by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney
MRS. A. D. T. WHITNEY
I. THIS WAY, AND
IS A LONG TIME.
V. HOW THE NEWS
VII. WAKING UP.
X. COCKLES AND
XIII. PIECES OF
XV. WITH ALL
XVIII. ALL AT
AND NEXT OF KIN.
I. THIS WAY, AND THAT.
The parlor blinds were shut, and all the windows of the third-story
rooms were shaded; but the pantry window, looking out on a long low
shed, such as city houses have to keep their wood in and to dry their
clothes upon, was open; and out at this window had come two little
girls, with quiet steps and hushed voices, and carried their books and
crickets to the very further end, establishing themselves there, where
the shade of a tall, round fir tree, planted at the foot of the yard
below, fell across the building of a morning.
“It was prettier down on the bricks," Luclarion had told them. But
they thought otherwise.
“Luclarion doesn't know," said Frank. “People don't know
things, I think. I wonder why, when they've got old, and ought to? It's
like the sea-shore here, I guess, only the stones are all stuck down,
and you mustn't pick up the loose ones either."
Frank touched lightly, as she spoke, the white and black and gray
bits of gravel that covered the flat roof.
“And it smells—like the pine forests!"
The sun was hot and bright upon the fir branches and along the
“How do you know about sea-shores and pine forests?" asked Laura,
with crushing common sense.
“I don't know; but I do," said Frank.
“You don't know anything but stories and pictures and one tree, and
a little gravel, all stuck down tight."
“I'm glad I've got one tree. And the rest of it,—why listen! It's
in the word, Laura. Forest. Doesn't that sound like
thousands of them, all fresh and rustling? And Ellen went to the
sea-shore, in that book; and picked up pebbles; and the sea came up to
her feet, just as the air comes up here, and you can't get any
farther,"—said Frank, walking to the very edge and putting one foot
out over, while the wind blew in her face up the long opening between
rows of brick houses of which theirs was in the midst upon one side.
“A great sea!" exclaimed Laura, contemptuously. “With all those
other wood-sheds right out in it, all the way down!"
“Well, there's another side to the sea; and capes, and islands,"
answered Frank, turning back. “Besides, I don't pretend it is; I
only think it seems a little bit like it. I'm often put in mind of
things. I don't know why."
“I'll tell you what it is like," said Laura. “It's like the gallery
at church, where the singers stand up in a row, and look down, and all
the people look up at them. I like high places. I like Cecilia, in the
'Bracelets,' sitting at the top, behind, when her name was called out
for the prize; and 'they all made way, and she was on the floor in an
instant.' I should like to have been Cecilia!"
“Leonora was a great deal the best."
“I know it; but she don't stand out."
“Laura! You're just like the Pharisees! You're always wishing for
long clothes and high seats!"
“There ain't any Pharisees, nowadays," said Laura, securely. After
which, of course, there was nothing more to be insisted.
Mrs. Lake, the housekeeper, came to the middle upper window, and
moved the blind a little. Frank and Laura were behind the fir. They saw
her through the branches. She, through the farther thickness of the
tree, did not notice them.
“That was good," said Laura. “She would have beckoned us in. I hate
that forefinger of hers; it's always hushing or beckoning. It's only
two inches long. What makes us have to mind it so?"
“She puts it all into those two inches," answered Frank. “All the
must there is in the house. And then you've got to."
“I wouldn't—if father wasn't sick."
“Laura," said Frank, gravely, "I don't believe father is going to
get well. What do you suppose they're letting us stay at home from
“O, that," said Laura, "was because Mrs. Lake didn't have time to
sew the sleeves into your brown dress."
“I could have worn my gingham, Laura. What if he should die pretty
soon? I heard her tell Luclarion that there must be a change before
long. They talk in little bits, Laura, and they say it solemn."
The children were silent for a few minutes. Frank sat looking
through the fir-tree at the far-off flecks of blue.
Mr. Shiere had been ill a long time. They could hardly think, now,
what it would seem again not to have a sick father; and they had had no
mother for several years,—many out of their short remembrance of life.
Mrs. Lake had kept the house, and mended their clothes, and held up her
forefinger at them. Even when Mr. Shiere was well, he had been a
reserved man, much absorbed in business since his wife's death, he had
been a very sad man. He loved his children, but he was very little with
them. Frank and Laura could not feel the shock and loss that children
feel when death comes and robs them suddenly of a close companionship.
“What do you suppose would happen then?" asked Laura, after awhile.
"We shouldn't be anybody's children."
“Yes, we should," said Frank; "we should be God's.'
“Everybody else is that,—besides," said Laura.
“We shall have black silk pantalets again, I suppose,"—she began,
afresh, looking down at her white ones with double crimped
ruffles,—"and Mrs. Gibbs will come in and help, and we shall have to
pipe and overcast."
“O, Laura, how nice it was ever so long ago!" cried Frank, suddenly,
never heeding the pantalets, "when mother sent us out to ask company to
tea,—that pleasant Saturday, you know,—and made lace pelerines for
our dolls while we were gone! It's horrid, when other girls have
mothers, only to have a housekeeper! And pretty soon we sha'n't
have anything, only a little corner, away back, that we can't hardly
“They'll do something with us; they always do," said Laura,
The children of this world, even as children, are wisest in
their generation. Frank believed they would be God's children; she
could not see exactly what was to come of that, though, practically.
Laura knew that people always did something; something would be sure to
be done with them. She was not frightened; she was even a little
A head came up at the corner of the shed behind them, a pair of
shoulders,—high, square, turned forward; a pair of arms, long thence
to the elbows, as they say women's are who might be good nurses of
children; the hands held on to the sides of the steep steps that led up
from the bricked yard. The young woman's face was thin and strong; two
great, clear, hazel eyes looked straight out, like arrow shots; it was
a clear, undeviating glance; it never wandered, or searched, or
wavered, any more than a sunbeam; it struck full upon whatever was
there; it struck through many things that were transparent to
their quality. She had square, white, strong teeth, that set together
like the faces of a die; they showed easily when she spoke, but the
lips closed over them absolutely and firmly. Yet they were pleasant
lips, and had a smile in them that never went quite out; it lay in all
the muscles of the mouth and chin; it lay behind, in the living spirit
that had moulded to itself the muscles.
This was Luclarion.
“Your Aunt Oldways and Mrs. Oferr have come. Hurry in!"
Now Mrs. Oldways was only an uncle's wife; Mrs. Oferr was their
father's sister. But Mrs. Oferr was a rich woman who lived in New York,
and who came on grand and potent, with a scarf or a pair of shoe-bows
for each of the children in her big trunk, and a hundred and one
suggestions for their ordering and behavior at her tongue's end, once a
year. Mrs. Oldways lived up in the country, and was "aunt" to half the
neighborhood at home, and turned into an aunt instantly, wherever she
went and found children. If there were no children, perhaps older folks
did not call her by the name, but they felt the special human kinship
that is of no-blood or law, but is next to motherhood in the spirit.
Mrs. Oferr found the open pantry window, before the children had got
“Out there!" she exclaimed, "in the eyes of all the neighbors in the
circumstances of the family! Who does, or don't look after you?"
“Hearts'-sake!" came up the pleasant tones of Mrs. Oldways from
behind, "how can they help it? There isn't any other out-doors. If they
were down at Homesworth now, there'd be the lilac garden and the old
chestnuts, and the seat under the wall. Poor little souls!" she added,
pitifully, as she lifted them in, and kissed them. “It's well they can
take any comfort. Let 'em have all there is."
Mrs. Oferr drew the blinds, and closed the window.
Frank and Laura remembered the strangeness of that day all their
lives. How they sat, shy and silent, while Luclarion brought in cake
and wine; how Mrs. Oferr sat in the large morocco easy-chair and took
some; and Mrs. Oldways lifted Laura, great girl as she was, into her
lap first, and broke a slice for her; how Mrs. Oldways went up-stairs
to Mrs. Lake, and then down into the kitchen to do something that was
needed; and Mrs. Oferr, after she had visited her brother, lay down in
the spare chamber for a nap, tired with her long journey from New York,
though it had been by boat and cars, while there was a long staging
from Homesworth down to Nashua, on Mrs. Oldways' route. Mrs. Oldways,
however, was "used," she said, "to stepping round." It was the sitting
that had tired her.
How they were told not to go out any more, or to run up and
down-stairs; and how they sat in the front windows, looking out through
the green slats at so much of the street world as they could see in
strips; how they obtained surreptitious bits of bread from dinner, and
opened a bit of the sash, and shoved out crumbs under the blinds for
the pigeons that flew down upon the sidewalk; how they wondered what
kind of a day it was in other houses, where there were not
circumstances in the family, where children played, and fathers were
not ill, but came and went to and from their stores; and where two
aunts had not come, both at once, from great ways off, to wait for
something strange and awful that was likely to befall.
When they were taken in, at bedtime, to kiss their father and say
good-night, there was something portentous in the stillness there; in
the look of the sick man, raised high against the pillows, and turning
his eyes wistfully toward them, with no slightest movement of the head;
in the waiting aspect of all things,—the appearance as of everybody
being to sit up all night except themselves.
Edward Shiere brought his children close to him with the magnetism
of that look; they bent down to receive his kiss and his good-night, so
long and solemn. He had not been in the way of talking to them about
religion in his life. He had only insisted on their truth and
obedience; that was the beginning of all religion. Now it was given him
in the hour of his death what he should speak; and because he had never
said many such words to them before, they fell like the very touch of
the Holy Ghost upon their young spirits now,—
“Love God, and keep His commandments. Good-by."
In the morning, when they woke, Mrs. Lake was in their room, talking
in a low voice with Mrs. Oferr, who stood by an open bureau. They heard
Luclarion dusting down the stairs.
Who was taking care of their father?
They did not ask. In the night, he had been taken care of. It was
morning with him, now, also.
Mrs. Lake and Mrs. Oferr were calculating,—about black pantalets,
and other things.
This story is not with the details of their early orphan life. When
Edward Shiere was buried came family consultations. The two aunts were
the nearest friends. Nobody thought of Mr. Titus Oldways. He never was
counted. He was Mrs. Shiere's uncle,—Aunt Oldways' uncle-in-law,
therefore, and grand-uncle to these children. But Titus Oldways never
took up any family responsibilities; he had been shy of them all his
single, solitary life. He seemed to think he could not drop them as he
could other things, if he did not find them satisfactory. Besides, what
would he know about two young girls?
He saw the death in the paper, and came to the funeral; then he went
away again to his house in Greenley Street at the far West End, and to
his stiff old housekeeper, Mrs. Froke, who knew his stiff old ways.
And, turning his back on everybody, everybody forgot all about him.
Except as now and then, at intervals of years, there broke out here or
there, at some distant point in some family crisis, a sudden
recollection from which would spring a half suggestion, "Why, there's
Uncle Titus! If he was only,"—or, "if he would only,"—and there it
ended. Much as it might be with a housewife, who says of some
stored-away possession forty times, perhaps, before it ever turns out
available, "Why, there's that old gray taffety! If it were only green,
now!" or, "If there were three or four yards more of it!"
Uncle Titus was just Uncle Titus, neither more nor less; so Mrs.
Oferr and Aunt Oldways consulted about their own measures and
materials; and never reckoned the old taffety at all. There was money
enough to clothe and educate; little more.
“I will take home one," said Mrs. Oferr, distinctly.
So, they were to be separated?
They did not realize what this was, however. They were told of
letters and visits; of sweet country-living, of city sights and
pleasures; of kittens and birds' nests, and the great barns; of music
and dancing lessons, and little parties,—"by-and-by, when it was
“Let me go to Homesworth," whispered Frank to Aunt Oldways.
Laura gravitated as surely to the streets and shops, and the great
school of young ladies.
“One taken and the other left," quoted Luclarion, over the packing
of the two small trunks.
“We're both going," says Laura, surprised. “One taken?
“Where the carcass is," answered Luclarion.
“There's one thing you'll have to see to for yourselves. I can't
pack it. It won't go into the trunks."
“What your father said to you that night."
They were silent. Presently Frank answered, softly,—"I hope I
shan't forget that."
Laura, the pause once broken, remarked, rather glibly, that she "was
afraid there wouldn't be much chance to recollect things at Aunt
“She isn't exactly what I call a heavenly-minded woman," said
“She is very much occupied," replied Laura, grandly taking up
the Oferr style. “She visits a great deal, and she goes out in the
carriage. You have to change your dress every day for dinner, and I'm
to take French lessons."
The absurd little sinner was actually proud of her magnificent
temptations. She was only a child. Men and women never are, of course.
“I'm afraid it will be pretty hard to remember," repeated Laura,
“That's your stump!"
Luclarion fixed the steadfast arrow of her look straight upon her,
and drew the bow with this twang.
How Mrs. Grapp ever came to, was the wonder. Her having the baby was
nothing. Her having the name for it was the astonishment.
Her own name was Lucy; her husband's Luther: that, perhaps,
accounted for the first syllable; afterwards, whether her mind lapsed
off into combinations of such outshining appellatives as "Clara" and
"Marion," or whether Mr. Grapp having played the clarionet, and wooed
her sweetly with it in her youth, had anything to do with it, cannot be
told; but in those prescriptive days of quiet which followed the
domestic advent, the name did somehow grow together in the fancy of
Mrs. Luther; and in due time the life-atom which had been born
indistinguishable into the natural world, was baptized into the
Christian Church as "Luclarion" Grapp. Thenceforth, and no wonder, it
took to itself a very especial individuality, and became what this
story will partly tell.
Marcus Grapp, who had the start of Luclarion in this "meander,"—as
their father called the vale of tears,—by just two years' time, and
was y-clipped, by everybody but his mother "Mark,"—in his turn,
as they grew old together, cut his sister down to "Luke." Then Luther
Grapp called them both "The Apostles." And not far wrong; since if ever
the kingdom of heaven does send forth its Apostles—nay, its little
Christs—into the work on earth, in these days, it is as little
children into loving homes.
The Apostles got up early one autumn morning, when Mark was about
six years old, and Luke four. They crept out of their small trundle-bed
in their mother's room adjoining the great kitchen, and made their way
out softly to the warm wide hearth.
There were new shoes, a pair apiece, brought home from the Mills the
night before, set under the little crickets in the corners. These had
got into their dreams, somehow, and into the red rooster's first halloo
from the end room roof, and into the streak of pale daylight that just
stirred and lifted the darkness, and showed doors and windows, but not
yet the blue meeting-houses on the yellow wall-paper, by which they
always knew when it was really morning; and while Mrs. Grapp was taking
that last beguiling nap in which one is conscious that one means to get
up presently, and rests so sweetly on one's good intentions, letting
the hazy mirage of the day's work that is to be done play along the
horizon of dim thoughts with its unrisen activities,—two little
flannel night-gowns were cuddled in small heaps by the chimney-side,
little bare feet were trying themselves into the new shoes, and lifting
themselves up, crippled with two inches of stout string between the
Then the shoes were turned into spans of horses, and chirruped and
trotted softly into their cricket-stables; and then—what else was
there to do, until the strings were cut, and the flannel night-gowns
It was so still out here, in the big, busy, day-time room; it was
like getting back where the world had not begun; surely one must do
something wonderful with the materials all lying round, and such an
opportunity as that.
It was old-time then, when kitchens had fire-places; or rather the
house was chiefly fire-place, in front of and about which was more or
less of kitchen-space. In the deep fire-place lay a huge mound of gray
ashes, a Vesuvius, under which red bowels of fire lay hidden. In one
corner of the chimney leaned an iron bar, used sometimes in some
forgotten, old fashioned way, across dogs or pothooks,—who knows now?
At any rate, there it always was.
Mark, ambitious, put all his little strength to it this morning and
drew it down, carefully, without much clatter, on the hearth. Then he
thought how it would turn red under those ashes, where the big coals
were, and how it would shine and sparkle when he pulled it out again,
like the red-hot, hissing iron Jack-the-Giant-Killer struck into the
one-eyed monster's eye. So he shoved it in; and forgot it there, while
he told Luke—very much twisted and dislocated, and misjoined—the
leading incidents of the giant story; and then lapsed off, by some
queer association, into the Scripture narrative of Joseph and his
brethren, who "pulled his red coat off, and put him in a fit,
and left him there."
“And then what?" says Luke.
“Then,—O, my iron's done! See here, Luke!"—and taking it prudently
with the tongs, he pulled back the rod, till the glowing end, a foot or
more of live, palpitating, flamy red, lay out upon the broad open
“There, Luke! You daresn't put your foot on that!"
Dear little Luke, who wouldn't, at even four years old, be dared!
And dear little white, tender, pink-and-lily foot!
The next instant, a shriek of pain shot through Mrs. Grapp's ears,
and sent her out of her dreams and out of her bed, and with one single
impulse into the kitchen, with her own bare feet, and in her
The little foot had only touched; a dainty, timid, yet most resolute
touch; but the sweet flesh shriveled, and the fierce anguish ran up
every fibre of the baby body, to the very heart and brain.
“O! O, O!" came the long, pitiful, shivering cries, as the mother
gathered her in her arms.
“What is it? What did you do? How came you to?" And all the while
she moved quickly here and there, to cupboard and press-drawer, holding
the child fast, and picking up as she could with one hand, cotton wool,
and sweet-oil flask, and old linen bits; and so she bound it up, saying
still, every now and again, as all she could say,—"What did you
do? How came you to?"
Till, in a little lull of the fearful smart, as the air was shut
away, and the oil felt momentarily cool upon the ache, Luke answered
“He hed I dare-hn't, and ho I did!"
“You little fool!"
The rough word was half reaction of relief, that the child could
speak at all, half horrible spasm of all her own motherly nerves that
thrilled through and through with every pang that touched the little
frame, hers also. Mothers never do part bonds with babies they have
borne. Until the day they die, each quiver of their life goes back
straight to the heart beside which it began.
“You Marcus! What did you mean?"
“I meant she darsn't; and she no business to 'a dars't," said Mark,
pale with remorse and fright, but standing up stiff and manful, with
bare common sense, when brought to bay. And then he marched away into
his mother's bedroom, plunged his head down into the clothes, and
cried,—harder than Luclarion.
Nobody wore any new shoes that day; Mark for a punishment,—though
he flouted at the penalty as such, with an, "I guess you'd see me!" And
there were many days before poor little Luclarion could wear any shoes
The foot got well, however, without hindrance. But Luke was the same
little fool as ever; that was not burnt out. She would never be "dared"
They called it "stumps" as they grew older. They played "stumps" all
through the barns and woods and meadows; over walls and rocks, and
rafters and house-roofs. But the burnt foot saved Luke's neck scores of
times, doubtless. Mark remembered it; he never "stumped" her to any
certain hurt, or where he could not lead the way himself.
The mischief they got into and out of is no part of my story; but
one day something happened—things do happen as far back in lives as
that—which gave Luclarion her clew to the world.
They had got into the best parlor,—that sacred place of the New
England farm-house, that is only entered by the high-priests themselves
on solemn festivals, weddings and burials, Thanksgivings and quiltings;
or devoutly, now and then to set the shrine in order, shut the blinds
again, and so depart, leaving it to gather the gloom and grandeur that
things and places and people do when they are good for nothing else.
The children had been left alone; for their mother had gone to a
sewing society, and Grashy, the girl, was up-stairs in her
kitchen-chamber-bedroom, with a nail over the door-latch to keep them
out while she "fixed over" her best gown.
“Le's play Lake Ontario," says Marcus.
Now Lake Ontario, however they had pitched upon it, stood with them
for all the waters that are upon the face of the earth, and all the
confusion and peril of them. To play it, they turned the room into one
vast shipwreck, of upset and piled up chairs, stools, boxes, buckets,
and what else they could lay hands on; and among and over them they
navigated their difficult and hilarious way. By no means were they to
touch the floor; that was the Lake,—that were to drown.
It was Columbus sometimes; sometimes it was Captain Cook; to-day, it
was no less than Jason sailing after the golden fleece.
Out of odd volumes in the garret, and out of "best books" taken down
from the secretary in the "settin'-room," and put into their hands,
with charges, of a Sunday, to keep them still, they had got these
things, jumbled into strange far-off and near fantasies in their
childish minds. “Lake Ontario" included and connected all.
“I'll tell you what it is," said Marcus, tumbling up against the
parlor door and an idea at once. “In here!"
“What?" asked Luke, breathless, without looking up, and paddling
with the shovel, from an inverted rocking-chair.
“The golden thing! Hush!"
At this moment Grashy came into the kitchen, took a little tin
kettle from a nail over the dresser, and her sun-bonnet from another
behind the door, and made her way through the apartment as well as she
could for bristling chair-legs, with exemplary placidity. She was used
to "Lake Ontario."
“Don't get into any mischief, you Apostles," was her injunction.
"I'm goin' down to Miss Ruddock's for some 'east."
“Good,"; says Mark, the instant the door was shut "Now this is
Colchis, and I'm going in."
He pronounced it much like "cold-cheese," and it never occurred to
him that he was naming any unusual or ancient locality. There was a
"Jason" in the Mills Village. He kept a grocer's shop. Colchis might be
close by for all he knew; out beyond the wall, perhaps, among the old
barrels. Children place all they read or hear about, or even all
they imagine, within a very limited horizon. They cannot go beyond
their world. Why should they? Neither could those very venerable
“'Tain't," says Luclarion, with unbeguiled practicality. “It's just
ma's best parlor, and you mustn't."
It was the "mustn't" that was the whole of it. If Mark had asserted
that the back kitchen, or the cellar-way closet was Colchis, she would
have indorsed it with enthusiasm, and followed on like a loyal
Argonaut, as she was. But her imagination here was prepossessed.
Nothing in old fable could be more environed with awe and mystery than
this best parlor.
“And, besides," said Luclarion, "I don't care for the golden fleece;
I'm tired of it. Let's play something else."
“I'll tell you what there is in here," persisted Mark. “There's two
enchanted children. I've seen 'em!"
“Just as though," said Luke contemptuously. “Ma ain't a witch."
“Tain't ma. She don't know. They ain't visible to her. She
thinks it's nothing but the best parlor. But it opens out, right into
the witch country,—not for her. 'Twill if we go. See if it don't."
He had got hold of her now; Luclarion could not resist that.
Anything might be true of that wonderful best room, after all. It was
the farthest Euxine, the witch-land, everything, to them.
So Mark turned the latch and they crept in
“We must open a shutter," Mark said, groping his way.
“Grashy will be back," suggested Luke, fearfully.
“Guess so!" said Mark. “She ain't got coaxed to take her sun-bonnet
off yet, an' it'll take her ninety-'leven hours to get it on again."
He had let in the light now from the south window.
The red carpet on the floor; the high sofa of figured hair-cloth,
with brass-headed nails, and brass rosettes in the ends of the hard,
cylinder pillows; the tall, carved cupboard press, its doors and
drawers glittering with hanging brass handles; right opposite the door
by which they had come in, the large, leaning mirror, gilt—garnished
with grooved and beaded rim and an eagle and ball-chains over the
top,—all this, opening right in from the familiar every-day kitchen
and their Lake Ontario,—it certainly meant something that such a place
should be. It meant a great deal more than sixteen feet square could
hold, and what it really was did not stop short at the gray-and-crimson
The two were all alone in it; perhaps they had never been all alone
in it before. I think, notwithstanding their mischief and enterprise,
they never had.
And deep in the mirror, face to face with them, coming down, it
seemed, the red slant of an inner and more brilliant floor, they saw
two other little figures. Their own they knew, really, but elsewhere
they never saw their own figures entire. There was not another
looking-glass in the house that was more than two feet long, and they
were all hung up so high!
“There!" whispered Mark. “There they are, and they can't get out."
“Of course they can't," said sensible Luclarion.
“If we only knew the right thing to say, or do, they might," said
Mark. “It's that they're waiting for, you see. They always do. It's
like the sleeping beauty Grashy told us."
“Then they've got to wait a hundred years," said Luke.
“Who knows when they began?"
“They do everything that we do," said Luclarion, her imagination
kindling, but as under protest. “If we could jump in perhaps they would
“We might jump at 'em," said Marcus. “Jest get 'em going, and
may-be they'd jump over. Le's try."
So they set up two chairs from Lake Ontario in the kitchen doorway,
to jump from; but they could only jump to the middle round of the
carpet, and who could expect that the shadow children should be
beguiled by that into a leap over bounds? They only came to the middle
round of their carpet.
“We must go nearer; we must set the chairs in the middle, and jump
close. Jest shave, you know," said Marcus.
“O, I'm afraid," said Luclarion.
“I'll tell you what! Le's run and jump! Clear from the other
side of the kitchen, you know. Then they'll have to run too, and may-be
they can't stop."
So they picked up chairs and made a path, and ran from across the
broad kitchen into the parlor doorway, quite on to the middle round of
the carpet, and then with great leaps came down bodily upon the floor
close in front of the large glass that, leaned over them, with two
little fallen figures in it, rolling aside quickly also, over the
slanting red carpet.
But, O dear what did it?
Had the time come, anyhow, for the old string to part its last
fibre, that held the mirror tilting from the wall,—or was it the crash
of a completed spell?
There came a snap,—a strain,—as some nails or screws that held it
otherwise gave way before the forward pressing weight, and down,
flat-face upon the floor, between the children, covering them with
fragments of splintered glass and gilded wood,—eagle, ball-chains, and
all,—that whole magnificence and mystery lay prostrate.
Behind, where it had been, was a blank, brown-stained cobwebbed
wall, thrown up harsh and sudden against them, making the room small,
and all the enchanted chamber, with its red slanting carpet, and its
far reflected corners, gone.
The house hushed up again after that terrible noise, and stood just
the same as ever. When a thing like that happens, it tells its own
story, just once, and then it is over. People are different.
They keep talking.
There was Grashy to come home. She had not got there in time to hear
the house tell it. She must learn it from the children. Why?
“Because they knew," Luclarion said. “Because, then, they could not
wait and let it be found out."
“We never touched it," said Mark.
“We jumped," said Luke.
“We couldn't help it, if that did it. S'posin' we'd jumped in
the kitchen, or—the—flat-irons had tumbled down,—or anything? That
old string was all wore out."
“Well, we was here, and we jumped; and we know."
“We was here, of course; and of course we couldn't help knowing,
with all that slam-bang. Why, it almost upset Lake Ontario! We can tell
how it slammed, and how we thought the house was coming down. I did."
“And how we were in the best parlor, and how we jumped," reiterated
Luclarion, slowly. “Marcus, it's a stump!"
They were out in the middle of Lake Ontario now, sitting right down
underneath the wrecks, upon the floor; that is, under water, without
ever thinking of it. The parlor door was shut, with all that disaster
and dismay behind it.
“Go ahead, then!" said Marcus, and he laid himself back desperately
on the floor. “There's Grashy!"
“Sakes and patience!" ejaculated Grashy, merrily, coming in.
"They're drownded,—dead, both of 'em; down to the bottom of Lake
“No we ain't," said Luclarion, quietly. “It isn't Lake Ontario now.
It's nothing but a clutter. But there's an awful thing in the best
parlor, and we don't know whether we did it or not. We were in there,
and we jumped."
Grashy went straight to the parlor door, and opened it. She looked
in, turned pale, and said "'Lection!"
That is a word the women have, up in the country, for solemn
surprise, or exceeding emergency, or dire confusion. I do not know
whether it is derived from religion or politics. It denotes a vital
crisis, either way, and your hands full. Perhaps it had the theological
association in Grashy's mind, for the next thing she said was, "My
“Do you know what that's a sign of, you children?"
“Sign the old thing was rotten," said Marcus, rather sullenly.
“Wish that was all," said Grashy, her lips white yet. “Hope there
mayn't nothin' dreadful happen in this house before the year's out.
It's wuss'n thirteen at the table."
“Do you s'pose we did it?" asked Luke, anxiously.
“Where was you when it tumbled?"
“Right in front of it. But we were rolling away. We tumbled."
“'Twould er come down the fust jar, anyway, if a door had slammed.
The string's cut right through," said Grashy, looking at the two ends
sticking up stiff and straight from the top fragment of the frame. “But
the mercy is you war'n't smashed yourselves to bits and flinders. Think
“Do you s'pose ma'll think of that?" asked Luclarion.
“Well—yes; but it may make her kinder madder,—just at first, you
know. Between you and me and the lookin'-glass, you see,—well, yer ma
is a pretty strong-feelin' woman," said Grashy, reflectively. “'Fi was
you I wouldn't say nothin' about it. What's the use? I shan't."
“It's a stump," repeated Luclarion, sadly, but in very resolute
“Well, if you ain't the curiousest young one, Luke Grapp!" said she,
only half comprehending.
When Mrs. Grapp came home, Luclarion went into her bedroom after
her, and told her the whole story. Mrs. Grapp went into the parlor,
viewed the scene of calamity, took in the sense of loss and narrowly
escaped danger, laid the whole weight of them upon the disobedience to
be dealt with, and just as she had said, "You little fool!" out of the
very shock of her own distress when Luke had burned her baby foot, she
turned back now, took the two children up-stairs in silence, gave them
each a good old orthodox whipping, and tucked them into their beds.
They slept one on each side of the great kitchen-chamber.
“Mark," whispered Luke, tenderly, after Mrs. Grapp's step had died
away down the stairs. “How do you feel?"
“Hot!" said Mark. “How do you?"
“You ain't mad with me, be you?"
“Then I feel real cleared up and comfortable. But it was a
stump, wasn't it?"
* * * * *
From that time forward, Luclarion Grapp had got her light to go by.
She understood life. It was "stumps" all through. The Lord set them,
and let them; she found that out afterward, when she was older, and
"experienced religion." I think she was mistaken in the dates, though;
it was recognition, this later thing; the experience was away
back,—at Lake Ontario.
It was a stump when her father died, and her mother had to manage
the farm, and she to help her. The mortgage they had to work off was a
stump; but faith and Luclarion's dairy did it. It was a stump when
Marcus wanted to go to college, and they undertook that, after the
mortgage. It was a stump when Adam Burge wanted her to marry him, and
go and live in the long red cottage at Side Hill, and she could not go
till they had got through with helping Marcus. It was a terrible stump
when Adam Burge married Persis Cone instead, and she had to live on and
bear it. It was a stump when her mother died, and the farm was sold.
Marcus married; he never knew; he had a belles-lettres professorship
in a new college up in D——. He would not take a cent of the farm
money; he had had his share long ago; the four thousand dollars were
invested for Luke. He did the best he could, and all he knew; but human
creatures can never pay each other back. Only God can do that, either
Luclarion did not stay in ——. There were too few there now, and
too many. She came down to Boston. Her two hundred and eighty dollars a
year was very good, as far as it went, but it would not keep her idle;
neither did she wish to live idle. She learned dress-making; she had
taste and knack; she was doing well; she enjoyed going about from house
to house for her days' work, and then coming back to her snug room at
night, and her cup of tea and her book.
Then it turned out that so much sewing was not good for her; her
health was threatened; she had been used to farm work and "all
out-doors." It was a "stump" again. That was all she called it; she did
not talk piously about a "cross." What difference did it make? There is
another word, also, for "cross" in Hebrew.
Luclarion came at last to live with Mrs. Edward Shiere. And in that
household, at eight and twenty, we have just found her.
III. BY STORY-RAIL: TWENTY-SIX YEARS
Laura Shiere did not think much about the "stump," when, in her dark
gray merino travelling dress, and her black ribbons, nicely appointed,
as Mrs. Oferr's niece should be, down to her black kid gloves and
broad-hemmed pocket-handkerchief, and little black straw
travelling-basket (for morocco bags were not yet in those days), she
stepped into the train with her aunt at the Providence Station, on her
way to Stonington and New York.
The world seemed easily laid out before her. She was like a cousin
in a story-book, going to arrive presently at a new home, and begin a
new life, in which she would be very interesting to herself and to
those about her. She felt rather important, too, with her money
independence—there being really "property" of hers to be spoken of as
she had heard it of late. She had her mother's diamond ring on her
third finger, and was comfortably conscious of it when she drew off her
left-hand glove. Laura Shiere's nature had only been stirred, as yet, a
very little below the surface, and the surface rippled pleasantly in
the sunlight that was breaking forth from the brief clouds.
Among the disreputable and vociferous crowd of New York hack
drivers, that swarmed upon the pier as the Massachusetts glided
into her dock, it was good to see that subduedly respectable and
consciously private and superior man in the drab overcoat and the nice
gloves and boots, who came forward and touched his hat to Mrs. Oferr,
took her shawl and basket, and led the way, among the aggravated public
menials, to a handsome private carriage waiting on the street.
“All well at home, David?" asked Mrs. Oferr.
“All well, ma'am, thank you," replied David.
And another man sat upon the box, in another drab coat, and touched
his hat; and when they reached Waverley Place and alighted, Mrs.
Oferr had something to say to him of certain directions, and addressed
him as "Moses."
It was very grand and wonderful to order "David" and "Moses" about.
Laura felt as if her aunt were something only a little less than
"Michael with the sword." Laura had a susceptibility for dignities; she
appreciated, as we have seen out upon the wood-shed, "high places, and
all the people looking up."
David and Moses were brothers, she found out; she supposed that was
the reason they dressed alike, in drab coats; as she and Frank used to
wear their red merinos, and their blue ginghams. A little spasm did
come up in her throat for a minute, as she thought of the old frocks
and the old times already dropped so far behind; but Alice and
Geraldine Oferr met her the next instant on the broad staircase at the
back of the marble-paved hall, looking slight and delicate, and
princess-like, in the grand space built about them for their lives to
move in; and in the distance and magnificence of it all, the faint
little momentary image of Frank faded away.
She went up with them out of the great square hall, over the stately
staircase, past the open doors of drawing-rooms and library, stretching
back in a long suite, with the conservatory gleaming green from the far
end over the garden, up the second stairway to the floor where their
rooms were; bedrooms and nursery,—this last called so still, though
the great, airy front-room was the place used now for their books and
amusements as growing young ladies,—all leading one into another
around the skylighted upper hall, into which the sunshine came streaked
with amber and violet from the richly colored glass. She had a little
side apartment given to her for her own, with a recessed window, in
which were blossoming plants just set there from the conservatory;
opposite stood a white, low bed in a curtained alcove, and beyond was a
dressing-closet. Laura thought she should not be able to sleep there at
all for a night or two, for the beauty of it and the good time she
should be having.
At that same moment Frank and her Aunt Oldways were getting down
from the stage that had brought them over from Ipsley, where they slept
after their day's journey from Boston,—at the doorstone of the low,
broad-roofed, wide-built, roomy old farm-house in Homesworth.
Right in the edge of the town it stood, its fields stretching over
the south slope of green hills in sunny uplands, and down in meadowy
richness to the wild, hidden, sequestered river-side, where the brown
water ran through a narrow, rocky valley,—Swift River they called it.
There are a great many Swift Rivers in New England. It was only a
vehement little tributary of a larger stream, beside which lay larger
towns; it was doing no work for the world, apparently, at present;
there were no mills, except a little grist-mill to which the farmers
brought their corn, cuddled among the rocks and wild birches and
alders, at a turn where the road came down, and half a dozen planks
made a bit of a bridge.
“O, what beautiful places!" cried Frank, as they crossed the little
bridge, and glanced either way into a green, gray, silvery vista of
shrubs and rocks, and rushing water, with the white spires of
meadow-sweet and the pink hardback, and the first bright plumes of the
golden rod nodding and shining against the shade,—as they passed the
head of a narrow, grassy lane, trod by cows' feet, and smelling of
their milky breaths, and the sweetness of hay-barns,—as they came up,
at length, over the long slope of turf that carpeted the way, as for a
bride's feet, from the roadside to the very threshold. She looked along
the low, treble-piled garden wall, too, and out to the open sheds, deep
with pine chips; and upon the broad brown house-roof, with its long,
gradual decline, till its eaves were within reach of a child's fingers
from the ground; and her quick eye took in facilities.
“O, if Laura could see this! After the old shed-top in Brier Street,
and the one tree!"
But Laura had got what the shed-top stood for with her; it was Frank
who had hearkened to whole forests in the stir of the one brick-rooted
fir. To that which each child had, it was already given.
In a week or two Frank wrote Laura a letter. It was an old-fashioned
letter, you know; a big sheet, written close, four pages, all but the
middle of the last page, which was left for the "superscription." Then
it was folded, the first leaf turned down twice, lengthwise; then the
two ends laid over, toward each other; then the last doubling, or
rather trebling, across; and the open edge slipped over the folds. A
wafer sealed it, and a thimble pressed it,—and there were twenty-five
cents postage to pay. That was a letter in the old times, when Laura
and Frank Shiere were little girls. And this was that letter:—
DEAR LAURA,—We got here safe, Aunt Oldways and I, a week ago
last Saturday, and it is beautiful. There is a green
lane,—almost everybody has a green lane,—and the cows go up
and down, and the swallows build in the barn-eaves. They fly
out at sundown, and fill all the sky up. It is like the specks
we used to watch in the sunshine when it came in across the
kitchen, and they danced up and down and through and away, and
seemed to be live things; only we couldn't tell, you know,
they were, or if they really did know how good it was. But
these are big and real, and you can see their wings, and you
know what they mean by it. I guess it is all the same thing,
only some things are little and some are big. You can see the
stars here, too,—such a sky full. And that is all the same
There are beautiful roofs and walls here. I guess you would
think you were high up! Harett and I go up from under the
cheese-room windows right over the whole house, and we sit on
the peak by the chimney. Harett is Mrs. Dillon's girl. Not the
girl that lives with her,—her daughter. But the girls that
live with people are daughters here. Somebody's else, I mean.
They are all alike. I suppose her name is Harriet, but they
call her Harett. I don't like to ask her for fear she should
think I thought they didn't know how to pronounce.
I go to school with Harett; up to the West District. We carry
brown bread and butter, and doughnuts, and cheese, and
apple-pie in tin pails, for luncheon. Don't you remember the
brown cupboard in Aunt Oldways' kitchen, how sagey, and
doughnutty, and good it always smelt? It smells just so now,
and everything tastes just the same.
There is a great rock under an oak tree half way up to school,
by the side of the road. We always stop there to rest, coming
home. Three of the girls come the same way as far as that, and
we always save some of our dinner to eat up there, and we tell
stories. I tell them about dancing-school, and the time we
to the theatre to see "Cinderella," and going shopping with
mother, and our little tea-parties, and the Dutch dolls we
up in the long front chamber. O, don't you remember,
What different pieces we have got into our remembrances
already! I feel as if I was making patchwork. Some-time,
may-be, I shall tell somebody about living here. Well,
will be beautiful stories! Homesworth is an elegant place to
live in. You will see when you come next summer.
There is an apple tree down in the south orchard that bends
just like a horse's back. Then the branches come up over your
head and shade you. We ride there, and we sit and eat summer
apples there. Little rosy apples with dark streaks in them all
warm with the sun. You can't think what a smell they have,
like pinks and spice boxes. Why don't they keep a little way
off from each other in cities, and so have room for apple
trees? I don't see why they need to crowd so. I hate to think
of you all shut up tight when I am let right out into green
grass, and blue sky, and apple orchards. That puts me in mind
of something! Zebiah Jane, Aunt Oldways' girl, always washes
her face in the morning at the pump-basin out in the back
dooryard, just like the ducks. She says she can't spatter
in a room; she wants all creation for a slop-bowl. I feel as
we had all creation for everything up here. But I can't put
creation in a letter if I try. That would spatter
I expect a long letter from you every day now. But I don't see
what you will make it out of. I think I have got all the
things and you won't have anything left but the
words. I am
sure you don't sit out on the wood-shed at Aunt Oferr's, and I
don't believe you pound stones and bricks, and make colors. Do
you know when we rubbed our new shoes with pounded stone and
made them gray?
I never told you about Luclarion. She came up as soon as the
things were all sent off, and she lives at the minister's.
Where she used to live is only two miles from here, but other
people live there now, and it is built on to and painted straw
color, with a green door.
Your affectionate sister,
When Laura's letter came this was it:—
DEAR FRANK,—I received your kind letter a week ago, but we
have been very busy having a dressmaker and doing all our fall
shopping, and I have not had time to answer it before. We
begin to go to school next week, for the vacations are over,
and then I shall have ever so much studying to do. I am to
lessons on the piano, too, and shall have to practice two
a day. In the winter we shall have dancing-school and
practicing parties. Aunt has had a new bonnet made for me. She
did not like the plain black silk one. This is of gros
d'Afrique, with little bands and cordings round the crown
front; and I have a dress of gros d'Afrique, too,
with double folds piped on. For every-day I have a new black
mousseline with white clover leaves on it, and an
French chally to wear to dinner. I don't wear my black and
white calico at all. Next summer aunt means to have me wear
white almost all the time, with lavender and violet ribbons. I
shall have a white muslin with three skirts and a black sash
wear to parties and to Public Saturdays, next winter. They
Public Saturdays at dancing-school every three weeks. But only
the parents and relations can come. Alice and Geraldine dance
the shawl-dance with Helena Pomeroy, with crimson and white
Canton crape scarfs. They have showed me some of it at home.
Aunt Oferr says I shall learn the gavotte.
Aunt Oferr's house is splendid. The drawing-room is full of
sofas, and divans, and ottomans, and a causeuse, a
S-shaped seat for two people. Everything is covered with blue
velvet, and there are blue silk curtains to the windows, and
great looking-glasses between, that you can see all down into
through rooms and rooms, as if there were a hundred of them.
you remember the story Luclarion used to tell us of when she
and her brother Mark were little children and used to play
the looking-glass-things were real, and that two children
in them, in the other room, and how we used to make believe
in the slanting chimney glass? You could make believe it here
with forty children. But I don't make believe much now.
is such a lot that is real, and it is all so grown up. It
seem so silly to have such plays, you know. I can't help
thinking the things that come into my head though, and it
sometimes just like a piece of a story, when I walk into the
drawing-room all alone, just before company comes, with my
gros d'Afrique on, and my puffed lace collar, and my
tied back with long new black ribbons. It all goes through my
head just how I look coming in, and how grand it is, and what
the words would be in a book about it, and I seem to act a
little bit, just to myself as if I were a girl in a story, and
it seems to say, "And Laura walked up the long drawing-room
took a book bound in crimson morocco from the white marble
table and sat down upon the velvet ottoman in the balcony
window." But what happened then it never tells. I suppose it
will by and by. I am getting used to it all, though; it isn't
so awfully splendid as it was at first.
I forgot to tell you that my new bonnet flares a great deal,
and that I have white lace quilling round the face with little
black dotty things in it on stems. They don't wear those close
cottage bonnets now. And aunt has had my dresses made longer
and my pantalettes shorter, so that they hardly show at all.
She says I shall soon wear long dresses, I am getting so tall.
Alice wears them now, and her feet look so pretty, and she has
such pretty slippers: little French purple ones, and sometimes
dark green, and sometimes beautiful light gray, to go with
different dresses. I don't care for anything but the slippers,
but I should like such ones as hers. Aunt says I can't,
course, as long as I wear black, but I can have purple ones
next summer to wear with my white dresses. That will be when I
come to see you.
I am afraid you will think this is a very wearing kind
letter, there are so many 'wears' in it. I have been reading
over so far, but I can't put in any other word.
Your affectionate sister,
P.S. Aunt Oferr says Laura Shiere is such a good sounding name.
It doesn't seem at all common. I am glad of it. I should hate
to be common.
I do not think I shall give you any more of it just here than these
two letters tell. We are not going through all Frank and Laura's story.
That with which we have especially to do lies on beyond. But it takes
its roots in this, as all stories take their roots far back and
Two years after, Laura was in Homesworth for her second summer visit
at the farm. It was convenient, while the Oferrs were at Saratoga. Mrs.
Oferr was very much occupied now, of course, with introducing her own
daughters. A year or two later, she meant to give Laura a season at the
Springs. “All in turn, my dear, and good time," she said.
The winter before, Frank had been a few weeks in New York. But it
tired her dreadfully, she said. She liked the theatres and the
concerts, and walking out and seeing the shops. But there was "no place
to get out of it into." It didn't seem as if she ever really got home
and took off her things. She told Laura it was like that first old
letter of hers; it was just "wearing," all the time.
Laura laughed. “But how can you live without wearing?" said
Frank stood by, wondering, while Laura unpacked her trunks that
morning after her second arrival at Aunt Oldways'. She had done now
even with the simplicity of white and violet, and her wardrobe
blossomed out like the flush of a summer garden.
She unfolded a rose-colored muslin, with little raised embroidered
spots, and threw it over the bed.
“Where will you wear that, up here?" asked Frank, in pure
“Why, I wear it to church, with my white Swiss mantle," answered
Laura. “Or taking tea, or anything. I've a black silk visite for
cool days. That looks nice with it. And see here,—I've a pink
sunshade. They don't have them much yet, even in New York. Mr.
Pemberton Oferr brought these home from Paris, for Gerry and Alice, and
me. Gerry's is blue. See! it tips back." And Laura set the dashy little
thing with its head on one side, and held it up coquettishly.
“They used them in carriages in Paris, he said, and in St.
Petersburg, driving out on the Nevskoi Prospekt."
“But where are your common things?"
“Down at the bottom; I haven't come to them. They were put in first,
because they would bear squeezing. I've two French calicoes, with
pattern trimmings; and a lilac jaconet, with ruffles, open down the
Laura wore long dresses now; and open wrappers were the height of
Laura astonished Homesworth the first Sunday of this visit, with her
rose-colored toilet. Bonnet of shirred pink silk with moss rosebuds and
a little pink lace veil; the pink muslin, full-skirted over two
starched petticoats; even her pink belt had gay little borders of tiny
buds and leaves, and her fan had a pink tassel.
“They're the things I wear; why shouldn't I?" she said to Frank's
“But up here!" said Frank. “It would seem nicer to wear
So it would; a few years afterward Laura herself would have seen
that it was more elegant; though Laura Shiere was always rather given
to doing the utmost—in apparel—that the occasion tolerated. Fashions
grew stiller in years after. But this June Sunday, somewhere in the
last thirties or the first forties, she went into the village church
like an Aurora, and the village long remembered the resplendence. Frank
had on a white cambric dress, with a real rose in the bosom, cool and
fresh, with large green leaves; and her "cottage straw" was trimmed
with white lutestring, crossed over the crown.
“Do you feel any better?" asked Aunt Oldways of Laura, when they
came home to the country tea-dinner.
“Better—how?" asked Laura, in surprise.
“After all that 'wear' and stare," said Aunt Oldways,
Aunt Oldways might have been astonished, but she was by no means
awestruck, evidently; and Aunt Oldways generally spoke her mind.
Somehow, with Laura Shiere, pink was pinker, and ribbons were more
rustling than with most people. Upon some quiet unconscious folks, silk
makes no spread, and color little show; with Laura every gleam told,
every fibre asserted itself. It was the live Aurora, bristling and
tingling to its farthest electric point. She did not toss or flaunt,
either; she had learned better of Signor Pirotti how to carry herself;
but she was in conscious rapport with every thing and stitch she
had about her. Some persons only put clothes on to their bodies; others
really seem to contrive to put them on to their souls.
Laura Shiere came up to Homesworth three years later, with something
more wonderful than a pink embossed muslin:—she had a lover.
Mrs. Oferr and her daughters were on their way to the mountains;
Laura was to be left with the Oldways. Grant Ledwith accompanied them
all thus far on their way; then he had to go back to Boston.
“I can't think of anything but that pink sunshade she used to carry
round canted all to one side over her shoulder," said Aunt Oldways,
looking after them down the dusty road the morning that he went away.
Laura, in her white dress and her straw hat and her silly little
bronze-and-blue-silk slippers printing the roadside gravel, leaning on
Grant Ledwith's arm, seemed only to have gained a fresh, graceful
adjunct to set off her own pretty goings and comings with, and to
heighten the outside interest of that little point of eternity that she
called her life. Mr. Ledwith was not so much a man who had won a woman,
as Laura was a girl who had "got a beau."
She had sixteen tucked and trimmed white skirts, too, she told
Frank; she should have eight more before she was married; people wore
ever so many skirts now, at a time. She had been to a party a little
while ago where she wore seven.
There were deep French embroidery bands around some of these white
skirts; those were beautiful for morning dresses. Geraldine Oferr was
married last winter; Laura had been her bridesmaid; Gerry had a white
brocade from Paris, and a point-lace veil. She had three dozen of
everything, right through. They had gone to housekeeping up town, in
West Sixteenth Street. Frank would have to come to New York next
winter, or in the spring, to be her bridesmaid; then she would
see; then—who knew!
Frank was only sixteen, and she lived away up here in Homesworth
among the hills; she had not "seen," but she had her own little secret,
for all that; something she neither told nor thought, yet which was
there; and it came across her with a queer little thrill from the
hidden, unlooked-at place below thought, that "Who" didn't know.
Laura waited a year for Grant Ledwith's salary to be raised to
marrying point; he was in a wholesale woolen house in Boston; he was a
handsome fellow, with gentlemanly and taking address,—capital, this,
for a young salesman; and they put his pay up to two thousand dollars
within that twelvemonth. Upon this, in the spring, they married; took a
house in Filbert Street, down by the river, and set up their little
gods. These were: a sprinkle of black walnut and brocatelle in the
drawing-room, a Sheffield-plate tea-service, and a
crimson-and-giltedged dinner set that Mrs. Oferr gave them; twilled
turkey-red curtains, that looked like thibet, in the best chamber; and
the twenty-four white skirts and the silk dresses, and whatever
corresponded to them on the bride-groom's part, in their wardrobes. All
that was left of Laura's money, and all that was given them by Grant
Ledwith's father, and Mr. Titus Oldways' astounding present of three
hundred dollars, without note or comment,—the first reminder they had
had of him since Edward Shiere's funeral, "and goodness knew how he
heard anything now," Aunt Oferr said,—had gone to this outfit. But
they were well set up and started in the world; so everybody said, and
so they, taking the world into their young, confident hands for a
plaything, not knowing it for the perilous loaded shell it is, thought,
Up in Homesworth people did not have to wait for two thousand dollar
salaries. They would not get them if they did.
Oliver Ripwinkley, the minister's son, finished his medical studies
and city hospital practice that year, and came back, as he had always
said he should do, to settle down for a country doctor. Old Doctor
Parrish, the parson's friend of fifty years, with no child of his own,
kept the place for Oliver, and hung up his old-fashioned saddle-bags in
the garret the very day the young man came home. He was there to be
"called in," however, and with this backing, and the perforce of there
being nobody else, young Doctor Ripwinkley had ten patients within the
first week; thereby opportunity for shewing himself in the eyes of ten
families as a young man who "appeared to know pretty well what he was
So that when he gave further proof of the same, by asking, within
the week that followed, the prettiest girl in Homesworth, Frances
Shiere, to come and begin the world with him at Mile Hill village,
nobody, not even Frank herself, was astonished.
She bought three new gowns, a shawl, a black silk mantle, and a
straw bonnet. She made six each of every pretty white garment that a
woman wears; and one bright mellow evening in September, they took
their first tea in the brown-carpeted, white-shaded little corner room
in the old "Rankin house;" a bigger place than they really wanted yet,
and not all to be used at first; but rented "reasonable," central,
sunshiny, and convenient; a place that they hoped they should buy
sometime; facing on the broad sidegreen of the village street, and
running back, with its field and meadow belongings, away to the foot of
great, gray, sheltering Mile Hill.
And the vast, solemn globe, heedless of what lit here or there upon
its breadth, or took up this or that life in its little freckling
cities, or between the imperceptible foldings of its hills,—only
carrying way-passengers for the centuries,—went plunging on its track,
around and around, and swept them all, a score of times, through its
summer and its winter solstices.
IV. AFTERWARDS IS A LONG TIME.
Old Mr. Marmaduke Wharne had come down from Outledge, in the
mountains, on his way home to New York. He had stopped in Boston to
attend to some affairs of his own,—if one can call them so, since
Marmaduke Wharne never had any "own" affairs that did not chiefly
concern, to their advantage, somebody else,—in which his friend Mr.
Titus Oldways was interested, not personally, but Wharne fashion. Now,
reader, you know something about Mr. Titus Oldways, which up to this
moment, only God, and Marmaduke Wharne, and Rachel Froke, who kept Mr.
Oldways' house, and wore a Friend's drab dress and white cap, and said
"Titus," and "Marmaduke" to the two old gentlemen, and "thee" and
"thou" to everybody,—have ever known. In a general way and relation, I
mean; separate persons knew particular things; but each separate person
thought the particular thing he knew to be a whimsical exception.
Mr. Oldways did not belong to any church: but he had an English
Prayer-book under his Bible on his study table, and Baxter and Fenelon
and a Kempis and "Wesley's Hymns," and Swedenborg's "Heaven and Hell"
and "Arcana Celestia," and Lowell's "Sir Launfal," and Dickens's
"Christmas Carol," all on the same set of shelves,—that held, he told
Marmaduke, his religion; or as much of it as he could get together. And
he had this woman, who was a Friend, and who walked by the Inner Light,
and in outer charity, if ever a woman did, to keep his house. “For,"
said he, "the blessed truth is, that the Word of God is in the world.
Alive in it. When you know that, and wherever you can get hold of his
souls, then and there you've got your religion,—a piece at a time. To
prove and sort your pieces, and to straighten the tangle you might
otherwise get into, there's this," and he laid his hand down on
the Four Gospels, bound in white morocco, with a silver cross upon the
cover,—a volume that no earthly creature, again, knew of, save Titus
and Marmaduke and Rachel Froke, who laid it into a drawer when she
swept and dusted, and placed it between the crimson folds of its
quilted silken wrapper when she had finished, burnishing the silver
cross gently with a scrap of chamois leather cut from a clean piece
every time. There was nothing else delicate and exquisite in all the
plain and grim establishment; and the crimson wrapper was comfortably
worn, and nobody would notice it, lying on the table there, with an
almanac, a directory, the big, open Worcester's Dictionary, and the
scattered pamphlets and newspapers of the day.
Out in the world, Titus Oldways went about with visor down.
He gave to no fairs nor public charities; "let them get all they
could that way, it wasn't his way," he said to Rachel Froke. The world
thought he gave nothing, either of purse or life.
There was a plan they had together,—he and Marmaduke Wharne,—this
girls' story-book will not hold the details nor the idea of it,—about
a farm they owned, and people working it that could go nowhere else to
work anything; and a mill-privilege that might be utilized and
expanded, to make—not money so much as safe and honest human life by
way of making money; and they sat and talked this plan over, and
settled its arrangements, in the days that Marmaduke Wharne was staying
on in Boston, waiting for his other friend, Miss Craydocke, who had
taken the River Road down from Outledge, and so come round by Z——,
where she was staying a few days with the Goldthwaites and the
Inglesides. Miss Craydocke had a share or two in the farm and in the
And now, Titus Oldways wanted to know of Marmaduke Wharne what he
was to do for Afterwards.
It was a question that had puzzled and troubled him. Afterwards.
“While I live," he said, "I will do what I can, and as I can.
I will hand over my doing, and the wherewith, to no society or
corporation. I'll pay no salaries nor circumlocutions. Neither will
I—afterwards. And how is my money going to work on?"
“How did it work when it came to you?"
Mr. Oldways was silent.
“He chose to send it to you. He made it in the order of things that
it should come to you. You began, yourself, to work for money. You did
not understand, then, that the money would be from God and was for
“He made me understand."
“Yes. He looked out for that part of it too. He can look out for it
again. His word shall not return unto him void."
“He has given me this, though, to pass on; and I will not put it
into a machine. I want to give some living soul a body for its living.
Dead charities are dead. It's of no use to will it to you, Marmaduke;
I'm as likely to stay on, perhaps, as you are."
“And the youngest life might drop, the day after your own. You can't
take it out of God's hand."
“I must either let it go by law, or will it—here and there. I know
enough whom it would help; but I want to invest, not spend it; to
invest it in a life—or lives—that will carry it on from where I leave
it. How shall I know?"
“He giveth it a body as it pleaseth Him," quoted Marmaduke Wharne,
thoughtfully. “I am English, you know, Oldways; I can't help
reverencing the claims of next of kin. Unless one is plainly shown
otherwise, it seems the appointment. How can we set aside his ways
until He clearly points us out his own exception?"
“My 'next' are two women whom I don't know, my niece's children. She
died thirty years ago."
“Perhaps you ought to know them."
“I know about them; I've kept the run; but I've held clear of
family. They didn't need me, and I had no right to put it into their
heads they did, unless I fully meant"—
He broke off.
“They're like everybody else, Wharne; neither better nor worse, I
dare say; but the world is full of just such women. How do I know this
money would be well in their hands—even for themselves?"
“One of 'em was brought up by an Oferr woman!"
The tone in which he commonized the name to a satiric general
term, is not to be written down, and needed not to be interpreted.
“The other is well enough," he went on, "and contented enough. A
doctor's widow, with a little property, a farm and two children,—her
older ones died very young,—up in New Hampshire. I might spoil her
; and the other,—well, you see as I said, I don't know."
“Find out," said Marmaduke Wharne, again.
“People are not found out till they are tried."
Mr. Oldways had been sitting with his head bent, thoughtfully, his
eyes looking down, his hands on the two stiff, old-fashioned arms of
his chair. At this last spondaic response from Marmaduke, he lifted his
eyes and eyebrows,—not his head,—and raised himself slightly with his
two hands pressing on the chair arms; the keen glance and the
half-movement were impulsively toward his friend.
“Eh?" said he.
“Try 'em," repeated Marmaduke Wharne. “Give God's way a chance."
Mr. Oldways, seated back in his chair again, looked at him intently;
made a little vibration, as it were, with his body, that moved his head
up and down almost imperceptibly, with a kind of gradual assenting
apprehension, and kept utterly silent.
So, their talk being palpably over for this time, Marmaduke Wharne
got up presently to go. They nodded at each other, friendlily, as he
looked back from the door.
Left alone, Mr. Titus Oldways turned in his swivel-chair, around to
his desk beside which he was sitting.
“Next of kin?" he repeated to himself. “God's way?—Well! Afterwards
is a long time. A man must give it up somewhere. Everything escheats to
the king at last."
And he took a pen in his hand and wrote a letter.
V. HOW THE NEWS CAME TO HOMESWORTH.
“I wish I lived in the city, and had a best friend," said Hazel
Ripwinkley to Diana, as they sat together on the long, red, sloping
kitchen roof under the arches of the willow-tree, hemming towels for
their afternoon "stent." They did this because their mother sat on the
shed roof under the fir, when she was a child, and had told them of it.
Imagination is so much greater than fact, that these children, who had
now all that little Frank Shiere had dreamed of with the tar smell and
the gravel stones and the one tree,—who might run free in the wide
woods and up the breezy hillsides,—liked best of all to get out on the
kitchen roof and play "old times," and go back into their mother's
“I wish I lived in a block of houses, and could see across the
corner into my best friend's room when she got up in the morning!"
“And could have that party!" said Diana.
“Think of the clean, smooth streets, with red sidewalks, and people
living all along, door after door! I like things set in rows, and
people having places, like the desks at school. Why, you've got to go
way round Sand Hill to get to Elizabeth Ann Dorridon's. I should like
to go up steps, and ring bells!"
“I don't know," said Diana, slowly. “I think birds that build little
nests about anywhere in the cunning, separate places, in the woods, or
among the bushes, have the best time."
“Birds, Dine! It ain't birds, it's people! What has that to do with
“I mean I think nests are better than martin-boxes."
“Let's go in and get her to tell us that story. She's in the round
The round room was a half ellipse, running in against the curve of
the staircase. It was a bit of a place, with the window at one end, and
the bow at the other. It had been Doctor Ripwinkley's office, and Mrs.
Ripwinkley sat there with her work on summer afternoons. The door
opened out, close at the front, upon a great flat stone in an angle,
where was also entrance into the hall by the house-door, at the right
hand. The door of the office stood open, and across the stone one could
look down, between a range of lilac bushes and the parlor windows,
through a green door-yard into the street.
“Now, Mother Frank, tell us about the party!"
They called her "Mother Frank" when they wished to be particularly
coaxing. They had taken up their father's name for her, with their own
prefix, when they were very little ones, before he went away and left
nobody to call her Frank, every day, any more.
“That same little old story? Won't you ever be tired of it,—you
great girls?" asked the mother; for she had told it to them ever since
they were six and eight years old.
“Yes! No, never!" said the children.
For how should they outgrow it? It was a sunny little bit out
of their mother's own child-life. We shall go back to smaller things,
one day, maybe, and find them yet more beautiful. It is the going
“The same old way?"
“Yes; the very same old way."
“We had little open-work straw hats and muslin pelisses,—your Aunt
Laura and I,"—began Mrs. Ripwinkley, as she had begun all those scores
of times before. “Mother put them on for us,—she dressed us just
alike, always,—and told us to take each other's hands, and go up Brier
and down Hickory streets, and stop at all the houses that she named,
and that we knew; and we were to give her love and compliments, and ask
the mothers in each house,—Mrs. Dayton, and Mrs. Holridge (she lived
up the long steps), and Mrs. Waldow, and the rest of them, to let
Caroline and Grace and Fanny and Susan, and the rest of them,
come at four o'clock, to spend the afternoon and take tea, if it was
“O, mother!" said Hazel, "you didn't say that when you asked
people, you know."
“O, no!" said Mrs. Ripwinkley. “That was when we went to stop a
little while ourselves, without being asked. Well, it was to please to
let them come. And all the ladies were at home, because it was only ten
o'clock; and they all sent their love and compliments, and they were
much obliged, and the little girls would be very happy.
“It was a warm June day; up Brier Street was a steep walk; down
Hickory we were glad to keep on the shady side, and thought it was nice
that Mrs. Bemys and Mrs. Waldow lived there. The strings of our hats
were very moist and clinging when we got home, and Laura had a blue
mark under her chin from the green ribbon.
“Mother was in her room, in her white dimity morning gown, with
little bows up the front, the ends trimmed with cambric edging. She
took off our hats and our pelisses,—the tight little sleeves came off
wrong side out,—sponged our faces with cool water, and brushed out
Laura's curls. That was the only difference between us. I hadn't any
curls, and my hair had to be kept cropped. Then she went to her upper
bureau drawer and took out two little paper boxes.
“'Something has come for Blanche and Clorinda, since you have been
gone,' she said, smiling. 'I suppose you have been shopping?' We took
the paper boxes, laughing back at her with a happy understanding. We
were used to these little plays of mother's, and she couldn't really
surprise us with her kindnesses. We went and sat down in the
window-seat, and opened them as deliberately and in as grown-up a way
as we could. Inside them were two little lace pelerines lined with
rose-colored silk. The boxes had a faint smell of musk. The things were
so much better for coming in boxes! Mother knew that.
“Well, we dressed our dolls, and it was a great long sunshiny
forenoon. Mother and Luclarion had done something in the kitchen, and
there was a smell of sweet baking in the house. Every now and then we
sniffed, and looked at each other, and at mother, and laughed. After
dinner we had on our white French calicoes with blue sprigs, and mother
said she should take a little nap, and we might go into the parlor and
be ready for our company. She always let us receive our own company
ourselves at first. And exactly at four o'clock the door-bell rang, and
they began to come.
“Caroline and Fanny Dayton had on white cambric dresses, and green
kid slippers. That was being very much dressed, indeed. Lucy Waldow
wore a pink lawn, and Grace Holridge a buff French print. Susan Bemys
said her little sister couldn't come because they couldn't find her
best shoes. Her mother thought she had thrown them out of the window.
“When they all got there we began to play 'Lady Fair;' and we had
just got all the 'lady fairs,' one after another, into our ring, and
were dancing and singing up and down and round and round, when the door
opened and mother walked in.
“We always thought our mother was the prettiest of any of the girls'
mothers. She had such bright shining hair, and she put it up with shell
combs into such little curly puffs. And she never seemed fussy or old,
but she came in among us with such a beautiful, smiling way, as if she
knew beforehand that it was all right, and there was no danger of any
mischief, or that we shouldn't behave well, but she only wanted to see
the good time. That day she had on a white muslin dress with little
purple flowers on it, and a bow of purple ribbon right in the side of
her hair. She had a little piece of fine work in her hand, and after
she had spoken to all the little girls and asked them how their mothers
were, she went and sat down in one of the front windows, and made
little scollops and eyelets. I remember her long ivory stiletto, with a
loop of green ribbon through the head of it, and the sharp, tiny,
big-bowed scissors that lay in her lap, and the bright, tapering silver
thimble on her finger.
“Pretty soon the door opened again, softly; a tray appeared, with
Hannah behind it. On the tray were little glass saucers with
confectionery in them; old-fashioned confectionery,—gibraltars, and
colored caraways, and cockles with mottoes. We were in the middle of
'So says the Grand Mufti,' and Grace Holridge was the Grand Mufti.
Hannah went up to her first, as she stood there alone, and Grace took a
saucer and held it up before the row of us, and said, 'Thus says
the Grand Mufti!' and then she bit a red gibraltar, and everybody
laughed. She did it so quickly and so prettily, putting it right into
the play. It was good of her not to say, 'So says the Grand
Mufti.' At least we thought so then, though Susan Bemys said it would
have been funnier.
“We had a great many plays in those days, and it took a long
afternoon to get through with them. We had not begun to wonder what we
should do next, when tea time came, and we went down into the basement
room. It wasn't tea, though; it was milk in little clear, pink mugs,
some that mother only had out for our parties, and cold water in
crimped-edge glasses, and little biscuits, and sponge-cakes, and small
round pound-cakes frosted. These were what had smelt so good in the
“We stood round the table; there was not room for all of us to sit,
and mother helped us, and Hannah passed things round. Susan Bemys took
cake three times, and Lucy Waldow opened her eyes wide, and Fanny
Dayton touched me softly under the table.
“After tea mother played and sung some little songs to us; and then
she played the 'Fisher's Hornpipe' and 'Money Musk,' and we danced a
little contra-dance. The girls did not all know cotillons, and some of
them had not begun to go to dancing-school. Father came home and had
his tea after we had done ours, and then he came up into the parlor and
watched us dancing. Mr. Dayton came in, too. At about half past eight
some of the other fathers called, and some of the mothers sent their
girls, and everybody was fetched away. It was nine o'clock when Laura
and I went to bed, and we couldn't go to sleep until after the clock
struck ten, for thinking and saying what a beautiful time we had had,
and anticipating how the girls would talk it all over next day at
school. That," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, when she had finished, "was the
kind of a party we used to have in Boston when I was a little girl. I
don't know what the little girls have now."
“Boston!" said Luclarion, catching the last words as she came in,
with her pink cape bonnet on, from the Homesworth variety and finding
store, and post-office. “You'll talk them children off to Boston,
finally, Mrs. Ripwinkley! Nothing ever tugs so at one end, but there's
something tugging at the other; and there's never a hint nor a hearing
to anybody, that something more doesn't turn up concerning it. Here's a
letter, Mrs. Ripwinkley!"
Mrs. Ripwinkley took it with some surprise. It was not her sister's
handwriting nor Mr. Ledwith's, on the cover; and she rarely had a
letter from them that was posted in Boston, now. They had been living
at a place out of town for several years. Mrs. Ledwith knew better than
to give her letters to her husband for posting. They got lost in his
big wallet, and stayed there till they grew old.
Who should write to Mrs. Ripwinkley, after all these years, from
She looked up at Luclarion, and smiled. “It didn't take a Solomon,"
said she, pointing to the postmark.
“No, nor yet a black smooch, with only four letters plain, on an
invelup. 'Taint that, it's the drift of things. Those girls have got
Boston in their minds as hard and fast as they've got heaven; and I
mistrust mightily they'll get there first somehow!"
The girls were out of hearing, as she said this; they had got their
story, and gone back to their red roof and their willow tree.
“Why, Luclarion!" exclaimed Mrs. Ripwinkley, as she drew out and
unfolded the letter sheet. “It's from Uncle Titus Oldways."
“Then he ain't dead," remarked Luclarion, and went away into the
"MY DEAR FRANCES,—I am seventy-eight years old. It is time I
got acquainted with some of my relations. I've had other work
to do in the world heretofore (at least I thought I had), and
so, I believe, have they. But I have a wish now to get you and
your sister to come and live nearer to me, that we may find
whether we really are anything to each other or not. It seems
natural, I suppose, that we might be; but kinship doesn't all
run in the veins.
"I do not ask you to do this with reference to any possible
intentions of mine that might concern you after my death; my
wish is to do what is right by you, in return for your
consenting to my pleasure in the matter, while I am alive. It
will cost you more to live in Boston than where you do now,
I have no business to expect you to break up and come to a new
home unless I can make it an object to you in some way. You
do some things for your children here that you could not do in
Homesworth. I will give you two thousand dollars a year to
on, and secure the same to you if I die. I have a house here
Aspen Street, not far from where I live myself, which I will
give to either of you that it may suit. That you can settle
between you when you come. It is rather a large house, and
Ledwith's family is larger, I think, than yours. The estate is
worth ten thousand dollars, and I will give the same sum to
one who prefers, to put into a house elsewhere. I wish you to
reckon this as all you are ever to expect from me, except the
regard I am willing to believe I may come to have for you. I
shall look to hear from you by the end of the week.
"I remain, yours truly,
“Luclarion!" cried Mrs. Ripwinkley, with excitement, "come here and
help me think!"
“Only four days to make my mind up in," she said again, when
Luclarion had read the letter through.
Luclarion folded it and gave it back.
“It won't take God four days to think," she answered quietly; "and
you can ask Him in four minutes. You and I can talk afterwards."
And Luclarion got up and went away a second time into the kitchen.
That night, after Diana and Hazel were gone to bed, their mother and
Luclarion Grapp had some last words about it, sitting by the
white-scoured kitchen table, where Luclarion had just done mixing bread
and covered it away for rising. Mrs. Ripwinkley was apt to come out and
talk things over at this time of the kneading. She could get more from
Luclarion then than at any other opportunity. Perhaps that was because
Miss Grapp could not walk off from the bread-trough; or it might be
that there was some sympathy between the mixing of her flour and yeast
into a sweet and lively perfection, and the bringing of her mental
leaven wholesomely to bear.
“It looks as if it were meant, Luclarion," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, at
last. “And just think what it will be for the children."
“I guess it's meant fast enough," replied Luclarion. “But as for
what it will be for the children,—why, that's according to what you
all make of it. And that's the stump."
Luclarion Grapp was fifty-four years old; but her views of life were
precisely the same that they had been at twenty-eight.
There is a piece of Z——, just over the river, that they call
It began among the school-girls; Barbara Holabird had christened it,
with the shrewdness and mischief of fourteen years old. She said the
"and-so-forths" lived there.
It was a little supplementary neighborhood; an after-growth, coming
up with the railroad improvements, when they got a freight station
established on that side for the East Z——mills. “After Z——, what
should it be but 'And?'" Barbara Holabird wanted to know. The people
who lived there called it East Square; but what difference did that
It was two miles Boston-ward from Z——centre, where the down trains
stopped first; that was five minutes gained in the time between it and
the city. Land was cheap at first, and sure to come up in value; so
there were some streets laid out at right angles, and a lot of houses
put up after a pattern, as if they had all been turned out of
blanc-mange moulds, and there was "East Square." Then people began
by-and-by to build for themselves, and a little variety and a good deal
of ambition came in. They had got to French roofs now; this was just
before the day of the multitudinous little paper collar-boxes with
beveled covers, that are set down everywhere now, and look as if they
could be lifted up by the chimneys, any time, and be carried off with a
thumb and finger. Two and a half story houses, Mansarded, looked grand;
and the East Square people thought nothing slight of themselves, though
the "old places" and the real Z——families were all over on West Hill.
Mrs. Megilp boarded in And for the summer.
“Since Oswald had been in business she couldn't go far from the
cars, you know; and Oswald had a boat on the river, and he and Glossy
enjoyed that so much. Besides, she had friends in Z——, which made it
pleasant; and she was tired, for her part, of crowds and fashion. All
she wanted was a quiet country place. She knew the Goldthwaites and the
Haddens; she had met them one year at Jefferson."
Mrs. Megilp had found out that she could get larger rooms in And
than she could have at the mountains or the sea-shore, and at half the
price; but this she did not mention. Yet there was nothing shabby in
it, except her carefully not mentioning it.
Mrs. Megilp was Mrs. Grant Ledwith's chief intimate and counselor.
She was a good deal the elder; that was why it was mutually
advantageous. Grant Ledwith was one of the out-in-the-world,
up-to-the-times men of the day; the day in which everything is going,
and everybody that is in active life has, somehow or other, all that is
going. Grant Ledwith got a good salary, an inflated currency salary;
and he spent it all. His daughters were growing up, and they were
stylish and pretty; Mrs. Megilp took a great interest in Agatha and
Florence Ledwith, and was always urging their mother to "do them
justice." "Agatha and Florence were girls who had a right to every
advantage." Mrs. Megilp was almost old enough to be Laura Ledwith's
mother; she had great experience, and knowledge of the world; and she
sat behind Laura's conscience and drove it tandem with her inclination.
Per contra, it was nice for Mrs. Megilp, who was a widow, and whose
income did not stretch with the elasticity of the times, to have
friends who lived like the Ledwiths, and who always made her welcome;
it was a good thing for Glossy to be so fond of Agatha and Florence,
and to have them so fond of her. “She needed young society," her mother
said. One reason that Glossy Megilp needed young society might be in
the fact that she herself was twenty-six.
Mrs. Megilp had advised the Ledwiths to buy a house in Z——. “It
was just far enough not to be suburban, but to have a society of its
own; and there was excellent society in Z——, everybody knew.
Boston was hard work, nowadays; the distances were getting to be so
great." Up to the West and South Ends,—the material distances,—she
meant to be understood to say; but there was an inner sense to Mrs.
Megilp's utterances, also.
“One might as well be quite out of town; and then it was always
something, even in such city connection as one might care to keep up,
to hail from a well-recognized social independency; to belong to
Z——was a standing, always. It wasn't like going to Forest Dell, or
Lakegrove, or Bellair; cheap little got-up places with fancy names,
that were strung out on the railroads like French gilt beads on a
But for all that, Mrs. Ledwith had only got into "And;" and Mrs.
Megilp knew it.
Laura did not realize it much; she had bowing and speaking
acquaintance with the Haddens and the Hendees, and even with the
Marchbankses, over on West Hill; and the Goldthwaites and the
Holabirds, down in the town, she knew very well. She did not care to
come much nearer; she did not want to be bound by any very stringent
and exclusive social limits; it was a bother to keep up to all the
demands of such a small, old-established set. Mrs. Hendee would not
notice, far less be impressed by the advent of her new-style Brussels
carpet with a border, or her full, fresh, Nottingham lace curtains, or
the new covering of her drawing-room set with cuir-colored terry. Mrs.
Tom Friske and Mrs. Philgry, down here at East Square, would run in,
and appreciate, and admire, and talk it all over, and go away perhaps
breaking the tenth commandment amiably in their hearts.
Mrs. Ledwith's nerves had extended since we saw her as a girl; they
did not then go beyond the floating ends of her blue or rose-colored
ribbons, or, at furthest, the tip of her jaunty laced sunshade; now
they ramified,—for life still grows in some direction,—to her chairs,
and her china, and her curtains, and her ruffled pillow-shams. Also,
savingly, to her children's "suits," and party dresses, and pic-nic
hats, and double button gloves. Savingly; for there is a leaven of
grace in mother-care, even though it be expended upon these. Her
friend, Mrs. Inchdeepe, in Helvellyn Park, with whom she dined when she
went shopping in Boston, had nothing but her modern improvements
and her furniture. “My house is my life," she used to say, going round
with a Canton crape duster, touching tenderly carvings and inlayings
Mrs. Megilp was spending the day with Laura Ledwith; Glossy was gone
to town, and thence down to the sea-shore, with some friends.
Mrs. Megilp spent a good many days with Laura. She had large, bright
rooms at her boarding-house, but then she had very gristly veal pies
and thin tapioca puddings for dinner; and Mrs. Megilp's constitution
required something more generous. She was apt to happen in at this
season, when Laura had potted pigeons. A little bird told her; a dozen
little birds, I mean, with their legs tied together in a bunch; for she
could see the market wagon from her window, when it turned up Mr.
Laura had always the claret pitcher on her dinner table, too; and
claret and water, well-sugared, went deliciously with the savory stew.
They were up-stairs now, in Laura's chamber; the bed and sofa were
covered with silk and millinery; Laura was looking over the girls'
"fall things;" there was a smell of sweet marjoram and thyme and
cloves, and general richness coming up from the kitchen; there was a
bland sense of the goodness of Providence in Mrs. Megilp's—no, not
heart, for her heart was not very hungry; but in her eyes and nostrils.
She was advising Mrs. Ledwith to take Desire and Helena's two green
silks and make them over into one for Helena.
“You can get two whole back breadths then, by piecing it up under
the sash; and you can't have all those gores again; they are
quite done with. Everybody puts in whole breadths now. There's just as
much difference in the way of goring a skirt, as there is
between gores and straight selvages."
“They do hang well, though; they have such a nice slope."
“Yes,—but the stripes and the seams! Those tell the story six rods
off; and then there must be sashes, or postillions, or
something; they don't make anything without them; there isn't any
finish to a round waist unless you have something behind."
“They wore belts last year, and I bought those expensive gilt
buckles. I'm sure they used to look sweetly. But there! a fashion
doesn't last nowadays while you're putting a thing on and walking out
of the house!"
“And don't put in more than three plaits," pursued Mrs. Megilp,
intent on the fate of the green silks. “Everything is gathered; you see
that is what requires the sashes; round waists and gathers have a queer
“If you once begin to alter, you've got to make all over," said Mrs.
Ledwith, a little fractiously, putting the scissors in with unwilling
fingers. She knew there was a good four days' work before her, and she
was quick with her needle, too.
“Never mind; the making over doesn't cost anything; you turn off
work so easily; and then you've got a really stylish thing."
“But with all the ripping and remodelling, I don't get time to turn
round, myself, and live! It is all fall work, and spring work,
and summer work and winter work. One drive rushes pell-mell right over
another. There isn't time enough to make things and have them; the good
of them, I mean."
“The girls get it; we have to live in our children," said Mrs.
Megilp, self-renouncingly. “I can never rest until Glossy is provided
with everything; and you know, Laura, I am obliged to contrive."
Mrs. Megilp and her daughter Glaucia spent about a thousand dollars
a year, between them, on their dress. In these days, this is a limited
allowance—for the Megilps. But Mrs. Megilp was a woman of strict
pecuniary principle; the other fifteen hundred must pay all the rest;
she submitted cheerfully to the Divine allotment, and punctually made
the two ends meet. She will have this to show, when the Lord of these
servants cometh and reckoneth with them, and that man who has been also
in narrow circumstances, brings his nicely kept talent out of his
Desire Ledwith, a girl of sixteen, spoke suddenly from a corner
where she sat with a book,—
“I do wonder who 'they' are, mamma!"
“Who?" said Mrs. Ledwith, half rising from her chair, and letting
some breadths of silk slide down upon the floor from her lap, as she
glanced anxiously from the window down the avenue. She did not want any
company this morning.
“Not that, mamma; I don't mean anybody coming. The 'theys' that
wear, and don't wear, things; the theys you have to be just like, and
keep ripping and piecing for."
“You absurd child!" exclaimed Mrs. Ledwith, pettishly. “To make me
spill a whole lapful of work for that! They? Why, everybody, of
“Everybody complains of them, though. Jean Friske says her mother is
all discouraged and worn out. There isn't a thing they had last year
that won't have to be made over this, because they put in a breadth
more behind, and they only gore side seams. And they don't wear black
capes or cloth sacks any more with all kinds of dresses; you must have
suits, clear through. It seems to me 'they' is a nuisance. And if it's
everybody, we must be part, of it. Why doesn't somebody stop?"
“Desire, I wish you'd put away your book, and help, instead of
asking silly questions. You can't make the world over, with 'why
“I'll rip," said Desire, with a slight emphasis; putting her
book down, and coming over for a skirt and a pair of scissors. “But you
know I'm no good at putting together again. And about making the world
over, I don't know but that might be as easy as making over all its
clothes, I'd as lief try, of the two."
Desire was never cross or disagreeable; she was only
"impracticable," her mother said. “And besides that, she didn't know
what she really did want. She was born hungry and asking, with those
sharp little eyes, and her mouth always open while she was a baby. 'It
was a sign,' the nurse said, when she was three weeks old. And then the
other sign,—that she should have to be called 'Desire!'"
Mrs. Megilp—for Mrs. Megilp had been in office as long ago as
that—had suggested ways of getting over or around the difficulty, when
Aunt Desire had stipulated to have the baby named for her, and had made
certain persuasive conditions.
“There's the pretty French turn you might give it,—'Desiree.' Only
one more 'e,' and an accent. That is so sweet, and graceful, and
“But Aunt Desire won't have the name twisted. It is to be real,
plain Desire, or not at all."
Mrs. Megilp had shrugged her shoulders.
“Well, of course it can be that, to christen by, and marry by, and
be buried by. But between whiles,—people pick up names,—you'll see!"
Mrs. Megilp began to call her "Daisy" when she was two years old.
Nobody could help what Mrs. Megilp took a fancy to call her by way of
endearment, of course; and Daisy she was growing to be in the family,
when one day, at seven years old, she heard Mrs. Megilp say to her
“I don't see but that you've all got your Desire, after all.
The old lady is satisfied; and away up there in Hanover, what can it
signify to her? The child is 'Daisy,' practically, now, as long as she
The sharp, eager little gray eyes, so close together in the high,
delicate head, glanced up quickly at speaker and hearer.
“What old lady, mamma, away up in Hanover?"
“Your Aunt Desire, Daisy, whom you were named for. She lives in
Hanover. You are to go and see her there, this summer."
“Will she call me Daisy?"
The little difficulty suggested in this question had singularly
never occurred to Mrs. Ledwith before. Miss Desire Ledwith never came
down to Boston; there was no danger at home.
“No. She is old-fashioned, and doesn't like pet names. She will call
you Desire. That is your name, you know."
“Would it signify if she thought you called me Daisy?" asked the
child frowning half absently over her doll, whose arm she was
struggling to force into rather a tight sleeve of her own manufacture.
“Well, perhaps she might not exactly understand. People always went
by their names when she was a child, and now hardly anybody does. She
was very particular about having you called for her, and you are, you know. I always write 'Desire Ledwith' in all your books,
and—well, I always shall write it so, and so will you. But you
can be Daisy when we make much of you here at home, just as Florence is
“No, I can't," said the little girl, very decidedly, getting up and
dropping her doll. “Aunt Desire, away up in Hanover, is thinking all
the time that there is a little Desire Ledwith growing up down here. I
don't mean to have her cheated. I'm going to went by my name, as she
did. Don't call me Daisy any more, all of you; for I shan't come!"
The gray eyes sparkled; the whole little face scintillated, as it
were. Desire Ledwith had a keen, charged little face; and when
something quick and strong shone through it, it was as if somewhere
behind it there had been struck fire.
She was true to that through all the years after; going to school
with Mabels and Ethels and Graces and Ediths,—not a girl she knew but
had a pretty modern name,—and they all wondering at that stiff little
"Desire" of hers that she would go by. When she was twelve years old,
the old lady up in Hanover had died, and left her a gold watch, large
and old-fashioned, which she could only keep on a stand in her room,—a
good solid silver tea-set, and all her spoons, and twenty-five shares
in the Hanover Bank.
Mrs. Megilp called her Daisy, with gentle inadvertence, one day
after that. Desire lifted her eyes slowly at her, with no other reply
in her face, or else.
“You might please your mother now, I think," said Mrs. Megilp.
"There is no old lady to be troubled by it."
“A promise isn't ever dead, Mrs. Megilp," said Desire, briefly. “I
shall keep our words."
“After all," Mrs. Megilp said privately to the mother, "there is
something quietly aristocratic in an old, plain, family name. I don't
know that it isn't good taste in the child. Everybody understands that
it was a condition, and an inheritance."
Mrs. Megilp had taken care of that. She was watchful for the small
impressions she could make in behalf of her particular friends. She
carried about with her a little social circumference in which all was
preeminently as it should be.
But,—as I would say if you could not see it for yourself—this is a
digression. We will go back again.
“If it were any use!" said Desire, shaking out the deep plaits as
she unfastened them from the band. “But you're only a piece of
everybody after all. You haven't anything really new or particular to
yourself, when you've done. And it takes up so much time. Last year,
this was so pretty! Isn't anything actually pretty in itself, or
can't they settle what it is? I should think they had been at it long
“Fashions never were so graceful as they are this minute," said Mrs.
Megilp. “Of course it is art, like everything else, and progress. The
world is getting educated to a higher refinement in it, every day. Why,
it's duty, child!" she continued, exaltedly. “Think what the world
would be if nobody cared. We ought to make life beautiful. It's meant
to be. There's not only no virtue in ugliness, but almost no virtue
with it, I think. People are more polite and good-natured when they
are well dressed and comfortable."
“That's dress, too, though," said Desire, sententiously.
"You've got to stay at home four days, and rip, and be tired, and
cross, and tried-on-to, and have no chance to do anything else, before
you can put it all on and go out and be good-natured and bland, and
help put the beautiful face on the world, one day. I don't
believe it's political economy."
“Everybody doesn't have to do it for themselves. Really, when I hear
people blamed for dress and elegance,—why, the very ones who have the
most of it are those who sacrifice the least time to it. They just go
and order what they want, and there's the end of it. When it comes
home, they put it on, and it might as well be a flounced silk as a
“But we do have to think, Mrs. Megilp. And work and worry.
And then we can't turn right round in the things we know every
stitch of and have bothered over from beginning to end, and just be
lilies of the field!"
“A great many people do have to wash their own dishes, and sweep,
and scour; but that is no reason it ought not to be done. I always
thought it was rather a pity that was said, just so," Mrs.
Megilp proceeded, with a mild deprecation of the Scripture. “There
is toiling and spinning; and will be to the end of time, for some
“There's cauliflower brought for dinner, Mrs. Ledwith," said
Christina, the parlor girl, coming in. “And Hannah says it won't go
with the pigeons. Will she put it on the ice for to-morrow?"
“I suppose so," said Mrs. Ledwith, absently, considering a breadth
that had a little hitch in it. “Though what we shall have to-morrow I'm
sure I don't know," she added, rousing up. “I wish Mr. Ledwith wouldn't
send home the first thing he sees, without any reference."
“And here's the milkman's bill, and a letter," continued Christina,
laying them down on a chair beside her mistress, and then departing.
Great things come into life so easily, when they do come, right
alongside of milk-bills and cabbages! And yet one may wait so long
sometimes for anything to happen but cabbages!
The letter was in a very broad, thick envelope, and sealed with wax.
Mrs. Ledwith looked at it curiously before she opened it. She did
not receive many letters. She had very little time for correspondence.
It was addressed to "Mrs. Laura Ledwith." That was odd and unusual,
Mrs. Megilp glanced at her over the tortoise-shell rims of her
eye-glasses, but sat very quiet, lest she should delay the opening. She
would like to know what could be in that very business-like looking
despatch, and Laura would be sure to tell her. It must be something
pretty positive, one way or another; it was no common-place negative
communication. Laura might have had property left her. Mrs. Megilp
always thought of possibilities like that.
When Laura Ledwith had unfolded the large commercial sheet, and
glanced down the open lines of square, upright characters, whose
purport could be taken in at sight, like print, she turned very red
with a sudden excitement. Then all the color dropped away, and there
was nothing in her face but blank, pale, intense surprise.
“It is a most won_derful thing!" said she, at last, slowly; and
her breath came like a gasp with her words. “My great-uncle, Mr.
She spoke those four words as if from them Mrs. Megilp could
Mrs. Megilp thought she did.
“Ah! Gone?" she asked, pathetically.
“Gone! No, indeed!" said Mrs. Ledwith. “He wrote the letter. He
wants me to come; me, and all of us,—to Boston, to live; and to
get acquainted with him."
“My dear," said Mrs. Megilp, with the promptness and benignity of a
Christian apostle, "it's your duty to go."
“And he offers me a house, and two thousand dollars a year."
“My dear," said Mrs. Megilp, "it is emphatically your duty to
All at once something strange came over Laura Ledwith. She crumpled
the letter tight in her hands with a clutch of quick excitement, and
began to choke with a little sob, and to laugh at the same time.
“Don't give way!" cried Mrs. Megilp, coming to her and giving her a
little shake and a slap. “If you do once you will again, and you're
“He's sent for Frank, too. Frank and I will be together again in
dear old Boston! But—we can't be children and sit on the shed any
more; and—it isn't dear old Boston, either!"
And then Laura gave right up, and had a good cry for five minutes.
After that she felt better, and asked Mrs. Megilp how she thought a
house in Spiller Street would do.
But she couldn't rip any more of those breadths that morning.
Agatha and Florence came in from some calls at the Goldthwaites and
the Haddens, and the news was told, and they had their bonnets to take
off, and the dinner-bell rang, and the smell of the spicy pigeon-stew
came up the stairs, all together. And they went down, talking fast; and
one said "house," and another "carpets," and another "music and
German;" and Desire, trailing a breadth of green silk in her hand that
she had never let go since the letter was read, cried out, "oratorios!"
And nobody quite knew what they were going down stairs for, or had
presence of mind to realize the pigeons, or help each other or
themselves properly, when they got there! Except Mrs. Megilp, who was
polite and hospitable to them all, and picked two birds in the most
composed and elegant manner.
When the dessert was put upon the table, and Christina, confusedly
enlightened as to the family excitement, and excessively curious, had
gone away into the kitchen, Mrs. Ledwith said to Mrs. Megilp,—
“I'm not sure I should fancy Spiller Street, after all; it's a sort
of a corner. Westmoreland Street or Helvellyn Park might be nice. I
know people down that way,—Mrs. Inchdeepe."
“Mrs. Inchdeepe isn't exactly 'people,'" said Mrs. Megilp, in a
quiet way that implied more than grammar. “Don't get into 'And' in
Boston, Laura!—With such an addition to your income, and what your
uncle gives you toward a house, I don't see why you might not think of
“We shall have plenty of thinking to do about everything," said
“Mamma," said Agatha, insinuatingly, "I'm thinking, already; about
that rose-pink paper for my room. I'm glad now I didn't have it here."
Agatha had been restless for white lace, and rose-pink, and a
Brussels carpet ever since her friend Zarah Thoole had come home from
Europe and furnished a morning-room.
All this time Mr. Grant Ledwith, quite unconscious of the impending
changes with which his family were so far advanced in imagination, was
busy among bales and samples in Devonshire Street. It got to be an old
story by the time the seven o'clock train was in, and he reached home.
It was almost as if it had all happened a year ago, and they had been
waiting for him to come home from Australia.
There was so much to explain to him that it was really hard to make
him understand, and to bring him up to the point from which they could
go on together.
VII. WAKING UP.
The Ledwiths took apartments in Boston for a month. They packed away
the furniture they wanted to keep for upper rooms, in the attics of
their house at Z——. They had an auction of all the furniture of their
drawing-room, dining-room, library, and first floor of sleeping-rooms.
Then they were to let their house. Meanwhile, one was to be fixed upon
and fitted up in Boston. In all this Mrs. Megilp advised, invaluably.
“It's of no use to move things," she said. “Three removes are as bad
as a fire; and nothing ever fits in to new places. Old wine and new
bottles, you know! Clear all off with a country auction. Everybody
comes, and they all fight for everything. Things bring more than their
original cost. Then you've nothing to do but order according to your
Mr. Oldways had invited both his nieces to his own house on their
arrival. But here again Mrs. Megilp advised,—so judiciously.
“There are too many of you; it would be a positive infliction. And
then you'll have all your running about and planning and calculating to
do, and the good old gentleman would think he had pulled half Boston
down about his ears. Your sister can go there; it would be only
generous and thoughtful to give way to her. There are only three of
them, and they are strange, you know, to every thing, and wouldn't know
which way to turn. I can put you in the way of rooms at the Bellevue,
exactly the thing, for a hundred and fifty a month. No servants, you
see; meals at the restaurant, and very good, too. The Wedringtons are
to give them up unexpectedly; going to Europe; poor Mrs. Wedrington is
so out of health. And about the house; don't decide in a hurry; see
what your uncle says, and your sister. It's very likely she'll prefer
the Aspen Street house; and it would be out of the way for you.
Still it is not to be refused, you know; of course it is very
desirable in many respects; roomy, old-fashioned, and a garden. I think
your sister will like those things; they're what she has been used to.
If she does, why it's all comfortably settled, and nobody refuses. It
is so ungracious to appear to object; a gift horse, you know."
“Not to be refused; only by no means to be taken; masterly
inactivity till somebody else is hooked; and then somebody else is to
be grateful for the preference. I wish Mrs. Megilp wouldn't shine
things up so; and that mother wouldn't go to her to black all her
Desire said this in secret, indignant discomfort, to Helena, the
fourth in the family, her chum-sister. Helena did very well to talk to;
she heard anything; then she pranced round the room and chaffed the
“Chee! chee! chee! chiddle, iddle, iddle, iddle, e-e-ee! Where do
you keep all your noise and your breath? You're great, aren't you? You
do that to spite people that have to work up one note at a time. You
don't take it in away down under your belt, do you? You're not
particular about that. You don't know much, after all. You don't know
how you do it. You aren't learning of Madame Caroletti. And you
haven't learned two quarters, any way. You were only just born last
spring. Set up! Tr-r-r-r-e-e-ee! I can do that myself. I don't believe
you've got an octave in you. Poh!"
Mrs. Ripwinkley came down from the country with a bonnet on that had
a crown, and with not a particle of a chignon. When she was married,
twenty-five years before, she wore a French twist,—her hair turned up
in waves from her neck as prettily as it did away from her
forehead,—and two thick coiled loops were knotted and fastened
gracefully at the top. She had kept on twisting her hair so, all these
years; and the rippling folds turned naturally under her fingers into
their places. The color was bright still, and it had not thinned. Over
her brows it parted richly, with no fuzz or crimp; but a sweet natural
wreathing look that made her face young. Mrs. Ledwith had done hers
over slate-pencils till she had burned it off; and now tied on a friz,
that came low down, for fashion's sake, and left visible only a little
bunch of puckers between her eyebrows and the crowsfeet at the corners.
The back of her head was weighted down by an immense excrescence in a
bag. Behind her ears were bare places. Mrs. Ledwith began to look
old-young. And a woman cannot get into a worse stage of looks than
that. Still, she was a showy woman—a good exponent of the reigning
style; and she was handsome—she and her millinery—of an evening, or
in the street.
When I began that last paragraph I meant to tell you what else Mrs.
Ripwinkley brought with her, down out of the country and the old times;
but hair takes up a deal of room. She brought down all her dear old
furniture. That is, it came after her in boxes, when she had made up
her mind to take the Aspen Street house.
“Why, that's the sofa Oliver used to lie down on when he came home
tired from his patients, and that's the rocking-chair I nursed my
babies in; and this is the old oak table we've sat round three times a
day, the family of us growing and thinning, as the time went on, all
through these years. It's like a communion table, now, Laura. Of course
such things had to come."
This was what she answered, when Laura ejaculated her amazement at
her having brought "old Homesworth truck" to Boston.
“You see it isn't the walls that make the home; we can go away from
them and not break our hearts, so long as our own goes with us. The
little things that we have used, and that have grown around us with our
living,—they are all of living that we can handle and hold on to; and
if I went to Spitzbergen, I should take as many of them as I could."
The Aspen Street house just suited Mrs. Ripwinkley, and Diana, and
In the first place, it was wooden; built side to the street, so that
you went up a little paved walk, in a shade of trees, to get to the
door; and then the yard, on the right hand side as you came in, was
laid out in narrow walks between borders of blossoming plants. There
were vines against the brick end of the next building,—creepers and
morning-glories, and white and scarlet runners; and a little martin-box
was set upon a pole in the still, farther corner.
The rooms of the house were low, but large; and some of the windows
had twelve-paned sashes,—twenty-four to a window. Mrs. Ripwinkley was
charmed with these also. They were like the windows at Mile Hill.
Mrs. Ledwith, although greatly relieved by her sister's prompt
decision for the house which she did not want, felt it in her
conscience to remonstrate a little.
“You have just come down from the mountains, Frank, after your
twenty-five years' sleep; you've seen nothing by and by you will think
differently. This house is fearfully old-fashioned, fearfully;
and it's away down here on the wrong side of the hill. You can never
get up over Summit Street from here."
“We are used to hills, and walking."
“But I mean—that isn't all. There are other things you won't be
able to get over. You'll never shake off Aspen Street dust,—you nor
“I don't think it is dusty. It is quiet, and sheltered, and clean. I
like it ever so much," said Mrs. Ripwinkley.
“O, dear, you don't understand in the least! It's wicked to let you
go on so! You poor, dear, simple little old soul!"
“Never mind," said Mrs. Megilp. “It's all well enough for the
present. It pleases the old gentleman, you know; and after all he's
done, he ought to be pleased. One of you should certainly be in his
neighborhood. He has been here from time immemorial; and any
place grows respectable by staying in it long enough—from choice. Nobody will wonder at Mrs. Ripwinkley's coming here at his request.
And when she does move, you see, she will know exactly what she
“I almost doubt if she ever will know what she is about,"
“In that case,—well,"—said Mrs. Megilp, and stopped, because it
really was not in the least needful to say more.
Mrs. Megilp felt it judicious, for many reasons, that Mrs.
Ripwinkley should he hidden away for awhile, to get that mountain sleep
out of her eyes, if it should prove possible; just as we rub old metal
with oil and put it by till the rust comes off.
The Ledwiths decided upon a house in Shubarton Place that would not
seem quite like taking old Uncle Titus's money and rushing away with it
as far as city limits would allow; and Laura really did wish to have
the comfort of her sister's society, in a cozy way, of mornings, up in
her room; that was her chief idea about it. There were a good many
times and things in which she scarcely expected much companionship from
Frank. She would not have said even to herself, that Frank was rusty;
and she would do her faithful and good-natured best to rub her up; but
there was an instinct with her of the congruous and the incongruous;
and she would not do her Bath-brick polishing out on the public
They began by going together to the carpet stores and the paper
warehouses; but they ended in detailing themselves for separate work;
their ideas clashed ridiculously, and perpetually confused each other.
Frank remembered loyally her old brown sofa and chairs; she would not
have gay colors to put them out of countenance; for even if she
re-covered them, she said they should have the same old homey
complexion. So she chose a fair, soft buff, with a pattern of brown
leaves, for her parlor paper; Mrs. Ledwith, meanwhile, plunging
headlong into glories of crimson and garnet and gold. Agatha had her
blush pink, in panels, with heart-of-rose borders, set on with delicate
gilt beadings; you would have thought she was going to put herself up,
in a fancy-box, like a French mouchoir or a bonbon.
“Why don't you put your old brown things all together in an
up-stairs room, and call it Mile Hill? You could keep it for old times'
sake, and sit there mornings; the house is big enough; and then have
furniture like other people's in the parlor?"
“You see it wouldn't be me." said Mrs. Ripwinkley, simply.
“They keep saying it 'looks,' and 'it looks,'" said Diana to her
mother, at home. “Why must everything look somehow?"
“And every_body, too," said Hazel. “Why, when we meet any one in the
street that Agatha and Florence know, the minute they have gone by they
say, 'She didn't look well to-day,' or, 'How pretty she did look in
that new hat!' And after the great party they went to at that Miss
Hitchler's, they never told a word about it except how girls 'looked.'
I wonder what they did, or where the good time was. Seems to me
people ain't living,—they are only just looking; or is this the
same old Boston that you told about, and where are the real folks,
“We shall find them," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, cheerily; "and the real
of these, too, when the outsides are settled. In the meantime, we'll
make our house say, and not look. Say something true, of course. Things
won't say anything else, you see; if you try to make them, they don't
speak out; they only stand in a dumb show and make faces."
“That's looking!" said Hazel. “Now I know."
“How those children do grow!" said Mrs. Ripwinkley, as they went off
together. “Two months ago they were sitting out on the kitchen roof,
and coming to me to hear the old stories!"
“Transplantin'," said Luclarion. “That's done it."
At twelve and fourteen, Hazel and Diana could be simple as
birds,—simpler yet, as human children waiting for all things,—in
their country life and their little dreams of the world. Two months'
contact with people and things in a great city had started the life
that was in them, so that it showed what manner of growth it was to be
And little Hazel Ripwinkley had got hold already of the small end of
a very large problem.
But she could not make it out that this was the same old Boston that
her mother had told about, or where the nice neighbors were that would
be likely to have little tea-parties for their children.
VIII. EAVESDROPPING IN ASPEN STREET.
Some of the old builders,—not the very old ones, for they
built nothing but rope-walks down behind the hill,—but some of those
who began to go northwest from the State House to live, made a pleasant
group of streets down there on the level stretching away to the river,
and called them by fresh, fragrant, country-suggesting names. Names of
trees and fields and gardens, fruits and blossoms; and they built
houses with gardens around them. In between the blocks were deep, shady
places; and the smell of flowers was tossed back and forth by summer
winds between the walls. Some nice old people stayed on there, and a
few of their descendants stay on there still, though they are built in
closely now, for the most part, and coarse, common things have much
intruded, and Summit Street overshadows them with its palaces.
Here and there a wooden house, set back a little, like this of the
Ripwinkleys in Aspen Street, gives you a feeling of Boston in the far
back times, as you go by; and here and there, if you could get into the
life of the neighborhood, you might perhaps find a household keeping
itself almost untouched with change, though there has been such a rush
and surge for years up and over into the newer and prouder places.
At any rate, Titus Oldways lived here in Greenley Street; and he
owned the Aspen Street house, and another over in Meadow Place, and
another in Field Court. He meant to stretch his control over them as
long as he could, and keep them for families; therefore he valued them
at such rates as they would bring for dwellings; he would not sell or
lease them for any kind of "improvements;" he would not have their
little door-yards choked up, or their larger garden spaces destroyed,
while he could help it.
Round in Orchard Street lived Miss Craydocke. She was away again,
now, staying a little while with the Josselyns in New York. Uncle Titus
told Mrs. Ripwinkley that when Miss Craydocke came back it would be a
neighborhood, and they could go round; now it was only back and forth
between them and him and Rachel Froke. There were other people, too,
but they would be longer finding them out. “You'll know Miss Craydocke
as soon as you see her; she is one of those you always seem to have
Now Uncle Titus would not have said this to everybody; not even if
everybody had been his niece, and had come to live beside him.
Orchard Street is wide and sunny and pleasant; the river air comes
over it and makes it sweet; and Miss Craydocke's is a big, generous
house, of which she only uses a very little part herself, because she
lets the rest to nice people who want pleasant rooms and can't afford
to pay much rent; an old gentleman who has had a hard time in the
world, but has kept himself a gentleman through it all, and his little
cheery old lady-wife who puts her round glasses on and stitches away at
fine women's under-garments and flannel embroideries, to keep things
even, have the two very best rooms; and a clergyman's widow, who copies
for lawyers, and writes little stories for children, has another; and
two orphan sisters who keep school have another; and Miss Craydocke
calls her house the Beehive, and buzzes up and down in it, and out and
in, on little "seeing-to" errands of care and kindness all day long, as
never any queen-bee did in any beehive before, but in a way that makes
her more truly queen than any sitting in the middle cell of state to be
fed on royal jelly. Behind the Beehive, is a garden, as there should
be; great patches of lily-of-the valley grow there that Miss Craydocke
ties up bunches from in the spring and gives away to little children,
and carries into all the sick rooms she knows of, and the poor places.
I always think of those lilies of the valley when I think of Miss
Craydocke. It seems somehow as if they were blooming about her all the
year through; and so they are, perhaps, invisibly. The other flowers
come in their season; the crocuses have been done with first of all;
the gay tulips and the snowballs have made the children glad when they
stopped at the gate and got them, going to school. Miss Craydocke is
always out in her garden at school-time. By and by there are the tall
white lilies, standing cool and serene in the July heats; then Miss
Craydocke is away at the mountains, pressing ferns and drying grasses
for winter parlors; but there is somebody on duty at the garden
dispensary always, and there are flower-pensioners who know they may
come in and take the gracious toll.
Late in the autumn, the nasturtiums and verbenas and marigolds are
bright; and the asters quill themselves into the biggest globes they
can, of white and purple and rose, as if it were to make the last glory
the best, and to do the very utmost of the year. Then the
chrysanthemums go into the house and bloom there for Christmas-time.
There is nothing else like Miss Craydocke's house and garden, I do
believe, in all the city of the Three Hills. It is none too big for
her, left alone with it, the last of her family; the world is none too
big for her; she is glad to know it is all there. She has a use for
everything as fast as it comes, and a work to do for everybody, as fast
as she finds them out. And everybody,—almost,—catches it as she goes
along, and around her there is always springing up a busy and a
spreading crystallizing of shining and blessed elements. The world is
none too big for her, or for any such, of course, because,—it has been
told why better than I can tell it,—because "ten times one is always
It was a gray, gusty morning. It had not set in to rain
continuously; but the wind wrung handfuls of drops suddenly from the
clouds, and flung them against the panes and into the wayfarers' faces.
Over in the house opposite the Ripwinkley's, at the second story
windows, sat two busy young persons. Hazel, sitting at her window, in
"mother's room," where each had a corner, could see across; and had got
into the way of innocent watching. Up in Homesworth, she had used to
watch the robins in the elm-trees; here, there was human life, in
little human nests, all about her.
“It's the same thing, mother," she would say, "isn't it, now? Don't
you remember in that book of the 'New England Housekeeper,' that you
used to have, what the woman said about the human nature of the beans?
It's in beans, and birds, and bird's nests; and folks, and folks'
nests. It don't make much difference. It's just snugness, and getting
along. And it's so nice to see!"
Hazel put her elbows up on the window-sill, and looked straight over
into that opposite room, undisguisedly.
The young man, in one window, said to his sister in the other, at
the same moment,—
“Our company's come! There's that bright little girl again!"
And the sister said, "Well, it's pretty much all the company we can
take in! She brings her own seat and her own window; and she doesn't
interrupt. It's just the kind for us, Kentie!"
“She's writing,—copying something,—music, it looks like; see it
there, set up against the shutter. She always goes out with a music
roll in her hand. I wonder whether she gives or takes?" said Diana,
stopping on her way to her own seat to look out over Hazel's shoulder.
“Both, I guess," said Mrs. Ripwinkley. “Most people do. Why don't
you put your flowers in the window, Hazel?"
“Why, so I will!"
They were a great bunch of snowy white and deep crimson asters, with
green ivy leaves, in a tall gray glass vase. Rachel Froke had just
brought them in from Miss Craydocke's garden.
“They're looking, mother! Only I do think it's half too bad! That
girl seems as if she would almost reach across after them. Perhaps they
came from the country, and haven't had any flowers."
“Thee might take them over some," said Mrs. Froke, simply.
“O, I shouldn't dare! There are other people in the house, and I
don't know their names, or anything. I wish I could, though."
“I can," said Rachel Froke. “Thee'll grow tall enough to step over
pebbles one of these days. Never mind; I'll fetch thee more to-morrow;
and thee'll let the vase go for a while? Likely they've nothing better
than a tumbler."
Rachel Froke went down the stairs, and out along the paved walk,
into the street. She stopped an instant on the curb-stone before she
crossed, and looked up at those second story windows. Hazel watched
her. She held up the vase slightly with one hand, nodding her little
gray bonnet kindly, and beckoned with the other.
The young girl started from her seat.
In another minute Hazel saw them together in the doorway.
There was a blush and a smile, and an eager brightness in the face,
and a quick speaking thanks, that one could read without hearing, from
the parted lips, on the one side, and the quiet, unflutterable gray
bonnet calmly horizontal on the other; and then the door was shut, and
Rachel Froke was crossing the damp pavement again.
“I'm so glad Aspen Street is narrow!" said Hazel. “I should hate to
be way off out of sight of people. What did you say to her, Mrs.
Froke?" she asked, as the Friend reentered. Hazel could by no means
take the awful liberty of "Rachel."
“I said the young girl, Hazel Ripwinkley, being from the country,
knew how good flowers were to strangers in the town, and that she
thought they might be strange, and might like some."
Hazel flushed all up. At that same instant, a gentle nod and smile
came across from window to window, and she flushed more, till the tears
sprung with the shy, glad excitement, as she returned it and then
“And she said, 'Thank her, with Dorris Kincaid's love,'" proceeded
“O, mother!" exclaimed Hazel. “And you did it all, right off
so, Mrs. Froke. I don't see how grown up people dare, and know how!"
Up the stairs ran quick feet in little clattering heeled boots.
Desire Ledwith, with a purple waterproof on, came in.
“I couldn't stay at home to-day," she said, "I wanted to be where it
was all-togetherish. It never is at our house. Now it's set up, they
don't do anything with it."
“That's because it 'looks'—so elegant," said Hazel, catching
herself up in dismay.
“It's because it's the crust, I think," said Desire. “Puff paste,
like an oyster patty; and they haven't got anything cooked yet for the
middle. I wonder when they will. I had a call yesterday, all to
myself," she went on, with a sudden change of tone and topic. “Agatha
was hopping and I wouldn't tell her what I said, or how I behaved. That
new parlor girl of ours thinks we're all or any of us 'Miss Ledwith,'
mamma included, and so she let him in. He had on lavender pantaloons
and a waxed moustache."
“The rain is just pouring down!" said Diana, at the garden window.
“Yes; I'm caught. That's what I meant," said Desire. “You've got to
keep me all day, now. How will you get home, Mrs. Froke? Or won't you
have to stay, too?"
“Thee may call me Rachel, Desire Ledwith, if thee pleases. I like it
better. I am no mistress. And for getting home, it is but just round
the corner. But there is no need yet. I came for an hour, to sit here
with friend Frances. And my hour is not yet up."
“I'm glad of that, for there is something I want you to tell me. I
haven't quite got at it myself, yet; so as to ask, I mean. Wait a
minute!" And she put her elbows up on her knees, and held her thumbs
against her ears, and her fingers across her forehead; sitting squarely
opposite the window to which she had drawn up her chair beside Diane,
and looking intently at the driving streams that rushed and ran down
against the glass.
“I was sitting in the bay-window at home, when it began this
morning; that made me think. All the world dripping wet, and I just put
there dry and safe in the middle of the storm, shut up behind those
great clear panes and tight sashes. How they did have to contrive, and
work, before there were such places made for people! What if they had
got into their first scratchy little houses, and sat behind the logs as
we do behind glass windows and thought, as I was thinking, how nice it
was just to be covered up from the rain? Is it all finished now? Hasn't
anybody got to contrive anything more? And who's going to do it—and
everything. And what are we good for,—just we,—to come and
expect it all, modern-improved! I don't think much of our place among
things, do you, Mrs. Froke?—There, I believe that's it, as near as I
“Why does thee ask me, Desire?"
“I don't know. I don't know any whys or what fors. 'Behold we know
not anything,'—Tennyson and I! But you seem so—pacified—I suppose I
thought you must have settled most things in your mind."
“Every builder—every little joiner—did his piece,—thought his
thought out, I think likely. There's no little groove or moulding or
fitting or finish, but is a bit of somebody's living; and life grows,
going on. We've all got our piece to do," said Rachel.
“I asked Mrs. Mig," Desire pursued, "and she said some people's part
was to buy and employ and encourage; and that spending money helps all
the world; and then she put another cushion to her back, and went on
“Perhaps it does—in spite of the world," said Rachel Froke,
“But I guess nobody is to sit by and only encourage; God has
given out no such portion as that, I do believe. We can encourage each
other, and every one do his own piece too."
“I didn't really suppose Mrs. Mig knew," said Desire, demurely. “She
never began at the bottom of anything. She only finishes off. She buys
pattern worsted work, and fills it in. That's what she's doing now,
when she don't tat; a great bunch of white lilies, grounding it with
olive. It's lovely; but I'd rather have made the lilies. She'll give it
to mother, and then Glossy will come and spend the winter with us. Mrs.
Mig is going to Nassau with a sick friend; she's awfully useful—for
little overseeings and general touchings up, after all the hard part is
done. Mrs. Mig's sick friends always have nurses and waiting
maids—Mrs. F——Rachel! Do you know, I haven't got any piece!"
“No, I don't know; nor does thee either, yet," said Rachel Froke.
* * * * *
“It's all such bosh!" said Kenneth Kincaid, flinging down a handful
of papers. “I've no right, I solemnly think, to help such stuff out
into the world! A man can't take hold anywhere, it seems, without
smutting his fingers!"
Kenneth Kincaid was correcting proof for a publisher. What he had to
work on this morning was the first chapters of a flimsy novel.
“It isn't even confectionery," said he. “It's terra alba and
cochineal. And when it comes to the sensation, it will be benzine for
whiskey. Real things are bad enough, for the most part, in this world;
but when it comes to sham fictions and adulterated poisons, Dorris, I'd
rather help bake bread, if it were an honest loaf, or make strong shoes
for laboring men!"
“You don't always get things like that," said Dorris. “And you know
you're not responsible. Why will you torment yourself so?"
“I was so determined not to do anything but genuine work; work that
the world wanted; and to have it come down to this!"
“Only for a time, while you are waiting."
“Yes; people must eat while they are waiting; that's the—devil of
it! I'm not swearing, Dorris, dear; it came truly into my head, that
minute, about the Temptation in the Wilderness." Kenneth's voice was
reverent, saying this; and there was an earnest thought in his face.
“You'll never like anything heartily but your Sunday work."
“That's what keeps me here. My week-day work might be wanted
somewhere else. And perhaps I ought to go. There's Sunday work
“If you've found one half, hold on to it;" said Dorris. “The other
can't be far off."
“I suppose there are a score or two of young architects in this
city, waiting for a name or a chance to make one, as I am. If it isn't
here for all of them, somebody has got to quit."
“And somebody has got to hold on," repeated Dorris. “You are morbid,
Kent, about this 'work of the world.'"
“It's overdone, everywhere. Fifth wheels trying to hitch on to every
coach. I'd rather be the one wheel of a barrow."
“The Lord is Wheelwright, and Builder," said Dorris, very simply.
"You are a wheel, and He has made you; He'll find an axle for
you and put you on; and you shall go about his business, so that you
shall wonder to remember that you were ever leaning up against a wall.
Do you know, Kentie, life seems to me like the game we used to play at
home in the twilight. When we shut our eyes and let each other lead us,
until we did not know where we were going, or in what place we should
come out. I should not care to walk up a broad path with my eyes wide
open, now. I'd rather feel the leading. To-morrow always makes a turn.
It's beautiful! People don't know, who never shut their eyes!"
Kenneth had taken up a newspaper.
“The pretenses at doing! The dodges and go-betweens that make a sham
work between every two real ones! There's hardly a true business
carried on, and if there is, you don't know where or which. Look at the
advertisements. Why, they cheat with their very tops and faces! See
this man who puts in big capitals: 'Lost! $5,000! $1,000 reward!' and
then tells you, in small type, that five thousand dollars are lost
every year by breaking glass and china, that his cement will mend! What
business has he to cry 'Wolf!' to the hindrance of the next man who may
have a real wolf to catch? And what business has the printer, whom the
next man will pay to advertise his loss, to help on a lie like this
beforehand? I'm only twenty-six years old, Dorris, and I'm getting
ashamed of the world!"
“Don't grow hard, Kenneth. 'The Son of Man came not to condemn the
world, but to save it.' Let's each try to save our little piece!"
We are listening across the street, you see; between the windows in
the rain; it is strange what chords one catches that do not catch each
other, and were never planned to be played together,—by the players.
Kenneth Kincaid's father Robert had been a ship-builder. When
shipping went down in the whirlpool of 1857, Robert Kincaid's building
had gone; and afterward he had died leaving his children little beside
their education, which he thanked God was secured, and a good repute
that belonged to their name, but was easily forgotten in the crowd of
young and forward ones, and in the strife and scramble of a new
Between college and technical studies Kenneth had been to the war.
After that he had a chance to make a fortune in Wall Street. His
father's brother, James, offered to take him in with him to buy and
sell stocks and gold, to watch the market, to touch little unseen
springs, to put the difference into his own pocket every time the tide
of value shifted, or could be made to seem to shift. He might have been
one of James R. Kincaid and Company. He would have none of it. He told
his uncle plainly that he wanted real work; that he had not come back
from fighting to—well, there he stopped, for he could not fling the
truth in his uncle's face; he said there were things he meant to finish
learning, and would try to do; and if nobody wanted them of him he
would learn something else that was needed. So with what was left to
his share from his father's little remnant of property, he had two
years at the Technological School, and here he was in Boston waiting.
You can see what he meant by real work, and how deep his theories and
distinctions lay. You can see that it might be a hard thing for one
young man, here or there, to take up the world on these terms now, in
this year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-nine.
Over the way Desire Ledwith was beginning again, after a pause in
which we have made our little chassee.
“I know a girl," she said, "who has got a studio. And she talks
about art, and she knows styles, and who has done what, and she runs
about to see pictures, and she copies things, and she has little
plaster legs and toes and things hanging round everywhere. She thinks
it is something great; but it's only Mig, after all. Everything is.
Florence Migs into music. And I won't Mig, if I never do anything. I'm
come here this morning to darn stockings." And she pulled out of her
big waterproof pocket a bundle of stockings and a great white ball of
darning cotton and a wooden egg.
“There is always one thing that is real," said Mrs. Ripwinkley,
gently, "and that shows the way surely to all the rest."
“I know what you mean," said Desire, "of course; but they've mixed
that all up too, like everything else, so that you don't know where it
is. Glossy Megilp has a velvet prayer-book, and she blacks her
eyelashes and goes to church. We've all been baptized, and we've
learned the Lord's Prayer, and we're all Christians. What is there more
about it? I wish, sometimes, they had let it all alone. I think they
vaccinated us with religion, Aunt Frank, for fear we should take it the
“Thee is restless," said Rachel Froke, tying on her gray cloak. “And
to make us so is oftentimes the first thing the Lord does for us. It
was the first thing He did for the world. Then He said, 'Let there be
light!' In the meantime, thee is right; just darn thy stockings." And
They had a nice morning, after that, "leaving frets alone," as Diana
said. Diana Ripwinkley was happy in things just as they were. If the
sun shone, she rejoiced in the glory; if the rain fell, it shut her in
sweetly to the heart of home, and the outside world grew fragrant for
her breathing. There was never anything in her day that she could spare
out of it, and there were no holes in the hours either. “Whether she
was most bird or bee, it was hard to tell," her mother said of her;
from the time she used to sweep and dust her garret baby-house along
the big beams in the old house at Homesworth, and make little cheeses,
and set them to press in wooden pill-boxes from which she had punched
the bottoms out, till now, that she began to take upon herself the
daily freshening of the new parlors in Aspen Street, and had long
lessons of geometry to learn, whose dry demonstrations she set to odd
little improvised recitatives of music, and chanted over while she ran
up and down putting away clean linen for her mother, that Luclarion
brought up from the wash.
As for Hazel, she was only another variation upon the same sweet
nature. There was more of outgo and enterprise with her. Diana made the
thing or the place pleasant that she was in or doing. Hazel sought out
new and blessed inventions. “There was always something coming to the
child that wouldn't ever have come to no one else," Luclarion said.
"And besides that, she was a real 'Witch Hazel;' she could tell where
the springs were, and what's more, where they warn't."
Luclarion Grapp would never have pleaded guilty to "dropping into
poetry" in any light whatsoever; but what she meant by this was not
exactly according to the letter, as one may easily see.
IX. HAZEL'S INSPIRATION.
What was the use of "looking," unless things were looked at? Mrs.
Ledwith found at the end of the winter that she ought to give a party.
Not a general one; Mrs. Ledwith always said "not a general one," as if
it were an exception, whereas she knew better than ever to undertake a
general party; her list would be too general, and heterogeneous.
It would simply be a physical, as well as a social, impossibility. She
knew quantities of people separately and very cordially, in her easy
have-a-good-time-when-you-can style, that she could by no means mix, or
even gather together. She picked up acquaintances on summer journeys,
she accepted civilities wherever she might be, she asked everybody to
her house who took a fancy to her, or would admire her establishment,
and if she had had a spring cleaning or a new carpeting, or a
furbishing up in any way, the next thing was always to light up and
play it off,—to try it on to somebody. What were houses for? And there
was always somebody who ought to be paid attention to; somebody staying
with a friend, or a couple just engaged, or if nothing else, it was her
turn to have the sewing-society; and so her rooms got aired. Of course
she had to air them now! The drawing-room, with its apricot and
coffee-brown furnishings, was lovely in the evening, and the crimson
and garnet in the dining-room was rich and cozy, and set off
brilliantly her show of silver and cut-glass; and then, there was the
new, real, sea-green China.
So the party was had. There were some people in town from New York;
she invited them and about a hundred more. The house lit up
beautifully; the only pity was that Mrs. Ledwith could not wear her
favorite and most becoming colors, buff and chestnut, because she had
taken that family of tints for her furniture; but she found a lovely
shade of violet that would hold by gas-light, and she wore black Fayal
lace with it, and white roses upon her hair. Mrs. Treweek was enchanted
with the brown and apricot drawing-room, and wondered where on earth
they had got that particular shade, for "my dear! she had ransacked
Paris for hangings in just that perfect, soft, ripe color that she had
in her mind and never could hit upon." Mrs. MacMichael had pushed the
grapes back upon her plate to examine the pattern of the bit of china,
and had said how lovely the coloring was, with the purple and pale
green of the fruit. And these things, and a few more like them, were
the residuum of the whole, and Laura Ledwith was satisfied.
Afterward, "while they were in the way of it," Florence had a little
musicale; and the first season in Shubarton Place was over.
It turned out, however, as it did in the old rhyme,—they shod the
horse, and shod the mare, and let the little colt go bare. Helena was
disgusted because she could not have a "German."
“We shall have to be careful, now that we have fairly settled down,"
said Laura to her sister; "for every bit of Grant's salary will have
been taken up with this winter's expenses. But one wants to begin
right, and after that one can go on moderately. I'm good at contriving,
Frank; only give me something to contrive with."
“Isn't it a responsibility," Frank ventured, "to think what we shall
“Of course," returned Mrs. Ledwith, glibly. “And my first duty is to
my children. I don't mean to encourage them to reckless extravagance;
as Mrs. Megilp says, there's always a limit; but it's one's duty to
make life beautiful, and one can't do too much for home. I want my
children to be satisfied with theirs, and I want to cultivate their
tastes and accustom them to society. I can't do everything for
them; they will dress on three hundred a year apiece, Agatha and
Florence; and I can assure you it needs management to accomplish that,
in these days!"
Mrs. Ripwinkley laughed, gently.
“It would require management with us to get rid of that, upon
“O, my dear, don't I tell you continually, you haven't waked up yet?
Just rub your eyes a while longer,—or let the girls do it for
you,—and you'll see! Why, I know of girls,—girls whose mothers have
limited incomes, too,—who have been kept plain, actually plain,
all their school days, but who must have now six and eight hundred a
year to go into society with. And really I wouldn't undertake it for
less, myself, if I expected to keep up with everything. But I must
treat mine all alike, and we must be contented with what we have.
There's Helena, now, crazy for a young party; but I couldn't think of
it. Young parties are ten times worse than old ones; there's really no
end to the expense, with the German, and everything. Helena will
have to wait; and yet,—of course, if I could, it is desirable, almost
necessary; acquaintances begin in the school-room,—society, indeed;
and a great deal would depend upon it. The truth is, you're no sooner
born, now-a-days, than you have to begin to keep up; or else—you're
“O, Laura! do you remember the dear little parties our mother used
to make for us? From four till half-past eight, with games, and tea at
six, and the fathers looking in?"
“And cockles, and mottoes, and printed cambric dresses, and milk and
water! Where are the children, do you suppose, you dear old Frau Van
Winkle, that would come to such a party now?"
“Children must be born simple, as they were then. There's nothing my
girls would like better, even at their age, than to help at just such a
party. It is a dream of theirs. Why shouldn't somebody do it, just to
show how good it is?"
“You can lead a horse to water, you know, Frank, but you can't make
him drink. And the colts are forty times worse. I believe you might get
some of the mothers together for an ancient tea-drink, just in the name
of old association; but the babies would all turn up their
new-fashioned little noses."
“O, dear!" sighed Frau Van Winkle. “I wish I knew people!"
“By the time you do, you'll know the reason why, and be like all the
Hazel Ripwinkley went to Mrs. Hilman's school, with her cousin
Helena. That was because the school was a thoroughly good one; the best
her mother could learn of; not because it was kept in parlors in Dorset
Street, and there were girls there who came from palaces west of the
Common, in the grand avenues and the ABC streets; nor did Hazel wear
her best gray and black velvet suit for every day, though the rich
colored poplins with their over-skirts and sashes, and the gay ribbons
for hair and neck made the long green baize covered tables look like
gardenplots with beds of bloom, and quite extinguished with their
brilliancy the quiet, one skirted brown merino that she brushed and
folded every night, and put on with fresh linen cuffs and collar every
“It is an idiosyncrasy of Aunt Frances," Helena explained, with the
grandest phrase she could pick out of her "Synonymes," to cow down
those who "wondered."
Privately, Helena held long lamentations with Hazel, going to and
fro, about the party that she could not have.
“I'm actually ashamed to go to school. There isn't a girl there, who
can pretend to have anything, that hasn't had some kind of a company
this winter. I've been to them all, and I feel real mean,—sneaky.
What's 'next year?' Mamma puts me off with that. Poh? Next year they'll
all begin again. You can't skip birthdays."
“I'll tell you what!" said Hazel, suddenly, inspired by much the
same idea that had occurred to Mrs. Ripwinkley; "I mean to ask my
mother to let me have a party!"
“You! Down in Aspen Street! Don't, for pity's sake, Hazel!"
“I don't believe but what it could be done over again!" said Hazel,
irrelevantly, intent upon her own thought.
“It couldn't be done once! For gracious grandmother's sake,
don't think of it!" cried the little world-woman of thirteen.
“It's gracious grandmother's sake that made me think of it," said
Hazel, laughing. “The way she used to do."
“Why don't you ask them to help you hunt up old Noah, and all get
back into the ark, pigeons and all?"
“Well, I guess they had pretty nice times there, any how; and if
another big rain comes, perhaps they'll have to!"
Hazel did not intend her full meaning; but there is many a faint,
small prophecy hid under a clover-leaf.
Hazel did not let go things; her little witch-wand, once pointed,
held its divining angle with the might of magic until somebody broke
“It's awful!" Helena declared to her mother and sisters, with tears
of consternation. “And she wants me to go round with her and carry
'compliments!' It'll never be got over,—never! I wish I could go away
For Mrs. Ripwinkley had made up her unsophisticated mind to try this
thing; to put this grain of a pure, potent salt, right into the seethe
and glitter of little Boston, and find out what it would decompose or
precipitate. For was not she a mother, testing the world's chalice for
her children? What did she care for the hiss and the bubble, if they
She was wider awake than Mrs. Ledwith knew; perhaps they who come
down from the mountain heights of long seclusion can measure the
world's paces and changes better than they who have been hurried in the
midst of them, on and on, or round and round.
Worst of all, old Uncle Titus took it up.
It was funny,—or it would have been funny, reader, if anybody but
you and I and Rachel Froke knew exactly how,—to watch Uncle Titus as
he kept his quiet eye on all these things,—the things that he had set
going,—and read their revelations; sheltered, disguised, under a
character that the world had chosen to put upon him, like Haroun
Alraschid in the merchant's cloak.
They took their tea with him,—the two families,—every Sunday
night. Agatha Ledwith "filled him in" a pair of slippers that very
first Christmas; he sat there in the corner with his old leather ones
on, when they came, and left them, for the most part, to their own
mutual entertainment, until the tea was ready. It was a sort of family
exchange; all the plans and topics came up, particularly on the Ledwith
side, for Mrs. Ripwinkley was a good listener, and Laura a good talker;
and the fun,—that you and I and Rachel Froke could guess,—yes, and a
good deal of unsuspected earnest, also,—was all there behind the old
gentleman's "Christian Age," as over brief mentions of sermons, or
words about books, or little brevities of family inquiries and
household news, broke small floods of excitement like water over
pebbles, as Laura and her daughters discussed and argued volubly the
matching and the flouncing of a silk, or the new flowering and higher
pitching of a bonnet,—since "they are wearing everything all on the
top, you know, and mine looks terribly meek;" or else descanted
diffusely on the unaccountableness of the somebodies not having called,
or the bother and forwardness of the some-other-bodies who had, and the
eighty-three visits that were left on the list to be paid, and "never
being able to take a day to sit down for anything."
“What is it all for?" Mrs. Ripwinkley would ask, over again, the
same old burden of the world's weariness falling upon her from her
sister's life, and making her feel as if it were her business to clear
it away somehow.
“Why, to live!" Mrs. Ledwith would reply. “You've got it all to do,
“But I don't really see, Laura, where the living comes in."
Laura opens her eyes.
“Slang?" says she. “Where did you get hold of that?"
“Is it slang? I'm sure I don't know. I mean it."
“Well, you are the funniest! You don't catch anything.
Even a by-word must come first-hand from you, and mean something!"
“It seems to me such a hard-working, getting-ready-to-be, and then
not being. There's no place left for it,—because it's all place."
“Gracious me, Frank! If you are going to sift everything so, and get
back of everything! I can't live in metaphysics: I have to live in the
things themselves, amongst other people."
“But isn't it scene and costume, a good deal of it, without the
play? It may be that I don't understand, because I have not got into
the heart of your city life; but what comes of the parties, for
instance? The grand question, beforehand, is about wearing, and then
there's a retrospection of what was worn, and how people looked. It
seems to be all surface. I should think they might almost send in their
best gowns, or perhaps a photograph,—if photographs ever were
becoming,—as they do visiting cards."
“Aunt Frank," said Desire, "I don't believe the 'heart of city life'
is in the parties, or the parlors. I believe there's a great lot of us
knocking round amongst the dry goods and the furniture that never get
any further. People must be living, somewhere, behind the
fixings. But there are so many people, nowadays, that have never quite
“You might live all your days here," said Mrs. Ledwith to her
sister, passing over Desire, "and never get into the heart of it, for
that matter, unless you were born into it. I don't care so much, for my
part. I know plenty of nice people, and I like to have things nice
about me, and to have a pleasant time, and to let my children enjoy
themselves. The 'heart,' if the truth was known, is a dreadful still
place. I'm satisfied."
Uncle Titus's paper was folded across the middle; just then he
reversed the lower half; that brought the printing upside down; but he
went on reading all the same.
“I'm going to have a real party," said Hazel, "a real,
gracious-grandmother party; just such as you and mother had, Aunt
Laura, when you were little."
Her Aunt Laura laughed good-naturedly.
“I guess you'll have to go round and knock up the grandmothers to
come to it, then," said she. “You'd better make it a fancy dress affair
at once, and then it will be accounted for."
“No; I'm going round to invite; and they are to come at four, and
take tea at six; and they're just to wear their afternoon dresses; and
Miss Craydocke is coming at any rate; and she knows all the old plays,
and lots of new ones; and she is going to show how."
“I'm coming, too," said Uncle Titus, over his newspaper, with his
eyes over his glasses.
“That's good," said Hazel, simply, least surprised of any of the
“And you'll have to play the muffin man. 'O, don't you know,'"—she
began to sing, and danced two little steps toward Mr. Oldways. “O, I
forgot it was Sunday!" she said, suddenly stopping.
“Not much wonder," said Uncle Titus. “And not much matter. Your
Sunday's good enough."
And then he turned his paper right side up; but, before he began
really to read again, he swung half round toward them in his
swivel-chair, and said,—
“Leave the sugar-plums to me, Hazel; I'll come early and bring 'em
in my pocket."
“It's the first thing he's taken the slightest notice of, or
interest in, that any one of us has been doing," said Agatha Ledwith,
with a spice of momentary indignation, as they walked along Bridgeley
Street to take the car.
For Uncle Titus had not come to the Ledwith party. “He never went
visiting, and he hadn't any best coat," he told Laura, in verbal reply
to the invitation that had come written on a square satin sheet, once
folded, in an envelope with a big monogram.
“It's of no consequence," said Mrs. Ledwith, "any way. Only a
“But it will be, mother; you don't know," said Helena. “She's going
right in everywhere, with that ridiculous little invitation; to the
Ashburnes and the Geoffreys, and all! She hasn't the least idea of any
difference; and just think what the girls will say, and how they will
stare, and laugh! I wish she wasn't my cousin!"
Mrs. Ledwith spoke with real displeasure; for she was good-natured
and affectionate in her way; and her worldly ambitions were rather wide
than high, as we have seen.
“Well, I can't help it; you don't know, mother," Helena repeated.
"It's horrid to go to school with all those stiffies, that don't care a
snap for you, and only laugh."
“Laughing is vulgar," said Agatha. If any indirect question were
ever thrown upon the family position, Agatha immediately began
expounding the ethics of high breeding, as one who had attained.
“It is only half-way people who laugh," she said. “Ada Geoffrey and
Lilian Ashburne never laugh—at anybody—I am sure."
“No, they don't; not right out. They're awfully polite. But you can
feel it, underneath. They have a way of keeping so still, when you know
they would laugh if they did anything."
“Well, they'll neither laugh nor keep still, about this. You need
not be concerned. They'll just not go, and that will be the end of it."
Agatha Ledwith was mistaken. She had been mistaken about two things
to-night. The other was when she had said that this was the first time
Uncle Oldways had noticed or been interested in anything they did.
X. COCKLES AND CRAMBO.
Hazel Ripwinkley put on her nankeen sack and skirt, and her little
round, brown straw hat. For May had come, and almost gone, and it was a
day of early summer warmth.
Hazel's dress was not a "suit;" it had been made and worn two
summers before suits were thought of; yet it suited very well, as
people's things are apt to do, after all, who do not trouble themselves
about minutiae of fashion, and so get no particular antediluvian marks
upon them that show when the flood subsides.
Her mother knew some things that Hazel did not. Mrs. Ripwinkley, if
she had been asleep for five and twenty years, had lost none of her
perceptive faculties in the trance. But she did not hamper her child
with any doubts; she let her go on her simple way, under the shield of
her simplicity, to test this world that she had come into, for herself.
Hazel had written down her little list of the girls' names that she
would like to ask; and Mrs. Ripwinkley looked at it with a smile. There
was Ada Geoffrey, the banker's daughter, and Lilian Ashburne, the
professor's,—heiresses each, of double lines of birth and wealth. She
could remember how, in her childhood, the old names sounded, with the
respect that was in men's tones when they were spoken; and underneath
were Lois James and Katie Kilburnie, children of a printer and a
hatter. They had all been chosen for their purely personal qualities. A
child, let alone, chooses as an angel chooses.
It remained to be seen how they would come together.
At the very head, in large, fair letters, was,—
Down at the bottom, she had just added,—
"MR. KINCAID AND DORRIS."
“For, if I have some grown folks, mother, perhaps I ought to
have other grown folks,—'to keep the balance true.' Besides,
Mr. Kincaid and Dorris always like the little nice times."
From the day when Dorris Kincaid had come over with the gray glass
vase and her repeated thanks, when the flowers had done their ministry
and faded, there had been little simple courtesies, each way, between
the opposite houses; and once Kenneth and his sister had taken tea with
the Ripwinkleys, and they had played "crambo" and "consequences" in the
evening. The real little game of "consequences," of which this present
friendliness was a link, was going on all the time, though they did not
stop to read the lines as they folded them down, and "what the world
said" was not one of the items in their scheme of it at all.
It would have been something worth while to have followed Hazel as
she went her rounds, asking quietly at each house to see Mrs. This or
That, "as she had a message;" and being shown, like a little
representative of an almost extinct period, up into the parlor, or the
dressing-room of each lady, and giving her quaint errand.
“I am Hazel Ripwinkley," she would say, "and my mother sends her
compliments, and would like to have Lilian,"—or whoever else,—"come
at four o'clock to-day, and spend the afternoon and take tea. I'm to
have a little party such as she used to have, and nobody is to be much
dressed up, and we are only to play games."
“Why, that is charming!" cried Mrs. Ashburne; for the feeling of her
own sweet early days, and the old B——Square house, came over her as
she heard the words. “It is Lilian's music afternoon; but never mind;
give my kind compliments to your mother, and she will be very happy to
And Mrs. Ashburne stooped down and kissed Hazel, when she went away.
She stood in the deep carved stone entrance-way to Mrs. Geoffrey's
house, in the same fearless, Red Riding Hood fashion, just as she would
have waited in any little country porch up in Homesworth, where she had
need indeed to knock.
Not a whit dismayed was she either, when the tall manservant opened
to her, and admitted her into the square, high, marble-paved hall, out
of which great doors were set wide into rooms rich and quiet with noble
adorning and soft shading,—where pictures made such a magic upon the
walls, and books were piled from floor to ceiling; and where her little
figure was lost as she went in, and she hesitated to take a seat
anywhere, lest she should be quite hidden in some great arm-chair or
sofa corner, and Mrs. Geoffrey should not see her when she came down.
So, as the lady entered, there she was, upright and waiting, on her
two feet, in her nankeen dress, just within the library doors, with her
face turned toward the staircase.
“I am Hazel Ripwinkley," she began; as if she had said, I am
Pease-blossom or Mustard-seed; "I go to school with Ada." And went on,
then, with her compliments and her party. And at the end she said, very
“Miss Craydocke is coming, and she knows the games."
“Miss Craydocke, of Orchard Street? And where do you live?"
“In Aspen Street, close by, in Uncle Oldways' house. We haven't
lived there very long,—only this winter; before that we always lived
“And Homesworth is in the country? Don't you miss that?"
“Yes; but Aspen Street isn't very bad; we've got a garden. Besides,
we like streets and neighbors."
Then she added,—for her little witch-stick felt spiritually the
quality of what she spoke to,—"Wouldn't Mr. Geoffrey come for Ada in
“I haven't the least doubt he would!" said Mrs. Geoffrey, her face
all alive with exquisite and kindly amusement, and catching the spirit
of the thing from the inimitable simplicity before her, such as never,
she did believe, had walked into anybody's house before, in this place
and generation, and was no more to be snubbed than a flower or a breeze
or an angel.
It was a piece of Witch Hazel's witchery, or inspiration, that she
named Miss Craydocke; for Miss Craydocke was an old, dear friend of
Mrs. Geoffrey's, in that "heart of things" behind the fashions, where
the kingdom is growing up. But of course Hazel could not have known
that; something in the lady's face just made her think of the same
thing in Miss Craydocke's, and so she spoke, forgetting to explain, nor
wondering in the very least, when she was met with knowledge.
It was all divining, though, from the beginning to the end. That was
what took her into these homes, rather than to a score of other places
up and down the self-same streets, where, if she had got in at all, she
would have met strange, lofty stares, and freezing "thank you's," and
“I've found the real folks, mother, and they're all coming!" she
cried, joyfully, running in where Mrs. Ripwinkley was setting little
vases and baskets about on shelf and table, between the white, plain,
muslin draperies of the long parlor windows. In vases and baskets were
sweet May flowers; bunches of deep-hued, rich-scented violets, stars of
blue and white periwinkle, and Miss Craydocke's lilies of the valley in
their tall, cool leaves; each kind gathered by itself in clusters and
handfuls. Inside the wide, open fireplace, behind the high brass fender
and the shining andirons, was a "chimney flower pot," country fashion,
of green lilac boughs,—not blossoms,—and woodbine sprays, and crimson
and white tulips. The room was fair and fragrant, and the windows were
wide open upon vines and grass.
“It looks like you, mother, just as Mrs. Geoffrey's house looks like
her. Houses ought to look like people, I think."
“There's your surprise, children. We shouldn't be doing it right
without a surprise, you know."
And the surprise was not dolls' pelerines, but books. “Little Women"
was one, which sent Diana and Hazel off for a delicious two hours' read
up in their own room until dinner.
After dinner, Miss Craydocke came, in her purple and white striped
mohair and her white lace neckerchief; and at three o'clock Uncle Titus
walked in, with his coat pockets so bulgy and rustling and odorous of
peppermint and sassafras, that it was no use to pretend to wait and be
unconscious, but a pure mercy to unload him so that he might be able to
Nobody knows to this day where he got them; he must have ordered
them somewhere, one would think, long enough before to have special
moulds and implements made; but there were large, beautiful
cockles,—not of the old flour-paste sort, but of clear, sparkling
sugar, rose-color, and amber, and white, with little slips of tinted
paper tucked within, and these printed delicately with pretty rhymes
and couplets, from real poets; things to be truly treasured, yet
simple, for children's apprehension, and fancy, and fun. And there were
"Salem gibraltars," such as we only get out of Essex County now and
then, for a big charitable Fair, when Salem and everywhere else gets
its spirit up to send its best and most especial; and there were toys
and devices in sugar—flowers and animals, hats, bonnets, and boots,
apples, and cucumbers,—such as Diana and Hazel, and even Desire and
Helena had never seen before.
“It isn't quite fair," said good Miss Craydocke. “We were to go back
to the old, simple fashions of things; and here you are beginning over
again already with sumptuous inventions. It's the very way it came
about before, till it was all spoilt."
“No," said Uncle Titus, stoutly. “It's only 'Old and
New,'—the very selfsame good old notions brought to a little modern
perfection. They're not French flummery, either; and there's not a drop
of gin, or a flavor of prussic acid, or any other abominable chemical,
in one of those contrivances. They're as innocent as they look; good
honest mint and spice and checkerberry and lemon and rose. I know the
man that made 'em!"
Helena Ledwith began to think that the first person, singular or
plural, might have a good time; but that awful third! Helena's "they"
was as potent and tremendous as her mother's.
“It's nice," she said to Hazel; "but they don't have inch things. I
never saw them at a party. And they don't play games; they always
dance. And it's broad, hot daylight; and—you haven't asked a single
“Why, I don't know any! Only Jimmy Scarup; and I guess he'd rather
play ball, and break windows!"
“Jimmy Scarup!" And Helena turned away, hopeless of Hazel's
But "they" came; and "they" turned right into "we."
It was not a party; it was something altogether fresh and new; the
house was a new, beautiful place; it was like the country. And Aspen
Street, when you got down there, was so still and shady and sweet
smelling and pleasant. They experienced the delight of finding out
Miss Craydocke and Hazel set them at it,—their good time; they had
planned it all out, and there was no stiff, shy waiting. They began,
right off, with the "Muffin Man." Hazel danced up to Desire:—
"O, do you know the Muffin Man,
The Muffin Man, the Muffin Man?
O, do you know the Muffin Man
That lives in Drury Lane?"
"O, yes, I know the Muffin Man,
The Muffin Man, the Muffin Man,
O, yes, I know the Muffin Man
That lives in Drury Lane."
And so they danced off together:—
"Two of us know the Muffin Man,
The Muffin Man, the Muffin Man,
Two of us know the Muffin Man
That lives in Drury Lane."
And then they besieged Miss Craydocke; and then the three met Ada
Geoffrey, just as she had come in and spoken to Diana and Mrs.
Ripwinkley; and Ada had caught the refrain, and responded instantly;
and four of them knew the Muffin Man.
“I know they'll think it's common and queer, and they'll laugh
to-morrow," whispered Helena to Diana, as Hazel drew the lengthening
string to Dorris Kincaid's corner and caught her up; but the next
minute they were around Helena in her turn, and they were laughing
already, with pure glee; and five faces bent toward her, and five
"O, don't you know the Muffin Man?"
And Helena had to sing back that she did; and then the six made a
perfect snarl around Mrs. Ripwinkley herself, and drew her in; and then
they all swept off and came down across the room upon Mr. Oldways, who
muttered, under the singing, "seven women! Well, the Bible says so, and
I suppose it's come!" and then he held out both hands, while his hard
face unbent in every wrinkle, with a smile that overflowed through all
their furrowed channels, up to his very eyes; like some sparkling water
that must find its level; and there were eight that knew the Muffin
So nine, and ten, and up to fifteen; and then, as their line broke
away into fragments, still breathless with fun, Miss Craydocke
said,—her eyes brimming over with laughing tears, that always came
when she was gay,—
“There, now! we all know the 'Muffin Man;' therefore it follows,
mathematically, I believe, that we must all know each other. I think
we'll try a sitting-down game next. I'll give you all something.
Desire, you can tell them what to do with it, and Miss Ashburne shall
predict me consequences."
So they had the "Presentation Game;" and the gifts, and the
dispositions, and the consequences, when the whispers were over, and
they were all declared aloud, were such hits and jumbles of sense and
nonsense as were almost too queer to have been believed.
“Miss Craydocke gave me a butter firkin," said Mrs. Ripwinkley. “I
was to put it in the parlor and plant vanilla beans in it; and the
consequence would be that Birnam Wood would come to Dunsinane."
“She gave me a wax doll," said Helena. “I was to buy it a pair of
high-heeled boots and a chignon; and the consequence would be that she
would have to stand on her head."
“She gave me," said Mr. Oldways, "an iron spoon. I was to deal out
sugar-plums with it; and the consequence would be that you would all go
“She gave me," said Lois James, "Woman's Rights. I shouldn't know
what to do with them; and the consequence would be a terrible
mortification to all my friends."
“She gave me," said Hazel, "a real good time. I was to pass it
round; and the consequence would be an earthquake."
Then they had "Scandal;" a whisper, repeated rapidly from ear to
ear. It began with, "Luclarion is in the kitchen making tea-biscuits;"
and it ended with the horrible announcement that there were "two
hundred gallons of hot pitch ready, and that everybody was to be tipped
“Characters," and "Twenty Questions," and "How, When, and Where,"
followed; and then they were ready for a run again, and they played
"Boston," in which Mr. Oldways, being "Sceattle," was continually being
left out, whereupon he declared at last, that he didn't believe there
was any place for him, or even that he was down anywhere on the map,
and it wasn't fair, and he was going to secede; and that broke up the
play; for the groat fun of all the games had come to be Miss Craydocke
and Uncle Titus, as it always is the great fun to the young ones when
the elders join in,—the older and the soberer, the better sport; there
is always something in the "fathers looking on;" that is the way I
think it is among them who always do behold the Face of the Father in
heaven,—smiling upon their smiles, glowing upon their gladness.
In the tea-room, it was all even more delightful yet; it was further
out into the garden, shaded at the back by the deep leafiness of
grape-vines, and a trellis work with arches in it that ran up at the
side, and would be gay by and by with scarlet runners, and
morning-glories, and nasturtiums, that were shooting up strong and
swift already, from the neatly weeded beds.
Inside, was the tall old semicircular sideboard, with gingerbread
grooves carved all over it; and the real brass "dogs," with heads on
their fore-paws, were lying in the fire-place, under the lilac boughs;
and the square, plain table stood in the midst, with its glossy white
cloth that touched the floor at the corners, and on it were the
identical pink mugs, and a tall glass pitcher of milk, and plates of
the thinnest and sweetest bread and butter, and early strawberries in a
white basket lined with leaves, and the traditional round frosted cakes
upon a silver plate with a network rim.
And Luclarion and Mrs. Ripwinkley waited upon them all, and it was
still no party, to be compared or thought of with any salad and
ice-pudding and Germania-band affair, such as they had had all winter;
but something utterly fresh and new and by itself,—place, and
entertainment, and people, and all.
After tea, they went out into the garden; and there, under the shady
horse-chestnuts, was a swing; and there were balls with which Hazel
showed them how to play "class;" tossing in turn against the high brick
wall, and taking their places up and down, according to the number of
their catches. It was only Miss Craydocke's "Thread the Needle" that
got them in again; and after that, she showed them another simple old
dancing game, the "Winding Circle," from which they were all merrily
and mysteriously untwisting themselves with Miss Craydocke's bright
little thin face and her fluttering cap ribbons, and her spry little
trot leading them successfully off, when the door opened, and the grand
Mr. Geoffrey walked in; the man who could manage State Street, and who
had stood at the right hand of Governor and President, with his clear
brain, and big purse, and generous hand, through the years of the long,
terrible war; the man whom it was something for great people to get to
their dinners, or to have walk late into an evening drawing-room and
dignify an occasion for the last half hour.
Mrs. Ripwinkley was just simply glad to see him; so she was to see
Kenneth Kincaid, who came a few minutes after, just as Luclarion
brought the tray of sweetmeats in, which Mrs. Ripwinkley had so far
innovated upon the gracious-grandmother plan as to have after tea,
instead of before.
The beautiful cockles and their rhymes got their heads all together
around the large table, for the eating and the reading. Mr. Geoffrey
and Uncle Titus sat talking European politics together, a little aside.
The sugar-plums lasted a good while, with the chatter over them; and
then, before they quite knew what it was all for, they had got slips of
paper and lead pencils before them, and there was to be a round of
"Crambo" to wind up.
“O, I don't know how!" and "I never can!" were the first words, as
they always are, when it was explained to the uninitiated; but Miss
Craydocke assured them that "everybody could;" and Hazel said that
"nobody expected real poetry; it needn't be more than two lines, and
those might be blank verse, if they were very hard, but jingles
were better;" and so the questions and the wards were written and
folded, and the papers were shuffled and opened amid outcries of, "O,
this is awful!" "What a word to get in!" "Why, they haven't the
least thing to do with each other!"
“That's the beauty of it," said Miss Craydocke, unrelentingly; "to
make them have; and it is funny how much things do have to do with
each other when they once happen to come across."
Then there were knit brows, and desperate scratchings, and such
silence that Mr. Geoffrey and Uncle Titus stopped short on the Alabama
question, and looked round to see what the matter was.
Kenneth Kincaid had been modestly listening to the older gentlemen,
and now and then venturing to inquire or remark something, with an
intelligence that attracted Mr. Geoffrey; and presently it came out
that he had been south with the army; and then Mr. Geoffrey asked
questions of him, and they got upon Reconstruction business, and
comparing facts and exchanging conclusions, quite as if one was not a
mere youth with only his eyes and his brains and his conscience to help
him in his first grapple with the world in the tangle and crisis at
which he found it, and the other a grave, practiced, keen-judging man,
the counsellor of national leaders.
After all, they had no business to bring the great, troublesome,
heavy-weighted world into a child's party. I wish man never would;
though it did not happen badly, as it all turned out, that they did a
little of it in this instance. If they had thought of it, "Crambo" was
good for them too, for a change; and presently they did think of it;
for Dorris called out in distress, real or pretended, from the table,—
“Kentie, here's something you must really take off my hands! I
haven't the least idea what to do with it."
And then came a cry from Hazel,—
“No fair! We're all just as badly off, and there isn't one of us
that has got a brother to turn to. Here's another for Mr. Kincaid."
“There are plenty more. Come, Mr. Oldways, Mr. Geoffrey, won't you
try 'Crambo?' There's a good deal in it, as there is in most nonsense."
“We'll come and see what it is," said Mr. Geoffrey; and so the
chairs were drawn up, and the gray, grave heads looked on over the
“Why, Hazel's got through!" said Lois, scratching violently at her
paper, and obliterating three obstinate lines.
“O, I didn't bother, you see! I just stuck the word right in, like a
pin into a pincushion, and let it go. There wasn't anything else to do
“I've got to make my pincushion," said Dorris.
“I should think you had! Look at her! She's writing her paper all
over! O, my gracious, she must have done it before!"
“Mother and Mr. Geoffrey are doing heaps, too! We shall have to
publish a book," said Diana, biting the end of her pencil, and taking
it easy. Diana hardly ever got the rhymes made in time; but then she
always admired everybody's else, which was a good thing for somebody to
be at leisure to do.
“Uncle Oldways and Lilian are folding up," said Hazel.
“Five minutes more," said Miss Craydocke, keeping the time with her
watch before her. “Hush!"
When the five minutes were rapped out, there were seven papers to be
read. People who had not finished this time might go on when the others
took fresh questions.
Hazel began reading, because she had been ready first.
“'What is the difference between sponge-cake and doughnuts?'
"Airiness, lightness, and insipidity;
Twistiness, spiciness, and solidity.
Hallelujah! I've got through!
That is the best that I can do!'"
There was a shout at Hazel's pinsticking.
“Now, Uncle Titus! You finished next."
“My question is a very comprehensive one," said Uncle Titus, "with a
very concise and suggestive word. 'How wags the world?' 'Slambang.'"
"'The world wags on
With lies and slang;
With show and vanity,
Pride and inanity,
Greed and insanity,
And a great slambang!'"
“That's only one verse," said Miss Craydocke. “There's
another; but he didn't write it down."
Uncle Titus laughed, and tossed his Crambo on the table. “It's true,
so far, anyway," said he.
“So far is hardly ever quite true," said Miss Craydocke
Lilian Ashburne had to answer the question whether she had ever read
"Young's Night Thoughts;" and her word was "Comet."
"'Pray might I be allowed a pun,
To help me through with just this one?
I've tried to read Young's Thoughts of Night,
But never yet could come it, quite.'"
“O, O, O! That's just like Lilian, with her soft little 'prays' and
'allow me's,' and her little pussy-cat ways of sliding through tight
places, just touching her whiskers!"
“It's quite fair," said Lilian, smiling, "to slide through if you
“Now, Mr. Geoffrey."
And Mr. Geoffrey read,—
“'What is your favorite color?' 'One-hoss.'"
"'Do you mean, my friend, for a one-hoss shay,
Or the horse himself,—black, roan, or bay?
In truth, I think I can hardly say;
I believe, for a nag, "I bet on the gray."
"'For a shay, I would rather not have yellow,
Or any outright, staring color,
That makes the crowd look after a fellow,
And the little gamins hoot and bellow.
"'Do you mean for ribbons? or gowns? or eyes?
Or flowers? or gems? or in sunset skies?
For many questions, as many replies,
Drops of a rainbow take rainbow dyes.
"'The world is full, and the world is bright;
Each thing to its nature parts the light;
And each for its own to the Perfect sight
Wears that which is comely, and sweet, and right.'"
“O, Mr. Geoffrey! That's lovely!" cried the girl voices, all around
him. And Ada made a pair of great eyes at her father, and said,—
“What an awful humbug you have been, papa! To have kept the other
side up with care all your life! Who ever suspected that of
Diana and Hazel were not taken so much by surprise, their mother had
improvised little nursery jingles for them all their baby days, and had
played Crambo with them since; so they were very confident with their
"Now, mother:" and looked calmly for something creditable.
“'What is your favorite name?'" read Mrs. Ripwinkley. “And the word
"'When I was a little child,
Looking very meek and mild,
I liked grand, heroic names,—
Of warriors, or stately dames:
Zenobia, and Cleopatra;
(No rhyme for that this side Sumatra;)
Wallace, and Helen Mar,—Clotilda,
Berengaria, and Brunhilda;
Hector, Juno, and Cassandra;
Charlemagne and Britomarte,
Washington and Bonaparte;
Victoria and Guinevere,
And Lady Clara Vere de Vere.
—Shall I go on with all this stuff,
Or do you think it is enough?
I cannot tell you what dear name
I love the best; I play a game;
And tender earnest doth belong
To quiet speech, not silly song.'"
“That's just like mother; I should have stopped as soon as I'd got
the 'stuff' in; but she always shapes off with a little morriowl," said
Hazel. “Now, Desire!"
Desire frantically scribbled a long line at the end of what she had
written; below, that is, a great black morass of scratches that
represented significantly the "Slough of Despond" she had got into over
the winding up, and then gave,—
“'Which way would you rather travel,—north or south?'
If I might wander,
It should be toward the sun;
The blessed South
Should fill my mouth
With ripeness just begun.
For bleak hills, bare,
With stunted, spare,
And scrubby, piney trees,
Her gardens rare,
And vineyards fair,
And her rose-scented breeze.
For fearful blast,
And sudden blare and scare
Long, stormless moons,
And placid noons,
And—all sorts of comfortablenesses,—there!'"
“That makes me think of father's horse running away with him once,"
said Helena, "when he had to head him right up against a brick wall,
and knock everything all to smash before he could stop!"
“Miss Kincaid, I think," said Mr. Geoffrey. He had been watching
Dorris's face through the play, flashing and smiling with the
excitement of her rhyming, and the slender, nervous fingers twisting
tremulously the penciled slip while she had listened to the others.
“If it isn't all rubbed out," said Dorris, coloring and laughing to
find how badly she had been treating her own effusion.
“You see it was rather an awful question,—'What do you want
most?' And the word is, 'Thirteen.'"
She caught her breath a little quickly as she began:—
"'Between yourself, dear, myself, and the post,
There are the thirteen things that I want the most.
I want to be, sometimes, a little stronger;
I want the days to be a little longer;
I'd like to have a few less things to do;
I'd better like to better do the few:
I want—and this might almost lead my wishes,—
A bigger place to keep my mops and dishes.
I want a horse; I want a little buggy,
To ride in when the days grow hot and muggy;
I want a garden; and,—perhaps it's funny,—
But now and then I want a little money.
I want an easy way to do my hair;
I want an extra dress or two to wear;
I want more patience; and when all is given,
I think I want to die and go to heaven!'"
“I never saw such bright people in all my life!" said Ada Geoffrey,
when the outcry of applause for Dorris had subsided, and they began to
rise to go. “But the worst of all is papa! I'll never get over
it of you, see if I do! Such a cheat! Why, it's like playing dumb all
your life, and then just speaking up suddenly in a quiet way, some day,
as if it was nothing particular, and nobody cared!"
With Hazel's little divining-rod, Mrs. Ripwinkley had reached out,
testing the world for her, to see what some of it might be really made
of. Mrs. Geoffrey, from her side, had reached out in turn, also, into
this fresh and simple opportunity, to see what might be there worth
“How was it, Aleck?" she asked of her husband, as they sat together
in her dressing-room, while she brushed out her beautiful hair.
“Brightest people I have been among for a long time—and nicest,"
said the banker, concisely. “A real, fresh little home, with a mother
in it. Good place for Ada to go, and good girls for her to know; like
the ones I fell in love with a hundred years ago."
“That rhymed oracle,—to say nothing of the fraction of a
compliment,—ought to settle it," said Mrs. Geoffrey, laughing.
“Rhymes have been the order of the evening. I expect to talk in
verse for a week at least."
And then he told her about the "Crambo."
A week after, Mrs. Ledwith was astonished to find, lying on the
mantel in her sister's room, a card that had been sent up the day
"MRS. ALEXANDER H. GEOFFREY."
XI. MORE WITCH-WORK.
Hazel was asked to the Geoffreys' to dinner.
Before this, she and Diana had both been asked to take tea, and
spend an evening, but this was Hazel's little especial "invite," as she
called it, because she and Ada were writing a dialogue together for a
composition at school.
The Geoffreys dined at the good old-fashioned hour of half past two,
except when they had formal dinner company; and Hazel was to come right
home from school with Ada, and stay and spend the afternoon.
“What intimacy!" Florence Ledwith had exclaimed, when she heard of
“But it isn't at all on the grand style side; people like the
Geoffreys do such things quite apart from their regular connection; it
is a sort of 'behind the scenes;'" said Glossy Megilp, who was standing
at Florence's dressing-glass, touching up the little heap of "friz"
across her forehead.
“Where's my poker?" she asked, suddenly, breaking off from the
Geoffrey subject, and rummaging in a dressing box, intent upon tutoring
some little obstinate loop of hair that would be too frizzy.
“I should think a 'blower' might be a good thing to add to your
tools, Glossy," said Desire. “You have brush, poker, and tongs, now, to
say nothing of coal-hod," she added, glancing at the little open
japanned box that held some kind of black powder which had to do with
the shadow of Glossy's eyelashes upon occasion, and the emphasis upon
the delicate line of her brows.
“No secret," said Glossy, magnanimously. “There it is! It is no
greater sin than violet powder, or false tails, for that matter; and
the little gap in my left eyebrow was never deliberately designed. It
was a 'lapsus naturae;' I only follow out the hint, and complete the
intention. Something is left to ourselves; as the child said
about the Lord curling her hair for her when she was a baby and letting
her do it herself after she grew big enough. What are our artistic
perceptions given to us for, unless we're to make the best of ourselves
in the first place?"
“But it isn't all eyebrows," said Desire, half aloud.
“Of course not," said Glossy Megilp. “Twice a day I have to do
myself up somehow, and why shouldn't it be as well as I can? Other
things come in their turn, and I do them."
“But, you see, the friz and the fix has to be, anyhow, whether or
no. Everything isn't done, whether or no. I guess it's the 'first
place,' that's the matter."
“I think you have a very theoretical mind, Des, and a slightly
obscure style. You can't be satisfied till everything is all mapped
out, and organized, and justified, and you get into horrible snarls
trying to do it. If I were you, I would take things a little more as
“I can't," said Desire. “They come hind side before and upside
“Well, if everybody is upside down, there's a view of it that makes
it all right side up, isn't there? It seems to be an established fact
that we must dress and undress, and that the first duty of the day is
to get up and put on our clothes. We aren't ready for much until we do.
And one person's dressing may require one thing, and another's another.
Some people have a cork leg to put on, and some people have false
teeth; and they wouldn't any of them come hobbling or mumbling out
without them, unless there was a fire or an earthquake, I suppose."
Glossy Megilp's arguments and analogies perplexed Desire, always.
They sometimes silenced her; but they did not always answer her. She
went back to what they had been discussing before.
“To 'lay down the shubbel and the hoe,'—here's your poker, under
the table-flounce, Glossy,—and to 'take up the fiddle and the bow,'
again,—I think it's real nice and beautiful for Hazel—"
“To 'go where the good darkies go'?"
“Yes. It's the good of her that's got her in. And I believe
you and Florence both would give your best boots to be there too, if it
is behind. Behind the fixings and the fashions is where people
live; 'dere's vat I za-ay!'" she ended, quoting herself and Rip Van
“Maybe," said Florence, carelessly; "but I'd as lief be in
the fashion, after all. And that's where Hazel Ripwinkley never will
get, with all her taking little novelties."
Meanwhile, Hazel Ripwinkley was deep in the delights of a great
portfolio of rare engravings; prints of glorious frescoes in old
churches, and designs of splendid architecture; and Mrs. Geoffrey,
seeing her real pleasure, was sitting beside her, turning over the
large sheets, and explaining them; telling her, as she gazed into the
wonderful faces of the Saints and the Evangelists in Correggio's
frescoes of the church of San Giovanni at Parma, how the whole dome was
one radiant vision of heavenly glory, with clouds and angel faces, and
adoring apostles, and Christ the Lord high over all; and that these
were but the filling in between the springing curves of the magnificent
arches; describing to her the Abbess's room in San Paolo, with its
strange, beautiful heathen picture over the mantel, of Diana mounting
her stag-drawn car, and its circular walls painted with trellis-work
and medallioned with windows, where the heads of little laughing
children, and graceful, gentle animals peeped in from among vines and
Mrs. Geoffrey did not wonder that Hazel lingered with delight over
these or over the groups by Raphael in the Sistine Chapel,—the quiet
pendentives, where the waiting of the world for its salvation was
typified in the dream-like, reclining forms upon the still, desert
sand; or the wonderful scenes from the "Creation,"—the majestic "Let
there be Light!" and the Breathing of the breath of life into Man. She
watched the surprise and awe with which the child beheld for the first
time the daring of inspiration in the tremendous embodiment of the
Almighty, and waited while she could hardly take her eyes away. But
when, afterward, they turned to a portfolio of Architecture, and she
found her eager to examine spires and arches and capitals, rich reliefs
and stately facades and sculptured gates, and exclaiming with pleasure
at the colored drawings of Florentine ornamentation, she wondered, and
“Have you ever seen such things before? Do you draw? I should hardly
think you would care so much, at your age."
“I like the prettiness," said Hazel, simply, "and the grandness; but
I don't suppose I should care so much if it wasn't for Dorris and Mr.
Kincaid. Mr. Kincaid draws buildings; he's an architect; only he hasn't
architected much yet, because the people that build things don't know
him. Dorris was so glad to give him a Christmas present of
'Daguerreotypes de Paris,' with the churches and arches and bridges and
things; she got it at a sale; I wonder what they would say to all these
Then Mrs. Geoffrey found what still more greatly enchanted her, a
volume of engravings, of English Home Architecture; interiors of old
Halls, magnificent staircases, lofty libraries and galleries dim with
space; exteriors, gabled, turreted and towered; long, rambling piles of
manor houses, with mixed styles of many centuries.
“They look as if they were brimfull of stories!" Hazel cried. “O, if
I could only carry it home to show to the Kincaids!"
“You may," said Mrs. Geoffrey, as simply, in her turn, as if she
were lending a copy of "Robinson Crusoe;' never letting the child guess
by a breath of hesitation the value of what she had asked.
“And tell me more about these Kincaids. They are friends of yours?"
“Yes; we've known them all winter. They live right opposite, and sit
in the windows, drawing and writing. Dorris keeps house up there in two
rooms. The little one is her bedroom; and Mr. Kincaid sleeps on the big
sofa. Dorris makes crackle-cakes, and asks us over. She cooks with a
little gas-stove. I think it is beautiful to keep house with not very
much money. She goes out with a cunning white basket and buys her
things; and she does all her work up in a corner on a white table, with
a piece of oil-cloth on the floor; and then she comes over into her
parlor, she says, and sits by the window. It's a kind of a play all the
“And Mr. Kincaid?"
“Dorris says he might have been rich by this time, if he had gone
into his Uncle James's office in New York. Mr. James Kincaid is a
broker, and buys gold. But Kenneth says gold stands for work, and if he
ever has any he'll buy it with work. He wants to do some real thing.
Don't you think that's nice of him?"
“Yes, I do," said Mrs. Geoffrey. “And Dorris is that bright girl who
wanted thirteen things, and rhymed them into 'Crambo?' Mr. Geoffrey
“Yes, ma'am; Dorris can do almost anything."
“I should like to see Dorris, sometime. Will you bring her here,
Hazel's little witch-rod felt the almost impassible something in the
“I don't know as she would be brought," she said.
Mrs. Geoffrey laughed.
“You have an instinct for the fine proprieties, without a bit of
respect for any conventional fences," she said. “I'll ask
“Then I'm sure she'll come," said Hazel, understanding quite well
and gladly the last three words, and passing over the first phrase as
if it had been a Greek motto, put there to be skipped.
“Ada has stopped practicing," said Mrs. Geoffrey, who had undertaken
the entertainment of her little guest during her daughter's half hour
of music. “She will be waiting for you now."
Hazel instantly jumped up.
But she paused after three steps toward the door, to say gently,
looking back over her shoulder with a shy glance out of her timidly
“Perhaps,—I hope I haven't,—stayed too long!"
“Come back, you little hazel-sprite!" cried Mrs. Geoffrey; and when
she got her within reach again, she put her hands one each side of the
little blushing, gleaming face, and kissed it, saying,—
“I don't think,—I'm slow, usually, in making up my mind
about people, big or little,—but I don't think you can stay too
long,—or come too often, dear!"
“I've found another for you, Aleck," she said, that night at the
hair-brushing, to her husband.
He always came to sit in her dressing-room, then; and it was at this
quiet time that they gave each other, out of the day they had lived in
their partly separate ways and duties, that which made it for each like
a day lived twice, so that the years of their life counted up double.
“He is a young architect, who hasn't architected much, because he
doesn't know the people who build things; and he wouldn't be a gold
broker with his uncle in New York, because he believes in doing money's
worth in the world for the world's money. Isn't he one?"
“Sounds like it," said Mr. Geoffrey. “What is his name?"
“Nephew of James R. Kincaid?" said Mr. Geoffrey, with an
interrogation that was also an exclamation. “And wouldn't go in with
him! Why, it was just to have picked up dollars!"
“Exactly," replied his wife. “That was what he objected to."
“I should like to see the fellow."
“Don't you remember? You have seen him! The night you went for Ada
to the Aspen Street party, and got into 'Crambo.' He was there; and it
was his sister who wanted thirteen things. I guess they do!"
“Ask them here," said the banker.
“I mean to," Mrs. Geoffrey answered. “That is, after I've seen
Hapsie Craydocke. She knows everything. I'll go there to-morrow
* * * * *
“'Behind' is a pretty good way to get in—to some places," said
Desire Ledwith, coming into the rose-pink room with news. “Especially
an omnibus. And the Ripwinkleys, and the Kincaids, and old Miss
Craydocke, and for all I know, Mrs. Scarup and Luclarion Grapp are
going to Summit Street to tea to-night. Boston is topsy-turvey; Holmes
was a prophet; and 'Brattle Street and Temple Place are interchanging
cards!' Mother, we ought to get intimate with the family over the
grocer's shop. Who knows what would come of it? There are fairies about
in disguise, I'm sure; or else it's the millennium. Whichever it is,
it's all right for Hazel, though; she's ready. Don't you feel like
foolish virgins, Flo and Nag? I do."
I am afraid it was when Desire felt a little inclination to "nag"
her elder sister, that she called her by that reprehensible name.
Agatha only looked lofty, and vouchsafed no reply; but Florence said,—
“There's no need of any little triumphs or mortifications. Nobody
crows, and nobody cries. I'm glad. Diana's a dear, and Hazel's a
duck, besides being my cousins; why shouldn't I? Only there is a
large hole for the cats, and a little hole for the kittens; and I'd as
lief, myself, go in with the cats."
“The Marchbankses are staying there, and Professor Gregory. I don't
know about cats," said Desire, demurely.
“It's a reason-why party, for all that," said Agatha, carelessly,
recovering her good humor.
“Well, when any nice people ask me, I hope there will be a
'reason why.' It's the persons of consequence that make the 'reason
And Desire had the last word.
* * * * *
Hazel Ripwinkley was thinking neither of large holes nor little
ones,—cats nor kittens; she was saying to Luclarion, sitting in her
shady down-stairs room behind the kitchen, that looked out into the
green yard corner, "how nicely things came out, after all!"
“They seemed so hobblety at first, when I went up there and saw all
those beautiful books, and pictures, and people living amongst them
every day, and the poor Kincaids not getting the least bit of a stretch
out of their corner, ever. I'll tell you what I thought, Luclarion;"
and here she almost whispered, "I truly did. I thought God was making a
Luclarion put out her lips into a round, deprecating pucker, at
that, and drew in her breath,—
“Well, I mean it seemed as if there was a mistake somewhere; and
that I'd no business, at any rate, with what they wanted so. I couldn't
get over it until I asked for those pictures; and mother said it was
such a bold thing to do!"
“It was bold," said Luclarion; "but it wasn't forrud. It was gi'n
you, and it hit right. That was looked out for."
“It's a stumpy world," said Luclarion Grapp to Mrs. Ripwinkley,
afterward; "but some folks step right over their stumps athout scarcely
Desire Ledwith was, at this epoch, a perplexity and a worry,—even a
positive terror sometimes,—to her mother.
It was not a case of the hen hatching ducks, it was rather as if a
hen had got a hawk in her brood.
Desire's demurs and questions,—her dissatisfactions, sittings and
contempts,—threatened now and then to swoop down upon the family life
and comfort with destroying talons.
“She'll be an awful, strong-minded, radical, progressive,
overturning woman," Laura said, in despair, to her friend Mrs. Megilp.
"And Greenley Street, and Aspen Street, and that everlasting Miss
Craydocke, are making her worse. And what can I do? Because there's
Right before Desire,—not knowing the cloud of real bewilderment
that was upon her young spiritual perceptions, getting their first
glimpse of a tangled and conflicting and distorted world,—she drew
wondering comparisons between her elder children and this odd, anxious,
restless, sharp-spoken girl.
“I don't understand it," she would say. “It isn't a bit like a child
of mine. I always took things easy, and got the comfort of them
somehow; I think the world is a pretty pleasant place to live in, and
there's lots of satisfaction to be had; and Agatha and Florence take
after me; they are nice, good-natured, contented girls; managing their
allowances,—that I wish were more,—trimming their own bonnets, and
enjoying themselves with their friends, girl-fashion."
Which was true. Agatha and Florence were neither fretful nor
dissatisfied; they were never disrespectful, perhaps because Mrs.
Ledwith demanded less of deferential observance than of a kind of jolly
companionship from her daughters; a go-and-come easiness in and out of
what they called their home, but which was rather the trimming-up and
outfitting place,—a sort of Holmes' Hole,—where they put in spring
and fall, for a thorough overhaul and rig; and at other times, in
intervals or emergencies, between their various and continual social
trips and cruises. They were hardly ever all-togetherish, as Desire had
said, if they ever were, it was over house cleaning and millinery; when
the ordering was complete,—when the wardrobes were finished,—then the
world was let in, or they let themselves out, and—"looked."
“Desire is different," said Mrs. Ledwith. “She's like Grant's
father, and her Aunt Desire,—pudgicky and queer."
“Well, mamma," said the child, once, driven to desperate logic for
defense, "I don't see how it can be helped. If you will marry
into the Ledwith family, you can't expect to have your children all
Which, again, was very true. Laura laughed at the clever sharpness
of it, and was more than half proud of her bold chick-of-prey, after
Yet Desire remembered that her Aunt Frances was a Shiere, also; and
she thought there might easily be two sides to the same family; why
not, since there were two sides still further back, always? There was
Uncle Titus; who knew but it was the Oldways streak in him after all?
Desire took refuge, more and more, with Miss Craydocke, and Rachel
Froke, and the Ripwinkleys; she even went to Luclarion with questions,
to get her quaint notions of things; and she had ventured into Uncle
Titus's study, and taken down volumes of Swedenborg to pry into, while
he looked at her with long keen regards over his spectacles, and she
did not know that she was watched.
“That young girl, Desire, is restless, Titus," Rachel Froke said to
him one day. “She is feeling after something; she wants something real
to do; and it appears likely to me that she will do it, if they don't
After that, Uncle Titus fixed his attention upon her yet more
closely; and at this time Desire stumbled upon things in a strange way
among his bookshelves, and thought that Rachel Froke was growing less
precise in her fashion of putting to rights. Books were tucked in
beside each other as if they had been picked up and bestowed anyhow;
between "Heaven and Hell" and the "Four Leading Doctrines," she found,
one day, "Macdonald's Unspoken Sermons," and there was a leaf doubled
lengthwise in the chapter about the White Stone and the New Name.
Another time, a little book of poems, by the same author, was slid in,
open, over the volumes of Darwin and Huxley, and the pages upon whose
outspread faces it lay were those that bore the rhyme of the blind
"O Jesus Christ! I am deaf and blind;
Nothing comes through into my mind,
I only am not dumb:
Although I see Thee not, nor hear,
I cry because Thou mayst be near
O Son of Mary! come!"
Do you think a girl of seventeen may not be feeling out into the
spiritual dark,—may not be stretching helpless hands, vaguely, toward
the Hands that help? Desire Ledwith laid the book down again, with a
great swelling breath coming up slowly out of her bosom, and with a
warmth of tears in her earnest little eyes. And Uncle Titus Oldways sat
there among his papers, and never moved, or seemed to look, but saw it
He never said a word to her himself; it was not Uncle Titus's way to
talk, and few suspected him of having anything to say in such matters;
but he went to Friend Froke and asked her,—
“Haven't you got any light that might shine a little for that child,
And the next Sunday, in the forenoon, Desire came in; came in,
without knowing it, for her little light.
She had left home with the family on their way to church; she was
dressed in her buff silk pongee suit trimmed with golden brown bands
and quillings; she had on a lovely new brown hat with tea roses in it;
her gloves and boots were exquisite and many buttoned; Agatha and
Florence could not think what was the matter when she turned back, up
Dorset Street, saying suddenly, "I won't go, after all." And then she
had walked straight over the hill and down to Greenley Street, and came
in upon Rachel, sitting alone in a quiet gray parlor that was her own,
where there were ferns and ivies in the window, and a little canary,
dressed in brown and gold like Desire herself, swung over them in a
white wire cage.
When Desire saw how still it was, and how Rachel Froke sat there
with her open window and her open book, all by herself, she stopped in
the doorway with a sudden feeling of intrusion, which had not occurred
to her as she came.
“It's just what I want to come into; but if I do, it won't be there.
I've no right to spoil it. Don't mind, Rachel. I'll go away."
She said it softly and sadly, as if she could not help it, and was
turning back into the hall.
“But I do mind," said Rachel, speaking quickly. “Thee will come in,
and sit down. Whatever it is thee wants, is here for thee. Is it the
stillness? Then we will be still."
“That's so easy to say. But you can't do it for me. You will
be still, and I shall be all in a stir. I want so to be just hushed
“Fed, and hushed up, in somebody's arms, like a baby. I know," said
“How does she know?" thought Desire; but she only looked at her with
surprised eyes, saying nothing.
“Hungry and restless; that's what we all are," said Rachel Froke,
“Well,—until?" demanded the strange girl, impetuously, as Rachel
paused. “I've been hungry ever since I was born, mother says."
“Until He takes us up and feeds us."
“Why don't He?—Mrs. Froke, when does He give it out? Once a month,
in church, they have the bread and the wine? Does that do it?"
“Thee knows we do not hold by ordinances, we Friends," said Rachel.
"But He gives the bread of life. Not once a month, or in any place; it
is his word. Does thee get no word when thee goes to church? Does
nothing come to thee?"
“I don't know; it's mixed up; the church is full of bonnets; and
people settle their gowns when they come in, and shake out their
hitches and puffs when they go out, and there's professional music at
one end, and—I suppose it's because I'm bad, but I don't know; half
the time it seems to me it's only Mig at the other. Something all fixed
up, and patted down, and smoothed over, and salted and buttered, like
the potato hills they used to make on my plate for me at dinner, when I
was little. But it's soggy after all, and has an underground taste. It
isn't anything that has just grown, up in the light, like the ears of
corn they rubbed in their hands. Breakfast is better than dinner.
Bread, with yeast in it, risen up new. They don't feed with bread very
“The yeast in the bread, and the sparkle in the wine they are the
life of it; they are what make the signs."
“If they only gave it out fresh, and a little of it! But they keep
it over, and it grows cold and tough and flat, and people sit round and
pretend, but they don't eat. They've eaten other things,—all sorts of
trash,—before they came. They've spoiled their appetites. Mine was
spoiled, to-day. I felt so new and fussy, in these brown things. So I
turned round, and came here."
Mr. Oldways' saying came back into Mrs. Froke's mind:—
“Haven't you got any light, Rachel, that might shine a little for
Perhaps that was what the child had come for.
What had the word of the Spirit been to Rachel Froke this day? The
new, fresh word, with the leaven in it? "A little of it;" that was what
Rachel took up the small red Bible that lay on the lightstand beside
“I'll will give thee my First-Day crumb, Desire," she said. “It may
taste sweet to thee."
She turned to Revelation, seventh chapter.
“Look over with me; thee will see then where the crumb is," she
said; and as Desire came near and looked over her upon the page, she
read from the last two verses:—
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.
“For the Tenderness that is in the midst of the
Almightiness shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living
fountains of water; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Her voice lingered over the words she put for the "Lamb" and the
"Throne," so that she said "Tenderness" with its own very yearning
inflection, and "Almightiness" with a strong fullness, glad in that
which can never fall short or be exhausted. Then she softly laid over
the cover, and sat perfectly still. It was the Quaker silence that
falls upon them in their assemblies, leaving each heart to itself and
that which the Spirit has given.
Desire was hushed all through; something living and real had
thrilled into her thought; her restlessness quieted suddenly under it,
as Mary stood quiet before the message of the angel.
When she did speak again, after a time, as Rachel Froke broke the
motionless pause by laying the book gently back again upon the table,
it was to say,—
“Why don't they preach like that, and leave the rest to preach
itself? A Sermon means a Word; why don't they just say the word, and
let it go?"
The Friend made no reply.
“I never could—quite—like that about the 'Lamb,' before," said
Desire, hesitatingly. “It seemed,—I don't know,—putting Him down, somehow; making him tame; taking the grandness away that made the
gentleness any good. But,—'Tenderness;' that is beautiful! Does it
mean so in the other place? About taking away the sins,—do you think?"
“'The Tenderness of God—the Compassion—that taketh away the sins
of the world?'" Mrs. Froke repeated, half inquiringly. “Jesus Christ,
God's Heart of Love toward man? I think it is so. I think, child, thee
has got thy crumb also, to-day."
But not all yet.
Pretty soon, they heard the front door open, and Uncle Titus come
in. Another step was behind his; and Kenneth Kincaid's voice was
speaking, about some book he had called to take.
Desire's face flushed, and her manner grew suddenly flurried.
“I must go," she said, starting up; yet when she got to the door,
she paused and delayed.
The voices were talking on, in the study; somehow, Desire had last
words also, to say to Mrs. Froke.
She was partly shy about going past that open door, and partly
afraid they might not notice her if she did. Back in her girlish
thought was a secret suggestion that she was pushing at all the time
with a certain self-scorn and denial, that it might happen that she and
Kenneth Kincaid would go out at the same moment; if so, he would walk
up the street with her, and Kenneth Kincaid was one of the few persons
whom Desire Ledwith thoroughly believed in and liked. “There was no Mig
about him," she said. It is hazardous when a girl of seventeen makes
one of her rare exceptions in her estimate of character in favor of a
man of six and twenty.
Yet Desire Ledwith hated "nonsense;" she wouldn't have anybody
sending her bouquets as they did to Agatha and Florence; she had an
utter contempt for lavender pantaloons and waxed moustaches; but for
Kenneth Kincaid, with his honest, clear look at life, and his high
strong purpose, to say friendly things,—tell her a little now and then
of how the world looked to him and what it demanded,—this lifted her
up; this made it seem worth while to speak and to hear.
So she was very glad when Uncle Titus saw her go down the hall,
after she had made up her mind that that way lay her straight path, and
that things contrived were not things worth happening,—and spoke out
her name, so that she had to stop, and turn to the open doorway and
reply; and Kenneth Kincaid came over and held out his hand to her. He
had two books in the other,—a volume of Bunsen and a copy of "Guild
Court,"—and he was just ready to go.
“Not been to church to-day?" said Uncle Titus to Desire.
“I've been—to Friend's Meeting," the girl answered.
“Get anything by that?" he asked, gruffly, letting the shag down
over his eyes that behind it beamed softly.
“Yes; a morsel," replied Desire. “All I wanted."
“All you wanted? Well, that's a Sunday-full!"
“Yes, sir, I think it is," said she.
When they got out upon the sidewalk, Kenneth Kincaid asked, "Was it
one of the morsels that may be shared, Miss Desire? Some crumbs
multiply by dividing, you know."
“It was only a verse out of the Bible, with a new word in it."
“A new word? Well, I think Bible verses often have that. I suppose
it was what they were made for."
Desire's glance at him had a question in it.
“Made to look different at different times, as everything does that
has life in it. Isn't that true? Clouds, trees, faces,—do they ever
look twice the same?"
“Yes," said Desire, thinking especially of the faces. “I think they
do, or ought to. But they may look more."
“I didn't say contradictory. To look more, there must be a
difference; a fresh aspect. And that is what the world is full of; and
the world is the word of God."
“The world?" said Desire, who had been taught in a dried up,
mechanical sort of way, that the Bible is the word of God; and
practically left to infer that, that point once settled, it might be
safely shut, up between its covers and not much meddled with, certainly
not over freely interpreted.
“Yes. What God had to say. In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was God. Without him was not anything made that was made."
Desire's face brightened. She knew those words by heart. They were
the first Sunday-school lesson she ever committed to memory, out of the
New Testament; "down to 'grace and truth,'" as she recollected. What a
jumble of repetitions it had been to her, then! Sentences so much alike
that she could not remember them apart, or which way they came. All at
once the simple, beautiful meaning was given to her.
What God had to say.
And it took a world,—millions, of worlds,—to say it with.
“And the Bible, too?" she said, simply following out her own mental
perception, without giving the link. It was not needed. They were upon
“Yes; all things; and all souls. The world-word comes through
things; the Bible came through souls. And it is all the more alive, and
full, and deep, and changing; like a river."
“Living fountains of waters! that was part of the morsel to-day,"
Desire repeated impulsively, and then shyly explained.
“And the new word?"
Desire shrunk into silence for a moment; she was not used to, or
fond of Bible quoting, or even Bible talk; yet sin was hungering all
the time for Bible truth.
Mr. Kincaid waited.
So she repeated it presently; for Desire never made a fuss; she was
too really sensitive for that.
“'The Tenderness in the midst of the Almightiness shall feed them,
and shall lead them to living fountains of water.'"
Mr. Kincaid recognized the "new word," and his face lit up.
“'The Lamb in the midst of the Throne,'" he said. “Out of the Heart
of God, the Christ. Who was there before; the intent by which all
things were made. The same yesterday, and to-day, and forever; who ever
liveth to make intercession for us. Christ had to be. The Word,
full of grace, must be made flesh. Why need people dispute about
Eternity and Divinity, if they can only see that?—Was that Mrs.
“Yes; that was Rachel's sermon."
“It is an illumination."
They walked all up Orchard Street without another word.
Then Kenneth Kincaid said,—"Miss Desire, why won't you come and
teach in the Mission School?"
“I teach? Why, I've got everything to learn!"
“But as fast as you do learn; the morsels, you know. That is
the way they are given out. That is the wonder of the kingdom of
heaven. There is no need to go away and buy three hundred pennyworth
before we begin, that every one may take a little; the bread given as
the Master breaks it feeds them till they are filled; and there are
baskets full of fragments to gather up."
Kenneth Kincaid's heart was in his Sunday work, as his sister had
said. The more gladly now, that the outward daily bread was being
Mr. Geoffrey,—one of those busy men, so busy that they do promptly
that which their hands find to do,—had put Kenneth in the way of work.
It only needed a word from him, and the surveying and laying out of
some new streets and avenues down there where Boston is growing so big
and grand and strange, were put into his charge. Kenneth was busy now,
cheerily busy, from Monday morning to Saturday night; and restfully
busy on the Sunday, straightening the paths and laying out the ways for
souls to walk in. He felt the harmony and the illustration between his
week and his Sunday, and the one strengthening the other, as all true
outward work does harmonize with and show forth, and help the spiritual
doing. It could not have been so with that gold work, or any little
feverish hitching on to other men's business; producing nothing,
advancing nothing, only standing between to snatch what might fall, or
to keep a premium for passing from hand to hand.
Our great cities are so full,—our whole country is so
overrun,—with these officious middle-men whom the world does not truly
want; chiffonniers of trade, who only pick up a living out of the great
press and waste and overflow; and our boys are so eager to slip in to
some such easy, ready-made opportunity,—to get some crossing to sweep.
What will come of it all, as the pretenses multiply? Will there be
always pennies for every little broom? Will two, and three, and six
sweeps be tolerated between side and side? By and by, I think, they
will have to turn to and lay pavements. Hard, honest work, and the
day's pay for it; that is what we have got to go back to; that and the
day's snug, patient living, which the pay achieves.
Then, as I say, the week shall illustrate the Sunday, and the Sunday
shall glorify the week; and what men do and build shall stand true
types, again, for the inner growth and the invisible building; so that
if this outer tabernacle were dissolved, there should be seen glorious
behind it, the house not made with hands,—eternal.
As Desire Ledwith met this young Kenneth Kincaid from day to day,
seeing him so often at her Aunt Ripwinkley's, where he and Dorris went
in and out now, almost like a son and daughter,—as she walked beside
him this morning, hearing him say these things, at which the
heart-longing in her burned anew toward the real and satisfying,—what
wonder was it that her restlessness grasped at that in his life which
was strong and full of rest; that she felt glad and proud to have him
tell his thought to her; that without any silliness,—despising all
silliness,—she should yet be conscious, as girls of seventeen are
conscious, of something that made her day sufficient when she had so
met him,—of a temptation to turn into those streets in her walks that
led his way? Or that she often, with her blunt truth, toward herself as
well as others, and her quick contempt of sham and subterfuge, should
snub herself mentally, and turn herself round as by a grasp of her own
shoulders, and make herself walk off stoutly in a far and opposite
direction, when, without due need and excuse, she caught herself out in
What wonder that this stood in her way, for very pleasantness, when
Kenneth asked her to come and teach in the school? That she was ashamed
to let herself do a thing—even a good thing, that her life
needed,—when there was this conscious charm in the asking; this secret
thought—that she should walk up home with him every Sunday!
She remembered Agatha and Florence, and she imagined, perhaps, more
than they would really have thought of it at home; and so as they
turned into Shubarton Place,—for he had kept on all the way along
Bridgeley and up Dorset Street with her,—she checked her steps
suddenly as they came near the door, and said brusquely,—
“No, Mr. Kincaid; I can't come to the Mission. I might learn A, and
teach them that; but how do I know I shall ever learn B, myself?"
He had left his question, as their talk went on, meaning to ask it
again before they separated. He thought it was prevailing with her, and
that the help that comes of helping others would reach her need; it was
for her sake he asked it; he was disappointed at the sudden, almost
trivial turn she gave it.
“You have taken up another analogy, Miss Desire," he said. “We were
talking about crumbs and feeding. The five loaves and the five
thousand. 'Why reason ye because ye have no bread? How is it that ye do
Kenneth quoted these words naturally, pleasantly; as he might quote
anything that had been spoken to them both out of a love and authority
they both recognized, a little while ago.
But Desire was suddenly sharp and fractious. If it had not touched
some deep, live place in her, she would not have minded so much. It was
partly, too, the coming toward home. She had got away out of the pure,
clear spaces where such things seemed to be fit and unstrained, into
the edge of her earth atmosphere again, where, falling, they took fire.
Presently she would be in that ridiculous pink room, and Glossy Megilp
would be chattering about "those lovely purple poppies with the black
grass," that she had been lamenting all the morning she had not bought
for her chip hat, instead of the pomegranate flowers. And Agatha would
be on the bed, in her cashmere sack, reading Miss Braddon.
“It would sound nice to tell them she was going down to the Mission
School to give out crumbs!"
Besides, I suppose that persons of a certain temperament never utter
a more ungracious "No," than when they are longing all the time to say
So she turned round on the lower step to Kenneth, when he had asked
that grave, sweet question of the Lord's, and said perversely,—
“I thought you did not believe in any brokering kind of business.
It's all there,—for everybody. Why should I set up to fetch and
She did not look in his face as she said it; she was not audacious
enough to do that; she poked with the stick of her sunshade between the
uneven bricks of the sidewalk, keeping her eyes down, as if she watched
for some truth she expected to pry up. But she only wedged the stick in
so that she could not get it out; and Kenneth Kincaid making her
absolutely no answer at all, she had to stand there, growing red and
ashamed, held fast by her own silly trap.
“Take care; you will break it," said Kenneth, quietly, as she gave
it a twist and a wrench. And he put out his hand, and took it from
hers, and drew gently upward in the line in which she had thrust it in.
“You were bearing off at an angle. It wanted a straight pull."
“I never pull straight at anything. I always get into a crook,
somehow. You didn't answer me, Mr. Kincaid. I didn't mean to be
rude—or wicked. I didn't mean—"
“What you said. I know that; and it's no use to answer what people
don't mean. That makes the crookedest crook of all."
“But I think I did mean it partly; only not contrarimindedly. I do
mean that I have no business—yet awhile. It would only be—Migging at
And with this remarkable application of her favorite illustrative
expression, she made a friendly but abrupt motion of leave-taking, and
went into the house.
Up into her own room, in the third story, where the old furniture
was, and no "fadging,"—and sat down, bonnet, gloves, sunshade, and
all, in her little cane rocking-chair by the window.
Helena was down in the pink room, listening with charmed ears to the
grown up young-ladyisms of her elder sisters and Glossy Megilp.
Desire sat still until the dinner-bell rang, forgetful of her dress,
forgetful of all but one thought that she spoke out as she rose at last
at the summons to take off her things in a hurry,—
“I wonder,—I wonder—if I shall ever live anything all
XIII. PIECES OF WORLDS.
Mr. Dickens never put a truer thought into any book, than he put at
the beginning of "Little Dorrit."
That, from over land and sea, from hundreds, thousands of miles
away, are coming the people with whom we are to have to do in our
lives; and that, "what is set to us to do to them, and what is set for
them to do to us, will all be done."
Not only from far places in this earth, over land and sea,—but from
out the eternities, before and after,—from which souls are born, and
into which they die,—all the lines of life are moving continually
which are to meet and join, and bend, and cross our own.
But it is only with a little piece of this world, as far as we can
see it in this short and simple story, that we have now to do.
Rosamond Holabird was coming down to Boston.
With all her pretty, fresh, delicate, high-lady ways, with her
beautiful looks, and her sweet readiness for true things and noble
living, she was coming, for a few days only,—the cooperative
housekeeping was going on at Westover, and she could not be spared
long,—right in among them here in Aspen Street, and Shubarton Place,
and Orchard Street, and Harrisburg Square, where Mrs. Scherman lived
whom she was going to stay with. But a few days may be a great deal.
Rosamond Holabird was coming for far more than she knew. Among other
things she was coming to get a lesson; a lesson right on in a course
she was just now learning; a lesson of next things, and best things,
and real folks.
You see how it happened,—where the links were; Miss Craydocke, and
Sin Scherman, and Leslie Goldthwaite, were dear friends, made to each
other one summer among the mountains. Leslie had had Sin and Miss
Craydocke up at Z——, and Rosamond and Leslie were friends, also.
Mrs. Frank Scherman had a pretty house in Harrisburg Square. She had
not much time for paying fashionable calls, or party-going, or
party-giving. As to the last, she did not think Frank had money enough
yet to "circumfuse," she said, in that way.
But she had six lovely little harlequin cups on a side-shelf in her
china closet, and six different-patterned breakfast plates, with
colored borders to match the cups; rose, and brown, and gray, and
vermilion, and green, and blue. These were all the real china she had,
and were for Frank and herself and the friends whom she made
welcome,—and who might come four at once,—for day and night. She
delighted in "little stays;" in girls who would go into the nursery
with her, and see Sinsie in her bath; or into the kitchen, and help her
mix up "little delectabilities to surprise Frank with;" only the
trouble had got to be now, that the surprise occurred when the
delectabilities did not. Frank had got demoralized, and expected them.
She rejoiced to have Miss Craydocke drop in of a morning and come right
up stairs, with her little petticoats and things to work on; and she
and Frank returned these visits in a social, cosy way, after Sinsie was
in her crib for the night. Frank's boots never went on with a struggle
for a walk down to Orchard Street; but they were terribly impossible
for Continuation Avenue.
So it had come about long ago, though I have not had a corner to
mention it in, that they "knew the Muffin Man," in an Aspen Street
sense; and were no strangers to the charm of Mrs. Ripwinkley's
"evenings." There was always an "evening" in the "Mile Hill House," as
the little family and friendly coterie had come to call it.
Rosamond and Leslie had been down together for a week once, at the
Schermans; and this time Rosamond was coming alone. She had business in
Boston for a day or two, and had written to ask Asenath "if she might."
There were things to buy for Barbara, who was going to be married in a
"navy hurry," besides an especial matter that had determined her just
at this time to come.
And Asenath answered, "that the scarlet and gray, and green and blue
were pining and fading on the shelf; and four days would be the very
least to give them all a turn and treat them fairly; for such things
had their delicate susceptibilities, as Hans Andersen had taught us to
know, and might starve and suffer,—why not? being made of protoplasm,
same as anybody."
Rosamond's especial errand to the city was one that just a little
set her up, innocently, in her mind. She had not wholly got the
better,—when it interfered with no good-will or generous dealing,—of
a certain little instinctive reverence for imposing outsides and grand
ways of daily doing; and she was somewhat complacent at the idea of
having to go,—with kindly and needful information,—to Madam
Mucklegrand, in Spreadsplendid Park.
Madam Mucklegrand was a well-born Boston lady, who had gone to
Europe in her early youth, and married a Scottish gentleman with a Sir
before his name. Consequently, she was quite entitled to be called "my
lady;" and some people who liked the opportunity of touching their
republican tongues to the salt of European dignitaries, addressed her
so; but, for the most part, she assumed and received simply the style
of "Madam." A queen may be called "Madam," you know. It covers an
indefinite greatness. But when she spoke of her late,—very long
ago,—husband, she always named him as "Sir Archibald."
Madam Mucklegrand's daughter wanted a wet-nurse for her little baby.
Up in Z——, there was a poor woman whose husband, a young brakeman
on the railroad, had been suddenly killed three months ago, before her
child was born. There was a sister here in Boston, who could take care
of it for her if she could go to be foster-mother to some rich little
baby, who was yet so poor as this—to need one. So Rosamond Holabird,
who was especially interested for Mrs. Jopson, had written to Asenath,
and had an advertisement put in the "Transcript," referring to Mrs.
Scherman for information. And the Mucklegrand carriage had rolled up,
the next day, to the house in Harrisburg Square.
They wanted to see the woman, of course, and to hear all about
her,—more than Mrs. Scherman was quite able to tell; therefore when
she sent a little note up to Z——, by the evening mail, Rosamond
replied with her "Might she come?"
She brought Jane Jopson and the baby down with her, left them over
night at Mrs. Ginnever's, in Sheafe Street, and was to go for them next
morning and take them up to Spreadsplendid Park. She had sent a
graceful, polite little note to Madam Mucklegrand, dated "Westover,
Z——," and signed, "Rosamond Holabird," offering to do this, that
there might not be the danger of Jane's losing the chance in the
It was certainly to accomplish the good deed that Rosamond cared the
most; but it was also certainly something to accomplish it in that very
high quarter. It lent a piquancy to the occasion.
She came down to breakfast very nicely and discriminatingly dressed,
with the elegant quietness of a lady who knew what was simply
appropriate to such an errand and the early hour, but who meant to be
recognized as the lady in every unmistakable touch; and there was a
carriage ordered for her at half past nine.
Sin Scherman was a cute little matron; she discerned the dash of
subdued importance in Rosamond's air; and she thought it very likely,
in the Boston nature of things, that it would get wholesomely and
civilly toned down.
Just at this moment, Rosamond, putting on her little straw bonnet
with real lace upon it, and her simple little narrow-bordered green
shawl, that was yet, as far as it went, veritable cashmere,—had a
consciousness, in a still, modest way, not only of her own personal
dignity as Rosamond Holabird, who was the same going to see Madam
Mucklegrand, or walking over to Madam Pennington's, and as much in her
place with one as the other; but of the dignity of Westover itself, and
Westover ladyhood, represented by her among the palaces of
She was only twenty, this fair and pleasant Rosamond of ours, and
country simple, with all her native tact and grace; and she forgot, or
did not know how full of impressions a life like Madam Mucklegrand's
might be, and how very trifling and fleeting must be any that she might
chance to make.
She drove away down to the North End, and took Jane Jopson and her
baby in,—very clean and shiny, both of them,—and Jane particularly
nice in the little black crape bonnet that Rosamond herself had made,
and the plain black shawl that Mrs. Holabird had given her.
She stood at the head of the high, broad steps, with her mind very
much made up in regard to her complete and well-bred self-possession,
and the manner of her quietly assured self-introduction. She had her
card all ready that should explain for her; and to the servant's reply
that Madam Mucklegrand was in, she responded by moving forward with
only enough of voluntary hesitation to allow him to indicate to her the
reception room, at the door of which she gave him the little
“Take that to her, if you please," and so sat down, very much as if
she had been in such places frequently before, which she never had. One
may be quite used to the fine, free essence of gentle living, and never
in all one's life have anything to do with such solid, concrete
expression of it as Rosamond saw here.
Very high, to begin with, the ceiled and paneled room was; reaching
up into space as if it had really been of no consequence to the
builders where they should put the cover on; and with no remotest
suggestion of any reserve for further superstructure upon the same
Very dark, and polished, and deeply carved, and heavily ornamented
were its wainscotings, and frames, and cornices; out of the new look of
the streets, which it will take them yet a great while to outgrow, she
had stepped at once into a grand, and mellow, and ancient stateliness.
There were dim old portraits on the walls, and paintings that hinted
at old mastership filled whole panels; and the tall, high-backed,
wonderfully wrought oaken chairs had heraldic devices in relief upon
their bars and corners; and there was a great, round mosaic table, in
soft, rich, dark colors, of most precious stones; these, in turn,
hidden with piles of rare engravings.
The floor was of dark woods, inlaid; and sumptuous rugs were put
about upon it for the feet, each one of which was wide enough to call a
And nothing of it all was new; there was nothing in the room
but some plants in a jardiniere by the window, that seemed to have a
bit of yesterday's growth upon it.
A great, calm, marble face of Jove looked down from high up, out of
Underneath sat Rosamond Holabird, holding on to her identity and her
Madam Mucklegrand came in plainly enough dressed,—in black; you
would not notice what she had on; but you would notice instantly the
consummate usedness to the world and the hardening into the mould
thereof that was set and furrowed upon eye and lip and brow.
She sailed down upon Rosamond like a frigate upon a graceful little
pinnace; and brought to within a pace or two of her, continuing to
stand an instant, as Rosamond rose, just long enough for the shadow of
a suggestion that it might not be altogether material that she should
be seated again at all.
But Rosamond made a movement backward to her chair, and laid her
hand upon its arm, and then Madam Mucklegrand decided to sit down.
“You called about the nurse, I conclude, Miss—Holabird?"
“Yes, ma'am; I thought you had some questions you wished to ask, and
that I had better come myself. I have her with me, in the carriage."
“Thank you," said Madam Mucklegrand, politely.
But it was rather a de haut en bas politeness; she exercised
it also toward her footman.
Then followed inquiries about age, and health, and character.
Rosamond told all she knew, clearly and sufficiently, with some little
sympathetic touches that she could not help, in giving her story.
Madam Mucklegrand met her nowhere, however, on any common ground;
she passed over all personal interest; instead of two women befriending
a third in her need, who in turn was to give life to a little child
waiting helplessly for some such ministry, it might have been the
leasing of a house, or the dealing about some merchandise, that was
Rosamond proposed, at last, to send Jane Jopson in.
Jane and her baby were had in, and had up-stairs; the physician and
attending nurse pronounced upon her; she was brought down again, to go
home and dispose of her child, and return. Rosamond, meanwhile, had
been sitting under the marble Jove.
There was nothing really rude in it; she was there on business; what
more could she expect? But then she knew all the time, that she too was
a lady, and was taking trouble to do a kind thing. It was not so that
Madam Mucklegrand would have been treated at Westover.
Rosamond was feeling pretty proud by the time Madam Mucklegrand came
“We have engaged the young woman: the doctor quite approves; she
will return without delay, I hope?"
As if Rosamond were somehow responsible all through.
“I have no doubt she will; good morning, madam."
“Good morning. I am, really, very much obliged. You have been of
Rosamond turned quietly round upon the threshold.
“That was what I was very anxious to be," she said, in her perfectly
sweet and musical voice,—"to the poor woman."
Italics would indicate too coarsely the impalpable emphasis she put
upon the last two words. But Mrs. Mucklegrand caught it.
Rosamond went away quite as sure of her own self-respect as ever,
but very considerably cured of Spreadsplendidism.
This was but one phase of it, she knew; there are real folks, also,
in Spreadsplendid Park; they are a good deal covered up, there, to be
sure; but they can't help that. It is what always happens to somebody
when Pyramids are built. Madam Mucklegrand herself was, perhaps, only a
good deal covered up.
How lovely it was to go down into Orchard Street after that, and
take tea with Miss Craydocke! How human and true it seemed,—the
friendliness that shone and breathed there, among them all. How
kingdom-of-heaven-like the air was, and into what pleasantness of
speech it was born!
And then Hazel Ripwinkley came over, like a little spirit from
another blessed society, to tell that "the picture-book things were all
ready, and that it would take everybody to help."
That was Rosamond's first glimpse of Witch Hazel, who found her out
instantly,—the real, Holabirdy part of her,—and set her down at once
among her "folks."
It was bright and cheery in Mrs. Ripwinkley's parlor; you could
hardly tell whence the cheeriness radiated, either.
The bright German lamp was cheery, in the middle of the round table;
the table was cheery, covered with glossy linen cut into large, square
book-sheets laid in piles, and with gay pictures of all kinds, brightly
colored; and the scissors,—or scissorses,—there were ever so many
shining pairs of them,—and the little mucilage bottles, and the very
scrap-baskets,—all looked cozy and comfortable, and as if people were
going to have a real good time among them, somehow.
And the somehow was in making great beautiful, everlasting
picture-books for the little orphans in Miss Craydocke's Home,—the
Home, that is, out of several blessed and similar ones that she was
especially interested in, and where Hazel and Diana had been with her
until they knew all the little waifs by sight and name and heart, and
had their especial chosen property among them, as they used to have
among the chickens and the little yellow ducks at Homesworth Farm.
Mrs. Ripwinkley was cheery; it might be a question whether all the
light did not come from her first, in some way, and perhaps it did; but
then Hazel was luminous, and she fluttered about with quick, happy
motions, till like a little glancing taper she had shone upon and lit
up everybody and everything; and Dorris was sunny with clear content,
and Kenneth was blithe, and Desire was scintillant, as she always was
either with snaps or smiles; and here came in beaming Miss Craydocke,
and gay Asenath and her handsome husband; and our Rosa Mundi;
there,—how can you tell? It was all round; and it was more every
There were cutters and pasters and stitchers and binders and every
part was beautiful work, and nobody could tell which was pleasantest.
Cutting out was nice, of course; who doesn't like cutting out pictures?
Some were done beforehand, but there were as many left as there would
be time for. And pasting, on the fine, smooth linen, making it glow out
with charming groups and tints of flowers and birds and children in gay
clothes,—that was delightful; and the stitchers had the pleasure of
combining and arranging it all; and the binders,—Mrs. Ripwinkley and
Miss Craydocke,—finished all off with the pretty ribbons and the gray
covers, and theirs being the completing touch, thought they had
the best of it.
“But I don't think finishing is best, mother," said Hazel, who was
diligently snipping in and out around rose leaves or baby faces, as it
happened. “I think beginning is always beautiful. I never want to end
off,—anything nice, I mean."
“Well, we don't end off this," said Diana. “There's the giving,
“And then their little laughs and Oo's," said Hazel.
“And their delight day after day; and the comfort of them in their
little sicknesses," said Miss Craydocke.
“And the stories that have got to be told about every picture," said
“No; nothing really nice does end; it goes on and on," said Mrs.
“Of course!" said Hazel, triumphantly, turning on the Drummond light
of her child-faith. “We're forever and ever people, you know!"
“Please paste some more flowers, Mr. Kincaid," said Rosamond, who
sat next him, stitching. “I want to make an all-flower book of this.
No,—not roses; I've a whole page already; this great white lily, I
think. That's beautiful!"
“Wouldn't it do to put in this laurel bush next, with the bird's
nest in it?"
“O, those lovely pink and white laurels! Yes. Where did you get such
pictures, Miss Hazel?"
“O, everybody gave them to us, all summer, ever since we began. Mrs.
Geoffrey gave those flowers; and mother painted some. She did that
laurel. But don't call me Miss Hazel, please; it seems to send me off
into a corner."
Rosamond answered by a little irresistible caress; leaning her head
down to Hazel, on her other side, until her cheek touched the child's
bright curls, quickly and softly. There was magnetism between those
Ah, the magnetism ran round!
“For a child's picture-book, Mrs. Ripwinkley?" said Mrs. Scherman,
reaching over for the laurel picture. “Aren't these almost too
exquisite? They would like a big scarlet poppy just as well,—perhaps
better. Or a clump of cat-o'-nine-tails," she added, whimsically.
“There is a clump of cat-o'-nine-tails," said Mrs.
Ripwinkley. “I remember how I used to delight in them as a child,—the
“Pictures are to tell things," said Desire, in her brief way.
“These little city refugees must see them, somehow," said
Rosamond, gently. “I understand. They will never get up on the
mountains, maybe, where the laurels grow, or into the shady swamps
among the flags and the cat-o'-nine-tails. You have picked out
pictures to give them, Mrs. Ripwinkley."
Kenneth Kincaid's scissors stopped a moment, as he looked at
Rosamond, pausing also over the placing of her leaves.
Desire saw that from the other side; she saw how beautiful and
gracious this girl was—this Rosamond Holabird; and there was a strange
little twinge in her heart, as she felt, suddenly, that let there be
ever so much that was true and kindly, or even tender, in her, it could
never come up in her eyes or play upon her lips like that she could
never say it out sweetly and in due place everything was a spasm with
her; and nobody would ever look at her just as Kenneth Kincaid looked
at Rosamond then.
She said to herself, with her harsh, unsparing honesty, that it must
be a "hitch inside;" a cramp or an awkwardness born in her, that set
her eyes, peering and sharp, so near together, and put that knot into
her brows instead of their widening placidly, like Rosamond's, and made
her jerky in her speech. It was no use; she couldn't look and behave,
because she couldn't be; she must just go boggling and kinking
on, and—losing everything, she supposed.
The smiles went down, under a swift, bitter little cloud, and the
hard twist came into her face with the inward pinching she was giving
herself; and all at once there crackled out one of her sharp, strange
questions; for it was true that she could not do otherwise; everything
was sudden and crepitant with her.
“Why need all the good be done up in batches, I wonder? Why can't it
be spread round, a little more even? There must have been a good deal
left out somewhere, to make it come in a heap, so, upon you, Miss
Hazel looked up.
“I know what Desire means," she said. “It seemed just so to me,
one way. Why oughtn't there to be little homes, done-by-hand
homes, for all these little children, instead of—well—machining them
all up together?"
And Hazel laughed at her own conceit.
“It's nice; but then—it isn't just the way. If we were all brought
up like that we shouldn't know, you see!"
“You wouldn't want to be brought up in a platoon, Hazel?" said
Kenneth Kincaid. “No; neither should I."
“I think it was better," said Hazel, "to have my turn of being a
little child, all to myself; the little child, I mean, with the
rest of the folks bigger. To make much of me, you know. I shouldn't
want to have missed that. I shouldn't like to be loved in a
“Nobody is meant to be," said Miss Craydocke.
“Then why—" began Asenath Scherman, and stopped.
“Why what, dear?"
“Revelations," replied Sin, laconically. “There are loads of people
there, all dressed alike, you know; and—well—it's platoony, I think,
rather! And down here, such a world-full; and the sky—full of worlds.
There doesn't seem to be much notion of one at a time, in the general
plan of things."
“Ah, but we've got the key to all that," said Miss Craydocke. “'The
very hairs of your head are all numbered.' It may be impossible with
us, you know, but not with Him."
“Miss Hapsie! you always did put me down, just when I thought I was
smart," said Sin Scherman.
Asenath loved to say "Miss Hapsie," now and then, to her friend,
ever since she had found out what she called her "squee little name."
“But the little children, Miss Craydocke," said Mrs. Ripwinkley. “It
seems to me Desire has got a right thought about it."
Mrs. Ripwinkley and Hazel always struck the same note. The same
delicate instinct moved them both. Hazel "knew what Desire meant;" her
mother did not let it be lost sight of that it was Desire who had led
the way in this thought of the children; so that the abrupt
beginning—the little flash out of the cloud—was quite forgotten
presently, in the tone of hearty understanding and genuine interest
with which the talk went on; and it was as if all that was generous and
mindfully suggestive in it had first and truly come from her. They
unfolded herself for her—these friendly ones—as she could not do; out
of her bluntness grew a graciousness that lay softly over it; the cloud
itself melted away and floated off; and Desire began to sparkle again
more lambently. For she was not one of the kind to be meanly or
enviously "put out."
“It seemed to me there must be a great many spare little corners
somewhere, for all these spare little children," she said, "and that,
lumped up together so, there was something they did not get."
“That is precisely the thing," said Miss Craydocke, emphatically. “I
wonder, sometimes," she went on, tenderly, "if whenever God makes a
little empty place in a home, it isn't really on purpose that it might
be filled with one of these,—if people only thought."
“Miss Craydocke," said Hazel, "how did you begin your beehive?"
“I!" said the good lady. “I didn't. It began itself."
“Well, then, how did you let it begin?"
The tone was admissive, and as if she had said, "That is
another thing!" She could not contradict that she had let it be.
“I'll tell you a queer story," she said, "of what they say they used
to do, in old Roman Catholic times and places, when they wanted to
keep up a beehive that was in any danger of dwindling or growing
unprofitable. I read it somewhere in a book of popular beliefs and
customs about bees and other interesting animals. An old woman once
went to her friend, and asked her what she did to make her hive so
gainful. And this was what the old wife said; it sounds rather strange
to us, but if there is anything irreverent in it, it is the word and
not the meaning; 'I go,' she said, 'to the priest, and get a little
round Godamighty, and put it in the hive, and then all goes well; the
bees thrive, and there is plenty of honey; they always come, and stay,
and work, when that is there."
“A little round—something awful! what did she mean?" asked
“She meant a consecrated wafer,—the Sacrament. We don't need to put
the wafer in; but if we let Him in, you see,—just say to Him it
is his house, to do with as He likes,—He takes the responsibility, and
brings in all the rest."
Nobody saw, under the knitting of Desire Ledwith's brows, and the
close setting of her eyes, the tenderness with which they suddenly
moistened, and the earnestness with which they gleamed. Nobody knew how
she thought to herself inwardly, in the same spasmodic fashion that she
used for speech,—
“They Mig up their parlors with upholstery, and put rose-colored
paper on their walls, and call them their houses; and shut the
little round awfulness and goodness out! We've all been doing it! And
there's no place left for what might come in."
Mrs. Scherman broke the hush that followed what Miss Hapsie said.
Not hastily, or impertinently; but when it seemed as if it might be a
little hard to come down into the picture-books and the pleasant
“Let's make a Noah's Ark picture-book,—you and I," she said to
Desire. “Give us all your animals,—there's a whole Natural History
full over there, all painted with splendid daubs of colors; the
children did that, I know, when they were children. Come; we'll
have everything in, from an elephant to a bumble-bee!"
“We did not mean to use those, Mrs. Scherman," said Desire. “We did
not think they were good enough. They are so daubed up."
“They're perfectly beautiful. Exactly what the young ones will like.
Just divide round, and help. We'll wind up with the most wonderful book
of all; the book they'll all cry for, and that will have to be given
always, directly after the Castor Oil."
It took them more than an hour to do that, all working hard; and a
wonderful thing it was truly, when it was done. Mrs. Scherman and
Desire Ledwith directed all the putting together, and the grouping was
There were men and women,—the Knowers, Sin called them; she said
that was what she always thought the old gentleman's name was, in the
days when she first heard of him, because he knew so much; and in the
backgrounds of the same sheets were their country cousins, the orangs,
and the little apes. Then came the elephants, and the camels, and the
whales; "for why shouldn't the fishes be put in, since they must all
have been swimming round sociably, if they weren't inside; and why
shouldn't the big people be all kept together properly?"
There were happy families of dogs and cats and lions and snakes and
little humming-birds; and in the last part were all manner of bugs,
down to the little lady-bugs in blazes of red and gold, and the gray
fleas and mosquitoes which Sin improvised with pen and ink, in a swarm
at the end.
“And after that, I don't believe they wanted any more," she said;
and handed over the parts to Miss Craydocke to be tied together. For
this volume had had to be made in many folds, and Mrs. Ripwinkley's
blue ribbon would by no means stretch over the back.
And by that time it was eleven o'clock, and they had worked four
hours. They all jumped up in a great hurry then, and began to say
“This must not be the last we are to have of you, Miss Holabird,"
said Mrs. Ripwinkley, laying Rosamond's shawl across her shoulders.
“Of course not," said Mrs Scherman, "when you are all coming to our
house to tea to-morrow night."
Rosamond bade the Ripwinkleys good-night with a most sweet
cordiality, and thanks for the pleasure she had had, and she told Hazel
and her mother that it was "neither beginning nor end, she believed;
for it seemed to her that she had only found a little new piece of her
world, and that Aspen Street led right out of Westover in the invisible
geography, she was sure."
“Come!" said Miss Craydocke, standing on the doorsteps. “It is all
invisible geography out here, pretty nearly; and we've all our
different ways to go, and only these two unhappy gentlemen to insist on
seeing everybody home."
So first the whole party went round with Miss Hapsie, and then
Kenneth and Dorris, who always went home with Desire, walked up Hanley
Street with the Schermans and Rosamond, and so across through Dane
Street to Shubarton Place.
But while they were on their way, Hazel Ripwinkley was saying to her
mother, up in her room, where they made sometimes such long
“Mother! there were some little children taken away from you before
we came, you know? And now we've got this great big house, and plenty
of things, more than it takes for us."
“Don't you think it's expected that we should do something with the
corners? There's room for some real good little times for somebody. I
think we ought to begin a beehive."
Mrs. Ripwinkley kissed Hazel very tenderly, and said, only,—
“We can wait, and see."
Those are just the words that mothers so often put children off
with! But Mrs. Ripwinkley, being one of the real folks, meant it; the
very heart of it.
In that little talk, they took the consecration in; they would wait
and see; when people do that, with an expectation, the beehive begins.
* * * * *
Up Hanley Street, the six fell into pairs.
Mrs. Scherman and Desire, Dorris and Mr. Scherman, Rosamond and
It only took from Bridgeley Street up to Dane, to tell Kenneth
Kincaid so much about Westover, in answer to his questions, that he too
thought he had found a new little piece of his world. What Rosamond
thought, I do not know; but a girl never gives a young man so much as
she gave Kenneth in that little walk without having some of the blessed
consciousness that comes with giving. The sun knows it shines, I dare
say; or else there is a great waste of hydrogen and other things.
There was not much left for poor little Desire after they parted
from the Schermans and turned the corner of Dane Street. Only a little
bit of a way, in which new talk could hardly begin, and just time for a
pause that showed how the talk that had come to an end was missed or
how, perhaps, it stayed in the mind, repeating itself, and keeping it
Nobody said anything till they had crossed B——Street; and then
Dorris said, "How beautiful,—real beautiful, Rosamond Holabird
is!" And Kenneth answered, "Did you hear what she said to Mrs.
They were full of Rosamond! Desire did not speak a word.
Dorris had heard and said it over. It seemed to please Kenneth to
hear it again. “A piece of her world!"
“How quickly a true person springs to what belongs to—their life!"
said Kenneth, using that wrong little pronoun that we shall never be
able to do without.
“People don't always get what belongs, though," blurted Desire at
last, just as they came to the long doorsteps. “Some people's lives are
like complementary colors, I think; they see blue, and live red!"
“But the colors are only accidentally—I mean temporarily—divided;
they are together in the sun; and they join somewhere—beyond."
“I hate beyond!" said Desire, recklessly. “Good-night. Thank you."
And she ran up the steps.
Nobody knew what she meant. Perhaps she hardly knew herself.
They only thought that her home life was not suited to her, and that
she took it hard.
XIV. “SESAME; AND LILIES."
“I've got a discouragement at my stomach," said Luclarion Grapp.
“What's the matter?" asked Mrs. Ripwinkley, naturally.
“Mrs. Scarup. I've been there. There ain't any bottom to it."
Mrs. Ripwinkley knew that Luclarion had more to say, and that she
waited for this monosyllable.
“She's sick again. And Scarup, he's gone out West, spending a
hundred dollars to see whether or no there's a chance anywhere for a
smart man,—and that ain't he, so it's a double waste,—to make
fifty. No girl; and the children all under foot, and Pinkie looking
miserable over the dishes."
“Pinkie isn't strong."
“No. She's powerful weak. I just wish you'd seen that dirty
settin'-room fire-place; looks as if it hadn't been touched since
Scarup smoked his pipe there, the night before he went off a
wild-gandering. And clo'es to be ironed, and the girl cleared out,
because 'she'd always been used to fust-class families.' There wasn't
anything to your hand, and you couldn't tell where to begin, unless you
began with a cataplasm!"
Luclarion had heard, by chance, of a cataclysm, and that was what
“It wants—creation, over again! Mrs. Scarup hadn't any fit
breakfast; there was burnt toast, made out of tough bread, that she'd
been trying to eat; and a cup of tea, half drunk; something the matter
with that, I presume. I'd have made her some gruel, if there'd been a
fire; and if there'd been any kindlings, I'd have made her a fire; but
there 'twas; there wasn't any bottom to it!"
“You had better make the gruel here, Luclarion."
“That's what I come back for. But—Mrs. Ripwinkley!"
“Don't it appear to you it's a kind of a stump? I don't want to do
it just for the satisfaction; though it would be a satisfaction
to plough everything up thorough, and then rake it over smooth; what do
“What have you thought, Luclarion? Something, of course."
“She wants a real smart girl—for two dollars a week. She can't get
her, because she ain't. And I kind of felt as though I should like to
put in. Seemed to me it was a—but there! I haven't any right to stump
“Wouldn't it be rather an aggravation? I don't suppose you would
mean to stay altogether?"
“Not unless—but don't go putting it into my head, Mrs. Ripwinkley.
I shall feel as if I was. And I don't think it goes quite so far
as that, yet. We ain't never stumped to more than one thing at a time.
What she wants is to be straightened out. And when things once looked
my way, she might get a girl, you see. Anyhow, 'twould encourage
Pinkie, and kind of set her going. Pinkie likes things nice; but it's
such a Hoosac tunnel to undertake, that she just lets it all go, and
gets off up-stairs, and sticks a ribbon in her hair. That's all she
can do. I s'pose 'twould take a fortnight, maybe?"
“Take it, Luclarion," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, smiling. Luclarion
understood the smile.
“I s'pose you think it's as good as took. Well, perhaps it is—spoke
for. But it wasn't me, you know. Now what'll you do?"
“Go into the kitchen and make the pudding."
“We are not stumped for then, you know."
“There was a colored girl here yesterday, from up in Garden Street,
asking if there was any help wanted. I think she came in partially, to
look at the flowers; the 'sturtiums are splendid, and I gave her
some. She was awfully dressed up,—for colors, I mean; but she looked
clean and pleasant, and spoke bright. Maybe she'd come, temporary. She
seemed taken with things. I know where to find her, and I could go
there when I got through with the gruel. Mrs. Scarup must have that
And Luclarion hurried away.
It was not the first time Mrs. Ripwinkley had lent Luclarion; but
Miss Grapp had not found a kitchen mission in Boston heretofore. It was
something new to bring the fashion of simple, prompt, neighborly help
down intact from the hills, and apply it here to the tangle of city
living, that is made up of so many separate and unrecognized struggles.
When Hazel came home from school, she went all the way up the garden
walk, and in at the kitchen door. “That was the way she took it all,"
she said; "first the flowers, and then Luclarion and what they had for
dinner, and a drink of water; and then up-stairs, to mother."
To-day she encountered in the kitchen a curious and startling
apparition of change.
A very dusky brown maiden, with a petticoat of flashing purple, and
a jacket of crimson, and extremely puzzling hair tied up with knots of
corn color, stood in possession over the stove, tending a fricassee, of
which Hazel recognized at once the preparation and savor as her
mother's; while beside her on a cricket, munching cold biscuit and
butter with round, large bites of very white little teeth, sat a small
girl of five of the same color, gleaming and twinkling as nothing human
ever does gleam and twinkle but a little darkie child.
“Where is Luclarion?" asked Hazel, standing still in the middle of
the floor, in her astonishment.
“I don't know. I'm Damaris, and this one's little Vash. Don't go for
callin' me Dam, now; the boys did that in my last place, an' I left,
don' yer see? I ain't goin' to be swore to, anyhow!"
And Damaris glittered at Hazel, with her shining teeth and her quick
eyes, full of fun and good humor, and enjoyed her end of the joke
“Have you come to stay?" asked Hazel.
“'Course. I don' mostly come for to go."
“What does it mean, mother?" Hazel asked, hurrying up into her
And then Mrs. Ripwinkley explained.
“But what is she? Black or white? She's got straight braids
and curls at the back of her head, like everybody's"—
“'Course," said a voice in the doorway. “An' wool on top,—place
where wool ought to grow,—same's everybody, too."
Damaris had come up, according to orders, to report a certain point
in the progress of the fricassee.
“They all pulls the wool over they eyes, now-days, an sticks the
straight on behind. Where's the difference?"
Mrs. Ripwinkley made some haste to rise and move toward the doorway,
to go down stairs, turning Damaris from her position, and checking
further remark. Diana and Hazel stayed behind, and laughed. “What fun!"
It was the beginning of a funny fortnight; but it is not the fun I
have paused to tell you of; something more came of it in the home-life
of the Ripwinkleys; that which they were "waiting to see."
Damaris wanted a place where she could take her little sister; she
was tired of leaving her "shyin' round," she said. And Vash, with her
round, fuzzy head, her bright eyes, her little flashing teeth, and her
polished mahogany skin,—darting up and down the house "on Aarons," or
for mere play,—dressed in her gay little scarlet flannel shirt-waist,
and black and orange striped petticoat,—was like some "splendid, queer
little fire-bug," Hazel said, and made a surprise and a picture
wherever she came. She was "cute," too, as Damaris had declared
beforehand; she was a little wonder at noticing and remembering, and
for all sorts of handiness that a child of five could possibly be put
Hazel dressed rag babies for her, and made her a soap-box baby-house
in the corner of the kitchen, and taught her her letters; and began to
think that she should hate to have her go when Luclarion came back.
Damaris proved clever and teachable in the kitchen; and had, above
all, the rare and admirable disposition to keep things scrupulously as
she had found them; so that Luclarion, in her afternoon trips home, was
comforted greatly to find that while she was "clearing and ploughing"
at Mrs. Scarup's, her own garden of neatness was not being turned into
a howling wilderness; and she observed, as is often done so astutely,
that "when you do find a neat, capable, colored help, it's as
good help as you can have." Which you may notice is just as true
without the third adjective as with.
Luclarion herself was having a splendid time.
The first thing she did was to announce to Mrs. Scarup that she was
out of her place for two weeks, and would like to come to her at her
wages; which Mrs. Scarup received with some such awed and unbelieving
astonishment as she might have done the coming of a legion of angels
with Gabriel at their head. And when one strong, generous human will,
with powers of brain and body under it sufficient to some good work,
comes down upon it as Luclarion did upon hers, there is what
Gabriel and his angels stand for, and no less sent of God.
The second thing Luclarion did was to clean that "settin'-room
fire-place," to restore the pleasant brown color of its freestone
hearth and jambs, to polish its rusty brasses till they shone like
golden images of gods, and to lay an ornamental fire of chips and clean
little sticks across the irons. Then she took a wet broom and swept the
carpet three times, and dusted everything with a damp duster; and then
she advised Mrs. Scarup, whom the gruel had already cheered and
strengthened, to be "helped down, and sit there in the easy-chair, for
a change, and let her take her room in hand." And no doctor ever
prescribed any change with better effect. There are a good many changes
that might be made for people, without sending them beyond their own
doors. But it isn't the doctors who always know what change, or
would dare to prescribe it if they did.
Mrs. Scarup was "helped down," it seemed,—really up, rather,—into
a new world. Things had begun all over again. It was worth while to get
well, and take courage. Those brasses shone in her face like morning
“Well, I do declare to Man, Miss Grapp!" she exclaimed; and breath
and expression failed together, and that was all she could say.
Up-stairs, Luclarion swept and rummaged. She found the sheet and
towel drawers, and made everything white and clean. She laid fresh
napkins over the table and bureau tops, and set the little
things—boxes, books, what not,—daintily about on them. She put a
clean spread on the bed, and gathered up things for the wash she meant
to have, with a recklessness that Mrs. Scarup herself would never have
dared to use, in view of any "help" she ever expected to do it.
And then, with Pinkie to lend feeble assistance, Luclarion turned to
in the kitchen.
It was a "clear treat," she told Mrs. Ripwinkley afterward. “Things
had got to that state of mussiness, that you just began at one end and
worked through to the other, and every inch looked new made over after
you as you went along."
She put the children out into the yard on the planks, and gave them
tin pans and clothes-pins to keep house with, and gingerbread for their
dinner. She and Pinkie had cups of tea, and Mrs. Scarup had her gruel,
and went up to bed again; and that was another new experience, and a
third stage in her treatment and recovery.
When it came to the cellar, Luclarion got the chore-man in; and when
all was done, she looked round on the renovated home, and said within
herself, "If Scarup, now, will only break his neck, or get something to
do, and stay away with his pipes and his boots and his contraptions!"
And Scarup did. He found a chance in some freight-house, and wrote
that he had made up his mind to stay out there all winter; and Mrs.
Scarup made little excursions about the house with her returning
strength, and every journey was a pleasure-trip, and the only misery
was that at the end of the fortnight Miss Grapp was going away, and
then she should be "all back in the swamp again."
“No, you won't," said Luclarion; "Pinkie's waked up, and she's going
to take pride, and pick up after the children. She can do that, now;
but she couldn't shoulder everything. And you'll have somebody in the
kitchen. See if you don't. I've 'most a mind to say I'll stay till you
Luclarion's faith was strong; she knew, she said, that "if she was
doing at her end, Providence wasn't leaving off at his. Things would
This was how they did come round.
It only wanted a little sorting about. The pieces of the puzzle were
all there. Hazel Ripwinkley settled the first little bit in the right
place. She asked her mother one night, if she didn't think they might
begin their beehive with a fire-fly? Why couldn't they keep little
“And then," said Diana, in her quiet way, slipping one of the big
three-cornered pieces of the puzzle in, "Damaris might go to Mrs.
Scarup for her two dollars a week. She is willing to work for that, if
she can get Vash taken. And this would be all the same, and better."
Desire was with them when Luclarion came in, and heard it settled.
“How is it that things always fall right together for you, so? How
came Damaris to come along?"
“You just take hold of something and try," said Luclarion. “You'll
find there's always a working alongside. Put up your sails, and the
wind will fill 'em."
Uncle Titus wanted to know "what sort of use a thing like that could
be in a house?"
He asked it in his very surliest fashion. If they had had any
motives of fear or favor, they would have been disconcerted, and begun
to think they had made a mistake.
But Hazel spoke up cheerily,—
“Why, to wait on people, uncle. She's the nicest little
fetch-and-carrier you ever saw!"
“Humph! who wants to be waited on, here? You girls, with feet and
hands of your own? Your mother doesn't, I know."
“Well, to wait on, then," says Hazel, boldly. “I'm making her
a baby-house, and teaching her to read; and Diana is knitting scarlet
stockings for her, to wear this winter. We like it."
“O, if you like it! That's always a reason. I only want to have
people give the real one."
And Uncle Titus walked off, so that nobody could tell whether he
liked it or not.
Nobody told him anything about the Scarups. But do you suppose he
didn't know? Uncle Titus Oldways was as sharp as he was blunt.
“I guess I know, mother," said Hazel, a little while after this, one
day, "how people write stories."
“Well?" asked her mother, looking up, ready to be amused with
Hazel's deep discovery.
“If they can just begin with one thing, you see, that makes the next
one. It can't help it, hardly. Just as it does with us. What made me
think of it was, that it seemed to me there was another little piece of
our beehive story all ready to put on; and if we went and did it,—I
wonder if you wouldn't, mother? It fits exactly."
“Let me see."
“That little lame Sulie at Miss Craydocke's Home, that we like so
much. Nobody adopts her away, because she is lame; her legs are no use
at all, you know, and she just sits all curled up in that great round
chair that Mrs. Geoffrey gave her, and sews patchwork, and makes paper
dolls. And when she drops her scissors, or her thread, somebody has to
come and pick it up. She wants waiting on; she just wants a little
lightning-bug, like Vash, to run round for her all the time. And we
don't, you see; and we've got Vash! And Vash—likes paper dolls."
Hazel completed the circle of her argument with great triumph.
“An extra piece of bread to finish your too much butter," said
“Yes. Doesn't it just make out?" said Hazel, abating not a jot of
her triumph, and taking things literally, as nobody could do better
than she, upon occasion, for all her fancy and intuition.
“I wonder what Uncle Oldways would say to that," said Diana.
“He'd say 'Faugh, faugh!' But he doesn't mean faugh, faugh, half the
time. If he does, he doesn't stick to it. Mother," she asked rather
suddenly, "do you think Uncle Oldways feels as if we oughtn't to
do—other things—with his money?"
“What other things?"
“Why, these others. Vash, and Sulie, perhaps. Wouldn't he
like it if we turned his house into a Beehive?"
“It isn't his house," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, "He has given it to me."
“Well,—do you feel 'obligated,' as Luclarion says?'
“In a certain degree,—yes. I feel bound to consider his comfort and
wishes, as far as regards his enjoyment with us, and fulfilling what he
reasonably looked for when he brought us here."
“Would that interfere?"
“Suppose you ask him, Hazel?"
“Well, I could do that."
“Hazel wouldn't mind doing anything!" said Diana, who, to tell the
truth was a little afraid of Uncle Titus, and who dreaded of all
things, being snubbed.
“Only," said Hazel, to whom something else had just occurred,
"wouldn't he think—wouldn't it be—your business?"
“It is all your plan, Hazel. I think he would see that."
“And you are willing, if he doesn't care?"
“I did not quite say that. It would be a good deal to think of."
“Then I'll wait till you've thought," said clear-headed little
“But it fits right on. I can see that. And Miss Craydocke said
things would, after we had begun."
Mrs. Ripwinkley took it into her thoughts, and carried it about with
her for days, and considered it; asking herself questions.
Was it going aside in search of an undertaking that did not belong
Was it bringing home a care, a responsibility, for which they were
not fitted,—which might interfere with the things they were meant, and
would be called, to do?
There was room and opportunity, doubtless, for them to do something;
Mrs. Ripwinkley had felt this; she had not waited for her child to
think of it for her; she had only waited, in her new, strange sphere,
for circumstances to guide the way, and for the Giver of all
circumstance to guide her thought. She chose, also, in the things that
would affect her children's life and settle duties for them, to let
them grow also to those duties, and the perception of them, with her.
To this she led them, by all her training and influence; and now that
in Hazel, her child of quick insight and true instincts, this influence
was bearing fruit and quickening to action, she respected her first
impulses; she believed in them; they had weight with her, as argument
in themselves. These impulses, in young, true souls, freshly
responding, are, she knew, as the proof-impressions of God's Spirit.
Yet she would think; that was her duty; she would not do a thing
hastily, or unwisely.
Sulie Praile had been a good while, now, at the Home.
A terrible fall, years ago, had caused a long and painful illness,
and resulted in her present helplessness. But above those little idle,
powerless limbs, that lay curled under the long, soft skirt she wore,
like a baby's robe, were a beauty and a brightness, a quickness of all
possible motion, a dexterous use of hands, and a face of gentle peace
and sometimes glory, that were like a benediction on the place that she
was in; like the very Holy Ghost in tender form like a dove, resting
upon it, and abiding among them who were there.
In one way, it would hardly be so much a giving as a taking, to
receive her in. Yet there was care to assume, the continuance of care
to promise or imply; the possibility of conflicting plans in much that
might be right and desirable that Mrs. Ripwinkley should do for her
own. Exactly what, if anything, it would be right to undertake in this,
was matter for careful and anxious reflection.
The resources of the Home were not very large; there were painful
cases pressing their claims continually, as fast as a little place was
vacated it could be filled; was wanted, ten times over; and Sulie
Praile had been there a good while. If somebody would only take her, as
people were very ready to take—away to happy, simple, comfortable
country homes, for mere childhood's sake—the round, rosy, strong, and
physically perfect ones! But Sulie must be lifted and tended; she must
keep somebody at home to look after her; no one could be expected to
adopt a child like that.
Yet Hazel Ripwinkley thought they could be; thought, in her
straightforward, uncounting simplicity, that it was just the natural,
obvious, beautiful thing to do, to take her home—into a real
home—into pleasant family life; where things would not crowd; where
she could be mothered and sistered, as girls ought to be, when there
are so many nice places in the world, and not so many people in them as
there might be. When there could be so much visiting, and spare rooms
kept always in everybody's house, why should not somebody who needed
to, just come in and stay? What were the spare places made for?
“We might have Sulie for this winter," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, at
last. “They would let her come to us for that time; and it would be a
change for her, and leave a place for others. Then if anything made it
impossible for us to do more, we should not have raised an expectation
to be disappointed. And if we can and ought to do more, it will be
shown us by that time more certainly."
She asked Miss Craydocke about it, when she came home from Z——
that fall. She had been away a good deal lately; she had been up to
Z——to two weddings,—Leslie Goldthwaite's and Barbara Holabird's. Now
she was back again, and settled down.
Miss Craydocke thought it a good thing wisely limited.
“Sulie needs to be with older girls; there is no one in the Home to
be companion to her; the children are almost all little. A winter here
would be a blessing to her!"
“But the change again, if she should have to make it?" suggested
“Good things don't turn to bad ones because you can't have them any
more. A thing you're not fit for, and never ought to have had, may; but
a real good stays by; it overflows all the rest. Sulie Praile's life
could never be so poor again, after a winter here with you, as it might
be if she had never had it. If you'd like her, let her come, and don't
be a bit afraid. We're only working by inches, any of us; like the
camel's-hair embroiderers in China. But it gets put together; and it is
beautiful, and large, and whole, somewhere."
“Miss Craydocke always knows," said Hazel.
Nobody said anything again, about Uncle Titus. A winter's plan need
not be referred to him. But Hazel, in her own mind, had resolved to
find out what was Uncle Titus's, generally and theoretically; how free
they were to be, beyond winter plans and visits of weeks; how much
scope they might have with this money and this house, that seemed so
ample to their simple wants, and what they might do with it and turn it
into, if it came into their heads or hearts or consciences.
So one day she went in and sat down by him in the study, after she
had accomplished some household errand with Rachel Froke.
Other people approached him with more or less of strategy, afraid of
the tiger in him; Desire Ledwith faced him courageously; only Hazel
came and nestled up beside him, in his very cage, as if he were no wild
beast, after all.
Yet he pretended to growl, even at her, sometimes; it was so funny
to see her look up and chirp on after it, like some little bird to whom
the language of beasts was no language at all, and passed by on the air
as a very big sound, but one that in no wise concerned it.
“We've got Sulie Praile to spend the winter, Uncle Titus," she said.
“Who's Sulie Praile?"
“The lame girl, from the Home. We wanted somebody for Vash to wait
on, you know. She sits in a round chair, that twists, like yours; and
she's—just like a lily in a vase!" Hazel finished her sentence with a
simile quite unexpected to herself.
There was something in Sulie's fair, pale, delicate face, and her
upper figure, rising with its own peculiar lithe, easily swayed grace
from among the gathered folds of the dress of her favorite dark green
color, that reminded—if one thought of it, and Hazel turned the
feeling of it into a thought at just this moment—of a beautiful white
flower, tenderly and commodiously planted.
“Well, I suppose it's worth while to have a lame girl to sit up in a
round chair, and look like a lily in a vase, is it?"
“Uncle Titus, I want to know what you think about some things."
“That is just what I want to know myself, sometimes. To find out
what one thinks about things, is pretty much the whole finding, isn't
“Don't be very metaphysical, please, Uncle Titus. Don't turn your
eyes round into the back of your head. That isn't what I mean."
“What do you mean?"
“Just plain looking."
“Don't you think, when there are places, all nice and ready,—and
people that would like the places and haven't got 'em,—that the people
ought to be put into the places?"
“'The shirtless backs put into the shirts?'"
“Why, yes, of course. What are shirts made for?"
“For some people to have thirty-six, and some not to have any," said
“No," said Hazel. “Nobody wants thirty-six, all at once. But what I
mean is, rooms, and corners, and pleasant windows, and seats at the
table; places where people come in visiting, and that are kept saved
up. I can't bear an empty box; that is, only for just one pleasant
minute, while I'm thinking what I can put into it."
“Where's your empty box, now?"
“Our house was rather empty-boxy. Uncle Titus, do you mind
how we fill it up,—because you gave it to us, you know?"
“No. So long as you don't crowd yourselves out."
“Or you, Uncle Titus. We don't want to crowd you out. Does it crowd
you any to have Sulie and Vash there, and to have us 'took up' with
them, as Luclarion says?"
How straight Witch Hazel went to her point!
“Your catechism crowds me just a little, child," said Uncle Titus.
"I want to see you go your own way. That is what I gave you the house
for. Your mother knows that. Did she send you here to ask me?"
“No. I wanted to know. It was I that wanted to begin a kind of a
Beehive—like Miss Craydocke's. Would you care if it was turned quite
into a Beehive, finally?"
Hazel evidently meant to settle the furthest peradventure, now she
“Ask your mother to show you the deed. 'To Frances Ripwinkley, her
heirs and assigns,'—that's you and Diana,—'for their use and behoof,
forever.' I've no more to do with it."
“'Use, and behoof,'" said Hazel, slowly. And then she turned the
leaves of the great Worcester that lay upon the study table, and found
“'Profit,—gain,—benefit;' then that's what you meant; that we
should make as much more of it as we could. That's what I think, Uncle
Titus. I'm glad you put 'behoof in."
“They always put it in, child!"
“Do they? Well, then, they don't always work it out!" and Hazel
At that, Mr. Oldways pulled off his spectacles, looked sharp at
Hazel with two sharp, brown eyes,—set near together, Hazel noticed for
the first time, like Desire's,—let the keenness turn gradually into a
twinkle, suffered the muscles that had held his lips so grim to relax,
and laughed too; his peculiar, up-and-down shake of a laugh, in which
head and shoulders made the motions, as if he were a bottle, and there
were a joke inside of him which was to be well mixed up to be
“Go home to your mother, jade-hopper!" he said, when he had done;
"and tell her I'm coming round to-night, to tea, amongst your
bumble-bees and your lilies!"
XV. WITH ALL ONE'S MIGHT.
Let the grapes be ever so sweet, and hang in plenty ever so low,
there is always a fair bunch out of reach.
Mrs. Ledwith longed, now, to go to Europe.
At any rate, she was eager to have her daughters go. But, after just
one year, to take what her Uncle Oldways had given her, in return for
her settling herself near him, and un_settle herself, and go off to
the other side of the world! Besides, what he had given her would not
do it. That was the rub, after all. What was two thousand a year,
now-a-days? Nothing is anything, now-a-days. And it takes everything to
do almost nothing.
The Ledwiths were just as much pinched now as they were before they
ever heard from Uncle Oldways. People with unlimited powers of
expansion always are pinched; it is good for them; one of the saving
laws of nature that keeps things decently together.
Yet, in the pink room of a morning, and in the mellow-tinted
drawing-room of an evening, it was getting to be the subject oftenest
discussed. It was that to which they directed the combined magnetism of
the family will; everything was brought to bear upon it; Bridget's
going away on Monday morning, leaving the clothes in the tubs, the
strike-price of coal, and the overcharge of the grocer; Florence's
music, Helena's hopeless distress over French and German; even Desire's
listlessness and fidgets; most of all Mrs. Megilp's plans, which were
ripening towards this long coveted end. She and Glossy really thought
they should go this winter.
“It is a matter of economy now; everybody's going. The Fargo's and
the Fayerwerses, and the Hitherinyons have broken all up, and are going
out to stay indefinitely. The Fayerwerses have been saving up these
four years to get away, there are so many of them, you know; the
passage money counts, and the first travelling; but after you are
over, and have found a place to settle down in,"—then followed all the
usual assertions as to cheap delights and inestimable advantages, and
emancipation from all American household ills and miseries.
Uncle Oldways came up once in a while to the house in Shubarton
Place, and made an evening call. He seemed to take apricot-color for
granted, when he got there, as much as he did the plain, old,
unrelieved brown at Mrs. Ripwinkley's; he sat quite unconcernedly in
the grand easy chair that Laura wheeled out for him; indeed, it seemed
as if he really, after a manner, indorsed everything by his acceptance
without demur of what he found. But then one must sit down on
something; and if one is offered a cup of coffee, or anything on a
plate, one cannot easily protest against sea-green china. We do, and we
have, and we wear, and we say, a great many things, and feel ourselves
countenanced and confirmed, somehow,—perhaps excused,—because nobody
appears surprised or says anything. But what should they say; and would
it be at all proper that they should be surprised? If we only thought
of it, and once tried it, we might perhaps find it quite as easy and
encouraging, on the same principle, not to have apricot rep and
One night Mr. Oldways was with them when the talk turned eastwardly
over the water. There were new names in the paper, of people who had
gone out in the Aleppo, and a list of Americans registered at
Bowles Brothers,' among whom were old acquaintance.
“I declare, how they all keep turning up there" said Mrs. Ledwith.
“The war doesn't seem to make much difference," said her husband.
“To think how lucky the Vonderbargens were, to be in Paris just at
the edge of the siege!" said Glossy Megilp. “They came back from Como
just in time; and poor Mr. Washburne had to fairly hustle them off at
last. They were buying silks, and ribbons, and gloves, up to the last
minute, for absolutely nothing. Mrs. Vonderbargen said it seemed a sin
to come away and leave anything. I'm sure I don't know how they got
them all home; but they did."
Glossy had been staying lately with the Vonderbargens in New York.
She stayed everywhere, and picked up everything.
“You have been abroad, Mrs. Scherman?" said Mrs. Ledwith,
inquiringly, to Asenath, who happened to be calling, also, with her
husband, and was looking at some photographs with Desire.
“No, ma'am," answered Mrs. Scherman, very promptly, not having
spoken at all before in the discussion. “I do not think I wish to go.
The syphon has been working too long."
Mrs. Ledwith spoke with a capital S in her mind; but was not quite
sure whether what Mrs. Scherman meant might be a line of Atlantic
steamers or the sea-serpent.
“Yes, ma'am. The emptying back and forth. There isn't much that is
foreign over there, now, nor very much that is native here. The
hemispheres have got miserably mixed up. I think when I go 'strange
countries for to see,' it will have to be Patagonia or Independent
Uncle Oldways turned round with his great chair, so as to face
Asenath, and laughed one of his thorough fun digesting laughs, his keen
eyes half shut with the enjoyment, and sparkling out through their
cracks at her.
But Asenath had resumed her photographs with the sweetest and
Mrs. Ledwith let her alone after that; and the talk rambled on to
the schools in Munich, and the Miracle Plays at Oberammergau.
“To think of that invasion!" said Asenath, in a low tone to
Desire, "and corrupting that into a show, with a run of regular
performances! I do believe they have pulled down the last unprofaned
thing now, and trampled over it."
“If we go," said Mrs. Megilp, "we shall join the Fayerwerses, and
settle down with them quietly in some nice place; and then make
excursions. We shall not try to do all Europe in three months; we shall
choose, and take time. It is the only way really to enjoy or acquire;
and the quiet times are so invaluable for the lessons and languages."
Mrs. Megilp made up her little varnishes with the genuine gums of
truth and wisdom; she put a beautiful shine even on to her limited
opportunities and her enforced frugalities.
“Mrs. Ledwith, you ought to let Agatha and Florence go too. I
would take every care of them; and the expense would be so
divided—carriages, and couriers, and everything—that it would be
“It is a great opportunity," Mrs. Ledwith said, and sighed. “But it
is different with us from what it is with you. We must still be a
family here, with nearly the same expenses. To be sure Desire has done
with school, and she doesn't care for gay society, and Helena is a mere
child yet; if it ever could"—
And so it went on between the ladies, while Mr. Oldways and Mr.
Ledwith and Frank Scherman got into war talk, and Bismarck policy, and
French poss—no, im-possibilities.
“I don't think Uncle Oldways minded much," said Mrs. Ledwith to
Agatha, and Mrs. Megilp, up-stairs, after everybody had gone who was to
“He never minds anything," said Agatha.
“I don't know," said Mrs. Megilp, slowly. “He seemed mightily
pleased with what Asenath Scherman said."
“O, she's pretty, and funny; it makes no difference what she says;
people are always pleased."
“We might dismiss one girl this winter," said Mrs. Ledwith, "and
board in some cheap country place next summer. I dare say we could save
it in the year's round; the difference, I mean. When you weren't
actually travelling, it wouldn't cost more than to have you
here,—dress and all.
“They wouldn't need to have a new thing," said Glossy.
“Those people out at Z——want to buy the house. I've a great mind
to coax Grant to sell, and take a slice right out, and send them," said
Mrs. Ledwith, eagerly. She was always eager to accomplish the next new
thing for her children; and, to say the truth, did not much consider
herself. And so far as they had ever been able, the Ledwiths had always
been rather easily given to "taking the slice right out."
The Megilps had had a little legacy of two or three thousand
dollars, and were quite in earnest in their plans, this time, which had
been talk with them for many years.
“Those poor Fayerwerses!" said Asenath to her husband, walking home.
"Going out now, after the cheap European living of a dozen years ago!
The ghost always goes over on the last load. I wonder at Mrs. Megilp.
She generally knows better."
“She'll do," said Frank Scherman. “If the Fayerwerses stick
anywhere, as they probably will, she'll hitch on to the Fargo's, and
turn up at Jerusalem. And then there are to be the Ledwiths, and their
“O, dear! what a mess people do make of living!" said Asenath.
Uncle Titus trudged along down Dorset Street with his stick under
“Try 'em! Find 'em out!" he repeated to himself. “That's what
Marmaduke said. Try 'em with this,—try 'em with that; a good deal, or
a little; having and losing, and wanting. That's what the Lord does
with us all; and I begin to see He has a job of it!"
The house was sold, and Agatha and Florence went.
It made home dull for poor Desire, little as she found of real
companionship with her elder sisters. But then she was always looking
for it, and that was something. Husbands and wives, parents and
children, live on upon that, through years of repeated disappointments,
and never give up the expectation of that which is somewhere, and which
these relations represent to them, through all their frustrated lives.
That is just why. It is somewhere.
It turned out a hard winter, in many ways, for Desire Ledwith. She
hated gay company, and the quiet little circle that she had become fond
of at her Aunt Ripwinkley's was broken somewhat to them all, and more
to Desire than, among what had grown to be her chronic discontents, she
realized or understood, by the going away for a time of Kenneth
What was curious in the happening, too, he had gone up to "And" to
build a church. That had come about through the Marchbankses' knowledge
of him, and this, you remember, through their being with the Geoffreys
when the Kincaids were first introduced in Summit Street.
The Marchbankses and the Geoffreys were cousins. A good many Boston
Mr. Roger Marchbanks owned a good deal of property in And. The
neighborhood wanted a church; and he interested himself actively and
liberally in behalf of it, and gave the land,—three lots right out of
the middle of Marchbanks Street, that ran down to the river.
Dorris kept her little room, and was neighborly as heretofore; but
she was busy with her music, and had little time but her evenings; and
now there was nobody to walk home with Desire to Shubarton Place, if
she stayed in Aspen Street to tea. She came sometimes, and stayed all
night; but that was dreary for Helena, who never remembered to shut the
piano or cover up the canary, or give the plants in the bay window
their evening sprinkle, after the furnace heat had been drying them all
Kenneth Kincaid came down for his Sundays with Dorris, and his work
at the Mission; a few times he called in at Uncle Oldways' after tea,
when the family was all together; but they saw him very seldom; he gave
those Sunday evenings mostly to needed rest, and to quiet talk with
Desire might have gone to the Mission this winter, easily enough,
after all. Agatha and Florence and Glossy Megilp were not by to make
wondering eyes, or smile significant smiles; but there was something in
herself that prevented; she knew that it would be more than half to
get, and she still thought she had so little to give! Besides,
Kenneth Kincaid had never asked her again, and she could not go to him
and say she would come.
Desire Ledwith began to have serious question of what life was ever
going to be for her. She imagined, as in our early years and our first
gray days we are all apt to imagine, that she had found out a good deal
that it was not going to be.
She was not going to be beautiful, or accomplished, or even, she was
afraid, agreeable; she found that such hard work with most people. She
was not ever—and that conclusion rested closely upon these
foregoing—to be married, and have a nice husband and a pretty house,
and go down stairs and make snow-puddings and ginger-snaps of a
morning, and have girls staying with her, and pleasant people in to
tea; like Asenath Scherman. She couldn't write a book,—that, perhaps,
was one of her premature decisions, since nobody knows till they try,
and the books are lying all round, in leaves, waiting only to be picked
up and put together,—or paint a picture; she couldn't bear parties,
and clothes were a fuss, and she didn't care to go to Europe.
She thought she should rather like to be an old maid, if she could
begin right off, and have a little cottage out of town somewhere, or
some cosy rooms in the city. At least, she supposed that was what she
had got to be, and if that were settled, she did not see why it might
not be begun young, as well as married life. She could not endure
waiting, when a thing was to be done.
“Aunt Frances," she said one day, "I wish I had a place of my own.
What is the reason I can't? A girl can go in for Art, and set up a
studio; or she can go to Rome, and sculp, and study; she can learn
elocution, and read, whether people want to be read to or not; and all
that is Progress and Woman's Rights; why can't she set up a home
“Because, I suppose, a house is not a home; and the beginning of a
home is just what she waits for. Meanwhile, if she has a father and a
mother, she would not put a slight on their home, or fail of her
share of the duty in it."
“But nobody would think I failed in my duty if I were going to be
married. I'm sure mamma would think I was doing it beautifully. And I
never shall be married. Why can't I live something out for myself, and
have a place of my own? I have got money enough to pay my rent, and I
could do sewing in a genteel way, or keep a school for little children.
I'd rather—take in back stairs to wash," she exclaimed vehemently,
"than wait round for things, and be nothing! And I should like to begin
young, while there might be some sort of fun in it. You'd like to come
and take tea with me, wouldn't you, Aunt Frank?"
“If it were all right that you should have separate teas of your
“And if I had waffles. Well, I should. I think, just now, there's
nothing I should like so much as a little kitchen of my own, and a
pie-board, and a biscuit-cutter, and a beautiful baking oven, and a
“The pretty part. But brooms, and pails, and wash-tubs, and the back
“I specified back stairs in the first place, of my own accord. I
wouldn't shirk. Sometimes I think that real good old-fashioned hard
work is what I do want. I should like to find the right, honest thing,
and do it, Aunt Frank."
She said it earnestly, and there were tears in her eyes.
“I believe you would," said Mrs. Ripwinkley. “But perhaps the right,
honest thing, just now, is to wait patiently, with all your might."
“Now, that's good," said Desire, "and cute of you, too, that last
piece of a sentence. If you had stopped at 'patiently,' as
people generally do! That's what exasperates; when you want to do
something with all your might. It almost seems as if I could, when you
put it so."
“It is a 'stump,' Luclarion would say."
“Luclarion is a saint and a philosopher. I feel better," said
She stayed feeling better all that afternoon; she helped Sulie
Praile cut out little panels from her thick sheet of gray
painting-board, and contrived her a small easel with her round
lightstand and a book-rest; for Sulie was advancing in the fine arts,
from painting dollies' paper faces in cheap water colors, to copying
bits of flowers and fern and moss, with oils, on gray board; and she
was doing it very well, and with exquisite delight.
To wait, meant something to wait for; something coming by and by;
that was what comforted Desire to-day, as she walked home alone in the
sharp, short, winter twilight; that, and the being patient with all
one's might. To be patient, is to be also strong; this she saw, newly;
and Desire coveted, most of all, to be strong.
Something to wait for. “He does not cheat," said Desire, low down in
her heart, to herself. For the child had faith, though she could not
talk about it.
Something; but very likely not the thing you have seen, or dreamed
of; something quite different, it may be, when it comes; and it may
come by the way of losing, first, all that you have been able yet, with
a vague, whispering hope, to imagine.
The things we do not know! The things that are happening,—the
things that are coming; rising up in the eastward of our lives below
the horizon that we can yet see; it may be a star, it may be a cloud!
Desire Ledwith could not see that out at Westover, this cheery
winter night, it was one of dear Miss Pennington's "Next Thursdays;"
she could not see that the young architect, living away over there in
the hundred-year-old house on the side of East Hill, a boarder with old
Miss Arabel Waite, had been found, and appreciated, and drawn into
their circle by the Haddens and the Penningtons and the Holabirds and
the Inglesides; and that Rosamond was showing him the pleasant things
in their Westover life,—her "swan's nest among the reeds," that she
had told him of,—that early autumn evening, when they had walked up
Hanley Street together.
Spring came on early, with heavy rains and freshets in many parts of
It was a busy time at Z——.
Two things had happened there that were to give Kenneth Kincaid more
work, and would keep him where he was all summer.
Just before he went to Z——, there had been a great fire at West
Hill. All Mr. Roger Marchbanks's beautiful place was desolate. House,
conservatories, stables, lovely little vine-covered rustic buildings,
exquisitely tended shrubbery,—all swept over in one night by the red
flames, and left lying in blackness and ashes.
For the winter, Mr. Marchbanks had taken his family to Boston; now
he was planning eagerly to rebuild. Kenneth had made sketches; Mr.
Marchbanks liked his ideas; they had talked together from time to time.
Now, the work was actually in hand, and Kenneth was busy with drawings
Down at the river, during the spring floods, a piece of the bridge
had been carried away, and the dam was broken through. There were new
mill buildings, too, going up, and a block of factory houses. All this
business, through Mr. Marchbanks directly or indirectly, fell also into
He wrote blithe letters to Dorris; and Dorris, running in and out
from her little spring cleanings that Hazel was helping her with, told
all the letters over to the Ripwinkleys.
“He says I must come up there in my summer vacation and board with
his dear old Miss Waite. Think of Kentie's being able to give me such a
treat as that! A lane, with ferns and birches, and the woods,—pine
woods!—and a hill where raspberries grow, and the river!"
Mrs. Ledwith was thinking of her summer plans at this time, also.
She remembered the large four-windowed room looking out over the
meadow, that Mrs. Megilp and Glossy had at Mrs. Prendible's, for twelve
dollars a week, in And. She could do no better than that, at country
boarding, anywhere; and Mr. Ledwith could sleep at the house in
Shubarton Place, getting his meals down town during the week, and come
up and spend his Sundays with them. A bedroom, in addition, for six
dollars more, would be all they would want.
The Ripwinkleys were going up to Homesworth by and by for a little
while, and would take Sulie Praile with them. Sulie was ecstatically
happy. She had never been out of the city in all her life. She felt,
she said, "as if she was going to heaven without dying." Vash was to be
left at Mrs. Scarup's with her sister.
Miss Craydocke would be away at the mountains; all the little life
that had gathered together in the Aspen Street neighborhood, seemed
about to be broken up.
Uncle Titus Oldways never went out of town, unless on business.
Rachel Froke stayed, and kept his house; she sat in the gray room, and
thought over the summers she had had.
“Thee never loses anything out of thy life that has been in," she
said. “Summer times are like grains of musk; they keep their smell
always, and flavor the shut-up places they are put away in."
For you and me, reader, we are to go to Z——again. I hope you like
But before that, I must tell you what Luclarion Grapp has done.
Partly from the principle of her life, and partly from the spirit of
things which she would have caught at any rate, from the Ripwinkley
home and the Craydocke "Beehive,"—for there is nothing truer than that
the kingdom of heaven is like leaven,—I suppose she had been secretly
thinking for a good while, that she was having too easy a time here, in
her first floor kitchen and her garden bedroom; that this was not the
life meant for her to live right on, without scruple or question; and
so began in her own mind to expect some sort of "stump;" and even to
look about for it.
“It isn't as it was when Mrs. Ripwinkley was a widow, and
poor,—that is, comparative; and it took all her and my contrivance to
look after the place and keep things going, and paying, up in
Homesworth; there was something to buckle to, then; but now, everything
is eased and flatted out, as it were; it makes me res'less, like a
child put to bed in the daytime."
Luclarion went down to the North End with Miss Craydocke, on errands
of mercy; she went in to the new Mission, and saw the heavenly beauty
of its intent, and kindled up in her soul at it; and she came home,
time after time, and had thoughts of her own about these things, and
the work in the world there was to do.
She had cleaned up and set things going at Mrs. Scarup's; she
learned something in doing that, beyond what she knew when she set
about it; her thoughts began to shape themselves to a theory; and the
theory took to itself a text and a confirmation and a command.
“Go down and be a neighbor to them that have fallen among thieves."
Luclarion came to a resolution in this time of May, when everybody
was making plans and the spring-cleaning was all done.
She came to Mrs. Ripwinkley one morning, when she was folding away
winter clothes, and pinning them up in newspapers, with camphor-gum;
and she said to her, without a bit of preface,—Luclarion hated
“Mrs. Ripwinkley, I'm going to swarm!"
Mrs. Ripwinkley looked up in utter surprise; what else could she do?
“Of course 'm, when you set up a Beehive, you must have expected it;
it's the natural way of things; they ain't good for much unless they
do. I've thought it all over; I'll stay and see you all off, first, if
you want me to, and then—I'll swarm."
“Well," said Mrs. Ripwinkley, assenting in full faith, beforehand;
for Mrs. Ripwinkley, if I need now to tell you of it, was not an
ordinary woman, and did not take things in an ordinary selfish way, but
grasped right hold of the inward right and truth of them, and believed
in it; sometimes before she could quite see it; and she never had any
doubt of Luclarion Grapp. “Well! And now tell me all about it."
“You see," said Luclarion, sitting down in a chair by the window, as
Mrs. Ripwinkley suspended her occupation and took one by the bedside,
"there's places in this town that folks leave and give up. As the Lord
might have left and give up the world, because there was dirt and
wickedness in it; only He didn't. There's places where it ain't
genteel, nor yet respectable, to live; and so those places grow more
disrespectable and miserable every day. They're left to themselves.
What I think is, they hadn't ought to be. There's one clean spot down
there now, in the very middle of the worst dirt. And it ain't bad to
live in. That's started. Now, what I think is, that somebody
ought to start another, even if its only a little one. Somebody ought
to just go there and live, and show 'em how, just as I took and
showed Mrs. Scarup, and she's been living ever since, instead of
scratching along. If some of them folks had a clean, decent neighbor to
go to see,—to drink tea with, say,—and was to catch an idea of her
fixings and doings, why, I believe there'd be more of 'em,—cleaned up,
you know. They'd get some kind of an ambition and a hope. Tain't enough
for ladies—though I bless 'em in my soul for what I've seen 'em do—to
come down there of a Fridays, and teach and talk awhile, and then go
home to Summit Street and Republic Avenue, and take up their
life again where they left it off, that is just as different as heaven
is from 'tother place; somebody's got to come right down out of
heaven, and bring the life in, and live it amongst them miserable
folks, as the Lord Jesus Christ came and did! And it's borne in upon
me, strong and clear, that that's what's got to be before all's
righted. And so—for a little piece of it, and a little individual
stump—I'm going to swarm, and settle, and see what'll come."
Mrs. Ripwinkley was looking very intently at Luclarion. Her breath
went and came hurriedly, and her face turned pale with the grand
surprise of such a thought, such a plan and purpose, so simply and
suddenly declared. Her eyes were large and moist with feeling.
“Do you know, Luclarion," she exclaimed at last, "do you
realize what this is that you are thinking of; what a step it would be
to take,—what a work it would be to even hope to begin to do? Do you
know how strange it is,—how almost impracticable,—that it is not even
“'Twasn't safe for Him—when He came into the world,"
“Not to say I think there's any comparison," she began again,
presently, "or that I believe there's anything to be really scared
of,—except dirt; and you can clean a place round you, as them
Mission people have done. Why, there ain't a house in Boston nicer, or
sweeter, or airier even, than that one down in Arctic Street, with
beautiful parlors and bedrooms, and great clean galleries leading
round, and skylighted,—sky lighted! for you see the blue heaven
is above all, and you can let the skylight in, without any
corruption coming in with it; and if twenty people can do that much, or
a hundred,—one can do something. 'Taint much, either, to undertake;
only to be willing to go there, and make a clean place for yourself,
and a home; and live there, instead of somewheres else that's ready
made; and let it spread. And you know I've always looked forrud to some
kind of a house-keep of my own, finally."
“But, Luclarion, I don't understand! All alone? And you couldn't use
a whole house, you know. Your neighbors would be inmates. Why,
it seems to me perfectly crazy!"
“Now, ma'am, did you ever know me to go off on a tangent, without
some sort of a string to hold on to? I ain't goin' to swarm all alone!
I never heard of such a thing. Though if I couldn't swarm, and
the thing was to be done, I say I'd try it. But Savira Golding is going
to be married to Sam Gallilee, next month; and he's a stevedore, and
his work is down round the wharves; he's class-leader in our church,
and a first-rate, right-minded man, or else Savira wouldn't have him;
for if Savira ain't a clear Christian, and a doing woman, there ain't
one this side of Paradise. Now, you see, Sam Gallilee makes money; he
runs a gang of three hundred men. He can afford a good house, and a
whole one, if he wants; but he's going in for a big one, and neighbors.
They mean to live nice,—he and Savira; and she has pretty, tasty ways;
there'll be white curtains, and plants blooming in her windows, you may
make sure; she's always had 'em in that little up-stairs dress-making
room of hers; and boxes of mignonette and petunias on the ledges; and
birds singing in a great summer cage swung out against the wall. She's
one of the kind that reaches out, and can't be kept in; and she knows
her gifts, and is willing to go and let her light shine where it will
help others, and so glorify; and Sam, he's willing too, and sees the
beauty of it. And so,—well, that's the swarm."
“And the 'little round Godamighty in the middle of it,'" said Mrs.
Ripwinkley, her face all bright and her eyes full of tears.
Then Mrs. Ripwinkley told her Miss Craydocke's story.
“Well," said Luclarion, "there's something dear and
right-to-the-spot about it; but it does sound singular; and it
certainly ain't a thing to say careless."
* * * * *
Desire Ledwith grew bright and excited as the summer came on, and
the time drew near for going to Z——. She could not help being glad;
she did not stop to ask why; summer-time was reason enough, and after
the weariness of the winter, the thought of Z——and the woods and the
river, and sweet evenings and mornings, and gardens and orchards, and
road-side grass, was lovely to her.
“It is so pleasant up there!" she would keep saying to Dorris; and
somehow she said it to Dorris oftener than to anybody else.
There was something fitful and impetuous in her little outbursts of
satisfaction; they noticed it in her; the elder ones among them noticed
it with a touch of anxiety for her.
Miss Craydocke, especially, read the signs, matching them with
something that she remembered far back in the life that had closed so
peacefully, with white hairs and years of a serene content and
patience, over all unrest and disappointment, for herself. She was
sorry for this young girl, for whom she thought she saw an unfulfilled
dream of living that should go by her like some bright cloud, just near
enough to turn into a baptism of tears.
She asked Desire, one day, if she would not like to go with her,
this summer, to the mountains.
Desire put by the suggestion hastily.
“O, no, thank you, Miss Craydocke, I must stay with mamma and
Helena. And besides," she added, with the strict, full truth she always
demanded of herself, "I want to go to Z——."
“Yes," said Miss Craydocke.
There was something tender, like a shade of pity, in her tone.
“But you would enjoy the mountains. They are full of strength and
rest. One hardly understands the good the hills do one. David did,
looking out into them from Jerusalem. 'I will look to the hills, from
whence cometh my strength.'"
“Some time," said Desire. “Some time I shall need the hills, and—be
ready for them. But this summer—I want a good, gay, young time. I
don't know why, except that I shall be just eighteen this year, and it
seems as if, after that, I was going to be old. And I want to be with
people I know. I can be gay in the country; there is something
to be gay about. But I can't dress and dance in the city. That is all
gas-light and get-up."
“I suppose," said Miss Craydocke, slowly, "that our faces are all
set in the way we are to go. Even if it is—" She stopped. She was
thinking of one whose face had been set to go to Jerusalem. Her own
words had led her to something she had not foreseen when she began.
Nothing of such suggestion came to Desire. She was in one of her
rare moods of good cheer.
“I suppose so," she said, heedlessly. And then, taking up a thought
of her own suddenly,—"Miss Craydocke! Don't you think people almost
always live out their names? There's Sin Scherman; there'll always be a
little bit of mischief and original naughtiness in her,—with the harm
taken out of it; and there's Rosamond Holabird,—they couldn't have
called her anything better, if they'd waited for her to grow up; and
Barb was sharp; and our little Hazel is witchy and sweet and
wild-woodsy; and Luclarion,—isn't that shiny and trumpety, and doesn't
she do it? And then—there's me. I shall always be stiff and hard and
unsatisfied, except in little bits of summer times that won't come
often. They might as well have christened me Anxiety. I wonder why they
“That would have been very different. There is a nobleness in
Desire. You will overlive the restless part," said Miss Craydocke.
“Was there ever anything restless in your life, Miss Craydocke? And
how long did it take to overlive it? It doesn't seem as if you had ever
stubbed your foot against anything; and I'm always stubbing."
“My dear, I have stubbed along through fifty-six years; and the
years had all three hundred and sixty-five days in them. There were
chances,—don't you think so?"
“It looks easy to be old after it is done," said Desire. “Easy and
comfortable. But to be eighteen, and to think of having to go on to be
fifty-six; I beg your pardon,—but I wish it was over!"
And she drew a deep breath, heavy with the days that were to be.
“You are not to take it all at once, you know," said Miss Craydocke.
“But I do, every now and then. I can't help it. I am sure it is the
name. If they had called me 'Hapsie,' like you, I should have gone
along jolly, as you do, and not minded. You see you have to hear
it all the time; and it tunes you up to its own key. You can't feel
like a Dolly, or a Daisy, when everybody says—De-sire!"
“I don't know how I came to be called 'Hapsie,'" said Miss
Craydocke. “Somebody who liked me took it up, and it seemed to get
fitted on. But that wasn't when I was young."
“What was it, then?" asked Desire, with a movement of interest.
“Keren-happuch," said Miss Craydocke, meekly. “My father named me,
and he always called me so,—the whole of it. He was a severe,
Old-Testament man, and his name was Job."
Desire was more than half right, after all. There was a good deal of
Miss Craydocke's story hinted in those few words and those two ancient
“But I turned into 'Miss Craydocke' pretty soon, and settled down. I
suppose it was very natural that I should," said the sweet old maid,
XVII. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
The evening train came in through the little bend in the edge of the
woods, and across the bridge over the pretty rapids, and slid to its
stopping-place under the high arches of the other bridge that connected
the main street of Z——with its continuation through "And."
There were lights twinkling in the shops, where they were making
change, and weighing out tea and sugar, and measuring calico, although
outside it was not yet quite dark.
The train was half an hour late; there had been a stoppage at some
draw or crossing near the city.
Mr. Prendible was there, to see if his lodgers were come, and to get
his evening paper; the platform was full of people. Old Z——
acquaintances, many of them, whom Desire and her mother were pleased,
and Helena excited to see.
“There's Kenneth Kincaid!" she exclaimed, quite loudly, pulling
“Hush!" said Desire, twitching away. “How can you, Helena?"
“He's coming,—he heard me!" cried Helena, utterly impenitent.
“I should think he might!" And Desire walked off a little, to look
among the trunks that were being tumbled from the baggage car.
She had seen him all the time; he had been speaking to Ruth
Holabird, and helping her up the steps with her parcels. Mr. Holabird
was there with the little Westover carryall that they kept now; and
Kenneth put her in, and then turned round in time to hear Helena's
exclamation and to come down again.
“Can I help you? I'm very glad you are come," he said, cordially.
Well; he might have said it to anybody. Again, well; it was enough
to say to anybody. Why should Desire feel cross?
He took Helena's bag; she had a budget beside; Mr. Prendible
relieved Mrs. Ledwith; Desire held on valiantly to her own things.
Kenneth walked over the bridge with them, and down the street to Mr.
Prendible's door; there he bade them good-by and left them.
It was nice to be in Z——; it was very sweet here under the
blossoming elms and locusts; it was nice to see Kenneth Kincaid again,
and to think that Dorris was coming by and by, and that the lanes were
green and full of ferns and vines, and that there was to be a whole
long summer; but there were so many people down there on the
platform,—there was such a muss always; Ruth Holabird was a dear
little thing, but there were always so many Ruths about! and there was
only one cross, stiff, odd, uncomfortable Desire!
But the very next night Kenneth came down and stayed an hour; there
was a new moon glistening through the delicate elm-tips, and they sat
out on the piazza and breathed in such an air as they had not had in
their nostrils for months and months.
The faint, tender light from the golden west in which the new moon
lay, showed the roof and tower of the little church, Kenneth's first
beautiful work; and Kenneth told them how pleasant it was up at Miss
Arabel's, and of the tame squirrels that he fed at his window, and of
the shady pasture-path that led away over the brook from the very door,
and up among pines and into little still nooks where dry mossy turf and
warm gray rocks were sheltered in by scraggy cedars and lisping
birches, so that they were like field-parlors opening in and out from
each other with all sorts of little winding and climbing passages,
between clumps of bayberry bushes and tall ferns; and that the girls
from Z——and Westover made morning picnics there, since Lucilla Waters
had grown intimate with Delia Waite and found it out; and that Delia
Waite and even Miss Arabel carried their dressmaking down there
sometimes in a big white basket, and stayed all day under the trees.
They had never used to do this; they had stayed in the old back sitting
room with all the litter round, and never thought of it till those
girls had come and showed them how.
“I think there is the best and sweetest neighborliness and most
beautiful living here in Z——, that I ever knew in any place," said
Kenneth Kincaid; "except that little piece of the same thing in Aspen
Kenneth had found out how Rosamond Holabird recognized Aspen Street
as a piece of her world.
Desire hated, as he spoke, her spitefulness last night; what she had
said to herself of "so many Ruths;" why could not she not be pleased to
come into this beautiful living and make a little part of it?
She was pleased; she would be; she found it very easy when Kenneth
said to her in that frank intimate way,—"I wish you and your mother
would come over and see what Dorris will want, and help me a little
about that room of hers. I told Miss Waite not to bother; just to let
the old things stand,—I knew Dorris would like them,—and anything
else I would get for her myself. I mean Dolly shall take a long
vacation this year; from June right through to September; and its 'no
end of jolly,' as those English fellows say, that you have come too!"
Kenneth Kincaid was fresher and pleasanter and younger himself, than
Desire had ever seen him before; he seemed to have forgotten that hard
way of looking at the world; he had found something so undeniably good
in it. I am afraid Desire had rather liked him for his carping, which
was what he least of all deserved to be liked for. It showed how high
and pure his demands were; but his praise and admissions were better;
it is always better to discern good than to fret at the evil.
“I shall see you every day," he said, when he shook hands at
parting; "and Helena, if you want a squirrel to keep in your pocket
next winter, I'll begin training one for you at once."
He had taken them right to himself, as if they belonged to him; he
spoke as if he were very glad that he should see them every day.
Desire whistled over her unpacking; she could not sing, but she
could whistle like a blackbird. When her father came up on Saturday
night, he said that her eyes were brighter and her cheeks were rounder,
for the country air; she would take to growing pretty instead of
strong-minded, if she didn't look out.
Kenneth came round on Monday, after tea, to ask them to go over to
Miss Waite's and make acquaintance.
“For you see," he said, "you will have to be very intimate there,
and it is time to begin. It will take one call to be introduced, and
another, at least, to get up-stairs and see that beautiful breezy old
room that can't be lived in in winter, but is to be a delicious sort of
camping-out for Dolly, all summer. It is all windows and squirrel-holes
and doors that won't shut. Everything comes in but the rain; but the
roof is tight on that corner. Even the woodbine has got tossed in
through a broken upper pane, and I wouldn't have it mended on any
account. There are swallows' nests in the chimneys, and wrens under the
gable, and humming-birds in the honeysuckle. When Dolly gets there, it
will be perfect. It just wants her to take it all right into her heart
and make one piece of it. They don't know,—the birds and the
squirrels,—it takes the human. There has to be an Adam in every garden
Kenneth really chattered, from pure content and delight.
It did not take two visits to get up-stairs. Miss Arabel met them
heartily. She had been a shy, timid old lady, from long neglect and
humble living; but lately she had "come out in society," Delia said.
Society had come after her, and convinced her that she could make good
times for it.
She brought out currant wine and gave them, the first thing; and
when Kenneth told her that they were his and Dorris's friends, and were
coming next week to see about getting ready for her, she took them
right round through all four of the ground rooms, to the queer corner
staircase, and up into the "long west chamber," to show them what a
rackety old place it was, and to see whether they supposed it could be
“Why it's like the Romance of the Forest!" said Helena, delighted.
"I wish we had come here. Don't you have ghosts, or robbers, or
something, up and down those stairs, Miss Waite?" For she had spied a
door that led directly out of the room, from beside the chimney, up
into the rambling old garret, smelling of pine boards and penny-royal.
“No; nothing but squirrels and bees, and sometimes a bat," answered
“Well, it doesn't want fixing. If you fix it, you will spoil it. I
shall come here and sleep with Dorris,—see if I don't."
The floor was bare, painted a dark, marbled gray. In the middle was
a great braided rug, of blue and scarlet and black. The walls were pale
gray, with a queer, stencilled scroll-and-dash border of vermilion and
There was an old, high bedstead, with carved frame and posts, bare
of drapery; an antiquated chest of drawers; and a half-circular table
with tall, plain, narrow legs, between two of the windows. There was a
corner cupboard, and a cupboard over the chimney. The doors of these,
and the high wainscot around the room, were stained in old-fashioned
"imitation mahogany," very streaky and red. The wainscot was so heavily
finished that the edge running around the room might answer for a
“Just curtains, and toilet covers, and a little low rocking chair,"
said Mrs. Ledwith. “That is all you want."
“But the windows are so high," suggested Desire. “A low chair would
bury her up, away from all the pleasantness. I'll tell you what I would
have, Mr. Kincaid. A kind of dais, right across that corner, to take in
two windows; with a carpet on it, and a chair, and a little table."
“Just the thing!" said Kenneth. “That is what I wanted you for, Miss
Desire," he said in a pleased, gentle way, lowering his tone to her
especial hearing, as he stood beside her in the window.
And Desire was very happy to have thought of it.
Helena was spurred by emulation to suggest something.
“I'd have a—hammock—somewhere," she said.
“Good," said Kenneth. “That shall be out under the great butternut."
The great butternut walled in one of the windows with a wilderness
of green, and the squirrels ran chattering up and down the brown
branches, and peeping in all day. In the autumn, when the nuts were
ripe, they would be scrambling over the roof, and in under the eaves,
to hide their stores in the garret, Miss Arabel told them.
“Why doesn't everbody have an old house, and let the squirrels in?"
cried Helena, in a rapture.
In ten days more,—the first week of June,—Dorris came.
Well,—"That let in all the rest," Helena said, and Desire, may be,
thought. “We shan't have it to ourselves any more."
The girls could all come down and call on Dorris Kincaid, and they
But Desire and Helena had the first of it; nobody else went right up
into her room; nobody else helped her unpack and settle. And she was so
delighted with all that they had done for her.
The dais was large enough for two or three to sit upon at once, and
it was covered with green carpet of a small, mossy pattern, and the
window was open into the butternut on one side, and into the
honeysuckle on the other, and it was really a bower.
“I shall live ten hours in one," said Dorris.
“And you'll let me come and sleep with you some night, and hear the
bats," said Helena.
The Ledwiths made a good link; they had known the Kincaids so well;
if it had been only Dorris, alone, with her brother there, the Westover
girls might have been shy of coming often. Since Kenneth had been at
Miss Waite's, they had already grown a little less free of the
beautiful woods that they had just found out and begun fairly to enjoy
But the Ledwiths made a strong party; and they lived close by; there
were plans continually.
Since Leslie Goldthwaite and Barbara Holabird were married and gone,
and the Roger Marchbankses were burned out, and had been living in the
city and travelling, the Hobarts and the Haddens and Ruth and Rosamond
and Pen Pennington had kept less to their immediate Westover
neighborhood than ever; and had come down to Lucilla's, and to Maddy
Freeman's, and the Inglesides, as often as they had induced them to go
up to the Hill.
Maud Marchbanks and the Hendees were civil and neighborly enough at
home, but they did not care to "ramify." So it came to pass that they
were left a good deal to themselves. Olivia and Adelaide, when they
came up to Westover, to their uncle's, wondered "that papa cared to
build again; there really wasn't anything to come for; West Hill was
So it was; and a very good thing.
I came across the other day, reading over Mr. Kingsley's "Two Years
Ago," a true word as to social needs in England, that reminded me of
this that the Holabirds and the Penningtons and the Inglesides have
been doing, half unconsciously, led on from "next" to next, in Z——.
Mr. Kingsley, after describing a Miss Heale, and others of her
class,—the middle class, with no high social opportunities, and with
time upon their hands, wasted often in false dreams of life and
unsatisfied expectations, "bewildering heart and brain with novels,"
for want of a nobler companionship, says this: "Till in country
villages, the ladies who interest themselves about the poor will
recollect that the farmers' and tradesmens' daughters are just as much
in want of their influence as the charity children and will yield a far
richer return for their labor, so long will England be full of Miss
If a kindly influence and fellowship are the duty of the
aristocratic girls of England toward their "next," below, how far more
false are American girls to the spirit of their country, and the
blessed opportunities of republican sympathies and equalities, when
they try to draw invisible lines between themselves and those whose
outer station differs by but so little, and whose hearts and minds,
under the like culture with their own, crave, just as they do, the best
that human intercourse can give. Social science has something to do,
before—or at least simultaneously with—reaching down to the depths
where all the wrongs and blunders and mismanagements of life have
precipitated their foul residuum. A master of one of our public
schools, speaking of the undue culture of the brain and imagination, in
proportion to the opportunities offered socially for living out ideas
thus crudely gathered, said that his brightest girls were the ones who
in after years, impatient of the little life gave them to satisfy the
capacities and demands aroused and developed during the brief period of
school life, and fed afterwards by their own ill-judged and
ill-regulated reading, were found fallen into lives of vice. Have our
women, old or young, who make and circumscribe the opportunities of
social intercourse and enjoyment, nothing to search out here, and help,
as well, or as soon as, to get their names put on committee lists, and
manage these public schools themselves, which educate and stimulate up
to the point of possible fierce temptation, and then have nothing more
that they can do?
It was a good thing for Desire Ledwith to grow intimate, as she did,
with Rosamond Holabird. There were identical points of character
between the two. They were both so real.
“You don't want to play anything," Barbara Holabird had said
to Rosamond once, in some little discussion of social appearances and
pretensions. “And that's the beauty of you!"
It was the beauty of Desire Ledwith also; only, with Rosamond, her
ambitions had clothed themselves with a grace and delicateness that
would have their own perfect and thorough as far as it went; and with
Desire, the same demands of true living had chafed into an impatience
with shams and a blunt disregard of and resistance to all
“You are a good deal alike, you two," Kenneth Kincaid said to them
one day, in a talk they all three happened to have together.
And he had told Rosamond afterward that there was "something grand
in Desire Ledwith; only grand things almost always have to grow with
Rosamond had told this again to Desire.
It was not much wonder that she began to be happier; to have a
hidden comfort of feeling that perhaps the "waiting with all her might"
was nearly over, and the "by and by" was blossoming for her, though the
green leaves of her own shy sternness with herself folded close down
about the sweetening place, and she never parted them aside to see
where the fragrance came from.
* * * * *
They were going to have a grand, large, beautiful supper party in
Mrs. Holabird and Mrs. Hobart were the matrons, and gave out the
“I don't think I could possibly spend a Tuesday afternoon with a
little 't,'" said Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks laughing, and tossing down
poor, dear, good Mrs. Hobart's note upon her table. “It is rather
more than is to be expected!"
“Doctor and Mrs. Hautayne are here, and Dakie Thayne is home from
West Point. It will be rather a nice party."
“The Holabirds seem to have got everything into their own hands,"
said Mrs. Marchbanks, haughtily. “It is always a pity when people take
the lead who are not exactly qualified. Mrs. Holabird will not
“I think the Holabirds are splendid," spoke up Lily, "and I don't
think there's any fun in sticking up by ourselves! I can't bear to be
Poor little Lily Marchbanks had been told a tiresome many times that
she must be "judicious" in her intimacies.
“You can be pleasant to everybody," said mother and elder
sister, with a salvo of Christian benignity.
But it is so hard for little children to be pleasant with fence and
“Where must I stop?" Lily had asked in her simplicity. “When they
give me a piece of their luncheon, or when they walk home from school,
or when they say they will come in a little while?"
But there came a message back from Boston by the eleven o'clock
train on the morning of the Tuesday with a little "t," from Mr.
Marchbanks himself, to say that his brother and Mr. Geoffrey would come
up with him to dinner, and to desire that carriages might be ready
afterward for the drive over to Waite's grove.
Mrs. Marchbanks marveled, but gave her orders. Arthur came out
early, and brought with him his friend Archie Mucklegrand, and these
two were bound also for the merry-making.
Now Archie Mucklegrand was the identical youth of the lavender
pantaloons and the waxed moustache, whom Desire, as "Miss Ledwith," had
received in state a year and a half ago.
So it was an imposing cavalcade, after all, from West Hill, that
honored the very indiscriminate pleasure party, and came riding and
driving in at about six o'clock. There were the barouche and the coupe;
for the ladies and elder gentlemen, and the two young men accompanied
them on horseback.
Archie Mucklegrand had been at West Hill often before. He and Arthur
had just graduated at Harvard, and the Holabirds had had cards to their
grand spread on Class Day. Archie Mucklegrand had found out what a
pretty girl—and a good deal more than merely pretty—Rosamond Holabird
was; and although he might any day go over to his big, wild Highland
estate, and take upon himself the glory of "Sir Archibald" there among
the hills and moors,—and though any one of a good many pretty girls in
Spreadsplendid Park and Republic Avenue might be induced, perhaps, if
he tried, to go with him,—all this did not hinder him from perceiving
that up here in Z——was just the most bewitching companionship he had
ever fallen in with, or might ever be able to choose for himself for
any going or abiding; that Rosamond Holabird was just the brightest,
and sweetest, and most to his mind of any girl that he had ever seen,
and most like "the woman" that a man might dream of. I do not know that
he quite said it all to himself in precisely that way; I am pretty sure
that he did not, as yet; but whatever is off-hand and young-mannish and
modern enough to express to one's self without "sposhiness" an
admiration and a preference like that, he undoubtedly did say. At any
rate after his Christmas at Z——with Arthur, and some charade parties
they had then at Westover, and after Class Day, when everybody had been
furious to get an introduction, and all the Spreadsplendid girls and
their mothers had been wondering who that Miss Holabird was and where
she came from, and Madam Mucklegrand herself—not having the slightest
recollection of her as the Miss Holabird of that early-morning business
call, whose name she had just glanced at and dropped into an Indian
china scrap-jar before she went down-stairs—had asked him the same
questions, and pronounced that she was "an exceedingly graceful little
person, certainly,"—after all this, Archie had made up his—mind,
shall I say? at least his inclination, and his moustache—to pursue the
acquaintance, and be as irresistible as he could.
But Rosamond had learned—things do so play into our lives in a
benign order—just before that Christmas time and those charades, in
one of which Archie Mucklegrand had sung to her, so expressively, the
"Birks of Aberfeldy,"—that Spreadsplendid Park was not, at least his
corner of it,—a "piece of her world;" and she did not believe that
Aberfeldy would be, either, though Archie's voice was beautiful, and—
"Bonnie lassie, will ye go?"
sounded very enticing—in a charade.
So she was quite calm when the Marchbanks party came upon the
ground, and Archie Mucklegrand, with white trousers and a lavender tie,
and the trim, waxed moustache, looking very handsome in spite of his
dapperness, found her out in the first two minutes, and attached
himself to her forthwith in a most undetachable and determined manner,
which was his way of being irresistible.
They were in the midst of their tea and coffee when the West Hill
party came. Miss Arabel was busy at the coffee-table between the two
oaks, pouring out with all her might, and creaming the fragrant cups
with a rich lavishness that seemed to speak of milky mothers without
number or limit of supply; and Rosamond, as the most natural and
hospitable thing to do, conducted the young gentleman as soon as she
could to that lady, and commended him to her good offices.
These were not to be resisted; and as soon as he was occupied,
Rosamond turned to attend to others coming up; and the groups shifting,
she found herself presently a little way off, and meanwhile Mrs.
Marchbanks and her son had reached the table and joined Archie.
“I say, Arthur! O, Mrs. Marchbanks! You never got such coffee as
this, I do believe! The open air has done something to it, or else the
cream comes from some supernal cows! Miss Holabird!"
Rosamond turned round.
“I don't see,—Mrs. Marchbanks ought to have some of this coffee,
but where is your good woman gone?" For Miss Arabel had stepped round
behind the oak-tree for a moment, to see about some replenishing.
In her prim, plain dress, utterly innocent of style or bias,
and her zealous ministry, good Miss Arabel might easily be taken for
some comfortable, superior old servant; but partly from a sudden sense
of fun,—Mrs. Marchbanks standing there in all her elegant
dignity,—and partly from a jealous chivalry of friendship, Rosamond
would not let it pass so.
“Good woman? Hush! she is one of our hostesses, the owner of the
ground, and a dear friend of mine. Here she is. Miss Waite, let me
introduce Mr. Archibald Mucklegrand. Mrs. Marchbanks will like some
Which Mrs. Marchbanks took with a certain look of amazement, that
showed itself subtilely in a slight straightening of the lips and an
expansion of the nostrils. She did not sniff; she was a great
deal too much a lady; she was Mrs. Marchbanks, but if she had been Mrs.
Higgin, and had felt just so, she would have sniffed.
Somebody came up close to Rosamond on the other side.
“That was good," said Kenneth Kincaid. “Thank you for that, Miss
“Will you have some more?" asked Rosamond, cunningly, pretending to
misunderstand, and reaching her hand to take his empty cup.
“One mustn't ask for all one would like," said Kenneth,
relinquishing the cup, and looking straight in her eyes.
Rosamond's eyes fell; she had no rejoinder ready; it was very well
that she had the cup to take care of, and could turn away, for she felt
a very foolish color coming up in her face.
She made herself very busy among the guests. Archie Mucklegrand
stayed by, and spoke to her every time he found a chance. At last, when
people had nearly done eating and drinking, he asked her if she would
not show him the path down to the river.
“It must be beautiful down there under the slope," he said.
She called Dorris and Desire, then, and Oswald Megilp, who was with
them. He was spending a little time here at the Prendibles, with his
boat on the river, as he had used to do. When he could take an absolute
vacation, he was going away with a pedestrian party, among the
mountains. There was not much in poor Oswald Megilp, but Desire and
Rosamond were kind to him now that his mother was away.
As they all walked down the bank among the close evergreens, they
met Mr. Geoffrey and Mr. Marchbanks, with Kenneth Kincaid, coming up.
Kenneth came last, and the two parties passed each other single file,
in the narrow pathway.
Kenneth paused as he came close to Rosamond, holding back a bough
“I have something very nice to tell you," he whispered, "by and by.
But it is a secret, as yet. Please don't stay down there very long."
Nobody heard the whisper but Rosamond; if they could have done so,
he would not have whispered. Archie Mucklegrand was walking rather
sulkily along before; he had not cared for a party to be made up when
he asked Rosamond to go down to the river with him. Desire and Dorris
had found some strange blossom among the underbrush, and were stopping
for it; and Oswald Megilp was behind them. For a few seconds, Kenneth
had Rosamond quite to himself.
The slight delay had increased the separation between her and Archie
Mucklegrand, for he had kept steadily on in his little huff.
“I do not think we shall be long," said Rosamond, glancing after
him, and looking up, with her eyes bright. She was half merry with
mischief, and half glad with a quieter, deeper pleasure, at Kenneth's
He would tell her something in confidence; something that he was
glad of; he wanted her to know it while it was yet a secret; she had
not the least guess what it could be; but it was very "nice" already.
Rosamond always did rather like to be told things first; to have her
friends confide in and consult with her, and rely upon her sympathy;
she did not stop to separate the old feeling which she was quite aware
of in herself, from something new that made it especially beautiful
that Kenneth Kincaid should so confide and rely.
Rosamond was likely to have more told her to-night than she quite
They heard Mrs. Ledwith's voice far back among the trees.
“I want you, dear!"
“Something about shawls and baskets, I suppose," said Desire,
turning round, perhaps a little the more readily that Kenneth was
beside her now, going back also.
Dorris and Oswald Megilp, finding there was a move to return, and
being behind Desire in the pathway, turned also, as people will who
have no especial motive for going one way rather than another; and so
it happened that after all Rosamond and Archie Mucklegrand walked on
down the bank to the river together, by themselves.
Archie's good humor returned quickly.
“I am glad they are gone; it was such a fuss having so many," he
“We shall have to go back directly; they are beginning to break up,"
And then, coming out to the opening by the water, she began to talk
rather fast about the prettiness of the view, and to point out the
bridge, and the mills, and the shadow of East Hill upon the water, and
the curve of the opposite shore, and the dip of the shrubs and their
arched reflections. She seemed quite determined to have all the talk to
Archie Mucklegrand played with his stick, and twisted the end of his
moustache. Men never ought to allow themselves to learn that trick. It
always comes back upon them when it makes them look most foolish.
Archie said nothing, because there was so much he wanted to say, and
he did not know how to begin.
He knew his mother and sister would not like it,—as long as they
could help it, certainly,—therefore he had suddenly made up his mind
that there should be no such interval. He could do as he pleased; was
he not Sir Archibald? And there was his Boston grandfather's property,
too, of which a large share had been left outright to him; and he had
been twenty-one these six months. There was nothing to hinder; and he
meant to tell Rosamond Holabird that he liked her better than any other
girl in the world. Somebody else would be telling her so, if he didn't;
he could see how they all came round her; perhaps it might be that
tall, quiet, cheeky looking fellow,—that Kincaid. He would be before
him, at any rate.
So he stood and twisted his moustache, and said nothing,—nothing, I
mean, except mere little words of assent and echo to Rosamond's chatter
about the pretty view.
At last,—"You are fond of scenery, Miss Holabird?"
“O yes, I suppose I am; but we don't call this scenery. It is just
pleasantness,—beauty. I don't think I quite like the word 'scenery.'
It seems artificial,—got up for outside effect. And the most beautiful
things do not speak from the outside, do they? I never travelled, Mr.
Mucklegrand. I have just lived here, until I have lived into
things, or they into me. I rather think it is travelling, skimming
about the world in a hurry, that makes people talk about 'scenery.'
“I dare say. I don't care for skimming, myself. But I like to go to
nice places, and stay long enough to get into them, as you say. I mean
to go to Scotland next year. I've a place there among the hills and
lochs, Miss Rosamond."
“Yes. I have heard so. I should think you would wish to go and see
“I'll tell you what I wish, Miss Holabird!" he said suddenly,
letting go his moustache, and turning round with sufficient manfulness,
and facing her. “I suppose there is a more gradual and elegant way of
saying it; but I believe straightforward is as good as any. I wish you
cared for me as I care for you, and then you would go with me."
Rosamond was utterly confounded. She had not imagined that it could
be hurled at her, this fashion; she thought she could parry and put
aside, if she saw anything coming. She was bewildered and breathless
with the shock of it; she could only blindly, and in very foolish
words, hurl it back.
“O, dear, no!" she exclaimed, her face crimson. “I mean—I don't—I
couldn't! I beg your pardon, Mr. Mucklegrand; you are very good; I am
very sorry; but I wish you hadn't said so. We had better go back."
“No," said Archie Mucklegrand, "not yet. I've said it now. I said it
like a moon calf, but I mean it like a man. Won't you—can't you—be my
wife, Rosamond? I must know that."
“No, Mr. Mucklegrand," answered Rosamond, quite steadily now and
gently. “I could not be. We were never meant for each other. You will
think so yourself next year,—by the time you go to Scotland."
“I shall never think so."
Of course he said that; young men always do; they mean it at the
moment, and nothing can persuade them otherwise.
“I told you I had lived right here, and grown into these things, and
they into me," said Rosamond, with a sweet slow earnestness, as if she
thought out while she explained it; and so she did; for the thought and
meaning of her life dawned upon her with a new perception, as she stood
at this point and crisis of it in the responsibility of her young
womanhood. “And these, and all the things that have influenced me, have
given my life its direction; and I can see clearly that it was never
meant to be your way. I do not know what it will be; but I know yours
is different. It would be wrenching mine to turn it so."
“But I would turn mine for you," said Archie.
“You couldn't. Lives grow together. They join beforehand, if
they join at all. You like me, perhaps,—just what you see of me; but
you do not know me, nor I you. If it—this—were meant, we should."
“Know. Be sure."
“I am sure of what I told you."
“And I thank you very much; but I do not—I never could—belong to
What made Rosamond so wise about knowing and belonging?
She could not tell, herself; she had never thought it out before;
but she seemed to see it very clearly now. She did not belong to Archie
Mucklegrand, nor he to her; he was mistaken; their lives had no join;
to make them join would be a force, a wrenching.
Archie Mucklegrand did not care to have it put on such deep ground.
He liked Rosamond; he wanted her to like him; then they should be
married, of coarse, and go to Scotland, and have a good time; but this
quiet philosophy cooled him somewhat. As they walked up the bank
together, he wondered at himself a little that he did not feel worse
about it. If she had been coquettish, or perverse, she might have been
all the more bewitching to him. If he had thought she liked somebody
else better, he might have been furiously jealous; but "her way of
liking a fellow would be a slow kind of a way, after all." That was the
gist of his thought about it; and I believe that to many very young
men, at the age of waxed moustaches and German dancing, that "slow kind
of a way" in a girl is the best possible insurance against any lasting
damage that their own enthusiasm might suffer.
He had not been contemptible in the offering of his love; his best
had come out at that moment; if it does not come out then,
somehow,—through face and tone, in some plain earnestness or simple
nobleness, if not in fashion of the spoken word as very well it may
not,—it must be small best that the man has in him.
Rosamond's simple saying of the truth, as it looked to her in that
moment of sure insight, was the best help she could have given him.
Truth is always the best help. He did not exactly understand the
wherefore, as she understood it; but the truth touched him
nevertheless, in the way that he could perceive. They did not "belong"
to each other.
And riding down in the late train that evening, Archie Mucklegrand
said to himself, drawing a long breath,—"It would have been an awful
tough little joke, after all, telling it to the old lady!"
“Are you too tired to walk home?" Kenneth Kincaid asked of Rosamond,
helping her put the baskets in the carriage.
Dakie Thayne had asked Ruth the same question five minutes before,
and they two had gone on already. Are girls ever too tired to walk home
after a picnic, when the best of the picnic is going to walk home with
them? Of course Rosamond was not too tired; and Mrs. Holabird had the
carryall quite to herself and her baskets.
They took the River Road, that was shady all the way, and sweet now
with the dropping scents of evening; it was a little longer, too, I
think, though that is one of the local questions that have never yet
been fully decided.
“How far does Miss Waite's ground run along the river?" asked
Kenneth, taking Rosamond's shawl over his arm.
“Not far; it only just touches; it runs back and broadens toward the
Old Turnpike. The best of it is in those woods and pastures."
“So I thought. And the pastures are pretty much run out."
“I suppose so. They are full of that lovely gray crackling moss."
“Lovely for picnics. Don't you think Miss Waite would like to sell?"
“Yes, indeed, if she could. That is her dream; what she has been
laying up for her old age: to turn the acres into dollars, and build or
buy a little cottage, and settle down safe. It is all she has in the
world, except her dressmaking."
“Mr. Geoffrey and Mr. Marchbanks want to buy. They will offer her
sixteen thousand dollars. That is the secret,—part of it."
“O, Mr. Kincaid! How glad,—how sorry, I can't help being,
too! Miss Waite to be so comfortable! And never to have her dear old
woods to picnic in any more! I suppose they want to make streets and
build it all up."
“Not all. I'll tell you. It is a beautiful plan. Mr. Geoffrey wants
to build a street of twenty houses,—ten on a side,—with just a little
garden plot for each, and leave the woods behind for a piece of nature
for the general good,—a real Union Park; a place for children to play
in, and grown folks to rest and walk and take tea in, if they choose;
but for nobody to change or meddle with any further. And these twenty
houses to be let to respectable persons of small means, at rents that
will give him seven per cent, for his whole outlay. Don't you see?
Young people, and people like Miss Waite herself, who don't want
much house-room, but who want it nice and comfortable, and will
keep it so, and who do want a little of God's world-room to grow
in, that they can't get in the crowded town streets, where the land is
selling by the foot to be all built over with human packing-cases, and
where they have to pay as much for being shut up and smothered, as they
will out here to live and breathe. That Mr. Geoffrey is a glorious man,
Rosamond! He is doing just this same thing in the edges of three or
four other towns, buying up the land just before it gets too dear, to
save for people who could not save it for themselves. He is providing
for a class that nobody seems to have thought of,—the nice,
narrow-pursed people, and the young beginners, who get married and take
the world in the old-fashioned way."
He had no idea he had called her "Rosamond," till he saw the color
shining up so in her face verifying the name. Then it flashed out upon
him as he sent his thought back through the last few sentences that he
“I beg your pardon," he said, suddenly. “But I was so full of this
beautiful doing,—and I always think of you so! Is there a sin in
Rosamond colored deeper yet, and Kenneth grew more bold. He had
spoken it without plan; it had come of itself.
“I can't help it now. I shall say it again, unless you tell me not!
Rosamond! I shall have these houses to build. I am getting ever so much
to do. Could you begin the world with me, Rosamond?"
Rosamond did not say a word for a full minute. She only walked
slowly by his side, her beautiful head inclined gently, shyly; her
sweet face all one bloom, as faces never bloom but once.
Then she turned toward him and put out her hand.
“I will begin the world with you," she said.
And their world—that was begun for them before they were
born—lifted up its veil and showed itself to them, bright in the
* * * * *
Desire Ledwith walked home all alone. She left Dorris at Miss
Waite's, and Helena had teased to stay with her. Mrs. Ledwith had gone
home among the first, taking a seat offered her in Mrs. Tom Friske's
carriage to East Square; she had a headache, and was tired.
Desire felt the old, miserable questions coming up, tempting her.
Why was she left out,—forgotten? Why was there nothing, very much,
in any of this, for her?
Yet underneath the doubting and accusing, something lived—stayed
by—to rebuke it; rose up above it finally, and put it down, though
with a thrust that hurt the heart in which the doubt was trampled.
Wait. Wait—with all your might!
Desire could do nothing very meekly; but she could even wait
with all her might. She put her foot down with a will, at every step.
“I was put here to be Desire Ledwith," she said, relentlessly, to
herself; "not Rosamond Holabird, nor even Dolly. Well, I suppose I can
stay put, and be! If things would only let me be!"
But they will not. Things never do, Desire.
They are coming, now, upon you. Hard things,—and all at once.
XVIII. ALL AT ONCE.
There was a Monday morning train going down from Z——.
Mr. Ledwith and Kenneth Kincaid were in it, reading the morning
papers, seated side by side.
It was nearly a week since the picnic, but the engagement of
Rosamond and Kenneth had not transpired. Mr. Holabird had been away in
New York. Of course nothing was said beyond Mrs. Holabird and Ruth and
Dolly Kincaid, until his return. But Kenneth carried a happy face about
with him, in the streets and in the cars and about his work; and his
speech was quick and bright with the men he met and had need to speak
to. It almost told itself; people might have guessed it, if they had
happened, at least to see the two faces in the same day, and if
they were alive to sympathetic impressions of other people's pain or
joy. There are not many who stop to piece expressions, from pure
sympathy, however; they are, for the most part, too busy putting this
and that together for themselves.
Desire would have guessed it in a minute; but she saw little of
either in this week. Mrs. Ledwith was not well, and there was a dress
to be made for Helena.
Kenneth Kincaid's elder men friends said of him, when they saw him
in these days, "That's a fine fellow; he is doing very well." They
could read that; he carried it in his eye and in his tone and in his
step, and it was true.
It was a hot morning; it would be a stifling day in the city. They
sat quiet while they could, in the cars, taking the fresh air of the
fields and the sea reaches, reading the French news, and saying little.
They came almost in to the city terminus, when the train stopped.
Not at a station. There were people to alight at the last but one;
these grew impatient after a few minutes, and got out and walked.
The train still waited.
Mr. Ledwith finished a column he was reading, and then looked up, as
the conductor came along the passage.
“What is the delay?" he asked of him.
“Freight. Got such a lot of it. Takes a good while to handle."
Freight outward bound. A train making up.
Mr. Ledwith turned to his newspaper again.
Ten minutes went by. Kenneth Kincaid got up and went out, like many
others. They might be kept there half an hour.
Mr. Ledwith had read all his paper, and began to grow impatient. He
put his head out at the window, and looked and listened. Half the
passengers were outside. Brake-men were walking up and down.
“Has he got a flag out there?" says the conductor to one of these.
“Don't know. Can't see. Yes, he has; I heard him whistle brakes."
Just then, their own bell sounded, and men jumped on board. Kenneth
Kincaid came back to his seat.
Behind, there was a long New York train coming in.
Mr. Ledwith put his head out again, and looked back. All right;
there had been a flag; the train had slackened just beyond a curve.
But why will people do such things? What is the use of asking? Mr.
Ledwith still looked out; he could not have told you why.
A quicker motion; a darkening of the window; a freight car standing
upon a siding, close to the switch, as they passed by; a sudden, dull
blow, half unheard in the rumble of the train. Women, sitting behind,
sprang up,—screamed; one dropped, fainting: they had seen a ghastly
sight; warm drops of blood flew in upon them; the car was in commotion.
Kenneth Kincaid, with an exclamation of horror, clutched hold of a
lifeless body that fell—was thrust—backward beside him; the poor head
fractured, shattered, against the fatal window frame.
* * * * *
The eleven o'clock train came out.
People came up the street,—a group of gentlemen, three or
four,—toward Mr. Prendible's house.
Desire sat in a back window behind the blinds, busy. Mrs. Ledwith
was lying on the bed.
Steps came in at the house door.
There was an exclamation; a hush. Mr. Prendible's voice, Kenneth
Kincaid's, Mr. Dimsey's, the minister's.
“O! How? "—Mrs. Prendible's voice, now.
“Where are they?"
Mrs. Ledwith heard.
“What is the matter?"—springing up, with a sudden instinct of
Desire had not seen or heard till now. She dropped her work.
“What is it, mother?"
Mrs. Ledwith was up, upon the floor; in the doorway out in the
passage; trembling; seized all over with a horrible dread and vague
“Tell me what it is!" she cried, to those down below.
They were all there upon the staircase; Mrs. Prendible furthest up.
“O, Mrs. Ledwith!" she cried. “Don't be frightened! Don't
take on! Take it easy,—do!"
Desire rushed down among them; past Mrs. Prendible, past the
minister, straight to Kenneth Kincaid.
Kenneth took her right in his arms, and carried her into a little
“There could have been no pain," he said, tenderly. “It was the
accident of a moment. Be strong,—be patient, dear!"
There had been tender words natural to his lips lately. It was not
strange that in his great pity he used them now.
“My father!" gasped Desire.
“Yes; your father. It was our Father's will."
“Help me to go to my mother!"
She took his hand, half blind, almost reeling.
And then they all, somehow, found themselves up-stairs.
There were moans of pain; there were words of prayer. We have no
right there. It is all told.
* * * * *
“Be strong,—be patient, dear!"
It came back, in the midst of the darkness, the misery; it helped
her through those days; it made her strong for her mother. It comforted
her, she hardly knew how much; but O, how cruel it seemed afterward!
They went directly down to Boston. Mr. Ledwith was buried from their
own house. It was all over; and now, what should they do? Uncle Titus
came to see them. Mrs. Ripwinkley came right back from Homesworth.
Dorris Kincaid left her summer-time all behind, and came to stay with
them a week in Shubarton Place. Mrs. Ledwith craved companionship; her
elder daughters were away; there were these five weeks to go by until
she could hear from them. She would not read their letters that came
now, full of chat and travel.
Poor Laura! her family scattered; her dependence gone; her life all
broken down in a moment!
Dorris Kincaid did not speak of Kenneth and Rosamond. How could she
bring news of others' gladness into that dim and sorrowful house?
Luclarion Grapp shut up her rooms, left her plants and her birds
with Mrs. Gallilee, and came up to Shubarton Place in the beginning.
There were no servants there; everything was adrift; the terrible blows
of life take people between the harness, most unprovided, unawares.
It was only for a little while, until they could hear from the
girls, and make plans. Grant Ledwith's income died with him; there was
ten thousand dollars, life insurance; that would give them a little
more than a sixth part of what his salary had been; and there were the
two thousand a year of Uncle Titus; and the house, on which there was a
twelve thousand dollar mortgage.
Mrs. Ledwith had spent her life in cutting and turning and planning;
after the first shock was over, even her grief was counterpoised and
abated, by the absorption of her thoughts into the old channels. What
they should do, how they should live, what they could have; how it
should be contrived and arranged. Her mind busied itself with all this,
and her trouble was veiled,—softened. She had a dozen different
visions and schemes, projected into their details of residence,
establishment, dress, ordering,—before the letters came, bringing back
the first terribleness in the first reception of and response to it, of
her elder children.
It was so awful to have them away,—on the other side of the world!
If they were only once all together again! Families ought not to
separate. But then, it had been for their good; how could she have
imagined? She supposed she should have done the same again, under the
And then came Mrs. Megilp's letter, delayed a mail, as she would
have delayed entering the room, if they had been rejoined in their
grief, until the family had first been gathered together with their
tears and their embraces.
Then she wrote,—as she would have come in; and her letter, as her
visit would have been, was after a few words of tender condolence,—and
they were very sweet and tender, for Mrs. Megilp knew how to lay
phrases like illuminating gold-leaf upon her meaning,—eminently
practical and friendly, full of judicious, not to say mitigating,
It was well, she thought, that Agatha and Florence were with her.
They had been spared so much; and perhaps if all this had happened
first, they might never have come. As to their return, she thought it
would be a pity; "it could not make it really any better for you," she
said; "and while your plans are unsettled, the fewer you are, the more
easily you will manage. It seems hard to shadow their young lives more
than is inevitable; and new scenes and interests are the very best
things for them; their year of mourning would be fairly blotted out at
home, you know. For yourself, poor friend, of course you cannot care;
and Desire and Helena are not much come forward, but it would be a dead
blank and stop to them, so much lost, right out; and I feel as if it
were a kind Providence for the dear girls that they should be just
where they are. We are living quietly, inexpensively; it will cost no
more to come home at one time than at another;" etc.
There are persons to whom the pastime of life is the whole business
of it; sickness and death and misfortune,—to say nothing of cares and
duties—are the interruptions, to be got rid of as they may.
The next week came more letters; they had got a new idea out there.
Why should not Mrs. Ledwith and the others come and join them? They
were in Munich, now; the schools were splendid; would be just the thing
for Helena; and "it was time for mamma to have a rest."
This thought, among the dozen others, had had its turn in Mrs.
Ledwith's head. To break away, and leave everything, that is the
impulse of natures like hers when things go hard and they cannot shape
them. Only to get off; if she could do that!
Meanwhile, it was far different with Desire.
She was suffering with a deeper pain; not with a sharper loss, for
she had seen so little of her father; but she looked in and back, and
thought of what she ought to miss, and what had never been.
She ought to have known her father better; his life ought to have
been more to her; was it her fault, or, harder yet, had it been his?
This is the sorest thrust of grief; when it is only shock, and pity,
and horror, and after these go by, not grief enough!
The child wrestled with herself, as she always did, questioning,
arraigning. If she could make it all right, in the past, and now; if
she could feel that all she had to do was to be tenderly sorry, and to
love on through the darkness, she would not mind the dark; it would be
only a phase of the life,—the love. But to have lived her life so far,
to have had the relations of it, and yet not to have lived it,
not to have been real child, real sister, not to be real stricken
daughter now, tasting the suffering just as God made it to be
tasted,—was she going through all things, even this, in a vain shadow?
Would not life touch her?
She went away back, strangely, and asked whether she had had any
business to be born? Whether it were a piece of God's truth at all,
that she and all of them should be, and call themselves a household,—a
home? The depth, the beauty of it were so unfulfilled! What was wrong,
and how far back? Living in the midst of superficialities; in the
noontide of a day of shams; putting her hands forth and grasping,
almost everywhere, nothing but thin, hard surface,—she wondered how
much of the world was real; how many came into the world where, and as,
God meant them to come. What it was to "climb up some other way into
the sheepfold," and to be a thief and a robber, even of life!
These were strange thoughts. Desire Ledwith was a strange girl.
But into the midst there crept one comfort; there was one glimpse
out of the darkness into the daylight.
Kenneth Kincaid came in often to see them,—to inquire; just now he
had frequent business in the city; he brought ferns and flowers, that
Dorris gathered and filled into baskets, fresh and damp with moss.
Dorris was a dear friend; she dwelt in the life and the brightness;
she reached forth and gathered, and turned and ministered again. The
ferns and flowers were messages; leaves out of God's living Word, that
she read, found precious, and sent on; apparitions, they seemed
standing forth to sense, and making sweet, true signs from the inner
realm of everlasting love and glory.
And Kenneth,—Desire had never lost out of her heart those
words,—"Be strong,—be patient, dear!"
He did not speak to her of himself; he could not demand
congratulation from her grief; he let it be until she should somehow
learn, and of her own accord, speak to him.
So everybody let her alone, poor child, to her hurt.
The news of the engagement was no Boston news; it was something that
had occurred, quietly enough, among a few people away up in Z——. Of
the persons who came in,—the few remaining in town,—nobody happened
to know or care. The Ripwinkleys did, of course; but Mrs. Ripwinkley
remembered last winter, and things she had read in Desire's
unconscious, undisguising face, and aware of nothing that could be
deepening the mischief now, thinking only of the sufficient burden the
poor child had to bear, thought kindly, "better not."
Meanwhile Mrs. Ledwith was dwelling more and more upon the European
plan. She made up her mind, at last, to ask Uncle Titus. When all was
well, she would not seem to break a compact by going away altogether,
so soon, to leave him; but now,—he would see the difference; perhaps
advise it. She would like to know what he would advise. After all that
had happened,—everything so changed,—half her family abroad,—what
could she do? Would it not be more prudent to join them, than to set up
a home again without them, and keep them out there? And all Helena's
education to provide for, and everything so cheap and easy there, and
so dear and difficult here?
“Now, tell me, truly, uncle, should you object? Should you take it
at all hard? I never meant to have left you, after all you have done;
but you see I have to break up, now poor Grant is gone; we cannot live
as we did before, even with what you do; and—for a little while—it is
cheaper there; and by and by we can come back and make some other plan.
Besides, I feel sometimes as if I must go off; as if there
weren't anything left here for me."
Poor woman! poor girl, still,—whose life had never truly
“I suppose," said Uncle Titus, soberly, "that God shines all round.
He's on this side as much as He is on that."
Mrs. Ledwith looked up out of her handkerchief, with which at that
moment she had covered her eyes.
“I never knew Uncle Titus was pious!" she said to herself. And her
astonishment dried her tears.
He said nothing more that was pious, however; he simply assured her,
then and in conversations afterward, that he should take nothing
"hard;" he never expected to bind her, or put her on parole; he chose
to come to know his relatives, and he had done so; he had also done
what seemed to him right, in return for their meeting him half way;
they were welcome to it all, to take it and use it as they best could,
and as circumstances and their own judgment dictated. If they went
abroad, he should advise them to do it before the winter.
These words implied consent, approval. Mrs. Ledwith went up-stairs
after them with a heart so much lightened that she was very nearly
cheerful. There would be a good deal to do now, and something to look
forward to; the old pulses of activity were quickened. She could live
with those faculties that had been always vital in her, as people
breathe with one live lung; but trouble and change had wrought in her
no deeper or further capacity; had wakened nothing that had never been
The house and furniture were to be sold; they would sail in
When Desire perceived that it was settled, she gave way; she had
said little before; her mother had had many plans, and they amused her;
she would not worry her with opposition; and besides, she was herself
in a secret dream of a hope half understood.
It happened that she told it to Kenneth Kincaid herself; she saw
almost every one who came, instead of her mother; Mrs. Ledwith lived in
her own room chiefly. This was the way in which it had come about, that
nobody noticed or guessed how it was with Desire, and what aspect
Kenneth's friendship and kindness, in the simple history of those few
weeks, might dangerously grow to bear with her.
Except one person. Luclarion Grapp, at last, made up her mind.
Kenneth heard what Desire told him, as he heard all she ever had to
tell, with a gentle interest; comforted her when she said she could not
bear to go, with the suggestion that it might not be for very long; and
when she looked up in his face with a kind of strange, pained wonder,
“But I cannot bear,—I tell you, I cannot bear to go!"
“One can bear all that is right; and out of it the good will come
that we do not know. All times go by. I am sorry—very sorry—that you
must go; but there will be the coming back. We must all wait for that."
She did not know what she looked for; she did not know what she
expected him to mean; she expected nothing; the thought of his
preventing it in any way never entered into her head; she knew, if she
had thought, how he himself was waiting, working. She only wanted
him to care. Was this caring? Much? She could not tell.
“We never can come back," she said, impetuously. “There will
be all the time—everything—between."
He almost spoke to her of it, then; he almost told her that the
everything might be more, not less; that friendships gathered,
multiplied; that there would be one home, he hoped, in which, by and
by, she would often be; in which she would always be a dear and welcome
But she was so sad, so tried; his lips were held; in his pure,
honest kindness, he never dreamt of any harm that his silence might do;
it only seemed so selfish to tell her how bright it was with him.
So he said, smiling,—
“And who knows what the 'everything' may be?" And he took both her
hands in his as he said good-by,—for his little stops were of minutes
on his way, always,—and held them fast, and looked warmly, hopefully
into her face.
It was all for her,—to give her hope and courage; but the light of
it was partly kindled by his own hope and gladness that lay behind; and
how could she know that, or read it right? It was at once too much, and
not enough, for her.
Five minutes after, Luclarion Grapp went by the parlor door with a
pile of freshly ironed linen in her arms, on her way up-stairs.
Desire lay upon the sofa, her face down upon the pillow; her arms
were thrown up, and her hands clasped upon the sofa-arm; her frame
shook with sobs.
Luclarion paused for the time of half a step; then she went on. She
said to herself in a whisper, as she went,—
“It is a stump; a proper hard one! But there's nobody else; and I
have got to tell her!"
* * * * *
That evening, under some pretense of clean towels, Luclarion came up
into Desire's room.
She was sitting alone, by the window, in the dark.
Luclarion fussed round a little; wiped the marble slab and the
basin; set things straight; came over and asked Desire if she should
not put up the window-bars, and light the gas.
“No," said Desire. “I like this best."
So did Luclarion. She had only said it to make time.
“Desire," she said,—she never put the "Miss" on, she had been too
familiar all her life with those she was familiar with at all,—"the
fact is I've got something to say, and I came up to say it."
She drew near—came close,—and laid her great, honest, faithful
hand on the back of Desire Ledwith's chair, put the other behind her
own waist, and leaned over her.
“You see, I'm a woman, Desire, and I know. You needn't mind me, I'm
an old maid; that's the way I do know. Married folks, even mothers,
half the time forget. But old maids never forget. I've had my stumps,
and I can see that you've got yourn. But you'd ought to understand; and
there's nobody, from one mistake and another, that's going to tell you.
It's awful hard; it will be a trouble to you at first,"—and
Luclarion's strong voice trembled tenderly with the sympathy that her
old maid heart had in it, after, and because of, all those years,—"but
“What!" cried Desire, starting to her feet, with a sudden
“Is going to be married to Rosamond Holabird," said Luclarion, very
gently. “There! you ought to know, and I have told you."
“What makes you suppose that that would be a trouble to me?" blazed
Desire. “How do you dare"—
“I didn't dare; but I had to!" sobbed Luclarion, putting her arms
right round her.
And then Desire—as she would have done at any rate, for that blaze
was the mere flash of her own shame and pain—broke down with a moan.
“All at once! All at once!" she said piteously, and hid her face in
And Luclarion folded her close; hugged her, the good woman, in her
love that was sisterly and motherly and all, because it was the love of
an old maid, who had endured, for a young maid upon whom the endurance
was just laid,—and said, with the pity of heaven in the words,—
“Yes. All at once. But the dear Lord stands by. Take hold of His
hand,—and bear with all your might!"
“Do you think, Luclarion," said Desire, feebly, as Luclarion came to
take away her bowl of chicken broth,—"that it is my duty to go
“I don't know," said Luclarion, standing with the little waiter in
her right hand, her elbow poised upon her hip,—"I've thought of that,
and I don't know. There's most generally a stump, you see, one
way or another, and that settles it, but here there's one both ways.
I've kinder lost my road: come to two blazes, and can't tell which.
Only, it ain't my road, after all. It lays between the Lord and you,
and I suppose He means it shall. Don't you worry; there'll be some sort
of a sign, inside or out. That's His business, you've just got to keep
still, and get well."
Desire had asked her mother, before this, if she would care very
much,—no, she did not mean that,—if she would be disappointed, or
disapprove, that she should stay behind.
“Stay behind? Not go to Europe? Why, where could you stay?
What would you do?"
“There would be things to do, and places to stay," Desire had
answered, constrainedly. “I could do like Dorris."
“No. I don't know music. But I might teach something I do know. Or I
could—rip," she said, with an odd smile, remembering something she had
said one day so long ago; the day the news came up to Z—— from Uncle
Oldways. “And I might make out to put together for other people, and
for a real business. I never cared to do it just for myself."
“It is perfectly absurd," said Mrs Ledwith. “You couldn't be left to
take care of yourself. And if you could, how it would look! No; of
course you must go with us."
“But do you care?"
“Why, if there were any proper way, and if you really hate so to
go,—but there isn't," said Mrs. Ledwith, not very grammatically or
“She doesn't care," said Desire to herself, after her mother
had left her, turning her face to the pillow, upon which two tears ran
slowly down. “And that is my fault, too, I suppose. I have never been
Lying there, she made up her mind to one thing. She would get Uncle
Titus to come, and she would talk to him.
“He won't encourage me in any notions," she said to herself. “And I
mean now, if I can find it out, to do the thing God means; and then I
suppose,—I believe,—the snarl will begin to unwind."
Meanwhile, Luclarion, when she had set a nice little bowl of
tea-muffins to rise, and had brought up a fresh pitcher of ice-water
into Desire's room, put on her bonnet and went over to Aspen Street for
Down in the kitchen, at Mrs. Ripwinkley's, they were having a nice
Their girl had gone. Since Luclarion left, they had fallen into that
Gulf-stream which nowadays runs through everybody's kitchen. Girls
came, and saw, and conquered in their fashion; they muddled up, and
The nice times were in the intervals when they had gone away.
Mrs. Ripwinkley did not complain; it was only her end of the
"stump;" why should she expect to have a Luclarion Grapp to serve her
all her life?
This last girl had gone as soon as she found out that Sulie Praile
was "no relation, and didn't anyways belong there, but had been took
in." She "didn't go for to come to work in an Insecution. She
had always been used to first-class private families."
Girls will not stand any added numbers, voluntarily assumed, or even
involuntarily befalling; they will assist in taking up no new
responsibilities; to allow things to remain as they are, and cannot
help being, is the depth of their condescension,—the extent of what
they will put up with. There must be a family of some sort, of course,
or there would not be a "place;" that is what the family is made for;
but it must be established, no more to fluctuate; that is, you may go
away, some of you, if you like, or you may die; but nobody must come
home that has been away, and nobody must be born. As to anybody being
"took in!" Why, the girl defined it; it was not being a family, but an
So the three—Diana, and Hazel, and Sulie—were down in the kitchen;
Mrs. Ripwinkley was busy in the dining-room close by; there was a
berry-cake to be mixed up for an early tea. Diana was picking over the
berries, Hazel was chopping the butter into the flour, and Sulie on a
low cushioned seat in a corner—there was one kept ready for her in
every room in the house, and Hazel and Diana carried her about in an
"arm-chair," made of their own clasped hands and wrists, wherever they
all wanted to go,—Sulie was beating eggs.
Sulie did that so patiently; you see she had no temptation to jump
up and run off to anything else. The eggs turned, under her fingers,
into thick, creamy, golden froth, fine to the last possible
divisibility of the little air-bubbles.
They could not do without Sulie now. They had had her for "all
winter;" but in that winter she had grown into their home.
“Why," said Hazel to her mother, when they had the few words about
it that ended in there being no more words at all,—"that's the way
children are born into houses, isn't it? They just come; and
they're new and strange at first, and seem so queer. And then after a
while you can't think how the places were, and they not in them. Sulie
So Sulie beat eggs, and darned stockings, and painted her lovely
little flower-panels and racks and easels, and did everything that
could be done, sitting still in her round chair, or in the cushioned
corners made for her; and was always in the kitchen, above all, when
any pretty little cookery was going forward.
Vash ran in and out from the garden, and brought balsamine blossoms,
from which she pulled the little fairy slippers, and tried to match
them in pairs; and she picked off the "used-up and puckered-up" morning
glories, which she blew into at the tube-end, and "snapped" on the back
of her little brown hand.
Wasn't that being good for anything, while berry-cake was making?
The girls thought it was; as much as the balsamine blossoms were good
for anything, or the brown butterflies with golden spots on their
wings, that came and lived among them. The brown butterflies were a
"piece of the garden;" little brown Vash was a piece of the house.
Besides, she would eat some of the berry-cake when it was made; wasn't
that worth while? She would have a "little teenty one" baked all for
herself in a tin pepper-pot cover. Isn't that the special pleasantness
of making cakes where little children are?
Vash was always ready for an "Aaron," too; they could not do without
her, any more than without Sulie. Pretty soon, when Diana should have
left school, and Vash should be a little bigger, they meant to
"cooeperate," as the Holabirds had done at Westover.
Of course, they knew a great deal about the Holabirds by this time.
Hazel had stayed a week with Dorris at Miss Waite's; and one of Witch
Hazel's weeks among "real folks" was like the days or hours in fairy
land, that were years on the other side. She found out so much and grew
so close to people.
Hazel and Ruth Holabird were warm friends. And Hazel was to be
Ruth's bridesmaid, by and by!
For Ruth Holabird was going to be married to Dakie Thayne.
“That seemed so funny," Hazel said. “Ruth didn't look any
older than she did; and Mr. Dakie Thayne was such a nice boy!"
He was no less a man, either; he had graduated among the first three
at West Point; he was looking earnestly for the next thing that he
should do in life with his powers and responsibilities; he did not
count his marrying a separate thing; that had grown up alongside
and with the rest; of course he could do nothing without Ruth; that was
just what he had told her; and she,—well Ruth was always a sensible
little thing, and it was just as plain to her as it was to him. Of
course she must help him think and plan; and when the plans were made,
it would take two to carry them out; why, yes, they must be married.
What other way would there be?
That wasn't what she said, but that was the quietly natural
and happy way in which it grew to be a recognized thing in her mind,
that pleasant summer after he came straight home to them with his
honors and his lieutenant's commission in the Engineers; and his
hearty, affectionate taking-for-granted; and it was no surprise or
question with her, only a sure and very beautiful "rightness," when it
came openly about.
Dakie Thayne was a man; the beginning of a very noble one; but it is
the noblest men that always keep a something of the boy. If you had not
seen anything more of Dakie Thayne until he should be forty years old,
you would then see something in him which would be precisely the same
that it was at Outledge, seven years ago, with Leslie Goldthwaite, and
among the Holabirds at Westover, in his first furlough from West Point.
Luclarion came into the Ripwinkley kitchen just as the cakes—the
little pepper-pot one and all—were going triumphantly into the oven,
and Hazel was baring her little round arms to wash the dishes, while
Diana tended the pans.
Mrs. Ripwinkley heard her old friend's voice, and came out.
“That girl ought to be here with you; or somewheres else than where
she is, or is likely to be took," said Luclarion, as she looked round
and sat down, and untied her bonnet-strings.
Miss Grapp hated bonnet-strings; she never endured them a minute
longer than she could help.
“Desire?" asked Mrs. Ripwinkley, easily comprehending.
“Yes; Desire. I tell you she has a hard row to hoe, and she wants
comforting. She wants to know if it is her duty to go to Yourup with
her mother. Now it may be her duty to be willing to go; but it
ain't anybody's else duty to let her. That's what came to me as I was
coming along. I couldn't tell her so, you see, because it would
interfere with her part; and that's all in the tune as much as any;
only we've got to chime in with our parts at the right stroke, the Lord
being Leader. Ain't that about it, Mrs. Ripwinkley?"
“If we are sure of the score, and can catch the sign," said Mrs.
“Well, I've sung mine; it's only one note; I may have to keep
hammering on it; that's according to how many repeats there are to be.
Mr. Oldways, he ought to know, for one. Amongst us, we have got to lay
our heads together, and work it out. She's a kind of an odd chicken in
that brood; and my belief is she's like the ugly duck Hazel used to
read about. But she ought to have a chance; if she's a swan, she
oughtn't to be trapesed off among the weeds and on the dry ground.
'Tisn't even ducks she's hatched with; they don't take to the same
“I'll speak to Uncle Titus, and I will think," said Mrs. Ripwinkley.
But before she did that, that same afternoon by the six o'clock
penny post, a little note went to Mr. Oldways:—
"DEAR UNCLE TITUS,—
"I want to talk with you a little. If I were well, I should
come to see you in your study. Will you come up here, and see
me in my room?
"Yours sincerely, DESIRE LEDWITH."
Uncle Titus liked that. It counted upon something in him which few
had the faith to count upon; which, truly he gave few people reason to
expect to find.
He put his hat directly on, took up his thick brown stick, and
trudged off, up Borden Street to Shubarton Place.
When Luclarion let him in, he told her with some careful emphasis,
that he had come to see Desire.
“Ask her if I shall come up," he said. “I'll wait down here."
Helena was practicing in the drawing-room. Mrs. Ledwith lay, half
asleep, upon a sofa. The doors into the hall were shut,—Luclarion had
looked to that, lest the playing should disturb Desire.
Luclarion was only gone three minutes. Then she came back, and led
Mr. Oldways up three flights of stairs.
“It's a long climb, clear from the door," she said.
“I can climb," said Mr. Oldways, curtly.
“I didn't expect it was going to stump you," said Luclarion,
just as short in her turn. “But I thought I'd be polite enough to
There came a queer little chuckling wheeze from somewhere, like a
whispered imitation of the first few short pants of a steam-engine:
that was Uncle Titus, laughing to himself.
Luclarion looked down behind her, out of the corner of her eyes, as
she turned the landing. Uncle Titus's head was dropped between his
shoulders, and his shoulders were shaking up and down. But he kept his
big stick clutched by the middle, in one hand, and the other just
touched the rail as he went up. Uncle Titus was not out of breath. Not
he. He could laugh and climb.
Desire was sitting up for a little while, before going to bed again
for the night. There was a low gas-light burning by the dressing-table,
ready to turn up when the twilight should be gone; and a street lamp,
just lighted, shone across into the room. Luclarion had been sitting
with her, and her gray knitting-work lay upon the chair that she
offered when she had picked it up, to Mr. Oldways. Then she went away
and left them to their talk.
“Mrs. Ripwinkley has been spry about it," she said to herself, going
softly down the stairs. “But she always was spry."
“You're getting well, I hope," said Uncle Titus, seating himself,
after he had given Desire his hand.
“I suppose so," said Desire, quietly. “That was why I wanted to see
you. I want to know what I ought to do when I am well."
“How can I tell?" asked Uncle Titus, bluntly.
“Better than anybody I can ask. The rest are all too sympathizing. I
am afraid they would tell me as I wish they should."
“And I don't sympathize? Well, I don't think I do much. I haven't
been used to it."
“You have been used to think what was right; and I believe you would
tell me truly. I want to know whether I ought to go to Europe with my
“Why not? Doesn't she want you to go?"—and Uncle Titus was sharp
“I suppose so; that is, I suppose she expects I will. But I don't
know that I should be much except a hindrance to her. And I think I
could stay and do something here, in some way. Uncle Titus, I hate the
thought of going to Europe! Now, don't you suppose I ought to go?"
“Why do you hate the thought of going to Europe?" asked Uncle
Titus, regarding her with keenness.
“Because I have never done anything real in all my life!" broke
forth Desire. “And this seems only plastering and patching what can't
be patched. I want to take hold of something. I don't want to float
round any more. What is there left of all we have ever tried to do, all
these years? Of all my poor father's work, what is there to show for it
now? It has all melted away as fast as it came, like snow on pavements;
and now his life has melted away; and I feel as if we had never been
anything real to each other! Uncle Titus, I can't tell you how I
Uncle Titus sat very still. His hat was in one hand, and both
together held his cane, planted on the floor between his feet. Over hat
and cane leaned his gray head, thoughtfully. If Desire could have seen
his eyes, she would have found in them an expression that she had never
supposed could be there at all.
She had not so much spoken to Uncle Titus, in these last
words of hers, as she had irresistibly spoken out that which was
in her. She wanted Uncle Titus's good common sense and sense of right
to help her decide; but the inward ache and doubt and want, out of
which grew her indecisions,—these showed themselves forth at that
moment simply because they must, with no expectation of a response from
him. It might have been a stone wall that she cried against; she would
have cried all the same.
Then it was over, and she was half ashamed, thinking it was of no
use, and he would not understand; perhaps that he would only set the
whole down to nerves and fidgets and contrariness, and give her no
common sense that she wanted, after all.
But Uncle Titus spoke, slowly; much as if he, too, were speaking out
involuntarily, without thought of his auditor. People do so speak, when
the deep things are stirred; they speak into the deep that answereth
unto itself,—the deep that reacheth through all souls, and all living,
whether souls feel into it and know of it or not.
“The real things are inside," he said. “The real world is the inside
world. God is not up, nor down, but in the midst."
Then he looked up at Desire.
“What is real of your life is living inside you now. That is
something. Look at it and see what it is."
“Discontent. Misery. Failure."
“Sense of failure. Well. Those are good things. The beginning
of better. Those are live things, at any rate."
Desire had never thought of that.
Now she sat still awhile.
Then she said,—"But we can't be much, without doing it. I
suppose we are put into a world of outsides for something."
“Yes. To find out what it means. That's the inside of it. And to
help make the outside agree with the in, so that it will be easier for
other people to find out. That is the 'kingdom come and will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.' Heaven is the inside,—the truth of
“Why, I never knew"—began Desire, astonished. She had almost
finished aloud, as her mother had done in her own mind. She never knew
that Uncle Oldways was "pious."
“Never knew that was what it meant? What else can it mean? What do
you suppose the resurrection was, or is?"
Desire answered with a yet larger look of wonder, only in the dim
light it could not be wholly seen.
“The raising up of the dead; Christ coming up out of the tomb."
“The coming out of the tomb was a small part of it; just what could
not help being, if the rest was. Jesus Christ rose out of dead
things, I take it, into these very real ones that we are talking
of, and so lived in them. The resurrection is a man's soul coming alive
to the soul of creation—God's soul. That is eternal life, and
what Jesus of Nazareth was born to show. Our coming to that is our
being 'raised with Him;' and it begins, or ought to, a long way this
side the tomb. If people would only read the New Testament, expecting
to get as much common sense and earnest there as they do among the new
lights and little 'progressive-thinkers' that are trying to find it all
out over again, they might spare these gentlemen and themselves a great
deal of their trouble."
The exclamation rose half-way to her lips again,—"I never knew you
thought like this. I never heard you talk of these things before!"
But she held it back, because she would not stop him by reminding
him that he was talking. It was just the truth that was saying
itself. She must let it say on, while it would.
She stopped there, at the first syllable. She would not even call
him "Uncle Titus" again, for fear of recalling him to himself, and
hushing him up.
“There is something—isn't there—about those who attain to
that resurrection; those who are worthy? I suppose there must be
some who are just born to this world, then, and never—'born again?'"
“It looks like it, sometimes; who can tell?"
“Uncle Oldways,"—it came out this time in her earnestness, and her
strong personal appeal,—"do you think there are some people—whole
families of people—who have no business in the reality of things to be
at all? Who are all a mistake in the world, and have nothing to do with
its meaning? I have got to feeling sometimes lately, as if—I
—had never had any business to be."
She spoke slowly—awe-fully. It was a strange speech for a girl in
her nineteenth year. But she was a girl in this nineteenth century,
also; and she had caught some of the thoughts and questions of it, and
mixed them up with her own doubts and unsatisfactions which they could
“The world is full of mistakes; mistakes centuries long; but it is
full of salvation and setting to rights, also. 'The kingdom of heaven
is like leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal till the
whole was leavened.' You have been allowed to be, Desire
Ledwith. And so was the man that was born blind. And I think there is a
colon put into the sentence about him, where a comma was meant to be."
Desire did not ask him, then, what he meant; but she turned to the
story after he had gone, and found this:—
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works
of God should be manifest in him."
You can see, if you look also, where she took the colon out, and put
the comma in.
Were all the mistakes—the sins, even—for the very sake of the pure
blessedness and the more perfect knowledge of the setting right?
Desire began to think that Uncle Oldways' theology might help her.
What she said to him now was,—
“I want to do something. I should like to go and live with
Luclarion, I think, down there in Neighbor Street. I should like to
take hold of some other lives,—little children's, perhaps,"—and here
Desire's voice softened,—"that don't seem to have any business to be,
either, and see if I could help or straighten anything. Then I feel is
if I should know."
“Then—according to the Scripture—you would know.
But—that's undertaking a good deal. Luclarion Grapp has got there; but
she has been fifty-odd years upon the road. And she has been doing real
things all the time. That's what has brought her there. You can't boss
the world's hard jobs till you've been a journeyman at the easy ones."
“And I've missed my apprenticeship!" said Desire, with changed voice
and face, falling back into her disheartenment again.
“No!" Uncle Oldways almost shouted. “Not if you come to the Master
who takes in the eleventh hour workers. And it isn't the eleventh hour
He dwelt on that word "child," reminding her of her short mistaking
and of the long retrieval. Her nineteen years and the forever and ever
contrasted themselves before her suddenly, in the light of hope.
She turned sharply, though, to look at her duty. Her journeyman's
duty of easy things.
“Must I go to Europe with my mother?" she asked again, the
conversation coming round to just that with which it had begun.
“I'll talk with your mother," said Uncle Oldways, getting up and
looking into his hat, as a man always does when he thinks of putting it
on presently. “Good-night. I suppose you are tired enough now. I'll
come again and see you."
Desire stood up and gave him her hand.
“I thank you, Uncle Titus, with all my heart."
He did not answer her a word; but he knew she meant it.
He did not stop that night to see his niece. He went home, to think
it over. But as he walked down Borden Street, swinging his big stick,
he said to himself,—
“Next of kin! Old Marmaduke Wharne was right. But it takes more than
the Family Bible to tell you which it is!"
Two days after, he had a talk with Mrs. Ledwith which relieved both
From the brown-and-apricot drawing-room,—from among the things that
stood for nothing now, and had never stood for home,—he went straight
up, without asking, and knocked at Desire's third-story door.
“Come in!" she said, without a note of expectation in her voice.
She had had a dull morning. Helena had brought her a novel from
Loring's that she could not read. Novels, any more than life, cannot be
read with very much patience, unless they touch something besides
surface. Why do critics—some of them—make such short, smart
work,—such cheerful, confident despatch, nowadays, of a story with
religion in it, as if it were an abnormity,—a thing with sentence of
death in itself, like a calf born with two heads,—that needs not their
trouble, save to name it as it is? Why, that is, if religion stand for
the relation of things to spirit, which I suppose it should? Somebody
said that somebody had written a book made up of "spiritual struggles
and strawberry short-cake." That was bright and funny; and it seemed to
settle the matter; but, taking strawberry short-cake representatively,
what else is human experience on earth made up of? And are novels to be
pictures of human experience, or not?
This has nothing to do with present matters, however, except that
Desire found nothing real in her novel, and so had flung it aside, and
was sitting rather listlessly with her crochet which she never cared
much for, when Uncle Oldways entered.
Her face brightened instantly as he came in. He sat down just where
he had sat the other night. Mr. Oldways had a fashion of finding the
same seat a second time when he had come in once; he was a man who took
up most things where he left them off, and this was an unconscious sign
“Your mother has decided to sell the house on the 23d, it seems," he
“Yes; I have been out twice. I shall be able to go away by then; I
suppose that is all she has waited for."
“Do you think you could be contented to come and live with me?"
“Come and live?"
“Yes. And let your mother and Helena go to Europe."
“O, Uncle Oldways! I think I could rest there! But I don't
want only to rest, you know. I must do something. For myself, to begin
with. I have made up my mind not to depend upon my mother. Why should
I, any more than a boy? And I am sure I cannot depend on anybody else."
These were Desire Ledwith's thanks; and Mr. Oldways liked them. She
did not say it to please him; she thought it seemed almost ungrateful
and unwilling; but she was so intent on taking up life for herself.
“You must have a place to do in,—or from," said Mr. Oldways. “And
it is better you should be under some protection. You must consent to
that for your mother's sake. How much money have you got?"
“Two hundred and fifty dollars a year. Of my own."
This was coming to business and calculation and common sense. Desire
was encouraged. Uncle Oldways did not think her quite absurd.
“That will clothe you,—without much fuss and feathers?"
“I have done with fuss and feathers,"—Desire said with a grave
smile, glancing at her plain white wrapper and the black shawl that was
folded around her.
“Then come where is room for you and a welcome, and do as much more
as you please, and can, for yourself, or for anybody else. I won't give
you a cent; you shall have something to do for me, if you choose. I am
an old man now, and want help. Perhaps what I want as much as anything
is what I've been all my life till lately, pretty obstinate in doing
Uncle Oldways spoke short, and drew his breath in and puffed it out
between his sentences, in his bluff way; but his eyes were kind, as he
sat looking at the young girl over his hat and cane.
She thought of the still, gray parlor; of Rachel Froke and her face
of peace; and the Quaker meeting and the crumbs last year; of Uncle
Oldways' study, and his shelves rich with books; of the new
understanding that had begun between herself and him, and the faith she
had found out, down beneath his hard reserves; of the beautiful
neighborhood, Miss Craydocke's Beehive, Aunt Franks' cheery home and
the ways of it, and Hazel's runnings in and out. It seemed as if the
real things had opened for her, and a place been made among them in
which she should have "business to be," and from which her life might
make a new setting forth.
“And mamma knows?" she said, inquiringly, after that long pause.
“Yes. I told you I would talk with her. That is what we came to. It
is only for you to say, now."
“I will come. I shall be glad to come!" And her face was full of
light as she looked up and said it.
* * * * *
Desire never thought for a moment of what her mother could not help
thinking of; of what Mrs. Megilp thought and said, instantly, when she
learned it three weeks later.
It is wonderful how abiding influence is,—even influence to which
we are secretly superior,—if ever we have been subjected to, or
allowed ourselves to be swayed by it. The veriest tyranny of discipline
grows into one's conscience, until years after, when life has got
beyond the tyranny, conscience,—or something superinduced upon
it,—keeps up the echo of the old mandates, and one can take no comfort
in doing what one knows all the time one has a perfect right, besides
sound reason, to do. It was a great while before our grandmothers'
daughters could peaceably stitch and overcast a seam, instead of
over-sewing and felling it. I know women who feel to this moment as if
to sit down and read a book of a week-day, in the daytime, were playing
truant to the needle, though all the sewing-machines on the one hand,
and all the demand and supply of mental culture on the other, of this
present changed and bettered time, protest together against the
Mrs. Ledwith had heard the Megilp precepts and the Megilp
forth-putting of things, until involuntarily everything showed itself
to her in a Megilp light. The Megilp "sense of duty," therefore, came
up as she unhesitatingly assented to Uncle Oldways' proposal and
request. He wanted Desire; of course she could not say a word; she owed
him something, which she was glad she could so make up; and secretly
there whispered in her mind the suggestion which Mrs. Megilp, on the
other side of the water, spoke right out.
“If he wants her, he must mean something by her. He is an old man;
he might not live to give her back into her mother's keeping; what
would she do there, in that old house of his, if he should die,
unless—he does mean something? He has taken a fancy to her; she
is odd, as he is; and he isn't so queer after all, but that his
crotchets have a good, straightforward sense of justice in them. Uncle
Titus knows what he is about; and what's more, just what he ought to be
about. It is a good thing to have Desire provided for; she is
uncomfortable and full of notions, and she isn't likely ever to be
So Desire was given up, easily, she could not help feeling; but she
knew she had been a puzzle and a vexation to her mother, and that Mrs.
Ledwith had never had the least idea what to do with her; least of all
had she now, what she should do with her abroad.
“It was so much better for her that Uncle Titus had taken her home."
With these last words Mrs. Ledwith reassured herself and cheered her
Perhaps it would have been the same—it came into Desire's head,
that would conceive strange things—if the angels had taken her.
Mrs. Ledwith went to New York; she stayed a few days with Mrs.
Macmichael, who wanted her to buy lace for her in Brussels and Bohemian
glass in Prague; then a few days more with her cousin, Geraldine
Raxley; and then the City of Antwerp sailed.
XX. NEIGHBORS AND NEXT OF KIN.
“I'll tell you what to do with them, Luclarion," said Hazel briskly.
"Teach them to play."
“Music! Pianners!" exclaimed Luclarion, dismayed.
“No. Games. Teach them to have good times. That was the first thing
ever we learnt, wasn't it, Dine? And we never could have got along
“It takes you!" said Luclarion, looking at Hazel with
“Does it? Well I don't know but it does. May I go, mother?
Luclarion, haven't you got a great big empty room up at the top of the
“That's just what it's for, then. Couldn't Mr. Gallilee put up a
swing? And a 'flying circle' in the middle? You see they can't go out
on the roofs; so they must have something else that will seem kind of
flighty. And I'll tell you how they'll learn their letters.
Sulie and I will paint 'em; great big ones, all colors; and hang 'em up
with ribbons, and every child that learns one, so as to know it
everywhere, shall take it down and carry it home. Then we will have
marbles for numbers; and they shall play addition games, and
multiplication games, and get the sums for prizes; the ones that get to
the head, you know. Why, you don't understand objects,
Luclarion had been telling them of the wild little folk of Neighbor
Street, and worse, of Arctic Street. She wanted to do something with
them. She had tried to get them in with gingerbread and popcorn; they
came in fast enough for those; but they would not stay. They were
digging in the gutters and calling names; learning the foul language of
the places into which they were born; chasing and hiding in alley-ways;
filching, if they could, from shops; going off begging with lies on
their lips. It was terrible to see the springs from which the life of
the city depths was fed.
“If you could stop it there!" Luclarion said, and said with
“Will you let me go?" asked Hazel of her mother, in good earnest.
“'Twon't hurt her," put in Luclarion. “Nothing's catching that you
haven't got the seeds of in your own constitution. And so the catching
will be the other way."
The seeds of good,—to catch good; that was what Luclarion Grapp
believed in, in those dirty little souls,—no, those clean little
souls, overlaid with all outward mire and filth of body, clothing,
speech, and atmosphere, for a mile about; through which they could no
more grope and penetrate, to reach their own that was hidden from them
in the clearer life beyond, than we can grope and reach to other stars.
“I will get Desire," quoth Hazel, inspired as she always was, both
Running in at the house in Greenley Street the next Thursday, she
ran against Uncle Titus coming out.
“What now?" he demanded.
“Desire," said Hazel. “I've come for her. We're wanted at
Luclarion's. We've got work to do."
“Humph! Work? What kind?"
“Play," said Hazel, laughing. She delighted to bother and mystify
Uncle Titus, and imagined that she did.
“I thought so. Tea parties?"
“Something like," said Hazel. “There are children down there that
don't know how to grow up. They haven't any comfortable sort of fashion
of growing up. Somebody has got to teach them. They don't know how to
play 'Grand Mufti,' and they never heard of 'King George and his
troops.' Luclarion tried to make them sit still and learn letters; but
of course they wouldn't a minute longer than the gingerbread lasted,
and they are eating her out of house and home. It will take young
folks, and week-days, you see; so Desire and I are going." And Hazel
ran up the great, flat-stepped staircase.
“Lives that have no business to be," said Uncle Titus to himself,
going down the brick walk. "The Lord has His own ways of bringing lives
together. And His own business gets worked out among them, beyond their
guessing. When a man grows old, he can stand still now and then, and
see a little."
It was a short cross street that Luclarion lived in, between two
great thoroughfares crowded with life and business, bustle, drudgery,
idleness, and vice. You will not find the name I give it,—although you
may find one that will remind you of it,—in any directory or on any
city map. But you can find the places without the names; and if you go
down there with the like errands in your heart, you will find the work,
as she found it, to do.
She heard the noise of street brawls at night, voices of men and
women quarreling in alley-ways, and up in wretched garrets; flinging up
at each other, in horrible words, all the evil they knew of in each
other's lives,—"away back," Luclarion said, "to when they were little
“And what is it," she would say to Mrs. Ripwinkley telling her about
it, "that flings it up, and can call it a shame, after all the
shames of years and years? Except just that that the little
children were, underneath, when the Lord let them—He knows
why—be born so? I tell you, ma'am, it's a mystery; and the nigher you
come to it, the more it is; it's a piece of hell and a piece of heaven;
it's the wrastle of the angel and the dragon; and it's going on at one
end, while they're building up their palaces and living soft and sweet
and clean at the other, with everything hushed up that can't at least
seem right and nice and proper. I know there's good folks there, in
the palaces; beautiful folks; there, and all the way down
between; with God's love in them, and His hate, that is holy, against
sin; and His pity, that is prayers in them, for all people and
places that are dark; but if they would come down there, and
take hold! I think it's them that would, that might have part in the
first resurrection, and live and reign the thousand years."
Luclarion never counted herself among them,—those who were to have
thrones and judgments; she forgot, even, that she had gone down and
taken hold; her words came burning-true, out of her soul; and in the
heat of truth they were eloquent.
But I meant to tell you of her living.
In the daytime it was quiet; the gross evils crept away and hid from
the sunshine; there was labor to take up the hours, for those who did
labor; and you might not know or guess, to go down those avenues, that
anything worse gathered there than the dust of the world's traffic that
the lumbering drays ground up continually with their wheels, and the
wind,—that came into the city from far away country places of green
sweetness, and over hills and ponds and streams and woods,—flung into
the little children's faces.
Luclarion had taken a house,—one of two, that fronted upon a little
planked court; aside, somewhat, from Neighbor Street, as that was a
slight remove from the absolute terrible contact of Arctic Street. But
it was in the heart of that miserable quarter; she could reach out her
hands and touch and gather in, if it would let her, the wretchedness.
She had chosen a place where it was possible for her to make a nook of
refuge, not for herself only, or so much, as for those to whom she
would fain be neighbor, and help to a better living.
It had been once a dwelling of some well-to-do family of the days
gone by; of some merchant, whose ventures went out and came in at those
wharves below, whence the air swept up pure, then, with its salt smell,
into the streets. The rooms were fairly large; Luclarion spent money
out of her own little property, that had been growing by care and
saving till she could spare from it, in doing her share toward having
it all made as sweet and clean as mortar and whitewash and new
pine-boards and paint and paper could make it. All that was left of the
old, they scoured with carbolic soap; and she had the windows opened,
and in the chimneys that had been swept of their soot she had clear
fires made and kept burning for days.
Then she put her new, plain furnishings into her own two down-stairs
rooms; and the Gallilees brought in theirs above; and beside them, she
found two decent families,—a German paper-hanger's, and that of a
carpenter at one of the theatres, whose wife worked at dressmaking,—to
take the rest. Away up, at the very top, she had the wide, large room
that Hazel spoke of, and a smaller one to which she climbed to sleep,
for the sake of air as near heaven as it could be got.
One of her lower-rooms was her living and housekeeping room; the
other she turned into a little shop, in which she sold tapes and
needles and cheap calicoes and a few ribbons; and kept a counter on the
opposite side for bread and yeast, gingerbread, candy, and the like.
She did this partly because she must do something to help out the money
for her living and her plans, and partly to draw the women and children
in. How else could she establish any relations between herself and
them, or get any permanent hold or access? She had "turned it all over
in her mind," she said; "and a tidy little shop with fair, easy prices,
was the very thing, and a part of just what she came down there to do."
She made real, honest, hop-raised bread, of sweet flour that she
gave ten dollars a barrel for; it took a little more than a pint,
perhaps, to make a tea loaf; that cost her three cents; she sold her
loaf for four, and it was better than they could get anywhere else for
five. Then, three evenings in a week, she had hot muffins, or crumpets,
home-made; (it was the subtle home touch and flavor that she counted
on, to carry more than a good taste into their mouths, even a dim
notion of home sweetness and comfort into their hearts;) these
first,—a quart of flour at five cents, two eggs at a cent apiece, and
a bit of butter, say three cents more, with three cents worth of milk,
made an outlay of fifteen cents for a dozen and a half; so she sold
them for ten cents a dozen, and the like had never been tasted or
dreamed of in all that region round about; no, nor I dare almost to
say, in half the region round about Republic Avenue either, where they
cannot get Luclarion Grapps to cook.
The crumpets were cheaper; they were only bread-sponge, baked on a
griddle; they were large, and light and tender; a quart of flour would
make ten; she gave the ten for seven cents.
And do you see, putting two cents on every quart of her flour, for
her labor, she earned, not made,—that word is for
speculators and brokers,—with a barrel of one hundred and ninety six
pounds or quarts, three dollars and ninety-two cents? The beauty of it
was, you perceive, that she did a small business; there was an eager
market for all she could produce, and there was no waste to allow a
I am not a bit of a political economist myself; but I have a shrewd
suspicion that Luclarion Grapp was, besides having hit upon the
initial, individual idea of a capital social and philanthropic
This was all she tried to do at first; she began with bread; the
Lord from heaven began with that; she fed as much of the multitude as
she could reach; they gathered about her for the loaves; and they got,
consciously or unconsciously, more than they came or asked for.
They saw her clean-swept floor; her netted windows that kept the
flies out, the clean, coarse white cotton shades,—tacked up, and
rolled and tied with cord, country-fashion, for Luclarion would not set
any fashions that her poor neighbors might not follow if they
would;—and her shelves kept always dusted down; they could see her way
of doing that, as they happened in at different times, when she whisked
about, lightly and nicely, behind and between her jars and boxes and
parcels with the little feather duster that she kept hanging over her
table where she made her change and sat at her sewing.
They grew ashamed by degrees,—those coarse women,—to come in in
their frowsy rags, to buy her delicate muffins or her white loaves;
they would fling on the cleanest shawl they had or could borrow, to
"cut round to Old Maid Grapp's," after a cent's worth of yeast,—for
her yeast, also, was like none other that could be got, and would
almost make her own beautiful bread of itself.
Back of the shop was her house-room; the cheapest and cleanest of
carpet,—a square, bound round with bright-striped
carpet-binding,—laid in the middle of a clean dark yellow floor; a
plain pine table, scoured white, standing in the middle of that; on it,
at tea-time, common blue and white crockery cups and plates, and a
little black teapot; a napkin, coarse, but fresh from the fold, laid
down to save, and at the same time to set off, with a touch of delicate
neatness, the white table; a wooden settee, with a home-made
calico-covered cushion and pillows, set at right angles with the large,
black, speckless stove; a wooden rocking-chair, made comfortable in
like manner, on the other side; the sink in the corner, clean, freshly
rinsed, with the bright tin basin hung above it on a nail.
There was nothing in the whole place that must not be, in some
shape, in almost the poorest; but all so beautifully ordered, so
stainlessly kept. Through that open door, those women read a daily
And Luclarion herself,—in a dark cotton print gown, a plain strip
of white about the throat,—even that was cotton, not linen, and two of
them could be run together in ten minutes for a cent,—and a black
alpacca apron, never soiled or crumpled, but washed and ironed when it
needed, like anything else,—her hair smoothly gathered back under a
small white half-handkerchief cap, plain-hemmed,—was the sermon alive;
with the soul of it, the inner sweetness and purity, looking out at
them from clear pleasant eyes, and lips cheery with a smile that lay
She had come down there just to do as God told her to be a neighbor,
and to let her light shine. He would see about the glorifying.
She did not try to make money out of her candy, or her ginger-nuts;
she kept those to entice the little children in; to tempt them to come
again when they had once done an errand, shyly, or saucily, or
hang-doggedly,—it made little difference which to her,—in her shop.
“I'll tell you what it's like," Hazel said, when she came in and
up-stairs the first Saturday afternoon with Desire, and showed and
explained to her proudly all Luclarion's ways and blessed inventions.
"It's like your mother and mine throwing crumbs to make the pigeons
come, when they were little girls, and lived in Boston,—I mean here
Hazel waked up at the end of her sentence, suddenly, as we all do
sometimes, out of talking or thinking, to the consciousness that it was
here that she had mentally got round to.
Desire had never heard of the crumbs or the pigeons. Mrs. Ledwith
had always been in such a hurry, living on, that she never stopped to
tell her children the sweet old tales of how she had lived. Her
child-life had not ripened in her as it had done in Frank.
Desire and Hazel went up-stairs and looked at the empty room. It was
light and pleasant; dormer windows opened out on a great area of roofs,
above which was blue sky; upon which, poor clothes fluttered in the
wind, or cats walked and stretched themselves safely and lazily in the
“I always do like roofs!" said Hazel. "The nicest thing in
'Mutual Friend' is Jenny Wren up on the Jew's roof, being dead. It
seems like getting up over the world, and leaving it all covered up and
“Except the old clothes," said Desire.
“They're washed" answered Hazel, promptly; and never stopped
to think of the meaning.
Then she jumped down from the window, along under which a great beam
made a bench to stand on, and looked about the chamber.
“A swing to begin with," she said. "Why what is that? Luclarion's
Knotted up under two great staples that held it, was the long loop
of clean new rope; the notched board rested against the chimney below.
“It's all ready! Let's go down and catch one! Luclarion, we've come
to tea," she announced, as they reached the sitting-room. "There's the
In the shop was a woman with touzled hair and a gown with placket
split from gathers to hem, showing the ribs of a dirty skeleton skirt.
A child with one garment on,—some sort of woolen thing that had never
been a clean color, and was all gutter-color now,—the woman holding
the child by the hand here, in a safe place, in a way these mothers
have who turn their children out in the street dirt and scramble
without any hand to hold. No wonder, though, perhaps; in the
strangeness and unfitness of the safe, pure place, doubtless they feel
an uneasy instinct that the poor little vagabonds have got astray, and
need some holding.
“Give us a four-cent loaf!" said the woman, roughly, her eyes
lowering under crossly furrowed brows, as she flung two coins upon the
Luclarion took down one, looked at it, saw that it had a pale side,
and exchanged it for another.
“Here is a nice crusty one," she said pleasantly, turning to wrap it
in a sheet of paper.
“None o' yer gammon! Give it here; there's your money; come along,
Crazybug!" And she grabbed the loaf without a wrapper, and twitched the
Hazel sat still. She knew there was no use. But Desire with her
point-black determination, went right at the boy, took hold of his
hand, dirt and all; it was disagreeable, therefore she thought she must
“Don't you want to come and swing?" she said.
“——yer swing! and yer imperdence! Clear out! He's got swings
enough to home! Go to ——, and be ——, you ——————!"
Out of the mother's mouth poured a volley of horrible words, like a
hailstorm of hell.
Desire fell back, as from a blinding shock of she knew not what.
Luclarion came round the counter, quite calmly.
“Ma'am," she said, "those words won't hurt her. She don't
know the language. But you've got God's daily bread in your hand; how
can you talk devil's Dutch over it?"
The woman glared at her. But she saw nothing but strong, calm,
earnest asking in the face; the asking of God's own pity.
She rebelled against that, sullenly; but she spoke no more foul
words. I think she could as soon have spoken them in the face of
Christ; for it was the Christ in Luclarion Grapp that looked out at
“You needn't preach. You can order me out of your shop, if you like.
I don't care."
“I don't order you out. I'd rather you would come again. I don't
think you will bring that street-muck with you, though."
There was both confidence and command in the word like the "Neither
do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." It detached the street-muck
from the woman. It was not she; it was defilement she had picked
up, when perhaps she could not help it. She could scrape her shoes at
the door, and come in clean.
“You know a darned lot about it, I suppose!" were the last words of
defiance; softened down, however, you perceive, to that which can be
Desire was pale, with a dry sob in her throat, when the woman had
gone and Luclarion turned round.
“The angels in heaven know; why shouldn't you?" said Luclarion.
"That's what we've got to help."
A child came in afterwards, alone; with an actual clean spot in the
middle of her face, where a ginger-nut or an acid drop might go in.
This was a regular customer of a week past. The week had made that
clean spot; with a few pleasant and encouraging hints from Luclarion,
administered along with the gingerbread.
Now it was Hazel's turn.
The round mouth and eyes, with expectation in them, were like a spot
of green to Hazel, feeling with her witch-wand for a human spring. But
she spoke to Desire, looking cunningly at the child.
“Let us go back and swing," she said.
The girl's head pricked itself up quickly.
“We've got a swing up-stairs," said Hazel, passing close by, and
just pausing. "A new one. I guess it goes pretty high; and it looks out
of top windows. Wouldn't you like to come and see?"
The child lived down in a cellar.
“Take up some ginger-nuts, and eat them there," said Luclarion to
If it had not been for that, the girl would have hung back, afraid
of losing her shop treat.
Hazel knew better than to hold out her hand, at this first essay;
she would do that fast enough when the time came. She only walked on,
through the sitting-room, to the stairs.
The girl peeped, and followed.
Clean stairs. She had never trodden such before. Everything was
strange and clean here, as she had never seen anything before in all
her life, except the sky and the white clouds overhead. Heaven be
thanked that they are held over us, spotless, always!
Hazel heard the little feet, shuffling, in horrible, distorted
shoes, after her, over the steps; pausing, coming slowly but still
starting again, and coming on.
Up on the high landing, under the skylight, she opened the door wide
into the dormer-windowed room, and went in; she and Desire, neither of
them looking round.
Hazel got into the swing. Desire pushed; after three vibrations they
saw the ragged figure standing in the doorway, watching, turning its
head from side to side as the swing passed.
“Almost!" cried Hazel, with her feet up at the window. "There!" She
thrust them out at that next swing; they looked as if they touched the
“I can see over all the chimneys, and away off, down the water! Now
let the old cat die."
Out again, with a spring, as the swinging slackened, she still took
no notice of the child, who would have run, like a wild kitten, if she
had gone after her. She called Desire, and plunged into a closet under
“I wonder what's here!" she exclaimed.
The girl in the doorway saw the dark, into which the low door
opened; she was used to rats in the dark.
“I don't believe it," says Hazel; "Luclarion has a cut, a great big
buff one with green eyes. She came in over the roofs, and she runs up
here nights. I shouldn't wonder if there might be kittens, though,—one
of these days, at any rate. Why! what a place to play 'Dare' in! It
goes way round, I don't know where! Look here, Desire!"
She sat on the threshold, that went up a step, over the beam, and so
leaned in. She had one eye toward the girl all the time, out of the
shadow. She beckoned and nodded, and Desire came.
At the same moment, the coast being clear, the girl gave a sudden
scud across, and into the swing. She began to scuff with her slipshod,
twisted shoes, pushing herself.
Hazel gave another nod behind her to Desire. Desire stood up, and as
the swing came back, pushed gently, touching the board only.
The girl laughed out with the sudden thrill of the motion. Desire
Higher and higher, till the feet reached up to the window.
“There!" she cried; and kicked an old shoe off, out over the roof.
"I've lost my shoe!"
“Never mind; it'll be down in the yard," said Hazel.
Thereupon the child, at the height of her sweep again, kicked out
the other one.
Desire and Hazel, together, pushed her for a quarter of an hour.
“Now let's have ginger-cakes," said Hazel, taking them out of her
pocket, and leaving the "cat" to die.
Little Barefoot came down at that, with a run; hanging to the rope
at one side, and dragging, till she tumbled in a sprawl upon the floor.
“You ought to have waited," said Desire.
“Poh! I don't never wait!" cried the ragamuffin rubbing her elbows.
"I don't care."
“But it isn't nice to tumble round," suggested Hazel.
“I ain't nice," answered the child, and settled the subject.
“Well, these ginger-nuts are," said Hazel. "Here!"
“Have you had a good time?" she asked when the last one was eaten,
and she led the way to go down-stairs.
“Good time! That ain't nothin'! I've had a reg'lar bust! I'm comin'
agin'; it's bully. Now I must get my loaf and my shoes, and go along
back and take a lickin'."
That was the way Hazel caught her first child.
She made her tell her name,—Ann Fazackerley,—and promise to come
on Saturday afternoon, and bring two more girls with her.
“We'll have a party," said Hazel, "and play Puss in the Corner. But
you must get leave," she added. "Ask your mother. I don't want you to
be punished when you go home."
“Lor! you're green! I ain't got no mother. An' I always hooks jack.
I'm licked reg'lar when I gets back, anyway. There's half a dozen of
'em. When 'tain't one, it's another. That's Jane Goffey's bread; she's
been a swearin' after it this hour, you bet. But I'll come,—see if I
Hazel drew a hard breath as she let the girl go. Back to her crowded
cellar, her Jane Goffeys, the swearings, and the lickings. What was one
hour at a time, once or twice a week, to do against all this?
But she remembered the clean little round in her face, out of which
eyes and mouth looked merrily, while she talked rough slang; the same
fun and daring,—nothing worse,—were in this child's face, that might
be in another's saying prettier words. How could she help her words,
hearing nothing but devil's Dutch around her all the time? Children do
not make the language they are born into. And the face that could be
simply merry, telling such a tale as that,—what sort of bright little
immortality must it be the outlook of?
Hazel meant to try her hour.
* * * * *
This is one of my last chapters. I can only tell you now they
began,—these real folks,—the work their real living led them up to.
Perhaps some other time we may follow it on. If I were to tell you now
a finished story of it, I should tell a story ahead of the world.
I can show you what six weeks brought it to. I can show you them
fairly launched in what may grow to a beautiful private charity,—an
"Insecution,"—a broad social scheme,—a millennium; at any rate, a
life work, change and branch as it may, for these girls who have found
out, in their girlhood, that there is genuine living, not mere "playing
pretend," to be done in the world. But you cannot, in little books of
three hundred pages, see things through. I never expected or promised
to do that. The threescore years and ten themselves, do not do it.
It turned into regular Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Three
girls at first, then six, then less again,—sometimes only one or two;
until they gradually came up to and settled at, an average of nine or
The first Saturday they took them as they were. The next time they
gave them a stick of candy each, the first thing, then Hazel's fingers
were sticky, and she proposed the wash-basin all round, before they
went up-stairs. The bright tin bowl was ready in the sink, and a clean
round towel hung beside; and with some red and white soap-balls, they
managed to fascinate their dirty little visitors into three clean pairs
of hands, and three clean faces as well.
The candy and the washing grew to be a custom; and in three weeks'
time, watching for a hot day and having it luckily on a Saturday, they
ventured upon instituting a whole bath, in big round tubs, in the back
shed-room, where a faucet came in over a wash bench, and a great boiler
was set close by.
They began with a foot-paddle, playing pond, and sailing chips at
the same time; then Luclarion told them they might have tubs full, and
get in all over and duck, if they liked; and children who may hate to
be washed, nevertheless are always ready for a duck and a paddle. So
Luclarion superintended the bath-room; Diana helped her; and Desire and
Hazel tended the shop. Luclarion invented a shower-bath with a dipper
and a colander; then the wet, tangled hair had to be combed,—a climax
which she had secretly aimed at with a great longing, from the
beginning; and doing this, she contrived with carbolic soap and a
separate suds, and a bit of sponge, to give the neglected little heads
a most salutary dressing.
Saturday grew into bath-day; soap-suds suggested bubbles; and the
ducking and the bubbling were a frolic altogether.
Then Hazel wished they could be put into clean clothes each time;
wouldn't it do, somehow?
But that would cost. Luclarion had come to the limit of her purse;
Hazel had no purse, and Desire's was small.
“But you see they've got to have it," said Hazel; and so she
went to her mother, and from her straight to Uncle Oldways.
They counted up,—she and Desire, and Diana; two little common
suits, of stockings, underclothes, and calico gowns, apiece; somebody
to do a washing once a week, ready for the change; and then—"those
“I don't see how you can do it," said Mrs. Ripwinkley. "The things
will be taken away from them, and sold. You would have to keep doing,
over and over, to no purpose, I am afraid."
“I'll see to that," said Luclarion, facing her "stump." "We'll do
for them we can do for; if it ain't ones, it will be tothers. Those
that don't keep their things, can't have 'em; and if they're taken
away, I won't sell bread to the women they belong to, till they're
brought back. Besides, the washing kind of sorts 'em out,
beforehand. 'Taint the worst ones that are willing to come, or to send,
for that. You always have to work in at an edge, in anything, and make
your way as you go along. It'll regulate. I'm living there right
amongst 'em; I've got a clew, and a hold; I can follow things up; I
shall have a 'circle;' there's circles everywhere. And in all the
wheels there's a moving spirit; you ain't got to depend just on
yourself. Things work; the Lord sees to it; it's His business as
much as yours."
Hazel told Uncle Titus that there were shoes and stockings and gowns
wanted down in Neighbor Street; things for ten children; they must have
subscriptions. And so she had come to him.
The Ripwinkleys had never given Uncle Titus a Christmas or a
birthday present, for fear they should seem to establish a mutual
precedent. They had never talked of their plans which involved
calculation, before him; they were terribly afraid of just one thing
with him, and only that one,—of anything most distantly like what
Desire Ledwith called "a Megilp bespeak." But now Hazel went up to him
as bold as a lion. She took it for granted he was like other
people,—"real folks;" that he would do—what must be done.
“How much will it cost?"
“For clothes and shoes for each child, about eight dollars for three
months, we guess," said Hazel. "Mother's going to pay for the washing!"
“Guess? Haven't you calculated?"
“Yes, sir. 'Guess' and 'calculate' mean the same thing in Yankee,"
said Hazel, laughing.
Uncle Titus laughed in and out, in his queer way, with his shoulders
going up and down.
Then he turned round, on his swivel chair, to his desk, and wrote a
check for one hundred dollars.
“There. See how far you can make that go."
“That's good," said Hazel, heartily, looking at it; "that's
splendid!" and never gave him a word of personal thanks. It was a thing
for mutual congratulations, rather, it would seem; the "good" was just
what they all wanted, and there it was. Why should anybody in
particular be thanked, as if anybody in particular had asked for
anything? She did not say this, or think it; she simply did not think
about it at all.
And Uncle Oldways—again—liked it.
There! I shall not try, now, to tell you any more; their
experiences, their difficulties, their encouragements, would make large
material for a much larger book. I want you to know of the idea, and
the attempt. If they fail, partly,—if drunken fathers steal the shoes,
and the innocent have to forfeit for the guilty,—if the bad words
still come to the lips often, though Hazel tells them they are not
"nice,"—and beginning at the outside, they are in a fair way of
learning the niceness of being nice,—if some children come once or
twice, and get dressed up, and then go off and live in the gutters
again until the clothes are gone,—are these real failures? There is a
bright, pure place down there in Neighbor Street, and twice a week some
little children have there a bright, pure time. Will this be lost in
the world? In the great Ledger of God will it always stand unbalanced
on the debit side?
If you are afraid it will fail,—will be swallowed up in the great
sink of vice and misery, like a single sweet, fresh drop, sweet only
while it is falling,—go and do likewise; rain down more; make the work
larger, stronger; pour the sweetness in faster, till the wide, grand
time of full refreshing shall have come from the presence of the Lord!
Ada Geoffrey went down and helped. Miss Craydocke is going to knit
scarlet stockings all winter for them; Mr. Geoffrey has put a regular
bath-room in for Luclarion, with half partitions, and three separate
tubs; Mrs. Geoffrey has furnished a dormitory, where little homeless
ones can be kept to sleep. Luclarion has her hands full, and has taken
in a girl to help her, whose board and wages Rachel Froke and Asenath
Scherman pay. A thing like that spreads every way; you have only to be
among, and one of—Real Folks.
* * * * *
Desire, besides her work in Neighbor Street, has gone into the
Normal School. She wants to make herself fit for any teaching; she
wants also to know and to become a companion of earnest, working girls.
She told Uncle Titus this, after she had been with him a month, and
had thought it over; and Uncle Titus agreed, quite as if it were no
real concern of his, but a very proper and unobjectionable plan for
her, if she liked it.
One day, though, when Marmaduke Wharne—who had come this fall again
to stay his three days, and talk over their business,—sat with him in
his study, just where they had sat two years and a little more ago, and
Hazel and Desire ran up and down stairs together, in and out upon their
busy Wednesday errands,—Marmaduke said to Titus,—
“Afterwards is a long time, friend; but I mistrust you have found
the comfort, as well as the providence, of 'next of kin?'"
“Afterwards is a long time," said Titus Oldways, gravely;
"but the Lord's line of succession stretches all the way through."
And that same night he had his other old friend, Miss Craydocke, in;
and he brought two papers that he had ready, quietly out to be signed,
each with four names: "Titus Oldways," by itself, on the one side; on
And one of those two papers—which are no further part of the
present story, seeing that good old Uncle Titus is at this moment alive
and well, as he has a perfect right, and is heartily welcome to be,
whether the story ever comes to a regular winding up or not—was laid
safely away in a japanned box in a deep drawer of his study table; and
Marmaduke Wharne put the other in his pocket.
He and Titus knew. I myself guess, and perhaps you do; but neither
you nor I, nor Rachel, nor Keren-happuch, know for certain; and it is
no sort of matter whether we do or not.
The "next of kin" is a better and a deeper thing than any claim of
law or register of bequest can show. Titus Oldways had found that out;
and he had settled in his mind, to his restful and satisfied belief,
that God, to the last moment of His time, and the last particle of His
created substance, can surely care for and order and direct His own.
Is that end and moral enough for a two years' watchful trial and a
two years' simple tale?
XXI. THE HORSESHOE.
They laid out the Waite Place in this manner:—
Right into the pretty wooded pasture, starting from a point a little
way down the road from the old house, they projected a roadway which
swept round, horseshoe fashion, till it met itself again within a space
of some twenty yards or so; and this sweep made a frontage—upon its
inclosed bit of natural, moss-turfed green, sprinkled with birch and
pine and oak trees, and with gray out-croppings of rock here and
there—for the twenty houses, behind which opened the rest of the
unspoiled, irregular, open slope and swell and dingle of the hill-foot
tract that dipped down at one reach, we know, to the river.
The trees, and shrubs, and vines, and ferns, and stones, were left
in their wild prettiness; only some roughness of nature's wear and tear
of dead branches and broken brushwood, and the like, were taken away,
and the little footpaths cleared for pleasant walking.
There were all the little shady, sweet-smelling nooks, just as they
had been; all the little field-parlors, opening with their winding
turns between bush and rock, one into another. The twenty households
might find twenty separate places, if they all wanted to take a private
out-door tea at once.
The cellars were dug; the frames were up; workmen were busy with
brick and mortar, hammer and plane; two or three buildings were nearly
finished, and two—the two standing at the head of the Horseshoe,
looking out at the back into the deepest and pleasantest wood-aisle,
where the leaves were reddening and mellowing in the early October
frost, and the ferns were turning into tender transparent shades of
palest straw-color—were completed, and had dwellers in them; the
cheeriest, and happiest, and coziest of neighbors; and who do you think
Miss Waite and Delia, of course, in one house; and with them,
dividing the easy rent and the space that was ample for four women,
were Lucilla Waters and her mother. In the other, were Kenneth and
Rosamond Kincaid and Dorris.
Kenneth and Rosamond had been married just three weeks. Rosamond had
told him she would begin the world with him, and they had begun. Begun
in the simple, true old-fashioned way, in which, if people only would
believe it, it is even yet not impossible for young men and women to
inaugurate their homes.
They could not have had a place at Westover, and a horse and buggy
for Kenneth to go back and forth with; nor even a house in one of the
best streets of Z——; and down at East Square everything was very
modern and pretentious, based upon the calculation of rising values and
a rush of population.
But here was this new neighborhood of—well, yes,—"model houses;" a
blessed Christian speculation for a class not easily or often reached
by any speculations save those that grind and consume their little
regular means, by forcing upon them the lawless and arbitrary prices of
the day, touching them at every point in their living, but not
governing correspondingly their income, as even the hod-carrier's and
railroad navvy's daily pay is reached and ruled to meet the proportion
of the time.
They would be plain, simple, little-cultured people that would live
there: the very "betwixt and betweens" that Rosamond had used to think
so hardly fated. Would she go and live among them, in one of these
little new, primitive homes, planted down in the pasture-land, on the
outskirts? Would she—the pretty, graceful, elegant Rosamond—live
semi-detached with old Miss Arabel Waite?
That was just exactly the very thing she would do; the thing she did
not even let Kenneth think of first, and ask her, but that, when they
had fully agreed that they would begin life somehow, in some right way
together, according to their means, she herself had questioned him if
they might not do.
And so the houses were hurried in the building; for old Miss Arabel
must have hers before the winter; (it seems strange how often the
change comes when one could not have waited any longer for it;) and
Kenneth had mill building, and surveying, and planning, in East Square,
and Mr. Roger Marchbanks' great gray-stone mansion going up on West
Hill, to keep him busy; work enough for any talented young fellow,
fresh from the School of Technology, who had got fair hold of a
beginning, to settle down among and grasp the "next things" that were
pretty sure to follow along after the first.
Dorris has all Ruth's music scholars, and more; for there has never
been anybody to replace Miss Robbyns, and there are many young girls in
Z——, and down here in East Square, who want good teaching and cannot
go away to get it. She has also the organ-playing in the new church.
She keeps her morning hours and her Saturdays to help Rosamond; for
they are "cooeperating" here, in the new home; what was the use, else,
of having cooeperated in the old? Rosamond cannot bear to have any
coarse, profane fingers laid upon her little household gods,—her
wedding-tins and her feather dusters,—while the first gloss and
freshness are on, at any rate; and with her dainty handling, the gloss
is likely to last a long while.
Such neighbors, too, as the Waites and Waterses are! How they helped
in the fitting up, running in in odd half hours from their own nailing
and placing, which they said could wait awhile, since they weren't
brides; and such real old times visiting as they have already between
the houses; coming and taking right hold, with wiping up dinner plates
as likely as not, if that is the thing in hand; picking up what is
there, as easily as "the girls" used to help work out some last new
pattern of crochet, or try over music, or sort worsteds for gorgeous
affghans for the next great fair!
Miss Arabel is apt to come in after dinner, and have a dab at the
plates; she knows she interrupts nothing then; and she "has never been
used to sitting talking, with gloves on and a parasol in her lap." And
now she has given up trying to make impossible biases, she has such a
quantity of time!
It was the matter of receiving visits from her friends who did
sit with their parasols in their laps, or who only expected to see the
house, or look over wedding presents, that would be the greatest
hindrance, Rosamond realized at once; that is, if she would let it; so
she did just the funniest thing, perhaps, that ever a bride did do: she
set her door wide open from her pretty parlor, with its books and
flowers and pictures and window-draperies of hanging vines, into the
plain, cozy little kitchen, with its tin pans and bright new buckets
and its Shaker chairs; and when she was busy there, asked her
girl-friends right in, as she had used to take them up into her
bedroom, if she were doing anything pretty or had something to show.
And they liked it, for the moment, at any rate; they could not help
it; they thought it was lovely; a kind of bewitching little play at
keeping house; though some of them went away and wondered, and said
that Rosamond Holabird had quite changed all her way of living and her
position; it was very splendid and strong-minded, they supposed; but
they never should have thought it of her, and of course she could not
keep it up.
“And the neighborhood!" was the cry. "The rabble she has got, and is
going to have, round her! All planks and sand, and tubs of mortar, now;
you have to half break your neck in getting up there; and when it is
settled it will be—such a frowze of common people! Why the foreman of
our factory has engaged a house, and Mrs. Haslam, who actually used to
do up laces for mamma, has got another!"
That is what is said—in some instances—over on West Hill, when the
elegant visitors came home from calling at the Horseshoe. Meanwhile,
what Rosamond does is something like this, which she happened to do one
bright afternoon a very little while ago.
She and Dorris had just made and baked a charming little tea-cake,
which was set on a fringed napkin in a round white china dish, and put
away in the fresh, oak-grained kitchen pantry, where not a crumb or a
slop had ever yet been allowed to rest long enough to defile or give a
flavor of staleness; out of which everything is tidily used up while it
is nice, and into which little delicate new-made bits like this, for
next meals, are always going.
The tea-table itself,—with its three plates, and its new silver,
and the pretty, thin, shallow cups and saucers, that an Irish girl
would break a half-dozen of every week,—was laid with exquisite
preciseness; the square white napkins at top and bottom over the
crimson cloth, spread to the exactness of a line, and every knife and
fork at fair right angles; the loaf was upon the white carved trencher,
and nothing to be done when Kenneth should come in, but to draw the
tea, and bring the brown cake forth.
Rosamond will not leave all these little doings to break up the
pleasant time of his return; she will have her leisure then, let her be
as busy as she may while he is away.
There was an hour or more after all was done; even after the
Panjandrums had made their state call, leaving their barouche at the
heel of the Horseshoe, and filling up all Rosamond's little vestibule
with their flounces, as they came in and went out.
The Panjandrums were new people at West Hill; very new and very
grand, as only new things and new people can be, turned out in the
latest style pushed to the last agony. Mrs. Panjandrum's dress was all
in two shades of brown, to the tips of her feathers, and the toes of
her boots, and the frill of her parasol; and her carriage was all in
two shades of brown, likewise; cushions, and tassels, and panels; the
horses themselves were cream-color, with dark manes and tails. Next
year, perhaps, everything will be in pansy-colors,—black and violet
and gold; and then she will probably have black horses with gilded
harness and royal purple tails.
It was very good of the Panjandrums, doubtless, to come down to the
Horseshoe at all; I am willing to give them all the credit of really
admiring Rosamond, and caring to see her in her little new home; but
there are two other things to be considered also: the novel kind of
home Rosamond had chosen to set up, and the human weakness of curiosity
concerning all experiments, and friends in all new lights; also the
fact of that other establishment shortly to branch out of the Holabird
connection. The family could not quite go under water, even with people
of the Panjandrum persuasion, while there was such a pair of
prospective corks to float them as Mr. and Mrs. Dakie Thayne.
The Panjandrum carriage had scarcely bowled away, when a little
buggy and a sorrel pony came up the road, and somebody alighted with a
brisk spring, slipped the rein with a loose knot through the fence-rail
at the corner, and came up one side of the two-plank foot-walk that ran
around the Horseshoe; somebody who had come home unexpectedly, to take
his little wife to ride. Kenneth Kincaid had business over at the new
district of "Clarendon Park."
Drives, and livery-stable bills, were no part of the items allowed
for, in the programme of these young people's living; therefore
Rosamond put on her gray hat, with its soft little dove's breast, and
took her bright-striped shawl upon her arm, and let Kenneth lift her
into the buggy—for which there was no manner of need except that they
both liked it,—with very much the feeling as if she were going off on
a lovely bridal trip. They had had no bridal trip, you see; they did
not really want one; and this little impromptu drive was such a treat!
Now the wonders of nature and the human mind show—if I must go so
far to find an argument for the statement I am making—that into a
single point of time or particle of matter may be gathered the
relations of a solar system or the experiences of a life; that a
universe may be compressed into an atom, or a molecule expanded into a
macrocosm; therefore I expect nobody to sneer at my Rosamond as
childishly nappy in her simple honeymoon, or at me for making
extravagant and unsupported assertions, when I say that this hour and a
half, and these four miles out to Clarendon Park and back,—the lifting
and the tucking in, and the setting off, the sitting side by side in
the ripe October air and the golden twilight, the noting together every
pretty turn, every flash of autumn color in the woods, every change in
the cloud-groupings overhead, every glimpse of busy, bright-eyed
squirrels up and down the walls, every cozy, homely group of barnyard
creatures at the farmsteads, the change, the pleasure, the thought of
home and always-togetherness,—all this made the little treat of a
country ride as much to them, holding all that any wandering up and
down the whole world in their new companionship could hold,—as a going
to Europe, or a journey to mountains and falls and sea-sides and
cities, in a skimming of the States. You cannot have more than there
is; and you do not care, for more than just what stands for and
emphasizes the essential beauty, the living gladness, that no place
gives, but that hearts carry about into places and baptize them with,
so that ever afterward a tender charm hangs round them, because "we saw
And Kenneth and Rosamond Kincaid had all these bright associations,
these beautiful glamours, these glad reminders, laid up for years to
come, in a four miles space that they might ride or walk over,
re-living it all, in the returning Octobers of many other years. I say
they had a bridal tour that day, and that the four miles were as good
as four thousand. Such little bits of signs may stand for such high,
great, blessed things!
“How lovely stillness and separateness are!" said Rosamond as they
sat in the buggy, stopping to enjoy a glimpse of the river on one side,
and a flame of burning bushes on the other, against the dark face of a
piece of woods that held the curve of road in which they stood, in
sheltered quiet. "How pretty a house would be, up on that knoll. Do you
know things puzzle me a little, Kenneth? I have almost come to a
certain conclusion lately, that people are not meant to live apart, but
that it is really everybody's duty to live in a town, or a village, or
in some gathering of human beings together. Life tends to that, and all
the needs and uses of it; and yet,—it is so sweet in a place like
this,—and however kind and social you may be, it seems once in a while
such an escape! Do you believe in beautiful country places, and in
having a little piece of creation all to yourself, if you can get it,
or if not what do you suppose all creation is made for?"
“Perhaps just that which you have said, Rose." Rosamond has now,
what her mother hinted once, somebody to call her "Rose," with a happy
and beautiful privilege. "Perhaps to escape into. Not for one, here and
there, selfishly, all the time; but for the whole, with fair share and
opportunity. Creation is made very big, you see, and men and women are
made without wings, and with very limited hands and feet. Also with
limited lives; that makes the time-question, and the hurry. There is a
suggestion,—at any rate, a necessity,—in that. It brings them within
certain spaces, always. In spite of all the artificial lengthening of
railroads and telegraphs, there must still be centres for daily living,
intercourse, and need. People tend to towns; they cannot establish
themselves in isolated independence. Yet packing and stifling are a
cruelty and a sin. I do not believe there ought to be any human being
so poor as to be forced to such crowding. The very way we are going to
live at the Horseshoe, seems to me an individual solution of the
problem. It ought to come to pass that our towns should be built—and
if built already, wrongly, thinned out,—on this principle.
People are coming to learn a little of this, and are opening parks and
squares in the great cities, finding that there must be room for bodies
and souls to reach out and breathe. If they could only take hold of
some of their swarming-places, where disease and vice are festering,
and pull down every second house and turn it into a garden space, I
believe they would do more for reform and salvation than all their
separate institutions for dealing with misery after it is let grow, can
“O, why can't they?" cried Rose. "There is money enough,
somewhere. Why can't they do it, instead of letting the cities grow
horrid, and then running away from it themselves, and buying acres and
acres around their country places, for fear somebody should come too
near, and the country should begin to grow horrid too?"
“Because the growing and the crowding and the striving of the city
make so much of the money, little wife! Because to keep everybody
fairly comfortable as the world goes along, there could not be so many
separate piles laid up; it would have to be used more as it comes, and
it could not come so fast. If nobody cared to be very rich, and all
were willing to live simply and help one another, in little 'horseshoe
neighborhoods,' there wouldn't be so much that looks like grand
achievement in the world perhaps; but I think maybe the very angels
might show themselves out of the unseen, and bring the glory of heaven
Kenneth's color came, and his eyes glowed, as he spoke these words
that burst into eloquence with the intensity of his meaning; and
Rosamond's face was holy-pale, and her look large, as she listened; and
they were silent for a minute or so, as the pony, of his own accord,
trotted deliberately on.
“But then, the beauty, and the leisure, and all that grows out of
them to separate minds, and what the world gets through the refinement
of it! You see the puzzle comes back. Must we never, in this life,
gather round us the utmost that the world is capable of furnishing?
Must we never, out of this big creation, have the piece to ourselves,
each one as he would choose?"
“I think the Lord would show us a way out of that," said Kenneth. "I
think He would make His world turn out right, and all come to good and
sufficient use, if we did not put it in a snarl. Perhaps we can hardly
guess what we might grow to all together,—'the whole body, fitly
joined by that which every joint supplieth, increasing and building
itself up in love.' And about the quietness, and the separateness,—we
don't want to live in that, Rose; we only want it sometimes, to
make us fitter to live. When the disciples began to talk about building
tabernacles on the mountain of the vision, Christ led them straight
down among the multitude, where there was a devil to be cast out. It is
the same thing in the old story of the creation. God worked six days,
and rested one."
“Well," said Rose, drawing a deep breath, "I am glad we have begun
at the Horseshoe! It was a great escape for me, Kenneth. I am such a
worldly girl in my heart. I should have liked so much to have
everything elegant and artistic about me."
“I think you do. I think you always will. Not because of the
worldliness in you, though; but the other-worldliness, the sense
of real beauty and truth. And I am glad that we have begun at all! It
was a greater escape for me. I was in danger of all sorts of hardness
and unbelief. I had begun to despise and hate things, because they did
not work rightly just around me. And then I fell in, just in time, with
some real, true people; and then you came, with the 'little piece of
your world,' and then I came here, and saw what your world was, and how
you were making it, Rose! How a little community of sweet and generous
fellowship was crystallizing here among all sorts—outward sorts—of
people; a little community of the kingdom; and how you and yours had
“O, Kenneth! I was the worst little atom in the whole crystal! I
only got into my place because everybody else did, and there was
nothing else left for me to do."
“You see I shall never believe that," said Kenneth, quietly. "There
is no flaw in the crystal. You were all polarized alike. And besides,
can't I see daily just how your nature draws and points?"
“Well, never mind," said Rose. "Only some particles are natural
magnets, I believe, and some get magnetized by contact. Now that we
have hit upon this metaphor, isn't it funny that our little social
experiment should have taken the shape of a horseshoe?"
“The most sociable, because the most magnetic, shape it could take.
You will see the power it will develop. There's a great deal in merely
taking form according to fundamental principles. Witness the getting
round a fireside. Isn't that a horseshoe? And could half as much
sympathy be evolved from a straight line?"
“I believe in firesides," said Rose.
“And in women who can organize and inform them," said Kenneth.
"First, firesides; then neighborhoods; that is the way the world's life
works out; and women have their hands at the heart of it. They can do
so much more there than by making the laws! When the life is right, the
laws will make themselves, or be no longer needed. They are such mere
outside patchwork,—makeshifts till a better time!"
“Wrong living must make wrong laws, whoever does the voting," said
“False social standards make false commercial ones; inflated
pretensions demand inflated currency; selfish, untrue domestic living
eventuates in greedy speculations and business shams; and all in the
intriguing for corrupt legislation, to help out partial interests. It
isn't by multiplying the voting power, but by purifying it, that the
end is to be reached."
“That is so sententious, Kenneth, that I shall have to take it home
and ravel it out gradually in my mind in little shreds. In the mean
while, dear, suppose we stop in the village, and get some little
brown-ware cups for top-overs. You never ate any of my top-overs? Well,
when you do, you'll say that all the world ought to be brought up on
Rosamond was very particular about her little brown-ware cups. They
had to be real stone,—brown outside, and gray-blue in; and they must
be of a special size and depth. When they were found, and done up in a
long parcel, one within another, in stout paper, she carried it herself
to the chaise, and would scarcely let Kenneth hold it while she got in;
after which, she laid it carefully across her lap, instead of putting
it behind upon the cushion.
'You see they were rather dear; but they are the only kind worth
while. Those little yellow things would soak and crack, and never look
comfortable in the kitchen-closet. I give you very fair warning, I
shall always want the best of things but then I shall take very fierce
and jealous care of them,—like this.'
And she laid her little nicely-gloved hand across her homely parcel,
How nice it was to go buying little homely things together! Again,
it was as good and pleasant,—and meant ever so much more,—than if it
had been ordering china with a monogram in Dresden, or glass in Prague,
with a coat-of-arms engraved.
When they drove up to the Horseshoe, Dakie Thayne and Ruth met them.
They had been getting "spiritual ferns" and sumach leaves with Dorris;
"the dearest little tips," Ruth said, "of scarlet and carbuncle, just
like jets of fire."
And now they would go back to tea, and eat up the brown cake?
“Real Westover summum-bonum cake?" Dakie wanted to know. "Well, he
couldn't stand against that. Come, Ruthie!" And Ruthie came.
“What do you think Rosamond says?" said Kenneth, at the tea-table,
over the cake. "That everybody ought to live in a city or a village,
or, at least, a Horseshoe. She thinks nobody has a right to stick his
elbows out, in this world. She's in a great hurry to be packed as
closely as possible here."
“I wish the houses were all finished, and our neighbors in; that is
what I said," said Rosamond. "I should like to begin to know about
them, and feel settled; and to see flowers in their windows, and lights
“And you always hated so a 'little crowd!'" said Ruth.
“It isn't a crowd when they don't crowd," said Rosamond. "I
can't bear little miserable jostles."
“How good it will be to see Rosamond here, at the head of her court;
at the top of the Horseshoe," said Dakie Thayne. "She will be quite the
'Queen of the County.'"
“Don't!" said Rosamond. "I've a very weak spot in my head. You can't
tell the mischief you might do. No, I won't be queen!"
“Any more than you can help," said Dakie.
“She'll be Rosa Mundi, wherever she is," said Ruth affectionately.
“I think that is just grand of Kenneth and Rosamond," said Dakie
Thayne, as he and Ruth were walking home up West Hill in the moonlight,
afterward. "What do you think you and I ought to do, one of these days,
Ruthie? It sets me to considering. There are more Horseshoes to make, I
suppose, if the world is to jog on."
“You have a great deal to consider about," said Ruth,
thoughtfully. "It was quite easy for Kenneth and Rosamond to see what
they ought to do. But you might make a great many Horseshoes,—or
“What do you mean by that second person plural, eh? Are you shirking
your responsibilities, or are you addressing your imaginary Boffinses?
Come, Ruthie, I can't have that! Say 'we,' and I'll face the
responsibilities and talk it all out; but I won't have anything to do
“Won't you?" said Ruth, with piteous demureness. "How can I say
“You little cat! How you can scratch!"
“There are such great things to be done in the world Dakie," Ruth
said seriously, when they had got over that with a laugh that lifted
her nicely by the "we" question. "I can't help thinking of it."
“O," said Dakie, with significant satisfaction. "We're getting on
“Do you know what Hazel Ripwinkley is doing? And what Luclarion
Grapp has done? Do you know how they are going among poor people, in
dreadful places,—really living among them, Luclarion is,—and finding
out, and helping, and showing how? I thought of that to-night, when
they talked about living in cities and villages. Luclarion has gone
away down to the very bottom of it. And somehow, one can't feel
satisfied with only reaching half-way, when one knows—and might!"
“Do you mean, Ruthie, that you and I might go and live in
such places? Do you think I could take you there?"
“I don't know, Dakie," Ruth answered, forgetting in her earnestness,
to blush or hesitate for what he said;—"but I feel as if we ought to
reach down, somehow,—away down! Because that, you see, is the
most. And to do only a little, in an easy way, when we are made so
strong to do; wouldn't it be a waste of power, and a missing of the
meaning? Isn't it the 'much' that is required of us, Dakie?"
They were under the tall hedge of the Holabird "parcel of ground,"
on the Westover slope, and close to the home gates. Dakie Thayne put
his arm round Ruth as she said that, and drew her to him.
“We will go and be neighbors somewhere, Ruthie. And we will make as
big a Horseshoe as we can."
XXII. MORNING GLORIES.
Do you think I have passed her over lightly in her troubles? Or do
you think I am making her out to have herself passed over them lightly?
Do you think it is hardly to be believed that she should have turned
round from these shocks and pains that bore down so heavily and all at
once upon her, and taken kindly to the living with old Uncle Titus and
Rachel Froke in the Greenley Street house, and going down to Luclarion
Grapp's to help wash little children's faces, and teach them how to
have innocent good times? Do you think there is little making up in all
that for her, while Rosamond Kincaid is happy in her new home, and Ruth
and Dakie Thayne are looking out together over the world,—which can be
nowhere wholly sad to them, since they are to go down into it
together,—and planning how to make long arms with their wealth, to
reach the largest neighborhood they can? In the first place, do you
know how full the world is, all around you, of things that are missed
by those who say nothing, but go on living somehow without them? Do you
know how large a part of life, even young life, is made of the days
that have never been lived? Do you guess how many girls, like Desire,
come near something that they think they might have had, and then see
it drift by just beyond their reach, to fall easily into some other
hand that seems hardly put out to grasp it?
And do you see, or feel, or guess how life goes on, incompleteness
and all, and things settle themselves one way, if not another, simply
because the world does not stop, but keeps turning, and tossing off
days and nights like time-bubbles just the same?
Do you ever imagine how different this winter's parties are from
last, or this summer's visit or journey from those of the summer
gone,—to many a maiden who has her wardrobe made up all the same, and
takes her German or her music lessons, and goes in and out, and has her
ticket to the Symphony Concerts, and is no different to look at, unless
perhaps with a little of the first color-freshness gone out of her
face,—while secretly it seems to her as if the sweet early symphony of
her life were all played out, and had ended in a discord?
We begin, most of us, much as we are to go on. Real or mistaken, the
experiences of eighteen initiate the lesson that those of two and three
score after years are needed to unfold and complete. What is left of us
is continually turning round, perforce, to take up with what is left of
the world, and make the best of it.
Thus much for what does happen, for what we have to put up with, for
the mere philosophy of endurance, and the possibility of things being
endured. We do live out our years, and get and bear it all. And the
scars do not show much outside; nay, even we ourselves can lay a finger
on the place, after a little time, without a cringe.
Desire Ledwith did what she had to do; there was a way made for her,
and there was still life left.
But there is a better reading of the riddle. There is never a
"Might-have-been" that touches with a sting, but reveals also to us an
inner glimpse of the wide and beautiful "May Be." It is all there;
somebody else has it now while we wait; but the years of God are full
of satisfying, each soul shall have its turn; it is His good
pleasure to give us the kingdom. There is so much room, there are
such thronging possibilities, there is such endless hope!
To feel this, one must feel, however dimly, the inner realm, out of
which the shadows of this life come and pass, to interpret to us the
laid up reality.
“The real world is the inside world."
Desire Ledwith blessed Uncle Oldways in her heart for giving her
It comforted her for her father. If his life here had been hard,
toilsome, mistaken even; if it had never come to that it might have
come to; if she, his own child, had somehow missed the reality of him
here, and he of her,—was he not passed now into the within? Might she
not find him there; might they not silently and spiritually, without
sign, but needing no sign, begin to understand each other now? Was not
the real family just beginning to be born into the real home?
Ah, that word real! How deep we have to go to find the root
of it! It is fast by the throne of God; in the midst.
Hazel Ripwinkley talked about "real folks." She sifted, and she
found out instinctively the true livers, the genuine neahburs,
nigh-dwellers; they who abide alongside in spirit, who shall find each
other in the everlasting neighborhood, when the veil falls.
But there, behind,—how little, in our petty outside vexations or
gladnesses, we stop to think of or perceive it!—is the actual, even
the present, inhabiting; there is the kingdom, the continuing city, the
real heaven and earth in which we already live and labor, and build up
our homes and lay up our treasure and the loving Christ, and the living
Father, and the innumerable company of angels, and the unseen
compassing about of friends gone in there, and they on this earth who
truly belong to us inwardly, however we and they may be bodily
separated,—are the Real Folks!
What matters a little pain, outside? Go in, and rest from it!
There is where the joy is, that we read outwardly, spelling by parts
imperfectly, in our own and others' mortal experience; there is the
content of homes, the beauty of love, the delight of friendship,—not
shut in to any one or two, but making the common air that all souls
breathe. No one heart can be happy, that all hearts may not have a
share of it. Rosamond and Kenneth, Dakie and Ruth, cannot live out
obviously any sweetness of living, cannot sing any notes of the
endless, beautiful score, that Desire Ledwith, and Luclarion Grapp, and
Rachel Froke, and Hapsie Craydocke, and old Miss Arabel Waite, do not
just as truly get the blessed grace and understanding of; do not catch
and feel the perfect and abounding harmony of. Since why? No lip can
sound more than its own few syllables of music; no life show more than
its own few accidents and incidents and groupings; the vast melody, the
rich, eternal satisfying, are behind; and the signs are for us all!
You may not think this, or see it so, in your first tussle and
set-to with the disappointing and eluding things that seem the real and
only,—missing which you miss all. This chapter may be less to
you—less for you, perhaps—than for your elders; the story may
have ended, as to that you care for, some pages back; but for all that,
this is certain; and Desire Ledwith has begun to find it, for she is
one of those true, grand spirits to whom personal loss or frustration
are most painful as they seem to betoken something wrong or failed in
the general scheme and justice. This terrible "why should it be?" once
answered,—once able to say to themselves quietly, "It is all right;
the beauty and the joy are there; the song is sung, though we are of
the listeners; the miracle-play is played, though but a few take
literal part, and many of us look on, with the play, like the song,
moving through our souls only, or our souls moving in the vital sphere
of it, where the stage is wide enough for all;"—once come to this,
they have entered already into that which is behind, and nothing of all
that goes forth thence into the earth to make its sunshine can be shut
off from them forever.
Desire is learning to be glad, thinking of Kenneth and Rosamond,
that this fair marriage should have been. It is so just and exactly
best; Rosamond's sweet graciousness is so precisely what Kenneth's
sterner way needed to have shine upon it; her finding and making of all
manner of pleasantness will be so good against his sharp discernment of
the wrong; they will so beautifully temper and sustain each other!
Desire is so generous, so glad of the truth, that she can stand
aside, and let this better thing be, and say to herself that it is
Is not this that she is growing to inwardly, more blessed than any
marriage or giving in marriage? Is it not a partaking of the heavenly
“We two might have grumbled at the world until we grumbled at each
She even said that, calmly and plainly, to herself.
And then that manna was fed to her afresh of which she had been
given first to eat so long a while ago; that thought of "the Lamb in
the midst of the Throne" came back to her. Of the Tenderness deep
within the Almightiness that holds all earth and heaven and time and
circumstance in its grasp. Her little, young, ignorant human heart
begins to rest in that great warmth and gentleness; begins to be glad
to wait there for what shall arise out of it, moving the Almightiness
for her,—even on purpose for her,—in the by-and-by; she begins to be
sure; of what, she knows not,—but of a great, blessed, beautiful
something, that just because she is at all, shall be for her; that she
shall have a part, somehow, even in the showing of His good;
that into the beautiful miracle-play she shall be called, and a new
song be given her, also, to sing in the grand, long, perfect oratorio;
she begins to pray quietly, that, "loving the Lord, always above all
things, she may obtain His promises, which exceed all that she can
And waiting, resting, believing, she begins also to work. This
beginning is even as an ending and forehaving, to any human soul.
I will tell you how she woke one morning; of a little poem that
wrote itself along her chamber wall.
It was a square, pleasant old room, with a window in an angle toward
the east. A great, old-fashioned mirror hung opposite, between the
windows that looked out north-westwardly; the morning and the evening
light came in upon her. Beside the solid, quaint old furnishings of a
long past time, there were also around her the things she had been used
to at home; her own little old rocking-chair, her desk and table, and
her toilet and mantel ornaments and things of use. A pair of
candle-branches with dropping lustres,—that she had marveled at and
delighted in as a child, and had begged for herself when they fell into
disuse in the drawing-room,—stood upon the chimney along which the
first sun-rays glanced. Just in those days of the year, they struck in
so as to shine level through the clear prisms, and break into a hundred
She opened her eyes, this fair October morning, and lay and looked
at the little scattered glories.
All around the room, on walls, curtains, ceiling,—falling like
bright soft jewels upon table and floor, touching everything with a
magic splendor,—were globes and shafts of colored light. Softly
blended from glowing red to tenderly fervid blue, they lay in various
forms and fragments, as the beam refracted or the objects caught them.
Just on the edge of the deep, opposite window-frame, clung one
vivid, separate flash of perfect azure, all alone, and farthest off of
Desire wondered, at first glance, how it should happen till she saw,
against a closet-door ajar, a gibbous sphere of red and golden flame.
Yards apart the points were, and a shadow lay between; but the one sure
sunbeam knew no distance, and there was no radiant line of the spectrum
Desire remembered her old comparison of complementary colors: "to
see blue, and to live red," she had said, complaining.
But now she thought,—"Foreshortening! In so many things, that is
all,—if we could only see as the Sun sees!"
One bit of our living, by itself, all one deep, burning, bleeding
color, maybe; but the globe is white,—the blue is somewhere. And, lo!
a soft, still motion; a little of the flame-tint has dropped off; it
has leaped to join itself to the blue; it gives itself over; and they
are beautiful together,—they fulfill each other; yet, in the changing
never a thread falls quite away into the dark. Why, it is like love
joining itself to love again!
As God's sun climbs the horizon, His steadfast, gracious purpose,
striking into earthly conditions, seems to break, and scatter, and
divide. Half our heart is here, half there; our need and ache are
severed from their help and answer; the tender blue waits far off for
the eager, asking red; yet just as surely as His light shines on, and
our life moves under it, so surely, across whatever gulf, the beauty
shall all be one again; so surely does it even now move all together,
perfect and close always under His eye, who never sends a half
* * * * *
She read her little poem,—sent to her; she read it through. She
rose up glad and strong; her room was full of glorious sunshine now;
the broken bits of color were all taken up in one full pouring of the
She went down with the light of it in her heart, and all about her.
Uncle Oldways met her at the foot of the wide staircase. "Good-day,
child!" he said to her in his quaint fashion. "Why it is good
day! Your face shines."
“You have given me a beautiful east window, uncle," said Desire,
"and the morning has come in!"
And from the second step, where she still stood, she bent forward a
little, put her hands softly upon his shoulders, and for the first
time, kissed his cheek.