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Title: We Girls: a Home Story
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 "We Girls: a Home Story" ***

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[Illustration: BINDING THE RINGS.]


WE GIRLS: A HOME STORY

By

MRS. A.D.T. WHITNEY


AUTHOR OF "FAITH GARTNEY'S GIRLHOOD," "THE GAYWORTHYS,"
"A SUMMER IN LESLIE GOLDTHWAITE'S LIFE," ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.


BOSTON
1870, 1890



    CONTENTS.

    CHAPTER I. THE STORY BEGINS
    CHAPTER II. AMPHIBIOUS
    CHAPTER III. BETWIXT AND BETWEEN
    CHAPTER IV. NEXT THINGS
    CHAPTER V. THE "BACK YETT AJEE."
    CHAPTER VI. CO-OPERATING
    CHAPTER VII. SPRINKLES AND GUSTS
    CHAPTER VIII. HALLOWEEN
    CHAPTER IX. WINTER NIGHTS AND WINTER DAYS.
    CHAPTER X. RUTH'S RESPONSIBILITY.
    CHAPTER XI. BARBARA'S BUZZ.
    CHAPTER XII. EMERGENCIES.



WE GIRLS: A HOME STORY.



CHAPTER I.

THE STORY BEGINS.


It begins right in the middle; but a story must begin somewhere.

The town is down below the hill.

It lies in the hollow, and stretches on till it runs against another
hill, over opposite; up which it goes a little way before it can stop
itself, just as it does on this side.

It is no matter for the name of the town. It is a good, large
country town,--in fact, it has some time since come under city
regulations,--thinking sufficiently well of itself, and, for that
which it lacks, only twenty miles from the metropolis.

Up our hill straggle the more ambitious houses, that have shaken off
the dust from their feet, or their foundations, and surrounded
themselves with green grass, and are shaded with trees, and are called
"places." There are the Marchbanks places, and the "Haddens," and the
old Pennington place. At these houses they dine at five o'clock, when
the great city bankers and merchants come home in the afternoon train;
down in the town, where people keep shops, or doctors' or lawyers'
offices, or manage the Bank, and where the manufactories are, they eat
at one, and have long afternoons; and the schools keep twice a day.

We lived in the town--that is, Mr. and Mrs. Holabird did, and their
children, for such length of the time as their ages allowed--for
nineteen years; and then we moved to Westover, and this story began.

They called it "Westover," more or less, years and years before; when
there were no houses up the hill at all; only farm lands and pastures,
and a turnpike road running straight up one side and down the other,
in the sun. When anybody had need to climb over the crown, to get to
the fields on this side, they called it "going west over"; and so came
the name.

We always thought it was a pretty, sunsetty name; but it isn't
considered quite so fine to have a house here as to have it below the
brow. When you get up sufficiently high, in any sense, you begin to go
down again. Or is it that people can't be distinctively genteel, if
they get so far away from the common as no longer to well overlook it?

Grandfather Holabird--old Mr. Rufus,--I don't say whether he was my
grandfather or not, for it doesn't matter which Holabird tells this
story, or whether it is a Holabird at all--bought land here ever so
many years ago, and built a large, plain, roomy house; and here the
boys grew up,--Roderick and Rufus and Stephen and John.

Roderick went into the manufactory with his father,--who had himself
come up from being a workman to being owner,--and learned the
business, and made money, and married a Miss Bragdowne from C----, and
lived on at home. Rufus married and went away, and died when he was
yet a young man. His wife went home to her family, and there were no
little children. John lives in New York, and has two sons and three
daughters.

There are of us--Stephen Holabird's family--just six. Stephen and his
wife, Rosamond and Barbara and little Stephen and Ruth. Ruth is Mrs.
Holabird's niece, and Mr. Holabird's second cousin; for two cousins
married two sisters. She came here when she had neither father nor
mother left. They thought it queer up at the other house; because
"Stephen had never managed to have any too much for his own"; but of
course, being the wife's niece, they never thought of interfering, on
the mere claim of the common cousinship.

Ruth Holabird is a quiet little body, but she has her own particular
ways too.

There is one thing different in our house from most others. We are all
known by our straight names. I say _known_; because we do have little
pet ways of calling, among ourselves,--sometimes one way and sometimes
another; but we don't let these get out of doors much. Mr. Holabird
doesn't like it. So though up stairs, over our sewing, or our
bed-making, or our dressing, we shorten or sweeten, or make a little
fun,--though Rose of the world gets translated, if she looks or
behaves rather specially nice, or stays at the glass trying to do the
first,--or Barbara gets only "Barb" when she is sharper than common,
or Stephen is "Steve" when he's a dear, and "Stiff" when he's
obstinate,--we always _introduce_ "my daughter Rosamond," or "my
sister Barbara," or,--but Ruth of course never gets nicknamed, because
nothing could be easier or pleasanter than just "Ruth,"--and Stephen
is plain strong Stephen, because he is a boy and is expected to be a
man some time. Nobody writes to us, or speaks of us, except as we were
christened. This is only rather a pity for Rosamond. Rose Holabird is
such a pretty name. "But it will keep," her mother tells her. "She
wouldn't want to be everybody's Rose."

Our moving to Westover was a great time.

That was because we had to move the house; which is what everybody
does not do who moves into a house by any means.

We were very much astonished when Grandfather Holabird came in and
told us, one morning, of his having bought it,--the empty Beaman
house, that nobody had lived in for five years. The Haddens had bought
the land for somebody in their family who wanted to come out and
build, and so the old house was to be sold and moved away; and nobody
but old Mr. Holabird owned land near enough to put it upon. For it was
large and solid-built, and could not be taken far.

We were a great deal more astonished when he came in again, another
day, and proposed that we should go and live in it.

We were all a good deal afraid of Grandfather Holabird. He had very
strict ideas of what people ought to do about money. Or rather of what
they ought to do _without_ it, when they didn't happen to have any.

Mrs. Stephen pulled down the green blinds when she saw him coming that
day,--him and his cane. Barbara said she didn't exactly know which it
was she dreaded; she thought she could bear the cane without him, or
even him without the cane; but both together were "_scare-mendous_;
they did put down so."

Mrs. Holabird pulled down the blinds, because he would be sure to
notice the new carpet the first thing; it was a cheap ingrain, and the
old one had been all holes, so that Barbara had proposed putting up a
board at the door,--"Private way; dangerous passing." And we had all
made over our three winters' old cloaks this year, for the sake of it:
and we hadn't got the carpet then till the winter was half over. But
we couldn't tell all this to Grandfather Holabird. There was never
time for the whole of it. And he knew that Mr. Stephen was troubled
just now for his rent and taxes. For Stephen Holabird was the one in
this family who couldn't make, or couldn't manage, money. There is
always one. I don't know but it is usually the best one of all, in
other ways.

Stephen Holabird is a good man, kind and true; loving to live a
gentle, thoughtful life, in his home and among his books; not made for
the din and scramble of business.

He never looks to his father; his father does not believe in allowing
his sons to look to him; so in the terrible time of '57, when the loss
and the worry came, he had to struggle as long as he could, and then
go down with the rest, paying sixty cents on the dollar of all his
debts, and beginning again, to try and earn the forty, and to feed and
clothe his family meanwhile.

Grandfather Holabird sent us down all our milk, and once a week, when
he bought his Sunday dinner, he would order a turkey for us. In the
summer, we had all the vegetables we wanted from his garden, and at
Thanksgiving a barrel of cranberries from his meadow. But these
obliged us to buy an extra half-barrel of sugar. For all these things
we made separate small change of thanks, each time, and were all the
more afraid of his noticing our new gowns or carpets.

"When you haven't any money, don't buy anything," was his stern
precept.

"When you're in the Black Hole, don't breathe," Barbara would say,
after he was gone.

But then we thought a good deal of Grandfather Holabird, for all. That
day, when he came in and astonished us so, we were all as busy and as
cosey as we could be.

Mrs. Holabird was making a rug of the piece of the new carpet that had
been cut out for the hearth, bordering it with a strip of shag.
Rosamond was inventing a feather for her hat out of the best of an old
black-cock plume, and some bits of beautiful downy white ones with
smooth tips, that she brought forth out of a box.

"What are they, Rose? And where did you get them?" Ruth asked,
wondering.

"They were dropped,--and I picked them up," Rosamond answered,
mysteriously. "The owner never missed them."

"Why, Rosamond!" cried Stephen, looking up from his Latin grammar.

"Did!" persisted Rosamond. "And would again. I'm sure I wanted 'em
most. Hens lay themselves out on their underclothing, don't they?" she
went on, quietly, putting the white against the black, and admiring
the effect. "They don't dress much outside."

"O, hens! What did you make us think it was people for?"

"Don't you ever let anybody know it was hens! Never cackle about
contrivances. Things mustn't be contrived; they must happen. Woman and
her accidents,--mine are usually catastrophes."

Rosamond was so busy fastening in the plume, and giving it the right
set-up, that she talked a little delirium of nonsense.

Barbara flung down a magazine,--some old number.

"Just as they were putting the very tassel on to the cap of the
climax, the page is torn out! What do you want, little cat?" she went
on to her pussy, that had tumbled out of her lap as she got up, and
was stretching and mewing. "Want to go out doors and play, little cat?
Well, you can. There's plenty of room out of doors for two little
cats!" And going to the door with her, she met grandfather and the
cane coming in.

There was time enough for Mrs. Holabird to pull down the blinds, and
for Ruth to take a long, thinking look out from under hers, through
the sash of window left unshaded; for old Mr. Holabird and his cane
were slow; the more awful for that.

Ruth thought to herself, "Yes; there is plenty of room out of doors;
and yet people crowd so! I wonder why we can't live bigger!"

[Illustration]

Mrs. Holabird's thinking was something like it.

"Five hundred dollars to worry about, for what is set down upon a few
square yards of 'out of doors.' And inside of that, a great contriving
and going without, to put something warm underfoot over the sixteen
square feet that we live on most!"

She had almost a mind to pull up the blinds again; it was such a very
little matter, the bit of new carpet, after all.

"How do I know what they were thinking?" Never mind. People do know,
or else how do they ever tell stories? We know lots of things that we
_don't_ tell all the time. We don't stop to think whether we know
them or not; but they are underneath the things we feel, and the
things we do.

Grandfather came in, and said over the same old stereotypes. He had a
way of saying them, so that we knew just what was coming, sentence
after sentence. It was a kind of family psalter. What it all meant
was, "I've looked in to see you, and how you are getting along. I do
think of you once in a while." And our worn-out responses were, "It's
very good of you, and we're much obliged to you, as far as it goes."

It was only just as he got up to leave that he said the real thing.
When there was one, he always kept it to the last.

"Your lease is up here in May, isn't it, Mrs. Stephen?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'm going to move over that Beaman house next month, as soon as the
around settles. I thought it might suit you, perhaps, to come and live
in it. It would be handier about a good many things than it is now.
Stephen might do something to his piece, in a way of small farming.
I'd let him have the rent for three years. You can talk it over."

He turned round and walked right out. Nobody thanked him or said a
word. We were too much surprised.

Mother spoke first; after we had hushed up Stephen, who shouted.

I shall call her "mother," now; for it always seems as if that were a
woman's real name among her children. Mr. Holabird was apt to call her
so himself. She did not altogether like it, always, from him. She
asked him once if "Emily" were dead and buried. She had tried to keep
her name herself, she said; that was the reason she had not given it
to either of her daughters. It was a good thing to leave to a
grandchild; but she could not do without it as long as she lived.

"We could keep a cow!" said mother.

"We could have a pony!" cried Stephen, utterly disregarded.

"What does he want to move it quite over for?" asked Rosamond. "His
land begins this side."

"Rosamond wants so to get among the Hill people! Pray, why can't we
have a colony of our own?" said Barbara, sharply and proudly.

"I should think it would be less trouble," said Rosamond, quietly, in
continuation of her own remark; holding up, as she spoke, her finished
hat upon her hand. Rosamond aimed at being truly elegant. She would
never discuss, directly, any questions of our position, or our
limitations.

"Does that look--"

"Holabirdy?" put in Barbara. "No. Not a bit. Things that you do never
do."

Rosamond felt herself flush up. Alice Marchbanks had said once, of
something that we wore, which was praised as pretty, that it "might
be, but it was Holabirdy." Rosamond found it hard to forget that.

"I beg your pardon, Rose. It's just as pretty as it can be; and I
don't mean to tease you," said Barbara, quickly. "But _I do_ mean to
be proud of being Holabirdy, just as long as there's a piece of the
name left."

"I wish we hadn't bought the new carpet now," said mother. "And what
_shall_ we do about all those other great rooms? It will take ready
money to move. I'm afraid we shall have to cut it off somewhere else
for a while. What if it should be the music, Ruth?"

That did go to Ruth's heart. She tried so hard to be willing that she
did not speak at first.

"'Open and shet is a sign of more wet!'" cried Barbara. "I don't
believe there ever was a family that had so _much_ opening and
shetting! We just get a little squeak out of a crack, and it goes
together again and snips our noses!"

"What _is_ a 'squeak' out of a crack?" said Rosamond, laughing. "A
mouse pinched in it, I should think."

"Exactly," replied Barbara. "The most expressive words are
fricassees,--heads and tails dished up together. Can't you see the
philology of it? 'Squint' and 'peek.' Worcester can't put down
everything. He leaves something to human ingenuity. The language isn't
all made,--or used,--yet!"

Barbara had a way of putting heads and tails together, in defiance--in
aid, as she maintained--of the dictionaries.

"O, I can practise," Ruth said, cheerily. "It will be so bright out
there, and the mornings will be so early!"

"That's just what they won't be, particularly," said Barbara, "seeing
we're going 'west over.'"

"Well, then, the afternoons will be long. It is all the same," said
Ruth. That was the best she could do.

"Mother," said Rosamond, "I've been thinking. Get grandfather to have
some of the floors stained. I think rugs, and English druggets, put
down with brass-headed nails, in the middle, are delightful.
Especially for a country house."

"It seems, then, we _are_ going?"

Nobody had even raised a question of that.

Nobody raised a question when Mr. Holabird came in. He himself raised
none. He sat and listened to all the propositions and corollaries,
quite as one does go through the form of demonstration of a
geometrical fact patent at first glance.

"We can have a cow," mother repeated.

"Or a dog, at any rate," put in Stephen, who found it hard to get a
hearing.

"You can have a garden, father," said Barbara. "It's to be near to the
parcel of ground that Rufus gave to his son Stephen."

"I don't like to have you quote Scripture so," said father, gravely.

"I don't," said Barbara. "It quoted itself. And it isn't there either.
I don't know of a Rufus in all sacred history. And there aren't many
in profane."

"Somebody was the 'father of Alexander and Rufus'; and there's a Rufus
'saluted' at the end of an epistle."

"Ruth is sure to catch one, if one's out in Scripture. But that isn't
history; that's mere mention."

"We can ask the girls to come 'over' now, instead of 'down,'"
suggested Rosamond, complacently.

Barbara smiled.

"And we can tell _the girl_ to come 'over,' instead of 'up,' when
she's to fetch us home from a tea-drinking That will be one of the
'handy' things."

"Girl! we shall have a man, if we have a garden." This was between
the two.

"Mayhap," said Barbara. "And perlikely a wheel-barrow."

"We shall all have to remember that it will only be living there
instead of here," said father, cautiously, putting up an umbrella
under the rain of suggestion.

The umbrella settled the question of the weather, however. There was
no doubt about it after that. Mother calculated measurements, and it
was found out, between her and the girls, that the six muslin curtains
in our double town parlor would be lovely for the six windows in the
square Beaman best room. Also that the parlor carpet would make over,
and leave pieces for rugs for some of our delightful stained floors.
The little tables, and the two or three brackets, and the few
pictures, and other art-ornaments, that only "strinkled," Barbara
said, in two rooms, would be charmingly "crowsy" in one. And up stairs
there would be such nice space for cushioning and flouncing, and
making upholstery out of nothing, that you couldn't do here, because
in these spyglass houses the sleeping-rooms were all bedstead, and
fireplace, and closet doors.

They were left to their uninterrupted feminine speculations, for Mr.
Holabird had put on his hat and coat again, and gone off west over to
see his father; and Stephen had "piled" out into the kitchen, to
communicate his delight to Winifred, with whom he was on terms of a
kind of odd-glove intimacy, neither of them having in the house any
precisely matched companionship.

This ought to have been foreseen, and an embargo put on; for it led
to trouble. By the time the green holland shades were apportioned to
their new places, and an approximate estimate reached of the whole
number of windows to be provided, Winny had made up her gregarious
mind that she could not give up her town connection, and go out to
live in "sûch a fersaakunness"; and as any remainder of time is to
Irish valuation like the broken change of a dollar, when the whole can
no longer be counted on, she gave us warning next morning at breakfast
that she "must jûst be lukkin out fer a plaashe."

"But," said mother, in her most conciliatory way, "it must be two or
three months, Winny, before we move, if we do go; and I should be glad
to have you stay and help us through."

"Ah, sure, I'd do annything to hilp yiz through; an' I'm sure, I taks
an intheresht in yiz ahl, down to the little cat hersel'; an' indeed I
niver tuk an intheresht in anny little cat but that little cat; but I
couldn't go live where it wud be so loahnsome, an' I can't be out oo a
plaashe, ye see."

It was no use talking; it was only transposing sentences; she "tuk a
graat intheresht in us, an' sure she'd do annything to hilp us, but
she mûst jûst be lukkin out fer hersel'." And that very day she had
the kitchen scrubbed up at a most unwonted hour, and her best bonnet
on,--a rim of flowers and lace, with a wide expanse--of ungarnished
head between it and the chignon it was supposed to accommodate,--and
took her "afternoon out" to search for some new situation, where
people were subject neither to sickness nor removals nor company nor
children nor much of anything; and where, under these circumstances,
and especially if there were "set tubs, and hot and cold water," she
would probably remain just about as long as her "intheresht" would
_not_ allow of her continuing with us.

A kitchen exodus is like other small natural commotions,--sure to
happen when anything greater does. When the sun crosses the line we
have a gale down below.

"_Now_ what shall we do?" asked Mrs. Holabird, forlornly, coming back
into the sitting-room out of that vacancy in the farther apartments
which spreads itself in such a still desertedness of feeling all
through the house.

"Just what we've done before, motherums!" said Barbara, more bravely
than she felt. "The next one is somewhere. Like Tupper's 'wife of thy
youth,' she must be 'now living upon the earth.' In fact, I don't
doubt there's a long line of them yet, threaded in and out among the
rest of humanity, all with faces set by fate toward our back door.
There's always a coming woman, in that direction at least."

"I would as lief come across the staying one," said Mrs. Holabird,
with meekness.

It cooled down our enthusiasm. Stephen, especially, was very much
quenched.

The next one was not only somewhere, but everywhere, it seemed, and
nowhere. "Everything by turns and nothing long," Barbara wrote up over
the kitchen chimney with the baker's chalk. We had five girls between
that time and our moving to Westover, and we had to move without a
girl at last; only getting a woman in to do days' work. But I have not
come to the family-moving yet.

The house-moving was the pretty part. Every pleasant afternoon, while
the building was upon the rollers, we walked over, and went up into
all the rooms, and looked out of every window, noting what new
pictures they gave as the position changed from day to day; how now
this tree and now that shaded them: how we gradually came to see by
the end of the Haddens' barn, and at last across it,--for the slope,
though gradual, was long,--and how the sunset came in more and more,
as we squared toward the west; and there was always a thrill of
excitement when we felt under us, as we did again and again, the
onward momentary surge of the timbers, as the workmen brought all
rightly to bear, and the great team of oxen started up. Stephen called
these earthquakes.

We found places, day by day, where it would be nice to stop. It was
such a funny thing to travel along in a house that might stop
anywhere, and thenceforward belong. Only, in fact, it couldn't;
because, like some other things that seem a matter of choice, it was
all pre-ordained; and there was a solid stone foundation waiting over
on the west side, where grandfather meant it to be.

We got little new peeps at the southerly hills, in the fresh breaks
between trees and buildings that we went by. As we reached the broad,
open crown, we saw away down beyond where it was still and woodsy; and
the nice farm-fields of Grandfather Holabird's place looked sunny and
pleasant and real countrified.

It was not a steep eminence on either side; if it had been the great
house could not have been carried over as it was. It was a grand
generous swell of land, lifting up with a slow serenity into pure airs
and splendid vision. We did not know, exactly, where the highest
point had been; but as we came on toward the little walled-in
excavation which seemed such a small mark to aim at, and one which we
might so easily fail to hit after all, we saw how behind us rose the
green bosom of the field against the sky, and how, day by day, we got
less of the great town within our view as we settled down upon our
side of the ridge.

The air was different here, it was full of hill and pasture.

There were not many trees immediately about the spot where we were to
be; but a great group of ashes and walnuts stood a little way down
against the roadside, and all around in the far margins of the fields
were beautiful elms, and round maples that would be globes of fire in
autumn days, and above was the high blue glory of the unobstructed
sky.

The ground fell off suddenly into a great hill-dimple, just where the
walls were laid; that was why Grandfather Holabird had chosen the
spot. There could be a cellar-kitchen; and it had been needful for the
moving, that all the rambling, outrunning L, which had held the
kitchens and woodsheds before, should be cut off and disposed of as
mere lumber. It was only the main building--L-shaped still, of three
very large rooms below and five by more subdivision above--which had
majestically taken up its line of march, like the star of empire,
westward. All else that was needful must be rebuilt.

Mother did not like a cellar-kitchen. It would be inconvenient with
one servant. But Grandfather Holabird had planned the house before he
offered it to us to live in. What we were going to save in rent we
must take out cheerfully in extra steps.

It was in the bright, lengthening days of April, when the bluebirds
came fluttering out of fairy-land, that the old house finally stopped,
and stood staring around it with its many eyes,--wide open to the
daylight, all its green winkers having been taken off,--to see where
it was and was likely to be for the rest of its days. It had a very
knowing look, we thought, like a house that had seen the world.

The sun walked round it graciously, if not inquisitively. He flashed
in at the wide parlor windows and the rooms overhead, as soon as he
got his brow above the hill-top. Then he seemed to sidle round
southward, not slanting wholly out his morning cheeriness until the
noonday glory slanted in. At the same time he began with the
sitting-room opposite, through the one window behind; and then through
the long, glowing afternoon, the whole bright west let him in along
the full length of the house, till he just turned the last corner, and
peeped in, on the longest summer days, at the very front. This was
what he had got so far as to do by the time we moved in,--as if he
stretched his very neck to find out the last there was to learn about
it, and whether nowhere in it were really yet any human life. He
quieted down in his mind, I suppose, when from morning to night he
found somebody to beam at, and a busy doing in every room. He took it
serenely then, as one of the established things upon the earth, and
put us in the regular list of homes upon his round, that he was to
leave so many cubic feet of light at daily.

I think he _might_ like to look in at that best parlor. With the six
snowy-curtained windows, it was like a great white blossom; and the
deep-green carpet and the walls with vine-leaves running all over
them, in the graceful-patterned paper that Rosamond chose, were like
the moss and foliage among which it sprung. Here and there the light
glinted upon gilded frame or rich bronze or pure Parian, and threw out
the lovely high tints, and deepened the shadowy effects, of our few
fine pictures. We had little of art, but that little was choice. It
was Mr. Holabird's weakness, when money was easy with him, to bring
home straws like these to the home nest. So we had, also, a good many
nice books; for, one at a time, when there was no hurrying bill to be
paid, they had not seemed much to buy; and in our brown room, where we
sat every day, and where our ivies had kindly wonted themselves
already to the broad, bright windows, there were stands and cases well
filled, and a great round family table in the middle, whose worn cloth
hid its shabbiness under the comfort of delicious volumes ready to the
hand, among which, central of all, stood the Shekinah of the
home-spirit,--a tall, large-globed lamp that drew us cosily into its
round of radiance every night.

Not these June nights though. I will tell you presently what the June
nights were at Westover.

We worked hard in those days, but we were right blithe about it. We
had at last got an Irish girl from "far down,"--that is their word for
the north country at home, and the north country is where the best
material comes from,--who was willing to air her ignorance in our
kitchen, and try our Christian patience, during a long pupilage, for
the modest sum of three dollars a week; than which "she could not
come indeed for less," said the friend who brought her. "All the girls
was gettin' that." She had never seen dipped toast, and she "couldn't
do starched clothes very skilful"; but these things had nothing to do
with established rates of wages.

But who cared, when it was June, and the smell of green grass and the
singing of birds were in the air, and everything indoors was clean,
and fresh with the wonderful freshness of things set every one in a
new place? We worked hard and we made it look lovely, if the things
were old; and every now and then we stopped in the midst of a busy
rush, at door or window, to see joyfully and exclaim with ecstasy how
grandly and exquisitely Nature was furbishing up her beautiful old
things also,--a million for one sweet touches outside, for ours in.

"Westover is no longer an adverbial phrase, even qualifying the verb
'to go,'" said Barbara, exultingly, looking abroad upon the family
settlement, to which our new barn, rising up, added another building.
"It is an undoubted substantive proper, and takes a preposition before
it, except when it is in the nominative case."

Because of the cellar-kitchen, there was a high piazza built up to the
sitting-room windows on the west, which gradually came to the
ground-level along the front. Under this was the woodshed. The piazza
was open, unroofed: only at the front door was a wide covered portico,
from which steps went down to the gravelled entrance. A light low
railing ran around the whole.

Here we had those blessed country hours of day-done, when it was right
and lawful to be openly idle in this world, and to look over through
the beautiful evening glooms to neighbor worlds, that showed always a
round of busy light, and yet seemed somehow to keep holiday-time with
us, and to be only out at play in the spacious ether.

We used to think of the sunset all the day through, wondering what new
glory it would spread for us, and gathering eagerly to see, as for the
witnessing of a pageant.

The moon was young, for our first delight; and the evening planet hung
close by; they dropped down through the gold together, till they
touched the very rim of the farthest possible horizon; when they slid
silently beneath, we caught our suspended breath.

[Illustration]

"But the curtain isn't down," said Barbara, after a hush.

No. The great scene was all open, still. Wide from north to south
stretched the deep, sweet heaven, full of the tenderest tints and
softliest creeping shadows; the tree-fringes stood up against it; the
gentle winds swept through, as if creatures winged, invisible, went
by; touched, one by one, with glory, the stars burned on the blue; we
watched as if any new, unheard-of wonder might appear; we looked out
into great depths that narrow daylight shut us in from. Daylight was
the curtain.

"We've got the best balcony seats, haven't we, father?" Barbara said
again, coming to where Mr. Holabird sat, and leaning against the
railing.

"The front row, and season tickets!"

"Every one, all summer. Only think!" said Ruth.

"Pho! You'll get used to it," answered Stephen, as if he knew human
nature, and had got used himself to most things.



CHAPTER II.

AMPHIBIOUS.


"What day of the month is it?" asked Mrs. Holabird, looking up from
her letter.

Ruth told.

"How do you always know the day of the month?" said Rosamond. "You are
as pat as the almanac. I have to stop and think whether anything
particular has happened, to remember _any_ day by, since the first,
and then count up. So, as things don't happen much out here, I'm never
sure of anything except that it can't be more than the thirty-first;
and as to whether it can be that, I have to say over the old rhyme in
my head."

"I know how she tells," spoke up Stephen. "It's that thing up in her
room,--that pious thing that whops over. It has the figures down at
the bottom; and she whops it every morning."

Ruth laughed.

"What do you try to tease her for?" said Mrs. Holabird.

"It doesn't tease her. She thinks it's funny. She laughed, and you
only puckered."

Ruth laughed again. "It wasn't only that," she said.

"Well, what then?"

"To think you knew."

"Knew! Why shouldn't I know? It's big enough."

"Yes,--but about the whopping. And the figures are the smallest part
of the difference. You're a pretty noticing boy, Steve."

Steve colored a little, and his eye twinkled. He saw that Ruth had
caught him out.

"I guess you set it for a goody-trap," he said. "Folks can't help
reading sign-boards when they go by. And besides, it's like the man
that went to Van Amburgh's. I shall catch you forgetting, some fine
day, and then I'll whop the whole over for you."

Ruth had been mending stockings, and was just folding up the last
pair. She did not say any more, for she did not want to tease Stephen
in her turn; but there was a little quiet smile just under her lips
that she kept from pulling too hard at the corners, as she got up and
went away with them to her room.

She stopped when she got to the open door of it, with her basket in
her hand, and looked in from the threshold at the hanging scroll of
Scripture texts printed in large clear letters,--a sheet for each day
of the month,--and made to fold over and drop behind the black-walnut
rod to which they were bound. It had been given her by her teacher at
the Bible Class,--Mrs. Ingleside; and Ruth loved Mrs. Ingleside very
much.

Then she went to her bureau, and put her stockings in their drawer,
and set the little basket, with its cotton-ball and darner, and
maplewood egg, and small sharp scissors, on the top; and then she went
and sat down by the window, in her white considering-chair.

For she had something to think about this morning.

Ruth's room had three doors. It was the middle room up stairs, in the
beginning of the L. Mrs. Holabird's opened into it from the front, and
just opposite her door another led into the large, light corner room
at the end, which Rosamond and Barbara occupied. Stephen's was on the
other side of the three-feet passage which led straight through from
the front staircase to the back of the house. The front staircase was
a broad, low-stepped, old-fashioned one, with a landing half-way up;
and it was from this landing that a branch half-flight came into the
L, between these two smaller bedrooms. Now I have begun, I may as well
tell you all about it; for, if you are like me, you will be glad to be
taken fairly into a house you are to pay a visit in, and find out all
the pleasantnesses of it, and whom they especially belong to.

Ruth's room was longest across the house, and Stephen's with it;
behind his was only the space taken by some closets and the square of
staircase beyond. This staircase had landings also, and was lighted by
a window high up in the wall. Behind Ruth's, as I have said, was the
whole depth of a large apartment. But as the passage divided the L
unequally, it gave the rooms similar space and shape, only at right
angles to each other.

The sun came into Stephen's room in the morning, and into Ruth's in
the afternoon; in the middle of the day the passage was one long
shine, from its south window at the end, right through,--except in
such days as these, that were too deep in the summer to bear it, and
then the green blinds were shut all around, and the warm wind drew
through pleasantly in a soft shade.

When we brought our furniture from the house in the town, the large
front rooms and the open halls used it up so, that it seemed as if
there were hardly anything left but bedsteads and washstands and
bureaus,--the very things that make up-stairs look so _very_ bedroomy.
And we wanted pretty places to sit in, as girls always do. Rosamond
and Barbara made a box-sofa, fitted luxuriously with old pew-cushions
sewed together, and a crib mattress cut in two and fashioned into seat
and pillows; and a packing-case dressing-table, flounced with a skirt
of white cross-barred muslin that Ruth had outgrown. In exchange for
this Ruth bargained for the dimity curtains that had furnished their
two windows before, and would not do for the three they had now.

Then she shut herself up one day in her room, and made them all go
round by the hall and passage, back and forth; and worked away
mysteriously till the middle of the afternoon, when she unfastened all
the doors again and set them wide, as they have for the most part
remained ever since, in the daytimes; thus rendering Ruth's doings and
ways particularly patent to the household, and most conveniently open
to the privilege and second sight of story-telling.

The white dimity curtains--one pair of them--were up at the wide west
window; the other pair was cut up and made over into three or four
things,--drapery for a little old pine table that had come to light
among attic lumber, upon which she had tacked it in neat plaitings
around the sides, and overlapped it at the top with a plain hemmed
cover of the same; a great discarded toilet-cushion freshly encased
with more of it, and edged with magic ruffling; the stained top and
tied-up leg of a little disabled teapoy, kindly disguised in
uniform,--varied only with a narrow stripe of chintz trimming in
crimson arabesque,--made pretty with piles of books, and the Scripture
scroll hung above it with its crimson cord and tassels; and in the
window what she called afterward her "considering-chair," and in which
she sat this morning; another antique, clothed purely from head to
foot and made comfortable beneath with stout bagging nailed across,
over the deficient cane-work.

Tin tacks and some considerable machining--for mother had lent her the
help of her little "common sense" awhile--had done it all; and Ruth's
room, with its oblong of carpet,--which Mrs. Holabird and she had made
out before, from the brightest breadths of her old dove-colored one
and a bordering of crimson Venetian, of which there had not been
enough to put upon the staircase,--looked, as Barbara said, "just as
if it had been done on purpose."

"It _says_ it all, anyhow, doesn't it?" said Ruth.

Ruth was delightedly satisfied with it,--with its situation above all;
she liked to nestle in, in the midst of people; and she never minded
their coming through, any more than they minded her slipping her three
little brass bolts when she had a desire to.

She sat down in her considering-chair to-day, to think about Adelaide
Marchbanks's invitation.

The two Marchbanks houses were very gay this summer. The married
daughter of one family--Mrs. Reyburne--was at home from New York, and
had brought a very fascinating young Mrs. Van Alstyne with her. Roger
Marchbanks, at the other house, had a couple of college friends
visiting him; and both places were merry with young girls,--several
sisters in each family,--always. The Haddens were there a good deal,
and there were people from the city frequently, for a few days at a
time. Mrs. Linceford was staying at the Haddens, and Leslie
Goldthwaite, a great pet of hers,--Mr. Aaron Goldthwaite's daughter,
in the town,--was often up among them all.

The Holabirds were asked in to tea-drinkings, and to croquet, now and
then, especially at the Haddens', whom they knew best; but they were
not on "in and out" terms, from morning to night, as these others were
among themselves; for one thing, the little daily duties of their life
would not allow it. The "jolly times" on the Hill were a kind of
Elf-land to them, sometimes patent and free, sometimes shrouded in the
impalpable and impassable mist that shuts in the fairy region when it
wills to be by itself for a time.

There was one little simple sesame which had a power this way for
them, perhaps without their thinking of it; certainly it was not
spoken of directly when the invitations were given and accepted.
Ruth's fingers had a little easy, gladsome knack at music; and I
suppose sometimes it was only Ruth herself who realized how
thoroughly the fingers earned the privilege of the rest of her bodily
presence. She did not mind; she was as happy playing as Rosamond and
Barbara dancing; it was all fair enough; everybody must be wanted for
something; and Ruth knew that her music was her best thing. She wished
and meant it to be; Ruth had plans in her head which her fingers were
to carry out.

But sometimes there was a slight flavor in attention, that was not
quite palatable, even to Ruth's pride. These three girls had each her
own sort of dignity. Rosamond's measured itself a good deal by the
accepted dignity of others; Barbara's insisted on its own standard;
why shouldn't they--the Holabirds--settle anything? Ruth hated to have
theirs hurt; and she did not like subserviency, or courting favor. So
this morning she was partly disturbed and partly puzzled by what had
happened.

Adelaide Marchbanks had overtaken her on the hill, on her way "down
street" to do some errand, and had walked on with her very affably.
At parting she had said to her, in an off-hand, by-the-way fashion,--

"Ruth, why won't you come over to-night, and take tea? I should like
you to hear Mrs. Van Alstyne sing, and she would like your playing.
There won't be any company; but we're having pretty good times now
among ourselves."

Ruth knew what the "no company" meant; just that there was no regular
inviting, and so no slight in asking her alone, out of her family; but
she knew the Marchbanks parlors were always full of an evening, and
that the usual set would be pretty sure to get together, and that the
end of it all would be an impromptu German, for which she should
play, and that the Marchbanks's man would be sent home with her at
eleven o'clock.

She only thanked Adelaide, and said she "didn't know,--perhaps; but
she hardly thought she could to-night; they had better not expect
her," and got away without promising. She was thinking it over now.

She did not want to be stiff and disobliging; and she would like to
hear Mrs. Van Alstyne sing. If it were only for herself, she would
very likely think it a reasonable "quid pro quo," and modestly
acknowledge that she had no claim to absolutely gratuitous compliment.
She would remember higher reason, also, than the _quid pro quo_; she
would try to be glad in this little special "gift of ministering"; but
it puzzled her about the others. How would they feel about it? Would
they like it, her being asked so? Would they think she ought to go?
And what if she were to get into this way of being asked alone?--she
the very youngest; not "in society" yet even as much as Rose and
Barbara; though Barbara said _they_ "never 'came' out,--they just
leaked out."

That was it; that would not do; she must not leak out, away from them,
with her little waltz ripples; if there were any small help or power
of hers that could be counted in to make them all more valued, she
would not take it from the family fund and let it be counted alone to
her sole credit. It must go with theirs. It was little enough that she
could repay into the household that had given itself to her like a
born home.

She thought she would not even ask Mrs. Holabird anything about it, as
at first she meant to do.

But Mrs. Holabird had a way of coming right into things. "We girls"
means Mrs. Holabird as much as anybody. It was always "we girls" in
her heart, since girls' mothers never can quite lose the girl out of
themselves; it only multiplies, and the "everlasting nominative" turns
into a plural.

Ruth still sat in her white chair, with her cheek on her hand and her
elbow on the window-ledge, looking out across the pleasant swell of
grass to where they were cutting the first hay in old Mr. Holabird's
five-acre field, the click of the mowing-machine sounding like some
new, gigantic kind of grasshopper, chirping its tremendous laziness
upon the lazy air, when mother came in from the front hall, through
her own room and saw her there.

Mrs. Holabird never came through the rooms without a fresh thrill of
pleasantness. Her home had _expressed_ itself here, as it had never
done anywhere else. There was something in the fair, open, sunshiny
roominess and cosey connection of these apartments, hers and her
daughters', in harmony with the largeness and cheeriness and clearness
in which her love and her wish for them held them always.

It was more glad than grand; and she aimed at no grandness; but the
generous space was almost splendid in its effect, as you looked
through, especially to her who had lived and contrived in a "spy-glass
house" so long.

The doors right through from front to back, and the wide windows at
either end and all the way, gave such sweep and light; also the long
mirrors, that had been from time unrememberable over the mantels in
the town parlors, in the old, useless, horizontal style, and were here
put, quite elegantly tall,--the one in Mrs. Holabird's room above her
daintily appointed dressing-table (which was only two great square
trunks full of blankets, that could not be stowed away anywhere else,
dressed up in delicate-patterned chintz and set with her boxes and
cushions and toilet-bottles), and the other, in "the girls' room,"
opposite; these made magnificent reflections and repetitions; and at
night, when they all lit their bed-candles, and vibrated back and
forth with their last words before they shut their doors and subsided,
gave a truly festival and illuminated air to the whole mansion; so
that Mrs. Roderick would often ask, when she came in of a morning in
their busiest time, "Did you have company last night? I saw you were
all lit up."

"We had one candle apiece," Barbara would answer, very concisely.

"I do wish all our windows didn't look Mrs. Roderick's way," Rosamond
said once, after she had gone.

"And that she _didn't_ have to come through our clothes-yard of a
Monday morning, to see just how many white skirts we have in the
wash," added Barbara.

But this is off the track.

"What is it, Ruth?" asked Mrs. Holabird, as she came in upon the
little figure in the white chair, midway in the long light through the
open rooms. "You didn't really mind Stephen, did you?"

"O no, indeed, aunt! I was only thinking out things. I believe I've
done, pretty nearly. I guess I sha'n't go. I wanted to make sure I
wasn't provoked."

"You're talking from where you left off, aren't you, Ruthie?"

"Yes, I guess so," said Ruth, laughing. "It seems like talking right
on,--doesn't it?--when you speak suddenly out of a 'think.' I wonder
what _alone_ really means. It doesn't ever quite seem alone. Something
thinks alongside always, or else you couldn't keep it up."

"Are you making an essay on metaphysics? You're a queer little Ruth."

"Am I?" Ruth laughed again. "I can't help it. It _does_ answer back."

"And what was the answer about this time?"

That was how Ruth came to let it out.

"About going over to the Marchbanks's to-night. Don't say anything,
though. I thought they needn't have asked me just to play. And they
might have asked somebody with me. Of course it would have been as you
said, if I'd wanted to; but I've made up my mind I--needn't. I mean, I
knew right off that I _didn't_."

Ruth did talk a funny idiom of her own when she came out of one of her
thinks. But Mrs. Holabird understood. Mothers get to understand the
older idiom, just as they do baby-talk,--by the same heart-key. She
knew that the "needn't" and the "didn't" referred to the "wanting to."

"You see, I don't think it would be a good plan to let them begin
with me so."

"You're a very sagacious little Ruth," said Mrs. Holabird,
affectionately. "And a very generous one."

"No, indeed!" Ruth exclaimed at that. "I believe I think it's rather
nice to settle that I _can_ be contrary. I don't like to be
pat-a-caked."

She was glad, afterward, that Mrs. Holabird understood.

The next morning Elinor Hadden and Leslie Goldthwaite walked over, to
ask the girls to go down into the wood-hollow to get azaleas.

Rosamond and Ruth went. Barbara was busy: she was more apt to be the
busy one of a morning than Rosamond; not because Rosamond was not
willing, but that when she _was_ at leisure she looked as though she
always had been and always expected to be; she would have on a cambric
morning-dress, and a jimpsey bit of an apron, and a pair of little
fancy slippers,--(there was a secret about Rosamond's slippers; she
had half a dozen different ways of getting them up, with braiding, and
beading, and scraps of cloth and velvet; and these tops would go on to
any stray soles she could get hold of, that were more sole than body,
in a way she only knew of;) and she would have the sitting-room at the
last point of morning freshness,--chairs and tables and books in the
most charming relative positions, and every little leaf and flower in
vase or basket just set as if it had so peeped up itself among the
others, and all new-born to-day. So it was her gift to be ready and to
receive. Barbara, if she really might have been dressed, would be as
likely as not to be comfortable in a sack and skirt and her
"points,"--as she called her black prunella shoes, that were weak at
the heels and going at the sides, and kept their original character
only by these embellishments upon the instep,--and to have dumped
herself down on the broad lower stair in the hall, just behind the
green blinds of the front entrance, with a chapter to finish in some
irresistible book, or a pair of stockings to mend.

Rosamond was only thankful when she was behind the scenes and would
stay there, not bouncing into the door-way from the dining-room, with
unexpected little bobs, a cake-bowl in one hand and an egg-beater in
the other, to get what she called "grabs of conversation."

Of course she did not do this when the Marchbankses were there, or if
Miss Pennington called; but she could not resist the Haddens and
Leslie Goldthwaite; besides, "they _did_ have to make their own cake,
and why should they be ashamed of it?"

Rosamond would reply that "they _did_ have to make their own beds, but
they could not bring them down stairs for parlor work."

"That was true, and reason why: they just couldn't; if they could, she
would make up hers all over the house, just where there was the most
fun. She hated pretences, and being fine."

Rosamond met the girls on the piazza to-day, when she saw them coming;
for Barbara was particularly awful at this moment, with a skimmer and
a very red face, doing raspberries; and she made them sit down there
in the shaker chairs, while she ran to get her hat and boots, and to
call Ruth; and the first thing Barbara saw of them was from the
kitchen window, "slanting off" down over the croquet-ground toward the
big trees.

Somebody overtook and joined them there,--somebody in a dark gray suit
and bright buttons.

"Why, that," cried Barbara, all to herself and her uplifted skimmer,
looking after them,--"that must be the brother from West Point the
Inglesides expected,--that young Dakie Thayne!"

It was Dakie Thayne; who, after they had all been introduced and were
walking on comfortably together, asked Ruth Holabird if it had not
been she who had been expected and wanted so badly last night at Mrs.
Marchbanks's?

[Illustration]

Ruth dropped a little back as she walked with him, at the moment,
behind the others, along the path between the chestnut-trees.

"I don't think they quite expected me. I told Adelaide I did not think
I could come. I am the youngest, you see," she said with a smile, "and
I don't go out very much, except with my--cousins."

"Your cousins? I fancied you were all sisters."

"It is all the same," said Ruth. "And that is why I always catch my
breath a little before I say 'cousins.'"

"Couldn't they come? What a pity!" pursued this young man, who seemed
bent upon driving his questions home.

"O, it wasn't an invitation, you know. It wasn't company."

"Wasn't it?"

The inflection was almost imperceptible, and quite unintentional;
Dakie Thayne was very polite; but his eyebrows went up a little--just
a line or two--as he said it, the light beginning to come in upon him.

Dakie had been about in the world somewhat; his two years at West
Point were not all his experience; and he knew what queer little
wheels were turned sometimes.

He had just come to Z---- (I must have a letter for my nameless town,
and I have gone through the whole alphabet for it, and picked up a
crooked stick at last), and the new group of people he had got among
interested him. He liked problems and experiments. They were what he
excelled in at the Military School. This was his first furlough; and
it was since his entrance at the Academy that his brother, Dr.
Ingleside, had come to Z----, to take the vacant practice of an old
physician, disabled from continuing it.

Dakie and Leslie Goldthwaite and Mrs. Ingleside were old friends;
almost as old as Mrs. Ingleside and the doctor.

Ruth Holabird had a very young girl's romance of admiration for one
older, in her feeling toward Leslie. She had never known any one just
like her; and, in truth, Leslie was different, in some things, from
the little world of girls about her. In the "each and all" of their
pretty groupings and pleasant relations she was like a bit of fresh,
springing, delicate vine in a bouquet of bright, similarly beautiful
flowers; taking little free curves and reaches of her own, just as she
had grown; not tied, nor placed, nor constrained; never the central or
most brilliant thing; but somehow a kind of life and grace that helped
and touched and perfected all.

There was something very real and individual about her; she was no
"girl of the period," made up by the fashion of the day. She would
have grown just as a rose or a violet would, the same in the first
quarter of the century or the third. They called her "grandmotherly"
sometimes, when a certain quaint primitiveness that was in her showed
itself. And yet she was the youngest girl in all that set, as to
simpleness and freshness and unpretendingness, though she was in her
twentieth year now, which sounds--didn't somebody say so over my
shoulder?--so very old! Adelaide Marchbanks used to say of her that
she had "stayed fifteen."

She _looked_ real. Her bright hair was gathered up loosely, with some
graceful turn that showed its fine shining strands had all been
freshly dressed and handled, under a wide-meshed net that lay lightly
around her head; it was not packed and stuffed and matted and put on
like a pad or bolster, from the bump of benevolence, all over that and
everything else gentle and beautiful, down to the bend of her neck;
and her dress suggested always some one simple idea which you could
trace through it, in its harmony, at a glance; not complex and
bewildering and fatiguing with its many parts and folds and
festoonings and the garnishings of every one of these. She looked more
as young women used to look before it took a lady with her dressmaker
seven toilsome days to achieve a "short street suit," and the public
promenades became the problems that they now are to the inquiring
minds that are forced to wonder who stops at home and does up all the
sewing, and where the hair all comes from.

Some of the girls said, sometimes, that "Leslie Goldthwaite liked to
be odd; she took pains to be." This was not true; she began with the
prevailing fashion--the fundamental idea of it--always, when she had a
new thing; but she modified and curtailed,--something was sure to stop
her somewhere; and the trouble with the new fashions is that they
never stop. To use a phrase she had picked up a few years ago,
"something always got crowded out." She had other work to do, and she
must choose the finishing that would take the shortest time; or satin
folds would cost six dollars more, and she wanted the money to use
differently; the dress was never the first and the _must be_; so it
came by natural development to express herself, not the rampant mode;
and her little ways of "dodging the dressmaker," as she called it,
were sure to be graceful, as well as adroit and decided.

It was a good thing for a girl like Ruth, just growing up to questions
that had first come to this other girl of nineteen four years ago,
that this other had so met them one by one, and decided them half
unconsciously as she went along, that now, for the great puzzle of the
"outside," which is setting more and more between us and our real
living, there was this one more visible, unobtrusive answer put
ready, and with such a charm of attractiveness, into the world.

Ruth walked behind her this morning, with Dakie Thayne, thinking how
"achy" Elinor Hadden's puffs and French-blue bands, and bits of
embroidery looked, for the stitches somebody had put into them, and
the weary starching and ironing and perking out that must be done for
them, beside the simple hem and the one narrow basque ruffling of
Leslie's cambric morning-dress, which had its color and its set-off in
itself, in the bright little carnations with brown stems that figured
it. It was "trimmed in the piece"; and that was precisely what Leslie
had said when she chose it. She "dodged" a great deal in the mere
buying.

Leslie and Ruth got together in the wood-hollow, where the little
vines and ferns began. Leslie was quick to spy the bits of creeping
Mitchella, and the wee feathery fronds that hid away their miniature
grace under the feet of their taller sisters. They were so pretty to
put in shells, and little straight tube-vases. Dakie Thayne helped
Rose and Elinor to get the branches of white honeysuckle that grew
higher up.

Rose walked with the young cadet, the arms of both filled with the
fragrant-flowering stems, as they came up homeward again. She was full
of bright, pleasant chat. It just suited her to spend a morning so, as
if there were no rooms to dust and no tables to set, in all the great
sunshiny world; but as if dews freshened everything, and furnishings
"came," and she herself were clothed of the dawn and the breeze, like
a flower. She never cared so much for afternoons, she said; of course
one had got through with the prose by that time; but "to go off like
a bird or a bee right after breakfast,--that was living; that was the
Irishman's blessing,--'the top o' the morn-in' till yez!'"

"Won't you come in and have some lunch?" she asked, with the most
magnificent intrepidity, when she hadn't the least idea what there
would be to give them all if they did, as they came round under the
piazza basement, and up to the front portico.

They thanked her, no; they must get home with their flowers; and Mrs.
Ingleside expected Dakie to an early dinner.

Upon which she bade them good by, standing among her great azalea
branches, and looking "awfully pretty," as Dakie Thayne said
afterward, precisely as if she had nothing else to think of.

The instant they had fairly moved away, she turned and ran in, in a
hurry to look after the salt-cellars, and to see that Katty hadn't got
the table-cloth diagonal to the square of the room instead of
parallel, or committed any of the other general-housework horrors
which she detailed herself on daily duty to prevent.

Barbara stood behind the blind.

"The audacity of that!" she cried, as Rosamond came in. "I shook right
out of my points when I heard you! Old Mrs. Lovett has been here, and
has eaten up exactly the last slice of cake but one. So that's Dakie
Thayne?"

"Yes. He's a nice little fellow. Aren't these lovely flowers?"

"O my gracious! that great six-foot cadet!"

"It doesn't matter about the feet. He's barely eighteen. But he's
nice,--ever so nice."

"It's a case of Outledge, Leslie," Dakie Thayne said, going down the
hill. "They treat those girls--amphibiously!"

"Well," returned Leslie, laughing, "_I'm_ amphibious. I live in the
town, and I _can_ come out--and not die--on the Hill. I like it. I
always thought that kind of animal had the nicest time."

They met Alice Marchbanks with her cousin Maud, coming up.

"We've been to see the Holabirds," said Dakie Thayne, right off.

"I wonder why that little Ruth didn't come last night? We really
wanted her," said Alice to Leslie Goldthwaite.

"For batrachian reasons, I believe," put in Dakie, full of fun. "She
isn't quite amphibious yet. She don't come out from under water. That
is, she's young, and doesn't go alone. She told me so."

You needn't keep asking how we know! Things that belong get together.
People who tell a story see round corners.

The next morning Maud Marchbanks came over, and asked us all to play
croquet and drink tea with them that evening, with the Goldthwaites
and the Haddens.

"We're growing very gay and multitudinous," she said, graciously.

"The midshipman's got home,--Harry Goldthwaite, you know."

Ruth was glad, then, that mother knew; she had the girls' pride in her
own keeping; there was no responsibility of telling or withholding.
But she was glad also that she had not gone last night.

When we went up stairs at bedtime, Rosamond asked Barbara the old,
inevitable question,--

"What have you got to wear, Barb, to-morrow night,--that's ready?"

And Barbara gave, in substance, the usual unperturbed answer, "Not a
dud!"

But Mrs. Holabird kept a garnet and white striped silk skirt on
purpose to lend to Barbara. If she had _given_ it, there would have
been the end. And among us there would generally be a muslin waist,
and perhaps an overskirt. Barbara said our "overskirts" were skirts
that were _over with_, before the new fashion came.

Barbara went to bed like a chicken, sure that in the big world
to-morrow there would be something that she could pick up.

It was a miserable plan, perhaps; but it _was_ one of our ways at
Westover.



CHAPTER III.

BETWIXT AND BETWEEN.


Three things came of the Marchbanks's party for us Holabirds.

Mrs. Van Alstyne took a great fancy to Rosamond.

Harry Goldthwaite put a new idea into Barbara's head.

And Ruth's little undeveloped plans, which the facile fingers were to
carry out, received a fresh and sudden impetus.

You have thus the three heads of the present chapter.

How could any one help taking a fancy to Rosamond Holabird? In the
first place, as Mrs. Van Alstyne said, there was the name,--"a making
for anybody"; for names do go a great way, notwithstanding
Shakespeare.

It made you think of everything springing and singing and blooming and
sweet. Its expression was "blossomy, nightingale-y"; atilt with glee
and grace. And that was the way she looked and seemed. If you spoke to
her suddenly, the head turned as a bird's does, with a small, shy,
all-alive movement; and the bright eye glanced up at you, ready to
catch electric meanings from your own. When she talked to you in
return, she talked all over; with quiet, refined radiations of life
and pleasure in each involuntary turn and gesture; the blossom of her
face lifted and swayed like that of a flower delicately poised upon
its stalk. She was _like_ a flower chatting with a breeze.

She forgot altogether, as a present fact, that she looked pretty; but
she had known it once, when she dressed herself, and been glad of it;
and something lasted from the gladness just enough to keep out of her
head any painful, conscious question of how she _was_ seeming. That,
and her innate sense of things proper and refined, made her manners
what Mrs. Van Alstyne pronounced them,--"exquisite."

That was all Mrs. Van Alstyne waited to find out. She did not go deep;
hence she took quick fancies or dislikes, and a great many of them.

She got Rosamond over into a corner with herself, and they had
everybody round them. All the people in the room were saying how
lovely Miss Holabird looked to-night. For a little while that seemed a
great and beautiful thing. I don't know whether it was or not. It was
pleasant to have them find it out; but she would have been just as
lovely if they had not. Is a party so very particular a thing to be
lovely in? I wonder what makes the difference. She might have stood on
that same square of the Turkey carpet the next day and been just as
pretty. But, somehow, it seemed grand in the eyes of us girls, and it
meant a great deal that it would not mean the next day, to have her
stand right there, and look just so, to-night.

In the midst of it all, though, Ruth saw something that seemed to her
grander,--another girl, in another corner, looking on,--a girl with a
very homely face; somebody's cousin, brought with them there. She
looked pleased and self-forgetful, differently from Rose in her
prettiness; _she_ looked as if she had put herself away, comfortably
satisfied; this one looked as if there were no self put away anywhere.
Ruth turned round to Leslie Goldthwaite, who stood by.

"I do think," she said,--"don't you?--it's just the bravest and
strongest thing in the world to be awfully homely, and to know it, and
to go right on and have a good time just the same;--_every day_, you
see, right through everything! I think such people must be splendid
inside!"

"The most splendid person I almost ever knew was like that," said
Leslie. "And she was fifty years old too."

"Well," said Ruth, drawing a girl's long breath at the fifty years,
"it was pretty much over then, wasn't it? But I think I should
like--just once--to look beautiful at a party!"

The best of it for Barbara had been on the lawn, before tea.

Barbara was a magnificent croquet-player. She and Harry Goldthwaite
were on one side, and they led off their whole party, going
nonchalantly through wicket after wicket, as if they could not help
it; and after they had well distanced the rest, just toling each
other along over the ground, till they were rovers together, and came
down into the general field again with havoc to the enemy, and the
whole game in their hands on their own part.

"It was a handsome thing to see, for once," Dakie Thayne said; "but
they might make much of it, for it wouldn't do to let them play on the
same side again."

It was while they were off, apart down the slope, just croqueted away
for the time, to come up again with tremendous charge presently, that
Harry asked her if she knew the game of "ship-coil."

[Illustration]

Barbara shook her head. What was it?

"It is a pretty thing. The officers of a Russian frigate showed it to
us. They play it with rings made of spliced rope; we had them plain
enough, but you might make them as gay as you liked. There are ten
rings, and each player throws them all at each turn. The object is to
string them up over a stake, from which you stand at a certain
distance. Whatever number you make counts up for your side, and you
play as many rounds as you may agree upon."

Barbara thought a minute, and then looked up quickly.

"Have you told anybody else of that?"

"Not here. I haven't thought of it for a good while."

"Would you just please, then," said Barbara in a hurry, as somebody
came down toward them in pursuit of a ball, "to hush up, and let me
have it all to myself for a while? And then," she added, as the stray
ball was driven up the lawn again, and the player went away after it,
"come some day and help us get it up at Westover? it's such a thing,
you see, to get anything that's new."

"I see. To be sure. You shall have the State Right,--isn't that what
they make over for patent concerns? And we'll have something famous
out of it. They're getting tired of croquet, or thinking they ought to
be, which is the same thing." It was Barbara's turn now; she hit Harry
Goldthwaite's ball with one of her precise little taps, and, putting
the two beside each other with her mallet, sent them up rollicking
into the thick of the fight, where the final hand-to-hand struggle was
taking place between the last two wickets and the stake. Everybody was
there in a bunch when she came; in a minute everybody of the opposing
party was everywhere else, and she and Harry had it between them
again. She played out two balls, and then, accidentally, her own.
After one "distant, random gun," from the discomfited foe, Harry
rolled quietly up against the wand, and the game was over.

It was then and there that a frank, hearty liking and alliance was
re-established between Harry Goldthwaite and Barbara, upon an old
remembered basis of ten years ago, when he had gone away to school and
given her half his marbles for a parting keepsake,--"as he might have
done," we told her, "to any other boy."

"Ruth hasn't had a good time," said mother, softly, standing in her
door, looking through at the girls laying away ribbons and pulling
down hair, and chattering as only girls in their teens do chatter at
bedtime.

Ruth was in her white window-chair, one foot up on a cricket; and, as
if she could not get into that place without her considering-fit
coming over her, she sat with her one unlaced boot in her hand, and
her eyes away out over the moonlighted fields.

"She played all the evening, nearly. She always does," said Barbara.

"Why, I had a splendid time!" cried Ruth, coming down upon them out of
her cloud with flat contradiction. "And I'm sure I didn't play all the
evening. Mrs. Van Alstyne sang Tennyson's 'Brook,' aunt; and the music
_splashes_ so in it! It did really seem as if she were spattering it
all over the room, and it wasn't a bit of matter!"

"The time was so good, then, that it has made you sober," said Mrs.
Holabird, coming and putting her hand on the back of the white chair.
"I've known good times do that."

"It has given me ever so much thinking to do; besides that brook in my
head, 'going on forever--ever! _go_-ing-on-forever!'" And Ruth broke
into the joyous refrain of the song as she ended.

"I shall come to you for a great long talk to-morrow morning, mother!"
Ruth said again, turning her head and touching her lips to the
mother-hand on her chair. She did not always say "mother," you see; it
was only when she wanted a very dear word.

"We'll wind the rings with all the pretty-colored stuffs we can find
in the bottomless piece-bag," Barbara was saying, at the same moment,
in the room beyond. "And you can bring out your old ribbon-box for the
bowing-up, Rosamond. It's a charity to clear out your glory-holes once
in a while. It's going to be just--splend-umphant!"

"If you don't go and talk about it," said Rosamond. "We _must_ keep
the new of it to ourselves."

"As if I needed!" cried Barbara, indignantly. "When I hushed up Harry
Goldthwaite, and went round all the rest of the evening without doing
anything but just give you that awful little pinch!"

"That was bad enough," said Rosamond, quietly; she never got cross or
inelegantly excited about anything. "But I _do_ think the girls will
like it. And we might have tea out on the broad piazza."

"That is bare floor too," said Barbara, mischievously.

Now, our dining-room had not yet even the English drugget. The dark
new boards would do for summer weather, mother said. "If it had been
real oak, polished!" Rosamond thought. "But hard-pine was kitcheny."

Ruth went to bed with the rest of her thinking and the brook-music
flittering in her brain.

Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks had talked behind her with Jeannie Hadden about
her playing. It was not the compliment that excited her so, although
they said her touch and expression were wonderful, and that her
fingers were like little flying magnets, that couldn't miss the right
points. Jeannie Hadden said she liked to _see_ Ruth Holabird play, as
well as she did to hear her.

But it was Mrs. Marchbanks's saying that she would give almost
anything to have Lily taught such a style; she hardly knew what she
should do with her; there was no good teacher in the town who gave
lessons at the houses, and Lily was not strong enough to go regularly
to Mr. Viertelnote. Besides, she had picked up a story of his being
cross, and rapping somebody's fingers, and Lily was very shy and
sensitive. She never did herself any justice if she began to be
afraid.

Jeannie Hadden said it was just her mother's trouble about Reba,
except that Reba was strong enough; only that Mrs. Hadden preferred a
teacher to come to the house.

"A good young-lady teacher, to give beginners a desirable style from
the very first, is exceedingly needed since Miss Robbyns went away,"
said Mrs. Marchbanks, to whom just then her sister came and said
something, and drew her off.

Ruth's fingers flew over the keys; and it must have been magnetism
that guided them, for in her brain quite other quick notes were
struck, and ringing out a busy chime of their own.

"If I only could!" she was saying to herself. "If they really would
have me, and they would let me at home. Then I could go to Mr.
Viertelnote. I think I could do it! I'm almost sure! I could show
anybody what I know,--and if they like that!"

It went over and over now, as she lay wakeful in bed, mixed up with
the "forever--ever," and the dropping tinkle of that lovely trembling
ripple of accompaniment, until the late moon got round to the south
and slanted in between the white dimity curtains, and set a glimmering
little ghost in the arm-chair.

Ruth came down late to breakfast.

Barbara was pushing back her chair.

"Mother,--or anybody! Do you want any errand down in town? I'm going
out for a stramble. A party always has to be walked off next morning."

"And talked off, doesn't it? I'm afraid my errand would need to be
with Mrs. Goldthwaite or Mrs. Hadden, wouldn't it?"

"Well, I dare say I shall go in and see Leslie. Rosamond, why can't
you come too? It's a sort of nuisance that boy having come home!"

"That 'great six-foot lieutenant'!" parodied Rose.

"I don't care! You said feet didn't signify. And he used to be a boy,
when we played with him so."

"I suppose they all used to be," said Rose, demurely.

"Well, I won't go! Because the truth is I did want to see him, about
those--patent rights. I dare say they'll come up."

"I've no doubt," said Rosamond.

"I wish you _would_ both go away somewhere," said Ruth, as Mrs.
Holabird gave her her coffee. "Because I and mother have got a secret,
and I know she wants her last little hot corner of toast."

"I think you are likely to get the last little cold corner," said Mrs.
Holabird, as Ruth sat, forgetting her plate, after the other girls had
gone away.

"I'm thinking, mother, of a real warm little corner! Something that
would just fit in and make everything so nice. It was put into my head
last night, and I think it was sent on purpose; it came right up
behind me so. Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks and Jeannie Hadden praised my
playing; more than I could tell you, really; and Mrs. Marchbanks
wants a--" Ruth stopped, and laughed at the word that was
coming--"_lady_-teacher for Lily, and so does Mrs. Hadden for Reba.
There, mother. It's in _your_ head now! Please turn it over with a
nice little think, and tell me you would just as lief, and that you
believe perhaps I could!"

By this time Ruth was round behind Mrs. Holabird's chair, with her two
hands laid against her cheeks. Mrs. Holabird leaned her face down upon
one of the hands, holding it so, caressingly.

"I am sure you could, Ruthie. But I am sure I _wouldn't_ just as lief!
I would liefer you should have all you need without."

"I know that, mother. But it wouldn't be half so good for me!"

"That's something horrid, I know!" exclaimed Barbara, coming in upon
the last word. "It always is, when people talk about its being good
for them. It's sure to be salts or senna, and most likely both."

"O dear me!" said Ruth, suddenly seized with a new perception of
difficulty. Until now, she had only been considering whether she
could, and if Mrs. Holabird would approve. "_Don't_ you--or Rose--call
it names, Barbara, please, will you?"

"Which of us are you most afraid of? For Rosamond's salts and senna
are different from mine, pretty often. I guess it's hers this time, by
your putting her in that anxious parenthesis."

"I'm afraid of your fun, Barbara, and I'm afraid of Rosamond's--"

"Earnest? Well, that is much the more frightful. It is so awfully
quiet and pretty-behaved and positive. But if you're going to retain
me on your side, you'll have to lay the case before me, you know, and
give me a fee. You needn't stand there, bribing the judge beforehand."

Ruth turned right round and kissed Barbara.

"I want you to go with me and see if Mrs. Hadden and Mrs. Lewis
Marchbanks would let me teach the children."

"Teach the children! What?"

"O, music, of course. That's all I know, pretty much. And--make Rose
understand."

"Ruth, you're a duck! I like you for it! But I'm not sure I like
_it_."

"Will you do just those two things?"

"It's a beautiful programme. But suppose we leave out the first part?
I think you could do that alone. It would spoil it if I went. It's
such a nice little spontaneous idea of your own, you see. But if we
made it a regular family delegation--besides, it will take as much as
all me to manage the second. Rosamond is very elegant to-day. Last
night's twilight isn't over. And it's funny _we_'ve plans too; _we_'re
going to give lessons,--differently; we're going to lead off, for
once,--we Holabirds; and I don't know exactly how the music will chime
in. It _may_ make things--Holabirdy."

Rosamond had true perceptions, and she was conscientious. What she
said, therefore, when she was told, was,--

"O dear! I suppose it is right! But--just now! Right things do come in
so terribly askew, like good old Mr. Isosceles, sidling up the broad
aisle of a Sunday! Couldn't you wait awhile, Ruth?"

"And then somebody else would get the chance."

"There's nobody else to be had."

"Nobody knows till somebody starts up. They don't know there's _me_ to
be had yet."

"O Ruth! Don't offer to teach grammar, anyhow!"

"I don't know. I might. I shouldn't _teach_ it 'anyhow.'"

Ruth went off, laughing, happy. She knew she had gamed the home-half
of her point.

Her heart beat a good deal, though, when she went into Mrs.
Marchbanks's library alone, and sat waiting for the lady to come down.

She would rather have gone to Mrs. Hadden first, who was very kind and
old-fashioned, and not so overpoweringly grand. But she had her
justification for her attempt from Mrs. Marchbanks's own lips, and she
must take up her opportunity as it came to her, following her clew
right end first. She meant simply to tell Mrs. Marchbanks how she had
happened to think of it.

"Good morning," said the great lady, graciously, wondering not a
little what had brought the child, in this unceremonious early
fashion, to ask for her.

"I came," said Ruth, after she had answered the good morning, "because
I heard what you were so kind as to say last night about liking my
playing; and that you had nobody just now to teach Lily. I thought,
perhaps, you might be willing to try me; for I should like to do it,
and I think I could show her all I know; and then I could take lessons
myself of Mr. Viertelnote. I've been thinking about it all night."

Ruth Holabird had a direct little fashion of going straight through
whatever crust of outside appearance to that which must respond to
what she had at the moment in herself. She had real _self-possession_;
because she did not let herself be magnetized into a false
consciousness of somebody else's self, and think and speak according
to their notions of things, or her reflected notion of what they would
think of her. She was different from Rosamond in this; Rosamond could
not help _feeling her double_,--Mrs. Grundy's "idea" of her. That was
what Rosamond said herself about it, when Ruth told it all at home.

The response is almost always there to those who go for it; if it is
not, there is no use any way.

Mrs. Marchbanks smiled.

"Does Mrs. Holabird know?"

"O yes; she always knows."

There was a little distance and a touch of business in Mrs.
Marchbanks's manner after this. The child's own impulse had been very
frank and amusing; an authorized seeking of employment was somewhat
different. Still, she was kind enough; the impression had been made;
perhaps Rosamond, with her "just now" feeling, would have been
sensitive to what did not touch Ruth, at the moment, at all.

"But you see, my dear, that _your_ having a pupil could not be quite
equal to Mr. Viertelnote's doing the same thing. I mean the one would
not quite provide for the other."

"O no, indeed! I'm in hopes to have two. I mean to go and see Mrs.
Hadden about Reba; and then I might begin first, you know. If I could
teach two quarters, I could take one."

"You have thought it all over. You are quite a little business woman.
Now let us see. I do like your playing, Ruth. I think you have really
a charming style. But whether you could _impart_ it,--that is a
different capacity."

"I am pretty good at showing how," said Ruth. "I think I could make
her understand all I do."

"Well; I should be willing to pay twenty dollars a quarter to any lady
who would bring Lily forward to where you are; if you can do it, I
will pay it to you. If Mrs. Hadden will do the same, you will have two
thirds of Viertelnote's price."

"O, that is so nice!" said Ruth, gratefully. "Then in half a quarter I
could begin. And perhaps in that time I might get another."

"I shall be exceedingly interested in your getting on," said Mrs.
Marchbanks, as Ruth arose to go. She said it very much as she might
have said it to anybody who was going to try to earn money, and whom
she meant to patronize. But Ruth took it singly; she was not two
persons,--one who asked for work and pay, and another who expected to
be treated as if she were privileged above either. She was quite
intent upon her purpose.

If Mrs. Marchbanks had been patron kind, Mrs. Hadden was motherly so.

"You're a dear little thing! When will you begin?" said she.

Ruth's morning was a grand success. She came home with a rapid step,
springing to a soundless rhythm.

She found Rosamond and Barbara and Harry Goldthwaite on the piazza,
winding the rope rings with blue and scarlet and white and purple, and
tying them with knots of ribbon.

Harry had been prompt enough. He had got the rope, and spliced it up
himself, that morning, and had brought the ten rings over, hanging
upon his arms like bangles.

They were still busy when dinner was ready; and Harry stayed at the
first asking.

It was a scrub-day in the kitchen; and Katty came in to take the
plates with her sleeves rolled up, a smooch of stove-polish across her
arm, and a very indiscriminate-colored apron. She put one plate upon
another in a hurry, over knives and forks and remnants, clattered a
good deal, and dropped the salt-spoons.

Rosamond colored and frowned; but talked with a most resolutely
beautiful repose.

Afterward, when it was all over, and Harry had gone, promising to come
next day and bring a stake, painted vermilion and white, with a
little gilt ball on the top of it, she sat by the ivied window in the
brown room with tears in her eyes.

"It is dreadful to live so!" she said, with real feeling. "To have
just one wretched girl to do everything!"

"Especially," said Barbara, without much mercy, "when she always
_will_ do it at dinner-time."

"It's the betwixt and between that I can't bear," said Rose. "To have
to do with people like the Penningtons and the Marchbankses, and to
see their ways; to sit at tables where there is noiseless and perfect
serving, and to know that they think it is the 'mainspring of life'
(that's just what Mrs. Van Alstyne said about it the other day); and
then to have to hitch on so ourselves, knowing just as well what ought
to be as she does,--it's too bad. It's double dealing. I'd rather not
know, or pretend any better. I do wish we _belonged_ somewhere!"

Ruth felt sorry. She always did when Rosamond was hurt with these
things. She knew it came from a very pure, nice sense of what was
beautiful, and a thoroughness of desire for it. She knew she wanted it
_every day_, and that nobody hated shams, or company contrivances,
more heartily. She took great trouble for it; so that when they were
quite alone, and Rosamond could manage, things often went better than
when guests came and divided her attention.

Ruth went over to where she sat.

"Rose, perhaps we _do_ belong just here. Somebody has got to be in the
shading-off, you know. That helps both ways."

"It's a miserable indefiniteness, though."

"No, it isn't," said Barbara, quickly. "It's a good plan, and I like
it. Ruth just hits it. I see now what they mean by 'drawing lines.'
You can't draw them anywhere but in the middle of the stripes. And
people that are _right_ in the middle have to 'toe the mark.' It's the
edge, after all. You can reach a great deal farther by being betwixt
and between. And one girl needn't _always_ be black-leaded, nor drop
all the spoons."



CHAPTER IV.

NEXT THINGS.


Rosamond's ship-coil party was a great success. It resolved itself
into Rosamond's party, although Barbara had had the first thought of
it; for Rosamond quietly took the management of all that was to be
delicately and gracefully arranged, and to have the true tone of high
propriety.

Barbara made the little white rolls; Rosamond and Ruth beat up the
cake; mother attended to the boiling of the tongues, and, when it was
time, to the making of the delicious coffee; all together we gave all
sorts of pleasant touches to the brown room, and set the round table
(the old cover could be "shied" out of sight now, as Stephen said, and
replaced with the white glistening damask for the tea) in the corner
between the southwest windows that opened upon the broad piazza.

The table was bright with pretty silver--not too much--and best glass
and delicate porcelain with a tiny thread of gold; and the rolls and
the thin strips of tongue cut lengthwise, so rich and tender that a
fork could manage them, and the large raspberries, black and red and
white, were upon plates and dishes of real Indian, white and golden
brown.

The wide sashes were thrown up, and there were light chairs outside;
Mrs. Holabird would give the guests tea and coffee, and Ruth and
Barbara would sit in the window-seats and do the waiting, back and
forth, and Dakie Thayne and Harry Goldthwaite would help.

Katty held her office as a sinecure that day; looked on admiringly,
forgot half her regular work, felt as if she had somehow done wonders
without realizing the process, and pronounced that it was "no throuble
at ahl to have company."

But before the tea was the new game.

It was a bold stroke for us Holabirds. Originating was usually done
higher up; as the Papal Council gives forth new spiritual inventions
for the joyful acceptance of believers, who may by no means invent in
their turn and offer to the Council. One could hardly tell how it
would fall out,--whether the Haddens and the Marchbankses would take
to it, or whether it would drop right there.

"They _may_ 'take it off your hands, my dear,'" suggested the
remorseless Barbara. Somebody had offered to do that once for Mrs.
Holabird, when her husband had had an interest in a ship in the Baltic
trade, and some furs had come home, richer than we had quite expected.

Rose was loftily silent; she would not have _said_ that to her very
self; but she had her little quiet instincts of holding on,--through
Harry Goldthwaite, chiefly; it was his novelty.

Does this seem _very_ bare worldly scheming among young girls who
should simply have been having a good time? We should not tell you if
we did not know; it _begins_ right there among them, in just such
things as these; and our day and our life are full of it.

The Marchbanks set had a way of taking things off people's hands, as
soon as they were proved worth while. People like the Holabirds could
not be taking this pains every day; making their cakes and their
coffee, and setting their tea-table in their parlor; putting aside all
that was shabby or inadequate, for a few special hours, and turning
all the family resources upon a point, to serve an occasion. But if
anything new or bright were so produced that could be transplanted, it
was so easy to receive it among the established and every-day
elegances of a freer living, give it a wider introduction, and so
adopt and repeat and centralize it that the originators should fairly
forget they had ever begun it. And why would not this be honor enough?
Invention must always pass over to the capital that can handle it.

The new game charmed them all. The girls had the best of it, for the
young men always gathered up the rings and brought them to each in
turn. It was very pretty to receive both hands full of the gayly
wreathed and knotted hoops, to hold them slidden along one arm like
garlands, to pass them lightly from hand to hand again, and to toss
them one by one through the air with a motion of more or less
inevitable grace; and the excitement of hope or of success grew with
each succeeding trial.

They could not help liking it, even the most fastidious; they might
venture upon liking it, for it was a game with an origin and
references. It was an officers' game, on board great naval ships; it
had proper and sufficient antecedents. It would do.

By the time they stopped playing in the twilight, and went up the wide
end steps upon the deep, open platform, where coffee and biscuits
began to be fragrant, Rosamond knew that her party was as nice as if
it had been anybody's else whoever; that they were all having as
genuinely good a time as if they had not come "westover" to get it.

And everybody does like a delicious tea, such as is far more sure and
very different from hands like Mrs. Holabird's and her daughters, than
from those of a city confectioner and the most professed of private
cooks.

It all went off and ended in a glory,--the glory of the sun pouring
great backward floods of light and color all up to the summer zenith,
and of the softly falling and changing shade, and the slow
forth-coming of the stars: and Ruth gave them music, and by and by
they had a little German, out there on the long, wide esplanade. It
was the one magnificence of their house,--this high, spacious terrace;
Rosamond was thankful every day that Grandfather Holabird _had_ to
build the wood-house under it.

After this, Westover began to grow to be more of a centre than our
home, cheery and full of girl-life as it was, had ever been able to
become before.

They might have transplanted the game,--they did take slips from
it,--and we might not always have had tickets to our own play; but
they could not transplant Harry Goldthwaite and Dakie Thayne. They
_would_ come over, nearly every day, at morning or evening, and
practise "coil," or make some other plan or errand; and so there came
to be always something going on at the Holabirds', and if the other
girls wanted it, they had to come where it was.

Mrs. Van Alstyne came often; Rosamond grew very intimate with her.

Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks did say, one day, that she thought "the
Holabirds were slightly mistaking their position"; but the remark did
not come round, westover, till long afterward, and meanwhile the
position remained the same.

It was right in the midst of all this that Ruth astonished the family
again, one evening.

"I wish," she said, suddenly, just as if she were not suggesting
something utterly incongruous and disastrous, "that we could ask
Lucilla Waters up here for a little visit."

The girls had a way, in Z----, of spending two or three days together
at each other's houses, neighbors though they were, within easy reach,
and seeing each other almost constantly. Leslie Goldthwaite came up to
the Haddens', or they went down to the Goldthwaites'. The Haddens
would stay over night at the Marchbanks', and on through the next day,
and over night again. There were, indeed, three recognized degrees of
intimacy: that which took tea,--that which came in of a morning and
stayed to lunch,--and that which was kept over night without plan or
ceremony. It had never been very easy for us Holabirds to do such
things without plan; of all things, nearly, in the world, it seemed to
us sometimes beautiful and desirable to be able to live just so as
that we might.

"I wish," said Ruth, "that we could have Lucilla Waters here."

"My gracious!" cried Rosamond, startled into a soft explosion. "What
for?"

"Why, I think she'd like it," answered Ruth.

"Well, I suppose Arctura Fish might 'like it' too," responded Rose, in
a deadly quiet way now, that was the extreme of sarcasm.

Ruth looked puzzled; as if she really considered what Rosamond
suggested, not having thought of it before, and not quite knowing how
to dispose of the thought since she had got it.

Dakie Thayne was there; he sat holding some gold-colored wool for Mrs.
Holabird to wind; she was giving herself the luxury of some pretty
knitting,--making a bright little sofa affghan. Ruth had forgotten him
at the instant, speaking out of a quiet pause and her own intent
thought.

She made up her mind presently,--partly at least,--and spoke again. "I
don't believe," she said, "that it would be the next thing for Arctura
Fish."

Dakie Thayne's eyebrows went up, just that half perceptible line or
two. "Do you think people ought always to have the next thing?" he
asked.

"It seems to me it must be somebody's fault if they don't," replied
Ruth.

"It is a long waiting sometimes to get the next thing," said Dakie
Thayne. "Army men find that out. They grow gray getting it."

"That's where only one _can_ have it at a time," said Ruth. "These
things are different."

"'Next things' interfere occasionally," said Barbara. "Next things up,
and next things down."

"I don't know," said Rose, serenely unconscious and impersonal. "I
suppose people wouldn't naturally--it can't be meant they should--walk
right away from their own opportunities."

Ruth laughed,--not aloud, only a little single breath, over her work.

Dakie Thayne leaned back.

"What,--if you please,--Miss Ruth?"

"I was thinking of the opportunities _down_," Ruth answered.

It was several days after this that the young party drifted together
again, on the Westover lawn. A plan was discussed. Mrs. Van Alstyne
had walked over with Olivia and Adelaide Marchbanks, and it was she
who suggested it.

"Why don't you have regular practisings," said she, "and then a
meeting, for this and the archery you wanted to get up, and games for
a prize? They would do nicely together."

Olivia Marchbanks drew up a little. She had not meant to launch the
project here. Everything need not begin at Westover all at once.

But Dakie Thayne broke in.

"Did you think of that?" said he. "It's a capital idea."

"Ideas are rather apt to be that," said Adelaide Marchbanks. "It is
the carrying out, you see."

"Isn't it pretty nearly carried out already? It is only to organize
what we are doing as it is."

"But the minute you _do_ organize! You don't know how difficult it is
in a place like this. A dozen of us are not enough, and as soon as you
go beyond, there gets to be too much of it. One doesn't know where to
stop."

"Or to skip?" asked Harry Goldthwaite, in such a purely bright,
good-natured way that no one could take it amiss.

"Well, yes, to skip," said Adelaide. "Of course that's it. You don't
go straight on, you know, house by house, when you ask people,--down
the hill and into the town."

"We talked it over," said Olivia. "And we got as far as the Hobarts."
There Olivia stopped. That was where they had stopped before.

"O yes, the Hobarts; they would be sure to like it," said Leslie
Goldthwaite, quick and pleased.

"Her ups and downs are just like yours," said Dakie Thayne to Ruth
Holabird.

It made Ruth very glad to be told she was at all like Leslie; it gave
her an especially quick pulse of pleasure to have Dakie Thayne say so.
She knew he thought there was hardly any one like Leslie Goldthwaite.

"O, they _won't_ exactly do, you know!" said Adelaide Marchbanks, with
an air of high free-masonry.

"Won't do what?" asked Cadet Thayne, obtusely.

"Suit," replied Olivia, concisely, looking straight forward without
any air at all.

"Really, we have tried it since they came," said Adelaide, "though
what people _come_ for is the question, I think, when there isn't
anything particular to bring them except the neighborhood, and then it
has to be Christian charity in the neighborhood that didn't ask them
to pick them up. Mamma called, after a while; and Mrs. Hobart said she
hoped she would come often, and let _the girls_ run in and be
sociable! And Grace Hobart says '_she_ hasn't got tired of
croquet,--she likes it real well!' They're that sort of people, Mr.
Thayne."

"Oh! that's very bad," said Dakie Thayne, with grave conclusiveness.

"The Haddens had them one night, when we were going to play commerce.
When we asked them up to the table, they held right back, awfully
stiff, and couldn't find anything else to say than,--out quite loud,
across everything,--'O no! they couldn't play commerce; they never
did; father thought it was just like any gambling game!'"

"Plucky, anyhow," said Harry Goldthwaite.

"I don't think they meant to be rude," said Elinor Hadden. "I think
they really felt badly; and that was why it blurted right out so. They
didn't know _what_ to say."

"Evidently," said Olivia. "And one doesn't want to be astonished in
that way very often."

"I shouldn't mind having them," said Elinor, good-naturedly. "They are
kind-hearted people, and they would feel hurt to be left out."

"That is just what stopped us," said Adelaide. "That is just what the
neighborhood is getting to be,--full of people that you don't know
what to do with."

"I don't see why we _need_ to go out of our own set," said Olivia.

"O dear! O dear!"

It broke from Ruth involuntarily. Then she colored up, as they all
turned round upon her; but she was excited, and Ruth's excitements
made her forget that she was Ruth, sometimes, for a moment. It had
been growing in her, from the beginning of the conversation; and now
she caught her breath, and felt her eyes light up. She turned her face
to Leslie Goldthwaite; but although she spoke low she spoke somehow
clearly, even more than she meant, so that they all heard.

"What if the angels had said that before they came down to Bethlehem!"

Then she knew by the hush that _she_ had astonished them, and she grew
frightened; but she stood just so, and would not let her look shrink;
for she still felt just as she did when the words came.

Mrs. Van Alstyne broke the pause with a good-natured laugh.

"We can't go quite back to that, every time," she said. "And we don't
quite set up to be angels. Come,--try one more round."

And with some of the hoops still hanging upon her arm, she turned to
pick up the others. Harry Goldthwaite of course sprang forward to do
it for her; and presently she was tossing them with her peculiar
grace, till the stake was all wreathed with them from bottom to top,
the last hoop hanging itself upon the golden ball; a touch more
dexterous and consummate, it seemed, than if it had fairly slidden
over upon the rest.

[Illustration]

Rosamond knew what a cunning and friendly turn it was; if it had not
been for Mrs. Van Alstyne, Ruth's speech would have broken up the
party. As it was, the game began again, and they stayed an hour
longer.

Not all of them; for as soon as they were fairly engaged, Ruth said to
Leslie Goldthwaite, "I must go now; I ought to have gone before. Reba
will be waiting for me. Just tell them, if they ask."

But Leslie and the cadet walked away with her; slowly, across the
grounds, so that she thought they were going back from the gate; but
they kept on up over the hill.

"Was it very shocking?" asked Ruth, troubled in her mind. "I could
not help it; but I was frightened to death the next minute."

"About as frightened as the man is who stands to his gun in the
front," said Dakie Thayne. "You never flinched."

"They would have thought it was from what I had said," Ruth answered.
"And _that_ was another thing from the _saying_."

"_You_ had something to say, Leslie. It was just on the corner of your
lip. I saw it."

"Yes; but Ruth said it all in one flash. It would have spoiled it if I
had spoken then."

"I'm always sorry for people who don't know how," said Ruth. "I'm sure
I don't know how myself so often."

"That is just it," said Leslie. "Why shouldn't these girls come up?
And how will they ever, unless somebody overlooks? They would find out
these mistakes in a little while, just as they find out fashions:
picking up the right things from people who do know how. It is a kind
of leaven, like greater good. And how can we stand anywhere in the
lump, and say it shall not spread to the next particle?"

"They think it was pushing of them, to come here to live at all," said
Ruth.

"Well, we're all pushing, if we're good for anything," said Leslie.
"Why mayn't they push, if they don't crowd out anybody else? It seems
to me that the wrong sort of pushing is pushing down."

"Only there would be no end to it," said Dakie Thayne, "would there?
There are coarse, vulgar people always, who are wanting to get in just
for the sake of being in. What are the nice ones to do?"

"Just _be_ nice, I think," said Leslie. "Nicer with those people than
with anybody else even. If there weren't any difficulty made about
it,--if there weren't any keeping out,--they would tire of the
niceness probably sooner than anything. I don't suppose it is the
fence that keeps out weeds."

"You are just like Mrs. Ingleside," said Ruth, walking closer to
Leslie as she spoke.

"And Mrs. Ingleside is like Miss Craydocke: and--I didn't suppose I
should ever find many more of them, but they're counting up," said
Dakie Thayne. "There's a pretty good piece of the world salted, after
all."

"If there really is any best society," pursued Leslie, "it seems to me
it ought to be, not for keeping people out, but for getting everybody
in as fast as it can, like the kingdom of heaven."

"Ah, but that _is_ kingdom come," said Dakie Thayne.

It seemed as if the question of "things next" was to arise
continually, in fresh shapes, just now, when things next for the
Holabirds were nearer next than ever before.

"We must have Delia Waite again soon, if we can get her," said mother,
one morning, when we were all quietly sitting in her room, and
she was cutting out some shirts for Stephen. "All our changes and
interruptions have put back the sewing so lately."

"We ought not to have been idle so much," said Barbara. "We've been a
family of grasshoppers all summer."

"Well, the grasshopping has done you all good. I'm not sorry for it,"
said Mrs. Holabird. "Only we must have Delia for a week now, and be
busy."

"If Delia Waite didn't have to come to our table!" said Rosamond.

"Why don't you try the girl Mrs. Hadden has, mother? She goes right
into the kitchen with the other servants."

"I don't believe our 'other servants' would know what to do with her,"
said Barbara. "There's always such a crowd in our kitchen."

"Barbara, you're a plague!"

"Yes. I'm the thorn in the flesh in this family, lest it should be
exalted above measure; and like Saint Paul, I magnify mine office."

"In the way we live," said Mrs. Holabird, "it is really more
convenient to let a seamstress come right to table with us; and
besides, you know what I think about it. It is a little breath of life
to a girl like that; she gets something that we can give as well as
not, and that helps her up. It comes naturally, as it cannot come with
'other servants.' She sits with us all day; her work is among ladies,
and with them; she gets something so far, even in the midst of
measuring and gorings, that common housemaids cannot get; why
shouldn't she be with us when we can leave off talk of measures and
gores, and get what Ruth calls the 'very next'? Delia Waite is too
nice a girl to be put into the kitchen to eat with Katty, in her
'crowd.'"

"But it seems to set us down; it seems common in us to be so ready to
be familiar with common people. More in us, because we do live
plainly. If Mrs. Hadden or Mrs. Marchbanks did it, it might seem kind
_without_ the common. I think they ought to begin such things."

"But then if they don't? Very likely it would be far more inconvenient
for them; and not the same good either, because it _would_ be, or
seem, a condescension. We are the 'very next,' and we must be content
to be the step we are."

"It's the other thing with us,--con-_as_cension,--isn't it, mother? A
step up for somebody, and no step down for anybody. Mrs. Ingleside
does it," Ruth added.

"O, Mrs. Ingleside does all sorts of things. She has _that_ sort of
position. It's as independent as the other. High moral and high social
can do anything. It's the betwixt and between that must be careful."

"What a miserably negative set we are, in such a positive state of the
world!" cried Barbara. "Except Ruth's music, there isn't a specialty
among us; we haven't any views; we're on the mean-spirited side of the
Woman Question; 'all woman, and no question,' as mother says; we shall
never preach, nor speech, nor leech; we can't be magnificent, and we
won't be common! I don't see what is to become of us, unless--and I
wonder if maybe that isn't it?--we just do two or three rather right
things in a no-particular sort of a way."

"Barbara, how nice you are!" cried Ruth.

"No. I'm a thorn. Don't touch me."

"We never have company when we are having sewing done," said Mrs.
Holabird. "We can always manage that."

"I don't want to play Box and Cox," said Rosamond.

"That's the beauty of you, Rosa Mundi!" said Barbara, warmly. "You
don't want to _play_ anything. That's where you'll come out sun-clear
and diamond bright!"



CHAPTER V.

THE "BACK YETT AJEE."


Those who do not like common people need not read this chapter.

We had Delia Waite the next week. It happened well, in a sort of
Box-and-Cox fashion; for Mrs. Van Alstyne went off with some friends
to the Isles of Shoals, and Alice and Adelaide Marchbanks went with
her; so that we knew we should see nothing of the two great families
for a good many days; and when Leslie came, or the Haddens, we did not
so much mind; besides, they knew that we were busy, and they did not
expect any "coil" got up for them. Leslie came right up stairs, when
she was alone; if Harry or Mr. Thayne were with her, one of us would
take a wristband or a bit of ruffling, and go down. Somehow, if it
happened to be Harry, Barbara was always tumultuously busy, and never
offered to receive: but it always ended in Rosamond's making her. It
seemed to be one of the things that people wait to be overcome in
their objections to.

We always had a snug, cosey time when Delia was with us; we were all
simple and busy, and the work was getting on; that was such an
under-satisfaction; and Delia was having such a good time. She hardly
ever failed to come to us when we wanted her; she could always make
some arrangement.

Ruth was artful; she tucked in Lucilla Waters, after all; she said it
would be such a nice chance to have her; she knew she would rather
come when we were by ourselves, and especially when we had our work
and patterns about. Lucilla brought a sack and an overskirt to make;
she could hardly have been spared if she had had to bring mere idle
work. She sewed in gathers upon the shirts for mother, while Delia cut
out her pretty material in a style she had not seen. If we had had
grasshopper parties all summer before, this was certainly a bee, and I
think we all really liked it just as well as the other.

We had the comfort of mother's great, airy room, now, as we had never
even realized it before. Everybody had a window to sit at;
green-shaded with closed blinds for the most part; but that is so
beautiful in summer, when the out-of-doors comes brimming in with
scent and sound, and we know how glorious it is if we choose to open
to it, and how glorious it is going to be when we do throw all wide in
the cooling afternoon.

"How glad I am we _have_ to have busy weeks sometimes!" said Ruth,
stopping the little "common-sense" for an instant, while she tossed a
long flouncing over her sewing-table. "I know now why people who
never do their own work are obliged to go away from home for a change.
It must be dreadfully same if they didn't. I like a book full of
different stories!"

Lucilla Waters lives down in the heart of the town. So does Leslie
Goldthwaite, to be sure; but then Mr. Goldthwaite's is one of the old,
old-fashioned houses that were built when the town was country, and
that has its great yard full of trees and flowers around it now; and
Mrs. Waters lives in a block, flat-face to the street, with nothing
pretty outside, and not very much in; for they have never been rich,
the Waterses, and Mr. Waters died ten years ago, when Lucilla was a
little child. Lucilla and her mother keep a little children's school;
but it was vacation now, of course.

Lucilla is in Mrs. Ingleside's Bible-class; that is how Ruth, and then
the rest of us, came to know her. Arctura Fish is another of Mrs.
Ingleside's scholars. She is a poor girl, living at service,--or,
rather, working in a family for board, clothing, and a little
"schooling,"--the best of which last she gets on Sundays of Mrs.
Ingleside,--until she shall have "learned how," and be "worth wages."

Arctura Fish is making herself up, slowly, after the pattern of
Lucilla Waters. She would not undertake Leslie Goldthwaite or Helen
Josselyn,--Mrs. Ingleside's younger sister, who stays with her so
much,--or even our quiet Ruth. But Lucilla Waters comes _just next_.
She can just reach up to her. She can see how she does up her hair, in
something approaching the new way, leaning back behind her in the
class and tracing out the twists between the questions; for Lucilla
can only afford to use her own, and a few strands of harmless Berlin
wool under it; she can't buy coils and braids and two-dollar rats, or
intricacies ready made up at the--upholsterer's, I was going to say.
So it is not a hopeless puzzle and an impracticable achievement to
little Arctura Fish. It is wonderful how nice she has made herself
look lately, and how many little ways she puts on, just like
Lucilla's. She hasn't got beyond mere mechanical copying, yet; when
she reaches to where Lucilla really is, she will take in differently.

Ruth gave up her little white room to Delia Waite, and went to sleep
with Lucilla in the great, square east room.

Delia Waite thought a great deal of this; and it was wonderful how
nobody could ever get a peep at the room when it looked as if anything
in it had been used or touched. Ruth is pretty nice about it; but she
cannot keep it so _sacredly_ fair and pure as Delia did for her. Only
one thing showed.

"I say," said Stephen, one morning, sliding by Ruth on the stair-rail
as they came down to breakfast, "do you look after that _piousosity_,
now, mornings?"

"No," said Ruth, laughing, "of course I can't."

"It's always whopped," said Stephen, sententiously.

Barbara got up some of her special cookery in these days. Not her very
finest, out of Miss Leslie; she said that was too much like the fox
and the crane, when Lucilla asked for the receipts. It wasn't fair to
give a taste of things that we ourselves could only have for very
best, and send people home to wish for them. But she made some of her
"griddles trimmed with lace," as only Barbara's griddles were trimmed;
the brown lightness running out at the edges into crisp filigree. And
another time it was the flaky spider-cake, turned just as it blushed
golden-tawny over the coals; and then it was breakfast potato, beaten
almost frothy with one white-of-egg, a pretty good bit of butter, a
few spoonfuls of top-of-the-milk, and seasoned plentifully with salt,
and delicately with pepper,--the oven doing the rest, and turning it
into a snowy soufflé.

Barbara said we had none of us a specialty; she knew better; only hers
was a very womanly and old-fashioned, not to say kitcheny one; and
would be quite at a discount when the grand co-operative kitchens
should come into play; for who cares to put one's genius into the
universal and indiscriminate mouth, or make potato-soufflés to be
carried half a mile to the table?

Barbara delighted to "make company" of seamstress week; "it was so
nice," she said, "to entertain somebody who thought 'chickings was
'evingly.'"

Rosamond liked that part of it; she enjoyed giving pleasure no less
than any; but she had a secret misgiving that we were being very
vulgarly comfortable in an underhand way. She would never, by any
means, go off by herself to eat with her fingers.

Delia Waite said she never came to our house that she did not get some
new ideas to carry home to Arabel.

Arabel Waite was fifty years old, or more; she was the oldest child of
one marriage and Delia the youngest of another. All the Waites between
them had dropped away,--out of the world, or into homes here and there
of their own,--and Arabel and Delia were left together in the square,
low, gambrel-roofed house over on the other hill, where the town ran
up small.

Arabel Waite was an old dressmaker. She _could_ make two skirts to a
dress, one shorter, the other longer; and she could cut out the upper
one by any new paper pattern; and she could make shell-trimmings and
flutings and box-plaitings and flouncings, and sew them on
exquisitely, even now, with her old eyes; but she never had adapted
herself to the modern ideas of the corsage. She could not fit a bias
to save her life; she could only stitch up a straight slant, and leave
the rest to nature and fate. So all her people had the squarest of
wooden fronts, and were preternaturally large around the waist. Delia
sewed with her, abroad and at home,--abroad without her, also, as she
was doing now for us. A pattern for a sleeve, or a cape, or a
panier,--or a receipt for a tea-biscuit or a johnny-cake, was
something to go home with rejoicing.

Arabel Waite and Delia could only use three rooms of the old house;
the rest was blinded and shut up; the garret was given over to the
squirrels, who came in from the great butternut-trees in the yard, and
stowed away their rich provision under the eaves and away down between
the walls, and grew fat there all winter, and frolicked like a troop
of horse. We liked to hear Delia tell of their pranks, and of all the
other queer, quaint things in their way of living. Everybody has a way
of living; and if you can get into it, every one is as good as a
story. It always seemed to us as if Delia brought with her the
atmosphere of mysterious old houses, and old, old books stowed away in
their by-places, and stories of the far past that had been lived
there, and curious ancient garments done with long ago, and packed
into trunks and bureaus in the dark, unused rooms, where there had
been parties once, and weddings and funerals and children's games in
nurseries; and strange fellowship of little wild things that strayed
in now,--bees in summer, and squirrels in winter,--and brought the
woods and fields with them under the old roof. Why, I think we should
have missed it more than she would, if we had put her into some back
room, and poked her sewing in at her, and left her to herself!

The only thing that wasn't nice that week was Aunt Roderick coming
over one morning in the very thick of our work, and Lucilla's too,
walking straight up stairs, as aunts can, whether you want them or
not, and standing astonished at the great goings-on.

"Well!" she exclaimed, with a strong falling inflection, "are any of
you getting ready to be married?"

"Yes'm," said Barbara, gravely, handing her a chair. "All of us."

Then Barbara made rather an unnecessary parade of ribbon that she was
quilling up, and of black lace that was to go each side of it upon a
little round jacket for her blue silk dress, made of a piece laid away
five years ago, when she first had it. The skirt was turned now, and
the waist was gone.

While Aunt Roderick was there, she also took occasion to toss over,
more or less, everything that lay about,--"to help her in her
inventory," she said after she went away.

"Twelve new embroidered cambric handkerchiefs," repeated she, as she
turned back from the stair-head, having seen Aunt Roderick down.

Barbara had once, in a severe fit of needle-industry, inspired by the
discovery of two baby robes of linen cambric among mother's old
treasures, and their bestowal upon her, turned them into these
elegances, broadly hemmed with the finest machine stitch, and marked
with beautiful great B's in the corners. She showed them, in her
pride, to Mrs. Roderick; and we knew afterward what her abstract
report had been, in Grandfather Holabird's hearing. Grandfather
Holabird knew we did without a good many things; but he had an
impression of us, from instances like these, that we were seized with
sudden spasms of recklessness at times, and rushed into French
embroideries and sets of jewelry. I believe he heard of mother's one
handsome black silk, every time she wore it upon semiannual occasions,
until he would have said that Mrs. Stephen had a new fifty-dollar
dress every six months. This was one of our little family trials.

"I don't think Mrs. Roderick does it on purpose," Ruth would say. "I
think there are two things that make her talk in that way. In the
first place, she has got into the habit of carrying home all the news
she can, and making it as big as possible, to amuse Mr. Holabird; and
then she has to settle it over in her own mind, every once in a while,
that things must be pretty comfortable amongst us, down here, after
all."

Ruth never dreamed of being satirical; it was a perfectly
straightforward explanation; and it showed, she truly believed, two
quite kind and considerate points in Aunt Roderick's character.

After the party came back from the Isles of Shoals, Mrs. Van Alstyne
went down to Newport. The Marchbankses had other visitors,--people
whom we did not know, and in whose way we were not thrown; the _haute
volée_ was sufficient to itself again, and we lived on a piece of our
own life once more.

"It's rather nice to knit on straight," said Barbara; "without any
widening or narrowing or counting of stitches. I like very well to
come to a plain place."

Rosamond never liked the plain places quite so much; but she
accommodated herself beautifully, and was just as nice as she could
be. And the very best thing about Rose was, that she never put on
anything, or left anything off, of her gentle ways and notions. She
would have been ready at any time for the most delicate fancy-pattern
that could be woven upon her plain places. That was one thing which
mother taught us all.

"Your life will come to you; you need not run after it," she would
say, if we ever got restless and began to think there was no way out
of the family hedge. "Have everything in yourselves as it should be,
and then you can take the chances as they arrive."

"Only we needn't put our bonnets on, and sit at the windows," Barbara
once replied.

"No," said Mrs. Holabird; "and especially at the front windows. A
great deal that is good--a great deal of the best--comes in at the
back-doors."

Everybody, we thought, did not have a back-door to their life, as we
did. They hardly seemed to know if they had one to their houses.

Our "back yett was ajee," now, at any rate.

Leslie Goldthwaite came in at it, though, just the same, and so did
her cousin and Dakie. [Footnote: Harry Goldthwaite is Leslie's cousin,
and Mr. Aaron Goldthwaite's ward. I do not believe we have ever
thought to put this in before.]

Otherwise, for two or three weeks, our chief variety was in sending
for old Miss Trixie Spring to spend the day.

Miss Trixie Spring is a lively old lady, who, some threescore and five
years ago, was christened "Beatrix." She plays backgammon in the
twilights, with mother, and makes a table at whist, at once lively and
severe, in the evenings, for father. At this whist-table, Barbara
usually is the fourth. Rosamond gets sleepy over it, and Ruth--Miss
Trixie says--"plays like a ninkum."

We always wanted Miss Trixie, somehow, to complete comfort, when we
were especially comfortable by ourselves; when we had something
particularly good for dinner, or found ourselves set cheerily
down for a long day at quiet work, with everything early-nice
about us; or when we were going to make something "contrive-y,"
"Swiss-family-Robinson-ish," that got us all together over it, in the
hilarity of enterprise and the zeal of acquisition. Miss Trixie could
appreciate homely cleverness; darning of carpets and covering of old
furniture; she could darn a carpet herself, so as almost to improve
upon--certainly to supplant--the original pattern. Yet she always had
a fresh amazement for all our performances, as if nothing notable had
ever been done before, and a personal delight in every one of our
improvements, as if they had been her own. "We're just as cosey as we
can be, already,--it isn't that; but we want somebody to tell us how
cosey we are. Let's get Miss Trixie to-day," says Barbara.

Once was when the new drugget went down, at last, in the dining-room.
It was tan-color, bound with crimson,--covering three square yards;
and mother nailed it down with brass-headed tacks, right after
breakfast, one cool morning. Then Katty washed up the dark
floor-margin, and the table had its crimson-striped cloth on, and
mother brought down the brown stuff for the new sofa-cover, and the
great bunch of crimson braid to bind that with, and we drew up our
camp-chairs and crickets, and got ready to be busy and jolly, and to
have a brand-new piece of furniture before night.

Barbara had made peach-dumpling for dinner, and of course Aunt Trixie
was the last and crowning suggestion. It was not far to send, and she
was not long in coming, with her second-best cap pinned up in a
handkerchief, and her knitting-work and her spectacles in her bag.

The Marchbankses never made sofa-covers of brown waterproof, nor had
Miss Trixies to spend the day. That was because they had no back-door
to their house.

I suppose you think there are a good many people in our story. There
are; when we think it up there are ever so many people that have to do
with our story every day; but we don't mean to tell you all _their_
stories; so you can bear with the momentary introduction when you meet
them in our brown room, or in our dining-room, of a morning, although
we know very well also that passing introductions are going out of
fashion.

We had Dakie Thayne's last visit that day, in the midst of the
hammering and binding. Leslie and he came in with Ruth, when she came
back from her hour with Reba Hadden. It was to bid us good by; his
furlough was over, he was to return to West Point on Monday.

[Illustration]

"Another two years' pull," he said. "Won't you all come to West Point
next summer?"

"If we take the journey we think of," said Barbara, composedly,--"to
the mountains and Montreal and Quebec; perhaps up the Saguenay; and
then back, up Lake Champlain, and down the Hudson, on our way to
Saratoga and Niagara. We might keep on to West Point first, and have a
day or two there."

"Barbara," said mother, remonstratingly.

"Why? _Don't_ we think of it? I'm sure I do. I've thought of it till
I'm almost tired of it. I don't much believe we shall come, after all,
Mr. Thayne."

"We shall miss you very much," said Mrs. Holabird, covering Barbara's
nonsense.

"Our summer has stopped right in the middle," said Barbara, determined
to talk.

"I shall hear about you all," said Dakie Thayne. "There's to be a
Westover column in Leslie's news. I wish--" and there the cadet
stopped.

Mother looked up at him with a pleasant inquiry.

"I was going to say, I wish there might be a Westover correspondent,
to put in just a word or two, sometimes; but then I was afraid that
would be impertinent. When a fellow has only eight weeks in the year
of living, Mrs. Holabird, and all the rest is drill, you don't know
how he hangs on to those eight weeks,--and how they hang on to him
afterwards."

Mother looked so motherly at him then!

"We shall not forget you--Dakie," she said, using his first name for
the first time. "You shall have a message from us now and then."

Dakie said, "Thank you," in a tone that responded to her "Dakie."

We all knew he liked Mrs. Holabird ever so much. Homes and mothers are
beautiful things to boys who have had to do without them.

He shook hands with us all round, when he got up to go. He shook hands
also with our old friend, Miss Trixie, whom he had never happened to
see before. Then Rosamond went out with him and Leslie,--as it was our
cordial, countrified fashion for somebody to do,--through the hall to
the door. Ruth went as far as the stairs, on her way to her room to
take off her things. She stood there, up two steps, as they were
leaving.

Dakie Thayne said good by again to Rosamond, at the door, as was
natural; and then he came quite back, and said it last of all, once
more, to little Ruth upon the stairs. He certainly did hate to go away
and leave us all.

"That is a very remarkable pretty-behaved young man," said Miss
Trixie, when we all picked up our breadths of waterproof, and got in
behind them again.

"The world is a desert, and the sand has got into my eyes," said
Barbara, who had hushed up ever since mother had said "Dakie." When
anybody came close to mother, Barbara was touched. I think her love
for mother is more like a son's than a daughter's, in the sort of
chivalry it has with it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was curious how suddenly our little accession of social importance
had come on, and wonderful how quickly it had subsided; more curious
and wonderful still, how entirely it seemed to stay subsided.

We had plenty to do, though; we did not miss anything; only we had
quite taken up with another set of things. This was the way it was
with us; we had things we _must_ take up; we could not have spared
time to lead society for a long while together.

Aunt Roderick claimed us, too, in our leisure hours, just then; she
had a niece come to stay with her; and we had to go over to the "old
house" and spend afternoons, and ask Aunt Roderick and Miss Bragdowne
in to tea with us. Aunt Roderick always expected this sort of
attention; and yet she had a way with her as if we ought not to try to
afford things, looked scrutinizingly at the quality of our cake and
preserves, and seemed to eat our bread and butter with consideration.

It helped Rosamond very much, though, over the transition. We, also,
had had private occupation.

"There had been family company at grandfather's," she told Jeannie
Hadden, one morning. "We had been very much engaged among ourselves.
We had hardly seen anything of the other girls for two or three
weeks."

Barbara sat at the round table, where Stephen had been doing his
geometry last night, twirling a pair of pencil compasses about on a
sheet of paper, while this was saying. She lifted up her eyes a
little, cornerwise, without moving her head, and gave a twinkle of
mischief over at mother and Ruth. When Jeannie was gone, she kept on
silently, a few minutes, with her diagrams. Then she said, in her
funniest, repressed way,--

"I can see a little how it must be; but I suppose I ought to
understand the differential calculus to compute it. Circles are
wonderful things; and the science of curves holds almost everything.
Rose, when do you think we shall get round again?"

She held up her bit of paper as she spoke, scrawled over with
intersecting circles and arcs and ellipses, against whose curves and
circumferences she had written names: Marchbanks, Hadden, Goldthwaite,
Holabird.

"It's a mere question of centre and radius," she said. "You may be big
enough to take in the whole of them, or you may only cut in at the
sides. You may be just tangent for a minute, and then go off into
space on your own account. You may have your centre barely inside of a
great ring, and yet reach pretty well out of it for a good part; you
_must_ be small to be taken quite in by anybody's!"

"It doesn't illustrate," said Rose, coolly. "Orbits don't snarl up in
that fashion."

"Geometry does," said Barbara. "I told you I couldn't work it all out.
But I suppose there's a Q.E.D. at the end of it somewhere."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two or three days after something new happened; an old thing happened
freshly, rather,--which also had to do with our orbit and its
eccentricities. Barbara, as usual, discovered and announced it.

"I should think _any_ kind of an astronomer might be mad!" she
exclaimed. "Periods and distances are bad enough; but then come the
perturbations! Here's one. We're used to it, to be sure; but we never
know exactly where it may come in. The girl we live with has formed
other views for herself, and is going off at a tangent. What _is_ the
reason we can't keep a satellite,--planet, I mean?"

"Barbara!" said mother, anxiously, "don't be absurd!"

"Well, what shall I be? We're all out of a place again." And she sat
down resignedly on a very low cricket, in the middle of the room.

"I'll tell you what we'll do, mother," said Ruth, coming round. "I've
thought of it this good while. We'll co-operate!"

"She's glad of it! She's been waiting for a chance! I believe she put
the luminary up to it! Ruth, you're a brick--moon!"



CHAPTER VI.

CO-OPERATING.


When mother first read that article in the Atlantic she had said,
right off,--

"I'm sure I wish they would!"

"Would what, mother?" asked Barbara.

"Co-operate."

"O mother! I really do believe you must belong, somehow, to the
Micawber family! I shouldn't wonder if one of these days, when they
come into their luck, you should hear of something greatly to your
advantage, from over the water. You have such faith in 'they'! I don't
believe '_they_' will ever do much for '_us_'!"

"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. Hobart, rousing from a little arm-chair
wink, during which Mrs. Holabird had taken up the magazine.

Mrs. Hobart had come in, with her cable wool and her great ivory
knitting-pins, to sit an hour, sociably.

"Co-operative housekeeping, ma'am," said Barbara.

"Oh! Yes. That is what they _used_ to have, in old times, when we
lived at home with mother. Only they didn't write articles about it.
All the women in a house co-operated--to keep it; and all the
neighborhood co-operated--by living exactly in the same way.
Nowadays, it's co-operative shirking; isn't it?"

One never could quite tell whether Mrs. Hobart was more simple or
sharp.

That was all that was said about co-operative housekeeping at the
time. But Ruth remembered the conversation. So did Barbara, for a
while, as appeared in something she came out with a few days after.

"I could--almost--write a little poem!" she said, suddenly, over her
work. "Only that would be doing just what the rest do. Everything
turns into a poem, or an article, nowadays. I wish we'd lived in the
times when people _did_ the things!"

"O Barbara! _Think_ of all that is being done in the world!"

"I know. But the little private things. They want to turn everything
into a movement. Miss Trixie says they won't have any eggs from their
fowls next winter; all their chickens are roosters, and all they'll do
will be to sit in a row on the fence and crow! I think the world is
running pretty much to roosters."

"Is that the poem?"

"I don't know. It might come in. All I've got is the end of it. It
came into my head hind side before. If it could only have a beginning
and a middle put to it, it might do. It's just the wind-up, where they
have to give an account, you know, and what they'll have to show for
it, and the thing that really amounts, after all."

"Well, tell us."

"It's only five lines, and one rhyme. But it might be written up to.
They could say all sorts of things,--one and another:--

        "_I_ wrote some little books;
          _I_ said some little says;
        _I_ preached a little preach;
          _I_ lit a little blaze;
      _I_ made things pleasant in one little place."

There was a shout at Barbara's "poem."

"I thought I might as well relieve my mind," she said, meekly. "I knew
it was all there would ever be of it."

But Barbara's rhyme stayed in our heads, and got quoted in the family.
She illustrated on a small scale what the "poems and articles" _may_
sometimes do in the great world,

We remembered it that day when Ruth said, "Let's co-operate."

We talked it over,--what we could do without a girl. We had talked it
over before. We had had to try it, more or less, during interregnums.
But in our little house in Z----, with the dark kitchen, and with
Barbara and Ruth going to school, and the washing-days, when we had to
hire, it always cost more than it came to, besides making what Barb
called a "heave-offering of life."

"They used to have houses built accordingly," Rosamond said, speaking
of the "old times." "Grandmother's kitchen was the biggest and
pleasantest room in the house."

"Couldn't we _make_ the kitchen the pleasantest room?" suggested
Ruth. "Wouldn't it be sure to be, if it was the room we all stayed in
mornings, and where we had our morning work? Whatever room we do that
in always is, you know. The look grows. Kitchens are horrid when girls
have just gone out of them, and left the dish-towels dirty, and the
dish-cloth all wabbled up in the sink, and all the tins and irons
wanting to be cleaned. But if we once got up a real ladies' kitchen of
our own! I can think how it might be lovely!"

"I can think how it might be jolly-nificent!" cried Barbara, relapsing
into her dislocations.

"_You_ like kitchens," said Rosamond, in a tone of quiet ill-usedness.

"Yes, I do," said Barbara. "And you like parlors, and prettinesses,
and feather dusters, and little general touchings-up, that I can't
have patience with. You shall take the high art, and I'll have the low
realities. That's the co-operation. Families are put up assorted, and
the home character comes of it. It's Bible-truth, you know; the head
and the feet and the eye and the hand, and all that. Let's just see
what we _shall_ come to! People don't turn out what they're meant, who
have Irish kitchens and high-style parlors, all alike. There's a great
deal in being Holabirdy,--or whatever-else-you-are-y!"

"If it only weren't for that cellar-kitchen," said Mrs. Holabird.

"Mother," said Ruth, "what if we were to take this?"

We were in the dining-room.

"This nice room!"

"It is to be a ladies' kitchen, you know."

Everybody glanced around. It was nice, ever so nice. The dark stained
floor, showing clean, undefaced margins,--the new, pretty
drugget,--the freshly clad, broad old sofa,--the high wainscoted
walls, painted in oak and walnut colors, and varnished brightly,--the
ceiling faintly tinted with buff,--the buff holland shades to the
windows,--the dresser-closet built out into the room on one side, with
its glass upper-halves to the doors, showing our prettiest china and a
gleam of silver and glass,--the two or three pretty engravings in the
few spaces for them,--O, it was a great deal too nice to take for a
kitchen.

But Ruth began again.

"You know, mother, before Katty came, how nice everything was down
stairs. We cooked nearly a fortnight, and washed dishes, and
everything; and we only had the floor scrubbed once, and there never
was a slop on the stove, or a teaspoonful of anything spilled. It
would be so different from a girl! It seems as if we _might_ bring the
kitchen up stairs, instead of going down into the kitchen."

"But the stove," said mother.

"I think," said Barbara, boldly, "that a cooking-stove, all polished
up, is just as handsome a thing as there is in a house!"

"It is clumsy, one must own," said Mrs. Holabird, "besides being
suggestive."

"So is a piano," said the determined Barbara.

"I can _imagine_ a cooking-stove," said Rosamond, slowly.

"Well, do! That's just where your gift will come in!"

"A pretty copper tea-kettle, and a shiny tin boiler, made to
order,--like an urn, or something,--with a copper faucet, and nothing
else ever about, except it were that minute wanted; and all the tins
and irons begun with new again, and kept clean; and little cocoanut
dippers with German silver rims; and things generally contrived as
they are for other kinds of rooms that ladies use; it _might_ be like
that little picnicking dower-house we read about in a novel, or like
Marie Antoinette's Trianon."

"That's what it _would_ come to, if it was part of our living, just as
we come to have gold thimbles and lovely work-boxes. We should give
each other Christmas and birthday presents of things; we should have
as much pleasure and pride in it as in the china-closet. Why, the
whole trouble is that the kitchen is the only place taste _hasn't_ got
into. Let's have an art-kitchen!"

"We might spend a little money in fitting up a few things freshly, if
we are to save the waste and expense of a servant," said Mrs.
Holabird.

The idea grew and developed.

"But when we have people to tea!" Rosamond said, suddenly demurring
afresh.

"There's always the brown room, and the handing round," said Barbara,
"for the people you can't be intimate with, and _think_ how crowsy
this will be with Aunt Trixie or Mrs. Hobart or the Goldthwaites!"

"We shall just settle _down_," said Rose, gloomily.

"Well, I believe in finding our place. Every little brook runs till it
does that. I don't want to stand on tip-toe all my life."

"We shall always gather to us what _belongs_. Every little crystal
does that," said mother, taking up another simile.

"What will Aunt Roderick say?" said Ruth.

"I shall keep her out of the kitchen, and tell her we couldn't manage
with one girl any longer, and so we've taken three that all wanted to
get a place together."

And Barbara actually did; and it was three weeks before Mrs. Roderick
found out what it really meant.

We were in a hurry to have Katty go, and to begin, after we had made
up our minds; and it was with the serenest composure that Mrs.
Holabird received her remark that "her week would be up a-Tuesday, an'
she hoped agin then we'd be shooted wid a girl."

"Yes, Katty; I am ready at any moment," was the reply; which caused
the whites of Katty's eyes to appear for a second between the lids and
the irids.

There had been only one applicant for the place, who had come while we
had not quite irrevocably fixed our plans.

Mother swerved for a moment; she came in and told us what the girl
said.

"She is not experienced; but she looks good-natured; and she is
willing to come for a trial."

"They all do that," said Barbara, gravely. "I think--as
Protestants--we've hired enough of them."

Mother laughed, and let the "trial" go. That was the end, I think, of
our indecisions.

We got Mrs. Dunikin to come and scrub; we pulled out pots and pans,
stove-polish and dish-towels, napkins and odd stockings missed from
the wash; we cleared every corner, and had every box and bottle
washed; then we left everything below spick and span, so that it
almost tempted us to stay even there, and sent for the sheet-iron man,
and had the stove taken up stairs. We only carried up such lesser
movables as we knew we should want; we left all the accumulation
behind; we resolved to begin life anew, and feel our way, and furnish
as we went along.

Ruth brought home a lovely little spice-box as the first donation to
the art-kitchen. Father bought a copper tea-kettle, and the sheet-iron
man made the tin boiler. There was a wide, high, open fireplace in the
dining-room; we had wondered what we should do with it in the winter.
It had a soapstone mantel, with fluted pilasters, and a brown-stone
hearth and jambs. Back a little, between these sloping jambs, we had a
nice iron fire-board set, with an ornamental collar around the
funnel-hole. The stove stood modestly sheltered, as it were, in its
new position, its features softened to almost a sitting-room
congruity; it did not thrust itself obtrusively forward, and force its
homely association upon you; it was low, too, and its broad top looked
smooth and enticing.

There was a large, light closet at the back of the room, where was set
a broad, deep iron sink, and a pump came up from the cistern. This
closet had double sliding doors; it could be thrown all open for busy
use, or closed quite away and done with.

There were shelves here, and cupboards. Here we ranged our tins and
our saucepans,--the best and newest; Rosamond would have nothing
to do with the old battered ones; over them we hung our spoons
and our little strainers, our egg-beaters, spatulas, and quart
measures,--these last polished to the brightness of silver tankards;
in one corner stood the flour-barrel, and over it was the sieve; in
the cupboards were our porcelain kettles,--we bought two new ones, a
little and a big,--the frying-pans, delicately smooth and nice now,
outside and in, the roasting-pans, and the one iron pot, which we
never meant to use when we could help it. The worst things we could
have to wash were the frying and roasting pans, and these, we soon
found, were not bad when you did it all over and at once every time.

[Illustration]

Adjoining this closet was what had been the "girl's room," opening
into the passage where the kitchen stairs came up, and the passage
itself was fair-sized and square, corresponding to the depth of the
other divisions. Here we had a great box placed for wood, and a barrel
for coal, and another for kindlings; once a week these could be
replenished as required, when the man came who "chored" for us. The
"girl's room" would be a spare place that we should find twenty uses
for; it was nice to think of it sweet and fresh, empty and available;
very nice not to be afraid to remember it was there at all.

We had a Robinson-Crusoe-like pleasure in making all these
arrangements; every clean thing that we put in a spotless place upon
shelf or nail was a wealth and a comfort to us. Besides, we really did
not need half the lumber of a common kitchen closet; a china bowl or
plate would no longer be contraband of war, and Barbara said she could
stir her blanc-mange with a silver spoon without demoralizing anybody
to the extent of having the ashes taken up with it.

By Friday night we had got everything to the exact and perfect
starting-point; and Mrs. Dunikin went home enriched with gifts that
were to her like a tin-and-wooden wedding; we felt, on our part, that
we had celebrated ours by clearing them out.

The bread-box was sweet and empty; the fragments had been all daintily
crumbled by Ruth, as she sat, resting and talking, when she had come
in from her music-lesson; they lay heaped up like lightly fallen snow,
in a broad dish, ready to be browned for chicken dressing or boiled
for brewis or a pudding. Mother never has anything between loaves and
crumbs when _she_ manages; then all is nice, and keeps nice.

"Clean beginnings are beautiful," said Rosamond, looking around. "It
is the middle that's horrid."

"We won't have any middles," said Ruth. "We'll keep making clean
beginnings, all the way along. That is the difference between work and
muss."

"If you can," said Rose, doubtfully.

I suppose that is what some people will say, after this Holabird story
is printed so far. Then we just wish they could have seen mother make
a pudding or get a breakfast, that is all. A lady will no more make
a jumble or litter in doing such things than she would at her
dressing-table. It only needs an accustomed and delicate touch.

I will tell you something of how it was, I will take that Monday
morning--and Monday morning is as good, for badness, as you can
take--just after we had begun.

The room was nice enough for breakfast when we left it over night.
There was nothing straying about; the tea-kettle and the tin boiler
were filled,--father did that just before he locked up the house; we
had only to draw up the window-shades, and let the sweet light in, in
the morning.

Stephen had put a basket of wood and kindlings ready for Mrs. Dunikin
in the kitchen below, and the key of the lower door had been left on a
beam in the woodshed, by agreement. By the time we came down stairs
Mrs. Dunikin had a steaming boiler full of clothes, and had done
nearly two of her five hours' work. We should hand her her breakfast
on a little tray, when the time came, at the stair-head; and she would
bring up her cup and plate again while we were clearing away. We
should pay her twelve and a half cents an hour; she would scrub up all
below, go home to dinner, and come again to-morrow for five hours'
ironing. That was all there would be about Mrs. Dunikin.

Meanwhile, with a pair of gloves on, and a little plain-hemmed
three-cornered, dotted-muslin cap tied over her hair with a muslin bow
behind, mother had let down the ashes,--it isn't a bad thing to do
with a well-contrived stove,--and set the pan, to which we had a
duplicate, into the out-room, for Stephen to carry away. Then into the
clean grate went a handful of shavings and pitch-pine kindlings, one
or two bits of hard wood, and a sprinkle of small, shiny nut-coal. The
draughts were put on, and in five minutes the coals were red. In these
five minutes the stove and the mantel were dusted, the hearth brushed
up, and there was neither chip nor mote to tell the tale. It was not
like an Irish fire, that reaches out into the middle of the room with
its volcanic margin of cinders and ashes.

Then--that Monday morning--we had brewis to make, a little buttered
toast to do, and some eggs to scramble. The bright coffee-pot got its
ration of fragrant, beaten paste,--the brown ground kernels mixed with
an egg,--and stood waiting for its drink of boiling water. The two
frying-pans came forth; one was set on with the milk for the brewis,
into which, when it boiled up white and drifting, went the sweet fresh
butter, and the salt, each in plentiful proportion;--"one can give
one's self _carte-blancher_," Barbara said, "than it will do to give a
girl";--and then the bread-crumbs; and the end of it was, in a white
porcelain dish, a light, delicate, savory bread-porridge, to eat
daintily with a fork, and be thankful for. The other pan held eggs,
broken in upon bits of butter, and sprinkles of pepper and salt; this
went on when the coffee-pot--which had got its drink when the milk
boiled, and been puffing ever since--was ready to come off; over it
stood Barbara with a tin spoon, to toss up and turn until the whole
was just curdled with the heat into white and yellow flakes, not one
of which was raw, nor one was dry. Then the two pans and the
coffee-pot and the little bowl in which the coffee-paste had been
beaten and the spoons went off into the pantry-closet, and the
breakfast was ready; and only Barbara waited a moment to toast and
butter the bread, while mother, in her place at table, was serving the
cups. It was Ruth who had set the table, and carried off the cookery
things, and folded and slid back the little pembroke, that had held
them beside the stove, into its corner.

Rosamond had been busy in the brown room; that was all nice now for
the day; and she came in with a little glass vase in her hand, in
which was a tea-rose, that she put before mother at the edge of the
white waiter-napkin; and it graced and freshened all the place; and
the smell of it, and the bright September air that came in at the
three cool west windows, overbore all remembrance of the cooking and
reminder of the stove, from which we were seated well away, and before
which stood now a square, dark green screen that Rosamond had
recollected and brought down from the garret on Saturday. Barbara and
her toast emerged from its shelter as innocent of behind-the-scenes as
any bit of pretty play or pageant.

Barbara looked very nice this morning, in her brown-plaid Scotch
gingham trimmed with white braids; she had brown slippers, also, with
bows; she would not verify Rosamond's prophecy that she "would be all
points," now that there was an apology for them. I think we were all
more particular about our outer ladyhood than usual.

After breakfast the little pembroke was wheeled out again, and on it
put a steaming pan of hot water. Ruth picked up the dishes; it was
something really delicate to see her scrape them clean, with a pliant
knife, as a painter might cleanse his palette,--we had, in fact, a
palette-knife that we kept for this use when we washed our own
dishes,--and then set them in piles and groups before mother, on the
pembroke-table. Mother sat in her raised arm-chair, as she might sit
making tea for company; she had her little mop, and three long, soft
clean towels lay beside her; we had hemmed a new dozen, so as to have
plenty from day to day, and a grand Dunikin wash at the end on the
Mondays.

After the china and glass were done and put up, came forth the
coffee-pot and the two pans, and had their scald, and their little
scour,--a teaspoonful of sand must go to the daily cleansing of an
iron utensil, in mother's hands; and _that_ was clean work, and the
iron thing never got to be "horrid," any more than a china bowl. It
was only a little heavy, and it was black; but the black did not come
off. It is slopping and burning and putting away with a rinse, that
makes kettles and spiders untouchable. Besides, mother keeps a bottle
of ammonia in the pantry, to qualify her soap and water with, when she
comes to things like these. She calls it her kitchen-maid; it does
wonders for any little roughness or greasiness; such soil comes off in
that, and chemically disappears.

It was all dining-room work; and we were chatty over it, as if we had
sat down to wind worsteds; and there was no kitchen in the house that
morning.

We kept our butter and milk in the brick buttery at the foot of the
kitchen stairs. These were all we had to go up and down for. Barbara
set away the milk, and skimmed the cream, and brought up and scalded
the yesterday's pans the first thing; and they were out in a
row--flashing up saucily at the sun and giving as good as he sent--on
the back platform.

She and Rosamond were up stairs, making beds and setting straight; and
in an hour after breakfast the house was in its beautiful forenoon
order, and there was a forenoon of three hours to come.

We had chickens for dinner that day, I remember; one always does
remember what was for dinner the first day in a new house, or in new
housekeeping. William, the chore-man, had killed and picked and drawn
them, on Saturday; I do not mean to disguise that we avoided these
last processes; we preferred a little foresight of arrangement. They
were hanging in the buttery, with their hearts and livers inside them;
mother does not believe in gizzards. They only wanted a little salt
bath before cooking.

I should like to have had you see Mrs. Holabird tie up those chickens.
They were as white and nice as her own hands; and their legs and wings
were fastened down to their sides, so that they were as round and
comfortable as dumplings before she had done with them; and she laid
them out of her two little palms into the pan in a cunning and cosey
way that gave them a relish beforehand, and sublimated the vulgar
need.

We were tired of sewing and writing and reading in three hours; it
was only restful change to come down and put the chickens into the
oven, and set the dinner-table.

Then, in the broken hour while they were cooking, we drifted out upon
the piazza, and among our plants in the shady east corner by the
parlor windows, and Ruth played a little, and mother took up the
Atlantic, and we felt we had a good right to the between-times when
the fresh dredgings of flour were getting their brown, and after that,
while the potatoes were boiling.

Barbara gave us currant-jelly; she was a stingy Barbara about that
jelly, and counted her jars; and when father and Stephen came in,
there was the little dinner of three covers, and a peach-pie of
Saturday's making on the side-board, and the green screen up before
the stove again, and the baking-pan safe in the pantry sink, with hot
water and ammonia in it.

"Mother," said Barbara, "I feel as if we had got rid of a menagerie!"

"It is the girl that makes the kitchen," said Ruth.

"And then the kitchen that has to have the girl," said Mrs. Holabird.

Ruth got up and took away the dishes, and went round with the
crumb-knife, and did not forget to fill the tumblers, nor to put on
father's cheese.

Our talk went on, and we forgot there was any "tending."

"We didn't feel all that in the ends of our elbows," said mother in a
low tone, smiling upon Ruth as she sat down beside her.

"Nor have to scrinch all up," said Stephen, quite out loud, "for fear
she'd touch us!"

I'll tell you--in confidence--another of our ways at Westover; what,
we did, mostly, after the last two meals, to save our afternoons and
evenings and our nice dresses. We always did it with the tea-things.
We just put them, neatly piled and ranged in that deep pantry sink; we
poured some dipperfuls of hot water over them, and shut the cover
down; and the next morning, in our gingham gowns, we did up all the
dish-washing for the day.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Who folded all those clothes?" Why, we girls, of course. But you
can't be told everything in one chapter.



CHAPTER VII.

SPRINKLES AND GUSTS.


Mrs. Dunikin used to bring them in, almost all of them, and leave them
heaped up in the large round basket. Then there was the second-sized
basket, into which they would all go comfortably when they were folded
up.

One Monday night we went down as usual; some of us came in,--for we
had been playing croquet until into the twilight, and the Haddens had
just gone away, so we were later than usual at our laundry work.
Leslie and Harry went round with Rosamond to the front door; Ruth
slipped in at the back, and mother came down when she found that
Rosamond had not been released. Barbara finished setting the
tea-table, which she had a way of doing in a whiff, put on the sweet
loaf upon the white trencher, and the dish of raspberry jam and the
little silver-wire basket of crisp sugar-cakes, and then there was
nothing but the tea, which stood ready for drawing in the small
Japanese pot. Tea was nothing to get, ever.

"Mother, go back again! You tired old darling, Ruth and I are going to
do these!" and Barbara plunged in among the "blossoms."

That was what we called the fresh, sweet-smelling white things. There
are a great many pretty pieces of life, if you only know about them.
Hay-making is one; and rose-gathering is one; and sprinkling and
folding a great basket full of white clothes right out of the grass
and the air and the sunshine is one.

Mother went off,--chiefly to see that Leslie and Harry were kept to
tea, I believe. She knew how to compensate, in her lovely little
underhand way, with Barbara.

Barbara pinned up her muslin sleeves to the shoulder, shook out a
little ruffled short-skirt and put it on for an apron, took one end of
the long white ironing-table that stood across the window, pushed the
water-basin into the middle, and began with the shirts and the
starched things. Ruth, opposite, was making the soft underclothing
into little white rolls.

Barbara dampened and smoothed and stretched; she almost ironed with
her fingers, Mrs. Dunikin said. She patted and evened, laid collars
and cuffs one above another with a sprinkle of drops, just from her
finger-ends, between, and then gave a towel a nice equal shower with a
corn-whisk that she used for the large things, and rolled them up in
it, hard and fast, with a thump of her round pretty fist upon the
middle before she laid it by. It was a clever little process to
watch; and her arms were white in the twilight. Girls can't do all the
possible pretty manoeuvres in the German or out at croquet, if they
only once knew it. They do find it out in a one-sided sort of way: and
then they run to private theatricals. But the real every-day scenes
are just as nice, only they must have their audiences in ones and
twos; perhaps not always any audience at all.

Of a sudden Ruth became aware of an audience of one.

Upon the balcony, leaning over the rail, looking right down into the
nearest kitchen window and over Barbara's shoulder, stood Harry
Goldthwaite. He shook his head at Ruth, and she held her peace.

Barbara began to sing. She never sang to the piano,--only about her
work. She made up little snatches, piecemeal, of various things, and
put them to any sort of words. This time it was to her own,--her poem.

           "I wrote some little books;
             I said some little says;
           I preached a little pre-e-each;
             I lit a little blaze;
    I made--things--pleasant--in one--little--place."

She ran down a most contented little trip, with repeats and returns,
in a G-octave, for the last line. Then she rolled up a bundle of
shirts in a square pillow-case, gave it its accolade, and pressed it
down into the basket.

"How do you suppose, Ruth, we shall manage the town-meetings? Do you
believe they will be as nice as this? Where shall we get our little
inspirations, after we have come out of all our corners?"

"We won't do it," said Ruth, quietly, shaking out one of mother's
nightcaps, and speaking under the disadvantage of her private
knowledge.

"I think they ought to let us vote just once," said Barbara; "to say
whether we ever would again. I believe we're in danger of being put
upon now, if we never were before."

"It isn't fair," said Ruth, with her eyes up out of the window at
Harry, who made noiseless motion of clapping his hands. How could she
tell what Barbara would say next, or how she would like it when she
knew?

"Of course it isn't," said Barbara, intent upon the gathers of a white
cambric waist of Rosamond's. "I wonder, Ruth, if we shall have to read
all those Pub. Doc.s that father gets. You see women will make awful
hard work of it, if they once do go at it; they are so used to doing
every--little--thing"; and she picked out the neck-edging, and
smoothed the hem between the buttons.

"We shall have to take vows, and devote ourselves to it," Barbara went
on, as if she were possessed. "There will have to be 'Sisters of
Polity.' Not that I ever will. I don't feel a vocation. I'd rather be
a Polly-put-the-kettle-on all the days of my life."

"Mr. Goldthwaite!" said Ruth.

"May I?" asked Harry, as if he had just come, leaning down over the
rail, and speaking to Barbara, who faced about with a jump.

She knew by his look; he could not keep in the fun.

"'_May_ you'? When you have, already!"

"O no, I haven't! I mean, come down? Into the one-pleasant-little-place,
and help?"

"You don't know the way," Barbara said, stolidly, turning back again,
and folding up the waist.

"Don't I? Which,--to come down, or to help?" and Harry flung himself
over the rail, clasped one hand and wrist around a copper water-pipe
that ran down there, reached the other to something-above the
window,--the mere pediment, I believe,--and swung his feet lightly to
the sill beneath. Then he dropped himself and sat down, close by
Barbara's elbow.

"You'll get sprinkled," said she, flourishing the corn-whisk over a
table-cloth.

"I dare say. Or patted, or punched, or something. I knew I took the
risk of all that when I came down amongst it. But it looked nice. I
couldn't help it, and I don't care!"

Barbara was thinking of two things,--how long he had been there, and
what in the world she had said besides what she remembered; and--how
she should get off her rough-dried apron.

"Which do you want,--napkins or pillow-cases?" and he came round to
the basket, and began to pull out.

"Napkins," says Barbara.

The napkins were underneath, and mixed up; while he stooped and
fumbled, she had the ruffled petticoat off over her head. She gave it
a shower in such a hurry, that as Harry came up with the napkins, he
did get a drift of it in his face.

"That won't do," said Barbara, quite shocked, and tossing the whisk
aside. "There are too many of us."

She began on the napkins, sprinkling with her fingers. Harry spread up
a pile on his part, dipping also into the bowl. "I used to do it when
I was a little boy," he said.

Ruth took the pillow-cases, and so they came to the last. They
stretched the sheets across the table, and all three had a hand in
smoothing and showering.

"Why, I wish it weren't all done," says Harry, turning over three
clothes-pins in the bottom of the basket, while Barbara buttoned her
sleeves. "Where does this go? What a nice place this is!" looking
round the clean kitchen, growing shadowy in the evening light. "I
think your house is full of nice places."

"Are you nearly ready, girls?" came in mother's voice from above.

"Yes, ma'am," Harry answered back, in an excessively cheery way.
"We're coming"; and up the stairs all three came together, greatly to
Mrs. Holabird's astonishment.

"You never know where help is coming from when you're trying to do
your duty," said Barbara, in a high-moral way. "Prince Percinet, Mrs.
Holabird."

"Miss Polly-put--" began Harry Goldthwaite, brimming up with a
half-diffident mischief. But Barbara walked round to her place at the
table with a very great dignity.

People think that young folks can only have properly arranged and
elaborately provided good times; with Germania band pieces, and
bouquets and ribbons for the German, and oysters and salmon-salad and
sweatmeat-and-spun-sugar "chignons"; at least, commerce games and
bewitching little prizes. Yet when lives just touch each other
naturally, as it were,--dip into each other's little interests and
doings, and take them as they are, what a multiplication-table of
opportunities it opens up! You may happen upon a good time any
minute, then. Neighborhoods used to go on in that simple fashion; life
used to be "co-operative."

Mother said something like that after Leslie and Harry had gone away.

"Only you can't get them into it again," objected Rosamond. "It's a
case of Humpty Dumpty. The world will go on."

"_One_ world will," said Barbara. "But the world is manifold. You can
set up any kind of a monad you like, and a world will shape itself
round it. You've just got to live your own way, and everything that
belongs to it will be sure to join on. You'll have a world before you
know it. I think myself that's what the Ark means, and Mount Ararat,
and the Noachian--don't they call it?--new foundation. That's the way
they got up New England, anyhow."

"Barbara, what flights you take!"

"Do I? Well, we have to. The world lives up nineteen flights now, you
know, besides the old broken-down and buried ones."

It was a few days after that, that the news came to mother of Aunt
Radford's illness, and she had to go up to Oxenham. Father went with
her, but he came back the same night. Mother had made up her mind to
stay a week. And so we had to keep house without her.

One afternoon Grandfather Holabird came down. I don't know why, but if
ever mother did happen to be out of the way, it seemed as if he took
the time to talk over special affairs with father. Yet he thought
everything of "Mrs. Stephen," too, and he quite relied upon her
judgment and influence. But I think old men do often feel as if they
had got their sons back again, quite to themselves, when the Mrs.
Stephens or the Mrs. Johns leave them alone for a little.

At any rate, Grandfather Holabird sat with father on the north piazza,
out of the way of the strong south-wind; and he had out a big wallet,
and a great many papers, and he stayed and stayed, from just after
dinner-time till almost the middle of the afternoon, so that father
did not go down to his office at all; and when old Mr. Holabird went
home at last, he walked over with him. Just after they had gone Leslie
Goldthwaite and Harry stopped, "for a minute only," they said; for the
south-wind had brought up clouds, and there was rain threatening. That
was how we all happened to be just as we were that night of the
September gale; for it was the September gale of last year that was
coming.

The wind had been queer, in gusts, all day; yet the weather had been
soft and mild. We had opened windows for the pleasant air, and shut
them again in a hurry when the papers blew about, and the pictures
swung to and fro against the walls. Once that afternoon, somebody had
left doors open through the brown room and the dining-room, where a
window was thrown up, as we could have it there where the three were
all on one side. Ruth was coming down stairs, and saw grandfather's
papers give a whirl out of his lap and across the piazza floor upon
the gravel. If she had not sprung so quickly and gathered them all up
for him, some of them might have blown quite away, and led father a
chase after them over the hill. After that, old Mr. Holabird put them
up in his wallet again, and when they had talked a few minutes more
they went off together to the old house.

[Illustration]

It was wonderful how that wind and rain did come up. The few minutes
that Harry and Leslie stopped with us, and then the few more they took
to consider whether it would do for Leslie to try to walk home, just
settled it that nobody could stir until there should be some sort of
lull or holding up.

Out of the far southerly hills came the blast, rending and crashing;
the first swirls of rain that flung themselves against our windows
seemed as if they might have rushed ten miles, horizontally, before
they got a chance to drop; the trees bent down and sprang again, and
lashed the air to and fro; chips and leaves and fragments of all
strange sorts took the wonderful opportunity and went soaring aloft
and onward in a false, plebeian triumph.

The rain came harder, in great streams; but it all went by in white,
wavy drifts; it seemed to rain from south to north across the
country,--not to fall from heaven to earth; we wondered if it _would_
fall anywhere. It beat against the house; that stood up in its way; it
rained straight in at the window-sills and under the doors; we ran
about the house with cloths and sponges to sop it up from cushions and
carpets.

"I say, Mrs. Housekeeper!" called out Stephen from above, "look out
for father's dressing-room! It's all afloat,--hair-brushes out on
voyages of discovery, and a horrid little kelpie sculling round on a
hat-box!"

Father's dressing-room was a windowed closet, in the corner space
beside the deep, old-fashioned chimney. It had hooks and shelves in
one end, and a round shaving-stand and a chair in the other. We had to
pull down all his clothes and pile them upon chairs, and stop up the
window with an old blanket. A pane was cracked, and the wind, although
its force was slanted here, had blown it in, and the fine driven spray
was dashed across, diagonally, into the very farthest corner.

In the room a gentle cascade descended beside the chimney, and a
picture had to be taken down. Down stairs the dining-room sofa,
standing across a window, got a little lake in the middle of it before
we knew. The side door blew open with a bang, and hats, coats, and
shawls went scurrying from their pegs, through sitting-room and hall,
like a flight of scared, living things. We were like a little garrison
in a great fort, besieged at all points at once. We had to bolt
doors,--latches were nothing,--and bar shutters. And when we could
pause indoors, what a froth and whirl we had to gaze out at!

The grass, all along the fields, was white, prostrate; swept fiercely
one way; every blade stretched out helpless upon its green face. The
little pear-trees, heavy with fruit, lay prone in literal "windrows."
The great ashes and walnuts twisted and writhed, and had their
branches stripped upward of their leaves, as a child might draw a head
of blossoming grass between his thumb and finger. The beautiful elms
were in a wild agony; their graceful little bough-tips were all
snapped off and whirled away upon the blast, leaving them in a ragged
blight. A great silver poplar went over by the fence, carrying the
posts and palings with it, and upturned a huge mass of roots and
earth, that had silently cemented itself for half a century beneath
the sward. Up and down, between Grandfather Holabird's home-field and
ours, fallen locusts and wild cherry-trees made an abatis. Over and
through all swept the smiting, powdery, seething storm of waters; the
air was like a sea, tossing and foaming; we could only see through it
by snatches, to cry out that this and that had happened. Down below
us, the roof was lifted from a barn, and crumpled up in a heap half a
furlong off, against some rocks; and the hay was flying in great locks
through the air.

It began to grow dark. We put a bright, steady light in the brown
room, to shine through the south window, and show father that we were
all right; directly after a lamp was set in Grandfather Holabird's
north porch. This little telegraphy was all we could manage; we were
as far apart as if the Atlantic were between us.

"Will they be frightened about you at home?" asked Ruth of Leslie.

"I think not. They will know we should go in somewhere, and that
there would be no way of getting out again. People must be caught
everywhere, just as it happens, to-night."

"It's just the jolliest turn-up!" cried Stephen, who had been in an
ecstasy all the time. "Let's make molasses-candy, and sit up all
night!"

Between eight and nine we had some tea. The wind had lulled a little
from its hurricane force; the rain had stopped.

"It had all been blown to Canada, by this time," Harry Goldthwaite
said. "That rain never stopped anywhere short, except at the walls and
windows."

True enough, next morning, when we went out, the grass was actually
dry.

It was nearly ten when Stephen went to the south window and put his
hands up each side of his face against the glass, and cried out that
there was a lantern coming over from grandfather's. Then we all went
and looked.

It came slowly; once or twice it stopped; and once it moved down hill
at right angles quite a long way. "That is where the trees are down,"
we said. But presently it took an unobstructed diagonal, and came
steadily on to the long piazza steps, and up to the side door that
opened upon the little passage to the dining-room.

We thought it was father, of course, and we all hurried to the door to
let him in, and at the same time to make it nearly impossible that he
should enter at all. But it was Grandfather Holabird's man, Robert.

"The old gentleman has been taken bad," he said. "Mr. Stephen wants to
know if you're all comfortable, and he won't come till Mr. Holabird's
better. I've got to go to the town for the doctor."

"On foot, Robert?"

"Sure. There's no other way. I take it there's many a good winter's
firing of wood down across the road atwixt here and there. There ain't
much knowing where you _can_ get along."

"But what is it?"

"We mustn't keep him," urged Barbara.

"No, I ain't goin' to be kep'. 'T won't do. I donno what it is. It's a
kind of a turn. He's comin' partly out of it; but it's bad. He had a
kind of a warnin' once before. It's his head. They're afraid it's
appalectic, or paralettic, or sunthin'."

Robert looked very sober. He quite passed by the wonder of the gale,
that another time would have stirred him to most lively speech. Robert
"thought a good deal," as he expressed it, of Grandfather Holabird.

Harry Goldthwaite came through the brown room with his hat in his
hand. How he ever found it we could not tell.

"I'll go with him," he said. "You won't be afraid now, will you,
Barbara? I'm _very_ sorry about Mr. Holabird."

He shook hands with Barbara,--it chanced that she stood
nearest,--bade us all good night, and went away. We turned back
silently into the brown room.

We were all quite hushed from our late excitement. What strange things
were happening to-night!

All in a moment something so solemn and important was put into our
minds. An event that,--never talked about, and thought of as little, I
suppose, as such a one ever was in any family like ours,--had yet
always loomed vaguely afar, as what should come some time, and would
bring changes when it came, was suddenly impending.

Grandfather might be going to die.

And yet what was there for us to do but to go quietly back into the
brown room and sit down?

There was nothing to say even. There never is anything to say about
the greatest things. People can only name the bare, grand, awful fact,
and say, "It was tremendous," or "startling," or "magnificent," or
"terrible," or "sad." How little we could really say about the gale,
even now that it was over! We could repeat that this and that tree
were blown down, and such a barn or house unroofed; but we could not
get the real wonder of it--the thing that moved us to try to talk it
over--into any words.

"He seemed so well this afternoon," said Rosamond.

"I don't think he _was_ quite well," said Ruth. "His hands trembled so
when he was folding up his papers; and he was very slow."

"O, men always are with their fingers. I don't think that was
anything," said Barbara. "But I think he seemed rather nervous when
he came over. And he would not sit in the house, though the wind was
coming up then. He said he liked the air; and he and father got the
shaker chairs up there by the front door; and he sat and pinched his
knees together to make a lap to hold his papers; it was as much as he
could manage; no wonder his hands trembled."

"I wonder what they were talking about," said Rosamond.

"I'm glad Uncle Stephen went home with him," said Ruth.

"I wonder if we shall have this house to live in if grandfather should
die," said Stephen, suddenly. It could not have been his _first_
thought; he had sat soberly silent a good while.

"O Stevie! _don't_ let's think anything about that!" said Ruth; and
nobody else answered at all.

We sent Stephen off to bed, and we girls sat round the fire, which we
had made up in the great open fireplace, till twelve o'clock; then we
all went up stairs, leaving the side door unfastened. Ruth brought
some pillows and comfortables into Rosamond and Barbara's room, made
up a couch for herself on the box-sofa, and gave her little white one
to Leslie. We kept the door open between. We could see the light in
grandfather's northwest chamber; and the lamp was still burning in the
porch below. We could not possibly know anything; whether Robert had
got back, and the doctor had come,--whether he was better or
worse,--whether father would come home to-night. We could only guess.

"O Leslie, it is so good you are here!" we said.

There was something eerie in the night, in the wreck and confusion of
the storm, in our loneliness without father and mother, and in the
possible awfulness and change that were so near,--over there in
Grandfather Holabird's lighted room.



CHAPTER VIII.

HALLOWEEN.


Breakfast was late the next morning. It had been nearly two o'clock
when father had come home. He told us that grandfather was better;
that it was what the doctor called a premonitory attack; that he might
have another and more serious one any day, or that he might live on
for years without a repetition. For the present he was to be kept as
easy and quiet as possible, and gradually allowed to resume his old
habits as his strength permitted.

Mother came back in a few days more; Aunt Radford also was better. The
family fell into the old ways again, and it was as if no change had
threatened. Father told mother, however, something of importance that
grandfather had said to him that afternoon, before he was taken ill.
He had been on the point of showing him something which he looked for
among his papers, just before the wind whirled them out of his hands.
He had almost said he would complete and give it to him at once; and
then, when they were interrupted, he had just put everything up again,
and they had walked over home together. Then there had been the
excitement of the gale, and grandfather had insisted upon going to the
barns himself to see that all was made properly fast, and had come
back all out of breath, and had been taken with that ill turn in the
midst of the storm.

The paper he was going to show to father was an unwitnessed deed of
gift. He had thought of securing to us this home, by giving it in
trust to father for his wife and children.

"I helped John into his New York business," he said, "by investing
money in it that he has had the use of, at moderate interest, ever
since; and Roderick and his wife have had their home with me. None of
my boys ever paid me any _board_. I sha'n't make a will; the law gives
things where they belong; there's nothing but this that wants evening;
and so I've been thinking about it. What you do with your share of my
other property when you get it is no concern of mine as I know of; but
I should like to give you something in such a shape that it couldn't
go for old debts. I never undertook to shoulder any of _them_; what
little I've done was done for you. I wrote out the paper myself; I
never go to lawyers. I suppose it would stand clear enough for honest
comprehension,--and Roderick and John are both honest,--if I left it
as it is; but perhaps I'd as well take it some day to Squire Hadden,
and swear to it, and then hand it over to you. I'll see about it."

That was what grandfather had said; mother told us all about it;
there were no secret committees in our domestic congress; all was done
in open house; we knew all the hopes and the perplexities, only they
came round to us in due order of hearing. But father had not really
seen the paper, after all; and after grandfather got well, he never
mentioned it again all that winter. The wonder was that he had
mentioned it at all.

"He forgets a good many things, since his sickness," father said,
"unless something comes up to remind him. But there is the paper; he
must come across that."

"He may change his mind," said mother, "even when he does recollect.
We can be sure of nothing."

But we grew more fond than ever of the old, sunshiny house. In October
Harry Goldthwaite went away again on a year's cruise.

Rosamond had a letter from Mrs. Van Alstyne, from New York. She folded
it up after she had read it, and did not tell us anything about it.
She answered it next day; and it was a month later when one night up
stairs she began something she had to say about our winter shopping
with,--

"If I had gone to New York--" and there she stopped, as if she had
accidentally said what she did not intend.

"If you had gone to New York! Why! When?" cried Barbara. "What do you
mean?"

"Nothing," Rosamond answered, in a vexed way. "Mrs. Van Alstyne asked
me, that is all. Of course I couldn't."

"Of course you're just a glorious old _noblesse oblige_-d! Why didn't
you say something? You might have gone perhaps. We could all have
helped. I'd have lent you--that garnet and white silk!"

Rosamond would not say anything more, and she would scarcely be
kissed.

After all, she had co-operated more than any of us. Rose was always
the daughter who objected and then did. I have often thought that
young man in Scripture ought to have been a woman. It is more a
woman's way.

The maples were in their gold and vermilion now, and the round masses
of the ash were shining brown; we filled the vases with their leaves,
and pressed away more in all the big books we could confiscate, and
hunted frosted ferns in the wood-edge, and had beautiful pine blazes
morning and evening in the brown room, and began to think how
pleasant, for many cosey things, the winter was going to be, out here
at Westover.

"How nicely we could keep Halloween," said Ruth, "round this great
open chimney! What a row of nuts we could burn!"

"So we will," said Rosamond. "We'll ask the girls. Mayn't we, mother?"

"To tea?"

"No. Only to the fun,--and some supper. We can have that all ready in
the other room."

"They'll see the cooking-stove."

"They won't know it, when they do," said Barbara.

"We might have the table in the front room," suggested Ruth.

"The drawing-room!" cried Rosamond. "That _would_ be a make-shift. Who
ever heard of having supper there? No; we'll have both rooms open,
and a bright fire in each, and one up in mother's room for them to
take off their things. And there'll be the piano, and the stereoscope,
and the games, in the parlor. We'll begin in there, and out here we'll
have the fortune tricks and the nuts later; and then the supper,
bravely and comfortably, in the dining-room, where it belongs. If they
get frightened at anything, they can go home; I'm going to new cover
that screen, though, mother; And I'll tell you what with,--that piece
of goldy-brown damask up in the cedar-trunk. And I'll put an arabesque
of crimson braid around it for a border, and the room will be all
goldy-brown and crimson then, and nobody will stop to think which is
brocade and which is waterproof. They'll be sitting on the waterproof,
you know, and have the brocade to look at. It's just old enough to
seem as if it had always been standing round somewhere."

"It will be just the kind of party for us to have," said Barbara.

"They couldn't have it up there, if they tried. It would be sure to be
Marchbanksy."

Rosamond smiled contentedly. She was beginning to recognize her own
special opportunities. She was quite conscious of her own tact in
utilizing them.

But then came the intricate questions of who? and who not?

"Not everybody, of course," said Rose, "That would be a confusion.
Just the neighbors,--right around here."

"That takes in the Hobarts, and leaves out Leslie Goldthwaite," said
Ruth, quietly.

"O, Leslie will be at the Haddens', or here," replied Rosamond.
"Grace Hobart is nice," she went on; "if only she wouldn't be 'real'
nice!"

"That is just the word for her, though," said Ruth. "The Hobarts _are_
real."

Rosamond's face gathered over. It was not easy to reconcile things.
She liked them all, each in their way. If they would only all come,
and like each other.

"What is it, Rose?" said Barbara, teasing. "Your brows are knit,--your
nose is crocheted,--and your mouth is--tatted! I shall have to come
and ravel you out."

"I'm thinking; that is all."

"How to build the fence?"

"What fence?"

"That fence round the pond,--the old puzzle. There was once a pond,
and four men came and built four little houses round it,--close to the
water. Then four other men came and built four big houses, exactly
behind the first ones. They wanted the pond all to themselves; but the
little people were nearest to it; how could they build the fence, you
know? They had to squirm it awfully! You see the plain, insignificant
people are so apt to be nearest the good time!"

"I like to satisfy everybody."

"You won't,--with a squirm-fence!"

If it had not been for Ruth, we should have gone on just as innocently
as possible, and invited them--Marchbankses and all--to our Halloween
frolic. But Ruth was such a little news-picker, with her music
lessons! She had five scholars now; beside Lily and Reba, there were
Elsie Hobart and little Frank Hendee, and Pen Pennington, a girl of
her own age, who had come all the way from Fort Vancouver, over the
Pacific Railroad, to live here with her grandmother. Between the four
houses, Ruth heard everything.

All Saints' Day fell on Monday; the Sunday made double hallowing,
Barbara said; and Saturday was the "E'en." We did not mean to invite
until Wednesday; on Tuesday Ruth came home and told us that Olivia and
Adelaide Marchbanks were getting up a Halloween themselves, and that
the Haddens were asked already; and that Lily and Reba were in
transports because they were to be allowed to go.

"Did you say anything?" asked Rosamond.

"Yes. I suppose I ought not; but Elinor was in the room, and I spoke
before I thought."

"What did you tell her?"

"I only said it was such a pity; that you meant to ask them all. And
Elinor said it would be so nice here. If it were anybody else, we
might try to arrange something."

But how could we meddle with the Marchbankses? With Olivia and
Adelaide, of all the Marchbankses? We could not take it for granted
that they meant to ask us. There was no such thing as suggesting a
compromise. Rosamond looked high and splendid, and said not another
word.

In the afternoon of Wednesday Adelaide and Maud Marchbanks rode by,
homeward, on their beautiful little brown, long-tailed Morgans.

"They don't mean to," said Barbara. "If they did, they would have
stopped."

"Perhaps they will send a note to-morrow," said Ruth.

"Do you think I am waiting, in hopes?" asked Rosamond, in her
clearest, quietest tones.

Pretty soon she came in with her hat on. "I am going over to invite
the Hobarts," she said.

"That will settle it, whatever happens," said Barbara.

"Yes," said Rosamond; and she walked out.

The Hobarts were "ever so much obliged to us; and they would certainly
come." Mrs. Hobart lent Rosamond an old English book of "Holiday
Sports and Observances," with ten pages of Halloween charms in it.

From the Hobarts' house she walked on into Z----, and asked Leslie
Goldthwaite and Helen Josselyn, begging Mrs. Ingleside to come too, if
she would; the doctor would call for them, of course, and should have
his supper; but it was to be a girl-party in the early evening.

Leslie was not at home; Rosamond gave the message to her mother. Then
she met Lucilla Waters in the street.

"I was just thinking of you," she said. She did not say, "coming to
you," for truly, in her mind, she had not decided it. But seeing her
gentle, refined face, pale always with the life that had little frolic
in it, she spoke right out to that, without deciding.

"We want you at our Halloween party on Saturday. Will you come? You
will have Helen and the Inglesides to come with, and perhaps Leslie."

Rosamond, even while delivering her message to Mrs. Goldthwaite for
Leslie, had seen an unopened note lying upon the table, addressed to
her in the sharp, tall hand of Olivia Marchbanks.

She stopped in at the Haddens, told them how sorry she had been to
find they were promised; asked if it were any use to go to the
Hendees'; and when Elinor said, "But you will be sure to be asked to
the Marchbankses yourselves," replied, "It is a pity they should come
together, but we had quite made up our minds to have this little
frolic, and we have begun, too, you see."

Then she did go to the Hendees', although it was dark; and Maria
Hendee, who seldom went out to parties, promised to come. "They would
divide," she said. "Fanny might go to Olivia's. Holiday-keeping was
different from other invites. One might take liberties."

Now the Hendees were people who could take liberties, if anybody. Last
of all, Rosamond went in and asked Pen Pennington.

It was Thursday, just at dusk, when Adelaide Marchbanks walked over,
at last, and proffered her invitation.

"You had better all come to us," she said, graciously. "It is a pity
to divide. We want the same people, of course,--the Hendees, and the
Haddens, and Leslie." She hardly attempted to disguise that we
ourselves were an afterthought.

Rosamond told her, very sweetly, that we were obliged, but that she
was afraid it was quite too late; we had asked others; the Hobarts,
and the Inglesides; one or two whom Adelaide did not know,--Helen
Josselyn, and Lucilla Waters; the parties would not interfere much,
after all.

Rosamond took up, as it were, a little sceptre of her own, from that
moment.

Leslie Goldthwaite had been away for three days, staying with her
friend, Mrs. Frank Scherman, in Boston. She had found Olivia's note,
of Monday evening, when she returned; also, she heard of Rosamond's
verbal invitation. Leslie was very bright about these things. She saw
in a moment how it had been. Her mother told her what Rosamond had
said of who were coming,--the Hobarts and Helen; the rest were not
then asked.

Olivia did not like it very well,--that reply of Leslie's. She showed
it to Jeannie Hadden; that was how we came to know of it.

"Please forgive me," the note ran, "if I accept Rosamond's invitation
for the very reason that might seem to oblige me to decline it. I see
you have two days' advantage of her, and she will no doubt lose some
of the girls by that. I really _heard_ hers first. I wish very much it
were possible to have both pleasures."

That was being terribly true and independent with West Z----. "But
Leslie Goldthwaite," Barbara said, "always was as brave as a little
bumble-bee!"

How it had come over Rosamond, though, we could not quite understand.
It was not pique, or rivalry; there was no excitement about it; it
seemed to be a pure, spirited dignity of her own, which she all at
once, quietly and of course, asserted.

Mother said something about it to her Saturday morning, when she was
beating up Italian cream, and Rosamond was cutting chicken for the
salad. The cakes and the jellies had been made the day before.

"You have done this, Rosamond, in a very right and neighborly way, but
it isn't exactly your old way. How came you not to mind?"

Rosamond did not discuss the matter; she only smiled and said, "I
think, mother, I'm growing very proud and self-sufficient, since we've
had real, _through-and-through_ ways of our own."

It was the difference between "somewhere" and "betwixt and between."

Miss Elizabeth Pennington came in while we were putting candles in the
bronze branches, and Ruth was laying an artistic fire in the wide
chimney. Ruth could make a picture with her crossed and balanced
sticks, sloping the firm-built pile backward to the two great, solid
logs behind,--a picture which it only needed the touch of flame to
finish and perfect. Then the dazzling fire-wreaths curled and clasped
through and about it all, filling the spaces with a rushing splendor,
and reaching up their vivid spires above its compact body to an
outline of complete live beauty. Ruth's fires satisfied you to look
at: and they never tumbled down.

She rose up with a little brown, crooked stick in one hand, to speak
to Miss Pennington.

"Don't mind me," said the lady. "Go on, please, 'biggin' your castle.'
That will be a pretty sight to see, when it lights up."

Ruth liked crooked sticks; they held fast by each other, and they made
pretty curves and openings. So she went on, laying them deftly.

"I should like to be here to-night," said Miss Elizabeth, still
looking at the fire-pile. "Would you let an old maid in?"

"Miss Pennington! Would you come?"

"I took it in my head to want to. That was why I came over. Are you
going to play snap-dragon? I wondered if you had thought of that."

"We don't know about it," said Ruth. "Anything, that is, except the
name."

"That is just what I thought possible. Nobody knows those old games
nowadays. May I come and bring a great dragon-bowl with me, and
superintend that part? Mother got her fate out of a snap-dragon, and
we have the identical bowl. We always used to bring it out at
Christmas, when we were all at home."

"O Miss Pennington! How perfectly lovely! How good you are!"

"Well, I'm glad you take it so. I was afraid it was terribly
meddlesome. But the fancy--or the memory--seized me."

How wonderfully our Halloween party was turning out!

And the turning-out is almost the best part of anything; the time when
things are getting together, in the beautiful prosperous way they will
take, now and then, even in this vexed world.

There was our lovely little supper-table all ready. People who have
servants enough, high-trained, to do these things while they are
entertaining in the drawing-room, don't have half the pleasure, after
all, that we do, in setting out hours beforehand, and putting the last
touches and taking the final satisfaction before we go to dress.

The cake, with the ring in it, was in the middle; for we had put
together all the fateful and pretty customs we could think of, from
whatever holiday; there were mother's Italian creams, and amber and
garnet wine jellies; there were sponge and lady-cake, and the little
macaroons and cocoas that Barbara had the secret of; and the salad, of
spring chickens and our own splendid celery, was ready in the cold
room, with its bowl of delicious dressing to be poured over it at the
last; and the scalloped oysters were in the pantry; Ruth was to put
them into the oven again when the time came, and mother would pin the
white napkins around the dishes, and set them on; and nobody was to
worry or get tired with having the whole to think of; and yet the
whole would be done, to the very lighting of the candles, which
Stephen had spoken for, by this beautiful, organized co-operation of
ours. Truly it is a charming thing,--all to itself, in a family!

To be sure, we had coffee and bread and butter and cold ham for dinner
that day; and we took our tea "standed round," as Barbara said; and
the dishes were put away in the covered sink; we knew where we could
shirk righteously and in good order, when we could not accomplish
everything; but there was neither huddle nor hurry; we were as quiet
and comfortable as we could be. Even Rosamond was satisfied with the
very manner; to be composed is always to be elegant. Anybody might
have come in and lunched with us; anybody might have shared that easy,
chatty cup of tea.

The front parlor did not amount to much, after all, pleasant and
pretty as it was for the first receiving; we were all too eager for
the real business of the evening. It was bright and warm with the
wood-fire and the lights; and the white curtains, nearly filling up
three of its walls, made it very festal-looking. There was the open
piano, and Ruth played a little; there was the stereoscope, and some
of the girls looked over the new views of Catskill and the Hudson that
Dakie Thayne had given us; there was the table with cards, and we
played one game of Old Maid, in which the Old Maid got lost
mysteriously into the drawer, and everybody was married; and then Miss
Pennington appeared at the door, with her man-servant behind her, and
there was an end. She took the big bowl, pinned over with a great
damask napkin, out of the man's hands, and went off privately with
Barbara into the dining-room.

"This is the Snap," she said, unfastening the cover, and producing
from within a paper parcel. "And that," holding up a little white
bottle, "is the Dragon." And Barbara set all away in the dresser until
after supper. Then we got together, without further ceremony, in the
brown room.

We hung wedding-rings--we had mother's, and Miss Elizabeth had brought
over Madam Pennington's--by hairs, and held them inside tumblers; and
they vibrated with our quickening pulses, and swung and swung, until
they rung out fairy chimes of destiny against the sides. We floated
needles in a great basin of water, and gave them names, and watched
them turn and swim and draw together,--some point to point, some heads
and points, some joined cosily side to side, while some drifted to the
margin and clung there all alone, and some got tears in their eyes, or
an interfering jostle, and went down. We melted lead and poured it
into water; and it took strange shapes; of spears and masts and stars;
and some all went to money; and one was a queer little bottle and
pills, and one was pencils and artists' tubes, and--really--a little
palette with a hole in it.

[Illustration]

And then came the chestnut-roasting, before the bright red coals. Each
girl put down a pair; and I dare say most of them put down some little
secret, girlish thought with it. The ripest nuts burned steadiest and
surest, of course; but how could we tell these until we tried? Some
little crack, or unseen worm-hole, would keep one still, while its
companion would pop off, away from it; some would take flight
together, and land in like manner, without ever parting company; these
were to go some long way off; some never moved from where they began,
but burned up, stupidly and peaceably, side by side. Some snapped
into the fire. Some went off into corners. Some glowed beautiful, and
some burned black, and some got covered up with ashes.

Barbara's pair were ominously still for a time, when all at once the
larger gave a sort of unwilling lurch, without popping, and rolled off
a little way, right in toward the blaze.

"Gone to a warmer climate," whispered Leslie, like a tease. And then
crack! the warmer climate, or something else, sent him back again,
with a real bound, just as Barbara's gave a gentle little snap, and
they both dropped quietly down against the fender together.

"What made that jump back, I wonder?" said Pen Pennington.

"O, it wasn't more than half cracked when it went away," said Stephen,
looking on.

Who would be bold enough to try the looking-glass? To go out alone
with it into the dark field, walking backward, saying the rhyme to the
stars which if there had been a moon ought by right to have been said
to her:--

        "Round and round, O stars so fair!
         Ye travel, and search out everywhere.
         I pray you, sweet stars, now show to me,
         This night, who my future husband shall be!"

Somehow, we put it upon Leslie. She was the oldest; we made that the
reason.

"I wouldn't do it for anything!" said Sarah Hobart. "I heard of a girl
who tried it once, and saw a shroud!"

But Leslie was full of fun that evening, and ready to do anything. She
took the little mirror that Ruth brought her from up stairs, put on a
shawl, and we all went to the front door with her, to see her off.

"Round the piazza, and down the bank," said Barbara, "and backward
all the way."

So Leslie backed out at the door, and we shut it upon her. The instant
after, we heard a great laugh. Off the piazza, she had stepped
backward, directly against two gentlemen coming in.

Doctor Ingleside was one, coming to get his supper; the other was a
friend of his, just arrived in Z----. "Doctor John Hautayne," he said,
introducing him by his full name.

We knew why. He was proud of it. Doctor John Hautayne was the army
surgeon who had been with him in the Wilderness, and had ridden a
stray horse across a battle-field, in his shirt-sleeves, right in
front of a Rebel battery, to get to some wounded on the other side.
And the Rebel gunners, holding their halyards, stood still and
shouted.

It put an end to the tricks, except the snap-dragon.

We had not thought how late it was; but mother and Ruth had remembered
the oysters.

Doctor John Hautayne took Leslie out to supper. We saw him look at her
with a funny, twinkling curiosity, as he stood there with her in the
full light; and we all thought we had never seen Leslie look prettier
in all her life.

After supper, Miss Pennington lighted up her Dragon, and threw in her
snaps. A very little brandy, and a bowl full of blaze.

Maria Hendee "snapped" first, and got a preserved date.

"Ancient and honorable," said Miss Pennington, laughing.

Then Pen Pennington tried, and got nothing.

"You thought of your own fingers," said her aunt.

"A fig for my fortune!" cried Barbara, holding up her trophy.

"It came from the Mediterranean," said Mrs. Ingleside, over her
shoulder into her ear; and the ear burned.

Ruth got a sugared almond.

"Only a _kernel_," said the merry doctor's wife, again.

The doctor himself tried, and seized a slip of candied flag.

"Warm-hearted and useful, that is all," said Mrs. Ingleside.

"And tolerably pungent," said the doctor.

Doctor Hautayne drew forth--angelica.

Most of them were too timid or irresolute to grasp anything.

"That's the analogy," said Miss Pennington. "One must take the risk of
getting scorched. It is 'the woman who dares,' after all."

It was great fun, though.

Mother cut the cake. That was the last sport of the evening.

If I should tell you who got the ring, you would think it really meant
something. And the year is not out yet, you see.

But there was no doubt of one thing,--that our Halloween at Westover
was a famous little party.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How do you all feel about it?" asked Barbara, sitting down on the
hearth in the brown room, before the embers, and throwing the nuts she
had picked up about the carpet into the coals.

We had carried the supper-dishes away into the out-room, and set them
on a great spare table that we kept there. "The room is as good as the
girl," said Barbara. It _is_ a comfort to put by things, with a clear
conscience, to a more rested time. We should let them be over the
Sunday; Monday morning would be all china and soapsuds; then there
would be a nice, freshly arrayed dresser, from top to bottom, and we
should have had both a party and a piece of fall cleaning.

"How do you feel about it?"

"I feel as if we had had a real _own_ party, ourselves," said Ruth;
"not as if 'the girls' had come and had a party here. There wasn't
anybody to _show us how_!"

"Except Miss Pennington. And wasn't it bewitchinating of her to come?
Nobody can say now--"

"What do you say it for, then?" interrupted Rosamond. "It was very
nice of Miss Pennington, and kind, considering it was a young party.
Otherwise, why shouldn't she?"



CHAPTER IX.

WINTER NIGHTS AND WINTER DAYS.


"That was a nice party," said Miss Pennington, walking home with
Leslie and Doctor John Hautayne, behind the Inglesides. "What made it
so nice?"

"You, very much," said Leslie, straightforwardly.

"I didn't begin it," said Miss Elizabeth. "No; that wasn't it. It was
a step out, somehow Out of the treadmill. I got tired of parties long
ago, before I was old. They were all alike. The only difference was
that in one house the staircase went up on the right side of the hall,
and in another on the left,--now and then, perhaps, at the back; and
when you came down again, the lady near the drawing-room door might be
Mrs. Hendee one night and Mrs. Marchbanks another; but after that it
was all the same. And O, how I did get to hate ice-cream!"

"This was a party of 'nexts,'" said Leslie, "instead of a selfsame."

"What a good time Miss Waters had--quietly! You could see it in her
face. A pretty face!" Miss Elizabeth spoke in a lower tone, for
Lucilla was just before the Inglesides, with Helen and Pen Pennington.
"She works too hard, though. I wish she came out more."

"The 'nexts' have to get tired of books and mending-baskets, while the
firsts are getting tired of ice-creams," replied Leslie. "Dear Miss
Pennington, there are ever so many nexts, and people don't think
anything about it!"

"So there are," said Miss Elizabeth, quietly. "People are very stupid.
They don't know what will freshen themselves up. They think the
trouble is with the confectionery, and so they try macaroon and
pistachio instead of lemon and vanilla. Fresh people are better than
fresh flavors. But I think we had everything fresh to-night. What a
beautiful old home-y house it is!"

"And what a home-y family!" said Doctor John Hautayne.

"_We_ have an old home-y house," said Miss Pennington, suddenly, "with
landscape-papered walls and cosey, deep windows and big chimneys. And
we don't half use it. Doctor Hautayne, I mean to have a party! Will
you stay and come to it?"

"Any time within my two months' leave," replied Doctor Hautayne, "and
with very great pleasure."

"So she will have it before very long," said Leslie, telling us about
the talk the next day.

It! Well, when Miss Pennington took up a thing she _did_ take it up!
That does not come in here, though,--any more of it.

The Penningtons are very proud people. They have not a very great deal
of money, like the Haddens, and they are not foremost in everything
like the Marchbankses; somehow they do not seem to care to take the
trouble for that; but they are so _established_; it is a family like
an old tree, that is past its green branching time, and makes little
spread or summer show, but whose roots reach out away underneath, and
grasp more ground than all the rest put together.

They live in an old house that is just like them. It has not a
new-fashioned thing about it. The walls are square, plain brick,
painted gray; and there is a low, broad porch in front, and then
terraces, flagged with gray stone and bordered with flower-beds at
each side and below. They have peacocks and guinea-hens, and more
roses and lilies and larkspurs and foxgloves and narcissus than
flowers of any newer sort; and there are great bushes of box and
southernwood, that smell sweet as you go by.

Old General Pennington had been in the army all his life. He was a
captain at Lundy's Lane, and got a wound there which gave him a stiff
elbow ever after; and his oldest son was killed in Mexico, just after
he had been brevetted Major. There is a Major Pennington now,--the
younger brother,--out at Fort Vancouver; and he is Pen's father. When
her mother died, away out there, he had to send her home. The
Penningtons are just as proud as the stars and stripes themselves; and
their glory is off the selfsame piece.

They made very much of Dakie Thayne when he was here, in their quiet,
retired way; and they had always been polite and cordial to the
Inglesides.

One morning, a little while after our party, mother was making an
apple-pudding for dinner, when Madam Pennington and Miss Elizabeth
drove round to the door.

Ruth was out at her lessons; Barbara was busy helping Mrs. Holabird.
Rosamond went to the door, and let them into the brown room.

"Mother will be sorry to keep you waiting, but she will come directly.
She is just in the middle of an apple-pudding."

Rosamond said it with as much simple grace of pride as if she had had
to say, "Mother is busy at her modelling, and cannot leave her clay
till she has damped and covered it." Her nice perception went to the
very farther-most; it discerned the real best to be made of things,
the best that was _ready_ made, and put that forth.

"And I know," said Madam Pennington, "that an apple-pudding must not
be left in the middle. I wonder if she would let an old woman who has
lived in barracks come to her where she is?"

Rosamond's tact was superlative. She did not say, "I will go and see";
she got right up and said, "I am sure she will; please come this way,"
and opened the door, with a sublime confidence, full and without
warning, upon the scene of operations.

"O, how nice!" said Miss Elizabeth; and Madam Pennington walked
forward into the sunshine, holding her hand out to Mrs. Holabird, and
smiling all the way from her smooth old forehead down to the "seventh
beauty" of her dimple-cleft and placid chin.

"Why, this is really coming to see people!" she said.

Mrs. Holabird's white hand did not even want dusting; she just laid
down the bright little chopper with which she was reducing her flour
and butter to a golden powder, and took Madam Pennington's nicely
gloved fingers into her own, without a breath of apology. Apology! It
was very meek of her not to look at all set up.

Barbara rose from her chair with a red ringlet of apple-paring hanging
down against her white apron, and seated herself again at her work
when the visitors had taken the two opposite corners of the deep,
cushioned sofa.

The red cloth was folded back across the end of the dining-table, and
at the other end were mother's white board and rolling-pin, the
pudding-cloth wrung into a twist out of the scald, and waiting upon a
plate, and a pitcher of cold water with ice tinkling against its
sides. Mother sat with the deal bowl in her lap, turning and mincing
with the few last strokes the light, delicate dust of the pastry. The
sunshine--work and sunshine always go so blessedly together--poured
in, and filled the room up with life and glory.

"Why, this is the pleasantest room in all your house!" said Miss
Elizabeth.

"That is just what Ruth said it would be when we turned it into a
kitchen," said Barbara.

"You don't mean that this is really your kitchen!"

"I don't think we are quite sure what it is," replied Barbara,
laughing. "We either dine in our kitchen or kitch in our dining-room;
and I don't believe we have found out yet which it is!"

"You are wonderful people!"

"You ought to have belonged to the army, and lived in quarters," said
Mrs. Pennington. "Only you would have made your rooms so bewitching
you would have been always getting turned out."

"Turned out?"

"Yes; by the ranking family. That is the way they do. The major turns
out the captain, and the colonel the major. There's no rest for the
sole of your foot till you're a general."

Mrs. Holabird set her bowl on the table, and poured in the ice-water.
Then the golden dust, turned and cut lightly by the chopper, gathered
into a tender, mellow mass, and she lifted it out upon the board.
She shook out the scalded cloth, spread it upon the emptied bowl,
sprinkled it snowy-thick with flour, rolled out the crust with a free
quick movement, and laid it on, into the curve of the basin. Barbara
brought the apples, cut up in white fresh slices, and slid them into
the round. Mrs. Holabird folded over the edges, gathered up the linen
cloth in her hands, tied it tightly with a string, and Barbara
disappeared with it behind the damask screen, where a puff of steam
went up in a minute that told the pudding was in. Then Mrs. Holabird
went into the pantry-closet and washed her hands, that never really
came to need more than a finger-bowl could do for them, and Barbara
carried after her the board and its etceteras, and the red cloth was
drawn on again, and there was nothing, but a low, comfortable bubble
in the chimney-corner to tell of house-wifery or dinner.

"I wish it had lasted longer," said Miss Elizabeth. "I am afraid I
shall feel like company again now."

"I am ashamed to tell you what I came for," said Madam Pennington.
"It was to ask about a girl. Can I do anything with Winny Lafferty?"

"I wish you could," said Mrs. Holabird, benevolently.

"She needs doing with" said Barbara.

"Your having her would be different from our doing so," said Mrs.
Holabird. "I often think that one of the tangles in the girl-question
is the mistake of taking the rawest specimens into families that keep
but one. With your Lucy, it might be the very making of Winny to go to
you."

"The 'next' for her, as Ruth would say," said Barbara.

"Yes. The least little thing that comes next is better than a world
full of wisdom away off beyond. There is too much in 'general
housework' for one ignorant, inexperienced brain to take in. What
should we think of a government that gave out its 'general field-work'
so?"

"There won't be any Lucys long," said Madam Pennington, with a sigh.
"What are homes coming to?"

"Back to _homes_, I hope, from _houses_ divided against themselves
into parlors and kitchens," said mother, earnestly. "If I should tell
you all I think about it, you would say it was visionary, I am afraid.
But I believe we have got to go back to first principles; and then the
Lucys will grow again."

"Modern establishments are not homes truly," said Madam Pennington.

"We shall call them by their names, as the French do, if we go on,"
said mother,--"hotels."

"And how are we to stop, or help it? The enemy has got possession.
Irishocracy is a despotism in the land."

"Only," said mother, in her sweetest, most heartfelt way, "by
learning how true it is that one must be chief to really serve; that
it takes the highest to do perfect ministering; that the brightest
grace and the most beautiful culture must come to bear upon this
little, every-day living, which is all that the world works for after
all. The whole heaven is made that just the daily bread for human
souls may come down out of it. Only the Lord God can pour this room
full of little waves of sunshine, and make a still, sweet morning in
the earth."

Mother and Madam Pennington looked at each other with soulful eyes.

"'We girls,'" began mother again, smiling,--"for that is the way the
children count me in,--said to each other, when we first tried this
new plan, that we would make an art-kitchen. We meant we would have
things nice and pretty for our common work; but there is something
behind that,--the something that 'makes the meanest task divine,'--the
spiritual correspondence of it. When we are educated up to that I
think life and society will be somewhat different. I think we shall
not always stop short at the drawing-room, and pretend at each other
on the surface of things. I think the time may come when young girls
and single women will be as willing, and think it as honorable, to go
into homes which they need, and which need them, and give the best
that they have grown to into the commonwealth of them, as they are
willing now to educate and try for public places. And it will seem to
them as great and beautiful a thing to do. They won't be buried,
either. When they take the work up, and glorify it, it will glorify
them. We don't know yet what households might be, if now we have got
the wheels so perfected, we would put the living spirit into the
wheels. They are the motive power; homes are the primary meetings.
They would be little kingdoms, of great might! I _wish_ women would be
content with their mainspring work, and not want to go out and point
the time upon the dial!"

Mother never would have made so long a speech, but that beautiful old
Mrs. Pennington was answering her back all the time out of her eyes.
There was such a magnetism between them for the moment, that she
scarcely knew she was saying it all. The color came up in their
cheeks, and they were young and splendid, both of them. We thought it
was as good a Woman's Convention as if there had been two thousand of
them instead of two. And when some of the things out of the closets
get up on the house-tops, maybe it will prove so.

Madam Pennington leaned over and kissed mother when she took her hand
at going away. And then Miss Elizabeth spoke out suddenly,--

"I have not done my errand yet, Mrs. Holabird. Mother has taken up all
the time. I want to have some _nexts_. Your girls know what I mean;
and I want them to take hold and help. They are going to be 'next
Thursdays,' and to begin this very coming Thursday of all. I shall
give primary invitations only,--and my primaries are to find
secondaries. No household is to represent merely itself; one or two,
or more, from one family are to bring always one or two, or more, from
somewhere else. I am going to try if one little bit of social life
cannot be exogenous; and if it can, what the branching-out will come
to. I think we want sapwood as well as heartwood to keep us green. If
anybody doesn't quite understand, refer to 'How Plants Grow--Gray.'"

She went off, leaving us that to think of.

Two days after she looked in again, and said more. "Besides that,
every primary or season invitation imposes a condition. Each member is
to provide one practical answer to 'What next?' 'Next Thursday' is
always to be in charge of somebody. You may do what you like, or can,
with it. I'll manage the first myself. After that I wash my hands."

Out of it grew fourteen incomparable Thursday evenings. Pretty much
all we can do about them is to tell that they were; we should want
fourteen new numbers to write their full history. It was like Mr.
Hale's lovely "Ten Times One is Ten." They all came from that one
blessed little Halloween party of ours. It means something that there
_is_ such a thing as the multiplication-table; doesn't it? You can't
help yourself if you start a unit, good or bad. The Garden of Eden,
and the Ark, and the Loaves and Fishes, and the Hundred and Forty-four
Thousand sealed in their foreheads, tell of it, all through the Bible,
from first to last. "Multiply!" was the very next, inevitable
commandment, after the "Let there be!"

It was such a thing as had never rolled up, or branched out, though,
in Westover before. The Marchbankses did not know what to make of it.
People got in who had never belonged. There they were, though, in the
stately old Pennington house, that was never thrown open for nothing;
and when they were once there you really could not tell the
difference; unless, indeed, it were that the old, middle wood was the
deadest, just as it is in the trees; and that the life was in the new
sap and the green rind.

Lucilla Waters invented charades; and Helen Josselyn acted them, as
charades had never been acted on West Hill until now. When it came to
the Hobarts' "Next Thursday" they gave us "Dissolving Views,"--every
successive queer fashion that had come up resplendent and gone down
grotesque in these last thirty years. Mrs. Hobart had no end of old
relics,--bandbaskets packed full of venerable bonnets, that in their
close gradation of change seemed like one individual Indur passing
through a metempsychosis of millinery; nests of old hats that were
odder than the bonnets; swallow-tailed coats; broad-skirted blue ones
with brass buttons; baby waists and basquines; leg-of-mutton sleeves,
balloons, and military; collars inch-wide and collars ell-wide with
ruffles _rayonnantes_; gathers and gores, tunnel-skirts, and
barrel-skirts and paniers. She made monstrous paper dickeys,
and high black stocks, and great bundling neckcloths; the very
pocket-handkerchiefs were as ridiculous as anything, from the
waiter-napkin size of good stout cambric to a quarter-dollar bit of a
middle with a cataract of "chandelier" lace about it. She could tell
everybody how to do their hair, from "flat curls" and "scallops" down
or up to frizzes and chignons; and after we had all filed in slowly,
one by one, and filled up the room, I don't think there ever could
have been a funnier evening!

We had musical nights, and readings. We had a "Mutual Friend"
Thursday; that was Mrs. Ingleside's. Rosamond was the Boofer Lady;
Barbara was Lavvy the Irrepressible; and Miss Pennington herself was
Mrs. Wilfer; Mr. and Mrs. Hobart were the Boffins; and Doctor
Ingleside, with a wooden leg strapped on, dropped into poetry in the
light of a friend; Maria Hendee came in twisting up her back hair, as
Pleasant Riderhood,--Maria Hendee's back hair was splendid; Leslie
looked very sweet and quiet as Lizzie Hexam, and she brought with her
for her secondary that night the very, real little doll's dressmaker
herself,--Maddy Freeman, who has carved brackets, and painted lovely
book-racks and easels and vases and portfolios for almost everybody's
parlors, and yet never gets into them herself.

[Illustration]

Leslie would not have asked her to be Jennie Wren, because she really
has a lame foot; but when they told her about it, she said right off,
"O, how I wish I could be that!" She has not only the lame foot, but
the wonderful "golden bower" of sunshiny hair too; and she knows the
doll's dressmaker by heart; she says she expects to find her some
time, if ever she goes to England--or to heaven. Truly she was up to
the "tricks and the manners" of the occasion; nobody entered into it
with more self-abandonment than she; she was so completely Jennie Wren
that no one--at the moment--thought of her in any other character, or
remembered their rules of behaving according to the square of the
distance. She "took patterns" of Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks's trimmings to
her very face; she readied up behind Mrs. Linceford, and measured the
festoon of her panier. There was no reason why she should be afraid or
abashed; Maddy Freeman is a little lady, only she is poor, and a
genius. She stepped right _out_ of Dickens's story, not _into_ it, as
the rest of us did; neither did she even seem to step consciously into
the grand Pennington house; all she did as to that was to go "up
here," or "over there," and "be dead," as fresh, new-world delights
attracted her. Lizzie Hexam went too; they belonged together; and
T'other Governor would insist on following after them, and being
comfortably dead also, though Society was behind him, and the
Veneerings and the Podsnaps looking on. Mrs. Ingleside did not provide
any Podsnaps or Veneerings; she said they would be there.

Now Eugene Wrayburn was Doctor John Hautayne; for this was only our
fourth evening. Nobody had anything to say about parts, except the
person whose "next" it was; people had simply to take what they were
helped to.

We began to be a little suspicious of Doctor Hautayne; to wonder about
his "what next." Leslie behaved as if she had always known him; I
believe it seemed to her as if she always had; some lives meet in a
way like that.

It did not end with parties, Miss Pennington's exogenous experiment.
She did not mean it should. A great deal that was glad and comfortable
came of it to many persons. Miss Elizabeth asked Maddy Freeman to
"come up and be dead" whenever she felt like it; she goes there every
week now, to copy pictures, and get rare little bits for her designs
out of the Penningtons' great portfolios of engravings and drawings of
ancient ornamentations; and half the time they keep her to luncheon or
to tea. Lucilla Waters knows them now as well as we do; and she is
taking German lessons with Pen Pennington.

It really seems as if the "nexts" would grow on so that at last it
would only be our old "set" that would be in any danger of getting
left out. "Society is like a coral island after all," says Leslie
Goldthwaite. "It isn't a rock of the Old Silurian."

It was a memorable winter to us in many ways,--that last winter of the
nineteenth century's seventh decade.

One day--everything has to be one day, and all in a minute, when it
does come, however many days lead up to it--Doctor Ingleside came in
and told us the news. He had been up to see Grandfather Holabird;
grandfather was not quite well.

They told him at home, the doctor said, not to stop anywhere; he knew
what they meant by that, but he didn't care; it was as much his news
as anybody's, and why should he be kept down to pills and plasters?

Leslie was going to marry Doctor John Hautayne.

Well! It was splendid news, and we had somehow expected it. And
yet--"only think!" That was all we could say; that is a true thing
people do say to each other, in the face of a great, beautiful fact.
Take it in; shut your door upon it; and--think! It is something that
belongs to heart and soul.

We counted up; it was only seven weeks.

"As if that were the whole of it!" said Doctor Ingleside. "As if the
Lord didn't know! As if they hadn't been living on, to just this
meeting-place! She knows his life, and the sort of it, though she has
never been in it with him before; that is, we'll concede that, for the
sake of argument, though I'm not so sure about it; and he has come
right here into hers. They are fair, open, pleasant ways, both of
them; and here, from the joining, they can both look back and take in,
each the other's; and beyond they just run into one, you see, as
foreordained, and there's no other way for them to go."

Nobody knew it but ourselves that next night,--Thursday. Doctor
Hautayne read beautiful things from the Brownings at Miss Pennington's
that evening; it was his turn to provide; but for us,--we looked into
new depths in Leslie's serene, clear, woman eyes, and we felt the
intenser something in his face and voice, and the wonder was that
everybody could not see how quite another thing than any merely
written poetry was really "next" that night for Leslie and for John
Hautayne.

That was in December; it was the first of March when Grandfather
Holabird died.

At about Christmas-time mother had taken a bad cold. We could not let
her get up in the mornings to help before breakfast; the winter work
was growing hard; there were two or three fires to manage besides the
furnace, which father attended to; and although our "chore-man" came
and split up kindlings and filled the wood-boxes, yet we were all
pretty well tired out, sometimes, just with keeping warm. We began to
begin to say things to each other which nobody actually finished. "If
mother doesn't get better," and "If this cold weather keeps on," and
"_Are_ we going to co-operate ourselves to death, do you think?" from
Barbara, at last.

Nobody said, "We shall have to get a girl again." Nobody wanted to do
that; and everybody had a secret feeling of Aunt Roderick, and her
prophecy that we "shouldn't hold out long." But we were crippled and
reduced; Ruth had as much as ever she could do, with the short days
and her music.

"I begin to believe it was easy enough for Grant to say 'all
_summer_,'" said Barbara; "but _this_ is Valley Forge." The kitchen
fire wouldn't burn, and the thermometer was down to 3° above. Mother
was worrying up stairs, we knew, because we would not let her come
down until it was warm and her coffee was ready.

That very afternoon Stephen came in from school with a word for the
hour.

"The Stilkings are going to move right off to New Jersey," said he.
"Jim Stilking told me so. The doctor says his father can't stay here."

"Arctura Fish won't go," said Rosamond, instantly.

"Arctura Fish is as neat as a pin, and as smart as a steel trap," said
Barbara, regardless of elegance; "and--since nobody else will ever
dare to give in--I believe Arctura Fish is the very next thing, now,
for us!"

"It isn't giving in; it is going on," said Mrs. Holabird.

It certainly was not going back.

"We have got through ploughing-time, and now comes seed-time, and then
harvest," said Barbara. "We shall raise, upon a bit of renovated
earth, the first millennial specimen,--see if we don't!--of what was
supposed to be an extinct flora,--the _Domestica antediluviana_."

Arctura Fish came to us.

If you once get a new dress, or a new dictionary, or a new convenience
of any kind, did you never notice that you immediately have occasions
which prove that you couldn't have lived another minute without it? We
could not have spared Arctura a single day, after that, all winter.
Mother gave up, and was ill for a fortnight. Stephen twisted his foot
skating, and was laid up with a sprained ankle.

And then, in February, grandfather was taken with that last fatal
attack, and some of us had to be with Aunt Roderick nearly all the
time during the three weeks that he lived.

When they came to look through the papers there was no will found, of
any kind; neither was that deed of gift.

Aunt Trixie was the only one out of the family who knew anything about
it. She had been the "family bosom," Barbara said, ever since she
cuddled us up in our baby blankets, and told us "this little pig, and
that little pig," while she warmed our toes.

"Don't tell me!" said Aunt Trixie. Aunt Trixie never liked the
Roderick Holabirds.

We tried not to think about it, but it was not comfortable. It was,
indeed, a very serious anxiety and trouble that began, in consequence,
to force itself upon us.

After the bright, gay nights had come weary, vexing days. And the
worst was a vague shadow of family distrust and annoyance. Nobody
thought any real harm, nobody disbelieved or suspected; but there it
was. We could not think how such a declared determination and act of
Grandfather Holabird should have come to nothing. Uncle and Aunt
Roderick "could not see what we could expect about it; there was
nothing to show; and there were John and John's children; it was not
for any one or two to settle."

Only Ruth said "we were all good people, and meant right; it must all
come right, somehow."

But father made up his mind that we could not afford to keep the
place. He should pay his debts, now, the first thing. What was left
must do for us; the house must go into the estate.

It was fixed, though, that we should stay there for the summer,--until
affairs were settled.

"It's a dumb shame!" said Aunt Trixie.



CHAPTER X.

RUTH'S RESPONSIBILITY.


The June days did not make it any better. And the June nights,--well,
we had to sit in the "front box at the sunset," and think how there
would be June after June here for somebody, and we should only have
had just two of them out of our whole lives.

Why did not grandfather give us that paper, when he began to? And what
could have become of it since? And what if it were found some time,
after the dear old place was sold and gone? For it was the "dear old
place" already to us, though we had only lived there a year, and
though Aunt Roderick did say, in her cold fashion, just as if we could
choose about it, that "it was not as if it were really an old
homestead; it wouldn't be so much of a change for us, if we made up
our minds not to take it in, as if we had always lived there."

Why, we _had_ always lived there! That was just the way we had always
been trying to spell "home," though we had never got the right letters
to do it with before. When exactly the right thing comes to you, it is
a thing that has always been. You don't get the very sticks and stones
to begin with, maybe; but what they stand for grows up in you, and
when you come to it you know it is yours. The best things--the most
glorious and wonderful of all--will be what we shall see to have been
"laid up for us from the foundation." Aunt Roderick did not see one
bit of how that was with us.

"There isn't a word in the tenth commandment about not coveting your
_own_ house," Barbara would say, boldly. And we did covet, and we did
grieve. And although we did not mean to have "hard thoughts," we felt
that Aunt Roderick was hard; and that Uncle Roderick and Uncle John
were hatefully matter-of-fact and of-course about the "business."
And that paper might be somewhere, yet. We did not believe that
Grandfather Holabird had "changed his mind and burned it up." He had
not had much mind to change, within those last six months. When he
_was_ well, and had a mind, we knew what he had meant to do.

If Uncle Roderick and Uncle John had not believed a word of what
father told them, they could not have behaved very differently. We
half thought, sometimes, that they did not believe it. And very likely
they half thought that we were making it appear that they had done
something that was not right. And it is the half thoughts that are
the hard thoughts. "It is very disagreeable," Aunt Roderick used to
say.

Miss Trixie Spring came over and spent days with us, as of old; and
when the house looked sweet and pleasant with the shaded summer light,
and was full of the gracious summer freshness, she would look round
and shake her head, and say, "It's just as beautiful as it can be. And
it's a dumb shame. Don't tell _me_!"

Uncle Roderick was going to "take in" the old homestead with his
share, and that was as much as he cared about; Uncle John was used to
nothing but stocks and railway shares, and did not want
"encumbrances"; and as to keeping it as estate property and paying
rent to the heirs, ourselves included,--nobody wanted that; they would
rather have things settled up. There would always be questions of
estimates and repairs; it was not best to have things so in a family.
Separate accounts as well as short ones, made best friends. We knew
they all thought father was unlucky to have to do with in such
matters. He would still be the "limited" man of the family. It would
take two thirds of his inheritance to pay off those old '57 debts.

So we took our lovely Westover summer days as things we could not have
any more of. And when you begin to feel that about anything, it would
be a relief to have had the last of it. Nothing lasts always; but we
like to have the forever-and-ever feeling, however delusive. A child
hates his Sunday clothes, because he knows he cannot put them on again
on Monday.

With all our troubles, there was one pleasure in the house,--Arctura.
We had made an art-kitchen; now we were making a little poem of a
serving-maiden. We did not turn things over to her, and so leave chaos
to come again; we only let her help; we let her come in and learn with
us the nice and pleasant ways that we had learned. We did not move the
kitchen down stairs again; we were determined not to have a kitchen
any more.

Arctura was strong and blithe; she could fetch and carry, make fires,
wash dishes, clean knives and brasses, do all that came hardest to us;
and could do, in other things, with and for us, what she saw us do. We
all worked together till the work was done; then Arctura sat down in
the afternoons, just as we did, and read books, or made her clothes.
She always looked nice and pretty. She had large dark calico aprons
for her work; and little white bib-aprons for table-tending and
dress-up; and mother made for her, on the machine, little linen
collars and cuffs.

We had a pride in her looks; and she knew it; she learned to work as
delicately as we did. When breakfast or dinner was ready, she was as
fit to turn round and serve as we were to sit down; she was astonished
herself, at ways and results that she fell in with and attained.

"Why, where does the dirt go to?" she would exclaim. "It never gethers
anywheres."

"GATHERS,--_anywhere_" Rosamond corrected.

Arctura learned little grammar lessons, and other such things, by the
way. She was only "next" below us in our family life; there was no
great gulf fixed. We felt that we had at least got hold of the right
end of one thread in the social tangle. This, at any rate, had come
out of our year at Westover.

"Things seem so easy," the girl would say. "It is just like two times
one."

So it was; because we did not jumble in all the Analysis and Compound
Proportion of housekeeping right on top of the multiplication-table.
She would get on by degrees; by and by she would be in evolution and
geometrical progression without knowing how she got there. If you want
a house, you must build it up, stone by stone, and stroke by stroke;
if you want a servant, you, or somebody for you, must _build_ one,
just the same; they do not spring up and grow, neither can be "knocked
together." And I tell you, busy, eager women of this day, wanting
great work out of doors, this is just what "we girls," some of
us,--and some of the best of us, perhaps,--have got to stay at home
awhile and do.

"It is one of the little jobs that has been waiting for a good while
to be done," says Barbara; "and Miss Pennington has found out another.
'There may be,' she says, 'need of women for reorganizing town
meetings; I won't undertake to say there isn't; but I'm _sure_ there's
need of them for reorganizing _parlor_ meetings. They are getting to
be left altogether to the little school-girl "sets." Women who have
grown older, and can see through all that nonsense, and have the
position and power to break it up, ought to take hold. Don't you think
so? Don't you think it is the duty of women of my age and class to see
to this thing before it grows any worse?' And I told her,--right up,
respectful,--Yes'm; it wum! Think of her asking me, though!"

Just as things were getting to be so different and so nice on West
Hill, it seemed so hard to leave it! Everything reminded us of that.

A beautiful plan came up for Ruth, though, at this time. What with
the family worries,--which Ruth always had a way of gathering to
herself, and hugging up, prickers in, as if so she could keep the
nettles from other people's fingers,--and her hard work at her music,
she was getting thin. We were all insisting that she must take a
vacation this summer, both from teaching and learning; when, all at
once, Miss Pennington made up her mind to go to West Point and Lake
George, and to take Penelope with her; and she came over and asked
Ruth to go too.

"If you don't mind a room alone, dear; I'm an awful coward to have
come of a martial family, and I must have Pen with me nights. I'm
nervous about cars, too; I want two of you to keep up a chatter; I
should be miserable company for one, always distracted after the
whistles."

Ruth's eyes shone; but she colored up, and her thanks had half a doubt
in them. She would tell Auntie: and they would think how it could be.

"What a nice way for you to go!" said Barbara, after Miss Pennington
left. "And how nice it will be for you to see Dakie!" At which Ruth
colored up again, and only said that "it would certainly be the nicest
possible way to go, if she were to go at all."

Barbara meant--or meant to be understood that she meant--that Miss
Pennington knew everybody, and belonged among the general officers;
Ruth had an instinct that it would only be possible for her to go by
an invitation like this from people out of her own family.

"But doesn't it seem queer she should choose me, out of us all?" she
asked. "Doesn't it seem selfish for me to be the one to go?"

"Seem selfish? Whom to?" said Barbara, bluntly. "We weren't asked."

"I wish--everybody--knew that," said Ruth.

Making this little transparent speech, Ruth blushed once more. But she
went, after all. She said we pushed her out of the nest. She went out
into the wide, wonderful world, for the very first time in her life.

This is one of her letters:--

DEAR MOTHER AND GIRLS:--It is perfectly lovely here. I wish you could
sit where I do this morning, looking up the still river in the bright
light, with the tender purple haze on the far-off hills, and long,
low, shady Constitution Island lying so beautiful upon the water on
one side, and dark shaggy Cro' Nest looming up on the other. The
Parrott guns at the foundry, over on the headland opposite, are
trying,--as they are trying almost all the time,--against the face of
the high, old, desolate cliff; and the hurtling buzz of the shells
keeps a sort of slow, tremendous time-beat on the air.

I think I am almost more interested in Constitution Island than in any
other part of the place. I never knew until I came here that it was
the home of the Misses Warner; the place where Queechy came from, and
Dollars and Cents, and the Wide, Wide World. It seems so strange to
think that they sit there and write still, lovely stories while all
this parade and bustle and learning how to fight are going on close
beside and about them.

The Cadets are very funny. They will do almost any thing for
mischief,--the frolic of it, I mean. Dakie Thayne tells us very
amusing stories. They are just going into camp now; and they have
parades and battery-practice every day. They have target-firing at old
Cro' Nest,--which has to stand all the firing from the north battery,
just around here from the hotel. One day the cadet in charge made a
very careful sighting of his piece; made the men train the gun up and
down, this way and that, a hair more or a hair less, till they were
nearly out of patience; when, lo! just as he had got "a beautiful
bead," round came a superintending officer, and took a look too. The
bad boy had drawn it full on a poor old black cow! I do not believe he
would have really let her be blown up; but Dakie says,--"Well, he
rather thinks,--if she would have stood still long enough,--he would
have let her be--astonished!"

The walk through the woods, around the cliff, over the river, is
beautiful. If only they wouldn't call it by such a silly name!

We went out to Old Fort Putnam yesterday. I did not know how afraid
Miss Pennington could be of a little thing before. I don't know, now,
how much of it was fun; for, as Dakie Thayne said, it was agonizingly
funny. What must have happened to him after we got back and he left us
I cannot imagine; he didn't laugh much there, and it must have been a
misery of politeness.

We had been down into the old, ruinous enclosure; had peeped in at the
dark, choked-up casemates; and had gone round and come up on the edge
of the broken embankment, which we were following along to where it
sloped down safely again,--when, just at the very middle and highest
and most impossible point, down sat Miss Elizabeth among the stones,
and declared she could neither go back nor forward. She had been
frightened to death all the way, and now her head was quite gone. "No;
nothing should persuade her; she never could get up on her feet again
in that dreadful place." She laughed in the midst of it; but she was
really frightened, and there she sat; Dakie went to her, and tried to
help her up, and lead her on; but she would not be helped. "What would
come of it?" "She didn't know; she supposed that was the end of her;
_she_ couldn't do anything." "But, dear Miss Pennington," says Dakie,
"are you going to break short off with life, right here, and make a
Lady Simon Stylites of yourself?" "For all she knew; she never could
get down." I think we must have been there, waiting and coaxing,
nearly half an hour, before she began to _hitch_ along; for walk she
wouldn't, and she didn't. She had on a black Ernani dress, and a nice
silk underskirt; and as she lifted herself along with her hands, hoist
after hoist sidewise, of course the thin stuff dragged on the rocks
and began to go to pieces. By the time she came to where she could
stand, she was a rebus of the Coliseum,--"a noble wreck in ruinous
perfection." She just had to tear off the long tatters, and roll them
up in a bunch, and fling them over into a hollow, and throw the two or
three breadths that were left over her arm, and walk home in her silk
petticoat, itself much the sufferer from dust and fray, though we did
all we could for her with pocket-handkerchiefs.

"What _has_ happened to Miss Pennington?" said Mrs. General M----, as
we came up on the piazza.

"Nothing," said Dakie, quite composed and proper, "only she got tired
and sat down; and it was dusty,--that was all." He bowed and went off,
without so much as a glance of secret understanding.

"A joke has as many lives as a cat, here," he told Pen and me,
afterwards, "and that was _too_ good not to keep to ourselves."

Dear little mother and girls,--I have told stories and described
describes, and all to crowd out and leave to the last corner _such_ a
thing that Dakie Thayne wants to do! We got to talking about Westover
and last summer, and the pleasant old place, and all; and I couldn't
help telling him something about the worry. I know I had no business
to; and I am afraid I have made a snarl. He says he would like to buy
the place! And he wanted to know if Uncle Stephen wouldn't rent it of
him if he did! Just think of it,--that boy! I believe he really means
to write to Chicago, to his guardian. Of course it never came into my
head when I told him; it wouldn't at any rate, and I never think of
_his_ having such a quantity of money. He seems just like--as far as
that goes--any other boy. What shall I do? Do you believe he will?

P.S. Saturday morning. I feel better about that Poll Parroting of
mine, to-day. I have had another talk with Dakie. I don't believe he
will write; now, at any rate. O girls! this is just the most perfect
morning!

Tell Stephen I've got a _splendid_ little idea, on purpose for him and
me. Something I can hardly keep to myself till I get home. Dakie
Thayne put it into my head. He is just the brightest boy, about
everything! I begin to feel in a hurry almost, to come back. I don't
think Miss Pennington will go to Lake George, after all. She says she
hates to leave the Point, so many of her old friends are here. But Pen
and I think she is afraid of the steamers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ruth got home a week after this; a little fatter, a little browner,
and a little merrier and more talkative than she had ever been before.

Stephen was in a great hurry about the splendid little mysterious
idea, of course. Boys never can wait, half so well as girls, for
anything.

We were all out on the balcony that night before dusk, as usual. Ruth
got up suddenly, and went into the house for something. Stephen went
straight in after her. What happened upon that, the rest of us did not
know till afterward. But it is a nice little part of the story,--just
because there is so precious little of it.

Ruth went round, through the brown room and the hall, to the front
door. Stephen found her stooping down, with her face close to the
piazza cracks.

"Hollo! what's the matter? Lost something?"

Ruth lifted up her head. "Hush!"

"Why, how your face shines! What _is_ up?"

"It's the sunset. I mean--that shines. Don't say anything. Our
splendid--little--idea, you know. It's under here."

"Be dar--never-minded, if mine is!"

"You don't know. Columbus didn't know where his idea was--exactly. Do
you remember when Sphinx hid her kittens under here last summer?
Brought 'em round, over the wood-pile in the shed, and they never
knew their way out till she showed 'em?"

"It _isn't_ about kittens!"

"Hasn't Old Ma'amselle got some now?"

"Yes; four."

"Couldn't you bring up one--or two--to-morrow morning _early_, and
make a place and tuck 'em in here, under the step, and put back the
sod, and fasten 'em up?"

"What--_for_?" with wild amazement.

"I can't do what I want to, just for an idea. It will make a noise,
and I don't feel sure enough. There had better be a kitten. I'll tell
you the rest to-morrow morning." And Ruth was up on her two little
feet, and had given Stephen a kiss, and was back into the house, and
round again to the balcony, before he could say another word.

Boys like a plan, though; especially a mysterious getting-up-early
plan; and if it has cats in it, it is always funny. He made up his
mind to be on hand.

Ruth was first, though. She kept her little bolt drawn all night,
between her room and that of Barbara and Rose. At five o'clock, she
went softly across the passage to Stephen's room, in her little
wrapper and knit slippers. "I shall be ready in ten minutes," she
whispered, right into his ear, and into his dream.

"Scat!" cried Stephen, starting up bewildered.

And Ruth "scatted."

Down on the front piazza, twenty minutes after, she superintended the
tucking in of the kittens, and then told him to bring a mallet and
wedge. She had been very particular to have the kittens put under at a
precise place, though there was a ready-made hole farther on. The cat
babies mewed and sprawled and dragged themselves at feeble length on
their miserable little legs, as small blind kittiewinks are given to
doing.

"They won't go far," said Ruth. "Now, let's take this board up."

"What--_for_?" cried Stephen, again.

"To get them out, of course," says Ruth.

"Well, if girls ain't queer! Queerer than cats!"

"Hush!" said Ruth, softly. "I _believe_--but I don't dare say a word
yet--there's something there!"

"Of course there is. Two little yowling--"

"Something we all want found, Steve," Ruth whispered, earnestly. "But
I don't know. Do hush! Make haste!"

Stephen put down his face to the crack, and took a peep. Rather a long
serious peep. When he took his face back again, "I _see_ something,"
he said. "It's white paper. Kind of white, that is. Do you suppose,
Ruth--? My cracky! if you do!"

"We won't suppose," said Ruth. "We'll hammer."

Stephen knocked up the end of the board with the mallet, and then he
got the wedge under and pried. Ruth pulled. Stephen kept hammering and
prying, and Ruth held on to all he gained, until they slipped the
wedge along gradually, to where the board was nailed again, to the
middle joist or stringer. Then a few more vigorous strokes, and a
little smart levering, and the nails loosened, and one good wrench
lifted it from the inside timber and they slid it out from under the
house-boarding.

Underneath lay a long, folded paper, much covered with drifts of
dust, and speckled somewhat with damp. But it was a dry, sandy place,
and weather had not badly injured it.

"Stephen, I am sure!" said Ruth, holding Stephen back by the arm.
"Don't touch it, though! Let it be, right there. Look at that corner,
that lies opened up a little. Isn't that grandfather's writing?"

[Illustration]

It lay deep down, and not directly under. They could scarcely have
reached it with their hands. Stephen ran into the parlor, and brought
out an opera-glass that was upon the table there.

"That's bright of you, Steve!" cried Ruth.

Through the glass they discerned clearly the handwriting. They read
the words, at the upturned corner,--"heirs after him."

"Lay the board back in its place," said Ruth. "It isn't for us to
meddle with any more. Take the kittens away." Ruth had turned quite
pale.

Going down to the barn with Stephen, presently, carrying the two
kittens in her arms, while he had the mallet and wedge,--

"Stephen," said she, "I'm going to do something on my own
responsibility."

"I should think you had."

"O, that was nothing. I had to do that. I had to make sure before I
said anything. But now,--I'm going to ask Uncle and Aunt Roderick to
come over. They ought to be here, you know."

"Why! don't you suppose they will believe, _now_?"

"Stephen Holabird! you're a bad boy! No; of course it isn't _that_."
Ruth kept right on from the barn, across the field, into the "old
place."

Mrs. Roderick Holabird was out in the east piazza, watering her house
plants, that stood in a row against the wall. Her cats always had
their milk, and her plants their water, before she had her own
breakfast. It was a good thing about Mrs. Roderick Holabird, and it
was a good time to take her.

"Aunt Roderick," said Ruth, coming up, "I want you and Uncle to come
over right after breakfast; or before, if you like; if you please."

It was rather sudden, but for the repeated "ifs."

"_You_ want!" said Mrs. Roderick in surprise. "Who sent you?"

"Nobody. Nobody knows but Stephen and me. Something is going to
happen." Ruth smiled, as one who has a pleasant astonishment in store.
She smiled right up out of her heart-faith in Aunt Roderick and
everybody.

"On the whole, I guess you'd better come right off,--_to_ breakfast!"
How boldly little Ruth took the responsibility! Mr. and Mrs. Roderick
had not been over to our house for at least two months. It had seemed
to happen so. Father always went there to attend to the "business."
The "papers" were all at grandfather's. All but this one, that the
"gale" had taken care of.

Uncle Roderick, hearing the voices, came out into the piazza.

"We want you over at our house," repeated Ruth. "Right off, now;
there's something you ought to see about."

"I don't like mysteries," said Mrs. Roderick, severely, covering her
curiosity; "especially when children get them up. And it's no matter
about the breakfast, either way. We can walk across, I suppose, Mr.
Holabird, and see what it is all about. Kittens, I dare say."

"Yes," said Ruth, laughing out; "it _is_ kittens, partly. Or was."

So we saw them, from mother's room window, all coming along down the
side-hill path together.

We always went out at the front door to look at the morning. Arctura
had set the table, and baked the biscuits; we could breathe a little
first breath of life, nowadays, that did not come out of the oven.

Father was in the door-way. Stephen stood, as if he had been put
there, over the loose board, that we did not know was loose.

Ruth brought Uncle and Aunt Roderick up the long steps, and so around.

"Good morning," said father, surprised. "Why, Ruth, what is it?" And
he met them right on that very loose board; and Stephen stood stock
still, pertinaciously in the way, so that they dodged and blundered
about him.

"Yes, Ruth; what is it?" said Mrs. Roderick Holabird.

Then Ruth, after she had got the family solemnly together, began to be
struck with the solemnity. Her voice trembled.

"I didn't mean to make a fuss about it; only I knew you would all
care, and I wanted--Stephen and I have found something, mother!" She
turned to Mrs. Stephen Holabird, and took her hand, and held it hard.

Stephen stooped down, and drew out the loose board. "Under there,"
said he; and pointed in.

They could all see the folded paper, with the drifts of dust upon it,
just as it had lain for almost a year.

"It has been there ever since the day of the September Gale, father,"
he said. "The day, you know, that grandfather was here."

"Don't you remember the wind and the papers?" said Ruth. "It was
remembering that, that put it into our heads. I never thought of the
cracks and--" with a little, low, excited laugh--"the 'total depravity
of inanimate things,' till--just a little while ago."

She did not say a word about that bright boy at West Point, now,
before them all.

Uncle Roderick reached in with the crook of his cane, and drew
forward the packet, and stooped down and lifted it up. He shook off
the dust and opened it. He glanced along the lines, and at the
signature. Not a single witnessing name. No matter. Uncle Roderick is
an honest man. He turned round and held it out to father.

"It is your deed of gift," said he; and then they two shook hands.

"There!" said Ruth, tremulous with gladness. "I knew they would. That
was it. That was why. I told you, Stephen!"

"No, you didn't," said Stephen. "You never told me anything--but
cats."

"Well! I'm sure I am glad it is all settled," said Mrs. Roderick
Holabird, after a pause; "and nobody has any hard thoughts to lay up."

They would not stop to breakfast; they said they would come another
time.

But Aunt Roderick, just before she went away, turned round and kissed
Ruth. She is a supervising, regulating kind of a woman, and very
strict about--well, other people's--expenditures; but she was glad
that the "hard thoughts" were lifted off from her.

        *       *       *       *       *

"I knew," said Ruth, again, "that we were all good people, and that it
must come right."

"Don't tell _me!_" says Miss Trixie, intolerantly. "She couldn't help
herself."



CHAPTER XI.

BARBARA'S BUZZ.


Leslie Goldthwaite's world of friendship is not a circle. Or if it is,
it is the far-off, immeasurable horizon that holds all of life and
possibility.

"You must draw the line somewhere," people say. "You cannot be
acquainted with everybody."

But Leslie's lines are only radii. They reach out to wherever there is
a sympathy; they hold fast wherever they have once been joined.
Consequently, she moves to laws that seem erratic to those for whom a
pair of compasses can lay down the limit. Consequently, her wedding
was "odd."

If Olivia Marchbanks had been going to be married there would have
been a "circle" invited. Nobody would have been left out; nobody would
have been let in. She had lived in this necromantic ring; she would
be married in it; she would die and be buried in it; and of all the
wide, rich, beautiful champaign of life beyond,--of all its noble
heights, and hidden, tender hollows,--its gracious harvest fields, and
its deep, grand, forest glooms,--she would be content, elegantly and
exclusively, to know nothing. To her wedding people might come,
indeed, from a distance,--geographically; but they would come out of a
precisely corresponding little sphere in some other place, and fit
right into this one, for the time being, with the most edifying
sameness.

From the east and the west, the north and the south, they began to
come, days beforehand,--the people who could not let Leslie
Goldthwaite be married without being there. There were no proclamation
cards issued, bearing in imposing characters the announcement of
"Their Daughter's Marriage," by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Goldthwaite, after
the like of which one almost looks to see, and somewhat feels the need
of, the regular final invocation,--"God save the Commonwealth!"

There had been loving letters sent here and there; old Miss Craydocke,
up in the mountains, got one, and came down a month earlier in
consequence, and by the way of Boston. She stayed there at Mrs. Frank
Scherman's; and Frank and his wife and little Sinsie, the baby,--"she
isn't Original Sin, as I was," says her mother,--came up to Z----
together, and stopped at the hotel. Martha Josselyn came from New
York, and stayed, of course, with the Inglesides.

Martha is a horrible thing, girls; how do you suppose I dare to put
her in here as I do? She is a milliner. And this is how it happens.
Her father is a comparatively poor man,--a book-keeper with a salary.
There are ever so many little Josselyns; and Martha has always felt
bound to help. She is not very likely to marry, and she is not one to
take it into her calculation, if she were; but she is of the sort who
are said to be "cut out for old maids," and she knows it. She could
not teach music, nor keep a school, her own schooling--not her
education; God never lets that be cut short--was abridged by the need
of her at home. But she could do anything in the world with scissors
and needle; and she can make just the loveliest bonnets that ever were
put together.

So, as she can help more by making two bonnets in a day, and getting
six dollars for them beside the materials, she lets her step-mother
put out her impossible sewing, and has turned a little second-story
room in her father's house into a private millinery establishment. She
will only take the three dollars apiece, beyond the actual cost, for
her bonnets, although she might make a fortune if she would be
rapacious; for she says that pays her fairly for her time, and she has
made up her mind to get through the world fairly, if there is any
breathing-space left for fairness in it. If not, she can stop
breathing, and go where there is.

She gets as much to do as she can take. "Miss Josselyn" is one of the
little unadvertised resources of New York, which it is very knowing,
and rather elegant, to know about. But it would not be at all elegant
to have her at a party. Hence, Mrs. Van Alstyne, who had a little
bonnet, of black lace and nasturtiums, at this very time, that Martha
Josselyn had made for her, was astonished to find that she was Mrs.
Ingleside's sister and had come on to the marriage.

General and Mrs. Ingleside--Leslie's cousin Delight--had come from
their away-off, beautiful Wisconsin home, and brought little
three-year-old Rob and Rob's nurse with them. Sam Goldthwaite was at
home from Philadelphia, where he is just finishing his medical
course,--and Harry was just back again from the Mediterranean; so that
Mrs. Goldthwaite's house was full too. Jack could not be here; they
all grieved over that. Jack is out in Japan. But there came a
wonderful "solid silk" dress, and a lovely inlaid cabinet, for
Leslie's wedding present,--the first present that arrived from
anybody; sent the day he got the news;--and Leslie cried over them,
and kissed them, and put the beautiful silk away, to be made up in the
fashion next year, when Jack comes home; and set his picture on the
cabinet, and put his letters into it, and says she does not know what
other things she shall find quite dear enough to keep them company.

Last of all, the very day before the wedding, came old Mr. Marmaduke
Wharne. And of all things in the world, he brought her a telescope.
"To look out at creation with, and keep her soul wide," he says, and
"to put her in mind of that night when he first found her out, among
the Hivites and the Hittites and the Amalekites, up in Jefferson, and
took her away among the planets, out of the snarl."

Miss Craydocke has been all summer making a fernery for Leslie; and
she took two tickets in the cars, and brought it down beside her, on
the seat, all the way from Plymouth, and so out here. How they could
get it to wherever they are going we all wondered, but Dr. Hautayne
said it should go; he would have it most curiously packed, in a box on
rollers, and marked,--"Dr. J. Hautayne, U.S. Army. Valuable scientific
preparations; by no means to be turned or shaken." But he did say,
with a gentle prudence,--"If somebody should give you an observatory,
or a greenhouse, I think we might have to stop at _that_, dear."

Nobody did, however. There was only one more big present, and that did
not come. Dakie Thayne knew better. He gave her a magnificent copy of
the Sistine Madonna, which his father had bought in Italy, and he
wrote her that it was to be boxed and sent after her to her home.
_He_ did not say that it was magnificent; Leslie wrote that to us
afterward, herself. She said it made it seem as if one side of her
little home had been broken through and let in heaven.

We were all sorry that Dakie could not be here. They waited till
September for Harry; "but who," wrote Dakie, "could expect a military
engagement to wait till all the stragglers could come up? I have given
my consent and my blessing; all I ask is that you will stop at West
Point on your way." And that was what they were going to do.

Arabel Waite and Delia made all the wedding dresses. But Mrs.
Goldthwaite had her own carefully perfected patterns, adjusted to a
line in every part. Arabel meekly followed these, and saved her whole,
fresh soul to pour out upon the flutings and finishing.

It was a morning wedding, and a pearl of days. The summer had not gone
from a single leaf. Only the parch and the blaze were over, and
beautiful dews had cooled away their fever. The day-lilies were white
among their broad, tender green leaves, and the tube-roses had come in
blossom. There were beds of red and white carnations, heavy with
perfume. The wide garden porch, into which double doors opened from
the summer-room where they were married, showed these, among the
grass-walks of the shady, secluded place, through its own splendid
vista of trumpet-hung bignonia vines.

Everybody wanted to help at this wedding who could help. Arabel Waite
asked to be allowed to pour out coffee, or something. So in a black
silk gown, and a new white cap, she took charge of the little room up
stairs, where were coffee and cakes and sandwiches for the friends who
came from a distance by the train, and might be glad of something to
eat at twelve o'clock. Delia offered, "if she only might," to assist
in the dining-room, where the real wedding collation stood ready. And
even our Arctura came and asked if she might be "lent," to "open
doors, or anything." The regular maids of the house found labor so
divided that it was a festival day all through.

Arctura looked as pretty a little waiting-damsel as might be seen, in
her brown, two-skirted, best delaine dress, and her white, ruffled,
muslin bib-apron, her nicely arranged hair, braided up high around her
head and frizzed a little, gently, at the front,--since why shouldn't
she, too, have a bit of the fashion?--and tied round with a soft,
simple white ribbon. Delia had on a violet-and-white striped pique,
quite new, with a ruffled apron also; and her ribbon was white, too,
and she had a bunch of violets and green leaves upon her bosom. We
cared as much about their dress as they did about ours. Barbara
herself had pinched Arctura's crimps, and tied the little white bow
among-them.

Every room in the house was attended.

"There never was such pretty serving," said Mrs. Van Alstyne,
afterward. "Where _did_ they get such people?--And beautiful serving,"
she went on, reverting to her favorite axiom, "is, after all, the very
soul of living!"

"Yes, ma'am," said Barbara, gravely. "I think we shall find that true
always."

Opposite the door into the garden porch were corresponding ones into
the hall, and directly down to these reached the last flight of the
staircase, that skirted the walls at the back with its steps and
landings. We could see Leslie all the way, as she came down, with her
hand in her father's arm.

She descended beside him like a softly accompanying white cloud; her
dress was of tulle, without a hitch or a puff or a festoon about it.
It had two skirts, I believe, but they were plain-hemmed, and fell
like a mist about her figure. Underneath was no rustling silk, or
shining satin; only more mist, of finest, sheerest quaker-muslin; you
could not tell where the cloud met the opaque of soft, unstarched
cambric below it all. And from her head to her feet floated the
shimmering veil, fastened to her hair with only two or three tube-rose
blooms and the green leaves and white stars of the larger myrtle.
There was a cluster of them upon her bosom, and she held some in her
left hand.

Dr. Hautayne looked nobly handsome, as he came forward to her side
in his military dress; but I think we all had another picture of
him in our minds,--dusty, and battle-stained, bareheaded, in his
shirt-sleeves, as he rode across the fire to save men's lives. When a
man has once looked like that, it does not matter how he ever merely
_looks_ again.

Marmaduke Wharne stood close by Ruth, during the service. She saw his
gray, shaggy brows knit themselves into a low, earnest frown, as he
fixedly watched and listened; but there was a shining underneath, as
still water-drops shine under the gray moss of some old, cleft rock;
and a pleasure upon the lines of the rough-cast face, that was like
the tender glimmering of a sunbeam.

When Marmaduke Wharne first saw John Hautayne, he put his hand upon
his shoulder, and held him so, while he looked him hardly in the face.

"Do you think you deserve her, John?" the old man said. And John
looked him back, and answered straightly, "No!" It was not mere apt
and effective reply; there was an honest heartful on the lips and in
the eyes; and Leslie's old friend let his hand slip down along the
strong, young arm, until it grasped the answering hand, and said
again,--

"Perhaps, then, John,--you'll do!"

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" That is what the
church asks, in her service, though nobody asked it here to-day. But
we all felt we had a share to give of what we loved so much. Her
father and her mother gave; her girl friends gave; Miss Trixie Spring,
Arabel Waite, Delia, little Arctura, the home-servants, gathered in
the door-way, all gave; Miss Craydocke, crying, and disdaining her
pocket-handkerchief till the tears trickled off her chin, because she
was smiling also and would not cover _that_ up,--gave; and nobody gave
with a more loving wrench out of a deep heart, than bluff old frowning
Marmaduke Wharne.

[Illustration]

       *       *       *       *       *

Nobody knows the comfort that we Holabirds took, though, in those
autumn days, after all this was over, in our home; feeling every
bright, comfortable minute, that our home was our own. "It is so nice
to have it to love grandfather by," said Ruth, like a little child.

"Everything is so pleasant," said Barbara, one sumptuous morning.
"I've so many nice things that I can choose among to do. I feel like a
bee in a barrel of sugar. I don't know where to begin." Barbara had a
new dress to make; she had also a piece of worsted work to begin; she
had also two new books to read aloud, that Mrs. Scherman had brought
up from Boston.

We felt rich in much prospectively; we could afford things better now;
we had proposed and arranged a book-club; Miss Pennington and we were
to manage it; Mrs. Scherman was to purchase for us. Ruth was to have
plenty of music. Life was full and bright to us, this golden
autumn-time, as it had never been before. The time itself was radiant;
and the winter was stored beforehand with pleasures; Arctura was as
glad as anybody; she hears our readings in the afternoons, when she
can come up stairs, and sit mending stockings or hemming aprons.

We knew, almost for the first time, what it was to be without any
pressure of anxiety. We dared to look round the house and see what was
wearing out. We could replace things--_some_, at any rate--as well as
not; so we had the delight of choosing, and the delight of putting by;
it was a delicious perplexity. We all felt like Barbara's bee; and
when she said that once she said it for every day, all through the new
and happy time.

It was wonderful how little there was, after all, that we did want in
any hurry. We thought it over. We did not care to carpet the
dining-room; we liked the drugget and the dark wood-margins better. It
came down pretty nearly, at last, so far as household improvements
were concerned, to a new broadcloth cover for the great family table
in the brown-room.

Barbara's _bee_-havior, however, had its own queer fluctuations at
this time, it must be confessed. Whatever the reason was, it was not
altogether to be depended on. It had its alternations of humming
content with a good deal of whimsical bouncing and buzzing and the
most unpredictable flights. To use a phrase of Aunt Trixie's applied
to her childhood, but coming into new appropriateness now, Barbara
"acted like a witch."

She began at the wedding. Only a minute or two before Leslie came
down, Harry Goldthwaite moved over to where she stood just a little
apart from the rest of us, by the porch door, and placed himself
beside her, with some little commonplace word in a low tone, as
befitted the hushed expectancy of the moment.

All at once, with an "O, I forgot!" she started away from him in the
abruptest fashion, and glanced off across the room, and over into a
little side parlor beyond the hall, into which she certainly had not
been before that day. She could have "forgotten" nothing there; but
she doubtless had just enough presence of mind not to rush up the
staircase toward the dressing-rooms, at the risk of colliding with the
bridal party. When Leslie an instant later came in at the double
doors, Mrs. Holabird caught sight of Barbara again just sliding into
the far, lower corner of the room by the forward entrance, where she
stood looking out meekly between the shoulders and the floating
cap-ribbons of Aunt Trixie Spring and Miss Arabel Waite during the
whole ceremony.

Whether it was that she felt there was something dangerous in the air,
or that Harry Goldthwaite had some new awfulness in her eyes from
being actually a commissioned officer,--Ensign Goldthwaite, now,
(Rose had borrowed from the future, for the sake of euphony and
effect, when she had so retorted feet and dignities upon her last
year,)--we could not guess; but his name or presence seemed all at
once a centre of electrical disturbances in which her whisks and
whirls were simply to be wondered at.

"I don't see why he should tell _me_ things," was what she said to
Rosamond one day, when she took her to task after Harry had gone, for
making off almost before he had done speaking, when he had been
telling us of the finishing of some business that Mr. Goldthwaite had
managed for him in Newburyport. It was the sale of a piece of property
that he had there, from his father, of houses and building-lots that
had been unprofitable to hold, because of uncertain tenants and high
taxes, but which were turned now into a comfortable round sum of
money.

"I shall not be so poor now, as if I had only my pay," said Harry. At
which Barbara had disappeared.

"Why, you were both there!" said Barbara.

"Well, yes; we were there in a fashion. He was sitting by you, though,
and he looked up at you, just then. It did not seem very friendly."

"I'm sure I didn't notice; I don't see why he should tell me things,"
said whimsical Barbara.

"Well, perhaps he will stop," said Rose, quietly, and walked away.

It seemed, after a while, as if he would. He could not understand
Barbara in these days. All her nice, cordial, honest ways were gone.
She was always shying at something. Twice he was here, when she did
not come into the room until tea-time.

"There are so many people," she said, in her unreasonable manner.
"They make me nervous, looking and listening."

We had Miss Craydocke and Mrs. Scherman with us then. We had asked
them to come and spend a week with us before they left Z----.

Miss Craydocke had found Barbara one evening, in the twilight,
standing alone in one of the brown-room windows. She had come up, in
her gentle, old-friendly way, and stood beside her.

"My dear," she said, with the twilight impulse of nearness,--"I am an
old woman. Aren't you pushing something away from you, dear?"

"Ow!" said Barbara, as if Miss Craydocke had pinched her. And poor
Miss Craydocke could only walk away again.

When it came to Aunt Roderick, though, it was too much. Aunt Roderick
came over a good deal now. She had quite taken us into unqualified
approval again, since we had got the house. She approved herself also.
As if it was she who had died and left us something, and looked back
upon it now with satisfaction. At least, as if she had been the
September Gale, and had taken care of that paper for us.

Aunt Roderick has very good practical eyes; but no sentiment whatever.
"It seems to me, Barbara, that you are throwing away your
opportunities," she said, plainly.

Barbara looked up with a face of bold unconsciousness. She was
brought to bay, now; Aunt Roderick could exasperate her, but she could
not touch the nerve, as dear Miss Craydocke could.

"I always am throwing them away," said Barbara. "It's my fashion. I
never could save corners. I always put my pattern right into the
middle of my piece, and the other half never comes out, you see. What
have I done, now? Or what do you think I might do, just at present?"

"I think you might save yourself from being sorry by and by," said
Aunt Roderick.

"I'm ever so much obliged to you," said Barbara, collectedly. "Just as
much as if I could understand. But perhaps there'll be some light
given. I'll turn it over in my mind. In the mean while, Aunt Roderick,
I just begin to see one very queer thing in the world. You've lived
longer than I have; I wish you could explain it. There are some things
that everybody is very delicate about, and there are some that they
take right hold of. People might have _pocket_-perplexities for years
and years, and no created being would dare to hint or ask a question;
but the minute it is a case of heart or soul,--or they think it
is,--they 'rush right in where angels fear to tread.' What _do_ you
suppose makes the difference?"

After that, we all let her alone, behave as she might. We saw that
there could be no meddling without marring. She had been too conscious
of us all, before anybody spoke. We could only hope there was no real
mischief done, already.

"It's all of them, every one!" she repeated, half hysterically, that
day, after her shell had exploded, and Aunt Roderick had retreated,
really with great forbearance. "Miss Craydocke began, and I had to
scream at her; even Sin Scherman made a little moral speech about her
own wild ways, and set that baby crowing over me! And once Aunt Trixie
'vummed' at me. And I'm sure I ain't doing a single thing!" She
whimpered and laughed, like a little naughty boy, called to account
for mischief, and pretending surprised innocence, yet secretly at once
enjoying and repenting his own badness; and so we had to let her
alone.

But after a while Harry Goldthwaite stayed away four whole days, and
then he only came in to say that he was going to Washington to be gone
a week. It was October, now, and his orders might come any day. Then
we might not see him again for three years, perhaps.

On the Thursday of that next week, Barbara said she would go down and
see Mrs. Goldthwaite.

"I think it quite time you should," said Mrs. Holabird. Barbara had
not been down there once since the wedding-day.

She put her crochet in her pocket, and we thought of course she would
stay to tea. It was four in the afternoon when she went away.

About an hour later Olivia Marchbanks called.

It came out that Olivia had a move to make. In fact, that she wanted
to set us all to making moves. She proposed a chess-club, for the
winter, to bring us together regularly; to include half a dozen
families, and meet by turn at the different houses.

"I dare say Miss Pennington will have her neighborhood parties
again," she said; "they are nice, but rather exhausting; we want
something quiet, to come in between. Something a little more among
ourselves, you know. Maria Hendee is a splendid chess-player, and so
is Mark. Maud plays with her father, and Adelaide and I are learning.
I know you play, Rosamond, and Barbara,--doesn't she? Nobody can
complain of a chess-club, you see; and we can have a table at whist
for the elders who like it, and almost always a round game for the
odds and ends. After supper, we can dance, or anything. Don't you
think it would do?"

"I think it would do nicely for _one_ thing," said Rose, thoughtfully.
"But don't let us allow it to be the _whole_ of our winter."

Olivia Marchbanks's face clouded. She had put forward a little pawn of
compliment toward us, as towards a good point, perhaps, for tempting a
break in the game. And behold! Rosamond's knight only leaped right
over it, facing honestly and alertly both ways.

"Chess would be good for nothing less than once a week," said Olivia.
"I came to you almost the very first, out of the family," she added,
with a little height in her manner. "I hope you won't break it up."

"Break it up! No, indeed! We were all getting just nicely joined
together," replied Rosamond, ladylike with perfect temper. "I think
last winter was so _really good_," she went on; "I should be sorry to
break up what _that_ did; that is all."

"I'm willing enough to help in those ways," said Olivia,
condescendingly; "but I think we might have our _own_ things, too."

"I don't know, Olivia," said Rosamond, slowly, "about these 'own
things.' They are just what begin to puzzle me."

It was the bravest thing our elegant Rosamond had ever done. Olivia
Marchbanks was angry. She all but took back her invitation.

"Never mind," she said, getting up to take leave. "It must be some
time yet; I only mentioned it. Perhaps we had better not try to go
beyond ourselves, after all. Such things are sure to be stupid unless
everybody is really interested."

Rosamond stood in the hall-door, as she went down the steps and away.
At the same moment, Barbara, flushed with an evidently hurried walk,
came in. "Why! what makes you so red, Rose?" she said.

"Somebody has been snubbing somebody," replied Rose, holding her royal
color, like her namesake, in the midst of a cool repose. "And I don't
quite know whether it is Olivia Marchbanks or I."

"A color-question between Rose and Barberry!" said Ruth. "What have
_you_ been doing, Barbie? Why didn't you stay to tea?"

"I? I've been walking, of course.--That boy has got home again," she
added, half aloud, to Rosamond, as they went up stairs.

We knew _very_ well that she must have been queer to Harry again. He
would have been certain to walk home with her, if she would have let
him. But--"all through the town, and up the hill, in the daylight!
Or--stay to tea with _him_ there, and make him come, in the dark!--And
_if_ he imagined that I knew!" We were as sure as if she had said it,
that these were the things that were in her mind, and that these were
what she had run away from. How she had done it we did not know; we
had no doubt it had been something awful.

The next morning nobody called. Father came home to dinner and said
Mr. Goldthwaite had told him that Harry was under orders,--to the
"Katahdin."

In the afternoon Barbara went out and nailed up the woodbines. Then
she put on her hat, and took a great bundle that had been waiting for
a week for somebody to carry, and said she would go round to South
Hollow with it, to Mrs. Dockery.

"You will be tired to death. You are tired already, hammering at those
vines," said mother, anxiously. Mothers cannot help daughters much in
these buzzes.

"I want the exercise," said Barbara, turning away her face that was at
once red and pale. "Pounding and stamping are good for me." Then she
came back in a hurry, and kissed mother, and then she went away.



CHAPTER XII.

EMERGENCIES.


Mrs. Hobart has a "fire-gown." That is what she calls it; she made it
for a fire, or for illness, or any night alarm; she never goes to bed
without hanging it over a chair-back, within instant reach. It is of
double, bright-figured flannel, with a double cape sewed on; and a
flannel belt, also sewed on behind, and furnished, for fastening, with
a big, reliable, easy-going button and button-hole. Up and down the
front--not too near together--are more big, reliable, easy-going
buttons and button-holes. A pair of quilted slippers with thick soles
belong with this gown, and are laid beside it. Then Mrs. Hobart goes
to bed in peace, and sleeps like the virgin who knows there is oil in
her vessel.

If Mrs. Roger Marchbanks had known of Mrs. Hobart's fire-gown, and
what it had been made and waiting for, unconsciously, all these years,
she might not have given those quiet orders to her discreet, well-bred
parlor-maid, by which she was never to be "disengaged" when Mrs.
Hobart called.

Mrs. Hobart has also a gown of very elegant black silk, with deep,
rich border-folds of velvet, and a black camel's-hair shawl whose
priceless margin comes up to within three inches of the middle; and in
these she has turned meekly away from Mrs. Marchbanks's vestibule,
leaving her inconsequential card, many wondering times; never
doubting, in her simplicity, that Mrs. Marchbanks was really making
pies, or doing up pocket-handkerchiefs; only thinking how queer it was
it always happened so with her.

In her fire-gown she was destined to go in.

Barbara came home dreadfully tired from her walk to Mrs. Dockery's,
and went to bed at eight o'clock. When one of us does that, it always
breaks up our evening early. Mother discovered that she was sleepy by
nine, and by half past we were all in our beds. So we really had a
fair half night of rest before the alarm came.

It was about one in the morning when Barbara woke, as people do who go
to bed achingly tired, and sleep hungrily for a few eager hours.

"My gracious! what a moon! What ails it?"

The room was full of red light.

Rosamond sat up beside her.

"Moon! It's fire!"

Then they called Ruth and mother. Father and Stephen were up and out
of doors in five minutes.

The Roger Marchbanks's stables were blazing. The wind was carrying
great red cinders straight over on to the house roofs. The buildings
were a little down on our side of the hill, and a thick plantation of
evergreens hid them from the town. Everything was still as death but
the crackling of the flames. A fire in the country, in the dead of
night, to those first awakened to the knowledge of it, is a stealthily
fearful, horribly triumphant thing. Not a voice nor a bell smiting the
air, where all will soon be outcry and confusion; only the fierce,
busy diligence of the blaze, having all its own awful will, and making
steadfast headway against the sleeping skill of men.

We all put on some warm things, and went right over.

Father found Mr. Marchbanks, with his gardener, at the back of the
house, playing upon the scorching frames of the conservatory building
with the garden engine. Up on the house-roof two other men-servants
were hanging wet carpets from the eaves, and dashing down buckets of
water here and there, from the reservoir inside.

Mr. Marchbanks gave father a small red trunk. "Will you take this to
your house and keep it safe?" he asked. And father hastened away with
it.

Within the house, women were rushing, half dressed, through the rooms,
and down the passages and staircases. We went up through the back
piazza, and met Mrs. Hobart in her fire-gown at the unfastened door.
There was no card to leave this time, no servant to say that Mrs.
Marchbanks was "particularly engaged."

Besides her gown, Mrs. Hobart had her theory, all ready for a fire.
Just exactly what she should do, first and next, and straight through,
in case of such a thing. She had recited it over to herself and her
family till it was so learned by heart that she believed no flurry of
the moment would put it wholly out of their heads.

She went straight up Mrs. Marchbanks's great oak staircase, to go up
which had been such a privilege for the bidden few. Rough feet would
go over it, unbidden, to-night.

She met Mrs. Marchbanks at her bedroom door. In the upper story the
cook and house-maids were handing buckets now to the men outside. The
fine parlor-maid was down in the kitchen at the force-pump, with
Olivia and Adelaide to help and keep her at it. A nursery-girl was
trying to wrap up the younger children in all sorts of wrong things,
upside down.

"Take these children right over to my house," said Mrs. Hobart.
"Barbara Holabird! Come up here!"

"I don't know what to do first," said Mrs. Marchbanks, excitedly. "Mr.
Marchbanks has taken away his papers; but there's all the silver--and
the pictures--and everything! And the house will be full of men
directly!" She looked round the room nervously, and went and picked up
her braided "chignon" from the dressing-table. Mrs. Marchbanks could
"receive" splendidly; she had never thought what she should do at a
fire. She knew all the rules of the grammar of life; she had not
learned anything about the exceptions.

"Elijah! Come up here!" called Mrs. Hobart again, over the balusters.
And Elijah, Mrs. Hobart's Yankee man-servant, brought up on her
father's farm, clattered up stairs in his thick boots, that sounded on
the smooth oak as if a horse were coming.

Mrs. Marchbanks looked bewilderedly around her room again. "They'll
break everything!" she said, and took down a little Sèvres cup from a
bracket.

"There, Mrs. Marchbanks! You just go off with the children. I'll see
to things. Let me have your keys."

"They're all in my upper bureau-drawer," said Mrs. Marchbanks.
"Besides, there isn't much locked, except the silver. I wish Matilda
would come." Matilda is Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks. "The children can go
there, of course."

"It is too far," said Mrs. Hobart. "Go and make them go to bed in my
great front room. Then you'll feel easier, and can come back. You'll
want Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks's house for the rest of you, and plenty of
things besides."

While she was talking she had pulled the blankets and coverlet from
the bed, and spread them on the floor. Mrs. Marchbanks actually walked
down stairs with her chignon in one hand and the Sèvres cup in the
other.

"People _do_ do curious things at fires," said Mrs. Hobart, cool, and
noticing everything.

She had got the bureau-drawers emptied now into the blankets. Barbara
followed her lead, and they took all the clothing; from the closets
and wardrobe.

"Tie those up, Elijah. Carry them off to a safe place, and come back,
up here."

Then she went to the next room. From that to the next and the next,
she passed on, in like manner,--Barbara, and by this time the rest of
us, helping; stripping the beds, and making up huge bundles on the
floors of the contents of presses, drawers, and boxes.

"Clothes are the first thing," said she. "And this way, you are
pretty sure to pick up everything." Everything _was_ picked up, from
Mrs. Marchbanks's jewel-case and her silk dresses, to Mr. Marchbanks's
shaving brushes, and the children's socks that they had had pulled off
last night.

Elijah carried them all off, and piled them up in Mrs. Hobart's great
clean laundry-room to await orders. The men hailed him as he went and
came, to do this, or fetch that. "I'm doing _one_ thing," he answered.
"You keep to yourn."

"They're comin'," he said, as he returned after his third trip. "The
bells are ringin', an' they're a swarmin' up the hill,--two ingines,
an' a ruck o' boys an' men. Melindy, she's keepin' the laundry door
locked, an' a lettin' on me in."

Mrs. Marchbanks came hurrying back before the crowd. Some common,
ecstatic little boys, rushing foremost to the fire, hustled her on her
own lawn. She could hardly believe even yet in this inevitable
irruption of the Great Uninvited.

Mrs. Lewis Marchbanks and Maud met her and came in with her. Mr.
Marchbanks and Arthur had hastened round to the rear, where the other
gentlemen were still hard at work.

"Now," said Mrs. Hobart, as lightly and cheerily as if it had been the
putting together of a Christmas pudding, and she were ready for the
citron or the raisins,--"now--all that beautiful china!"

She had been here at one great, general party, and remembered the
china, although her party-call, like all her others, had been a
failure. Mrs. Marchbanks received a good many people in a grand,
occasional, wholesale civility, to whom she would not sacrifice any
fraction of her private hours.

Mrs. Hobart found her way by instinct to the china-closet,--the
china-room, more properly speaking. Mrs. Marchbanks rather followed
than led.

The shelves, laden with costly pottery, reached from floor to ceiling.
The polish and the colors flashed already in the fierce light of the
closely neighboring flames. Great drifts and clouds of smoke against
the windows were urging in and stifling the air. The first rush of
water from the engines beat against the walls.

"We must work awful quick now," said Mrs. Hobart. "But keep cool. We
ain't afire yet."

She gave Mrs. Marchbanks her own keys, which she had brought down
stairs. That lady opened her safe and took out her silver, which
Arthur Marchbanks and James Hobart received from her and carried away.

Mrs. Hobart herself went up the step-ladder that stood there before
the shelves, and began to hand down piles of plates, and heavy single
pieces. "Keep folks out, Elijah," she ordered to her man.

We all helped. There were a good many of us by this time,--Olivia, and
Adelaide, and the servant-girls released from below, besides the other
Marchbankses, and the Hobarts, and people who came in, until Elijah
stopped them. He shut the heavy walnut doors that led from
drawing-room and library to the hall, and turned the great keys in
their polished locks. Then he stood by the garden entrance in the
sheltered side-angle, through which we passed with our burdens, and
defended that against invasion. There was now such an absolute order
among ourselves that the moral force of it repressed the excitement
without that might else have rushed in and overborne us.

"You jest keep back; it's all right here," Elijah would say,
deliberately and authoritatively, holding the door against unlicensed
comers; and boys and men stood back as they might have done outside
the shine and splendor and privilege of an entertainment.

It lasted till we got well through; till we had gone, one by one, down
the field, across to our house, the short way, back and forth, leaving
the china, pile after pile, safe in our cellar-kitchen.

Meanwhile, without our thinking of it, Barbara had been locked out
upon the stairs. Mother had found a tall Fayal clothes-basket, and had
collected in it, carefully, little pictures and precious things that
could be easily moved, and might be as easily lost or destroyed.
Barbara mounted guard over this, watching for a right person to whom
to deliver it.

Standing there, like Casabianca, rough men rushed by her to get up to
the roof. The hall was filling with a crowd, mostly of the curious,
untrustworthy sort, for the work just then lay elsewhere.

So Barbara held by, only drawing back with the basket, into an angle
of the wide landing. Nobody must seize it heedlessly; things were only
laid in lightly, for careful handling. In it were children s
photographs, taken in days that they had grown away from; little
treasures of art and remembrance, picked up in foreign travel, or
gifts of friends; all sorts of priceless odds and ends that people
have about a house, never thinking what would become of them in a
night like this. So Barbara stood by.

Suddenly somebody, just come, and springing in at the open door, heard
his name.

"Harry! Help me with this!" And Harry Goldthwaite pushed aside two men
at the foot of the staircase, lifted up a small boy and swung him over
the baluster, and ran up to the landing.

"Take hold of it with me," said Barbara, hurriedly. "It is valuable.
We must carry it ourselves. Don't let anybody touch it. Over to Mrs.
Hobart's."

"Hendee!" called out Harry to Mark Hendee, who appeared below. "Keep
those people off, will you? Make way!" And so they two took the big
basket steadily by the ears, and went away with it together. The first
we knew about it was when, on their way back, they came down upon our
line of march toward Elijah's door.

Beyond this, there was no order to chronicle. So far, it seems longer
in the telling than it did in the doing. We had to work "awful quick,"
as Mrs. Hobart said. But the nice and hazardous work was all done.
Even the press that held the table-napery was emptied to the last
napkin, and all was safe.

Now the hall doors were thrown open; wagons were driven up to the
entrances, and loaded with everything that came first, as things are
ordinarily "saved" at a fire. These were taken over to Mrs. Lewis
Marchbanks's. Books and pictures, furniture, bedding, carpets;
quantities were carried away, and quantities were piled up on the
lawn. The men-servants came and looked after these; they had done all
they could elsewhere; they left the work to the firemen now, and there
was little hope of saving the house. The window-frames were smoking,
and the panes were cracking with the heat, and fire was running along
the piazza roofs before we left the building. The water was giving
out.

After that we had to stand and see it burn. The wells and cisterns
were dry, and the engines stood helpless.

The stable roofs fell in with a crash, and the flames reared up as
from a great red crater and whirlpool of fire. They lashed forth and
seized upon charred walls and timbers that were ready, without their
touch, to spring into live combustion. The whole southwest front of
the mansion was overswept with almost instant sheets of fire. Fire
poured in at the casements; through the wide, airy halls; up and into
the rooms where we had stood a little while before; where, a little
before that, the children had been safe asleep in their nursery beds.

Mrs. Marchbanks, like any other burnt-out woman, had gone to the home
that offered to her,--her sister-in-law's; Olivia and Adelaide were
going to the Haddens; the children were at Mrs. Hobart's; the things
that, in their rich and beautiful arrangement, had made _home_, as
well as enshrined the Marchbanks family in their sacredness of
elegance, were only miscellaneous "loads" now, transported and
discharged in haste, or heaped up confusedly to await removal. And the
sleek servants, to whom, doubtless, it had seemed that their Rome
could never fall, were suddenly, as much as any common Bridgets and
Patricks, "out of a place."

Not that there would be any permanent difference; it was only the
story and attitude of a night. The power was still behind; the
"Tailor" would sew things over again directly. Mrs. Roger Marchbanks
would be comparatively composed and in order, at Mrs. Lewis's,
in a few days,--receiving her friends, who would hurry to make
"fire-calls," as they would to make party or engagement or other
special occasion visits; the cordons would be stretched again; not one
of the crowd of people who went freely in and out of her burning rooms
that night, and worked hardest, saving her library and her pictures
and her carpets, would come up in cool blood and ring her door-bell
now; the sanctity and the dignity would be as unprofanable as ever.

It was about four in the morning--the fire still burning--when Mrs.
Holabird went round upon the out-skirts of the groups of lookers-on,
to find and gather together her own flock. Rosamond and Ruth stood in
a safe corner with the Haddens. Where was Barbara?

Down against the close trunks of a cluster of linden-trees had been
thrown cushions and carpets and some bundles of heavy curtains, and
the like. Coming up behind, Mrs. Holabird saw, sitting upon this heap,
two persons. She knew Barbara's hat, with its white gull's breast; but
somebody had wrapped her up in a great crimson table-cover, with a
bullion fringe. Somebody was Harry Goldthwaite, sitting there beside
her; Barbara, with only her head visible, was behaving, out here in
this unconventional place and time, with a tranquillity and composure
which of late had been apparently impossible to her in parlors.

[Illustration]

"What will Mrs. Marchbanks do with Mrs. Hobart after this, I wonder?"
Mrs. Holabird heard Harry say.

"She'll give her a sort of brevet," replied Barbara. "For gallant and
meritorious services. It will be, 'Our friend Mrs. Hobart; a near
neighbor of ours; she was with us all that terrible night of the fire,
you know.' It will be a great honor; but it won't be a full
commission."

Harry laughed.

"Queer things happen when you are with us," said Barbara. "First,
there was the whirlwind, last year,--and now the fire."

"After the whirlwind and the fire--" said Harry.

"I wasn't thinking of the Old Testament," interrupted Barbara.

"Came a still, small voice," persisted Harry. "If I'm wicked, Barbara,
I can't help it. You put it into my head."

"I don't see any wickedness," answered Barbara, quickly. "That was the
voice of the Lord. I suppose it is always coming."

"Then, Barbara--"

Then Mrs. Holabird walked away again.

The next day--_that_ day, after our eleven o'clock breakfast--Harry
came back, and was at Westover all day long.

Barbara got up into mother's room at evening, alone with her. She
brought a cricket, and came and sat down beside her, and put her cheek
upon her knee.

"Mother," she said, softly, "I don't see but you'll have to get me
ready, and let me go."

"My dear child! When? What do you mean?"

"Right off. Harry is under orders, you know. And they may hardly
ever be so nice again. And--if we _are_ going through the world
together--mightn't we as well begin to go?"

"Why, Barbara, you take my breath away! But then you always do! What
is it?"

"It's the Katahdin, fitting out at New York to join the European
squadron. Commander Shapleigh is a great friend of Harry's; his wife
and daughter are in New York, going out, by Southampton steamer, when
the frigate leaves, to meet him there. They would take me, he says;
and--that's what Harry wants, mother. There'll be a little while
first,--as much, perhaps, as we should ever have."

"Barbara, my darling! But you've nothing ready!"

"No, I suppose not. I never do have. Everything is an emergency with
me; but I always emerge! I can get things in London," she added.
"Everybody does."

The end of it was that Mrs. Holabird had to catch her breath again, as
mothers do; and that Barbara is getting ready to be married just as
she does everything else.

Rose has some nice things--laid away, new; she always has; and mother
has unsuspected treasures; and we all had new silk dresses for
Leslie's wedding, and Ruth had a bright idea about that.

"I'm as tall as either of you, now," she said; "and we girls are all
of a size, as near as can be, mother and all; and we'll just wear the
dresses once more, you see, and then put them right into Barbara's
trunk. They'll be all the bonnier and luckier for her, I know. We can
get others any time."

We laughed at her at first; but we came round afterward to think that
it was a good plan. Rosamond's silk was a lovely violet, and Ruth's
was blue; Barbara's own was pearly gray; we were glad, now, that no
two of us had dressed alike. The violet and the gray had been chosen
because of our having worn quiet black-and-white all summer for
grandfather. We had never worn crape; or what is called "deep"
mourning. "You shall never do that," said mother, "till the deep
mourning comes. Then you will choose for yourselves."

We have had more time than we expected. There has been some beautiful
delay or other about machinery,--the Katahdin's, that is; and
Commander Shapleigh has been ever so kind. Harry has been back and
forth to New York two or three times. Once he took Stephen with him;
Steve stayed at Uncle John's; but he was down at the yard, and on
board ships, and got acquainted with some midshipmen; and he has quite
made up his mind to try to get in at the Naval Academy as soon as he
is old enough, and to be a navy officer himself.

We are comfortable at home; not hurried after all. We are determined
not to be; last days are too precious,

"Don't let's be all taken up with 'things,'" says Barbara. "I can
_buy_ 'things' any time. But now,--I want you!"

Aunt Roderick's present helped wonderfully. It was magnanimous of her;
it was coals of fire. We should have believed she was inspired,--or
possessed,--but that Ruth went down to Boston with her.

There came home, in a box, two days after, from Jordan and Marsh's,
the loveliest "suit," all made and finished, of brown poplin. To think
of Aunt Roderick's getting anything _made_, at an "establishment"! But
Ruth says she put her principles into her unpickable pocket, and just
took her porte-monnaie in her hand.

Bracelets and pocket-handkerchiefs have come from New York; all the
"girls" here in Westover have given presents of ornaments, or little
things to wear; they know there is no housekeeping to provide for.
Barbara says her trousseau "flies together"; she just has to sit and
look at it.

She has begged that old garnet and white silk, though, at last, from
mother. Ruth saw her fold it up and put it, the very first thing, into
the bottom of her new trunk. She patted it down gently, and gave it a
little stroke, just as she pats and strokes mother herself sometimes.

"_All_ new things are only dreary," she says. "I must have some of the
old."

"I should just like to know one thing,--if I might," said Rosamond,
deferentially, after we had begun to go to bed one evening. She was
sitting in her white night-dress, on the box-sofa, with her shoe
in her hand. "I should just like to know what made you behave so
beforehand, Barbara?"

"I was in a buzz," said Barbara. "And it _was_ beforehand. I suppose I
knew it was coming,--like a thunderstorm."

"You came pretty near securing that it _shouldn't_ come," said
Rosamond, "after all."

"I couldn't help that; it wasn't my part of the affair."

"You might have just kept quiet, as you were before," said Rose.

"Wait and see," said Barbara, concisely. "People shouldn't come
bringing things in their hands. It's just like going down stairs to
get these presents. The very minute I see a corner of one of those
white paper parcels, don't I begin to look every way, and say all
sorts of things in a hurry? Wouldn't I like to turn my back and run
off if I could? Why don't they put them under the sofa, or behind the
door, I wonder?"

"After all--" began Rosamond, still with the questioning inflection.

"After all--" said Barbara, "there was the fire. That, luckily, was
something else!"

"Does there always have to be a fire?" asked Ruth, laughing.

"Wait and see," repeated Barbara. "Perhaps you'll have an earthquake."

We have time for talks. We take up every little chink of time to have
each other in. We want each other in all sorts of ways; we never
wanted each other so, or _had_ each other so, before.

Delia Waite is here, and there is some needful stitching going on; but
the minutes are alongside the stitches, they are not eaten up; there
are minutes everywhere. We have got a great deal of life into a little
while; and--we have finished up our Home Story, to the very present
instant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Who finishes it? Who tells it?

Well,--"the kettle began it." Mrs. Peerybingle--pretty much--finished
it. That is, the story began itself, then Ruth discovered that it was
beginning, and began, first, to put it down. Then Ruth grew busy, and
she wouldn't always have told quite enough of the Ruthy part; and Mrs.
Holabird got hold of it, as she gets hold of everything, and she would
not let it suffer a "solution of continuity." Then, partly, she
observed; and partly we told tales, and recollected and reminded; and
partly, here and there, we rushed in,--especially I, Barbara,--and did
little bits ourselves; and so it came to be a "Song o' Sixpence," and
at least four Holabirds were "singing in the pie."

Do you think it is--sarcastically--a "pretty dish to set before the
king"? Have we shown up our friends and neighbors too plainly? There
is one comfort; nobody knows exactly where "Z----" is; and there are
friends and neighbors everywhere.

I am sure nobody can complain, if I don't. This last part--the
Barbarous part--is a continual breach of confidence. I have a great
mind, now, not to respect anything myself; not even that cadet button,
made into a pin, which Ruth wears so shyly. To be sure, Mrs. Hautayne
has one too; she and Ruth are the only two girls whom Dakie Thayne
considers _worth_ a button; but Leslie is an old, old friend; older
than Dakie in years, so that it could never have been like Ruth with
her; and she never was a bit shy about it either. Besides--

Well, you cannot have any more than there is. The story is told as far
as we--or anybody--has gone. You must let the world go round the sun
again, a time or two; everything has not come to pass yet--even with
"We Girls."


THE END.





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