.
"What if the angels had said that before they came down to Bethlehem!"
Then she knew by the hush that _she_ had astonished them, and she grew
frightened; but she stood just so, and would not let her look shrink;
for she still felt just as she did when the words came.
Mrs. Van Alstyne broke the pause with a good-natured laugh.
"We can't go quite back to that, every time," she said. "And we don't
quite set up to be angels. Come,--try one more round."
And with some of the hoops still hanging upon her arm, she turned to
pick up the others. Harry Goldthwaite of course sprang forward to do
it for her; and presently she was tossing them with her peculiar
grace, till the stake was all wreathed with them from bottom to top,
the last hoop hanging itself upon the golden ball; a touch more
dexterous and consummate, it seemed, than if it had fairly slidden
over upon the rest.
Rosamond knew what a cunning and friendly turn it was; if it had not
been for Mrs. Van Alstyne, Ruth's speech would have broken up the
party. As it was, the game began again, and they stayed an hour
Not all of them; for as soon as they were fairly engaged, Ruth said to
Leslie Goldthwaite, "I must go now; I ought to have gone before. Reba
will be waiting for me. Just tell them, if they ask."
But Leslie and the cadet walked away with her; slowly, across the
grounds, so that she thought they were going back from the gate; but
they kept on up over the hill.
"Was it very shocking?" asked Ruth, troubled in her mind. "I could
not help it; but I was frightened to death the next minute."
"About as frightened as the man is who stands to his gun in the
front," said Dakie Thayne. "You never flinched."
"They would have thought it was from what I had said," Ruth answered.
"And _that_ was another thing from the _saying_."
"_You_ had something to say, Leslie. It was just on the corner of your
lip. I saw it."
"Yes; but Ruth said it all in one flash. It would have spoiled it if I
had spoken then."
"I'm always sorry for people who don't know how," said Ruth. "I'm sure
I don't know how myself so often."
"That is just it," said Leslie. "Why shouldn't these girls come up?
And how will they ever, unless somebody overlooks? They would find out
these mistakes in a little while, just as they find out fashions:
picking up the right things from people who do know how. It is a kind
of leaven, like greater good. And how can we stand anywhere in the
lump, and say it shall not spread to the next particle?"
"They think it was pushing of them, to come here to live at all," said
"Well, we're all pushing, if we're good for anything," said Leslie.
"Why mayn't they push, if they don't crowd out anybody else? It seems
to me that the wrong sort of pushing is pushing down."
"Only there would be no end to it," said Dakie Thayne, "would there?
There are coarse, vulgar people always, who are wanting to get in just
for the sake of being in. What are the nice ones to do?"
"Just _be_ nice, I think," said Leslie. "Nicer with those people than
with anybody else even. If there weren't any difficulty made about
it,--if there weren't any keeping out,--they would tire of the
niceness probably sooner than anything. I don't suppose it is the
fence that keeps out weeds."
"You are just like Mrs. Ingleside," said Ruth, walking closer to
Leslie as she spoke.
"And Mrs. Ingleside is like Miss Craydocke: and--I didn't suppose I
should ever find many more of them, but they're counting up," said
Dakie Thayne. "There's a pretty good piece of the world salted, after
"If there really is any best society," pursued Leslie, "it seems to me
it ought to be, not for keeping people out, but for getting everybody
in as fast as it can, like the kingdom of heaven."
"Ah, but that _is_ kingdom come," said Dakie Thayne.
It seemed as if the question of "things next" was to arise
continually, in fresh shapes, just now, when things next for the
Holabirds were nearer next than ever before.
"We must have Delia Waite again soon, if we can get her," said mother,
one morning, when we were all quietly sitting in her room, and
she was cutting out some shirts for Stephen. "All our changes and
interruptions have put back the sewing so lately."
"We ought not to have been idle so much," said Barbara. "We've been a
family of grasshoppers all summer."
"Well, the grasshopping has done you all good. I'm not sorry for it,"
said Mrs. Holabird. "Only we must have Delia for a week now, and be
"If Delia Waite didn't have to come to our table!" said Rosamond.
"Why don't you try the girl Mrs. Hadden has, mother? She goes right
into the kitchen with the other servants."
"I don't believe our 'other servants' would know what to do with her,"
said Barbara. "There's always such a crowd in our kitchen."
"Barbara, you're a plague!"
"Yes. I'm the thorn in the flesh in this family, lest it should be
exalted above measure; and like Saint Paul, I magnify mine office."
"In the way we live," said Mrs. Holabird, "it is really more
convenient to let a seamstress come right to table with us; and
besides, you know what I think about it. It is a little breath of life
to a girl like that; she gets something that we can give as well as
not, and that helps her up. It comes naturally, as it cannot come with
'other servants.' She sits with us all day; her work is among ladies,
and with them; she gets something so far, even in the midst of
measuring and gorings, that common housemaids cannot get; why
shouldn't she be with us when we can leave off talk of measures and
gores, and get what Ruth calls the 'very next'? Delia Waite is too
nice a girl to be put into the kitchen to eat with Katty, in her
"But it seems to set us down; it seems common in us to be so ready to
be familiar with common people. More in us, because we do live
plainly. If Mrs. Hadden or Mrs. Marchbanks did it, it might seem kind
_without_ the common. I think they ought to begin such things."
"But then if they don't? Very likely it would be far more inconvenient
for them; and not the same good either, because it _would_ be, or
seem, a condescension. We are the 'very next,' and we must be content
to be the step we are."
"It's the other thing with us,--con-_as_cension,--isn't it, mother? A
step up for somebody, and no step down for anybody. Mrs. Ingleside
does it," Ruth added.
"O, Mrs. Ingleside does all sorts of things. She has _that_ sort of
position. It's as independent as the other. High moral and high social
can do anything. It's the betwixt and between that must be careful."
"What a miserably negative set we are, in such a positive state of the
world!" cried Barbara. "Except Ruth's music, there isn't a specialty
among us; we haven't any views; we're on the mean-spirited side of the
Woman Question; 'all woman, and no question,' as mother says; we shall
never preach, nor speech, nor leech; we can't be magnificent, and we
won't be common! I don't see what is to become of us, unless--and I
wonder if maybe that isn't it?--we just do two or three rather right
things in a no-particular sort of a way."
"Barbara, how nice you are!" cried Ruth.
"No. I'm a thorn. Don't touch me."
"We never have company when we are having sewing done," said Mrs.
Holabird. "We can always manage that."
"I don't want to play Box and Cox," said Rosamond.
"That's the beauty of you, Rosa Mundi!" said Barbara, warmly. "You
don't want to _play_ anything. That's where you'll come out sun-clear
and diamond bright!"
THE "BACK YETT AJEE."
Those who do not like common people need not read this chapter.
We had Delia Waite the next week. It happened well, in a sort of
Box-and-Cox fashion; for Mrs. Van Alstyne went off with some friends
to the Isles of Shoals, and Alice and Adelaide Marchbanks went with
her; so that we knew we should see nothing of the two great families
for a good many days; and when Leslie came, or the Haddens, we did not
so much mind; besides, they knew that we were busy, and they did not
expect any "coil" got up for them. Leslie came right up stairs, when
she was alone; if Harry or Mr. Thayne were with her, one of us would
take a wristband or a bit of ruffling, and go down. Somehow, if it
happened to be Harry, Barbara was always tumultuously busy, and never
offered to receive: but it always ended in Rosamond's making her. It
seemed to be one of the things that people wait to be overcome in
their objections to.
We always had a snug, cosey time when Delia was with us; we were all
simple and busy, and the work was getting on; that was such an
under-satisfaction; and Delia was having such a good time. She hardly
ever failed to come to us when we wanted her; she could always make
Ruth was artful; she tucked in Lucilla Waters, after all; she said it
would be such a nice chance to have her; she knew she would rather
come when we were by ourselves, and especially when we had our work
and patterns about. Lucilla brought a sack and an overskirt to make;
she could hardly have been spared if she had had to bring mere idle
work. She sewed in gathers upon the shirts for mother, while Delia cut
out her pretty material in a style she had not seen. If we had had
grasshopper parties all summer before, this was certainly a bee, and I
think we all really liked it just as well as the other.
We had the comfort of mother's great, airy room, now, as we had never
even realized it before. Everybody had a window to sit at;
green-shaded with closed blinds for the most part; but that is so
beautiful in summer, when the out-of-doors comes brimming in with
scent and sound, and we know how glorious it is if we choose to open
to it, and how glorious it is going to be when we do throw all wide in
the cooling afternoon.
"How glad I am we _have_ to have busy weeks sometimes!" said Ruth,
stopping the little "common-sense" for an instant, while she tossed a
long flouncing over her sewing-table. "I know now why people who
never do their own work are obliged to go away from home for a change.
It must be dreadfully same if they didn't. I like a book full of
Lucilla Waters lives down in the heart of the town. So does Leslie
Goldthwaite, to be sure; but then Mr. Goldthwaite's is one of the old,
old-fashioned houses that were built when the town was country, and
that has its great yard full of trees and flowers around it now; and
Mrs. Waters lives in a block, flat-face to the street, with nothing
pretty outside, and not very much in; for they have never been rich,
the Waterses, and Mr. Waters died ten years ago, when Lucilla was a
little child. Lucilla and her mother keep a little children's school;
but it was vacation now, of course.
Lucilla is in Mrs. Ingleside's Bible-class; that is how Ruth, and then
the rest of us, came to know her. Arctura Fish is another of Mrs.
Ingleside's scholars. She is a poor girl, living at service,--or,
rather, working in a family for board, clothing, and a little
"schooling,"--the best of which last she gets on Sundays of Mrs.
Ingleside,--until she shall have "learned how," and be "worth wages."
Arctura Fish is making herself up, slowly, after the pattern of
Lucilla Waters. She would not undertake Leslie Goldthwaite or Helen
Josselyn,--Mrs. Ingleside's younger sister, who stays with her so
much,--or even our quiet Ruth. But Lucilla Waters comes _just next_.
She can just reach up to her. She can see how she does up her hair, in
something approaching the new way, leaning back behind her in the
class and tracing out the twists between the questions; for Lucilla
can only afford to use her own, and a few strands of harmless Berlin
wool under it; she can't buy coils and braids and two-dollar rats, or
intricacies ready made up at the--upholsterer's, I was going to say.
So it is not a hopeless puzzle and an impracticable achievement to
little Arctura Fish. It is wonderful how nice she has made herself
look lately, and how many little ways she puts on, just like
Lucilla's. She hasn't got beyond mere mechanical copying, yet; when
she reaches to where Lucilla really is, she will take in differently.
Ruth gave up her little white room to Delia Waite, and went to sleep
with Lucilla in the great, square east room.
Delia Waite thought a great deal of this; and it was wonderful how
nobody could ever get a peep at the room when it looked as if anything
in it had been used or touched. Ruth is pretty nice about it; but she
cannot keep it so _sacredly_ fair and pure as Delia did for her. Only
one thing showed.
"I say," said Stephen, one morning, sliding by Ruth on the stair-rail
as they came down to breakfast, "do you look after that _piousosity_,
"No," said Ruth, laughing, "of course I can't."
"It's always whopped," said Stephen, sententiously.
Barbara got up some of her special cookery in these days. Not her very
finest, out of Miss Leslie; she said that was too much like the fox
and the crane, when Lucilla asked for the receipts. It wasn't fair to
give a taste of things that we ourselves could only have for very
best, and send people home to wish for them. But she made some of her
"griddles trimmed with lace," as only Barbara's griddles were trimmed;
the brown lightness running out at the edges into crisp filigree. And
another time it was the flaky spider-cake, turned just as it blushed
golden-tawny over the coals; and then it was breakfast potato, beaten
almost frothy with one white-of-egg, a pretty good bit of butter, a
few spoonfuls of top-of-the-milk, and seasoned plentifully with salt,
and delicately with pepper,--the oven doing the rest, and turning it
into a snowy souffle.
Barbara said we had none of us a specialty; she knew better; only hers
was a very womanly and old-fashioned, not to say kitcheny one; and
would be quite at a discount when the grand co-operative kitchens
should come into play; for who cares to put one's genius into the
universal and indiscriminate mouth, or make potato-souffles to be
carried half a mile to the table?
Barbara delighted to "make company" of seamstress week; "it was so
nice," she said, "to entertain somebody who thought 'chickings was
Rosamond liked that part of it; she enjoyed giving pleasure no less
than any; but she had a secret misgiving that we were being very
vulgarly comfortable in an underhand way. She would never, by any
means, go off by herself to eat with her fingers.
Delia Waite said she never came to our house that she did not get some
new ideas to carry home to Arabel.
Arabel Waite was fifty years old, or more; she was the oldest child of
one marriage and Delia the youngest of another. All the Waites between
them had dropped away,--out of the world, or into homes here and there
of their own,--and Arabel and Delia were left together in the square,
low, gambrel-roofed house over on the other hill, where the town ran
Arabel Waite was an old dressmaker. She _could_ make two skirts to a
dress, one shorter, the other longer; and she could cut out the upper
one by any new paper pattern; and she could make shell-trimmings and
flutings and box-plaitings and flouncings, and sew them on
exquisitely, even now, with her old eyes; but she never had adapted
herself to the modern ideas of the corsage. She could not fit a bias
to save her life; she could only stitch up a straight slant, and leave
the rest to nature and fate. So all her people had the squarest of
wooden fronts, and were preternaturally large around the waist. Delia
sewed with her, abroad and at home,--abroad without her, also, as she
was doing now for us. A pattern for a sleeve, or a cape, or a
panier,--or a receipt for a tea-biscuit or a johnny-cake, was
something to go home with rejoicing.
Arabel Waite and Delia could only use three rooms of the old house;
the rest was blinded and shut up; the garret was given over to the
squirrels, who came in from the great butternut-trees in the yard, and
stowed away their rich provision under the eaves and away down between
the walls, and grew fat there all winter, and frolicked like a troop
of horse. We liked to hear Delia tell of their pranks, and of all the
other queer, quaint things in their way of living. Everybody has a way
of living; and if you can get into it, every one is as good as a
story. It always seemed to us as if Delia brought with her the
atmosphere of mysterious old houses, and old, old books stowed away in
their by-places, and stories of the far past that had been lived
there, and curious ancient garments done with long ago, and packed
into trunks and bureaus in the dark, unused rooms, where there had
been parties once, and weddings and funerals and children's games in
nurseries; and strange fellowship of little wild things that strayed
in now,--bees in summer, and squirrels in winter,--and brought the
woods and fields with them under the old roof. Why, I think we should
have missed it more than she would, if we had put her into some back
room, and poked her sewing in at her, and left her to herself!
The only thing that wasn't nice that week was Aunt Roderick coming
over one morning in the very thick of our work, and Lucilla's too,
walking straight up stairs, as aunts can, whether you want them or
not, and standing astonished at the great goings-on.
"Well!" she exclaimed, with a strong falling inflection, "are any of
you getting ready to be married?"
"Yes'm," said Barbara, gravely, handing her a chair. "All of us."
Then Barbara made rather an unnecessary parade of ribbon that she was
quilling up, and of black lace that was to go each side of it upon a
little round jacket for her blue silk dress, made of a piece laid away
five years ago, when she first had it. The skirt was turned now, and
the waist was gone.
While Aunt Roderick was there, she also took occasion to toss over,
more or less, everything that lay about,--"to help her in her
inventory," she said after she went away.
"Twelve new embroidered cambric handkerchiefs," repeated she, as she
turned back from the stair-head, having seen Aunt Roderick down.
Barbara had once, in a severe fit of needle-industry, inspired by the
discovery of two baby robes of linen cambric among mother's old
treasures, and their bestowal upon her, turned them into these
elegances, broadly hemmed with the finest machine stitch, and marked
with beautiful great B's in the corners. She showed them, in her
pride, to Mrs. Roderick; and we knew afterward what her abstract
report had been, in Grandfather Holabird's hearing. Grandfather
Holabird knew we did without a good many things; but he had an
impression of us, from instances like these, that we were seized with
sudden spasms of recklessness at times, and rushed into French
embroideries and sets of jewelry. I believe he heard of mother's one
handsome black silk, every time she wore it upon semiannual occasions,
until he would have said that Mrs. Stephen had a new fifty-dollar
dress every six months. This was one of our little family trials.
"I don't think Mrs. Roderick does it on purpose," Ruth would say. "I
think there are two things that make her talk in that way. In the
first place, she has got into the habit of carrying home all the news
she can, and making it as big as possible, to amuse Mr. Holabird; and
then she has to settle it over in her own mind, every once in a while,
that things must be pretty comfortable amongst us, down here, after
Ruth never dreamed of being satirical; it was a perfectly
straightforward explanation; and it showed, she truly believed, two
quite kind and considerate points in Aunt Roderick's character.
After the party came back from the Isles of Shoals, Mrs. Van Alstyne
went down to Newport. The Marchbankses had other visitors,--people
whom we did not know, and in whose way we were not thrown; the _haute
volee_ was sufficient to itself again, and we lived on a piece of our
own life once more.
"It's rather nice to knit on straight," said Barbara; "without any
widening or narrowing or counting of stitches. I like very well to
come to a plain place."
Rosamond never liked the plain places quite so much; but she
accommodated herself beautifully, and was just as nice as she could
be. And the very best thing about Rose was, that she never put on
anything, or left anything off, of her gentle ways and notions. She
would have been ready at any time for the most delicate fancy-pattern
that could be woven upon her plain places. That was one thing which
mother taught us all.
"Your life will come to you; you need not run after it," she would
say, if we ever got restless and began to think there was no way out
of the family hedge. "Have everything in yourselves as it should be,
and then you can take the chances as they arrive."
"Only we needn't put our bonnets on, and sit at the windows," Barbara
"No," said Mrs. Holabird; "and especially at the front windows. A
great deal that is good--a great deal of the best--comes in at the
Everybody, we thought, did not have a back-door to their life, as we
did. They hardly seemed to know if they had one to their houses.
Our "back yett was ajee," now, at any rate.
Leslie Goldthwaite came in at it, though, just the same, and so did
her cousin and Dakie. [Footnote: Harry Goldthwaite is Leslie's cousin,
and Mr. Aaron Goldthwaite's ward. I do not believe we have ever
thought to put this in before.]
Otherwise, for two or three weeks, our chief variety was in sending
for old Miss Trixie Spring to spend the day.
Miss Trixie Spring is a lively old lady, who, some threescore and five
years ago, was christened "Beatrix." She plays backgammon in the
twilights, with mother, and makes a table at whist, at once lively and
severe, in the evenings, for father. At this whist-table, Barbara
usually is the fourth. Rosamond gets sleepy over it, and Ruth--Miss
Trixie says--"plays like a ninkum."
We always wanted Miss Trixie, somehow, to complete comfort, when we
were especially comfortable by ourselves; when we had something
particularly good for dinner, or found ourselves set cheerily
down for a long day at quiet work, with everything early-nice
about us; or when we were going to make something "contrive-y,"
"Swiss-family-Robinson-ish," that got us all together over it, in the
hilarity of enterprise and the zeal of acquisition. Miss Trixie could
appreciate homely cleverness; darning of carpets and covering of old
furniture; she could darn a carpet herself, so as almost to improve
upon--certainly to supplant--the original pattern. Yet she always had
a fresh amazement for all our performances, as if nothing notable had
ever been done before, and a personal delight in every one of our
improvements, as if they had been her own. "We're just as cosey as we
can be, already,--it isn't that; but we want somebody to tell us how
cosey we are. Let's get Miss Trixie to-day," says Barbara.
Once was when the new drugget went down, at last, in the dining-room.
It was tan-color, bound with crimson,--covering three square yards;
and mother nailed it down with brass-headed tacks, right after
breakfast, one cool morning. Then Katty washed up the dark
floor-margin, and the table had its crimson-striped cloth on, and
mother brought down the brown stuff for the new sofa-cover, and the
great bunch of crimson braid to bind that with, and we drew up our
camp-chairs and crickets, and got ready to be busy and jolly, and to
have a brand-new piece of furniture before night.
Barbara had made peach-dumpling for dinner, and of course Aunt Trixie
was the last and crowning suggestion. It was not far to send, and she
was not long in coming, with her second-best cap pinned up in a
handkerchief, and her knitting-work and her spectacles in her bag.
The Marchbankses never made sofa-covers of brown waterproof, nor had
Miss Trixies to spend the day. That was because they had no back-door
to their house.
I suppose you think there are a good many people in our story. There
are; when we think it up there are ever so many people that have to do
with our story every day; but we don't mean to tell you all _their_
stories; so you can bear with the momentary introduction when you meet
them in our brown room, or in our dining-room, of a morning, although
we know very well also that passing introductions are going out of
We had Dakie Thayne's last visit that day, in the midst of the
hammering and binding. Leslie and he came in with Ruth, when she came
back from her hour with Reba Hadden. It was to bid us good by; his
furlough was over, he was to return to West Point on Monday.
"Another two years' pull," he said. "Won't you all come to West Point
"If we take the journey we think of," said Barbara, composedly,--"to
the mountains and Montreal and Quebec; perhaps up the Saguenay; and
then back, up Lake Champlain, and down the Hudson, on our way to
Saratoga and Niagara. We might keep on to West Point first, and have a
day or two there."
"Barbara," said mother, remonstratingly.
"Why? _Don't_ we think of it? I'm sure I do. I've thought of it till
I'm almost tired of it. I don't much believe we shall come, after all,
"We shall miss you very much," said Mrs. Holabird, covering Barbara's
"Our summer has stopped right in the middle," said Barbara, determined
"I shall hear about you all," said Dakie Thayne. "There's to be a
Westover column in Leslie's news. I wish--" and there the cadet
Mother looked up at him with a pleasant inquiry.
"I was going to say, I wish there might be a Westover correspondent,
to put in just a word or two, sometimes; but then I was afraid that
would be impertinent. When a fellow has only eight weeks in the year
of living, Mrs. Holabird, and all the rest is drill, you don't know
how he hangs on to those eight weeks,--and how they hang on to him
Mother looked so motherly at him then!
"We shall not forget you--Dakie," she said, using his first name for
the first time. "You shall have a message from us now and then."
Dakie said, "Thank you," in a tone that responded to her "Dakie."
We all knew he liked Mrs. Holabird ever so much. Homes and mothers are
beautiful things to boys who have had to do without them.
He shook hands with us all round, when he got up to go. He shook hands
also with our old friend, Miss Trixie, whom he had never happened to
see before. Then Rosamond went out with him and Leslie,--as it was our
cordial, countrified fashion for somebody to do,--through the hall to
the door. Ruth went as far as the stairs, on her way to her room to
take off her things. She stood there, up two steps, as they were
Dakie Thayne said good by again to Rosamond, at the door, as was
natural; and then he came quite back, and said it last of all, once
more, to little Ruth upon the stairs. He certainly did hate to go away
and leave us all.
"That is a very remarkable pretty-behaved young man," said Miss
Trixie, when we all picked up our breadths of waterproof, and got in
behind them again.
"The world is a desert, and the sand has got into my eyes," said
Barbara, who had hushed up ever since mother had said "Dakie." When
anybody came close to mother, Barbara was touched. I think her love
for mother is more like a son's than a daughter's, in the sort of
chivalry it has with it.
* * * * *
It was curious how suddenly our little accession of social importance
had come on, and wonderful how quickly it had subsided; more curious
and wonderful still, how entirely it seemed to stay subsided.
We had plenty to do, though; we did not miss anything; only we had
quite taken up with another set of things. This was the way it was
with us; we had things we _must_ take up; we could not have spared
time to lead society for a long while together.
Aunt Roderick claimed us, too, in our leisure hours, just then; she
had a niece come to stay with her; and we had to go over to the "old
house" and spend afternoons, and ask Aunt Roderick and Miss Bragdowne
in to tea with us. Aunt Roderick always expected this sort of
attention; and yet she had a way with her as if we ought not to try to
afford things, looked scrutinizingly at the quality of our cake and
preserves, and seemed to eat our bread and butter with consideration.
It helped Rosamond very much, though, over the transition. We, also,
had had private occupation.
"There had been family company at grandfather's," she told Jeannie
Hadden, one morning. "We had been very much engaged among ourselves.
We had hardly seen anything of the other girls for two or three
Barbara sat at the round table, where Stephen had been doing his
geometry last night, twirling a pair of pencil compasses about on a
sheet of paper, while this was saying. She lifted up her eyes a
little, cornerwise, without moving her head, and gave a twinkle of
mischief over at mother and Ruth. When Jeannie was gone, she kept on
silently, a few minutes, with her diagrams. Then she said, in her
funniest, repressed way,--
"I can see a little how it must be; but I suppose I ought to
understand the differential calculus to compute it. Circles are
wonderful things; and the science of curves holds almost everything.
Rose, when do you think we shall get round again?"
She held up her bit of paper as she spoke, scrawled over with
intersecting circles and arcs and ellipses, against whose curves and
circumferences she had written names: Marchbanks, Hadden, Goldthwaite,
"It's a mere question of centre and radius," she said. "You may be big
enough to take in the whole of them, or you may only cut in at the
sides. You may be just tangent for a minute, and then go off into
space on your own account. You may have your centre barely inside of a
great ring, and yet reach pretty well out of it for a good part; you
_must_ be small to be taken quite in by anybody's!"
"It doesn't illustrate," said Rose, coolly. "Orbits don't snarl up in
"Geometry does," said Barbara. "I told you I couldn't work it all out.
But I suppose there's a Q.E.D. at the end of it somewhere."
* * * * *
Two or three days after something new happened; an old thing happened
freshly, rather,--which also had to do with our orbit and its
eccentricities. Barbara, as usual, discovered and announced it.
"I should think _any_ kind of an astronomer might be mad!" she
exclaimed. "Periods and distances are bad enough; but then come the
perturbations! Here's one. We're used to it, to be sure; but we never
know exactly where it may come in. The girl we live with has formed
other views for herself, and is going off at a tangent. What _is_ the
reason we can't keep a satellite,--planet, I mean?"
"Barbara!" said mother, anxiously, "don't be absurd!"
"Well, what shall I be? We're all out of a place again." And she sat
down resignedly on a very low cricket, in the middle of the room.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, mother," said Ruth, coming round. "I've
thought of it this good while. We'll co-operate!"
"She's glad of it! She's been waiting for a chance! I believe she put
the luminary up to it! Ruth, you're a brick--moon!"
When mother first read that article in the Atlantic she had said,
"I'm sure I wish they would!"
"Would what, mother?" asked Barbara.
"O mother! I really do believe you must belong, somehow, to the
Micawber family! I shouldn't wonder if one of these days, when they
come into their luck, you should hear of something greatly to your
advantage, from over the water. You have such faith in 'they'! I don't
believe '_they_' will ever do much for '_us_'!"
"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. Hobart, rousing from a little arm-chair
wink, during which Mrs. Holabird had taken up the magazine.
Mrs. Hobart had come in, with her cable wool and her great ivory
knitting-pins, to sit an hour, sociably.
"Co-operative housekeeping, ma'am," said Barbara.
"Oh! Yes. That is what they _used_ to have, in old times, when we
lived at home with mother. Only they didn't write articles about it.
All the women in a house co-operated--to keep it; and all the
neighborhood co-operated--by living exactly in the same way.
Nowadays, it's co-operative shirking; isn't it?"
One never could quite tell whether Mrs. Hobart was more simple or
That was all that was said about co-operative housekeeping at the
time. But Ruth remembered the conversation. So did Barbara, for a
while, as appeared in something she came out with a few days after.
"I could--almost--write a little poem!" she said, suddenly, over her
work. "Only that would be doing just what the rest do. Everything
turns into a poem, or an article, nowadays. I wish we'd lived in the
times when people _did_ the things!"
"O Barbara! _Think_ of all that is being done in the world!"
"I know. But the little private things. They want to turn everything
into a movement. Miss Trixie says they won't have any eggs from their
fowls next winter; all their chickens are roosters, and all they'll do
will be to sit in a row on the fence and crow! I think the world is
running pretty much to roosters."
"Is that the poem?"
"I don't know. It might come in. All I've got is the end of it. It
came into my head hind side before. If it could only have a beginning
and a middle put to it, it might do. It's just the wind-up, where they
have to give an account, you know, and what they'll have to show for
it, and the thing that really amounts, after all."
"Well, tell us."
"It's only five lines, and one rhyme. But it might be written up to.
They could say all sorts of things,--one and another:--
"_I_ wrote some little books;
_I_ said some little says;
_I_ preached a little preach;
_I_ lit a little blaze;
_I_ made things pleasant in one little place."
There was a shout at Barbara's "poem."
"I thought I might as well relieve my mind," she said, meekly. "I knew
it was all there would ever be of it."
But Barbara's rhyme stayed in our heads, and got quoted in the family.
She illustrated on a small scale what the "poems and articles" _may_
sometimes do in the great world,
We remembered it that day when Ruth said, "Let's co-operate."
We talked it over,--what we could do without a girl. We had talked it
over before. We had had to try it, more or less, during interregnums.
But in our little house in Z----, with the dark kitchen, and with
Barbara and Ruth going to school, and the washing-days, when we had to
hire, it always cost more than it came to, besides making what Barb
called a "heave-offering of life."
"They used to have houses built accordingly," Rosamond said, speaking
of the "old times." "Grandmother's kitchen was the biggest and
pleasantest room in the house."
"Couldn't we _make_ the kitchen the pleasantest room?" suggested
Ruth. "Wouldn't it be sure to be, if it was the room we all stayed in
mornings, and where we had our morning work? Whatever room we do that
in always is, you know. The look grows. Kitchens are horrid when girls
have just gone out of them, and left the dish-towels dirty, and the
dish-cloth all wabbled up in the sink, and all the tins and irons
wanting to be cleaned. But if we once got up a real ladies' kitchen of
our own! I can think how it might be lovely!"
"I can think how it might be jolly-nificent!" cried Barbara, relapsing
into her dislocations.
"_You_ like kitchens," said Rosamond, in a tone of quiet ill-usedness.
"Yes, I do," said Barbara. "And you like parlors, and prettinesses,
and feather dusters, and little general touchings-up, that I can't
have patience with. You shall take the high art, and I'll have the low
realities. That's the co-operation. Families are put up assorted, and
the home character comes of it. It's Bible-truth, you know; the head
and the feet and the eye and the hand, and all that. Let's just see
what we _shall_ come to! People don't turn out what they're meant, who
have Irish kitchens and high-style parlors, all alike. There's a great
deal in being Holabirdy,--or whatever-else-you-are-y!"
"If it only weren't for that cellar-kitchen," said Mrs. Holabird.
"Mother," said Ruth, "what if we were to take this?"
We were in the dining-room.
"This nice room!"
"It is to be a ladies' kitchen, you know."
Everybody glanced around. It was nice, ever so nice. The dark stained
floor, showing clean, undefaced margins,--the new, pretty
drugget,--the freshly clad, broad old sofa,--the high wainscoted
walls, painted in oak and walnut colors, and varnished brightly,--the
ceiling faintly tinted with buff,--the buff holland shades to the
windows,--the dresser-closet built out into the room on one side, with
its glass upper-halves to the doors, showing our prettiest china and a
gleam of silver and glass,--the two or three pretty engravings in the
few spaces for them,--O, it was a great deal too nice to take for a
But Ruth began again.
"You know, mother, before Katty came, how nice everything was down
stairs. We cooked nearly a fortnight, and washed dishes, and
everything; and we only had the floor scrubbed once, and there never
was a slop on the stove, or a teaspoonful of anything spilled. It
would be so different from a girl! It seems as if we _might_ bring the
kitchen up stairs, instead of going down into the kitchen."
"But the stove," said mother.
"I think," said Barbara, boldly, "that a cooking-stove, all polished
up, is just as handsome a thing as there is in a house!"
"It is clumsy, one must own," said Mrs. Holabird, "besides being
"So is a piano," said the determined Barbara.
"I can _imagine_ a cooking-stove," said Rosamond, slowly.
"Well, do! That's just where your gift will come in!"
"A pretty copper tea-kettle, and a shiny tin boiler, made to
order,--like an urn, or something,--with a copper faucet, and nothing
else ever about, except it were that minute wanted; and all the tins
and irons begun with new again, and kept clean; and little cocoanut
dippers with German silver rims; and things generally contrived as
they are for other kinds of rooms that ladies use; it _might_ be like
that little picnicking dower-house we read about in a novel, or like
Marie Antoinette's Trianon."
"That's what it _would_ come to, if it was part of our living, just as
we come to have gold thimbles and lovely work-boxes. We should give
each other Christmas and birthday presents of things; we should have
as much pleasure and pride in it as in the china-closet. Why, the
whole trouble is that the kitchen is the only place taste _hasn't_ got
into. Let's have an art-kitchen!"
"We might spend a little money in fitting up a few things freshly, if
we are to save the waste and expense of a servant," said Mrs.
The idea grew and developed.
"But when we have people to tea!" Rosamond said, suddenly demurring
"There's always the brown room, and the handing round," said Barbara,
"for the people you can't be intimate with, and _think_ how crowsy
this will be with Aunt Trixie or Mrs. Hobart or the Goldthwaites!"
"We shall just settle _down_," said Rose, gloomily.
"Well, I believe in finding our place. Every little brook runs till it
does that. I don't want to stand on tip-toe all my life."
"We shall always gather to us what _belongs_. Every little crystal
does that," said mother, taking up another simile.
"What will Aunt Roderick say?" said Ruth.
"I shall keep her out of the kitchen, and tell her we couldn't manage
with one girl any longer, and so we've taken three that all wanted to
get a place together."
And Barbara actually did; and it was three weeks before Mrs. Roderick
found out what it really meant.
We were in a hurry to have Katty go, and to begin, after we had made
up our minds; and it was with the serenest composure that Mrs.
Holabird received her remark that "her week would be up a-Tuesday, an'
she hoped agin then we'd be shooted wid a girl."
"Yes, Katty; I am ready at any moment," was the reply; which caused
the whites of Katty's eyes to appear for a second between the lids and
There had been only one applicant for the place, who had come while we
had not quite irrevocably fixed our plans.
Mother swerved for a moment; she came in and told us what the girl
"She is not experienced; but she looks good-natured; and she is
willing to come for a trial."
"They all do that," said Barbara, gravely. "I think--as
Protestants--we've hired enough of them."
Mother laughed, and let the "trial" go. That was the end, I think, of
We got Mrs. Dunikin to come and scrub; we pulled out pots and pans,
stove-polish and dish-towels, napkins and odd stockings missed from
the wash; we cleared every corner, and had every box and bottle
washed; then we left everything below spick and span, so that it
almost tempted us to stay even there, and sent for the sheet-iron man,
and had the stove taken up stairs. We only carried up such lesser
movables as we knew we should want; we left all the accumulation
behind; we resolved to begin life anew, and feel our way, and furnish
as we went along.
Ruth brought home a lovely little spice-box as the first donation to
the art-kitchen. Father bought a copper tea-kettle, and the sheet-iron
man made the tin boiler. There was a wide, high, open fireplace in the
dining-room; we had wondered what we should do with it in the winter.
It had a soapstone mantel, with fluted pilasters, and a brown-stone
hearth and jambs. Back a little, between these sloping jambs, we had a
nice iron fire-board set, with an ornamental collar around the
funnel-hole. The stove stood modestly sheltered, as it were, in its
new position, its features softened to almost a sitting-room
congruity; it did not thrust itself obtrusively forward, and force its
homely association upon you; it was low, too, and its broad top looked
smooth and enticing.
There was a large, light closet at the back of the room, where was set
a broad, deep iron sink, and a pump came up from the cistern. This
closet had double sliding doors; it could be thrown all open for busy
use, or closed quite away and done with.
There were shelves here, and cupboards. Here we ranged our tins and
our saucepans,--the best and newest; Rosamond would have nothing
to do with the old battered ones; over them we hung our spoons
and our little strainers, our egg-beaters, spatulas, and quart
measures,--these last polished to the brightness of silver tankards;
in one corner stood the flour-barrel, and over it was the sieve; in
the cupboards were our porcelain kettles,--we bought two new ones, a
little and a big,--the frying-pans, delicately smooth and nice now,
outside and in, the roasting-pans, and the one iron pot, which we
never meant to use when we could help it. The worst things we could
have to wash were the frying and roasting pans, and these, we soon
found, were not bad when you did it all over and at once every time.
Adjoining this closet was what had been the "girl's room," opening
into the passage where the kitchen stairs came up, and the passage
itself was fair-sized and square, corresponding to the depth of the
other divisions. Here we had a great box placed for wood, and a barrel
for coal, and another for kindlings; once a week these could be
replenished as required, when the man came who "chored" for us. The
"girl's room" would be a spare place that we should find twenty uses
for; it was nice to think of it sweet and fresh, empty and available;
very nice not to be afraid to remember it was there at all.
We had a Robinson-Crusoe-like pleasure in making all these
arrangements; every clean thing that we put in a spotless place upon
shelf or nail was a wealth and a comfort to us. Besides, we really did
not need half the lumber of a common kitchen closet; a china bowl or
plate would no longer be contraband of war, and Barbara said she could
stir her blanc-mange with a silver spoon without demoralizing anybody
to the extent of having the ashes taken up with it.
By Friday night we had got everything to the exact and perfect
starting-point; and Mrs. Dunikin went home enriched with gifts that
were to her like a tin-and-wooden wedding; we felt, on our part, that
we had celebrated ours by clearing them out.
The bread-box was sweet and empty; the fragments had been all daintily
crumbled by Ruth, as she sat, resting and talking, when she had come
in from her music-lesson; they lay heaped up like lightly fallen snow,
in a broad dish, ready to be browned for chicken dressing or boiled
for brewis or a pudding. Mother never has anything between loaves and
crumbs when _she_ manages; then all is nice, and keeps nice.
"Clean beginnings are beautiful," said Rosamond, looking around. "It
is the middle that's horrid."
"We won't have any middles," said Ruth. "We'll keep making clean
beginnings, all the way along. That is the difference between work and
"If you can," said Rose, doubtfully.
I suppose that is what some people will say, after this Holabird story
is printed so far. Then we just wish they could have seen mother make
a pudding or get a breakfast, that is all. A lady will no more make
a jumble or litter in doing such things than she would at her
dressing-table. It only needs an accustomed and delicate touch.
I will tell you something of how it was, I will take that Monday
morning--and Monday morning is as good, for badness, as you can
take--just after we had begun.
The room was nice enough for breakfast when we left it over night.
There was nothing straying about; the tea-kettle and the tin boiler
were filled,--father did that just before he locked up the house; we
had only to draw up the window-shades, and let the sweet light in, in
Stephen had put a basket of wood and kindlings ready for Mrs. Dunikin
in the kitchen below, and the key of the lower door had been left on a
beam in the woodshed, by agreement. By the time we came down stairs
Mrs. Dunikin had a steaming boiler full of clothes, and had done
nearly two of her five hours' work. We should hand her her breakfast
on a little tray, when the time came, at the stair-head; and she would
bring up her cup and plate again while we were clearing away. We
should pay her twelve and a half cents an hour; she would scrub up all
below, go home to dinner, and come again to-morrow for five hours'
ironing. That was all there would be about Mrs. Dunikin.
Meanwhile, with a pair of gloves on, and a little plain-hemmed
three-cornered, dotted-muslin cap tied over her hair with a muslin bow
behind, mother had let down the ashes,--it isn't a bad thing to do
with a well-contrived stove,--and set the pan, to which we had a
duplicate, into the out-room, for Stephen to carry away. Then into the
clean grate went a handful of shavings and pitch-pine kindlings, one
or two bits of hard wood, and a sprinkle of small, shiny nut-coal. The
draughts were put on, and in five minutes the coals were red. In these
five minutes the stove and the mantel were dusted, the hearth brushed
up, and there was neither chip nor mote to tell the tale. It was not
like an Irish fire, that reaches out into the middle of the room with
its volcanic margin of cinders and ashes.
Then--that Monday morning--we had brewis to make, a little buttered
toast to do, and some eggs to scramble. The bright coffee-pot got its
ration of fragrant, beaten paste,--the brown ground kernels mixed with
an egg,--and stood waiting for its drink of boiling water. The two
frying-pans came forth; one was set on with the milk for the brewis,
into which, when it boiled up white and drifting, went the sweet fresh
butter, and the salt, each in plentiful proportion;--"one can give
one's self _carte-blancher_," Barbara said, "than it will do to give a
girl";--and then the bread-crumbs; and the end of it was, in a white
porcelain dish, a light, delicate, savory bread-porridge, to eat
daintily with a fork, and be thankful for. The other pan held eggs,
broken in upon bits of butter, and sprinkles of pepper and salt; this
went on when the coffee-pot--which had got its drink when the milk
boiled, and been puffing ever since--was ready to come off; over it
stood Barbara with a tin spoon, to toss up and turn until the whole
was just curdled with the heat into white and yellow flakes, not one
of which was raw, nor one was dry. Then the two pans and the
coffee-pot and the little bowl in which the coffee-paste had been
beaten and the spoons went off into the pantry-closet, and the
breakfast was ready; and only Barbara waited a moment to toast and
butter the bread, while mother, in her place at table, was serving the
cups. It was Ruth who had set the table, and carried off the cookery
things, and folded and slid back the little pembroke, that had held
them beside the stove, into its corner.
Rosamond had been busy in the brown room; that was all nice now for
the day; and she came in with a little glass vase in her hand, in
which was a tea-rose, that she put before mother at the edge of the
white waiter-napkin; and it graced and freshened all the place; and
the smell of it, and the bright September air that came in at the
three cool west windows, overbore all remembrance of the cooking and
reminder of the stove, from which we were seated well away, and before
which stood now a square, dark green screen that Rosamond had
recollected and brought down from the garret on Saturday. Barbara and
her toast emerged from its shelter as innocent of behind-the-scenes as
any bit of pretty play or pageant.
Barbara looked very nice this morning, in her brown-plaid Scotch
gingham trimmed with white braids; she had brown slippers, also, with
bows; she would not verify Rosamond's prophecy that she "would be all
points," now that there was an apology for them. I think we were all
more particular about our outer ladyhood than usual.
After breakfast the little pembroke was wheeled out again, and on it
put a steaming pan of hot water. Ruth picked up the dishes; it was
something really delicate to see her scrape them clean, with a pliant
knife, as a painter might cleanse his palette,--we had, in fact, a
palette-knife that we kept for this use when we washed our own
dishes,--and then set them in piles and groups before mother, on the
pembroke-table. Mother sat in her raised arm-chair, as she might sit
making tea for company; she had her little mop, and three long, soft
clean towels lay beside her; we had hemmed a new dozen, so as to have
plenty from day to day, and a grand Dunikin wash at the end on the
After the china and glass were done and put up, came forth the
coffee-pot and the two pans, and had their scald, and their little
scour,--a teaspoonful of sand must go to the daily cleansing of an
iron utensil, in mother's hands; and _that_ was clean work, and the
iron thing never got to be "horrid," any more than a china bowl. It
was only a little heavy, and it was black; but the black did not come
off. It is slopping and burning and putting away with a rinse, that
makes kettles and spiders untouchable. Besides, mother keeps a bottle
of ammonia in the pantry, to qualify her soap and water with, when she
comes to things like these. She calls it her kitchen-maid; it does
wonders for any little roughness or greasiness; such soil comes off in
that, and chemically disappears.
It was all dining-room work; and we were chatty over it, as if we had
sat down to wind worsteds; and there was no kitchen in the house that
We kept our butter and milk in the brick buttery at the foot of the
kitchen stairs. These were all we had to go up and down for. Barbara
set away the milk, and skimmed the cream, and brought up and scalded
the yesterday's pans the first thing; and they were out in a
row--flashing up saucily at the sun and giving as good as he sent--on
the back platform.
She and Rosamond were up stairs, making beds and setting straight; and
in an hour after breakfast the house was in its beautiful forenoon
order, and there was a forenoon of three hours to come.
We had chickens for dinner that day, I remember; one always does
remember what was for dinner the first day in a new house, or in new
housekeeping. William, the chore-man, had killed and picked and drawn
them, on Saturday; I do not mean to disguise that we avoided these
last processes; we preferred a little foresight of arrangement. They
were hanging in the buttery, with their hearts and livers inside them;
mother does not believe in gizzards. They only wanted a little salt
bath before cooking.
I should like to have had you see Mrs. Holabird tie up those chickens.
They were as white and nice as her own hands; and their legs and wings
were fastened down to their sides, so that they were as round and
comfortable as dumplings before she had done with them; and she laid
them out of her two little palms into the pan in a cunning and cosey
way that gave them a relish beforehand, and sublimated the vulgar
We were tired of sewing and writing and reading in three hours; it
was only restful change to come down and put the chickens into the
oven, and set the dinner-table.
Then, in the broken hour while they were cooking, we drifted out upon
the piazza, and among our plants in the shady east corner by the
parlor windows, and Ruth played a little, and mother took up the
Atlantic, and we felt we had a good right to the between-times when
the fresh dredgings of flour were getting their brown, and after that,
while the potatoes were boiling.
Barbara gave us currant-jelly; she was a stingy Barbara about that
jelly, and counted her jars; and when father and Stephen came in,
there was the little dinner of three covers, and a peach-pie of
Saturday's making on the side-board, and the green screen up before
the stove again, and the baking-pan safe in the pantry sink, with hot
water and ammonia in it.
"Mother," said Barbara, "I feel as if we had got rid of a menagerie!"
"It is the girl that makes the kitchen," said Ruth.
"And then the kitchen that has to have the girl," said Mrs. Holabird.
Ruth got up and took away the dishes, and went round with the
crumb-knife, and did not forget to fill the tumblers, nor to put on
Our talk went on, and we forgot there was any "tending."
"We didn't feel all that in the ends of our elbows," said mother in a
low tone, smiling upon Ruth as she sat down beside her.
"Nor have to scrinch all up," said Stephen, quite out loud, "for fear
she'd touch us!"
I'll tell you--in confidence--another of our ways at Westover; what,
we did, mostly, after the last two meals, to save our afternoons and
evenings and our nice dresses. We always did it with the tea-things.
We just put them, neatly piled and ranged in that deep pantry sink; we
poured some dipperfuls of hot water over them, and shut the cover
down; and the next morning, in our gingham gowns, we did up all the
dish-washing for the day.
* * * * *
"Who folded all those clothes?" Why, we girls, of course. But you
can't be told everything in one chapter.
SPRINKLES AND GUSTS.
Mrs. Dunikin used to bring them in, almost all of them, and leave them
heaped up in the large round basket. Then there was the second-sized
basket, into which they would all go comfortably when they were folded
One Monday night we went down as usual; some of us came in,--for we
had been playing croquet until into the twilight, and the Haddens had
just gone away, so we were later than usual at our laundry work.
Leslie and Harry went round with Rosamond to the front door; Ruth
slipped in at the back, and mother came down when she found that
Rosamond had not been released. Barbara finished setting the
tea-table, which she had a way of doing in a whiff, put on the sweet
loaf upon the white trencher, and the dish of raspberry jam and the
little silver-wire basket of crisp sugar-cakes, and then there was
nothing but the tea, which stood ready for drawing in the small
Japanese pot. Tea was nothing to get, ever.
"Mother, go back again! You tired old darling, Ruth and I are going to
do these!" and Barbara plunged in among the "blossoms."
That was what we called the fresh, sweet-smelling white things. There
are a great many pretty pieces of life, if you only know about them.
Hay-making is one; and rose-gathering is one; and sprinkling and
folding a great basket full of white clothes right out of the grass
and the air and the sunshine is one.
Mother went off,--chiefly to see that Leslie and Harry were kept to
tea, I believe. She knew how to compensate, in her lovely little
underhand way, with Barbara.
Barbara pinned up her muslin sleeves to the shoulder, shook out a
little ruffled short-skirt and put it on for an apron, took one end of
the long white ironing-table that stood across the window, pushed the
water-basin into the middle, and began with the shirts and the
starched things. Ruth, opposite, was making the soft underclothing
into little white rolls.
Barbara dampened and smoothed and stretched; she almost ironed with
her fingers, Mrs. Dunikin said. She patted and evened, laid collars
and cuffs one above another with a sprinkle of drops, just from her
finger-ends, between, and then gave a towel a nice equal shower with a
corn-whisk that she used for the large things, and rolled them up in
it, hard and fast, with a thump of her round pretty fist upon the
middle before she laid it by. It was a clever little process to
watch; and her arms were white in the twilight. Girls can't do all the
possible pretty manoeuvres in the German or out at croquet, if they
only once knew it. They do find it out in a one-sided sort of way: and
then they run to private theatricals. But the real every-day scenes
are just as nice, only they must have their audiences in ones and
twos; perhaps not always any audience at all.
Of a sudden Ruth became aware of an audience of one.
Upon the balcony, leaning over the rail, looking right down into the
nearest kitchen window and over Barbara's shoulder, stood Harry
Goldthwaite. He shook his head at Ruth, and she held her peace.
Barbara began to sing. She never sang to the piano,--only about her
work. She made up little snatches, piecemeal, of various things, and
put them to any sort of words. This time it was to her own,--her poem.
"I wrote some little books;
I said some little says;
I preached a little pre-e-each;
I lit a little blaze;
I made--things--pleasant--in one--little--place."
She ran down a most contented little trip, with repeats and returns,
in a G-octave, for the last line. Then she rolled up a bundle of
shirts in a square pillow-case, gave it its accolade, and pressed it
down into the basket.
"How do you suppose, Ruth, we shall manage the town-meetings? Do you
believe they will be as nice as this? Where shall we get our little
inspirations, after we have come out of all our corners?"
"We won't do it," said Ruth, quietly, shaking out one of mother's
nightcaps, and speaking under the disadvantage of her private
"I think they ought to let us vote just once," said Barbara; "to say
whether we ever would again. I believe we're in danger of being put
upon now, if we never were before."
"It isn't fair," said Ruth, with her eyes up out of the window at
Harry, who made noiseless motion of clapping his hands. How could she
tell what Barbara would say next, or how she would like it when she
"Of course it isn't," said Barbara, intent upon the gathers of a white
cambric waist of Rosamond's. "I wonder, Ruth, if we shall have to read
all those Pub. Doc.s that father gets. You see women will make awful
hard work of it, if they once do go at it; they are so used to doing
every--little--thing"; and she picked out the neck-edging, and
smoothed the hem between the buttons.
"We shall have to take vows, and devote ourselves to it," Barbara went
on, as if she were possessed. "There will have to be 'Sisters of
Polity.' Not that I ever will. I don't feel a vocation. I'd rather be
a Polly-put-the-kettle-on all the days of my life."
"Mr. Goldthwaite!" said Ruth.
"May I?" asked Harry, as if he had just come, leaning down over the
rail, and speaking to Barbara, who faced about with a jump.
She knew by his look; he could not keep in the fun.
"'_May_ you'? When you have, already!"
"O no, I haven't! I mean, come down? Into the one-pleasant-little-place,
"You don't know the way," Barbara said, stolidly, turning back again,
and folding up the waist.
"Don't I? Which,--to come down, or to help?" and Harry flung himself
over the rail, clasped one hand and wrist around a copper water-pipe
that ran down there, reached the other to something-above the
window,--the mere pediment, I believe,--and swung his feet lightly to
the sill beneath. Then he dropped himself and sat down, close by
"You'll get sprinkled," said she, flourishing the corn-whisk over a
"I dare say. Or patted, or punched, or something. I knew I took the
risk of all that when I came down amongst it. But it looked nice. I
couldn't help it, and I don't care!"
Barbara was thinking of two things,--how long he had been there, and
what in the world she had said besides what she remembered; and--how
she should get off her rough-dried apron.
"Which do you want,--napkins or pillow-cases?" and he came round to
the basket, and began to pull out.
"Napkins," says Barbara.
The napkins were underneath, and mixed up; while he stooped and
fumbled, she had the ruffled petticoat off over her head. She gave it
a shower in such a hurry, that as Harry came up with the napkins, he
did get a drift of it in his face.
"That won't do," said Barbara, quite shocked, and tossing the whisk
aside. "There are too many of us."
She began on the napkins, sprinkling with her fingers. Harry spread up
a pile on his part, dipping also into the bowl. "I used to do it when
I was a little boy," he said.
Ruth took the pillow-cases, and so they came to the last. They
stretched the sheets across the table, and all three had a hand in
smoothing and showering.
"Why, I wish it weren't all done," says Harry, turning over three
clothes-pins in the bottom of the basket, while Barbara buttoned her
sleeves. "Where does this go? What a nice place this is!" looking
round the clean kitchen, growing shadowy in the evening light. "I
think your house is full of nice places."
"Are you nearly ready, girls?" came in mother's voice from above.
"Yes, ma'am," Harry answered back, in an excessively cheery way.
"We're coming"; and up the stairs all three came together, greatly to
Mrs. Holabird's astonishment.
"You never know where help is coming from when you're trying to do
your duty," said Barbara, in a high-moral way. "Prince Percinet, Mrs.
"Miss Polly-put--" began Harry Goldthwaite, brimming up with a
half-diffident mischief. But Barbara walked round to her place at the
table with a very great dignity.
People think that young folks can only have properly arranged and
elaborately provided good times; with Germania band pieces, and
bouquets and ribbons for the German, and oysters and salmon-salad and
sweatmeat-and-spun-sugar "chignons"; at least, commerce games and
bewitching little prizes. Yet when lives just touch each other
naturally, as it were,--dip into each other's little interests and
doings, and take them as they are, what a multiplication-table of
opportunities it opens up! You may happen upon a good time any
minute, then. Neighborhoods used to go on in that simple fashion; life
used to be "co-operative."
Mother said something like that after Leslie and Harry had gone away.
"Only you can't get them into it again," objected Rosamond. "It's a
case of Humpty Dumpty. The world will go on."
"_One_ world will," said Barbara. "But the world is manifold. You can
set up any kind of a monad you like, and a world will shape itself
round it. You've just got to live your own way, and everything that
belongs to it will be sure to join on. You'll have a world before you
know it. I think myself that's what the Ark means, and Mount Ararat,
and the Noachian--don't they call it?--new foundation. That's the way
they got up New England, anyhow."
"Barbara, what flights you take!"
"Do I? Well, we have to. The world lives up nineteen flights now, you
know, besides the old broken-down and buried ones."
It was a few days after that, that the news came to mother of Aunt
Radford's illness, and she had to go up to Oxenham. Father went with
her, but he came back the same night. Mother had made up her mind to
stay a week. And so we had to keep house without her.
One afternoon Grandfather Holabird came down. I don't know why, but if
ever mother did happen to be out of the way, it seemed as if he took
the time to talk over special affairs with father. Yet he thought
everything of "Mrs. Stephen," too, and he quite relied upon her
judgment and influence. But I think old men do often feel as if they
had got their sons back again, quite to themselves, when the Mrs.
Stephens or the Mrs. Johns leave them alone for a little.
At any rate, Grandfather Holabird sat with father on the north piazza,
out of the way of the strong south-wind; and he had out a big wallet,
and a great many papers, and he stayed and stayed, from just after
dinner-time till almost the middle of the afternoon, so that father
did not go down to his office at all; and when old Mr. Holabird went
home at last, he walked over with him. Just after they had gone Leslie
Goldthwaite and Harry stopped, "for a minute only," they said; for the
south-wind had brought up clouds, and there was rain threatening. That
was how we all happened to be just as we were that night of the
September gale; for it was the September gale of last year that was
The wind had been queer, in gusts, all day; yet the weather had been
soft and mild. We had opened windows for the pleasant air, and shut
them again in a hurry when the papers blew about, and the pictures
swung to and fro against the walls. Once that afternoon, somebody had
left doors open through the brown room and the dining-room, where a
window was thrown up, as we could have it there where the three were
all on one side. Ruth was coming down stairs, and saw grandfather's
papers give a whirl out of his lap and across the piazza floor upon
the gravel. If she had not sprung so quickly and gathered them all up
for him, some of them might have blown quite away, and led father a
chase after them over the hill. After that, old Mr. Holabird put them
up in his wallet again, and when they had talked a few minutes more
they went off together to the old house.
It was wonderful how that wind and rain did come up. The few minutes
that Harry and Leslie stopped with us, and then the few more they took
to consider whether it would do for Leslie to try to walk home, just
settled it that nobody could stir until there should be some sort of
lull or holding up.
Out of the far southerly hills came the blast, rending and crashing;
the first swirls of rain that flung themselves against our windows
seemed as if they might have rushed ten miles, horizontally, before
they got a chance to drop; the trees bent down and sprang again, and
lashed the air to and fro; chips and leaves and fragments of all
strange sorts took the wonderful opportunity and went soaring aloft
and onward in a false, plebeian triumph.
The rain came harder, in great streams; but it all went by in white,
wavy drifts; it seemed to rain from south to north across the
country,--not to fall from heaven to earth; we wondered if it _would_
fall anywhere. It beat against the house; that stood up in its way; it
rained straight in at the window-sills and under the doors; we ran
about the house with cloths and sponges to sop it up from cushions and
"I say, Mrs. Housekeeper!" called out Stephen from above, "look out
for father's dressing-room! It's all afloat,--hair-brushes out on
voyages of discovery, and a horrid little kelpie sculling round on a
Father's dressing-room was a windowed closet, in the corner space
beside the deep, old-fashioned chimney. It had hooks and shelves in
one end, and a round shaving-stand and a chair in the other. We had to
pull down all his clothes and pile them upon chairs, and stop up the
window with an old blanket. A pane was cracked, and the wind, although
its force was slanted here, had blown it in, and the fine driven spray
was dashed across, diagonally, into the very farthest corner.
In the room a gentle cascade descended beside the chimney, and a
picture had to be taken down. Down stairs the dining-room sofa,
standing across a window, got a little lake in the middle of it before
we knew. The side door blew open with a bang, and hats, coats, and
shawls went scurrying from their pegs, through sitting-room and hall,
like a flight of scared, living things. We were like a little garrison
in a great fort, besieged at all points at once. We had to bolt
doors,--latches were nothing,--and bar shutters. And when we could
pause indoors, what a froth and whirl we had to gaze out at!
The grass, all along the fields, was white, prostrate; swept fiercely
one way; every blade stretched out helpless upon its green face. The
little pear-trees, heavy with fruit, lay prone in literal "windrows."
The great ashes and walnuts twisted and writhed, and had their
branches stripped upward of their leaves, as a child might draw a head
of blossoming grass between his thumb and finger. The beautiful elms
were in a wild agony; their graceful little bough-tips were all
snapped off and whirled away upon the blast, leaving them in a ragged
blight. A great silver poplar went over by the fence, carrying the
posts and palings with it, and upturned a huge mass of roots and
earth, that had silently cemented itself for half a century beneath
the sward. Up and down, between Grandfather Holabird's home-field and
ours, fallen locusts and wild cherry-trees made an abatis. Over and
through all swept the smiting, powdery, seething storm of waters; the
air was like a sea, tossing and foaming; we could only see through it
by snatches, to cry out that this and that had happened. Down below
us, the roof was lifted from a barn, and crumpled up in a heap half a
furlong off, against some rocks; and the hay was flying in great locks
through the air.
It began to grow dark. We put a bright, steady light in the brown
room, to shine through the south window, and show father that we were
all right; directly after a lamp was set in Grandfather Holabird's
north porch. This little telegraphy was all we could manage; we were
as far apart as if the Atlantic were between us.
"Will they be frightened about you at home?" asked Ruth of Leslie.
"I think not. They will know we should go in somewhere, and that
there would be no way of getting out again. People must be caught
everywhere, just as it happens, to-night."
"It's just the jolliest turn-up!" cried Stephen, who had been in an
ecstasy all the time. "Let's make molasses-candy, and sit up all
Between eight and nine we had some tea. The wind had lulled a little
from its hurricane force; the rain had stopped.
"It had all been blown to Canada, by this time," Harry Goldthwaite
said. "That rain never stopped anywhere short, except at the walls and
True enough, next morning, when we went out, the grass was actually
It was nearly ten when Stephen went to the south window and put his
hands up each side of his face against the glass, and cried out that
there was a lantern coming over from grandfather's. Then we all went
It came slowly; once or twice it stopped; and once it moved down hill
at right angles quite a long way. "That is where the trees are down,"
we said. But presently it took an unobstructed diagonal, and came
steadily on to the long piazza steps, and up to the side door that
opened upon the little passage to the dining-room.
We thought it was father, of course, and we all hurried to the door to
let him in, and at the same time to make it nearly impossible that he
should enter at all. But it was Grandfather Holabird's man, Robert.
"The old gentleman has been taken bad," he said. "Mr. Stephen wants to
know if you're all comfortable, and he won't come till Mr. Holabird's
better. I've got to go to the town for the doctor."
"On foot, Robert?"
"Sure. There's no other way. I take it there's many a good winter's
firing of wood down across the road atwixt here and there. There ain't
much knowing where you _can_ get along."
"But what is it?"
"We mustn't keep him," urged Barbara.
"No, I ain't goin' to be kep'. 'T won't do. I donno what it is. It's a
kind of a turn. He's comin' partly out of it; but it's bad. He had a
kind of a warnin' once before. It's his head. They're afraid it's
appalectic, or paralettic, or sunthin'."
Robert looked very sober. He quite passed by the wonder of the gale,
that another time would have stirred him to most lively speech. Robert
"thought a good deal," as he expressed it, of Grandfather Holabird.
Harry Goldthwaite came through the brown room with his hat in his
hand. How he ever found it we could not tell.
"I'll go with him," he said. "You won't be afraid now, will you,
Barbara? I'm _very_ sorry about Mr. Holabird."
He shook hands with Barbara,--it chanced that she stood
nearest,--bade us all good night, and went away. We turned back
silently into the brown room.
We were all quite hushed from our late excitement. What strange things
were happening to-night!
All in a moment something so solemn and important was put into our
minds. An event that,--never talked about, and thought of as little, I
suppose, as such a one ever was in any family like ours,--had yet
always loomed vaguely afar, as what should come some time, and would
bring changes when it came, was suddenly impending.
Grandfather might be going to die.
And yet what was there for us to do but to go quietly back into the
brown room and sit down?
There was nothing to say even. There never is anything to say about
the greatest things. People can only name the bare, grand, awful fact,
and say, "It was tremendous," or "startling," or "magnificent," or
"terrible," or "sad." How little we could really say about the gale,
even now that it was over! We could repeat that this and that tree
were blown down, and such a barn or house unroofed; but we could not
get the real wonder of it--the thing that moved us to try to talk it
over--into any words.
"He seemed so well this afternoon," said Rosamond.
"I don't think he _was_ quite well," said Ruth. "His hands trembled so
when he was folding up his papers; and he was very slow."
"O, men always are with their fingers. I don't think that was
anything," said Barbara. "But I think he seemed rather nervous when
he came over. And he would not sit in the house, though the wind was
coming up then. He said he liked the air; and he and father got the
shaker chairs up there by the front door; and he sat and pinched his
knees together to make a lap to hold his papers; it was as much as he
could manage; no wonder his hands trembled."
"I wonder what they were talking about," said Rosamond.
"I'm glad Uncle Stephen went home with him," said Ruth.
"I wonder if we shall have this house to live in if grandfather should
die," said Stephen, suddenly. It could not have been his _first_
thought; he had sat soberly silent a good while.
"O Stevie! _don't_ let's think anything about that!" said Ruth; and
nobody else answered at all.
We sent Stephen off to bed, and we girls sat round the fire, which we
had made up in the great open fireplace, till twelve o'clock; then we
all went up stairs, leaving the side door unfastened. Ruth brought
some pillows and comfortables into Rosamond and Barbara's room, made
up a couch for herself on the box-sofa, and gave her little white one
to Leslie. We kept the door open between. We could see the light in
grandfather's northwest chamber; and the lamp was still burning in the
porch below. We could not possibly know anything; whether Robert had
got back, and the doctor had come,--whether he was better or
worse,--whether father would come home to-night. We could only guess.
"O Leslie, it is so good you are here!" we said.
There was something eerie in the night, in the wreck and confusion of
the storm, in our loneliness without father and mother, and in the
possible awfulness and change that were so near,--over there in
Grandfather Holabird's lighted room.
Breakfast was late the next morning. It had been nearly two o'clock
when father had come home. He told us that grandfather was better;
that it was what the doctor called a premonitory attack; that he might
have another and more serious one any day, or that he might live on
for years without a repetition. For the present he was to be kept as
easy and quiet as possible, and gradually allowed to resume his old
habits as his strength permitted.
Mother came back in a few days more; Aunt Radford also was better. The
family fell into the old ways again, and it was as if no change had
threatened. Father told mother, however, something of importance that
grandfather had said to him that afternoon, before he was taken ill.
He had been on the point of showing him something which he looked for
among his papers, just before the wind whirled them out of his hands.
He had almost said he would complete and give it to him at once; and
then, when they were interrupted, he had just put everything up again,
and they had walked over home together. Then there had been the
excitement of the gale, and grandfather had insisted upon going to the
barns himself to see that all was made properly fast, and had come
back all out of breath, and had been taken with that ill turn in the
midst of the storm.
The paper he was going to show to father was an unwitnessed deed of
gift. He had thought of securing to us this home, by giving it in
trust to father for his wife and children.
"I helped John into his New York business," he said, "by investing
money in it that he has had the use of, at moderate interest, ever
since; and Roderick and his wife have had their home with me. None of
my boys ever paid me any _board_. I sha'n't make a will; the law gives
things where they belong; there's nothing but this that wants evening;
and so I've been thinking about it. What you do with your share of my
other property when you get it is no concern of mine as I know of; but
I should like to give you something in such a shape that it couldn't
go for old debts. I never undertook to shoulder any of _them_; what
little I've done was done for you. I wrote out the paper myself; I
never go to lawyers. I suppose it would stand clear enough for honest
comprehension,--and Roderick and John are both honest,--if I left it
as it is; but perhaps I'd as well take it some day to Squire Hadden,
and swear to it, and then hand it over to you. I'll see about it."
That was what grandfather had said; mother told us all about it;
there were no secret committees in our domestic congress; all was done
in open house; we knew all the hopes and the perplexities, only they
came round to us in due order of hearing. But father had not really
seen the paper, after all; and after grandfather got well, he never
mentioned it again all that winter. The wonder was that he had
mentioned it at all.
"He forgets a good many things, since his sickness," father said,
"unless something comes up to remind him. But there is the paper; he
must come across that."
"He may change his mind," said mother, "even when he does recollect.
We can be sure of nothing."
But we grew more fond than ever of the old, sunshiny house. In October
Harry Goldthwaite went away again on a year's cruise.
Rosamond had a letter from Mrs. Van Alstyne, from New York. She folded
it up after she had read it, and did not tell us anything about it.
She answered it next day; and it was a month later when one night up
stairs she began something she had to say about our winter shopping
"If I had gone to New York--" and there she stopped, as if she had
accidentally said what she did not intend.
"If you had gone to New York! Why! When?" cried Barbara. "What do you
"Nothing," Rosamond answered, in a vexed way. "Mrs. Van Alstyne asked
me, that is all. Of course I couldn't."
"Of course you're just a glorious old _noblesse oblige_-d! Why didn't
you say something? You might have gone perhaps. We could all have
helped. I'd have lent you--that garnet and white silk!"
Rosamond would not say anything more, and she would scarcely be
After all, she had co-operated more than any of us. Rose was always
the daughter who objected and then did. I have often thought that
young man in Scripture ought to have been a woman. It is more a
The maples were in their gold and vermilion now, and the round masses
of the ash were shining brown; we filled the vases with their leaves,
and pressed away more in all the big books we could confiscate, and
hunted frosted ferns in the wood-edge, and had beautiful pine blazes
morning and evening in the brown room, and began to think how
pleasant, for many cosey things, the winter was going to be, out here
"How nicely we could keep Halloween," said Ruth, "round this great
open chimney! What a row of nuts we could burn!"
"So we will," said Rosamond. "We'll ask the girls. Mayn't we, mother?"
"No. Only to the fun,--and some supper. We can have that all ready in
the other room."
"They'll see the cooking-stove."
"They won't know it, when they do," said Barbara.
"We might have the table in the front room," suggested Ruth.
"The drawing-room!" cried Rosamond. "That _would_ be a make-shift. Who
ever heard of having supper there? No; we'll have both rooms open,
and a bright fire in each, and one up in mother's room for them to
take off their things. And there'll be the piano, and the stereoscope,
and the games, in the parlor. We'll begin in there, and out here we'll
have the fortune tricks and the nuts later; and then the supper,
bravely and comfortably, in the dining-room, where it belongs. If they
get frightened at anything, they can go home; I'm going to new cover
that screen, though, mother; And I'll tell you what with,--that piece
of goldy-brown damask up in the cedar-trunk. And I'll put an arabesque
of crimson braid around it for a border, and the room will be all
goldy-brown and crimson then, and nobody will stop to think which is
brocade and which is waterproof. They'll be sitting on the waterproof,
you know, and have the brocade to look at. It's just old enough to
seem as if it had always been standing round somewhere."
"It will be just the kind of party for us to have," said Barbara.
"They couldn't have it up there, if they tried. It would be sure to be
Rosamond smiled contentedly. She was beginning to recognize her own
special opportunities. She was quite conscious of her own tact in
But then came the intricate questions of who? and who not?
"Not everybody, of course," said Rose, "That would be a confusion.
Just the neighbors,--right around here."
"That takes in the Hobarts, and leaves out Leslie Goldthwaite," said
"O, Leslie will be at the Haddens', or here," replied Rosamond.
"Grace Hobart is nice," she went on; "if only she wouldn't be 'real'
"That is just the word for her, though," said Ruth. "The Hobarts _are_
Rosamond's face gathered over. It was not easy to reconcile things.
She liked them all, each in their way. If they would only all come,
and like each other.
"What is it, Rose?" said Barbara, teasing. "Your brows are knit,--your
nose is crocheted,--and your mouth is--tatted! I shall have to come
and ravel you out."
"I'm thinking; that is all."
"How to build the fence?"
"That fence round the pond,--the old puzzle. There was once a pond,
and four men came and built four little houses round it,--close to the
water. Then four other men came and built four big houses, exactly
behind the first ones. They wanted the pond all to themselves; but the
little people were nearest to it; how could they build the fence, you
know? They had to squirm it awfully! You see the plain, insignificant
people are so apt to be nearest the good time!"
"I like to satisfy everybody."
"You won't,--with a squirm-fence!"
If it had not been for Ruth, we should have gone on just as innocently
as possible, and invited them--Marchbankses and all--to our Halloween
frolic. But Ruth was such a little news-picker, with her music
lessons! She had five scholars now; beside Lily and Reba, there were
Elsie Hobart and little Frank Hendee, and Pen Pennington, a girl of
her own age, who had come all the way from Fort Vancouver, over the
Pacific Railroad, to live here with her grandmother. Between the four
houses, Ruth heard everything.
All Saints' Day fell on Monday; the Sunday made double hallowing,
Barbara said; and Saturday was the "E'en." We did not mean to invite
until Wednesday; on Tuesday Ruth came home and told us that Olivia and
Adelaide Marchbanks were getting up a Halloween themselves, and that
the Haddens were asked already; and that Lily and Reba were in
transports because they were to be allowed to go.
"Did you say anything?" asked Rosamond.
"Yes. I suppose I ought not; but Elinor was in the room, and I spoke
before I thought."
"What did you tell her?"
"I only said it was such a pity; that you meant to ask them all. And
Elinor said it would be so nice here. If it were anybody else, we
might try to arrange something."
But how could we meddle with the Marchbankses? With Olivia and
Adelaide, of all the Marchbankses? We could not take it for granted
that they meant to ask us. There was no such thing as suggesting a
compromise. Rosamond looked high and splendid, and said not another
In the afternoon of Wednesday Adelaide and Maud Marchbanks rode by,
homeward, on their beautiful little brown, long-tailed Morgans.
"They don't mean to," said Barbara. "If they did, they would have
"Perhaps they will send a note to-morrow," said Ruth.
"Do you think I am waiting, in hopes?" asked Rosamond, in her
clearest, quietest tones.
Pretty soon she came in with her hat on. "I am going over to invite
the Hobarts," she said.
"That will settle it, whatever happens," said Barbara.
"Yes," said Rosamond; and she walked out.
The Hobarts were "ever so much obliged to us; and they would certainly
come." Mrs. Hobart lent Rosamond an old English book of "Holiday
Sports and Observances," with ten pages of Halloween charms in it.
From the Hobarts' house she walked on into Z----, and asked Leslie
Goldthwaite and Helen Josselyn, begging Mrs. Ingleside to come too, if
she would; the doctor would call for them, of course, and should have
his supper; but it was to be a girl-party in the early evening.
Leslie was not at home; Rosamond gave the message to her mother. Then
she met Lucilla Waters in the street.
"I was just thinking of you," she said. She did not say, "coming to
you," for truly, in her mind, she had not decided it. But seeing her
gentle, refined face, pale always with the life that had little frolic
in it, she spoke right out to that, without deciding.
"We want you at our Halloween party on Saturday. Will you come? You
will have Helen and the Inglesides to come with, and perhaps Leslie."
Rosamond, even while delivering her message to Mrs. Goldthwaite for
Leslie, had seen an unopened note lying upon the table, addressed to
her in the sharp, tall hand of Olivia Marchbanks.
She stopped in at the Haddens, told them how sorry she had been to
find they were promised; asked if it were any use to go to the
Hendees'; and when Elinor said, "But you will be sure to be asked to
the Marchbankses yourselves," replied, "It is a pity they should come
together, but we had quite made up our minds to have this little
frolic, and we have begun, too, you see."
Then she did go to the Hendees', although it was dark; and Maria
Hendee, who seldom went out to parties, promised to come. "They would
divide," she said. "Fanny might go to Olivia's. Holiday-keeping was
different from other invites. One might take liberties."
Now the Hendees were people who could take liberties, if anybody. Last
of all, Rosamond went in and asked Pen Pennington.
It was Thursday, just at dusk, when Adelaide Marchbanks walked over,
at last, and proffered her invitation.