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  • 1866
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and spent hours there, with books or work, or looking forth in a luxurious listlessness from out the cool upon the warm, bright valley-picture, and the shining water wandering down from far heights and unknown solitudes to see the world.

“It’s better so,” said Miss Craydocke, when the others left them. “I had a word I wanted to say to you. What do you suppose those two came up here to the mountains for?” And Miss Craydocke nodded up, indicatively, toward the two girl-figures just visible by their draperies in a nook of rock beyond and above the benches.

“To get the good of them, as we did, I suppose,” Leslie answered, wondering a little what Miss Craydocke might exactly mean.

“I suppose so, too,” was the reply. “And I suppose–the Lord’s love came with them! I suppose He cares whether they get the full of the good. And yet I think He leaves it, like everything else, a little to us.”

Leslie’s heart beat quicker, hearing these words. It beat quicker always when such thoughts were touched. She was shy of seeking them; she almost tried, in an involuntary way, to escape them at first, when they were openly broached; yet she longed always, at the same time, for a deeper understanding of them. “I should like to know the Miss Josselyns better,” she said presently, when Miss Craydocke made no haste to speak again. “I have been thinking so this morning. I have thought so very often. But they seem so quiet, always. One doesn’t like to intrude.”

“They ought to be more with young people,” Miss Craydocke went on. “And they ought to do less ripping and sewing and darning, if it could be managed. They brought three trunks with them. And what do you think the third is full of?”

Leslie had no idea, of course.

“Old winter dresses. To be made over. For the children at home. So that their mother may be coaxed to take her turn and go away upon a visit when they get back, seeing that the fall sewing will be half done! That’s a pretty coming to the mountains for two tired-out young things, I think!”

“Oh dear!” cried Leslie pitifully; and then a secret compunction seized her, thinking of her own little elegant, odd-minute work, which was all she had to interfere with mountain pleasure.

“And isn’t it some of our business, if we could get at it?” asked Miss Craydocke, concluding.

“Dear Miss Craydocke!” said Leslie, with a warm brightness in her face, as she looked up, “the world is full of business; but so few people find out any but their own! Nobody but you dreamt of this, or of Prissy Hoskins, till you showed us,–or of all the little Wigleys. How do you come to know, when other people go on in their own way, and see nothing,–like the priests and Levites?” This last she added by a sudden occurrence and application, that half answered, beforehand, her own question.

“When we think of people’s needs as the _Master’s!_” said Miss Craydocke, evading herself, and never minding her syntax. “When we think what every separate soul is to Him, that He came into the world to care for as God cares for the sparrows! It’s my faith that He’s never gone away from his work, dear; that his love lies alongside every life, and in all its experience; and that his life is in his love; and that if we want to find Him–_there_ we may! Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.'” She grew eloquent–the plain, simple-speaking woman–when something that was great and living to her would find utterance.

“How do you mean that?” said Leslie, with a sort of abruptness, as of one who must have definiteness, but who hurried with her asking, lest after a minute she might not dare. “That He really knows, and thinks, of every special thing and person,–and cares? Or only _would?_”

“I take it as He said it,” said Miss Craydocke. “‘All power is given me in heaven and in earth.’ ‘And lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!’ He put the two together himself, dear!”

A great, warm, instant glow seemed to rush over Leslie inwardly. In the light and quickening of it, other words shone out and declared themselves. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” And this was the abiding! The sympathy, the interest, that found itself side by side with his! The faith that felt his uniting presence with all!

To this child of sixteen came a moment’s glimpse of what might be, truly, that life which is “hid with Christ in God,” and which has its blessed work with the Lord in the world,–came, with the word of a plain, old, unconsidered woman, whom heedless girls made daily sport of,–came, bringing with it “old and new,” like a householder of the kingdom of heaven; showing how the life and the fruit are inextricably one,–how the growth and the withering are inevitably determined!

They reached the benches now; they saw the Josselyns busy up beyond, with their chess-board between them, and their mending basket at their feet; they would not go now and interrupt their game.

The seat which the sisters had chosen, because it was just a quiet little corner for two, was a nook scooped out, as it were, in a jut of granite; hollowed in behind and perpendicularly to a height above their heads, and embracing a mossy little flat below, so that it seemed like a great solid armchair into which two could get together, and a third could not possibly intrude.

Miss Craydocke and Leslie settled themselves, and both were silent. Presently Leslie spoke again, giving out a fragmentary link of the train of thought that had been going on in her. “If it weren’t for just one thing!” she said, and there she stopped.

“What?” asked Miss Craydocke, as not a bit at a loss to made out the unseen connection.

“The old puzzle. We _have_ to think and work a good deal of the time for ourselves. And then we lose sight”–

“Of Him? Why?”

Leslie said no more, but waited. Miss Craydocke’s tone was clear, untroubled. The young girl looked, therefore, for this clear confidence to be spoken out.

“Why, since He is close to _our_ life also, and cares tenderly for that?–since, if we let him possess himself of it, it is one of his own channels, by which He still gives himself unto the world? He didn’t do it all in one single history of three years, my child, or thirty-three, out there in Judaea. He keeps on,–so I believe,–through every possible way and circumstance of human living now, if only the life is grafted on his. The Vine and the branches, and God tending all. And the fruit is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is never too late, and never impossible, for a human face to look beautiful. In the soft light and shadow of the stirring pines, with the moving from within of that which at once illumined and veiled, with an exultation and an awe, there came a glory over the homely and faded features which they could neither bar nor dim. And the thought took possession of the word and tone, and made them simply grand and heavenly musical.

After that they sat still again,–it matters not how many minutes. The crisp green spines rustled dreamily over their heads; the wild birds called to each other, far back in the closer lying woods; the water glanced on, millions of new drops every instant making the self-same circles and gushes and falls, and the wealth of summer sunshine holding and vivifying all. Leslie had word and scene stamped together on her spirit and memory in those moments. There was a Presence in the hush and beauty. Two souls were here met together in the name of the living Christ. And for that there is the promise.

Martha Josselyn and her sister sat and played and mended on.

By and by Dakie Thayne came; said a bright word or two; glanced round, in restless boy-fashion, as if taking in the elements of the situation, and considering what was to be made out of it; perceived the pair at chess; and presently, with his mountain stick, went springing away from point to point, up and around the piles and masses of rock and mound that made up the broadening ascent of the ledge.

“Check to your queen,” said Sue.

Martha put her elbow upon her knee, and held her needle suspended by its thread. Sue darned away, and got a great hole laid lengthwise with smooth lines, before her threatening move had been provided for. Then a red knight came with gallant leap, right down in the midst of the white forces, menacing in his turn right and left; and Martha drew a long sigh, and sat back, and poised her needle-lance again, and went to work; and it was Sue’s turn to lean over the board with knit brows and holden breath.

Something peered over the rock above them at this moment. A boy’s head, from which the cap had been removed.

“If only they’ll play now, and not chatter!” thought Dakie Thayne, lying prone along the cliff above, and putting up his elbows to rest his head between his hands. “This’ll be jolly, if it don’t turn to eavesdropping. Poor old Noll! I haven’t had a game since I played with him!”

Sue would not withdraw her attack. She planted a bishop so that, if the knight should move, it would open a course straight down toward a weak point beside the red king.

“She means to ‘fight it out on that line, if it takes all summer,'” Dakie went on within himself, having grasped, during the long pause before Sue’s move, the whole position. “They’re no fools at it, to have got it into a shape like that! I’d just like Noll to see it!”

Martha looked, and drew a thread or two into her stocking, and looked again. Then she stabbed her cotton-ball with her needle, and put up both hands–one with the white stocking-foot still drawn over it–beside her temples. At last she castled.

Sue was as calm as the morning. She always grew calm and strong as the game drew near the end. She had even let her thoughts go off to other things while Martha pondered and she wove in the cross-threads of her darn.

“I wonder, Martha,” she said now, suddenly, before attending to the new aspect of the board, “if I couldn’t do without that muslin skirt I made to wear under my _pina_, and turn it into a couple of white waists to carry home to mother? If she goes away, you know”–


It was a short, sharp, unspellable sound that came from above. Sue started, and a red piece rolled from the board. Then there was a rustling and a crashing and a leaping, and by a much shorter and more hazardous way than he had climbed, Dakie Thayne came down and stood before them. “I had to let you know! I couldn’t listen. I was in hopes you wouldn’t talk. Don’t move, please! I’ll find the man. I do beg your pardon,–I had no business,–but I so like chess,–when it’s any sort of a game!”

While he spoke, he was looking about the base of the rock, and by good fortune spied and pounced upon the bit of bright-colored ivory, which had rolled and rested itself against a hummock of sod.

“May I see it out?” he begged, approaching, and putting the piece upon the board. “You must have played a good deal,” looking at Sue.

“We play often at home, my sister and I; and I had some good practice in”–There she stopped.

“In the hospital,” said Martha, with the sharp little way she took up sometimes. “Why shouldn’t you tell of it?”

“Has Miss Josselyn been in the hospitals?” asked Dakie Thayne, with a certain quick change in his tone.

“For the best of two years,” Martha answered.

At this moment, seeing how Dakie was breaking the ice for them, up came Miss Craydocke and Leslie Goldthwaite.

“Miss Leslie! Miss Craydocke! This lady has been away among our soldiers, in the hospitals, half through the war! Perhaps–did you ever”–But with that he broke off. There was a great flush on his face, and his eyes glowed with boy-enthusiasm lit at the thought of the war, and of brave men, and of noble, ministering women, of whom he suddenly found himself face to face with one.

The game of chess got swept together. “It was as good as over,” Martha Josselyn said. And these five sat down together among the rocks, and in half an hour, after weeks of mere “good-mornings,” they had grown to be old friends. But Dakie Thayne–he best knew why–left his fragment of a question unfinished.



The “by and by” people came at last: Jeannie and Elinor, and Sin Saxon, and the Arnalls, and Josie Scherman. They wanted Leslie,–to tell and ask her half a hundred things about the projected tableaux. If it had only been Miss Craydocke and the Josselyns sitting together, with Dakie Thayne, how would that have concerned them,–the later comers? It would only have been a bit of “the pines” preoccupied: they would have found a place for themselves, and gone on with their own chatter. But Leslie’s presence made all the difference. The little group became the nucleus of the enlarging circle. Miss Craydocke had known very well how this would be.

They asked this and that of Leslie which they had come to ask; and she would keep turning to the Josselyns and appealing to them; so they were drawn in. There was a curtain to be made, first of all. Miss Craydocke would undertake that, drafting Leslie and the Miss Josselyns to help her; they should all come to her room early to-morrow, and they would have it ready by ten o’clock. Leslie wondered a little that she found _work_ for them to do: a part of the play she thought would have been better; but Miss Craydocke knew how that must come about. Besides, she had more than one little line to lay and to pull, this serpent-wise old maiden, in behalf of her ultimate designs concerning them.

I can’t stay here under the pines and tell you all their talk this summer morning,–how Sin Saxon grew social and saucy with the quiet Miss Josselyns; how she fell upon the mending-basket and their notability, and declared that the most foolish and pernicious proverb in the world was that old thing about a stitch in time saving nine; it might save certain special stitches; but how about the _time_ itself, and _other_ stitches? She didn’t believe in it,–running round after a darning-needle and forty other things, the minute a thread broke, and dropping whatever else one had in hand, to let it ravel itself all out again; “she believed in a good big basket, in a dark closet, and laying up there for a rainy day, and being at peace in the pleasant weather. Then, too, there was another thing; she didn’t believe in notability itself, at all: the more one was fool enough to know, the more one had to do, all one’s life long. Providence always took care of the lame and the lazy; and, besides, those capable people never had contented minds. They couldn’t keep servants: their own fingers were always itching to do things better. Her sister Effie was a lamentable instance. She’d married a man,–well, not _very_ rich,–and she had set out to learn and direct everything. The consequence was, she was like Eve after the apple,–she knew good and evil; and wasn’t the garden just a wilderness after that? She never thought of it before, but she believed that was exactly what that old poem in Genesis was written for!”

How Miss Craydocke answered, with her gentle, tolerant common-sense, and right thought, and wide-awake brightness; how the Josselyns grew cordial and confident enough to confess that, with five little children in the house, there wasn’t a great necessity for laying up against a rainy day, and with stockings at a dollar and a half a pair, one was apt to get the nine stitches, or a pretty comfortable multiple of them, every Wednesday when the wash came in; and how these different kinds of lives, coming together with a friendly friction, found themselves not so uncongenial, or so incomprehensible to each other, after all,–all this, in its detail of bright words, I cannot stop to tell you; it would take a good many summers to go through one like this so fully; but when the big bell rang for dinner, they all came down the ledge together, and Sue and Martha Josselyn, for the first time in four weeks, felt themselves fairly one with the current interest and life of the gay house in which they had been dwellers and yet only lookers-on.

Mrs. Thoresby, coming down to dinner, a few minutes late, with her daughters, and pausing–as people always did at the Green Cottage, without knowing why–to step from the foot of the stairway to the open piazza-door, and glance out before turning toward the dining-room, saw the ledge party just dividing itself into its two little streams, that were to head, respectively, for cottage and hotel.

“It is a wonder to me that Mrs. Linceford allows it!” was her comment. “Just the odds and ends of all the company here. And those girls, who might take whatever stand they pleased.”

“Miss Leslie always finds out the nicest people, and the best times, _I_ think,” said Etty, who had dragged through but a dull morning behind the blinds of her mother’s window, puzzling over crochet,–which she hated, because she said it was like everlastingly poking one’s finger after a sliver,–and had caught now and then, over the still air, the laughter and bird-notes that came together from among the pines. One of the Miss Haughtleys had sat with them; but that only “stiffened out the dullness,” as Etty had declared, the instant the young lady left them.

“Don’t be pert, Etty. You don’t know what you want, or what is for your interest. The Haddens were well enough, by themselves; but when it comes to Tom, Dick, and Harry!”

“I don’t believe that’s elegant, mamma,” said Etty demurely; “and there isn’t Tom, Dick, nor Harry; only Dakie Thayne, and that nice, _nice_ Miss Craydocke! And–I _hate_ the Haughtleys!” This with a sudden explosiveness at the last, after the demureness.

“Etty!”–and Mrs. Thoresby intoned an indescribable astonishment of displeasure in her utterance of her daughter’s name,–“remember yourself. You are neither to be impertinent to me, nor to speak rudely of persons whom I choose for your acquaintance. When you are older, you will come to understand how these chance meetings may lead to the most valuable friendships, or, on the contrary, to the most mortifying embarrassments. In the mean time, you are to be guided.” After which little sententious homily out of the Book of the World, Mrs. Thoresby ruffled herself with dignity, and led her brood away with her.

Next day, Tom, Dick, and Harry–that is to say, Miss Craydocke, Susan and Martha Josselyn, and Leslie Goldthwaite–were gathered in the first-named lady’s room, to make the great green curtain. And there Sin Saxon came in upon them,–ostensibly to bring the curtain-rings, and explain how she wanted them put on; but after that she lingered.

“It’s like the Tower of Babel upstairs,” she said, “and just about as likely ever to get built. I can’t bear to stay where I can’t hear myself talk. You’re nice and cosy here, Miss Craydocke.” And with that, she settled herself down on the floor, with all her little ruffles and flounces and billows of muslin heaping and curling themselves about her, till her pretty head and shoulders were like a new and charming sort of floating-island in the midst.

And it came to pass that presently the talk drifted round to vanities and vexations,–on this wise.

“Everybody wants to be everything,” said Sin Saxon. “They don’t say so, of course. But they keep objecting, and unsettling. Nothing hushes anybody up but proposing them for some especially magnificent part. And you can’t hush them all at once in that way. If they’d only _say_ what they want, and be done with it! But they’re so dreadfully polite! Only finding out continual reasons why nobody will do for this and that, or have time to dress, or something, and waiting modestly to be suggested and shut up! When I came down they were in full tilt about ‘The Lady of Shalott.’ It’s to be one of the crack scenes, you know,–river of blue cambric, and a real, regular, lovely property-boat. Frank Scherman sent for it, and it came up on the stage yesterday,–drivers swearing all the way. Now they’ll go on for half an hour, at least; and at the end of that time I shall walk in, upon the plain of Shinar, with my hair all let down,–it’s real, every _bit of it_, not a tail tied on anywhere,–and tell them I–myself–am to be the Lady of Shalott! I think I shall relish flinging in that little bit of honesty, like a dash of cold water into the middle of a fry. Won’t it sizzle?”

She sat twirling the cord upon which the dozens of great brass rings were strung, watching the shining ellipse they made as they revolved,–like a child set down upon the carpet with a plaything,–expecting no answer, only waiting for the next vagrant whimsicality that should come across her brain,–not altogether without method, either,–to give it utterance.

“I don’t suppose I could convince you of it,” she resumed; “but I do actually have serious thoughts sometimes. I think that very likely some of us–most of us–are going to the dogs. And I wonder what it will be when we get there. Why don’t you contradict, or confirm, what I say, Miss Craydocke?”

“You haven’t said out, yet, have you?”

Sin Saxon opened wide her great, wondering, saucy blue eyes, and turned them full upon Miss Craydocke’s face. “Well, you _are_ a oner! as somebody in Dickens says. There’s no such thing as a leading question for you. It’s like the rope the dog slipped his head out of, and left the man holding fast at the other end, in touching confidence that he was coming on. I saw that once on Broadway. Now I experience it. I suppose I’ve got to say more. Well, then, in a general way, do you think living amounts to anything, Miss Craydocke?”

“Whose living?”

“Sharp–as a knife that’s just cut through a lemon! _Ours_, then, if you please; us girls’, for instance.”

“You haven’t done much of your living yet, my dear.” The tone was gentle, as of one who looked down from such a height of years that she felt tenderly the climbing that had been, for those who had it yet to do.

“We’re as busy at it, too, as we can be. But sometimes I’ve mistrusted something like what I discovered very indignantly one day when I was four years old, and fancied I was making a petticoat, sewing through and through a bit of flannel. The thread hadn’t any knot in it!”

“That was very well, too, until you knew just where to put the stitches that should stay.”

“Which brings us to our subject of the morning, as the sermons say sometimes, when they’re half through, or ought to be. There are all kinds of stitches,–embroidery, and plain over-and-over, and whippings, and darns! When are we to make our knot and begin? and which kind are we to do?”

“Most lives find occasion, more or less, for each. Practiced fingers will know how to manage all.”

“But–it’s–the–pro_por_tion!” cried Sin, in a crescendo that ended with an emphasis that was nearly a little scream.

“I think that, when one looks to what is really needed most and first, will arrange itself,” said Miss Craydocke. “Something gets crowded out, with us all. It depends upon what, and how, and with what willingness we let it go.”

“_Now_ we come to the superlative sort of people,–the extra good ones, who let everything go that isn’t solid duty; all the ornament of life,–good looks,–tidiness even,–and everything that’s the least bit jolly, and that don’t keep your high-mindedness on the strain. I want to be _low_-minded–_weak_-minded at least–now and then. I can’t bear ferociously elevated people, who won’t say a word that don’t count; people that talk about their time being interrupted (as if their time wasn’t everybody else’s time, too), because somebody comes in once in a while for a friendly call; and who go about the streets as if they were so intent upon some tremendous good work, or big thinking, that it would be dangerous even to bow to a common sinner, for fear of being waylaid and hindered. I know people like that; and all I’ve to say is that, if they’re to make up the heavenly circles, I’d full as lief go down lower, where they’re kind of social!”

There can scarcely be a subject touched, in ever so light a way,–especially a moral or a spiritual subject,–in however small a company of persons, that shall not set in motion varied and intense currents of thought; bear diverse and searching application to consciousness and experience. The Josselyns sat silent with the long breadths of green cambric over their laps, listening with an amusement that freshened into their habitual work-day mood like a willful little summer breeze born out of blue morning skies, unconscious of clouds, to the oddities of Sin Saxon; but the drift of her sayings, the meaning she actually had under them, bore down upon their different knowledge with a significance whose sharpness she had no dream of. “Plain over-and-over,”–how well it illustrated what their young days and the disposal of them had been. Miss Craydocke thought of the darns; her story cannot be told here; but she knew what it meant to have the darns of life fall to one’s share,–to have the filling up to do, with dexterousness and pains and sacrifice, of holes that other people make!

For Leslie Goldthwaite, she got the next word of the lesson she was learning,–“_It depends on what one is willing to let get crowded out_.”

Sin Saxon went on again.

“I’ve had a special disgust given me to superiority. I wouldn’t be superior for all the world. We had a superior specimen come among us at Highslope last year. She’s there yet, it’s commonly believed; but nobody takes the trouble to be positive of it. Reason why, she took up immediately such a position of mental and moral altitude above our heads, and became so sublimely unconscious of all beneath, that all beneath wasn’t going to strain its neck to look after her, much less provide itself with telescopes. We’re pretty nice people, we think, but we’re not particularly curious in astronomy. We heard great things of her, beforehand; and we were all ready to make much of her. We asked her to our parties. She came, with a look upon her as if some unpleasant duty had forced her temporarily into purgatory. She shied round like a cat in a strange garret, as if all she wanted was to get out. She wouldn’t dance; she wouldn’t talk; she went home early,–to her studies, I suppose, and her plans for next day’s unmitigated usefulness. She took it for granted we had nothing in us _but_ dance, and so, as Artemus Ward says, ‘If the American Eagle could solace itself in that way, we let it went!’ She might have done some good to us,–we needed to be done to, I don’t doubt,–but it’s all over now. That light is under a bushel, and that city’s hid, so far as Highslope is concerned. And we’ve pretty much made up our minds, among us, to be bad and jolly. Only sometimes I get thinking,–that’s all.”

She got up, giving the string of rings a final whirl, and tossing them into Leslie Goldthwaite’s lap. “Good-by,” she said, shaking down her flounces. “It’s time for me to go and assert myself at Shinar. ‘_L’empire, c’est moi!_’ Napoleon was great when he said that. A great deal greater than if he’d pretended to be meek, and want nothing but the public good!”

“What gets crowded out?” Day by day that is the great test of our life.

Just now, everything seemed likely to get crowded out with the young folks at Outledge but dresses, characters, and rehearsals. The swivel the earth turned on at this moment was the coming Tuesday evening and its performance. And the central axis of that, to nearly every individual interest, was what such particular individual was to “be.”

They had asked Leslie to take the part of Zorayda in the “Three Moorish Princesses of the Alhambra.” Jeannie and Elinor were to be Zayda and Zorahayda. As for Leslie, she liked well enough, as we know, to look pretty; it was, or had been, till other thoughts of late had begun to “crowd it out,” something like a besetting weakness; she had only lately–to tell the whole truth as it seldom is told–begun to be ashamed, before her higher self, to turn, the first thing in the morning, with a certain half-mechanical anxiety toward her glass, to see how she was looking. Without studying into separate causes of complexion and so forth, as older women given to these things come to do, she knew that somehow there was often a difference; and beside the standing question in her mind as to whether there were a chance of her growing up to anything like positive beauty or not, there was apt often to be a reason why she would like _to-day_, if possible, to be in particular good looks. When she got an invitation, or an excursion was planned, the first thing that came into her head was naturally what she should wear; and a good deal of the pleasure would depend on that. A party without an especially pretty dress didn’t amount to much; she couldn’t help that; it did count with everybody, and it made a difference. She would like, undoubtedly, a “pretty part” in these tableaux; but there was more in Leslie Goldthwaite, even without touching upon the deep things, than all this. _Only_ a pretty part did not quite satisfy: she had capacity for something more. In spite of the lovely Moorish costume to be contrived out of blue silk and white muslin, and to contrast so picturesquely with Jeannie’s crimson, and the soft, snowy drapery of Elinor, she would have been half willing to be the “discreet Kadiga” instead; for the old woman had really to look _something_ as well as _somehow_, and there was a spirit and a fun in that.

The pros and cons and possibilities were working themselves gradually clear to her thoughts, as she sat and listened, with external attention in the beginning, to Sin Saxon’s chatter. Ideas about the adaptation of her dress-material, and the character she could bring out of, or get into, her part, mingled themselves together; and Irving’s delicious old legend that she had read hundreds of times, entranced, as a child, repeated itself in snatches to her recollection. Jeannie must be stately; that would quite suit her. Elinor–must just be Elinor. Then the airs and graces remained for herself. She thought she could illustrate with some spirit the latent coquetry of the imprisoned beauty; she believed, notwithstanding the fashion in which the story measured out their speech in rations,–always an appropriate bit, and just so much of it to each,–that the gay Zorayda must have had the principal hand in their affairs; must have put the others up to mischief, and coaxed most winningly the discreet Kadiga. She could make something out of it: it shouldn’t be mere flat prettiness. She began to congratulate herself upon the character. And then her ingenious fancy flew off to something else that had occurred to her, and that she had only secretly proposed to Sin Saxon; an illustration of a certain ancient nursery ballad, to vary by contrast the pathetic representations of “Auld Robin Gray” and “The Lady of Shalott.” It was a bright plan, and she was nearly sure she could carry it out; but it was not a “pretty part,” and Sin Saxon had thought it fair she should have one; therefore Zorayda. All this was reason why Leslie’s brain was busy, like her fingers, as she sat and sewed on the green curtain, and let Sin Saxon talk. Till Miss Craydocke said that “something always gets crowded out,” and so those words came to her in the midst of all.

The Josselyns went away to their own room when the last rings had been sewn on; and the curtain was ready, as had been promised, at ten o’clock. Leslie stayed, waiting for Dakie Thayne to come and fetch it. While she sat there, silent, by the window, Miss Craydocke brought out a new armful of something from a drawer, and came and placed her Shaker rocking-chair beside her. Leslie looked around, and saw her lap full of two little bright plaid dresses.

“It’s only the buttonholes,” said Miss Craydocke. “I’m going to make them now, before they find me out.”

Leslie looked very uncomprehending.

“You didn’t suppose I let those girls come in here and spend their morning on that nonsense for nothing, did you? This is some of _their_ work, the work that’s crowding all the frolic out of their lives. I’ve found out where they keep it, and I’ve stolen some. I’m Scotch, you know, and I believe in brownies. They’re good to believe in. Old fables are generally _all but_ true. You’ve only to ‘put in one to make it so,’ as children say in ‘odd and even.'” And Miss Craydocke overcasted her first buttonhole energetically.

Leslie Goldthwaite saw through the whole now, in a minute. “You did it on purpose, for an excuse!” she said; and there was a ring of applauding delight in her voice which a note of admiration poorly marks.

“Well, you must begin somehow,” said Miss Craydocke. “And after you’ve once begun, you can keep on.” Which, as a generality, was not so glittering, perhaps, as might be; but Leslie could imagine, with a warm heart-throb, what, in this case, Miss Craydocke’s “keeping on” would be.

“I found them out by degrees,” said Miss Craydocke. “They’ve been overhead here, this month nearly, and if you _don’t_ listen nor look more than is lady-like, you can’t help scraps enough to piece something out of by that time. They sit by their window, and I sit by mine. I cough, and sneeze, and sing, as much as I find comfortable, and they can’t help knowing where their neighbors are; and after that, it’s their lookout, of course. I lent them some books one Sunday, and so we got on a sort of visiting terms, and lately I’ve gone in, sometimes, and sat down awhile when I’ve had an errand, and they’ve been here; the amount of it is, they’re two young things that’ll grow old before they know they’ve ever been young, if somebody don’t take hold. They’ve only got just so much time to stay; and if we don’t contrive a holiday for them before it’s over, why,–there’s the ‘Inasmuch,’–that’s all.”

Dakie Thayne came to the door to fetch Leslie and the curtain.

“It’s all ready, Dakie,–here; but I can’t go just now,–not unless they want me _very_ much, and then you’ll come, please, won’t you, and let me know again?” said Leslie, bundling up the mass of cambric, and piling it upon Dakie’s arms.

Dakie looked disappointed, but promised, and departed. They were finding him useful upstairs, and Leslie had begged him to help.

“Now give me that other dress,” she said, turning to Miss Craydocke. “And you,–couldn’t you go and steal something else?” She spoke impetuously, and her eyes shone with eagerness, and more.

“I’ve had to lay a plan,” resumed Miss Craydocke, as Leslie took the measure of a buttonhole and began. “Change of work is as good as a rest. So I’ve had them down here on the curtain among the girls. Next, I’m going to have a bee. I’ve got some things to finish up for Prissy Hoskins, and they’re likely to be wanted in something of a hurry. She’s got another aunt in Portsmouth, and if she can only be provided with proper things to wear, she can go down there, Aunt Hoskins says, and stay all winter, get some schooling, and see a city doctor. The man here tells them that something might be done for her hearing by a person skilled in such things, and Miss Hoskins says ‘there’s a little money of the child’s own, from the vandoo when her father died,’ that would pay for traveling and advice, and ‘ef the right sort ain’t to be had in Portsmouth, when she once gets started, she shall go whuzzever’t is, if she has to have a vandoo herself!’ It’s a whole human life of comfort and usefulness, Leslie Goldthwaite, may be, that depends!–Well, I’ll have a bee, and get Prissy fixed out. Her Portsmouth aunt is coming up, and will take her back. She’ll give her a welcome, but she’s poor herself, and can’t afford much more. And then the Josselyns are to have a bee. Not everybody; but you and me, and we’ll see by that time who else. It’s to begin as if we meant to have them all round, for the frolic and the sociability; and besides that, we’ll steal all we can. For your part, you must get intimate. Nobody can do anything, except as a friend. And the last week they’re here is the very week I’m going everywhere in! I’m going to charter the little red, and have parties of my own. We’ll have a picnic at the Cliff, and Prissy will wait on us with raspberries and cream. We’ll walk up Feather-Cap, and ride up Giant’s Cairn, and we’ll have a sunset at Minster Rock. And it’s going to be pleasant weather every day!”

They stitched away, then, dropping their talk. Miss Craydocke was out of breath; and Leslie measured her even loops with eyes that glittered more and more.

The half-dozen buttonholes apiece were completed; and then Miss Craydocke trotted off with the two little frocks upon her arm. She came back, bringing some two or three pairs of cotton-flannel drawers.

“I took them up, just as they lay, cut out and ready, on the bed. I wouldn’t have a word. I told them I’d nothing to do, and so I haven’t. My hurry is coming on all of a sudden when I have my bee. Now I’ve done it once, I can do it again. They’ll find out it’s my way, and when you’ve once set up a way, people always turn out for it.”

Miss Craydocke was in high glee.

Leslie stitched up three little legs before Dakie came again, and said they must have her upstairs.

One thing occurred to her, as they ran along the winding passages, up and down, and up again, to the new hall in the far-off L.

The Moorish dress would take so long to arrange. Wouldn’t Imogen Thoresby like the part? She was only in the “Three Fishers.” Imogen and Jeannie met her as she came in.

“It is just you I wanted to find,” cried Leslie, sealing her warm impulse with immediate act. “Will you be Zorayda, Imogen,–with Jeannie and Elinor, you know? I’ve got so much to do without. Sin Saxon understands; it’s a bit of a secret as yet. I shall be _so_ obliged!”

Imogen’s blue eyes sparkled and widened. It was just what she had been secretly longing for. But why in the world should Leslie Goldthwaite want to give it up?

It had got crowded out, that was all.

Another thing kept coming into Leslie’s head that day,–the yards of delicate grass-linen that she had hemstitched, and knotted into bands that summer,–just for idle work, when plain bindings and simple ruffling would have done as well,–and all for her accumulating treasure of reserved robings, while here were these two girls darning stockings, and sewing over heavy woollen stuffs, that actual, inevitable work might be dispatched in these bright, warm hours that had been meant for holiday. It troubled her to think of it, seeing that the time was gone, and nothing now but these threads and holes remained of it to her share.

Martha Josselyn had asked her yesterday about the stitch,–some little baby-daintiness she had thought of for the mother who couldn’t afford embroideries and thread-laces for her youngest and least of so many. Leslie would go and show her, and, as Miss Craydocke said, get intimate. It was true there were certain little things one could not do, except as a friend.

Meanwhile, Martha Josselyn must be the Sister of Charity in that lovely tableau of Consolation.

It does not take long for two young girls to grow intimate over tableau plans and fancy stitches. Two days after this, Leslie Goldthwaite was as cosily established in the Josselyns’ room as if she had been there every day all summer. Some people _are_ like drops of quicksilver, as Martha Josselyn had declared, only one can’t tell how that is till one gets out of the bottle.

“Thank you,” she said to Leslie, as she mastered the little intricacy of the work upon the experimental scrap of cambric she had drawn. “I understand it now, I think, and I shall find time, somehow, after I get home, for what I want to do.” With that, she laid it in a corner of her basket, and took up cotton-flannel again.

Leslie put something, twisted lightly in soft paper, beside it. “I want you to keep that, please, for a pattern, and to remember me,” she said. “I’ve made yards more than I really want. It’s nothing,” she added, hastily interrupting the surprised and remonstrating thanks of the other. “And now we must see about that scapulary thing, or whatever it is, for your nun’s dress.”

And there was no more about it, only an unusual feeling in Martha Josselyn’s heart, that came up warm long after, and by and by a little difference among Leslie Goldthwaite’s pretty garnishings, where something had got crowded out.

This is the way, from small to great, things sort themselves.

“No man can serve two masters,” is as full and true and strong upon the side of encouragement as of rebuke.



The tableaux had to be put off. Frank Scherman was obliged to go down to Boston, unexpectedly, to attend to business, and nothing could be done without him. The young girls felt all the reaction that comes with the sudden interruption of eager plans. A stagnation seemed to succeed to their excitement and energy. They were thrown back into a vacuum.

“There is nothing on earth to do, or to think about,” said Florrie Arnall dolefully.

“Just as much as there was last week,” replied Josie Scherman, common-sense-ically. Frank was only her brother, and that made a difference. “There’s Giant’s Cairn as big as ever, and Feather-Cap, and Minster Rock, and the Spires. And there’s plenty to do. Tableaux aren’t everything. There’s your ‘howl,’ Sin Saxon. That hasn’t come off yet.”

“‘It isn’t the fall that hurts,–it’s the fetch-up,’ as the Irishman observed,” said Sin Saxon, with a yawn. “It wasn’t that I doted particularly on the tableaux, but ‘the waters wild went o’er my child, and I was left lamenting.’ It was what I happened to be after at the moment. When I get ready for a go, I do hate to take off my bonnet and sit down at home.”

“But the ‘howl,’ Sin! What’s to become of that?”

“Ain’t I howling all I can?”

And this was all Sin Saxon would say about it. The girls meant to keep her in mind, and to have their frolic,–the half of them in the most imaginative ignorance as to what it might prove to be; but somehow their leader herself seemed to have lost her enthusiasm or her intention.

Leslie Goldthwaite felt neither disappointment nor impatience. She had got a permanent interest. It is good always to have something to fall back upon. The tableaux would come by and by; meanwhile, there was plenty of time for their “bees,” and for the Cliff.

They had long mornings in the pines, and cool, quiet afternoons in Miss Craydocke’s pretty room. It was wonderful the cleverness the Josselyns had come to with little frocks. One a skirt, and the other a body,–they made nothing of finishing the whole at a sitting. “It’s only seeing the end from the beginning,” Martha said, when Leslie uttered her astonishment. “We know the way, right through; and no way seems long when you’ve traveled it often.” To be sure, Prissy Hoskins’s delaines and calicoes didn’t need to be contrived after Demorest’s fashion-plates.

Then they had their holiday, taking the things over to the Cliff, and trying them all on Prissy, very much as if they had been a party of children, and she a paper doll. Her rosy little face and willful curls came out of each prettier than the last, precisely as a paper dolly’s does, and when at the end of all they got her into a bright violet print and a white bib-apron, it was well they were the last, for they couldn’t have had the heart to take her out of them. Leslie had made for her a small hoop from the upper half of one of her own, and laced a little cover upon it, of striped seersucker, of which there was a petticoat also to wear above. These, clear, clean, and stiffened, came from Miss Craydocke’s stores. She never traveled without her charity-trunk, wherein, put at once in perfect readiness for different use the moment they passed beyond her own, she kept all spare material that waited for such call. Breadths of old dresses, ripped and sponged and pressed, or starched, ironed, and folded; flannel petticoats shrunken short; stockings “cut down” in the old, thrifty, grandmother fashion; underclothing strongly patched (as she said, “the Lord’s mark put upon it, since it had pleased Him to give her the means to do without patches”); odds and ends of bonnet-ribbons, dipped in spirits and rolled tightly upon blocks, from which they unrolled nearly as good as new,–all these things, and more, religiously made the most of for whomsoever they might first benefit, went about with her in this, the biggest of her boxes, which, give out from it as she might, she never seemed, she said, to get quite to the bottom of.

Under the rounded skirts, below the short, plain trousers, Prissy’s ankles and feet were made shapely with white stockings and new, stout boots. (Aunt Hoskins believed in “white stockin’s, or go athout. Bilin’ an’ bleachin’ an’ comin’ out new; none o’ yer aggravations ‘v everlastin’ dirt-color.”) And one thing more, the prettiest of all. A great net of golden-brown silk that Leslie had begged Mrs. Linceford, who liked netting, to make, gathered into strong, large meshes the unruly wealth of hair brushed back in rippling lines from Prissy’s temples, and showing so its brighter, natural color from underneath, where the outside had grown sun-faded.

“I’m just like Cinderella,–with four godmothers!” cried the child; and she danced up and down, as Leslie let her go from under her hands.

“You’re just like–a little heathen!” screamed Aunt Hoskins. “Where’s yer thanks?” Her own thanks spoke themselves, partly in an hysterical sort of chuckle and sniffle, that stopped each other short, and the rebuke with them. “But there! she don’t know no better! ‘T ain’t fer every day, you needn’t think. It’s for company to-day, an’ fer Sundays, an’ to go to Portsmouth.”

“Don’t spoil it for her, Miss Hoskins. Children hate to think it isn’t for every day,” said Leslie Goldthwaite.

But the child-antidote to that was also ready.

“I don’t care,” cried Prissy. “To-day’s a great, long day, and Sunday’s for ever and ever, and Portsmouth’ll be always.”

“_Can’t_ yer stop ter kerchy, and say–Lud-o’-light ‘n’ massy, I donno what to _tell_ ye ter say!” And Miss Hoskins sniffled and gurgled again, and gave it up.

“She has thanked us, I think,” said Miss Craydocke, in her simple way, “when she called us Godmothers!” The word came home to her good heart. God had given her, the lonely woman, the larger motherhood. “Brothers, and sisters, and mothers!” She thought how Christ traced out the relationships, and claimed them even to himself!

“Now, for once, _you_’re to be done up. That’s general order number two,” Miss Craydocke said to the Josselyn girls, as they all first met together again after the Cliff party. “We’ve worked together till we’re friends. And so there’s not a word to be said. We owe you time that we’ve taken, and more that we mean to take before you go. I’ll tell you what for, when it’s necessary.”

It was a nicer matter to get the Josselyns to be helped than to help. It was not easy for them to bring forth their breadths and their linings, and their braids that were to be pieced, and their trimmings that were to be turned, and to lay bare to other eyes all their little economies of contrivance; but Miss Craydocke managed it by simple straightforwardness,–by not behaving as if there were anything to be glossed over or ignored. Instead of hushing up about economies, she brought them forward, and gave them a most cheery and comfortable, not to say dignified air. It was all ordinary matter of course,–the way everybody did, or ought to do. This was the freshest end of this breadth, and should go down; this other had a darn that might be cut across, and a straight piecing made, for which the slope of the skirt would allow,–_she_ should do it so; that hem might be taken off altogether and a new one turned; this was a very nice trimming, and plenty of it, and the wrong side was brighter than the right; she knew a way of joining worsted braid that never showed,–you might have a dozen pieces in the binding of a skirt and not be noticed. This little blue frock had no trimming; they would finish that at home. No, the prettiest thing in the world for it would be pipings of black silk, and Miss Craydocke had some bits just right for covering cord, thick as a board, big enough for nothing else; and out they came, as did many another thing, without remark, from her bags and baskets. She had hooks and eyes, and button-fasteners, when these gave out; she used from her own cotton-spools and skeins of silk; she had tailors’ twist for buttonholes, and large black cord for the pipings; and these were but working implements, like scissors and thimble,–taken for granted, without count. There was nothing on the surface for the most shrinking delicacy to rub against; but there was a kindness that went down into the hearts of the two young girls continually.

For an hour or two at least each day they sat together so, for the being together. The work was “taken up.” Dakie Thayne read stories to them sometimes: Miss Craydocke had something always to produce and to summon them to sit and hear; some sketch of strange adventure, or a ghost marvel, or a bright, spicy magazine essay; or, knowing where to find sympathizers and helpers, Dakie would rush in upon them uncalled, with some discovery, or want, or beautiful thing to show of his own. They were quite a little coterie by themselves. It shaped itself to this more and more.

Leslie did not neglect her own party. She drove and walked with Mrs. Linceford, and was ready for anything the Haddens really wanted of her; but Mrs. Linceford napped and lounged a good deal, and could spare her then; and Jeannie and Elinor seemed somehow to feel the want of her less than they had done,–Elinor unconsciously drawn away by new attraction, Jeannie rather of a purpose.

I am afraid I cannot call it anything else but a little loss of caste which seemed coming to Leslie Goldthwaite just now, through these new intimacies of hers. “Something always gets crowded out.” This, too,–her popularity among the first,–might have to be, perhaps, one of the somethings.

Now and then she felt it so,–perceived the shade of difference toward her in the tone and manner of these young girls. I cannot say that it did not hurt her a little. She had self-love, of course; yet, for all, she was loyal to the more generous love,–to the truer self-respect. If she could not have both, she would keep the best. There came to be a little pride in her own demeanor,–a waiting to be sought again.

“I can’t think what has come over Les’,” said Jeannie Hadden, one night, on the piazza, to a knot of girls. She spoke in a tone at once apologetic and annoyed. “She was always up to anything at home. I thought she meant to lead us all off here. She might have done almost what she pleased.”

“Everybody likes Leslie,” said Elinor.

“Why, yes, we all do,” put in Mattie Shannon. “Only she will take up queer people, you see. And–well, they’re nice enough, I suppose; only there’s never room enough for everybody.”

“I thought we were all to be nowhere when she first came. There was something about her,–I don’t know what,–not wonderful, but taking. ‘Put her where you pleased, she was the central point of the picture,’ Frank said.” This came from Josie Scherman.

“And she’s just dropped all, to run after goodness knows what and whom! I can’t see through her!” rejoined Jeannie, with a sort of finality in her accent that seemed to imply, “_I_ wash my hands of her, and won’t be supposed accountable.”

“Knew ye not,” broke in a gentle voice, “that she must be about her Master’s business?” It was scarcely addressed to them. Miss Craydocke just breathed audibly the thought she could not help.

There came a downfall of silence upon the group.

When they took breath again,–“Oh, if she’s _religious_!” Mattie Shannon just said, as of a thing yet farther off and more finally done with. And then their talk waited under a restraint again.

“I supposed we were all religious,–Sundays, at least,” broke forth Sin Saxon suddenly, who, strangely, had not spoken before. “I don’t know, though. Last Saturday night we danced the German till half past twelve, and we talked charades instead of going to church, till I felt–as if I’d sat all the morning with my feet over a register, reading a novel, when I’d ought to have been doing a German exercise or something. If she’s religious every day, she’s seven times better than we are, that’s all. _I_ think–she’s got a knot to her thread!”

Nobody dared send Leslie Goldthwaite quite to Coventry after this.

Sin Saxon found herself in the position of many another leader,–obliged to make some demonstration to satisfy the aroused expectations of her followers. Her heart was no longer thoroughly in it; but she had promised them a “howl,” and a howl they were determined upon, either with or against her.

Opportunity arose just now also. Madam Routh went off on a party to the Notch, with some New York friends, taking with her one or two of the younger pupils, for whom she felt most constant responsibility. The elder girls were domesticated and acquainted now at Outledge; there were several matronly ladies with whom the whole party was sufficiently associated in daily intercourse for all the air of chaperonage that might be needed; and one assistant pupil, whom, to be sure, the young ladies themselves counted as a most convenient nonentity, was left in nominal charge.

Now or never, the girls declared with one voice it must be. All they knew about it–the most of them–was that it was some sort of an out-of-hours frolic, such as boarding-school ne’er-do-weels delight in; and it was to plague Miss Craydocke, against whom, by this time, they had none of them really any manner of spite; neither had they any longer the idea of forcing her to evacuate; but they had got wound up on that key at the beginning, and nobody thought of changing it. Nobody but Sin Saxon. She had begun, perhaps, to have a little feeling that she would change it, if she could.

Nevertheless, with such show of heartiness as she found possible, she assented to their demand, and the time was fixed. Her merry, mischievous temperament asserted itself as she went on, until she really grew into the mood for it once more, from the pure fun of the thing.

It took two days to get ready. After the German on Thursday night, the howl was announced to come off in Number Thirteen, West Wing. This, of course, was the boudoir; but nobody but the initiated knew that. It was supposed to be Maud Walcott’s room. The assistant pupil made faint remonstrances against she knew not what, and was politely told so; moreover, she was pressingly invited to render herself with the other guests at the little piazza door, precisely at eleven. The matronly ladies, always amused, sometimes a little annoyed and scandalized, at Sin Saxon’s escapades, asked her, one and another, at different times, what it was all to be, and if she really thought she had better, and among themselves expressed tolerably grave doubts about proprieties, and wished Madam Routh would return. The vague mystery and excitement of the howl kept all the house gently agog for this Tuesday and Wednesday intervening. Sin Saxon gave out odd hints here and there in confidence.

It was to be a “spread;” and the “grub” (Sin was a boarding-school girl, you know, and had brothers in college) was all to be stolen. There was an uncommon clearance of cakes and doughnuts, and pie and cheese, from each meal, at this time. Cup-custards, even, disappeared,–cups and all. A cold supper, laid at nine on Wednesday evening, for some expected travelers, turned out a more meagre provision on the arrival of the guests than the good host of the Giant’s Cairn had ever been known to make. At bedtime Sin Saxon presented herself in Miss Craydocke’s room.

“There’s something heavy on my conscience,” she said, with a disquiet air. “I’m really worried; and it’s too late to help it now.”

Miss Craydocke looked at her with a kind anxiety.

“It’s never too late to _try_ to help a mistake. And _you_, Miss Saxon,–you can always do what you choose.”

She was afraid for her,–the good lady,–that her heedlessness might compromise herself and others in some untoward scrape. She didn’t like these rumors of the howl,–the last thing she thought of being her own rest and comfort, which were to be purposely invaded.

“I’ve let the chance go by,” said Sin Saxon desperately. “It’s of no use now.” And she rocked herself back and forth in the Shaker chair of which she had taken possession.

“My dear,” said Miss Craydocke, “if you would only explain to me,–perhaps”–

“You _might_!” cried Sin, jumping up, and making a rush at the good woman, seizing her by both hands. “They’d never suspect you. It’s that cold roast chicken in the pantry. I _can’t_ get over it, that I didn’t take that!”

Sin was incorrigible. Miss Craydocke shook her head, taking care to turn it aside at the same moment; for she felt her lips twitch and her eyes twinkle, in spite of herself.

“I won’t take this till the time comes,” said Sin, laying her hand on the back of the Shaker chair. “But it’s confiscated for to-morrow night, and I shall come for it. And, Miss Craydocke, if you _do_ manage about the chicken,–I hate to trouble you to go downstairs, but I dare say you want matches, or a drink of water, or something, and another time I’ll wait upon you with pleasure,–here’s the door, made for the emergency, and I on the other side of it dissolved in tears of gratitude!”

And so, for the time, Sin Saxon disappeared.

The next afternoon, Jimmy Wigley brought a big basket of raspberries to the little piazza door. A pitcher of cream vanished from the tea-table just before the gong was struck. Nobody supposed the cat had got it. The people of the house understood pretty well what was going on, and who was at the bottom of it all; but Madam Routh’s party was large, and the life of the place; they would wink hard and long before complaining at anything that might be done in the west wing.

Sin Saxon opened her door upon Miss Craydocke when she was dressed for the German, and about to go downstairs. “I’ll trust you,” she said, “about the rocking-chair. You’ll want it, perhaps, till bedtime, and then you’ll just put it in here. I shouldn’t like to disturb you by coming for it late. And please step in a minute now, won’t you?”

She took her through the boudoir. There lay the “spread” upon a long table, contrived by the contribution of one ordinary little one from each sleeping-chamber, and covered by a pair of clean sheets, which swept the floor along the sides. About it were ranged chairs. Two pyramids of candles, built up ingeniously by the grouping of bedroom tins upon hidden supports, vine-sprays and mosses serving gracefully for concealment and decoration, stood, one on each side, half way between the ends and centre. Cake-plates were garnished with wreathed oak-leaves, and in the midst a great white Indian basket held the red, piled-up berries, fresh and fragrant.

“That’s the little bit of righteousness to save the city. That’s paid for,” said Sin Saxon. “Jimmy Wigley’s gone home with more scrip than he ever got at once before; and if your chicken-heartedness hadn’t taken the wrong direction, Miss Craydocke, I should be perfectly at ease in my mind.”

“It’s very pretty,” said Miss Craydocke; “but do you think Madam Routh would quite approve? And why couldn’t you have had it openly in the dining-room? And what do you call it a ‘howl’ for?” Miss Craydocke’s questions came softly and hesitatingly, as her doubts came. The little festival was charming–but for the way and place.

“Oh, Miss Craydocke! Well, you’re not wicked, and you can’t be supposed to know; but you must take my word for it, that, if it was tamed down, the game wouldn’t be worth the candle. And the howl? You just wait and see!”

The invited guests were told to come to the little piazza door. The girls asked all their partners in the German, and the matronly ladies were asked, as a good many respectable people are civilly invited where their declining is counted upon. Leslie Goldthwaite, and the Haddens, and Mrs. Linceford, and the Thoresbys were all asked, and might come if they chose. Their stay would be another matter. And so the evening and the German went on.

Till eleven, when they broke up; and the entertainers in a body rushed merrily and noisily along the passages to Number Thirteen, West Wing, rousing from their first naps many quietly disposed, delicate people, who kept early hours, and a few babies whose nurses and mammas would bear them anything but gratefully in mind through the midnight hours to come.

They gained two minutes, perhaps, upon their guests, who had, some of them, to look up wraps, and to come round by the front hall and piazzas. In these two minutes, by Sin Saxon’s order, they seated themselves comfortably at table. They had plenty of room; but they spread their robes gracefully,–they had all dressed in their very prettiest to-night,–and they quite filled up the space. Bright colors, and soft, rich textures floating and mingling together, were like a rainbow encircling the feast. The candles had been touched with kerosene, and matches lay ready. The lighting-up had been done in an instant. And then Sin Saxon went to the door, and drew back the chintz curtains from across the upper half, which was of glass. A group of the guests, young men, were already there, beneath the elms outside. But how should she see them, looking from the bright light into the tree-shadows? She went quietly back, and took her place at the head, leaving the door fast bolted.

There came a knock. Sin Saxon took no heed, but smilingly addressed herself to offering dainties right and left. Some of the girls stared, and one or two half rose to go and give admittance.

“Keep your seats,” said Sin, in her most lady-like way and tone, with the unchanged smile upon her face. “_That_’s the _howl_!”

They began to perceive the joke outside. They began to knock vociferously. They took up their cue with a readiness, and made plenty of noise, not doubting, as yet, that they should be admitted at last. Some of the ladies came round, gave a glance, saw how things were going, and retreated,–except a few, parties from other houses who had escorts among the gentlemen, and who waited a little to see how the frolic would end, or at least to reclaim their attendants.

Well, it was very unpardonable,–outrageous, the scandalized neighbors were beginning already to say in their rooms. Even Sin Saxon had a little excitement in her eye beyond the fun, as she still maintained the most graceful order within, and the exchange of courtesies went on around the board, and the tumult increased without. They tree-toaded, they cat-called, they shouted, they cheered, they howled, they even hissed. Sin Saxon sat motionless an instant when it came to that, and gave a glance toward the lights. A word from her would put them out, and end the whole. She held her _coup_ in reserve, however, knowing her resource, and sat, as it were, with her finger on the spring, determined to carry through coolly what she had begun.

Dakie Thayne had gone away with the Linceford party when they crossed to the Green Cottage. Afterward, he came out again and stood in the open road. Some ladies, boarders at Blashford’s, up above, came slowly away from the uproar, homeward. One or two young men detached themselves from the group on the piazza, and followed to see them safe, as it belonged to them to do. The rest sat themselves down, at this moment, upon the steps and platform, and struck up, with one accord, “We won’t go home till morning.” In the midst of this, a part broke off and took up, discordantly, the refrain, “Polly, put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea;” others complicated the confusion further with, “Cruel, cruel Polly Hopkins, treat me so,–oh, treat me so!” till they fell, at last, into an indistinguishable jumble and clamor, from which extricated themselves now and again and prevailed, the choruses of “Upidee,” and “Bum-bum-bye,” with an occasional drum-beat of emphasis given upon the door.

“Don’t go back there, James,” Dakie Thayne heard a voice from the retiring party say as they passed him; “it’s disgraceful!”

“The house won’t hold Sin Saxon after this,” said another. “They were out in the upper hall, half a dozen of them, just now, ringing their bells and calling for Mr. Biscombe.”

“The poor man don’t know who to side with. He don’t want to lose the whole west wing. After all, there must be young people in the house, and if it weren’t one thing it would be another. It’s only a few fidgets that complain. They’ll hush up and go off presently, and the whole thing will be a joke over the breakfast-table to-morrow morning, after everybody’s had a little sleep.”

The singing died partially away just then, and some growling, less noisy, but more in earnest, began.

“They don’t _mean_ to let us in! I say, this is getting rather rough!”

“It’s only to smash a pane of glass above the bolt and let ourselves in. Why shouldn’t we? We’re invited.” The latent mob-element was very near developing itself in these young gentlemen, high-bred, but irate.

At this moment, a wagon came whirling down the road around the ledges. Dakie Thayne caught sight of the two white leaders, recognized them, and flew across to the hotel. “Stop!” cried he. At the same instant a figure moved hastily away from behind Miss Craydocke’s blinds. It was a mercy that the wagon had driven around to the front hall door.

A mercy in one way; but the misfortune was that the supper-party within knew nothing of it. A musical, lady-like laugh, quite in contrast to the demonstrative utterances outside, had just broken forth, in response to one of Sin Saxon’s brightest speeches, when through the adjoining apartment came suddenly upon them the unlooked-for apparition of “the spinster.” Miss Craydocke went straight across to the beleaguered door, drew the bolt, and threw it back. “Gently, young gentlemen! Draw up the piazza chairs, if you please, and sit down,” said she. “Mr. Lowe, Mr. Brookhouse, here are plates; will you be kind enough to serve your friends?”

In three minutes she had filled and passed outward half a dozen saucers of fruit, and sent a basket of cake among them. Then she drew a seat for herself, and began to eat raspberries. It was all done so quickly–they were so either taken by surprise–that nobody, inside or out, gain-said or delayed her by a word.

It was hardly done when a knock sounded at the door upon the passage. “Young ladies!” a voice called,–Madam Routh’s.

She and her friends had driven down from the Notch by sunset and moonlight. Nobody had said anything to her of the disturbance when she came in: her arrival had rather stopped the complaints that had begun; for people are not malignant, after all, as a general thing, and there is a curious propensity in human nature which cools off indignation even at the greatest crimes, just as the culprit is likely to suffer. We are apt to check the foot just as we might have planted it upon the noxious creature, and to let off great state criminals on parole. Madam Routh had seen the bright light and the gathering about the west wing. She had caught some sounds of the commotion. She made her way at once to look after her charge.

Sin Saxon was not a pupil now, and there was no condign punishment actually to fear; but her heart stood still a second, for all that, and she realized that she had been on the verge of an “awful scrape.” It was bad enough now, as Madam Routh stood there gravely silent. She could not approve. She was amazed to see Miss Craydocke present, countenancing and matronizing. But Miss Craydocke _was_ present, and it altered the whole face of affairs. Her eye took in, too, the modification of the room,–quite an elegant little private parlor as it had been made. The young men were gathered decorously about the doorway and upon the platform, one or two only politely assisting within. They had taken this cue as readily as the other; indeed, they were by no means aware that this was not the issue intended from the beginning, long as the joke had been allowed to go on, and their good-humor and courtesy had been instantly restored. Miss Craydocke, by one master-stroke of generous presence of mind, had achieved an instantaneous change in the position, and given an absolutely new complexion to the performance.

“It is late, young ladies,” was all Madam Routh’s remark at length.

“They gave up their German early on purpose; it was a little surprise they planned,” Miss Craydocke said, as she moved to meet her.

And then Madam Routh, with wise, considerate dignity, took _her_ cue. She even came forward to the table and accepted a little fruit; stayed five minutes perhaps, and then, without a spoken word, her movement to go broke up, with unmistakable intent, the party. Fifteen minutes after, all was quiet in the west wing.

But Sin Saxon, when the doors closed at either hand, and the girls alone were left around the fragments of their feast, rushed impetuously across toward Miss Craydocke, and went down beside her on her knees.

“Oh, you dear, magnificent old Christian!” she cried out, and laid her head down on her lap, with little sobs, half laughter and half tears.

“There, there!”–and Miss Craydocke softly patted her golden hair, and spoke as she would soothe a fretted and excited child.

Next morning, at breakfast, Sin Saxon was as beautifully ruffled, ratted, and crimped, as gay, as bewitching, and defiant as ever, seated next Madam Routh, assiduously devoted to her in the little attentions of the meal, in high spirits and favor; even saucily alluding, across the table, to “_our_ howl, Miss Craydocke!”

Public opinion was carried by storm; the benison of sleep had laid wrath. Nobody knew that, an hour before, she had been in Madam Routh’s room, making a clean breast of the whole transaction, and disclosing the truth of Miss Craydocke’s magnanimous and tactful interposition, confessing that without this she had been at her wits’ ends how to put a stop to it, and promising, like a sorry child, to behave better, and never do so any more.

Two hours later she came meekly to Miss Craydocke’s room, where the “bee” was gathered,–for mere companionship to-day, with chess and fancy-work,–her flourishes all laid aside, her very hair brushed close to her pretty head, and a plain gingham dress on.

“Miss Craydocke!” she said, with an air she could not divest of a little comicality, but with an earnestness behind it shining through her eyes, “I’m good; I’m converted. I want some tow-cloth to sew on immediately.” And she sat down, folding her hands, waiting.

Miss Craydocke laughed. “I don’t know. I’m afraid I haven’t anything to be done just now, unless I cut out some very coarse, heavy homespun.”

“I’d be glad if you would. Beggars mustn’t be choosers; but if they might, I should say it was the very thing. Sackcloth, you know; and then, perhaps, the ashes might be excused. I’m in solemn earnest, though. I’m reformed. You’ve done it; and you,” she added, turning round short on Leslie Goldthwaite,–“you’ve been at it a long time, _unbeknownst_ to yourself; and you, ma’am,–you finished it last night. It’s been like the casting out of the devils in Scripture. They always give a howl, you know, and go out of ’em!”



Sin Saxon came heart and soul into Miss Craydocke’s generous and delicate plans. The work was done, to be sure. The third trunk, that had been “full of old winter dresses to be made over,” was locked upon the nice little completed frocks and sacks that forestalled the care and hurry of “fall work” for the overburdened mother, and were to gladden her unexpecting eyes, as such store only can gladden the anxious family manager who feels the changeful, shortening days come treading, with their speedy demands, upon the very skirts of long, golden sunshiny August hours.

Susan and Martha Josselyn felt, on their part, as only busy workers feel who fasten the last thread, or dash a period to the last page, and turn around to breathe the breath of the free, and choose for once and for a while what they shall do. The first hour of this freedom rested them more than the whole six weeks that they had been getting half-rest, with the burden still upon their thought and always waiting for their hands. It was like the first half-day to children, when school has closed and books are brought home for the long vacation. All the possible delight of coming weeks is distilled to one delicious drop, and tasted then.

“It’s ‘none of my funeral,’ I know,” Sin Saxon said to Miss Craydocke. “I’m only an eleventh-hour helper; but I’ll come in for the holiday business, if you’ll let me; and perhaps, after all, that’s more in my line.”

Everything seemed to be in her line that she once took hold of. She had little private consultations with Miss Craydocke. “It’s to be your party to Feather-Cap, but it shall be my party to Minster Rock,” she said. “Leave that to me, please. Now the howl’s off my hands, I feel equal to anything.'”

Just in time for the party to Minster Rock, a great basket and box from home arrived for Sin Saxon. In the first were delicious early peaches, rose-color and gold, wrapped one by one in soft paper and laid among fine sawdust; early pears, also, with the summer incense in their spiciness; greenhouse grapes, white and amber and purple. The other held delicate cakes and confections unknown to Outledge, as carefully put up, and quite fresh and unharmed. “Everything comes in right for me,” she exclaimed, running back and forth to Miss Craydocke with new and more charming discoveries as she excavated. Not a word did she say of the letter that had gone down from her four days before, asking her mother for these things, and to send her some money; “for a party,” she told her, “that she would rather give here than to have her usual summer _fete_ after her return.”

“You quite eclipse and extinguish my poor little doings,” said Miss Craydocke, admiring and rejoicing all the while as genuinely as Sin herself.

“Dear Miss Craydocke!” cried the girl; “if I thought it would seem like that, I would send and tip them all into the river. But you,–you _can’t_ be eclipsed! Your orbit runs too high above ours.”

Sin Saxon’s brightness and independence, that lapsed so easily into sauciness, and made it so hard for her to observe the mere conventionalisms of respect, in no way hindered the real reverence that grew in her toward the superiority she recognized, and that now softened her tone to a tenderness of humility before her friend.

There was a grace upon her in these days that all saw. Over her real wit and native vivacity, it was like a porcelain shade about a flame. One could look at it, and be glad of it, without winking. The brightness was all there, but there was a difference in the giving forth. What had been a bit self-centred and self-conscious–bright as if only for being bright and for dazzling–was outgoing and self-forgetful, and so softened. Leslie Goldthwaite read by it a new answer to some of her old questions. “What harm is there in it?” she had asked herself on their first meeting, when Sin Saxon’s overflow of merry mischief, that yet did “no special or obvious good,” made her so taking, so the centre of whatever group into which she came. Afterward, when, running to its height, this spirit showed in behavior that raised misgivings among the scrupulous and orderly that would not let them any longer be wholly amused; and came near betraying her, or actually did betray her, into indecorums beyond excuse or countenance, Leslie had felt the harm, and begun to shrink away. “Nothing _but_ leaves” came back to her; her summer thought recurred and drew to itself a new illustration. This it was to have no aim but to rustle and flaunt; to grow leaves continually; to make one’s _self_ central and conspicuous, and to fill great space. But now among these very leaves gleamed something golden and glorious; something was ripening suddenly out that had lain unseen in its greenness; the time of figs seemed coming. Sin Saxon was intent upon new purpose; something to be _done_ would not let her “stand upon the order” or the fashion of her doing. She forgot her little airs, that had been apt to detract from her very wit, and leave it only smartness; bright things came to her, and she uttered and acted them; but they seemed involuntary and only on the way; she could not help herself, and nobody would have had it helped; she was still Sin Saxon; but she had simply told the truth in her wayward way that morning. Miss Craydocke had done it, with her kindly patience that was no stupidity, her simple dignity that never lowered itself and that therefore could not be lowered, and her quiet continuance in generous well-doing,–and Sin Saxon was different. She was won to a perception of the really best in life,–that which this plain old spinster, with her “scrap of lace and a front,” had found worth living for after the golden days were over. The impulse of temperament, and the generosity which made everything instant and entire with her, acted in this also, and carried her full over to an enthusiasm of affectionate cooeperation.

There were a few people at Outledge–of the sort who, having once made up their minds that no good is ever to come out of Nazareth, see all things in the light of that conviction–who would not allow the praise of any voluntary amendment to this tempering and new direction of Sin’s vivacity. “It was time she was put down,” they said, “and they were glad that it was done. That last outbreak had finished her. She might as well run after people now whom she had never noticed before; it was plain there was nothing else left for her; her place was gone, and her reign was over.” Of all others, Mrs. Thoresby insisted upon this most strongly.

The whole school-party had considerably subsided. Madam Routh held a tighter rein; but that Sin Saxon had a place and a power still, she found ways to show in a new spirit. Into a quiet corner of the dancing-hall, skimming her way, with the dance yet in her feet, between groups of staid observers, she came straight, one evening, from a bright, spirited figure of the German, and stretched her hand to Martha Josselyn. “It’s in your eyes,” she whispered,–“come!”

Night after night Martha Josselyn had sat there with the waltz-music in her ears, and her little feet, that had had one merry winter’s training before the war, and many a home practice since with the younger ones, quivering to the time beneath her robes, and seen other girls chosen out and led away,–young matrons, and little short-petticoated children even, taken to “excursionize” between the figures,–while nobody thought of her. “I might be ninety, or a cripple,” she said to her sister, “from their taking for granted it is nothing to me. How is it that everything goes by, and I only twenty?” There had been danger that Martha Josselyn’s sweet, generous temper should get a dash of sour, only because of there lying alongside it a clear common-sense and a pure instinct of justice. Susan’s heart longed with a motherly tenderness for her young sister when she said such words,–longed to put all pleasant things somehow within her reach. She had given it up for herself, years since. And now, all at once, Sin Saxon came and “took her out.”

It was a more generous act than it shows for, written. There is a little tacit consent about such things which few young people of a “set” have thought, desire, or courage to disregard. Sin Saxon never did anything more gracefully. It was one of the moments that came now, when she wist not that she shone. She was dropping, little by little, in the reality of a better desire, that “satisfaction” Jeannie Hadden had spoken of, of “knowing when one is at one’s prettiest,” or doing one’s cleverest. The “leaf and the fruit” never fitted better in their significance than to Sin Saxon. Something intenser and more truly living was taking the place of the mere flutter and flash and grace of effect.

It was the figure in which the dancers form in facing columns, two and two, the girls and the young men; when the “four hands round” keeps them moving in bright circles all along the floor, and under arches of raised and joined hands the girls came down, two and two, to the end, forming their long line face to face against the opposing line of their partners. The German may be, in many respects, an undesirable dance; it may be, as I have sometimes thought, at least a selfish dance, affording pleasure chiefly to the initiated few, and excluding gradually, almost from society itself, those who do not participate in it. I speak of it here neither to uphold nor to condemn,–simply because they _did_ dance it at Outledge as they do everywhere, and I cannot tell my story without it; but I think at this moment, when Sin Saxon led the figure with Martha Josselyn, there was something lovely, not alone in its graceful grouping, but in the very spirit and possibility of the thing that so appeared. There is scope and chance even here, young girls, for the beauty of kindness and generous thought. Even here, one may give a joy, may soothe a neglect, may make some heart conscious for a moment of the great warmth of a human welcome; and, though it be but to a pastime, I think it comes into the benison of the Master’s words when, even for this, some spirit gets a feeling like them,–“I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”

Some one, standing behind where Leslie Goldthwaite came to her place at the end of the line by the hall-door, had followed and interpreted the whole; had read the rare, shy pleasure in Martha Josselyn’s face and movement, the bright, expressive warmth in Sin Saxon’s and the half-surprise of observation upon others; and he thought as I do.

“‘Friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.’ That girl has even sanctified the German!”

There was only one voice like that, only one person who would so speak himself out. Leslie Goldthwaite turned quickly, and found herself face to face with Marmaduke Wharne. “I am so glad you have come!” said she.

He regarded her shrewdly. “Then you can do without me,” he said. “I didn’t know by this time how it might be.”

The last two had taken their places below Leslie while these words were exchanged, and now the whole line moved forward to meet their partners, and the waltz began. Frank Scherman had got back to-day, and was dancing with Sin Saxon. Leslie and Dakie Thayne were together, as they had been that first evening at Jefferson, and as they often were. The four stopped, after their merry whirl, in this same corner by the door where Mr. Wharne was standing. Dakie Thayne shook hands with his friend in his glad boy’s way. Across their greetings came Sin Saxon’s words, spoken to her companion,–“You’re to take her, Frank.” Frank Scherman was an old childhood’s friend, not a mere mountain acquaintance. “I’ll bring up plenty of others first, but you’re to wait and take _her_. And, wherever she got her training, you’ll find she’s the featest-footed among us.” It was among the children–training them–that she had caught the trick of it, but Sin Saxon did not know.

“I’m ready to agree with you, with but just the reservation that _you_ could not make,” Frank Scherman answered.

“Nonsense,” said Sin Saxon. “But stop! here’s something better and quicker. They’re getting the bouquets. Give her yours. It’s your turn. Go!”

Sin Saxon’s blue eyes sparkled like two stars; the golden mist of her hair was tossed into lighter clouds by exercise; on her cheeks a bright rose-glow burned; and the lips parted with their sweetest, because most unconscious, curve over the tiny gleaming teeth. Her word and her glance sent Frank Scherman straight to do her bidding; and a bunch of wild azaleas and scarlet lilies was laid in Martha Josselyn’s hand, and she was taken out again into the dance by the best partner there. We may trust her to Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman, and her own “feat-footedness;” everything will not go by her any more, and she but twenty.

Marmaduke Wharne watched it all with that keen glance of his that was like a level line of fire from under the rough, gray brows.

“I am glad you saw that,” said Leslie Goldthwaite, watching also, and watching him.

“By the light of your own little text,–‘kind, and bright, and pleasant’? You think it will do me good?”

“I think it _was_ good; and I am glad you should really know Sin Saxon–at the first.” And at the best; Marmaduke Wharne quite understood her. She gave him, unconsciously, the key to a whole character. It might as easily have been something quite different that he should have first seen in this young girl.

Next morning they all met on the piazza. Leslie Goldthwaite presented Sin Saxon to Mr. Wharne.

“So, my dear,” he said, without preface, “you are the belle of the place?”

He looked to see how she would take it. There was not the first twinkle of a simper about eye or lip. Surprised, but quite gravely, she looked up, and met his odd bluntness with as quaint an honesty of her own. “I was pretty sure of it a while ago,” she said. “And perhaps I was, in a demoralized sort of a way. But I’ve come down, Mr. Wharne,–like the coon. I’ll tell you presently,” she went on,–and she spoke now with warmth,–“who is the real belle,–the beautiful one of this place! There she comes!”

Miss Craydocke, in her nice, plain cambric morning-gown, and her smooth front, was approaching down the side passage across the wing. Just as she had come one morning, weeks ago; and it was the identical “fresh petticoat” of that morning she wore now. The sudden coincidence and recollection struck Sin Saxon as she spoke. To her surprise, Miss Craydocke and Marmaduke Wharne moved quickly toward each other, and grasped hands like old friends.

“Then you know all about it!” Sin Saxon said, a few minutes after, when she got her chance. “But you _don’t_ know, sir,” she added, with a desperate candor, “the way I took to find it out! I’ve been tormenting her, Mr. Wharne, all summer. And I’m heartily ashamed of it.”

Marmaduke Wharne smiled. There was something about this girl that suited his own vein. “I doubt she _was_ tormented,” he said quietly.

At that Sin Saxon smiled, too, and looked up out of her hearty shame which she had truly felt upon her at her own reminder. “No, Mr. Wharne, she never was; but that wasn’t my fault. After all, perhaps,–isn’t that what the optimists think?–it was best so. I should never have found her thoroughly out in any other way. It’s like”–and there she stopped short of her comparison.

“Like what?” asked Mr. Wharne, waiting.

“I can’t tell you now, sir,” she answered with a gleam of her old fearless brightness. “It’s one end of a grand idea, I believe, that I just touched on. I must think it out, if I can, and see if it all holds together.”

“And then I’m to have it?”

“It will take a monstrous deal of thinking, Mr. Wharne.”



“If I could only remember the chemicals!” said Sin Saxon. She was down among the outcrops and fragments at the foot of Minster Rock. Close in around the stones grew the short, mossy sward. In a safe hollow between two of them, against a back formed by another that rose higher with a smooth perpendicular, she had chosen her fireplace, and there she had been making the coffee. Quite intent upon the comfort of her friends she was to-day; something really to do she had: “in better business,” as Leslie Goldthwaite phrased it to herself once, she found herself, than only to make herself brilliant and enchanting after the manner of the day at Feather-Cap. And let me assure you, if you have not tried it, that to make the coffee and arrange the feast at a picnic like this is something quite different from being merely an ornamental. There is the fire to coax with chips and twigs, and a good deal of smoke to swallow, and one’s dress to disregard. And all the rest are off in scattered groups, not caring in the least to watch the pot boil, but supposing, none the less, that it will. To be sure, Frank Scherman and Dakie Thayne brought her firewood, and the water from the spring, and waited loyally while she seemed to need them; indeed, Frank Scherman, much as he unquestionably was charmed with her gay moods, stayed longest by her in her quiet ones; but she herself sent them off, at last, to climb with Leslie and the Josselyns again into the Minster, and see thence the wonderful picture that the late sloping light made on the far hills and fields that showed to their sight between framing tree-branches and tall trunk-shafts as they looked from out the dimness of the rock.

She sat there alone, working out a thought; and at last she spoke as I have said: “If I could only remember the chemicals!”

“My dear! What do you mean? The chemicals? For the coffee?” It was Miss Craydocke who questioned, coming up with Mr. Wharne.

“Not the coffee,–no,” said Sin Saxon, laughing rather absently, as too intent to be purely amused. “But the–assaying. There,–I’ve remembered _that_ word, at least!”

Miss Craydocke was more than ever bewildered. “What is it, my dear? An experiment?”

“No; an analogy. Something that’s been in my head these three days. I can’t make everything quite clear, Mr. Wharne, but I know it’s there. I went, I must tell you, a little while ago, to see some Colorado specimens–ores and things–that some friends of ours had, who are interested in the mines; and they talked about the processes, and somebody explained. There were gold and silver and iron, and copper and lead and sulphur, that had all been boiled up together some time, and cooled into rock. And the thing was to sort them out. First, they crushed the whole mass into powder, and then did something to it–applied heat, I believe–to drive away the sulphur. That fumed off, and left the rest as promiscuous as before. Then they–oxidized the lead, however they managed it, and got that out. You see I’m not quite sure of the order of things, or of the chemical part. But they got it out, and something took it. Then they put in quicksilver, and that took hold of the gold. Then there were silver and copper and iron. So they had to put back the lead again, and that grappled the silver. And what they did with the copper and iron is just what I can’t possibly recollect, but they divided them somehow, and there was the great rock riddle all read out. Now, haven’t we been just like that this summer? And I wonder if the world isn’t like it, somehow? And ourselves, too, all muddled up, and not knowing what we _are_ made of, till the right chemicals touch us? There’s so much in it, Mr. Wharne, I can’t put it in clear order. But it _is_ there,–isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is there,” answered Mr. Wharne, with the briefest gravity. For Miss Craydocke, there were little shining drops standing in her eyes, and she tried not to wink lest they should fall out, pretending they had been really tears. And what was there to cry about, you know?

“Here we have been,” Sin Saxon resumed, “all crushed up together, and the characters coming out little by little, with different things. Sulphur’s always the first,–heats up and flies off,–it don’t take long to find that; and common oxygen gets at common lead, and so on; but, dear Miss Craydocke, do you know what comforts me? That you _must_ have the quicksilver to discover the gold!”

Miss Craydocke winked. She had to do it then, and the two little round drops fell. They went down, unseen, into the short pasture-grass, and I wonder what little wild-flowers grew of their watering some day afterward.

It was getting a little too quiet between them now for people on a picnic, perhaps; and so in a minute Sin Saxon said again: “It’s good to know there is a way to sort everything out. Perhaps the tares and wheat mean the same thing. Mr. Wharne, why is it that things seem more sure and true as soon as we find out we can make an allegory to them?”

“Because we do _not_ make the allegory. It is there, as you have said. ‘I will open my mouth in parables. I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.’ These things are that speech of God that was in the beginning. The Word made flesh,–it is He that interpreteth.”

That was too great to give small answer to. Nobody spoke again till Sin Saxon had to jump up to attend to her coffee, that was boiling over, and then they took up their little cares of the feast, and their chat over it.

Cakes and coffee, fruits and cream,–I do not care to linger over these. I would rather take you to the cool, shadowy, solemn Minster cavern, the deep, wondrous recess in the face of solid rock, whose foundation and whose roof are a mountain; or above, upon the beetling crag that makes but its porch-lintel, and looks forth itself across great air-spaces toward its kindred cliffs, lesser and more mighty, all around, making one listen in one’s heart for the awful voices wherewith they call to each other forevermore.

The party had scattered again, after the repast, and Leslie and the Josselyns had gone back into the Minster entrance, where they never tired of standing, and out of whose gloom they looked now upon all the flood of splendor, rosy, purple, and gold, which the royal sun flung back–his last and richest largess–upon the heights that looked longest after him. Mr. Wharne and Miss Craydocke climbed the cliff. Sin Saxon, on her way up, stopped short among the broken crags below. There was something very earnest in her gaze, as she lifted her eyes, wide and beautiful with the wonder in them, to the face of granite upreared before her, and then turned slowly to look across and up the valley, where other and yet grander mountain ramparts thrust their great forbiddance on the reaching vision. She sat down, where she was, upon a rock.

“You are very tired?” Frank Scherman said, inquiringly.

“See how they measure themselves against each other,” Sin Saxon said, for answer. “Look at them, Leslie and the rest, inside the Minster that arches up so many times their height above their heads,–yet what a little bit, a mere mousehole, it is out of the cliff itself; and then look at the whole cliff against the Ledges, that, seen from anywhere else, seem to run so low along the river; and compare the Ledges with Feather-Cap, and Feather-Cap with Giant’s Cairn, and Giant’s Cairn with Washington, thirty miles away!”

“It is grand surveying,” said Frank Scherman.

“I think we see things from the little best,” rejoined Sin Saxon. “Washington is the big end of the telescope.”

“Now you have made me look at it,” said Frank Scherman, “I don’t think I have been in any other spot that has given me such a real idea of the mountains as this. One must have steps to climb by, even in imagination. How impertinent we are, rushing at the tremendousness of Washington in the way we do; scaling it in little pleasure-wagons, and never taking in the thought of it at all!”

Something suddenly brought a flush to Sin Saxon’s face, and almost a quiver to her lips. She was sitting with her hands clasped across her knees, and her head a little bent with a downward look, after that long, wondering mountain gaze, that had filled itself and then withdrawn for thought. She lifted her face suddenly to her companion. The impetuous look was in her eyes. “There’s other measuring too, Frank. What a fool I’ve been!”

Frank Scherman was silent. It was a little awkward for him, scarcely comprehending what she meant. He could by no means agree with Sin Saxon when she called herself a fool; yet he hardly knew what he was to contradict.

“We’re well placed at this minute. Leslie Goldthwaite and Dakie Thayne and the Josselyns half way up above there, in the Minster. Mr. Wharne and Miss Craydocke at the top. And I down here, where I belong. Impertinence! To think of the things I’ve said in my silliness to that woman, whose greatness I can no more measure! Why didn’t somebody stop me? I don’t answer for you, Frank, and I won’t keep you; but I think I’ll just stay where I am, and not spoil the significance!”

“I’m content to rank beside you; we can climb together,” said Frank Scherman. “Even Miss Craydocke has not got to the highest, you see,” he went on, a little hurriedly.

Sin Saxon broke in as hurriedly as he, with a deeper flush still upon her face. “There’s everything beyond. That’s part of it. But she helps one to feel what the higher–the Highest–must be. She’s like the rock she stands on. She’s one of the steps.”

“Come, Asenath, let’s go up.” And he held out his hand to her till she took it and rose. They had known each other from childhood, as I said; but Frank Scherman hardly ever called her by her name. “Miss Saxon” was formal, and her school sobriquet he could not use. It seemed to mean a great deal when he did say “Asenath.”

And Sin Saxon took his hand and let him lead her up, notwithstanding the “significance.”

They are young, and I am not writing a love-story; but I think they will “climb together;” and that the words that wait to be said are mere words,–they have known and understood each other so long.

* * * * *

“I feel like a camel at a fountain, drinking in what is to last through the dry places,” said Martha Josselyn, as they came up. “Miss Saxon, you don’t know what you have given us to-day. I shall take home the hills in my heart.”

“We might have gone without seeing this,” said Susan.

“No, you mightn’t,” said Sin Saxon. “It’s my good luck to see you see it, that’s all. It couldn’t be in the order of things, you know, that you should be so near it, and want it, and not have it, somehow.”

“So much _is_ in the order of things, though!” said Martha. “And there are so many things we want, without knowing them even to _be_!”

“That’s the beauty of it, I think,” said Leslie Goldthwaite, turning back from where she stood, bright in the sunset glory, on the open rock. Her voice was like that of some young prophet of joy, she was so full of the gladness and loveliness of the time. “That’s the beauty of it, I think. There is such a worldful, and you never know what you may be coming to next!”

“Well, this is our last–of the mountains. We go on Tuesday.”

“It isn’t your last of us, though, or of what we want of you,” rejoined Sin Saxon. “We must have the tableaux for Monday. We can’t do without you in Robin Gray or Consolation. And about Tuesday,–it’s only your own making up of minds. You haven’t written, have you? They don’t expect you? When a week’s broken in upon, like a dollar, the rest is of no account. And there’ll be sure to be something doing, so many are going the week after.”

“We shall have letters to-night,” said Susan. “But I think we must go on Tuesday.”

Everybody had letters that night. The mail was in early, and Captain Green came up from the post-office as the Minster party was alighting from the wagons. He gave Dakie Thayne the bag. It was Dakie’s delight to distribute, calling out the fortunate names as the expectant group pressed around him, like people waiting the issue of a lottery venture.

“Mrs. Linceford, Miss Goldthwaite, Mrs. Linceford, Mrs. _Lince_ford! Master–hm!–Thayne,” and he pocketed a big one like a dispatch. “Captain Jotham Green. Where is he? Here, Captain Green; you and I have got the biggest, if Mrs. Linceford does get the most. I believe she tells her friends to write in hits, and put one letter into three or four envelopes. When I was a _very_ little boy, I used to get a dollar changed into a hundred coppers, and feel ever so much richer.”

“That boy’s forwardness is getting insufferable!” exclaimed Mrs. Thoresby, sitting apart, with two or three others who had not joined the group about Dakie Thayne. “And why Captain Green should give _him_ the bag always, I can’t understand. It is growing to be a positive nuisance.”

Nobody out of the Thoresby clique thought it so. They had a merry time together,–“you and I and the post,” as Dakie said. But then, between you and me and that confidential personage, Mrs. Thoresby and her daughters hadn’t very many letters.

“That is all,” said Dakie, shaking the bag. “They’re only for the very good, to-night.” He was not saucy: he was only brimming-over glad. He knew “Noll’s” square handwriting, and his big envelopes.

There was great news to-night at the Cottage. They were to have a hero, perhaps two or three, among them. General Ingleside and friends were coming, early in the week, the Captain told them with expansive face. There are a great many generals and a great many heroes now. This man had been a hero beside Sheridan, and under Sherman. Colonel Ingleside he was at Stone River and Chattanooga,–leading a brave Western regiment in desperate, magnificent charges, whose daring helped to turn that terrible point of the war and made his fame.

But Leslie, though her heart stirred at the thought of a real, great commander fresh from the field, had her own news that half neutralized the excitement of the other: Cousin Delight was coming, to share her room with her for the last fortnight.

The Josselyns got their letters. Aunt Lucy was staying on. Aunt Lucy’s husband had gone away to preach for three Sundays for a parish where he had a prospect of a call. Mrs. Josselyn could not leave home immediately, therefore, although the girls should return; and their room was the airiest for Aunt Lucy. There was no reason why they should not prolong their holiday if they chose, and they might hardly ever get away to the mountains again. More than all, Uncle David was off once more for China and Japan, and had given his sister two more fifties,–“for what did a sailor want of greenbacks after he got afloat?” It was “a clover summer” for the Josselyns. Uncle David and his fifties wouldn’t be back among them for two years or more. They must make the most of it.

Sin Saxon sat up late, writing this letter to her mother:–

DARLING MAMMA,–I’ve just begun to find out really what to do here. Cream doesn’t always rise to the top. You remember the Josselyns, our quiet neighbors in town, that lived in the little house in the old-fashioned block opposite,–Sue Josselyn, Effie’s schoolmate? And how they used to tell me stories and keep me to nursery-tea? Well, they’re the cream; they and Miss Craydocke. Sue has been in the hospitals,–two years, mamma!–while I’ve been learning nocturnes, and going to Germans. And Martha has been at home, sewing her face sharp; and they’re here now to get rounded out. Well now, mamma, I want so–a real dish of mountains and cream, if you ever heard of such a thing! I want to take a wagon, and invite a party as I did my little one to Minster Rock, and go through the hills,–be gone as many days as you will send me money for. And I want you to take the money from that particular little corner of your purse where my carpet and wall-paper and curtains, that were to new-furnish my room on my leaving school, are metaphorically rolled up. There’s plenty there, you know; for you promised me my choice of everything, and I had fixed on that lovely pearl-gray paper at —-‘s, with the ivy and holly pattern, and the ivy and scarlet-geranium carpet that was such a match. I’ll have something cheaper, or nothing at all, and thank you unutterably, if you’ll only let me have my way in this. It will do me so much good, mamma! More than you’ve the least idea of. People can do without French paper and Brussels carpets, but everybody has a right to mountain and sea and cloud glory,–only they don’t half of them get it, and perhaps that’s the other half’s lookout!

I know you’ll understand me, mamma, particularly when I talk sense; for you always understood my nonsense when nobody else did. And I’m going to do your faith and discrimination credit yet.

Your bad child,–with just a small, hidden savor of grace in her, _being_ your child,–




Saturday was a day of hammering, basting, draping, dressing, rehearsing, running from room to room. Upstairs, in Mrs. Green’s garret, Leslie Goldthwaite and Dakie Thayne, with a third party never before introduced upon the stage, had a private practicing; and at tea-time, when the great hall was cleared, they got up there with Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman, locked the doors, and in costume, with regular accompaniment of bell and curtain, the performance was repeated.

Dakie Thayne was stage-manager and curtain-puller; Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman represented the audience, with clapping and stamping, and laughter that suspended both; making as nearly the noise of two hundred as two could: this being an essential part of the rehearsal in respect to the untried nerves of the _debutant_, which might easily be a little uncertain.

“He stands fire like a Yankee veteran.”

“It’s inimitable,” said Sin Saxon, wiping the moist merriment from her eyes. “And your cap, Leslie! And that bonnet! And this unutterable old oddity of a gown! Who did contrive it all? and where did they come from? You’ll carry off the glory of the evening. It ought to be the last.”

“No, indeed,” said Leslie. “Barbara Frietchie must be last, of course. But I’m so glad you think it will do. I hope they’ll be amused.”

“Amused! If you could only see your own face!”

“I see Sir Charles’s, and that makes mine.”

The new performer, you perceive, was an actor with a title.

That night’s coach, driving up while the dress-rehearsal of the other tableaux was going on at the hall, brought Cousin Delight to the Green Cottage, and Leslie met her at the door.

Sunday morning was a pause and rest and hush of beauty and joy. They sat–Delight and Leslie–by their open window, where the smell of the lately harvested hay came over from the wide, sunshiny entrance of the great barn, and away beyond stretched the pine woods, and the hills swelled near in dusky evergreen, and indigo shadows, and lessened far down toward Winnipiseogee, to where, faint and tender and blue, the outline of little Ossipee peeped in between great shoulders so modestly,–seen only through the clearest air on days like this. Leslie’s little table, with fresh white cover, held a vase of ferns and white convolvulus, and beside this Cousin Delight’s two books that came out always from the top of her trunk,–her Bible and her little “Daily Food.” To-day the verses from Old and New Testaments were these: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way.” “Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time.”

They had a talk about the first,–“The steps,” the little details; not merely the general trend and final issue; if, indeed, these could be directed without the other.

“You always make me see things, Cousin Delight,” Leslie said.

“It is very plain,” Delight answered; “if people only would read the