Part 3 out of 4
"You had better all come to us," she said, graciously. "It is a pity
to divide. We want the same people, of course,--the Hendees, and the
Haddens, and Leslie." She hardly attempted to disguise that we
ourselves were an afterthought.
Rosamond told her, very sweetly, that we were obliged, but that she
was afraid it was quite too late; we had asked others; the Hobarts,
and the Inglesides; one or two whom Adelaide did not know,--Helen
Josselyn, and Lucilla Waters; the parties would not interfere much,
Rosamond took up, as it were, a little sceptre of her own, from that
Leslie Goldthwaite had been away for three days, staying with her
friend, Mrs. Frank Scherman, in Boston. She had found Olivia's note,
of Monday evening, when she returned; also, she heard of Rosamond's
verbal invitation. Leslie was very bright about these things. She saw
in a moment how it had been. Her mother told her what Rosamond had
said of who were coming,--the Hobarts and Helen; the rest were not
Olivia did not like it very well,--that reply of Leslie's. She showed
it to Jeannie Hadden; that was how we came to know of it.
"Please forgive me," the note ran, "if I accept Rosamond's invitation
for the very reason that might seem to oblige me to decline it. I see
you have two days' advantage of her, and she will no doubt lose some
of the girls by that. I really _heard_ hers first. I wish very much it
were possible to have both pleasures."
That was being terribly true and independent with West Z----. "But
Leslie Goldthwaite," Barbara said, "always was as brave as a little
How it had come over Rosamond, though, we could not quite understand.
It was not pique, or rivalry; there was no excitement about it; it
seemed to be a pure, spirited dignity of her own, which she all at
once, quietly and of course, asserted.
Mother said something about it to her Saturday morning, when she was
beating up Italian cream, and Rosamond was cutting chicken for the
salad. The cakes and the jellies had been made the day before.
"You have done this, Rosamond, in a very right and neighborly way, but
it isn't exactly your old way. How came you not to mind?"
Rosamond did not discuss the matter; she only smiled and said, "I
think, mother, I'm growing very proud and self-sufficient, since we've
had real, _through-and-through_ ways of our own."
It was the difference between "somewhere" and "betwixt and between."
Miss Elizabeth Pennington came in while we were putting candles in the
bronze branches, and Ruth was laying an artistic fire in the wide
chimney. Ruth could make a picture with her crossed and balanced
sticks, sloping the firm-built pile backward to the two great, solid
logs behind,--a picture which it only needed the touch of flame to
finish and perfect. Then the dazzling fire-wreaths curled and clasped
through and about it all, filling the spaces with a rushing splendor,
and reaching up their vivid spires above its compact body to an
outline of complete live beauty. Ruth's fires satisfied you to look
at: and they never tumbled down.
She rose up with a little brown, crooked stick in one hand, to speak
to Miss Pennington.
"Don't mind me," said the lady. "Go on, please, 'biggin' your castle.'
That will be a pretty sight to see, when it lights up."
Ruth liked crooked sticks; they held fast by each other, and they made
pretty curves and openings. So she went on, laying them deftly.
"I should like to be here to-night," said Miss Elizabeth, still
looking at the fire-pile. "Would you let an old maid in?"
"Miss Pennington! Would you come?"
"I took it in my head to want to. That was why I came over. Are you
going to play snap-dragon? I wondered if you had thought of that."
"We don't know about it," said Ruth. "Anything, that is, except the
"That is just what I thought possible. Nobody knows those old games
nowadays. May I come and bring a great dragon-bowl with me, and
superintend that part? Mother got her fate out of a snap-dragon, and
we have the identical bowl. We always used to bring it out at
Christmas, when we were all at home."
"O Miss Pennington! How perfectly lovely! How good you are!"
"Well, I'm glad you take it so. I was afraid it was terribly
meddlesome. But the fancy--or the memory--seized me."
How wonderfully our Halloween party was turning out!
And the turning-out is almost the best part of anything; the time when
things are getting together, in the beautiful prosperous way they will
take, now and then, even in this vexed world.
There was our lovely little supper-table all ready. People who have
servants enough, high-trained, to do these things while they are
entertaining in the drawing-room, don't have half the pleasure, after
all, that we do, in setting out hours beforehand, and putting the last
touches and taking the final satisfaction before we go to dress.
The cake, with the ring in it, was in the middle; for we had put
together all the fateful and pretty customs we could think of, from
whatever holiday; there were mother's Italian creams, and amber and
garnet wine jellies; there were sponge and lady-cake, and the little
macaroons and cocoas that Barbara had the secret of; and the salad, of
spring chickens and our own splendid celery, was ready in the cold
room, with its bowl of delicious dressing to be poured over it at the
last; and the scalloped oysters were in the pantry; Ruth was to put
them into the oven again when the time came, and mother would pin the
white napkins around the dishes, and set them on; and nobody was to
worry or get tired with having the whole to think of; and yet the
whole would be done, to the very lighting of the candles, which
Stephen had spoken for, by this beautiful, organized co-operation of
ours. Truly it is a charming thing,--all to itself, in a family!
To be sure, we had coffee and bread and butter and cold ham for dinner
that day; and we took our tea "standed round," as Barbara said; and
the dishes were put away in the covered sink; we knew where we could
shirk righteously and in good order, when we could not accomplish
everything; but there was neither huddle nor hurry; we were as quiet
and comfortable as we could be. Even Rosamond was satisfied with the
very manner; to be composed is always to be elegant. Anybody might
have come in and lunched with us; anybody might have shared that easy,
chatty cup of tea.
The front parlor did not amount to much, after all, pleasant and
pretty as it was for the first receiving; we were all too eager for
the real business of the evening. It was bright and warm with the
wood-fire and the lights; and the white curtains, nearly filling up
three of its walls, made it very festal-looking. There was the open
piano, and Ruth played a little; there was the stereoscope, and some
of the girls looked over the new views of Catskill and the Hudson that
Dakie Thayne had given us; there was the table with cards, and we
played one game of Old Maid, in which the Old Maid got lost
mysteriously into the drawer, and everybody was married; and then Miss
Pennington appeared at the door, with her man-servant behind her, and
there was an end. She took the big bowl, pinned over with a great
damask napkin, out of the man's hands, and went off privately with
Barbara into the dining-room.
"This is the Snap," she said, unfastening the cover, and producing
from within a paper parcel. "And that," holding up a little white
bottle, "is the Dragon." And Barbara set all away in the dresser until
after supper. Then we got together, without further ceremony, in the
We hung wedding-rings--we had mother's, and Miss Elizabeth had brought
over Madam Pennington's--by hairs, and held them inside tumblers; and
they vibrated with our quickening pulses, and swung and swung, until
they rung out fairy chimes of destiny against the sides. We floated
needles in a great basin of water, and gave them names, and watched
them turn and swim and draw together,--some point to point, some heads
and points, some joined cosily side to side, while some drifted to the
margin and clung there all alone, and some got tears in their eyes, or
an interfering jostle, and went down. We melted lead and poured it
into water; and it took strange shapes; of spears and masts and stars;
and some all went to money; and one was a queer little bottle and
pills, and one was pencils and artists' tubes, and--really--a little
palette with a hole in it.
And then came the chestnut-roasting, before the bright red coals. Each
girl put down a pair; and I dare say most of them put down some little
secret, girlish thought with it. The ripest nuts burned steadiest and
surest, of course; but how could we tell these until we tried? Some
little crack, or unseen worm-hole, would keep one still, while its
companion would pop off, away from it; some would take flight
together, and land in like manner, without ever parting company; these
were to go some long way off; some never moved from where they began,
but burned up, stupidly and peaceably, side by side. Some snapped
into the fire. Some went off into corners. Some glowed beautiful, and
some burned black, and some got covered up with ashes.
Barbara's pair were ominously still for a time, when all at once the
larger gave a sort of unwilling lurch, without popping, and rolled off
a little way, right in toward the blaze.
"Gone to a warmer climate," whispered Leslie, like a tease. And then
crack! the warmer climate, or something else, sent him back again,
with a real bound, just as Barbara's gave a gentle little snap, and
they both dropped quietly down against the fender together.
"What made that jump back, I wonder?" said Pen Pennington.
"O, it wasn't more than half cracked when it went away," said Stephen,
Who would be bold enough to try the looking-glass? To go out alone
with it into the dark field, walking backward, saying the rhyme to the
stars which if there had been a moon ought by right to have been said
"Round and round, O stars so fair!
Ye travel, and search out everywhere.
I pray you, sweet stars, now show to me,
This night, who my future husband shall be!"
Somehow, we put it upon Leslie. She was the oldest; we made that the
"I wouldn't do it for anything!" said Sarah Hobart. "I heard of a girl
who tried it once, and saw a shroud!"
But Leslie was full of fun that evening, and ready to do anything. She
took the little mirror that Ruth brought her from up stairs, put on a
shawl, and we all went to the front door with her, to see her off.
"Round the piazza, and down the bank," said Barbara, "and backward
all the way."
So Leslie backed out at the door, and we shut it upon her. The instant
after, we heard a great laugh. Off the piazza, she had stepped
backward, directly against two gentlemen coming in.
Doctor Ingleside was one, coming to get his supper; the other was a
friend of his, just arrived in Z----. "Doctor John Hautayne," he said,
introducing him by his full name.
We knew why. He was proud of it. Doctor John Hautayne was the army
surgeon who had been with him in the Wilderness, and had ridden a
stray horse across a battle-field, in his shirt-sleeves, right in
front of a Rebel battery, to get to some wounded on the other side.
And the Rebel gunners, holding their halyards, stood still and
It put an end to the tricks, except the snap-dragon.
We had not thought how late it was; but mother and Ruth had remembered
Doctor John Hautayne took Leslie out to supper. We saw him look at her
with a funny, twinkling curiosity, as he stood there with her in the
full light; and we all thought we had never seen Leslie look prettier
in all her life.
After supper, Miss Pennington lighted up her Dragon, and threw in her
snaps. A very little brandy, and a bowl full of blaze.
Maria Hendee "snapped" first, and got a preserved date.
"Ancient and honorable," said Miss Pennington, laughing.
Then Pen Pennington tried, and got nothing.
"You thought of your own fingers," said her aunt.
"A fig for my fortune!" cried Barbara, holding up her trophy.
"It came from the Mediterranean," said Mrs. Ingleside, over her
shoulder into her ear; and the ear burned.
Ruth got a sugared almond.
"Only a _kernel_," said the merry doctor's wife, again.
The doctor himself tried, and seized a slip of candied flag.
"Warm-hearted and useful, that is all," said Mrs. Ingleside.
"And tolerably pungent," said the doctor.
Doctor Hautayne drew forth--angelica.
Most of them were too timid or irresolute to grasp anything.
"That's the analogy," said Miss Pennington. "One must take the risk of
getting scorched. It is 'the woman who dares,' after all."
It was great fun, though.
Mother cut the cake. That was the last sport of the evening.
If I should tell you who got the ring, you would think it really meant
something. And the year is not out yet, you see.
But there was no doubt of one thing,--that our Halloween at Westover
was a famous little party.
* * * * *
"How do you all feel about it?" asked Barbara, sitting down on the
hearth in the brown room, before the embers, and throwing the nuts she
had picked up about the carpet into the coals.
We had carried the supper-dishes away into the out-room, and set them
on a great spare table that we kept there. "The room is as good as the
girl," said Barbara. It _is_ a comfort to put by things, with a clear
conscience, to a more rested time. We should let them be over the
Sunday; Monday morning would be all china and soapsuds; then there
would be a nice, freshly arrayed dresser, from top to bottom, and we
should have had both a party and a piece of fall cleaning.
"How do you feel about it?"
"I feel as if we had had a real _own_ party, ourselves," said Ruth;
"not as if 'the girls' had come and had a party here. There wasn't
anybody to _show us how_!"
"Except Miss Pennington. And wasn't it bewitchinating of her to come?
Nobody can say now--"
"What do you say it for, then?" interrupted Rosamond. "It was very
nice of Miss Pennington, and kind, considering it was a young party.
Otherwise, why shouldn't she?"
WINTER NIGHTS AND WINTER DAYS.
"That was a nice party," said Miss Pennington, walking home with
Leslie and Doctor John Hautayne, behind the Inglesides. "What made it
"You, very much," said Leslie, straightforwardly.
"I didn't begin it," said Miss Elizabeth. "No; that wasn't it. It was
a step out, somehow Out of the treadmill. I got tired of parties long
ago, before I was old. They were all alike. The only difference was
that in one house the staircase went up on the right side of the hall,
and in another on the left,--now and then, perhaps, at the back; and
when you came down again, the lady near the drawing-room door might be
Mrs. Hendee one night and Mrs. Marchbanks another; but after that it
was all the same. And O, how I did get to hate ice-cream!"
"This was a party of 'nexts,'" said Leslie, "instead of a selfsame."
"What a good time Miss Waters had--quietly! You could see it in her
face. A pretty face!" Miss Elizabeth spoke in a lower tone, for
Lucilla was just before the Inglesides, with Helen and Pen Pennington.
"She works too hard, though. I wish she came out more."
"The 'nexts' have to get tired of books and mending-baskets, while the
firsts are getting tired of ice-creams," replied Leslie. "Dear Miss
Pennington, there are ever so many nexts, and people don't think
anything about it!"
"So there are," said Miss Elizabeth, quietly. "People are very stupid.
They don't know what will freshen themselves up. They think the
trouble is with the confectionery, and so they try macaroon and
pistachio instead of lemon and vanilla. Fresh people are better than
fresh flavors. But I think we had everything fresh to-night. What a
beautiful old home-y house it is!"
"And what a home-y family!" said Doctor John Hautayne.
"_We_ have an old home-y house," said Miss Pennington, suddenly, "with
landscape-papered walls and cosey, deep windows and big chimneys. And
we don't half use it. Doctor Hautayne, I mean to have a party! Will
you stay and come to it?"
"Any time within my two months' leave," replied Doctor Hautayne, "and
with very great pleasure."
"So she will have it before very long," said Leslie, telling us about
the talk the next day.
It! Well, when Miss Pennington took up a thing she _did_ take it up!
That does not come in here, though,--any more of it.
The Penningtons are very proud people. They have not a very great deal
of money, like the Haddens, and they are not foremost in everything
like the Marchbankses; somehow they do not seem to care to take the
trouble for that; but they are so _established_; it is a family like
an old tree, that is past its green branching time, and makes little
spread or summer show, but whose roots reach out away underneath, and
grasp more ground than all the rest put together.
They live in an old house that is just like them. It has not a
new-fashioned thing about it. The walls are square, plain brick,
painted gray; and there is a low, broad porch in front, and then
terraces, flagged with gray stone and bordered with flower-beds at
each side and below. They have peacocks and guinea-hens, and more
roses and lilies and larkspurs and foxgloves and narcissus than
flowers of any newer sort; and there are great bushes of box and
southernwood, that smell sweet as you go by.
Old General Pennington had been in the army all his life. He was a
captain at Lundy's Lane, and got a wound there which gave him a stiff
elbow ever after; and his oldest son was killed in Mexico, just after
he had been brevetted Major. There is a Major Pennington now,--the
younger brother,--out at Fort Vancouver; and he is Pen's father. When
her mother died, away out there, he had to send her home. The
Penningtons are just as proud as the stars and stripes themselves; and
their glory is off the selfsame piece.
They made very much of Dakie Thayne when he was here, in their quiet,
retired way; and they had always been polite and cordial to the
One morning, a little while after our party, mother was making an
apple-pudding for dinner, when Madam Pennington and Miss Elizabeth
drove round to the door.
Ruth was out at her lessons; Barbara was busy helping Mrs. Holabird.
Rosamond went to the door, and let them into the brown room.
"Mother will be sorry to keep you waiting, but she will come directly.
She is just in the middle of an apple-pudding."
Rosamond said it with as much simple grace of pride as if she had had
to say, "Mother is busy at her modelling, and cannot leave her clay
till she has damped and covered it." Her nice perception went to the
very farther-most; it discerned the real best to be made of things,
the best that was _ready_ made, and put that forth.
"And I know," said Madam Pennington, "that an apple-pudding must not
be left in the middle. I wonder if she would let an old woman who has
lived in barracks come to her where she is?"
Rosamond's tact was superlative. She did not say, "I will go and see";
she got right up and said, "I am sure she will; please come this way,"
and opened the door, with a sublime confidence, full and without
warning, upon the scene of operations.
"O, how nice!" said Miss Elizabeth; and Madam Pennington walked
forward into the sunshine, holding her hand out to Mrs. Holabird, and
smiling all the way from her smooth old forehead down to the "seventh
beauty" of her dimple-cleft and placid chin.
"Why, this is really coming to see people!" she said.
Mrs. Holabird's white hand did not even want dusting; she just laid
down the bright little chopper with which she was reducing her flour
and butter to a golden powder, and took Madam Pennington's nicely
gloved fingers into her own, without a breath of apology. Apology! It
was very meek of her not to look at all set up.
Barbara rose from her chair with a red ringlet of apple-paring hanging
down against her white apron, and seated herself again at her work
when the visitors had taken the two opposite corners of the deep,
The red cloth was folded back across the end of the dining-table, and
at the other end were mother's white board and rolling-pin, the
pudding-cloth wrung into a twist out of the scald, and waiting upon a
plate, and a pitcher of cold water with ice tinkling against its
sides. Mother sat with the deal bowl in her lap, turning and mincing
with the few last strokes the light, delicate dust of the pastry. The
sunshine--work and sunshine always go so blessedly together--poured
in, and filled the room up with life and glory.
"Why, this is the pleasantest room in all your house!" said Miss
"That is just what Ruth said it would be when we turned it into a
kitchen," said Barbara.
"You don't mean that this is really your kitchen!"
"I don't think we are quite sure what it is," replied Barbara,
laughing. "We either dine in our kitchen or kitch in our dining-room;
and I don't believe we have found out yet which it is!"
"You are wonderful people!"
"You ought to have belonged to the army, and lived in quarters," said
Mrs. Pennington. "Only you would have made your rooms so bewitching
you would have been always getting turned out."
"Yes; by the ranking family. That is the way they do. The major turns
out the captain, and the colonel the major. There's no rest for the
sole of your foot till you're a general."
Mrs. Holabird set her bowl on the table, and poured in the ice-water.
Then the golden dust, turned and cut lightly by the chopper, gathered
into a tender, mellow mass, and she lifted it out upon the board.
She shook out the scalded cloth, spread it upon the emptied bowl,
sprinkled it snowy-thick with flour, rolled out the crust with a free
quick movement, and laid it on, into the curve of the basin. Barbara
brought the apples, cut up in white fresh slices, and slid them into
the round. Mrs. Holabird folded over the edges, gathered up the linen
cloth in her hands, tied it tightly with a string, and Barbara
disappeared with it behind the damask screen, where a puff of steam
went up in a minute that told the pudding was in. Then Mrs. Holabird
went into the pantry-closet and washed her hands, that never really
came to need more than a finger-bowl could do for them, and Barbara
carried after her the board and its etceteras, and the red cloth was
drawn on again, and there was nothing, but a low, comfortable bubble
in the chimney-corner to tell of house-wifery or dinner.
"I wish it had lasted longer," said Miss Elizabeth. "I am afraid I
shall feel like company again now."
"I am ashamed to tell you what I came for," said Madam Pennington.
"It was to ask about a girl. Can I do anything with Winny Lafferty?"
"I wish you could," said Mrs. Holabird, benevolently.
"She needs doing with" said Barbara.
"Your having her would be different from our doing so," said Mrs.
Holabird. "I often think that one of the tangles in the girl-question
is the mistake of taking the rawest specimens into families that keep
but one. With your Lucy, it might be the very making of Winny to go to
"The 'next' for her, as Ruth would say," said Barbara.
"Yes. The least little thing that comes next is better than a world
full of wisdom away off beyond. There is too much in 'general
housework' for one ignorant, inexperienced brain to take in. What
should we think of a government that gave out its 'general field-work'
"There won't be any Lucys long," said Madam Pennington, with a sigh.
"What are homes coming to?"
"Back to _homes_, I hope, from _houses_ divided against themselves
into parlors and kitchens," said mother, earnestly. "If I should tell
you all I think about it, you would say it was visionary, I am afraid.
But I believe we have got to go back to first principles; and then the
Lucys will grow again."
"Modern establishments are not homes truly," said Madam Pennington.
"We shall call them by their names, as the French do, if we go on,"
"And how are we to stop, or help it? The enemy has got possession.
Irishocracy is a despotism in the land."
"Only," said mother, in her sweetest, most heartfelt way, "by
learning how true it is that one must be chief to really serve; that
it takes the highest to do perfect ministering; that the brightest
grace and the most beautiful culture must come to bear upon this
little, every-day living, which is all that the world works for after
all. The whole heaven is made that just the daily bread for human
souls may come down out of it. Only the Lord God can pour this room
full of little waves of sunshine, and make a still, sweet morning in
Mother and Madam Pennington looked at each other with soulful eyes.
"'We girls,'" began mother again, smiling,--"for that is the way the
children count me in,--said to each other, when we first tried this
new plan, that we would make an art-kitchen. We meant we would have
things nice and pretty for our common work; but there is something
behind that,--the something that 'makes the meanest task divine,'--the
spiritual correspondence of it. When we are educated up to that I
think life and society will be somewhat different. I think we shall
not always stop short at the drawing-room, and pretend at each other
on the surface of things. I think the time may come when young girls
and single women will be as willing, and think it as honorable, to go
into homes which they need, and which need them, and give the best
that they have grown to into the commonwealth of them, as they are
willing now to educate and try for public places. And it will seem to
them as great and beautiful a thing to do. They won't be buried,
either. When they take the work up, and glorify it, it will glorify
them. We don't know yet what households might be, if now we have got
the wheels so perfected, we would put the living spirit into the
wheels. They are the motive power; homes are the primary meetings.
They would be little kingdoms, of great might! I _wish_ women would be
content with their mainspring work, and not want to go out and point
the time upon the dial!"
Mother never would have made so long a speech, but that beautiful old
Mrs. Pennington was answering her back all the time out of her eyes.
There was such a magnetism between them for the moment, that she
scarcely knew she was saying it all. The color came up in their
cheeks, and they were young and splendid, both of them. We thought it
was as good a Woman's Convention as if there had been two thousand of
them instead of two. And when some of the things out of the closets
get up on the house-tops, maybe it will prove so.
Madam Pennington leaned over and kissed mother when she took her hand
at going away. And then Miss Elizabeth spoke out suddenly,--
"I have not done my errand yet, Mrs. Holabird. Mother has taken up all
the time. I want to have some _nexts_. Your girls know what I mean;
and I want them to take hold and help. They are going to be 'next
Thursdays,' and to begin this very coming Thursday of all. I shall
give primary invitations only,--and my primaries are to find
secondaries. No household is to represent merely itself; one or two,
or more, from one family are to bring always one or two, or more, from
somewhere else. I am going to try if one little bit of social life
cannot be exogenous; and if it can, what the branching-out will come
to. I think we want sapwood as well as heartwood to keep us green. If
anybody doesn't quite understand, refer to 'How Plants Grow--Gray.'"
She went off, leaving us that to think of.
Two days after she looked in again, and said more. "Besides that,
every primary or season invitation imposes a condition. Each member is
to provide one practical answer to 'What next?' 'Next Thursday' is
always to be in charge of somebody. You may do what you like, or can,
with it. I'll manage the first myself. After that I wash my hands."
Out of it grew fourteen incomparable Thursday evenings. Pretty much
all we can do about them is to tell that they were; we should want
fourteen new numbers to write their full history. It was like Mr.
Hale's lovely "Ten Times One is Ten." They all came from that one
blessed little Halloween party of ours. It means something that there
_is_ such a thing as the multiplication-table; doesn't it? You can't
help yourself if you start a unit, good or bad. The Garden of Eden,
and the Ark, and the Loaves and Fishes, and the Hundred and Forty-four
Thousand sealed in their foreheads, tell of it, all through the Bible,
from first to last. "Multiply!" was the very next, inevitable
commandment, after the "Let there be!"
It was such a thing as had never rolled up, or branched out, though,
in Westover before. The Marchbankses did not know what to make of it.
People got in who had never belonged. There they were, though, in the
stately old Pennington house, that was never thrown open for nothing;
and when they were once there you really could not tell the
difference; unless, indeed, it were that the old, middle wood was the
deadest, just as it is in the trees; and that the life was in the new
sap and the green rind.
Lucilla Waters invented charades; and Helen Josselyn acted them, as
charades had never been acted on West Hill until now. When it came to
the Hobarts' "Next Thursday" they gave us "Dissolving Views,"--every
successive queer fashion that had come up resplendent and gone down
grotesque in these last thirty years. Mrs. Hobart had no end of old
relics,--bandbaskets packed full of venerable bonnets, that in their
close gradation of change seemed like one individual Indur passing
through a metempsychosis of millinery; nests of old hats that were
odder than the bonnets; swallow-tailed coats; broad-skirted blue ones
with brass buttons; baby waists and basquines; leg-of-mutton sleeves,
balloons, and military; collars inch-wide and collars ell-wide with
ruffles _rayonnantes_; gathers and gores, tunnel-skirts, and
barrel-skirts and paniers. She made monstrous paper dickeys,
and high black stocks, and great bundling neckcloths; the very
pocket-handkerchiefs were as ridiculous as anything, from the
waiter-napkin size of good stout cambric to a quarter-dollar bit of a
middle with a cataract of "chandelier" lace about it. She could tell
everybody how to do their hair, from "flat curls" and "scallops" down
or up to frizzes and chignons; and after we had all filed in slowly,
one by one, and filled up the room, I don't think there ever could
have been a funnier evening!
We had musical nights, and readings. We had a "Mutual Friend"
Thursday; that was Mrs. Ingleside's. Rosamond was the Boofer Lady;
Barbara was Lavvy the Irrepressible; and Miss Pennington herself was
Mrs. Wilfer; Mr. and Mrs. Hobart were the Boffins; and Doctor
Ingleside, with a wooden leg strapped on, dropped into poetry in the
light of a friend; Maria Hendee came in twisting up her back hair, as
Pleasant Riderhood,--Maria Hendee's back hair was splendid; Leslie
looked very sweet and quiet as Lizzie Hexam, and she brought with her
for her secondary that night the very, real little doll's dressmaker
herself,--Maddy Freeman, who has carved brackets, and painted lovely
book-racks and easels and vases and portfolios for almost everybody's
parlors, and yet never gets into them herself.
Leslie would not have asked her to be Jennie Wren, because she really
has a lame foot; but when they told her about it, she said right off,
"O, how I wish I could be that!" She has not only the lame foot, but
the wonderful "golden bower" of sunshiny hair too; and she knows the
doll's dressmaker by heart; she says she expects to find her some
time, if ever she goes to England--or to heaven. Truly she was up to
the "tricks and the manners" of the occasion; nobody entered into it
with more self-abandonment than she; she was so completely Jennie Wren
that no one--at the moment--thought of her in any other character, or
remembered their rules of behaving according to the square of the
distance. She "took patterns" of Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks's trimmings to
her very face; she readied up behind Mrs. Linceford, and measured the
festoon of her panier. There was no reason why she should be afraid or
abashed; Maddy Freeman is a little lady, only she is poor, and a
genius. She stepped right _out_ of Dickens's story, not _into_ it, as
the rest of us did; neither did she even seem to step consciously into
the grand Pennington house; all she did as to that was to go "up
here," or "over there," and "be dead," as fresh, new-world delights
attracted her. Lizzie Hexam went too; they belonged together; and
T'other Governor would insist on following after them, and being
comfortably dead also, though Society was behind him, and the
Veneerings and the Podsnaps looking on. Mrs. Ingleside did not provide
any Podsnaps or Veneerings; she said they would be there.
Now Eugene Wrayburn was Doctor John Hautayne; for this was only our
fourth evening. Nobody had anything to say about parts, except the
person whose "next" it was; people had simply to take what they were
We began to be a little suspicious of Doctor Hautayne; to wonder about
his "what next." Leslie behaved as if she had always known him; I
believe it seemed to her as if she always had; some lives meet in a
way like that.
It did not end with parties, Miss Pennington's exogenous experiment.
She did not mean it should. A great deal that was glad and comfortable
came of it to many persons. Miss Elizabeth asked Maddy Freeman to
"come up and be dead" whenever she felt like it; she goes there every
week now, to copy pictures, and get rare little bits for her designs
out of the Penningtons' great portfolios of engravings and drawings of
ancient ornamentations; and half the time they keep her to luncheon or
to tea. Lucilla Waters knows them now as well as we do; and she is
taking German lessons with Pen Pennington.
It really seems as if the "nexts" would grow on so that at last it
would only be our old "set" that would be in any danger of getting
left out. "Society is like a coral island after all," says Leslie
Goldthwaite. "It isn't a rock of the Old Silurian."
It was a memorable winter to us in many ways,--that last winter of the
nineteenth century's seventh decade.
One day--everything has to be one day, and all in a minute, when it
does come, however many days lead up to it--Doctor Ingleside came in
and told us the news. He had been up to see Grandfather Holabird;
grandfather was not quite well.
They told him at home, the doctor said, not to stop anywhere; he knew
what they meant by that, but he didn't care; it was as much his news
as anybody's, and why should he be kept down to pills and plasters?
Leslie was going to marry Doctor John Hautayne.
Well! It was splendid news, and we had somehow expected it. And
yet--"only think!" That was all we could say; that is a true thing
people do say to each other, in the face of a great, beautiful fact.
Take it in; shut your door upon it; and--think! It is something that
belongs to heart and soul.
We counted up; it was only seven weeks.
"As if that were the whole of it!" said Doctor Ingleside. "As if the
Lord didn't know! As if they hadn't been living on, to just this
meeting-place! She knows his life, and the sort of it, though she has
never been in it with him before; that is, we'll concede that, for the
sake of argument, though I'm not so sure about it; and he has come
right here into hers. They are fair, open, pleasant ways, both of
them; and here, from the joining, they can both look back and take in,
each the other's; and beyond they just run into one, you see, as
foreordained, and there's no other way for them to go."
Nobody knew it but ourselves that next night,--Thursday. Doctor
Hautayne read beautiful things from the Brownings at Miss Pennington's
that evening; it was his turn to provide; but for us,--we looked into
new depths in Leslie's serene, clear, woman eyes, and we felt the
intenser something in his face and voice, and the wonder was that
everybody could not see how quite another thing than any merely
written poetry was really "next" that night for Leslie and for John
That was in December; it was the first of March when Grandfather
At about Christmas-time mother had taken a bad cold. We could not let
her get up in the mornings to help before breakfast; the winter work
was growing hard; there were two or three fires to manage besides the
furnace, which father attended to; and although our "chore-man" came
and split up kindlings and filled the wood-boxes, yet we were all
pretty well tired out, sometimes, just with keeping warm. We began to
begin to say things to each other which nobody actually finished. "If
mother doesn't get better," and "If this cold weather keeps on," and
"_Are_ we going to co-operate ourselves to death, do you think?" from
Barbara, at last.
Nobody said, "We shall have to get a girl again." Nobody wanted to do
that; and everybody had a secret feeling of Aunt Roderick, and her
prophecy that we "shouldn't hold out long." But we were crippled and
reduced; Ruth had as much as ever she could do, with the short days
and her music.
"I begin to believe it was easy enough for Grant to say 'all
_summer_,'" said Barbara; "but _this_ is Valley Forge." The kitchen
fire wouldn't burn, and the thermometer was down to 3 deg. above. Mother
was worrying up stairs, we knew, because we would not let her come
down until it was warm and her coffee was ready.
That very afternoon Stephen came in from school with a word for the
"The Stilkings are going to move right off to New Jersey," said he.
"Jim Stilking told me so. The doctor says his father can't stay here."
"Arctura Fish won't go," said Rosamond, instantly.
"Arctura Fish is as neat as a pin, and as smart as a steel trap," said
Barbara, regardless of elegance; "and--since nobody else will ever
dare to give in--I believe Arctura Fish is the very next thing, now,
"It isn't giving in; it is going on," said Mrs. Holabird.
It certainly was not going back.
"We have got through ploughing-time, and now comes seed-time, and then
harvest," said Barbara. "We shall raise, upon a bit of renovated
earth, the first millennial specimen,--see if we don't!--of what was
supposed to be an extinct flora,--the _Domestica antediluviana_."
Arctura Fish came to us.
If you once get a new dress, or a new dictionary, or a new convenience
of any kind, did you never notice that you immediately have occasions
which prove that you couldn't have lived another minute without it? We
could not have spared Arctura a single day, after that, all winter.
Mother gave up, and was ill for a fortnight. Stephen twisted his foot
skating, and was laid up with a sprained ankle.
And then, in February, grandfather was taken with that last fatal
attack, and some of us had to be with Aunt Roderick nearly all the
time during the three weeks that he lived.
When they came to look through the papers there was no will found, of
any kind; neither was that deed of gift.
Aunt Trixie was the only one out of the family who knew anything about
it. She had been the "family bosom," Barbara said, ever since she
cuddled us up in our baby blankets, and told us "this little pig, and
that little pig," while she warmed our toes.
"Don't tell me!" said Aunt Trixie. Aunt Trixie never liked the
We tried not to think about it, but it was not comfortable. It was,
indeed, a very serious anxiety and trouble that began, in consequence,
to force itself upon us.
After the bright, gay nights had come weary, vexing days. And the
worst was a vague shadow of family distrust and annoyance. Nobody
thought any real harm, nobody disbelieved or suspected; but there it
was. We could not think how such a declared determination and act of
Grandfather Holabird should have come to nothing. Uncle and Aunt
Roderick "could not see what we could expect about it; there was
nothing to show; and there were John and John's children; it was not
for any one or two to settle."
Only Ruth said "we were all good people, and meant right; it must all
come right, somehow."
But father made up his mind that we could not afford to keep the
place. He should pay his debts, now, the first thing. What was left
must do for us; the house must go into the estate.
It was fixed, though, that we should stay there for the summer,--until
affairs were settled.
"It's a dumb shame!" said Aunt Trixie.
The June days did not make it any better. And the June nights,--well,
we had to sit in the "front box at the sunset," and think how there
would be June after June here for somebody, and we should only have
had just two of them out of our whole lives.
Why did not grandfather give us that paper, when he began to? And what
could have become of it since? And what if it were found some time,
after the dear old place was sold and gone? For it was the "dear old
place" already to us, though we had only lived there a year, and
though Aunt Roderick did say, in her cold fashion, just as if we could
choose about it, that "it was not as if it were really an old
homestead; it wouldn't be so much of a change for us, if we made up
our minds not to take it in, as if we had always lived there."
Why, we _had_ always lived there! That was just the way we had always
been trying to spell "home," though we had never got the right letters
to do it with before. When exactly the right thing comes to you, it is
a thing that has always been. You don't get the very sticks and stones
to begin with, maybe; but what they stand for grows up in you, and
when you come to it you know it is yours. The best things--the most
glorious and wonderful of all--will be what we shall see to have been
"laid up for us from the foundation." Aunt Roderick did not see one
bit of how that was with us.
"There isn't a word in the tenth commandment about not coveting your
_own_ house," Barbara would say, boldly. And we did covet, and we did
grieve. And although we did not mean to have "hard thoughts," we felt
that Aunt Roderick was hard; and that Uncle Roderick and Uncle John
were hatefully matter-of-fact and of-course about the "business."
And that paper might be somewhere, yet. We did not believe that
Grandfather Holabird had "changed his mind and burned it up." He had
not had much mind to change, within those last six months. When he
_was_ well, and had a mind, we knew what he had meant to do.
If Uncle Roderick and Uncle John had not believed a word of what
father told them, they could not have behaved very differently. We
half thought, sometimes, that they did not believe it. And very likely
they half thought that we were making it appear that they had done
something that was not right. And it is the half thoughts that are
the hard thoughts. "It is very disagreeable," Aunt Roderick used to
Miss Trixie Spring came over and spent days with us, as of old; and
when the house looked sweet and pleasant with the shaded summer light,
and was full of the gracious summer freshness, she would look round
and shake her head, and say, "It's just as beautiful as it can be. And
it's a dumb shame. Don't tell _me_!"
Uncle Roderick was going to "take in" the old homestead with his
share, and that was as much as he cared about; Uncle John was used to
nothing but stocks and railway shares, and did not want
"encumbrances"; and as to keeping it as estate property and paying
rent to the heirs, ourselves included,--nobody wanted that; they would
rather have things settled up. There would always be questions of
estimates and repairs; it was not best to have things so in a family.
Separate accounts as well as short ones, made best friends. We knew
they all thought father was unlucky to have to do with in such
matters. He would still be the "limited" man of the family. It would
take two thirds of his inheritance to pay off those old '57 debts.
So we took our lovely Westover summer days as things we could not have
any more of. And when you begin to feel that about anything, it would
be a relief to have had the last of it. Nothing lasts always; but we
like to have the forever-and-ever feeling, however delusive. A child
hates his Sunday clothes, because he knows he cannot put them on again
With all our troubles, there was one pleasure in the house,--Arctura.
We had made an art-kitchen; now we were making a little poem of a
serving-maiden. We did not turn things over to her, and so leave chaos
to come again; we only let her help; we let her come in and learn with
us the nice and pleasant ways that we had learned. We did not move the
kitchen down stairs again; we were determined not to have a kitchen
Arctura was strong and blithe; she could fetch and carry, make fires,
wash dishes, clean knives and brasses, do all that came hardest to us;
and could do, in other things, with and for us, what she saw us do. We
all worked together till the work was done; then Arctura sat down in
the afternoons, just as we did, and read books, or made her clothes.
She always looked nice and pretty. She had large dark calico aprons
for her work; and little white bib-aprons for table-tending and
dress-up; and mother made for her, on the machine, little linen
collars and cuffs.
We had a pride in her looks; and she knew it; she learned to work as
delicately as we did. When breakfast or dinner was ready, she was as
fit to turn round and serve as we were to sit down; she was astonished
herself, at ways and results that she fell in with and attained.
"Why, where does the dirt go to?" she would exclaim. "It never gethers
"GATHERS,--_anywhere_" Rosamond corrected.
Arctura learned little grammar lessons, and other such things, by the
way. She was only "next" below us in our family life; there was no
great gulf fixed. We felt that we had at least got hold of the right
end of one thread in the social tangle. This, at any rate, had come
out of our year at Westover.
"Things seem so easy," the girl would say. "It is just like two times
So it was; because we did not jumble in all the Analysis and Compound
Proportion of housekeeping right on top of the multiplication-table.
She would get on by degrees; by and by she would be in evolution and
geometrical progression without knowing how she got there. If you want
a house, you must build it up, stone by stone, and stroke by stroke;
if you want a servant, you, or somebody for you, must _build_ one,
just the same; they do not spring up and grow, neither can be "knocked
together." And I tell you, busy, eager women of this day, wanting
great work out of doors, this is just what "we girls," some of
us,--and some of the best of us, perhaps,--have got to stay at home
awhile and do.
"It is one of the little jobs that has been waiting for a good while
to be done," says Barbara; "and Miss Pennington has found out another.
'There may be,' she says, 'need of women for reorganizing town
meetings; I won't undertake to say there isn't; but I'm _sure_ there's
need of them for reorganizing _parlor_ meetings. They are getting to
be left altogether to the little school-girl "sets." Women who have
grown older, and can see through all that nonsense, and have the
position and power to break it up, ought to take hold. Don't you think
so? Don't you think it is the duty of women of my age and class to see
to this thing before it grows any worse?' And I told her,--right up,
respectful,--Yes'm; it wum! Think of her asking me, though!"
Just as things were getting to be so different and so nice on West
Hill, it seemed so hard to leave it! Everything reminded us of that.
A beautiful plan came up for Ruth, though, at this time. What with
the family worries,--which Ruth always had a way of gathering to
herself, and hugging up, prickers in, as if so she could keep the
nettles from other people's fingers,--and her hard work at her music,
she was getting thin. We were all insisting that she must take a
vacation this summer, both from teaching and learning; when, all at
once, Miss Pennington made up her mind to go to West Point and Lake
George, and to take Penelope with her; and she came over and asked
Ruth to go too.
"If you don't mind a room alone, dear; I'm an awful coward to have
come of a martial family, and I must have Pen with me nights. I'm
nervous about cars, too; I want two of you to keep up a chatter; I
should be miserable company for one, always distracted after the
Ruth's eyes shone; but she colored up, and her thanks had half a doubt
in them. She would tell Auntie: and they would think how it could be.
"What a nice way for you to go!" said Barbara, after Miss Pennington
left. "And how nice it will be for you to see Dakie!" At which Ruth
colored up again, and only said that "it would certainly be the nicest
possible way to go, if she were to go at all."
Barbara meant--or meant to be understood that she meant--that Miss
Pennington knew everybody, and belonged among the general officers;
Ruth had an instinct that it would only be possible for her to go by
an invitation like this from people out of her own family.
"But doesn't it seem queer she should choose me, out of us all?" she
asked. "Doesn't it seem selfish for me to be the one to go?"
"Seem selfish? Whom to?" said Barbara, bluntly. "We weren't asked."
"I wish--everybody--knew that," said Ruth.
Making this little transparent speech, Ruth blushed once more. But she
went, after all. She said we pushed her out of the nest. She went out
into the wide, wonderful world, for the very first time in her life.
This is one of her letters:--
DEAR MOTHER AND GIRLS:--It is perfectly lovely here. I wish you could
sit where I do this morning, looking up the still river in the bright
light, with the tender purple haze on the far-off hills, and long,
low, shady Constitution Island lying so beautiful upon the water on
one side, and dark shaggy Cro' Nest looming up on the other. The
Parrott guns at the foundry, over on the headland opposite, are
trying,--as they are trying almost all the time,--against the face of
the high, old, desolate cliff; and the hurtling buzz of the shells
keeps a sort of slow, tremendous time-beat on the air.
I think I am almost more interested in Constitution Island than in any
other part of the place. I never knew until I came here that it was
the home of the Misses Warner; the place where Queechy came from, and
Dollars and Cents, and the Wide, Wide World. It seems so strange to
think that they sit there and write still, lovely stories while all
this parade and bustle and learning how to fight are going on close
beside and about them.
The Cadets are very funny. They will do almost any thing for
mischief,--the frolic of it, I mean. Dakie Thayne tells us very
amusing stories. They are just going into camp now; and they have
parades and battery-practice every day. They have target-firing at old
Cro' Nest,--which has to stand all the firing from the north battery,
just around here from the hotel. One day the cadet in charge made a
very careful sighting of his piece; made the men train the gun up and
down, this way and that, a hair more or a hair less, till they were
nearly out of patience; when, lo! just as he had got "a beautiful
bead," round came a superintending officer, and took a look too. The
bad boy had drawn it full on a poor old black cow! I do not believe he
would have really let her be blown up; but Dakie says,--"Well, he
rather thinks,--if she would have stood still long enough,--he would
have let her be--astonished!"
The walk through the woods, around the cliff, over the river, is
beautiful. If only they wouldn't call it by such a silly name!
We went out to Old Fort Putnam yesterday. I did not know how afraid
Miss Pennington could be of a little thing before. I don't know, now,
how much of it was fun; for, as Dakie Thayne said, it was agonizingly
funny. What must have happened to him after we got back and he left us
I cannot imagine; he didn't laugh much there, and it must have been a
misery of politeness.
We had been down into the old, ruinous enclosure; had peeped in at the
dark, choked-up casemates; and had gone round and come up on the edge
of the broken embankment, which we were following along to where it
sloped down safely again,--when, just at the very middle and highest
and most impossible point, down sat Miss Elizabeth among the stones,
and declared she could neither go back nor forward. She had been
frightened to death all the way, and now her head was quite gone. "No;
nothing should persuade her; she never could get up on her feet again
in that dreadful place." She laughed in the midst of it; but she was
really frightened, and there she sat; Dakie went to her, and tried to
help her up, and lead her on; but she would not be helped. "What would
come of it?" "She didn't know; she supposed that was the end of her;
_she_ couldn't do anything." "But, dear Miss Pennington," says Dakie,
"are you going to break short off with life, right here, and make a
Lady Simon Stylites of yourself?" "For all she knew; she never could
get down." I think we must have been there, waiting and coaxing,
nearly half an hour, before she began to _hitch_ along; for walk she
wouldn't, and she didn't. She had on a black Ernani dress, and a nice
silk underskirt; and as she lifted herself along with her hands, hoist
after hoist sidewise, of course the thin stuff dragged on the rocks
and began to go to pieces. By the time she came to where she could
stand, she was a rebus of the Coliseum,--"a noble wreck in ruinous
perfection." She just had to tear off the long tatters, and roll them
up in a bunch, and fling them over into a hollow, and throw the two or
three breadths that were left over her arm, and walk home in her silk
petticoat, itself much the sufferer from dust and fray, though we did
all we could for her with pocket-handkerchiefs.
"What _has_ happened to Miss Pennington?" said Mrs. General M----, as
we came up on the piazza.
"Nothing," said Dakie, quite composed and proper, "only she got tired
and sat down; and it was dusty,--that was all." He bowed and went off,
without so much as a glance of secret understanding.
"A joke has as many lives as a cat, here," he told Pen and me,
afterwards, "and that was _too_ good not to keep to ourselves."
Dear little mother and girls,--I have told stories and described
describes, and all to crowd out and leave to the last corner _such_ a
thing that Dakie Thayne wants to do! We got to talking about Westover
and last summer, and the pleasant old place, and all; and I couldn't
help telling him something about the worry. I know I had no business
to; and I am afraid I have made a snarl. He says he would like to buy
the place! And he wanted to know if Uncle Stephen wouldn't rent it of
him if he did! Just think of it,--that boy! I believe he really means
to write to Chicago, to his guardian. Of course it never came into my
head when I told him; it wouldn't at any rate, and I never think of
_his_ having such a quantity of money. He seems just like--as far as
that goes--any other boy. What shall I do? Do you believe he will?
P.S. Saturday morning. I feel better about that Poll Parroting of
mine, to-day. I have had another talk with Dakie. I don't believe he
will write; now, at any rate. O girls! this is just the most perfect
Tell Stephen I've got a _splendid_ little idea, on purpose for him and
me. Something I can hardly keep to myself till I get home. Dakie
Thayne put it into my head. He is just the brightest boy, about
everything! I begin to feel in a hurry almost, to come back. I don't
think Miss Pennington will go to Lake George, after all. She says she
hates to leave the Point, so many of her old friends are here. But Pen
and I think she is afraid of the steamers.
* * * * *
Ruth got home a week after this; a little fatter, a little browner,
and a little merrier and more talkative than she had ever been before.
Stephen was in a great hurry about the splendid little mysterious
idea, of course. Boys never can wait, half so well as girls, for
We were all out on the balcony that night before dusk, as usual. Ruth
got up suddenly, and went into the house for something. Stephen went
straight in after her. What happened upon that, the rest of us did not
know till afterward. But it is a nice little part of the story,--just
because there is so precious little of it.
Ruth went round, through the brown room and the hall, to the front
door. Stephen found her stooping down, with her face close to the
"Hollo! what's the matter? Lost something?"
Ruth lifted up her head. "Hush!"
"Why, how your face shines! What _is_ up?"
"It's the sunset. I mean--that shines. Don't say anything. Our
splendid--little--idea, you know. It's under here."
"Be dar--never-minded, if mine is!"
"You don't know. Columbus didn't know where his idea was--exactly. Do
you remember when Sphinx hid her kittens under here last summer?
Brought 'em round, over the wood-pile in the shed, and they never
knew their way out till she showed 'em?"
"It _isn't_ about kittens!"
"Hasn't Old Ma'amselle got some now?"
"Couldn't you bring up one--or two--to-morrow morning _early_, and
make a place and tuck 'em in here, under the step, and put back the
sod, and fasten 'em up?"
"What--_for_?" with wild amazement.
"I can't do what I want to, just for an idea. It will make a noise,
and I don't feel sure enough. There had better be a kitten. I'll tell
you the rest to-morrow morning." And Ruth was up on her two little
feet, and had given Stephen a kiss, and was back into the house, and
round again to the balcony, before he could say another word.
Boys like a plan, though; especially a mysterious getting-up-early
plan; and if it has cats in it, it is always funny. He made up his
mind to be on hand.
Ruth was first, though. She kept her little bolt drawn all night,
between her room and that of Barbara and Rose. At five o'clock, she
went softly across the passage to Stephen's room, in her little
wrapper and knit slippers. "I shall be ready in ten minutes," she
whispered, right into his ear, and into his dream.
"Scat!" cried Stephen, starting up bewildered.
And Ruth "scatted."
Down on the front piazza, twenty minutes after, she superintended the
tucking in of the kittens, and then told him to bring a mallet and
wedge. She had been very particular to have the kittens put under at a
precise place, though there was a ready-made hole farther on. The cat
babies mewed and sprawled and dragged themselves at feeble length on
their miserable little legs, as small blind kittiewinks are given to
"They won't go far," said Ruth. "Now, let's take this board up."
"What--_for_?" cried Stephen, again.
"To get them out, of course," says Ruth.
"Well, if girls ain't queer! Queerer than cats!"
"Hush!" said Ruth, softly. "I _believe_--but I don't dare say a word
yet--there's something there!"
"Of course there is. Two little yowling--"
"Something we all want found, Steve," Ruth whispered, earnestly. "But
I don't know. Do hush! Make haste!"
Stephen put down his face to the crack, and took a peep. Rather a long
serious peep. When he took his face back again, "I _see_ something,"
he said. "It's white paper. Kind of white, that is. Do you suppose,
Ruth--? My cracky! if you do!"
"We won't suppose," said Ruth. "We'll hammer."
Stephen knocked up the end of the board with the mallet, and then he
got the wedge under and pried. Ruth pulled. Stephen kept hammering and
prying, and Ruth held on to all he gained, until they slipped the
wedge along gradually, to where the board was nailed again, to the
middle joist or stringer. Then a few more vigorous strokes, and a
little smart levering, and the nails loosened, and one good wrench
lifted it from the inside timber and they slid it out from under the
Underneath lay a long, folded paper, much covered with drifts of
dust, and speckled somewhat with damp. But it was a dry, sandy place,
and weather had not badly injured it.
"Stephen, I am sure!" said Ruth, holding Stephen back by the arm.
"Don't touch it, though! Let it be, right there. Look at that corner,
that lies opened up a little. Isn't that grandfather's writing?"
It lay deep down, and not directly under. They could scarcely have
reached it with their hands. Stephen ran into the parlor, and brought
out an opera-glass that was upon the table there.
"That's bright of you, Steve!" cried Ruth.
Through the glass they discerned clearly the handwriting. They read
the words, at the upturned corner,--"heirs after him."
"Lay the board back in its place," said Ruth. "It isn't for us to
meddle with any more. Take the kittens away." Ruth had turned quite
Going down to the barn with Stephen, presently, carrying the two
kittens in her arms, while he had the mallet and wedge,--
"Stephen," said she, "I'm going to do something on my own
"I should think you had."
"O, that was nothing. I had to do that. I had to make sure before I
said anything. But now,--I'm going to ask Uncle and Aunt Roderick to
come over. They ought to be here, you know."
"Why! don't you suppose they will believe, _now_?"
"Stephen Holabird! you're a bad boy! No; of course it isn't _that_."
Ruth kept right on from the barn, across the field, into the "old
Mrs. Roderick Holabird was out in the east piazza, watering her house
plants, that stood in a row against the wall. Her cats always had
their milk, and her plants their water, before she had her own
breakfast. It was a good thing about Mrs. Roderick Holabird, and it
was a good time to take her.
"Aunt Roderick," said Ruth, coming up, "I want you and Uncle to come
over right after breakfast; or before, if you like; if you please."
It was rather sudden, but for the repeated "ifs."
"_You_ want!" said Mrs. Roderick in surprise. "Who sent you?"
"Nobody. Nobody knows but Stephen and me. Something is going to
happen." Ruth smiled, as one who has a pleasant astonishment in store.
She smiled right up out of her heart-faith in Aunt Roderick and
"On the whole, I guess you'd better come right off,--_to_ breakfast!"
How boldly little Ruth took the responsibility! Mr. and Mrs. Roderick
had not been over to our house for at least two months. It had seemed
to happen so. Father always went there to attend to the "business."
The "papers" were all at grandfather's. All but this one, that the
"gale" had taken care of.
Uncle Roderick, hearing the voices, came out into the piazza.
"We want you over at our house," repeated Ruth. "Right off, now;
there's something you ought to see about."
"I don't like mysteries," said Mrs. Roderick, severely, covering her
curiosity; "especially when children get them up. And it's no matter
about the breakfast, either way. We can walk across, I suppose, Mr.
Holabird, and see what it is all about. Kittens, I dare say."
"Yes," said Ruth, laughing out; "it _is_ kittens, partly. Or was."
So we saw them, from mother's room window, all coming along down the
side-hill path together.
We always went out at the front door to look at the morning. Arctura
had set the table, and baked the biscuits; we could breathe a little
first breath of life, nowadays, that did not come out of the oven.
Father was in the door-way. Stephen stood, as if he had been put
there, over the loose board, that we did not know was loose.
Ruth brought Uncle and Aunt Roderick up the long steps, and so around.
"Good morning," said father, surprised. "Why, Ruth, what is it?" And
he met them right on that very loose board; and Stephen stood stock
still, pertinaciously in the way, so that they dodged and blundered
"Yes, Ruth; what is it?" said Mrs. Roderick Holabird.
Then Ruth, after she had got the family solemnly together, began to be
struck with the solemnity. Her voice trembled.
"I didn't mean to make a fuss about it; only I knew you would all
care, and I wanted--Stephen and I have found something, mother!" She
turned to Mrs. Stephen Holabird, and took her hand, and held it hard.
Stephen stooped down, and drew out the loose board. "Under there,"
said he; and pointed in.
They could all see the folded paper, with the drifts of dust upon it,
just as it had lain for almost a year.
"It has been there ever since the day of the September Gale, father,"
he said. "The day, you know, that grandfather was here."
"Don't you remember the wind and the papers?" said Ruth. "It was
remembering that, that put it into our heads. I never thought of the
cracks and--" with a little, low, excited laugh--"the 'total depravity
of inanimate things,' till--just a little while ago."
She did not say a word about that bright boy at West Point, now,
before them all.
Uncle Roderick reached in with the crook of his cane, and drew
forward the packet, and stooped down and lifted it up. He shook off
the dust and opened it. He glanced along the lines, and at the
signature. Not a single witnessing name. No matter. Uncle Roderick is
an honest man. He turned round and held it out to father.
"It is your deed of gift," said he; and then they two shook hands.
"There!" said Ruth, tremulous with gladness. "I knew they would. That
was it. That was why. I told you, Stephen!"
"No, you didn't," said Stephen. "You never told me anything--but
"Well! I'm sure I am glad it is all settled," said Mrs. Roderick
Holabird, after a pause; "and nobody has any hard thoughts to lay up."
They would not stop to breakfast; they said they would come another
But Aunt Roderick, just before she went away, turned round and kissed
Ruth. She is a supervising, regulating kind of a woman, and very
strict about--well, other people's--expenditures; but she was glad
that the "hard thoughts" were lifted off from her.
* * * * *
"I knew," said Ruth, again, "that we were all good people, and that it
must come right."
"Don't tell _me!_" says Miss Trixie, intolerantly. "She couldn't help
Leslie Goldthwaite's world of friendship is not a circle. Or if it is,
it is the far-off, immeasurable horizon that holds all of life and
"You must draw the line somewhere," people say. "You cannot be
acquainted with everybody."
But Leslie's lines are only radii. They reach out to wherever there is
a sympathy; they hold fast wherever they have once been joined.
Consequently, she moves to laws that seem erratic to those for whom a
pair of compasses can lay down the limit. Consequently, her wedding
If Olivia Marchbanks had been going to be married there would have
been a "circle" invited. Nobody would have been left out; nobody would
have been let in. She had lived in this necromantic ring; she would
be married in it; she would die and be buried in it; and of all the
wide, rich, beautiful champaign of life beyond,--of all its noble
heights, and hidden, tender hollows,--its gracious harvest fields, and
its deep, grand, forest glooms,--she would be content, elegantly and
exclusively, to know nothing. To her wedding people might come,
indeed, from a distance,--geographically; but they would come out of a
precisely corresponding little sphere in some other place, and fit
right into this one, for the time being, with the most edifying
From the east and the west, the north and the south, they began to
come, days beforehand,--the people who could not let Leslie
Goldthwaite be married without being there. There were no proclamation
cards issued, bearing in imposing characters the announcement of
"Their Daughter's Marriage," by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Goldthwaite, after
the like of which one almost looks to see, and somewhat feels the need
of, the regular final invocation,--"God save the Commonwealth!"
There had been loving letters sent here and there; old Miss Craydocke,
up in the mountains, got one, and came down a month earlier in
consequence, and by the way of Boston. She stayed there at Mrs. Frank
Scherman's; and Frank and his wife and little Sinsie, the baby,--"she
isn't Original Sin, as I was," says her mother,--came up to Z----
together, and stopped at the hotel. Martha Josselyn came from New
York, and stayed, of course, with the Inglesides.
Martha is a horrible thing, girls; how do you suppose I dare to put
her in here as I do? She is a milliner. And this is how it happens.
Her father is a comparatively poor man,--a book-keeper with a salary.
There are ever so many little Josselyns; and Martha has always felt
bound to help. She is not very likely to marry, and she is not one to
take it into her calculation, if she were; but she is of the sort who
are said to be "cut out for old maids," and she knows it. She could
not teach music, nor keep a school, her own schooling--not her
education; God never lets that be cut short--was abridged by the need
of her at home. But she could do anything in the world with scissors
and needle; and she can make just the loveliest bonnets that ever were
So, as she can help more by making two bonnets in a day, and getting
six dollars for them beside the materials, she lets her step-mother
put out her impossible sewing, and has turned a little second-story
room in her father's house into a private millinery establishment. She
will only take the three dollars apiece, beyond the actual cost, for
her bonnets, although she might make a fortune if she would be
rapacious; for she says that pays her fairly for her time, and she has
made up her mind to get through the world fairly, if there is any
breathing-space left for fairness in it. If not, she can stop
breathing, and go where there is.
She gets as much to do as she can take. "Miss Josselyn" is one of the
little unadvertised resources of New York, which it is very knowing,
and rather elegant, to know about. But it would not be at all elegant
to have her at a party. Hence, Mrs. Van Alstyne, who had a little
bonnet, of black lace and nasturtiums, at this very time, that Martha
Josselyn had made for her, was astonished to find that she was Mrs.
Ingleside's sister and had come on to the marriage.
General and Mrs. Ingleside--Leslie's cousin Delight--had come from
their away-off, beautiful Wisconsin home, and brought little
three-year-old Rob and Rob's nurse with them. Sam Goldthwaite was at
home from Philadelphia, where he is just finishing his medical
course,--and Harry was just back again from the Mediterranean; so that
Mrs. Goldthwaite's house was full too. Jack could not be here; they
all grieved over that. Jack is out in Japan. But there came a
wonderful "solid silk" dress, and a lovely inlaid cabinet, for
Leslie's wedding present,--the first present that arrived from
anybody; sent the day he got the news;--and Leslie cried over them,
and kissed them, and put the beautiful silk away, to be made up in the
fashion next year, when Jack comes home; and set his picture on the
cabinet, and put his letters into it, and says she does not know what
other things she shall find quite dear enough to keep them company.
Last of all, the very day before the wedding, came old Mr. Marmaduke
Wharne. And of all things in the world, he brought her a telescope.
"To look out at creation with, and keep her soul wide," he says, and
"to put her in mind of that night when he first found her out, among
the Hivites and the Hittites and the Amalekites, up in Jefferson, and
took her away among the planets, out of the snarl."
Miss Craydocke has been all summer making a fernery for Leslie; and
she took two tickets in the cars, and brought it down beside her, on
the seat, all the way from Plymouth, and so out here. How they could
get it to wherever they are going we all wondered, but Dr. Hautayne
said it should go; he would have it most curiously packed, in a box on
rollers, and marked,--"Dr. J. Hautayne, U.S. Army. Valuable scientific
preparations; by no means to be turned or shaken." But he did say,
with a gentle prudence,--"If somebody should give you an observatory,
or a greenhouse, I think we might have to stop at _that_, dear."
Nobody did, however. There was only one more big present, and that did
not come. Dakie Thayne knew better. He gave her a magnificent copy of
the Sistine Madonna, which his father had bought in Italy, and he
wrote her that it was to be boxed and sent after her to her home.
_He_ did not say that it was magnificent; Leslie wrote that to us
afterward, herself. She said it made it seem as if one side of her
little home had been broken through and let in heaven.
We were all sorry that Dakie could not be here. They waited till
September for Harry; "but who," wrote Dakie, "could expect a military
engagement to wait till all the stragglers could come up? I have given
my consent and my blessing; all I ask is that you will stop at West
Point on your way." And that was what they were going to do.
Arabel Waite and Delia made all the wedding dresses. But Mrs.
Goldthwaite had her own carefully perfected patterns, adjusted to a
line in every part. Arabel meekly followed these, and saved her whole,
fresh soul to pour out upon the flutings and finishing.
It was a morning wedding, and a pearl of days. The summer had not gone
from a single leaf. Only the parch and the blaze were over, and
beautiful dews had cooled away their fever. The day-lilies were white
among their broad, tender green leaves, and the tube-roses had come in
blossom. There were beds of red and white carnations, heavy with
perfume. The wide garden porch, into which double doors opened from
the summer-room where they were married, showed these, among the
grass-walks of the shady, secluded place, through its own splendid
vista of trumpet-hung bignonia vines.
Everybody wanted to help at this wedding who could help. Arabel Waite
asked to be allowed to pour out coffee, or something. So in a black
silk gown, and a new white cap, she took charge of the little room up
stairs, where were coffee and cakes and sandwiches for the friends who
came from a distance by the train, and might be glad of something to
eat at twelve o'clock. Delia offered, "if she only might," to assist
in the dining-room, where the real wedding collation stood ready. And
even our Arctura came and asked if she might be "lent," to "open
doors, or anything." The regular maids of the house found labor so
divided that it was a festival day all through.
Arctura looked as pretty a little waiting-damsel as might be seen, in
her brown, two-skirted, best delaine dress, and her white, ruffled,
muslin bib-apron, her nicely arranged hair, braided up high around her
head and frizzed a little, gently, at the front,--since why shouldn't
she, too, have a bit of the fashion?--and tied round with a soft,
simple white ribbon. Delia had on a violet-and-white striped pique,
quite new, with a ruffled apron also; and her ribbon was white, too,
and she had a bunch of violets and green leaves upon her bosom. We
cared as much about their dress as they did about ours. Barbara
herself had pinched Arctura's crimps, and tied the little white bow
Every room in the house was attended.
"There never was such pretty serving," said Mrs. Van Alstyne,
afterward. "Where _did_ they get such people?--And beautiful serving,"
she went on, reverting to her favorite axiom, "is, after all, the very
soul of living!"
"Yes, ma'am," said Barbara, gravely. "I think we shall find that true
Opposite the door into the garden porch were corresponding ones into
the hall, and directly down to these reached the last flight of the
staircase, that skirted the walls at the back with its steps and
landings. We could see Leslie all the way, as she came down, with her
hand in her father's arm.
She descended beside him like a softly accompanying white cloud; her
dress was of tulle, without a hitch or a puff or a festoon about it.
It had two skirts, I believe, but they were plain-hemmed, and fell
like a mist about her figure. Underneath was no rustling silk, or
shining satin; only more mist, of finest, sheerest quaker-muslin; you
could not tell where the cloud met the opaque of soft, unstarched
cambric below it all. And from her head to her feet floated the
shimmering veil, fastened to her hair with only two or three tube-rose
blooms and the green leaves and white stars of the larger myrtle.
There was a cluster of them upon her bosom, and she held some in her
Dr. Hautayne looked nobly handsome, as he came forward to her side
in his military dress; but I think we all had another picture of
him in our minds,--dusty, and battle-stained, bareheaded, in his
shirt-sleeves, as he rode across the fire to save men's lives. When a
man has once looked like that, it does not matter how he ever merely
Marmaduke Wharne stood close by Ruth, during the service. She saw his
gray, shaggy brows knit themselves into a low, earnest frown, as he
fixedly watched and listened; but there was a shining underneath, as
still water-drops shine under the gray moss of some old, cleft rock;
and a pleasure upon the lines of the rough-cast face, that was like
the tender glimmering of a sunbeam.
When Marmaduke Wharne first saw John Hautayne, he put his hand upon
his shoulder, and held him so, while he looked him hardly in the face.
"Do you think you deserve her, John?" the old man said. And John
looked him back, and answered straightly, "No!" It was not mere apt
and effective reply; there was an honest heartful on the lips and in
the eyes; and Leslie's old friend let his hand slip down along the
strong, young arm, until it grasped the answering hand, and said
"Perhaps, then, John,--you'll do!"
"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" That is what the
church asks, in her service, though nobody asked it here to-day. But
we all felt we had a share to give of what we loved so much. Her
father and her mother gave; her girl friends gave; Miss Trixie Spring,
Arabel Waite, Delia, little Arctura, the home-servants, gathered in
the door-way, all gave; Miss Craydocke, crying, and disdaining her
pocket-handkerchief till the tears trickled off her chin, because she
was smiling also and would not cover _that_ up,--gave; and nobody gave
with a more loving wrench out of a deep heart, than bluff old frowning
* * * * *
Nobody knows the comfort that we Holabirds took, though, in those
autumn days, after all this was over, in our home; feeling every
bright, comfortable minute, that our home was our own. "It is so nice
to have it to love grandfather by," said Ruth, like a little child.
"Everything is so pleasant," said Barbara, one sumptuous morning.
"I've so many nice things that I can choose among to do. I feel like a
bee in a barrel of sugar. I don't know where to begin." Barbara had a
new dress to make; she had also a piece of worsted work to begin; she
had also two new books to read aloud, that Mrs. Scherman had brought
up from Boston.
We felt rich in much prospectively; we could afford things better now;
we had proposed and arranged a book-club; Miss Pennington and we were
to manage it; Mrs. Scherman was to purchase for us. Ruth was to have
plenty of music. Life was full and bright to us, this golden
autumn-time, as it had never been before. The time itself was radiant;
and the winter was stored beforehand with pleasures; Arctura was as
glad as anybody; she hears our readings in the afternoons, when she
can come up stairs, and sit mending stockings or hemming aprons.
We knew, almost for the first time, what it was to be without any
pressure of anxiety. We dared to look round the house and see what was
wearing out. We could replace things--_some_, at any rate--as well as
not; so we had the delight of choosing, and the delight of putting by;
it was a delicious perplexity. We all felt like Barbara's bee; and
when she said that once she said it for every day, all through the new
and happy time.
It was wonderful how little there was, after all, that we did want in
any hurry. We thought it over. We did not care to carpet the
dining-room; we liked the drugget and the dark wood-margins better. It
came down pretty nearly, at last, so far as household improvements
were concerned, to a new broadcloth cover for the great family table
in the brown-room.
Barbara's _bee_-havior, however, had its own queer fluctuations at
this time, it must be confessed. Whatever the reason was, it was not
altogether to be depended on. It had its alternations of humming
content with a good deal of whimsical bouncing and buzzing and the
most unpredictable flights. To use a phrase of Aunt Trixie's applied
to her childhood, but coming into new appropriateness now, Barbara
"acted like a witch."
She began at the wedding. Only a minute or two before Leslie came
down, Harry Goldthwaite moved over to where she stood just a little
apart from the rest of us, by the porch door, and placed himself
beside her, with some little commonplace word in a low tone, as
befitted the hushed expectancy of the moment.
All at once, with an "O, I forgot!" she started away from him in the
abruptest fashion, and glanced off across the room, and over into a
little side parlor beyond the hall, into which she certainly had not
been before that day. She could have "forgotten" nothing there; but
she doubtless had just enough presence of mind not to rush up the
staircase toward the dressing-rooms, at the risk of colliding with the
bridal party. When Leslie an instant later came in at the double
doors, Mrs. Holabird caught sight of Barbara again just sliding into
the far, lower corner of the room by the forward entrance, where she
stood looking out meekly between the shoulders and the floating
cap-ribbons of Aunt Trixie Spring and Miss Arabel Waite during the
Whether it was that she felt there was something dangerous in the air,
or that Harry Goldthwaite had some new awfulness in her eyes from
being actually a commissioned officer,--Ensign Goldthwaite, now,
(Rose had borrowed from the future, for the sake of euphony and
effect, when she had so retorted feet and dignities upon her last
year,)--we could not guess; but his name or presence seemed all at
once a centre of electrical disturbances in which her whisks and
whirls were simply to be wondered at.
"I don't see why he should tell _me_ things," was what she said to
Rosamond one day, when she took her to task after Harry had gone, for
making off almost before he had done speaking, when he had been
telling us of the finishing of some business that Mr. Goldthwaite had
managed for him in Newburyport. It was the sale of a piece of property
that he had there, from his father, of houses and building-lots that
had been unprofitable to hold, because of uncertain tenants and high
taxes, but which were turned now into a comfortable round sum of
"I shall not be so poor now, as if I had only my pay," said Harry. At
which Barbara had disappeared.
"Why, you were both there!" said Barbara.
"Well, yes; we were there in a fashion. He was sitting by you, though,
and he looked up at you, just then. It did not seem very friendly."
"I'm sure I didn't notice; I don't see why he should tell me things,"
said whimsical Barbara.
"Well, perhaps he will stop," said Rose, quietly, and walked away.
It seemed, after a while, as if he would. He could not understand
Barbara in these days. All her nice, cordial, honest ways were gone.
She was always shying at something. Twice he was here, when she did
not come into the room until tea-time.
"There are so many people," she said, in her unreasonable manner.
"They make me nervous, looking and listening."
We had Miss Craydocke and Mrs. Scherman with us then. We had asked
them to come and spend a week with us before they left Z----.
Miss Craydocke had found Barbara one evening, in the twilight,
standing alone in one of the brown-room windows. She had come up, in
her gentle, old-friendly way, and stood beside her.
"My dear," she said, with the twilight impulse of nearness,--"I am an
old woman. Aren't you pushing something away from you, dear?"
"Ow!" said Barbara, as if Miss Craydocke had pinched her. And poor
Miss Craydocke could only walk away again.
When it came to Aunt Roderick, though, it was too much. Aunt Roderick
came over a good deal now. She had quite taken us into unqualified
approval again, since we had got the house. She approved herself also.
As if it was she who had died and left us something, and looked back
upon it now with satisfaction. At least, as if she had been the
September Gale, and had taken care of that paper for us.
Aunt Roderick has very good practical eyes; but no sentiment whatever.
"It seems to me, Barbara, that you are throwing away your
opportunities," she said, plainly.
Barbara looked up with a face of bold unconsciousness. She was
brought to bay, now; Aunt Roderick could exasperate her, but she could
not touch the nerve, as dear Miss Craydocke could.
"I always am throwing them away," said Barbara. "It's my fashion. I
never could save corners. I always put my pattern right into the
middle of my piece, and the other half never comes out, you see. What
have I done, now? Or what do you think I might do, just at present?"
"I think you might save yourself from being sorry by and by," said
"I'm ever so much obliged to you," said Barbara, collectedly. "Just as
much as if I could understand. But perhaps there'll be some light
given. I'll turn it over in my mind. In the mean while, Aunt Roderick,
I just begin to see one very queer thing in the world. You've lived
longer than I have; I wish you could explain it. There are some things
that everybody is very delicate about, and there are some that they
take right hold of. People might have _pocket_-perplexities for years
and years, and no created being would dare to hint or ask a question;
but the minute it is a case of heart or soul,--or they think it
is,--they 'rush right in where angels fear to tread.' What _do_ you
suppose makes the difference?"
After that, we all let her alone, behave as she might. We saw that
there could be no meddling without marring. She had been too conscious
of us all, before anybody spoke. We could only hope there was no real
mischief done, already.
"It's all of them, every one!" she repeated, half hysterically, that
day, after her shell had exploded, and Aunt Roderick had retreated,
really with great forbearance. "Miss Craydocke began, and I had to
scream at her; even Sin Scherman made a little moral speech about her
own wild ways, and set that baby crowing over me! And once Aunt Trixie
'vummed' at me. And I'm sure I ain't doing a single thing!" She
whimpered and laughed, like a little naughty boy, called to account
for mischief, and pretending surprised innocence, yet secretly at once
enjoying and repenting his own badness; and so we had to let her
But after a while Harry Goldthwaite stayed away four whole days, and
then he only came in to say that he was going to Washington to be gone
a week. It was October, now, and his orders might come any day. Then
we might not see him again for three years, perhaps.
On the Thursday of that next week, Barbara said she would go down and
see Mrs. Goldthwaite.
"I think it quite time you should," said Mrs. Holabird. Barbara had
not been down there once since the wedding-day.
She put her crochet in her pocket, and we thought of course she would
stay to tea. It was four in the afternoon when she went away.
About an hour later Olivia Marchbanks called.
It came out that Olivia had a move to make. In fact, that she wanted
to set us all to making moves. She proposed a chess-club, for the
winter, to bring us together regularly; to include half a dozen
families, and meet by turn at the different houses.
"I dare say Miss Pennington will have her neighborhood parties
again," she said; "they are nice, but rather exhausting; we want
something quiet, to come in between. Something a little more among
ourselves, you know. Maria Hendee is a splendid chess-player, and so
is Mark. Maud plays with her father, and Adelaide and I are learning.
I know you play, Rosamond, and Barbara,--doesn't she? Nobody can
complain of a chess-club, you see; and we can have a table at whist
for the elders who like it, and almost always a round game for the
odds and ends. After supper, we can dance, or anything. Don't you
think it would do?"
"I think it would do nicely for _one_ thing," said Rose, thoughtfully.
"But don't let us allow it to be the _whole_ of our winter."
Olivia Marchbanks's face clouded. She had put forward a little pawn of
compliment toward us, as towards a good point, perhaps, for tempting a
break in the game. And behold! Rosamond's knight only leaped right
over it, facing honestly and alertly both ways.
"Chess would be good for nothing less than once a week," said Olivia.
"I came to you almost the very first, out of the family," she added,
with a little height in her manner. "I hope you won't break it up."
"Break it up! No, indeed! We were all getting just nicely joined
together," replied Rosamond, ladylike with perfect temper. "I think
last winter was so _really good_," she went on; "I should be sorry to
break up what _that_ did; that is all."
"I'm willing enough to help in those ways," said Olivia,
condescendingly; "but I think we might have our _own_ things, too."
"I don't know, Olivia," said Rosamond, slowly, "about these 'own
things.' They are just what begin to puzzle me."
It was the bravest thing our elegant Rosamond had ever done. Olivia
Marchbanks was angry. She all but took back her invitation.
"Never mind," she said, getting up to take leave. "It must be some
time yet; I only mentioned it. Perhaps we had better not try to go
beyond ourselves, after all. Such things are sure to be stupid unless
everybody is really interested."
Rosamond stood in the hall-door, as she went down the steps and away.
At the same moment, Barbara, flushed with an evidently hurried walk,
came in. "Why! what makes you so red, Rose?" she said.
"Somebody has been snubbing somebody," replied Rose, holding her royal
color, like her namesake, in the midst of a cool repose. "And I don't
quite know whether it is Olivia Marchbanks or I."
"A color-question between Rose and Barberry!" said Ruth. "What have
_you_ been doing, Barbie? Why didn't you stay to tea?"
"I? I've been walking, of course.--That boy has got home again," she
added, half aloud, to Rosamond, as they went up stairs.
We knew _very_ well that she must have been queer to Harry again. He
would have been certain to walk home with her, if she would have let
him. But--"all through the town, and up the hill, in the daylight!
Or--stay to tea with _him_ there, and make him come, in the dark!--And
_if_ he imagined that I knew!" We were as sure as if she had said it,
that these were the things that were in her mind, and that these were
what she had run away from. How she had done it we did not know; we
had no doubt it had been something awful.
The next morning nobody called. Father came home to dinner and said
Mr. Goldthwaite had told him that Harry was under orders,--to the
In the afternoon Barbara went out and nailed up the woodbines. Then
she put on her hat, and took a great bundle that had been waiting for
a week for somebody to carry, and said she would go round to South
Hollow with it, to Mrs. Dockery.
"You will be tired to death. You are tired already, hammering at those
vines," said mother, anxiously. Mothers cannot help daughters much in
"I want the exercise," said Barbara, turning away her face that was at
once red and pale. "Pounding and stamping are good for me." Then she
came back in a hurry, and kissed mother, and then she went away.
Mrs. Hobart has a "fire-gown." That is what she calls it; she made it
for a fire, or for illness, or any night alarm; she never goes to bed
without hanging it over a chair-back, within instant reach. It is of
double, bright-figured flannel, with a double cape sewed on; and a
flannel belt, also sewed on behind, and furnished, for fastening, with
a big, reliable, easy-going button and button-hole. Up and down the
front--not too near together--are more big, reliable, easy-going
buttons and button-holes. A pair of quilted slippers with thick soles
belong with this gown, and are laid beside it. Then Mrs. Hobart goes
to bed in peace, and sleeps like the virgin who knows there is oil in
If Mrs. Roger Marchbanks had known of Mrs. Hobart's fire-gown, and
what it had been made and waiting for, unconsciously, all these years,
she might not have given those quiet orders to her discreet, well-bred
parlor-maid, by which she was never to be "disengaged" when Mrs.
Mrs. Hobart has also a gown of very elegant black silk, with deep,
rich border-folds of velvet, and a black camel's-hair shawl whose
priceless margin comes up to within three inches of the middle; and in
these she has turned meekly away from Mrs. Marchbanks's vestibule,
leaving her inconsequential card, many wondering times; never
doubting, in her simplicity, that Mrs. Marchbanks was really making
pies, or doing up pocket-handkerchiefs; only thinking how queer it was
it always happened so with her.
In her fire-gown she was destined to go in.
Barbara came home dreadfully tired from her walk to Mrs. Dockery's,
and went to bed at eight o'clock. When one of us does that, it always
breaks up our evening early. Mother discovered that she was sleepy by
nine, and by half past we were all in our beds. So we really had a
fair half night of rest before the alarm came.
It was about one in the morning when Barbara woke, as people do who go
to bed achingly tired, and sleep hungrily for a few eager hours.
"My gracious! what a moon! What ails it?"
The room was full of red light.
Rosamond sat up beside her.
"Moon! It's fire!"
Then they called Ruth and mother. Father and Stephen were up and out
of doors in five minutes.
The Roger Marchbanks's stables were blazing. The wind was carrying
great red cinders straight over on to the house roofs. The buildings
were a little down on our side of the hill, and a thick plantation of
evergreens hid them from the town. Everything was still as death but
the crackling of the flames. A fire in the country, in the dead of
night, to those first awakened to the knowledge of it, is a stealthily
fearful, horribly triumphant thing. Not a voice nor a bell smiting the
air, where all will soon be outcry and confusion; only the fierce,
busy diligence of the blaze, having all its own awful will, and making
steadfast headway against the sleeping skill of men.
We all put on some warm things, and went right over.
Father found Mr. Marchbanks, with his gardener, at the back of the
house, playing upon the scorching frames of the conservatory building
with the garden engine. Up on the house-roof two other men-servants
were hanging wet carpets from the eaves, and dashing down buckets of
water here and there, from the reservoir inside.
Mr. Marchbanks gave father a small red trunk. "Will you take this to
your house and keep it safe?" he asked. And father hastened away with
Within the house, women were rushing, half dressed, through the rooms,
and down the passages and staircases. We went up through the back
piazza, and met Mrs. Hobart in her fire-gown at the unfastened door.
There was no card to leave this time, no servant to say that Mrs.
Marchbanks was "particularly engaged."
Besides her gown, Mrs. Hobart had her theory, all ready for a fire.
Just exactly what she should do, first and next, and straight through,
in case of such a thing. She had recited it over to herself and her
family till it was so learned by heart that she believed no flurry of
the moment would put it wholly out of their heads.
She went straight up Mrs. Marchbanks's great oak staircase, to go up
which had been such a privilege for the bidden few. Rough feet would
go over it, unbidden, to-night.
She met Mrs. Marchbanks at her bedroom door. In the upper story the
cook and house-maids were handing buckets now to the men outside. The
fine parlor-maid was down in the kitchen at the force-pump, with