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Title: Real Folks
Author: Whitney, A. D. T. (Adeline Dutton Train), 1824-1906
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Real Folks" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



REAL FOLKS

by

MRS. A. D. T. WHITNEY

1893



CONTENTS


      I. THIS WAY, AND THAT
     II. LUCLARION
    III. BY STORY-RAIL: TWENTY-SIX YEARS AN HOUR
     IV. AFTERWARDS IS A LONG TIME
      V. HOW THE NEWS CAME TO HOMESWORTH
     VI. AND
    VII. WAKING UP
   VIII. EAVESDROPPING IN ASPEN STREET
     IX. HAZEL'S INSPIRATION
      X. COCKLES AND CRAMBO
     XI. MORE WITCH-WORK
    XII. CRUMBS
   XIII. PIECES OF WORLDS
    XIV. "SESAME; AND LILIES"
     XV. WITH ALL ONE'S MIGHT
    XVI. SWARMING
   XVII. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
  XVIII. ALL AT ONCE
    XIX. INSIDE
     XX. NEIGHBORS AND NEXT OF KIN
    XXI. THE HORSESHOE
   XXII. MORNING GLORIES



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
tar-cemented roof.

"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
school for?"

"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
recollect."

"They'll do something with us; they always do," said Laura,
composedly.

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
curious.

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 in.

"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 proper."

"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?"

"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, Luclarion?"

"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
Oferr's."

"She isn't exactly what I call a heavenly-minded woman," said
Luclarion, quietly.

"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,
with condescension.

"_That's_ your stump!"

Luclarion fixed the steadfast arrow of her look straight upon her,
and drew the bow with this twang.



II.

LUCLARION.


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 heels.

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
taken off?

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
bricks.

"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
night-gown.

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
her,--

"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 at all.

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" to anything.

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 ancients.

"'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 stenciled walls.

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 jump out."

"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
Ontariah!"

"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 soul!"

"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 o'that!"

"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
earnest.

Grashy stared.

"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?"

"No."

"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 way.

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 AN HOUR.


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, what
     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
     again.

     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 all
     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 went
     to the theatre to see "Cinderella," and going shopping with
     mother, and our little tea-parties, and the Dutch dolls we made
     up in the long front chamber. O, _don't_ you remember, Laura?
     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, they
     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, just
     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 round
     in a room; she wants all creation for a slop-bowl. I feel as if
     we had all creation for everything up here. But I can't put all
     creation in a letter if I try. _That_ would spatter dreadfully.

     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,
                                FRANCES SHIERE.


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 shall
     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 take
     lessons on the piano, too, and shall have to practice two hours
     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 and
     front; and I have a dress of _gros d'Afrique_, too, trimmed
     with double folds piped on. For every-day I have a new black
     _mousseline_ with white clover leaves on it, and an all-black
     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 to
     wear to parties and to Public Saturdays, next winter. They have
     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 little
     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. Do
     you remember the story Luclarion used to tell us of when she
     and her brother Mark were little children and used to play that
     the looking-glass-things were real, and that two children lived
     in them, in the other room, and how we used to make believe too
     in the slanting chimney glass? You could make believe it here
     with _forty_ children. But I don't make believe much now. There
     is such a lot that is real, and it is all so grown up. It would
     seem so silly to have such plays, you know. I can't help
     thinking the things that come into my head though, and it seems
     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 hair
     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 and
     took a book bound in crimson morocco from the white marble pier
     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, of
     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 of a
     letter, there are so many 'wears' in it. I have been reading it
     over so far, but I can't put in any other word.

                  Your affectionate sister,
                                   LAURA SHIERE.

     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 underneath.

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 she.

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
bewilderment.

"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
front."

Laura wore long dresses now; and open wrappers were the height of
the style.

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
remonstrance.

"But up here!" said Frank. "It would seem nicer to wear
something--stiller."

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, quietly.

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, merrily, themselves.

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 about."

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 à 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 mill.

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?"

"_Your_ money?"

"Well,--God's money."

"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 Him."

"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?"

"Find out."

"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."

"Try 'em!"

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 dream.

"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
it?"

"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
room."

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_
back, together.

"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 convenient."

"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 morning.

"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
Boston?

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
kitchen.

     "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 out
     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, and
     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 can
     do some things for your children here that you could not do in
     Homesworth. I will give you two thousand dollars a year to live
     on, and secure the same to you if I die. I have a house here in
     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 Mrs.
     Ledwith's family is larger, I think, than yours. The estate is
     worth ten thousand dollars, and I will give the same sum to the
     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,

                           "TITUS OLDWAYS."

"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.



VI.

AND.


There is a piece of Z----, just over the river, that they call
"And."

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 make?

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 chain."

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 and gildings.

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. Ledwith's avenue.

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 look without."

"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 napkin.

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
course."

"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
don'ts?'"

"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,--'Desirée.' Only
one more 'e,' and an accent. That is so sweet, and graceful, and
distinguished!"

"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 mother,--

"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 lives."

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 Flossie."

"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 preëminently 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 enough."

"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 plain calico."

"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 of
us."

"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, too.

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.
Oldways."

She spoke those four words as if from them Mrs. Megilp could
understand everything.

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 go."

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
_not_ hystericky!"

"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 Republic Avenue."

"We shall have plenty of thinking to do about everything," said
Laura.

"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 taste."

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
boots!"

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 canary.

"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
Hazel.

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
the children."

"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 is
about."

"I almost doubt if she ever _will_ know what she is about," said
Laura.

"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 promenade.

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, mother?"

"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 of.

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 seen before."

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 ten."

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 shrunk away.

"And she said, 'Thank her, with Dorris Kincaid's love,'" proceeded
Rachel Froke.

"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 can!'"

"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 tatting."

"Perhaps it does--in spite of the world," said Rachel Froke,
quietly.

"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
everywhere."

"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 business growth.

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 chassée.

"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 natural way."

"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 Rachel went.

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
contrive _for_?"

"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
ourselves."

"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 dropped out."

"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
rest."

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 morning.

"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
ground.

"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 to boarding-school!"

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 came?

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,
you see."

"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 got fixed!"

"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
conclave.

"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
child's play."

"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!"

"Helena!"

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 minutiæ 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,--

          "MISS CRAYDOCKE."

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 come."

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 simply,--

"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 in Homesworth."

"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 the evening?"

"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 "engagements."

"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 sit down.

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
boy!"

"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
comprehending.

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
something.

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
voices sang,--

          "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 Man.

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 home."

"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 into it."

"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
young ones.

"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 with it."

"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?'
'Hallelujah.'"

          "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
can."

"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 you?"

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
is 'Stuff.'"

          "'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;
            Maximilian; Alexandra;
            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?'
'Goosey-gander.'"

          "'O, goosey-gander!
                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,
                Skies overcast,
            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!"

"Anybody else?"

"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 while.

"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
before,--

          "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
it.

"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 naturæ;' 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
they come."

"I can't," said Desire. "They come hind side before and upside
down."

"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 Winkle.

"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 flowers.

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 questioned
her,--

"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 beauties!"

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 time."

"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 told me."

"Yes, ma'am; Dorris can do almost anything."

"I should like to see Dorris, sometime. Will you bring her here,
Hazel?"

Hazel's little witch-rod felt the almost impassible something in the
way.

"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_ Dorris."

"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
clear eyes,--

"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?"

"Kincaid."

"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
morning."

       *       *       *       *       *

"'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 why.'"

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 mistake."

Luclarion put out her lips into a round, deprecating pucker, at
that, and drew in her breath,--

"Oo--sh!"

"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 knowin' when!"



XII.

CRUMBS.


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 Uncle."

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
Shieres!"

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
all.

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 take care."

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 Bartimeus:--

          "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 all.

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,
Rachel?"

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
up!"

"Fed, and hushed up, in somebody's arms, like a baby. I know," said
Rachel Froke.

"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,
"until"--

"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 often."

"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
that child?"

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 she wanted.

Rachel took up the small red Bible that lay on the lightstand beside
her.

"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 one track.

"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. Froke's reading?"

"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
given.

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 these things?

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 not understand?'"

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 "Yes."

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
carry?"

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 gospel!"

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 straight
out!"



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
meanwhile.

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 Boston-Appendix to-day.

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
pasteboard, with,--

"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
foundation.

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 carpet.

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
the shadows.

Underneath sat Rosamond Holabird, holding on to her identity and her
self-confidence.

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 between them.

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
down stairs.

"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
great service."

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 minute.

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,
next."

"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
Dorris.

"No; nothing really nice does end; it goes on and on," said Mrs.
Ripwinkley.

"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 two.

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 real ones."

"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 Craydocke!"

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
platoon."

"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?"

"Ah!"

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 Mrs.
Scherman.

"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
easiness again.

"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 something astonishing.

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
good-by.

"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
good-nights,--

"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."

"Well?"

"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
Kenneth Kincaid.

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 full.

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.
Ripwinkley?"

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."

"Well?"

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
she meant.

"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!"

"Well?"

"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
you think?"

"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 _you_."

"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."

"But then?"

"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 right off."

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
extremely.

"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
mother's room.

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!" they said.

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 to.

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 suns.

"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 do."

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
come round."

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 Vash?

"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
Diana.

"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
Hazel.

"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
to her?

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
Mrs. Ripwinkley.

"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 it?"

"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."

"O!"

"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
Mr. Oldways.

"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
had begun.

"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 "Behoof."

"'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
laughed.

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 thoroughly enjoyed.

"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 sea-green china.

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."

"The Syphon?"

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
Tartary."

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
quietest unconsciousness.

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
hardly anything."

"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 go.

"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 'little slice.'"

"O, dear! what a mess people do make of living!" said Asenath.

Uncle Titus trudged along down Dorset Street with his stick under
his arm.

"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 Kincaid.

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
families are.

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 day.

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 Dorris.

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
own."

"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
Japan tea-pot."

"The pretty part. But brooms, and pails, and wash-tubs, and the back
stairs?"

"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
Desire.

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.



XVI.

SWARMING.


Spring came on early, with heavy rains and freshets in many parts of
the country.

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 and specifications.

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 Kenneth's hands.

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
it.

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
prefaces,--

"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 safe?"

"'Twasn't _safe_ for Him--when He came into the world," Luclarion
answered.

"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.

"_Ma'am_!"

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 didn't."

"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 names.

"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,
serenely.



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
Desire's sleeve.

"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 Street."

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 of Eden."

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 made fit.

"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
Miss Arabel.

"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 black paint.

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 shelf.

"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
did.

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 last autumn.

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 entirely changed."

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 Heales."

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
conventionalisms.

"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
struggles."

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
the woods.

Mrs. Holabird and Mrs. Hobart were the matrons, and gave out the
invitations.

"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 discriminate!'

"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 judicious!"

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
limitation.

"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
coupé; 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
coffee, please."

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
Rosamond."

"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
for her.

"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 words.

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
dreamed of.

"Desire!"

They heard Mrs. Ledwith's voice far back among the trees.

Desire answered.

"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
said.

"We shall have to go back directly; they are beginning to break up,"
said Rosamond.

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 herself.

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?"

Rosamond laughed.

"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.' Isn't it?"

"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
it."

"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."

"Should what?"

"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
you."

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 had spoken.

"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
that?"

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
eternal morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

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?

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.

"Take care!"

"Where are they?"

Mrs. Ledwith heard.

"What is the matter?"--springing up, with a sudden instinct of
precognition.

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
knowledge.

"_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
room below.

"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 same circumstances.

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, suggestions.

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 taken
root!

"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 awake before.

The house and furniture were to be sold; they would sail in
September.

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, and repeated,--

"But I cannot _bear_,--I tell you, I cannot _bear_ to go!" he
answered,--

"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 comer.

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 Kenneth Kincaid"--

"_What_!" cried Desire, starting to her feet, with a sudden
indignation.

"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
Luclarion's bosom.

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!"



XIX.

INSIDE.


"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
with mamma?"

"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."

"Teach music!"

"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
connectedly.

"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 _anything_!"

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 an hour.

Down in the kitchen, at Mrs. Ripwinkley's, they were having a nice
time.

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
went away.

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 _Insecution_.

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 belongs, mother!"

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
"coöperate," 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.
Ripwinkley, thoughtfully.

"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 element."

"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 mention
it."

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 mother."

"Why not? Doesn't she want you to go?"--and Uncle Titus was sharp
this time.

"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 feel!"

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 things."

"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.

"Un--"

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 not answer.

"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 with you,--_child_!"

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
their minds.

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 of it.

"Your mother has decided to sell the house on the 23d, it seems," he
said.

"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 without."

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 absurdity.

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 married."

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
child.

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
without it."

"It takes _you_!" said Luclarion, looking at Hazel with delighted
admiration.

"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 house?"

Luclarion had.

"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!"

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
reason.

"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
ways.

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 children."

"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
margin for.

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
enterprise.

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
sermon.

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 behind them.

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 sun.

"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
put away."

"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
got one!"

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 shop bell!"

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 little counter.

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 child.

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 do it.

"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
her.

"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
printed.

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
Hazel.

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 blue.

"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 the eaves.

"I wonder what's here!" she exclaimed.

"Rats!"

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
pushed again.

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 don't!"

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 ten.

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 horrid shoes!"

"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 the other,--

          "RACHEL FROKE,
           MARMADUKE WHARNE,
           KEREN-HAPPUCH CRAYDOCKE."

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 these were?

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 "coöperating" here, in the new home; what was the use,
else, of having coöperated 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 it _then_."

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 ever effect."

"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 into it!"

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 done it."

"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
Rosamond, sagely.

"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 top-overs."

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, guardingly.

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 at night."

"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 something!"

"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 with 'you!'"

"Won't you?" said Ruth, with piteous demureness. "How can I say
'we,' then?"

"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
better. Well?"

"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.


And Desire?

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
that word.

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_
better.

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 Marriage Supper?

"We two might have grumbled at the world until we grumbled at each
other."

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 desire."

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
little rainbows.

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 all.

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 lost.

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_ ray anywhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

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 day.

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.





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