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´╗┐Title: Mother Carey's Chickens
Author: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923
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 "Mother Carey's Chickens" ***

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MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS

By KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN



CONTENTS

      I. MOTHER CAREY HERSELF
     II. THE CHICKENS
    III. THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
     IV. THE BROKEN CIRCLE
      V. HOW ABOUT JULIA?
     VI. NANCY'S IDEA
    VII. "OLD BEASTS INTO NEW"
   VIII. THE KNIGHT OF BEULAH CASTLE
     IX. GILBERT'S EMBASSY
      X. THE CAREYS' FLITTING
     XI. THE SERVICE ON THE THRESHOLD
    XII. COUSIN ANN
   XIII. THE PINK OF PERFECTION
    XIV. WAYS AND MEANS
     XV. BELONGING TO BEULAH
    XVI. THE POST-BAG
   XVII. JACK OF ALL TRADES
  XVIII. THE HOUSE OF LORDS
    XIX. OLD AND NEW
     XX. THE PAINTED CHAMBER
    XXI. A FAMILY RHOMBOID
   XXII. CRADLE GIFTS
  XXIII. NEARING SHINY WALL
   XXIV. A LETTER FROM GERMANY
    XXV. "FOLLOWING THE GLEAM"
   XXVI. A ZOOLOGICAL FATHER
  XXVII. THE CAREY HOUSEWARMING
 XXVIII. "TIBI SPLENDET FOCUS"
   XXIX. "TH' ACTION FINE"
    XXX. THE INGLENOOK
   XXXI. GROOVES OF CHANGE
  XXXII. DOORS OF DARING
 XXXIII. MOTHER HAMILTON'S BIRTHDAY.
  XXXIV. NANCY COMES OUT
   XXXV. THE CRIMSON RAMBLER



I

MOTHER CAREY HERSELF


"By and by there came along a flock of petrels, who are Mother Carey's
own chickens.... They flitted along like a flock of swallows, hopping
and skipping from wave to wave, lifting their little feet behind them so
daintily that Tom fell in love with them at once."

Nancy stopped reading and laid down the copy of "Water Babies" on the
sitting-room table. "No more just now, Peter-bird," she said; "I hear
mother coming."

It was a cold, dreary day in late October, with an east wind and a chill
of early winter in the air. The cab stood in front of Captain Carey's
house, with a trunk beside the driver and a general air of expectancy on
the part of neighbors at the opposite windows.

Mrs. Carey came down the front stairway followed by Gilbert and
Kathleen; Gilbert with his mother's small bag and travelling cloak,
Kathleen with her umbrella; while little Peter flew to the foot of the
stairs with a small box of sandwiches pressed to his bosom.

Mrs. Carey did not wear her usual look of sweet serenity, but nothing
could wholly mar the gracious dignity of her face and presence. As she
came down the stairs with her quick, firm tread, her flock following
her, she looked the ideal mother. Her fine height, her splendid
carriage, her deep chest, her bright eye and fresh color all bespoke the
happy, contented, active woman, though something in the way of transient
anxiety lurked in the eyes and lips.

"The carriage is too early," she said; "let us come into the sitting
room for five minutes. I have said my good-byes and kissed you all a
dozen times, but I shall never be done until I am out of your sight."

"O mother, mother, how can we let you go!" wailed Kathleen.

"Kitty! how can you!" exclaimed Nancy. "What does it matter about us
when mother has the long journey and father is so ill?"

"It will not be for very long,--it can't be," said Mrs. Carey wistfully.
"The telegram only said 'symptoms of typhoid'; but these low fevers
sometimes last a good while and are very weakening, so I may not be able
to bring father back for two or three weeks; I ought to be in Fortress
Monroe day after to-morrow; you must take turns in writing to me,
children!"

"Every single day, mother!"

"Every single thing that happens."

"A fat letter every morning," they promised in chorus.

"If there is any real trouble remember to telegraph your Uncle
Allan--did you write down his address, 11 Broad Street, New York? Don't
bother him about little things, for he is not well, you know."

Gilbert displayed a note-book filled with memoranda and addresses.

"And in any small difficulty send for Cousin Ann," Mrs. Carey went on.

"The mere thought of her coming will make me toe the mark, I can tell
you that!" was Gilbert's rejoinder.

"Better than any ogre or bug-a-boo, Cousin Ann is, even for Peter!" said
Nancy.

"And will my Peter-bird be good and make Nancy no trouble?" said his
mother, lifting him to her lap for one last hug.

"I'll be an angel boy pretty near all the time," he asserted between
mouthfuls of apple, "or most pretty near," he added prudently, as if
unwilling to promise anything superhuman in the way of behavior. As a
matter of fact it required only a tolerable show of virtue for Peter to
win encomiums at any time. He would brush his curly mop of hair away
from his forehead, lift his eyes, part his lips, showing a row of tiny
white teeth; then a dimple would appear in each cheek and a seraphic
expression (wholly at variance with the facts) would overspread the baby
face, whereupon the beholder--Mother Carey, his sisters, the cook or the
chambermaid, everybody indeed but Cousin Ann, who could never be
wheedled--would cry "Angel boy!" and kiss him. He was even kissed now,
though he had done nothing at all but exist and be an enchanting
personage, which is one of the injustices of a world where a large
number of virtuous and well-behaved people go unkissed to their graves!

"I know Joanna and Ellen will take good care of the housekeeping,"
continued Mrs. Carey, "and you will be in school from nine to two, so
that the time won't go heavily. For the rest I make Nancy responsible.
If she is young, you must remember that you are all younger still, and I
trust you to her."

"The last time you did it, it didn't work very well!" And Gilbert gave
Nancy a sly wink to recall a little matter of family history when there
had been a delinquency on somebody's part.

Nancy's face crimsoned and her lips parted for a quick retort, and none
too pleasant a one, apparently.

Her mother intervened quietly. "We'll never speak of 'last times,'
Gilly, or where would any of us be? We'll always think of 'next' times.
I shall trust Nancy next time, and next time and next time, and keep on
trusting till I can trust her forever!"

Nancy's face lighted up with a passion of love and loyalty. She
responded to the touch of her mother's faith as a harp to the favoring
wind, but she said nothing; she only glowed and breathed hard and put
her trembling hand about her mother's neck and under her chin.

"Now it's time! One more kiss all around. Remember you are Mother
Carey's own chickens! There may be gales while I am away, but you must
ride over the crests of the billows as merry as so many flying fish!
Good-by! Good-by! Oh, my littlest Peter-bird, how can mother leave you?"

"I opened the lunch box to see what Ellen gave you, but I only broke off
two teenty, weenty corners of sandwiches and one little new-moon bite
out of a cookie," said Peter, creating a diversion according to
his wont.

Ellen and Joanna came to the front door and the children flocked down
the frozen pathway to the gate after their mother, getting a touch of
her wherever and whenever they could and jumping up and down between
whiles to keep warm. Gilbert closed the door of the carriage, and it
turned to go down the street. One window was open, and there was a last
glimpse of the beloved face framed in the dark blue velvet bonnet, one
last wave of a hand in a brown muff.

"Oh! she is so beautiful!" sobbed Kathleen, "her bonnet is just the
color of her eyes; and she was crying!"

"There never was anybody like mother!" said Nancy, leaning on the gate,
shivering with cold and emotion. "There never was, and there never will
be! We can try and try, Kathleen, and we _must_ try, all of us; but
mother wouldn't have to try; mother must have been partly born so!"



II

THE CHICKENS


It was Captain Carey's favorite Admiral who was responsible for the
phrase by which mother and children had been known for some years. The
Captain (then a Lieutenant) had brought his friend home one Saturday
afternoon a little earlier than had been expected, and they went to find
the family in the garden.

Laughter and the sound of voices led them to the summer-house, and as
they parted the syringa bushes they looked through them and surprised
the charming group.

  A throng of children like to flowers were sown
  About the grass beside, or climbed her knee.
  I looked who were that favored company.

That is the way a poet would have described what the Admiral saw, and if
you want to see anything truly and beautifully you must generally go
to a poet.

Mrs. Carey held Peter, then a crowing baby, in her lap. Gilbert was
tickling Peter's chin with a buttercup, Nancy was putting a wreath of
leaves on her mother's hair, and Kathleen was swinging from an
apple-tree bough, her yellow curls flying.

"Might I inquire what you think of that?" asked the father.

"Well," the Admiral said, "mothers and children make a pretty good
picture at any time, but I should say this one couldn't be 'beat.' Two
for the Navy, eh?"

"All four for the Navy, perhaps," laughed the young man. "Nancy has
already chosen a Rear-Admiral and Kathleen a Commodore; they are modest
little girls!"

"They do you credit, Peter!"

"I hope I've given them something,--I've tried hard enough, but they are
mostly the work of the lady in the chair. Come on and say how d'ye do."

Before many Saturdays the Admiral's lap had superseded all other places
as a gathering ground for the little Careys, whom he called the
stormy petrels.

"Mother Carey," he explained to them, came from the Latin _mater cara_,
this being not only his personal conviction, but one that had the
backing of Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable."

"The French call them _Les Oiseaux de Notre Dame_. That means 'The Birds
of our Lady,' Kitty, and they are the sailors' friends. Mother Carey
sends them to warn seafarers of approaching storms and bids them go out
all over the seas to show the good birds the way home. You'll have your
hands full if you're going to be Mother Carey's chickens."

"I'd love to show good birds the way home!" said Gilbert.

"Can a naughty bird show a good bird the way home, Addy?" This bland
question came from Nancy, who had a decided talent for sarcasm,
considering her years. (Of course the Admiral might have stopped the
children from calling him Addy, but they seemed to do it because
"Admiral" was difficult, and anyway they loved him so much they simply
had to take some liberties with him. Besides, although he was the
greatest disciplinarian that ever walked a deck, he was so soft and
flexible on land that he was perfectly ridiculous and delightful.)

The day when the children were christened Mother Carey's chickens was
Nancy's tenth birthday, a time when the family was striving to give her
her proper name, having begun wrong with her at the outset. She was the
first, you see, and the first is something of an event, take it how
you will.

It is obvious that at the beginning they could not address a tiny thing
on a pillow as Nancy, because she was too young. She was not even
alluded to at that early date as "she," but always as "it," so they
called her "baby" and let it go at that. Then there was a long period
when she was still too young to be called Nancy, and though, so far as
age was concerned, she might properly have held on to her name of baby,
she couldn't with propriety, because there was Gilbert then, and he was
baby. Moreover, she gradually became so indescribably quaint and
bewitching and comical and saucy that every one sought diminutives for
her; nicknames, fond names, little names, and all sorts of words that
tried to describe her charm (and couldn't), so there was Poppet and
Smiles and Minx and Rogue and Midget and Ladybird and finally Nan and
Nannie by degrees, to soberer Nancy.

"Nancy is ten to-day," mused the Admiral. "Bless my soul, how time
flies! You were a young Ensign, Carey, and I well remember the letter
you wrote me when this little lass came into harbor! Just wait a minute;
I believe the scrap of newspaper verse you enclosed has been in my
wallet ever since. I always liked it."

"I recall writing to you," said Mr. Carey. "As you had lent me five
hundred dollars to be married on, I thought I ought to keep you posted!"

"Oh, father! did you have to borrow money?" cried Kathleen.

"I did, my dear. There's no disgrace in borrowing, if you pay back, and
I did. Your Uncle Allan was starting in business, and I had just put my
little capital in with his when I met your mother. If you had met your
mother wouldn't you have wanted to marry her?"

"Yes!" cried Nancy eagerly. "Fifty of her!" At which everybody laughed.

"And what became of the money you put in Uncle Allan's business?" asked
Gilbert with unexpected intelligence.

There was a moment's embarrassment and an exchange of glances between
mother and father before he replied, "Oh! that's coming back multiplied
six times over, one of these days,--Allan has a very promising project
on hand just now, Admiral."

"Glad to hear it! A delightful fellow, and straight as a die. I only
wish he could perform once in a while, instead of promising."

"He will if only he keeps his health, but he's heavily handicapped
there, poor chap. Well, what's the verse?"

The Admiral put on his glasses, prettily assisted by Kathleen, who was
on his knee and seized the opportunity to give him a French kiss when
the spectacles were safely on the bridge of his nose. Whereupon
he read:--

  "There came to port last Sunday night
    The queerest little craft,
  Without an inch of rigging on;
    I looked, and looked, and laughed.

  "It seemed so curious that she
    Should cross the unknown water,
  And moor herself within my room--
    My daughter, O my daughter!

  "Yet, by these presents, witness all,
    She's welcome fifty times,
  And comes consigned to Hope and Love
    And common metre rhymes.

  "She has no manifest but this;
    No flag floats o'er the water;
  She's rather new for British Lloyd's--
    My daughter, O my daughter!

  "Ring out, wild bells--and tame ones, too;
    Ring out the lover's moon,
  Ring in the little worsted socks,
    Ring in the bib and spoon."[1]

[Footnote 1: George W. Cable.]

"Oh, Peter, how pretty!" said Mother Carey all in a glow. "You never
showed it to me!"

"You were too much occupied with the aforesaid 'queer little craft,'
wasn't she, Nan--I mean Nancy!" and her father pinched her ear and
pulled a curly lock.

Nancy was a lovely creature to the eye, and she came by her good looks
naturally enough. For three generations her father's family had been
known as the handsome Careys, and when Lieutenant Carey chose Margaret
Gilbert for his wife, he was lucky enough to win the loveliest girl in
her circle.

Thus it was still the handsome Careys in the time of our story, for all
the children were well-favored and the general public could never decide
whether Nancy or Kathleen was the belle of the family. Kathleen had fair
curls, skin like a rose, and delicate features; not a blemish to mar her
exquisite prettiness! All colors became her; all hats suited her hair.
She was the Carey beauty so long as Nancy remained out of sight, but the
moment that young person appeared Kathleen left something to be desired.
Nancy piqued; Nancy sparkled; Nancy glowed; Nancy occasionally pouted
and not infrequently blazed. Nancy's eyes had to be continually searched
for news, both of herself and of the immediate world about her. If you
did not keep looking at her every "once in so often" you couldn't keep
up with the progress of events; she might flash a dozen telegrams to
somebody, about something, while your head was turned away. Kathleen
could be safely left unwatched for an hour or so without fear of change;
her moods were less variable, her temper evener; her interest in the
passing moment less keen, her absorption in the particular subject less
intense. Walt Whitman might have been thinking of Nancy when he wrote:--

              There was a child went forth every day
  And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,
  And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the
         day
  Or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

Kathleen's nature needed to be stirred, Nancy's to be controlled, the
impulse coming from within, the only way that counts in the end, though
the guiding force may be applied from without.

Nancy was more impulsive than industrious, more generous than wise, more
plucky than prudent; she had none too much perseverance and no
patience at all.

Gilbert was a fiery youth of twelve, all for adventure. He kindled
quickly, but did not burn long, so deeds of daring would be in his line;
instantaneous ones, quickly settled, leaving the victor with a swelling
chest and a feather in cap; rather an obvious feather suited
Gilbert best.

Peter? Oh! Peter, aged four, can be dismissed in very few words as a
consummate charmer and heart-breaker. The usual elements that go to the
making of a small boy were all there, but mixed with white magic. It is
painful to think of the dozens of girl babies in long clothes who must
have been feeling premonitory pangs when Peter was four, to think they
couldn't all marry him when they grew up!



III

THE COMMON DENOMINATOR


Three weeks had gone by since Mother Carey's departure for Fortress
Monroe, and the children had mounted from one moral triumph to another.
John Bunyan, looking in at the windows, might have exclaimed:--

  Who would true valor see
  Let him come hither.

It is easy to go wrong in a wicked world, but there are certain
circumstances under which one is pledged to virtue; when, like a knight
of the olden time, you wear your motto next your heart and fight for
it,--"Death rather than defeat!" "We are able because we think we are
able!" "Follow honor!" and the like. These sentiments look beautifully
as class mottoes on summer graduation programmes, but some of them,
apparently, disappear from circulation before cold weather sets in.

It is difficult to do right, we repeat, but not when mother is away from
us for the first time since we were born; not when she who is the very
sun of home is shining elsewhere, and we are groping in the dim light
without her, only remembering her last words and our last promises. Not
difficult when we think of the eyes the color of the blue velvet bonnet,
and the tears falling from them. They are hundreds of miles away, but we
see them looking at us a dozen times a day and the last thing at night.

Not difficult when we think of father; gay, gallant father, desperately
ill and mother nursing him; father, with the kind smile and the jolly
little sparkles of fun in his eyes; father, tall and broad-shouldered,
splendid as the gods, in full uniform; father, so brave that if a naval
battle ever did come his way, he would demolish the foe in an instant;
father, with a warm strong hand clasping ours on high days and holidays,
taking us on great expeditions where we see life at its best and taste
incredible joys.

The most quarrelsome family, if the house burns down over their heads,
will stop disputing until the emergency is over and they get under a new
roof. Somehow, in times of great trial, calamity, sorrow, the
differences that separate people are forgotten. Isn't it rather like the
process in mathematics where we reduce fractions to a common
denominator?

It was no time for anything but superior behavior in the Carey
household; that was distinctly felt from kitchen to nursery. Ellen the
cook was tidier, Joanna the second maid more amiable. Nancy, who was
"responsible," rose earlier than the rest and went to bed later, after
locking doors and windows that had been left unlocked since the flood.
"I am responsible," she said three or four times each day, to herself,
and, it is to be feared, to others! Her heavenly patience in dressing
Peter every few hours without comment struck the most callous observer
as admirable. Peter never remembered that he had any clothes on. He
might have been a real stormy petrel, breasting the billows in his
birthday suit and expecting his feathers to be dried when and how the
Lord pleased. He comported himself in the presence of dust, mud, water,
liquid refreshment, and sticky substances, exactly as if clean white
sailor suits grew on every bush and could be renewed at pleasure.

Even Gilbert was moved to spontaneous admiration and respect at the
sight of Nancy's zeal. "Nobody would know you, Nancy; it is simply
wonderful, and I only wish it could last," he said. Even this style of
encomium was received sweetly, though there had been moments in her
previous history when Nancy would have retorted in a very pointed
manner. When she was "responsible," not even had he gone the length of
calling Nancy an unspeakable pig, would she have said anything. She had
a blissful consciousness that, had she been examined, indications of
angelic wings, and not bristles, would have been discovered under
her blouse.

Gilbert, by the way, never suspected that the masters in his own school
wondered whether he had experienced religion or was working on some sort
of boyish wager. He took his two weekly reports home cautiously for fear
that they might break on the way, pasted them on large pieces of paper,
and framed them in elaborate red, white, and blue stars united by strips
of gold paper. How Captain and Mrs. Carey laughed and cried over this
characteristic message when it reached them! "Oh! they _are_ darlings,"
Mother Carey cried. "Of course they are," the Captain murmured feebly.
"Why shouldn't they be, considering you?"

"It is really just as easy to do right as wrong, Kathleen," said Nancy
when the girls were going to bed one night.

"Ye-es!" assented Kathleen with some reservations in her tone, for she
was more judicial and logical than her sister. "But you have to keep
your mind on it so, and never relax a single bit! Then it's lots easier
for a few weeks than it is for long stretches!"

"That's true," agreed Nancy; "it would be hard to keep it up forever.
And you have to love somebody or something like fury every minute or you
can't do it at all. How do the people manage that can't love like that,
or haven't anybody to love?"

"I don't know." said Kathleen sleepily. "I'm so worn out with being
good, that every night I just say my prayers and tumble into bed
exhausted. Last night I fell asleep praying, I honestly did!"

"Tell that to the marines!" remarked Nancy incredulously.



IV

THE BROKEN CIRCLE


The three weeks were running into a month now, and virtue still reigned
in the Carey household. But things were different. Everybody but Peter
saw the difference. Peter dwelt from morn till eve in that Land of Pure
Delight which is ignorance of death. The children no longer bounded to
meet the postman, but waited till Joanna brought in the mail. Steadily,
daily, the letters changed in tone. First they tried to be cheerful;
later on they spoke of trusting that the worst was past; then of hoping
that father was holding his own. "Oh! if he was holding _all_ his own,"
sobbed Nancy. "If we were only there with him, helping mother!"

Ellen said to Joanna one morning in the kitchen: "It's my belief the
Captain's not going to get well, and I'd like to go to Newburyport to
see my cousin and not be in the house when the children's told!" And
Joanna said, "Shame on you not to stand by 'em in their hour of
trouble!" At which Ellen quailed and confessed herself a coward.

Finally came a day never to be forgotten; a day that swept all the
former days clean out of memory, as a great wave engulfs all the little
ones in its path; a day when, Uncle Allan being too ill to travel,
Cousin Ann, of all people in the universe,--Cousin Ann came to bring the
terrible news that Captain Carey was dead.

Never think that Cousin Ann did not suffer and sympathize and do her
rocky best to comfort; she did indeed, but she was thankful that her
task was of brief duration. Mrs. Carey knew how it would be, and had
planned all so that she herself could arrive not long after the blow had
fallen. Peter, by his mother's orders (she had thought of everything)
was at a neighbor's house, the centre of all interest, the focus of all
gayety. He was too young to see the tears of his elders with any profit;
baby plants grow best in sunshine. The others were huddled together in a
sad group at the front window, eyes swollen, handkerchiefs rolled into
drenched, pathetic little wads.

Cousin Ann came in from the dining room with a tumbler and spoon in her
hand. "See here, children!" she said bracingly, "you've been crying for
the last twelve hours without stopping, and I don't blame you a mite. If
I was the crying kind I'd do the same thing. Now do you think you've got
grit enough--all three of you--to bear up for your mother's sake, when
she first comes in? I've mixed you each a good dose of aromatic spirits
of ammonia, and it's splendid for the nerves. Your mother must get a
night's sleep somehow, and when she gets back a little of her strength
you'll be the greatest comfort she has in the world. The way you're
carrying on now you'll be the death of her!"

It was a good idea, and the dose had courage in it. Gilbert took the
first sip, Kathleen the second, and Nancy the third, and hardly had the
last swallow disappeared down the poor aching throats before a carriage
drove up to the gate. Some one got out and handed out Mrs. Carey whose
step used to be lighter than Nancy's. A strange gentleman, oh! not a
stranger, it was the dear Admiral helping mother up the path. They had
been unconsciously expecting the brown muff and blue velvet bonnet, but
these had vanished, like father, and all the beautiful things of the
past years, and in their place was black raiment that chilled their
hearts. But the black figure had flung back the veil that hid her from
the longing eyes of the children, and when she raised her face it was
full of the old love. She was grief-stricken and she was pale, but she
was mother, and the three young things tore open the door and clasped
her in their arms, sobbing, choking, whispering all sorts of tender
comfort, their childish tears falling like healing dew on her poor
heart. The Admiral soothed and quieted them each in turn, all but Nancy.
Cousin Ann's medicine was of no avail, and strangling with sobs Nancy
fled to the attic until she was strong enough to say "for mother's sake"
without a quiver in her voice. Then she crept down, and as she passed
her mother's room on tiptoe she looked in and saw that the chair by the
window, the chair that had been vacant for a month, was filled, and that
the black-clad figure was what was left to them; a strange, sad, quiet
mother, who had lost part of herself somewhere,--the gay part, the
cheerful part, the part that made her so piquantly and entrancingly
different from other women. Nancy stole in softly and put her young
smooth cheek against her mother's, quietly stroking her hair. "There are
four of us to love you and take care of you," she said. "It isn't quite
so bad as if there was nobody!"

Mrs. Carey clasped her close. "Oh! my Nancy! my first, my oldest, God
will help me, I know that, but just now I need somebody close and warm
and soft; somebody with arms to hold and breath to speak and lips to
kiss! I ought not to sadden you, nor lean on you, you are too young,
--but I must a little, just at the first. You see, dear, you come next
to father!"

"Next to father!" Nancy's life was set to a new tune from that moment.
Here was her spur, her creed; the incentive, the inspiration she had
lacked. She did not suddenly grow older than her years, but simply, in
the twinkling of an eye, came to a realization of herself, her
opportunity, her privilege, her duty; the face of life had changed, and
Nancy changed with it.

"Do you love me next to mother?" the Admiral had asked coaxingly once
when Nancy was eight and on his lap as usual.

"Oh dear no!" said Nancy thoughtfully, shaking her head.

"Why, that's rather a blow to me," the Admiral exclaimed, pinching an
ear and pulling a curl. "I flattered myself that when I was on my best
behavior I came next to mother."

"It's this way, Addy dear," said Nancy, cuddling up to his waistcoat and
giving a sigh of delight that there were so many nice people in the
world. "It's just this way. First there's mother, and then all round
mother there's a wide, wide space; and then father and you come next
the space."

The Admiral smiled; a grave, lovely smile that often crept into his eyes
when he held Mother Carey's chickens on his knee. He kissed Nancy on the
little white spot behind the ear where the brown hair curled in tiny
rings like grape tendrils, soft as silk and delicate as pencil strokes.
He said nothing, but his boyish dreams were in the kiss, and certain
hopes of manhood that had never been realized. He was thinking that
Margaret Gilbert was a fortunate and happy woman to have become Mother
Carey; such a mother, too, that all about her was a wide, wide space,
and next the space, the rest of the world, nearer or farther according
to their merits. He wondered if motherhood ought not to be like that,
and he thought if it were it would be a great help to God.



V

HOW ABOUT JULIA?


We often speak of a family circle, but there are none too many of them.
Parallel lines never meeting, squares, triangles, oblongs, and
particularly those oblongs pulled askew, known as rhomboids, these and
other geometrical figures abound, but circles are comparatively few. In
a true family circle a father and a mother first clasp each other's
hands, liking well to be thus clasped; then they stretch out a hand on
either side, and these are speedily grasped by children, who hold one
another firmly, and complete the ring. One child is better than nothing,
a great deal better than nothing; it is at least an effort in the right
direction, but the circle that ensues is not, even then, a truly nice
shape. You can stand as handsomely as ever you like, but it simply won't
"come round." The minute that two, three, four, five, join in, the
"roundness" grows, and the merriment too, and the laughter, and the
power to do things. (Responsibility and care also, but what is the use
of discouraging circles when there are not enough of them anyway?)

The Carey family circle had been round and complete, with love and
harmony between all its component parts. In family rhomboids, for
instance, mother loves the children and father does not, or father does,
but does not love mother, or father and mother love each other and the
children do not get their share; it is impossible to enumerate all the
little geometrical peculiarities which keep a rhomboid from being a
circle, but one person can just "stand out" enough to spoil the shape,
or put hands behind back and refuse to join at all. About the ugliest
thing in the universe is that non-joining habit! You would think that
anybody, however dull, might consider his hands, and guess by the look
of them that they must be made to work, and help, and take hold of
somebody else's hands! Miserable, useless, flabby paws, those of the
non-joiner; that he feeds and dresses himself with, and then hangs to
his selfish sides, or puts behind his beastly back!

When Captain Carey went on his long journey into the unknown and
uncharted land, the rest of the Careys tried in vain for a few months to
be still a family, and did not succeed at all. They clung as closely to
one another as ever they could, but there was always a gap in the circle
where father had been. Some men, silent, unresponsive, absent-minded and
especially absorbed in business, might drop out and not be missed, but
Captain Carey was full of vitality, warmth, and high spirits. It is
strange so many men think that the possession of a child makes them a
father; it does not; but it is a curious and very general
misapprehension. Captain Carey was a boy with his boys, and a gallant
lover with his girls; to his wife--oh! we will not even touch upon that
ground; she never did, to any one or anything but her own heart! Such an
one could never disappear from memory, such a loss could never be made
wholly good. The only thing to do was to remember father's pride and
justify it, to recall his care for mother and take his place so far as
might be; the only thing for all, as the months went on, was to be what
mother called the three b's,--brave, bright, and busy.

To be the last was by far the easiest, for the earliest effort at
economy had been the reluctant dismissal of Joanna, the chambermaid. In
old-fashioned novels the devoted servant always insisted on remaining
without wages, but this story concerns itself with life at a later date.
Joanna wept at the thought of leaving, but she never thought of the
romantic and illogical expedient of staying on without compensation.

Captain Carey's salary had been five thousand dollars, or rather was to
have been, for he had only attained his promotion three months before
his death. There would have been an extra five hundred dollars a year
when he was at sea, and on the strength of this addition to their former
income he intended to increase the amount of his life insurance, but it
had not yet been done when the sudden illness seized him, an illness
that began so gently and innocently and terminated with such sudden and
unexpected fatality.

The life insurance, such as it was, must be put into the bank for
emergencies. Mrs. Carey realized that that was the only proper thing to
do when there were four children under fifteen to be considered. The
pressing question, however, was how to keep it in the bank, and subsist
on a captain's pension of thirty dollars a month. There was the ten
thousand, hers and the Captain's, in Allan Carey's business, but Allan
was seriously ill with nervous prostration, and no money put into his
business ever had come out, even in a modified form. The Admiral was at
the other end of the world, and even had he been near at hand Mrs. Carey
would never have confided the family difficulties to him. She could
hardly have allowed him even to tide her over her immediate pressing
anxieties, remembering his invalid sister and his many responsibilities.
No, the years until Gilbert was able to help, or Nancy old enough to use
her talents, or the years before the money invested with Allan would
bring dividends, those must be years of self-sacrifice on everybody's
part; and more even than that, they must be fruitful years, in which not
mere saving and economizing, but earning, would be necessary.

It was only lately that Mrs. Carey had talked over matters with the
three eldest children, but the present house was too expensive to be
longer possible as a home, and the question of moving was a matter of
general concern. Joanna had been, up to the present moment, the only
economy, but alas! Joanna was but a drop in the necessary bucket.

On a certain morning in March Mrs. Carey sat in her room with a letter
in her lap, the children surrounding her. It was from Mr. Manson, Allan
Carey's younger partner; the sort of letter that dazed her, opening up
as it did so many questions of expediency, duty, and responsibility. The
gist of it was this: that Allan Carey was a broken man in mind and body;
that both for the climate and for treatment he was to be sent to a rest
cure in the Adirondacks; that sometime or other, in Mr. Manson's
opinion, the firm's investments might be profitable if kept long enough,
and there was no difficulty in keeping them, for nobody in the universe
wanted them at the present moment; that Allan's little daughter Julia
had no source of income whatever after her father's monthly bills were
paid, and that her only relative outside of the Careys, a certain Miss
Ann Chadwick, had refused to admit her into her house. "Mr. Carey only
asked Miss Chadwick as a last resort," wrote Mr. Manson, "for his very
soul quailed at the thought of letting you, his brother's widow, suffer
any more by his losses than was necessary, and he studiously refused to
let you know the nature and extent of his need. Miss Chadwick's only
response to his request was, that she believed in every tub standing on
its own bottom, and if he had harbored the same convictions he would not
have been in his present extremity. I am telling you this, my dear Mrs.
Carey," the writer went on, "just to get your advice about the child. I
well know that your income will not support your own children; what
therefore shall we do with Julia? I am a poor young bachelor, with two
sisters to support. I shall find a position, of course, and I shall
never cease nursing Carey's various affairs and projects during the time
of his exile, but I cannot assume an ounce more of financial
responsibility."

There had been quite a council over the letter, and parts of it had been
read more than once by Mrs. Carey, but the children, though very
sympathetic with Uncle Allan and loud in their exclamations of "Poor
Julia!" had not suggested any remedy for the situation.

"Well," said Mrs. Carey, folding the letter, "there seems to be but one
thing for us to do."

"Do you mean that you are going to have Julia come and live with us,--be
one of the family?" exclaimed Gilbert.

"That is what I want to discuss," she replied. "You three are the family
as well as I.--Come in!" she called, for she heard the swift feet of the
youngest petrel ascending the stairs. "Come in! Where is there a sweeter
Peter, a fleeter Peter, a neater Peter, than ours, I should like to
know, and where a better adviser for the council?"

"_Neater_, mother! How _can_ you?" inquired Kathleen.

"I meant neater when he is just washed and dressed," retorted Peter's
mother. "Are you coming to the family council, sweet Pete?"

Peter climbed on his mother's knee and answered by a vague affirmative
nod, his whole mind being on the extraction of a slippery marble from a
long-necked bottle.

"Then be quiet, and speak only when we ask your advice," continued Mrs.
Carey. "Unless I were obliged to, children, I should be sorry to go
against all your wishes. I might be willing to bear my share of a
burden, but more is needed than that."

"I think," said Nancy suddenly, aware now of the trend of her mother's
secret convictions, "I think Julia is a smug, conceited, vain, affected
little pea--" Here she caught her mother's eye and suddenly she heard
inside of her head or heart or conscience a chime of words. "_Next to
father_!" Making a magnificent oratorical leap she finished her sentence
with only a second's break,--"peacock, but if mother thinks Julia is a
duty, a duty she is, and we must brace up and do her. Must we love her,
mother, or can we just be good and polite to her, giving her the breast
and taking the drumstick? _She_ won't ever say, '_Don't let me rob
you_!' like Cousin Ann, when _she_ takes the breast!"

Kathleen looked distinctly unresigned. She hated drumsticks and all that
they stood for in life. She disliked the wall side of the bed, the
middle seat in the carriage, the heel of the loaf, the underdone
biscuit, the tail part of the fish, the scorched end of the omelet. "It
will make more difference to me than anybody," she said gloomily.

"Everything makes more difference to you, Kitty," remarked Gilbert.

"I mean I'm always fourth when the cake plate's passed,--in everything!
Now Julia'll be fourth, and I shall be fifth; it's lucky people can't
tumble off the floor!"

"Poor abused Kathleen!" cried Gilbert. "Well, mother, you're always
right, but I can't see why you take another one into the family, when
we've been saying for a week there isn't even enough for us five to live
on. It looks mighty queer to put me in the public school and spend the
money you save that way, on Julia!"

Way down deep in her heart Mother Carey felt a pang. There was a little
seed of hard self-love in Gilbert that she wanted him to dig up from the
soil and get rid of before it sprouted and waxed too strong.

"Julia is a Carey chicken after all, Gilbert," she said.

"But she's Uncle Allan's chicken, and I'm Captain Carey's eldest son."

"That's the very note I should strike if I were you," his mother
responded, "only with a little different accent. What would Captain
Carey's eldest son like to do for his only cousin, a little girl younger
than himself,--a girl who had a very silly, unwise, unhappy mother for
the first five years of her life, and who is now practically fatherless,
for a time at least?"

Gilbert wriggled as if in great moral discomfort, as indeed he was.
"Well," he said, "I don't want to be selfish, and if the girls say yes,
I'll have to fall in; but it isn't logic, all the same, to ask a sixth
to share what isn't enough for five."

"I agree with you there, Gilly!" smiled his mother. "The only question
before the council is, does logic belong at the top, in the scale of
reasons why we do certain things? If we ask Julia to come, she will have
to 'fall into line,' as you say, and share the family misfortunes as
best she can."

"She's a regular shirk, and always was." This from Kathleen.

"She would never come at all if she guessed her cousins' opinion of her,
that is very certain!" remarked Mrs. Carey pointedly.

"Now, mother, look me in the eye and speak the whole truth," asked
Nancy. "_Do you like Julia Carey_?"

Mrs. Carey laughed as she answered, "Frankly then, I do not! But," she
continued, "I do not like several of the remarks that have been made at
this council, yet I manage to bear them."

"Of course I shan't call Julia smug and conceited to her face," asserted
Nancy encouragingly. "I hope that her bosom friend Gladys Ferguson has
disappeared from view. The last time Julia visited us, Kitty and I got
so tired of Gladys Ferguson's dresses, her French maid, her bedroom
furniture, and her travels abroad, that we wrote her name on a piece of
paper, put it in a box, and buried it in the back yard the minute Julia
left the house. When you write, mother, tell Julia there's a piece of
breast for her, but not a mouthful of my drumstick goes to Gladys
Ferguson."

"The more the hungrier; better invite Gladys too," suggested Gilbert,
"then we can say like that simple little kid in Wordsworth:--

  "'Sisters and brother, little maid,
    How many may you be?'
  'How many? Seven in all,' she said,
    And wondering looked at me!"

"Then it goes on thus," laughed Nancy:--

  "'And who are they? I pray you tell.'
    She answered, 'Seven are we;
  Mother with us makes five, and then
    There's Gladys and Julee!'"

Everybody joined in the laugh then, including Peter, who was especially
uproarious, and who had an idea he had made the joke himself, else why
did they all kiss him?

"How about Julia? What do you say, Peter?" asked his mother.

"I want her. She played horse once," said Peter. The opinion that the
earth revolved around his one small person was natural at the age of
four, but the same idea of the universe still existed in Gilbert's mind.
A boy of thirteen ought perhaps to have a clearer idea of the relative
sizes of world and individual; at least that was the conviction in
Mother Carey's mind.



VI

NANCY'S IDEA


Nancy had a great many ideas, first and last. They were generally unique
and interesting at least, though it is to be feared that few of them
were practical. However, it was Nancy's idea to build Peter a playhouse
in the plot of ground at the back of the Charlestown house, and it was
she who was the architect and head carpenter. That plan had brought much
happiness to Peter and much comfort to the family. It was Nancy's idea
that she, Gilbert, and Kathleen should all be so equally polite to
Cousin Ann Chadwick that there should be no favorite to receive an undue
share of invitations to the Chadwick house. Nancy had made two visits in
succession, both offered in the nature of tributes to her charms and
virtues, and she did not wish a third.

"If you two can't be _more_ attractive, then I'll be _less_, that's
all," was her edict. "'Turn and turn about' has got to be the rule in
this matter. I'm not going to wear the martyr's crown alone; it will
adorn your young brows every now and then or I'll know the reason why!"

It was Nancy's idea to let Joanna go, and divide her work among the
various members of the family. It was also Nancy's idea that, there
being no strictly masculine bit of martyrdom to give to Gilbert, he
should polish the silver for his share. This was an idea that proved so
unpopular with Gilbert that it was speedily relinquished. Gilbert was
wonderful with tools, so wonderful that Mother Carey feared he would be
a carpenter instead of the commander of a great war ship; but there
seemed to be no odd jobs to offer him. There came a day when even Peter
realized that life was real and life was earnest. When the floor was
strewn with playthings his habit had been to stand amid the wreckage and
smile, whereupon Joanna would fly and restore everything to its
accustomed place. After the passing of Joanna, Mother Carey sat placidly
in her chair in the nursery and Peter stood ankle deep among his
toys, smiling.

"Now put everything where it belongs, sweet Pete," said mother.

"You do it," smiled Peter.

"I am very busy darning your stockings, Peter."

"I don't like to pick up, Muddy."

"No, it isn't much fun, but it has to be done."

Peter went over to the window and gazed at the landscape. "I dess I'll
go play with Ellen," he remarked in honeyed tones.

"That would be nice, after you clear away your toys and blocks."

"I dess I'll play with Ellen first," suggested Peter, starting slowly
towards the door.

"No, we always work first and play afterwards!" said mother, going on
darning.

Peter felt caught in a net of irresistible and pitiless logic.

"Come and help me, Muddy?" he coaxed, and as she looked up he suddenly
let fly all his armory of weapons at once,--two dimples, tossing back of
curls, parted lips, tiny white teeth, sweet voice.

Mother Carey's impulse was to cast herself on the floor and request him
simply to smile on her and she would do his lightest bidding, but
controlling her secret desires she answered: "I would help if you needed
me, but you don't. You're a great big boy now!"

"I'm not a great big boy!" cried Peter, "I'm only a great big little
boy!"

"Don't waste time, sweet Pete; go to work!"

"_I want Joanna_!" roared Peter with the voice of an infant bull.

"So we all do. It's because she had to go that I'm darning stockings."

The net tightened round Peter's defenceless body and he hurled himself
against his rocking, horse and dragged it brutally to a corner. Having
disposed of most of his strength and temper in this operation, he put
away the rest of his goods and chattels more quietly, but with streaming
eyes and heaving bosom.

"Splendid!" commented Mother Carey. "Joanna couldn't have done it
better, and it won't be half so much work next time." Peter heard the
words "next time" distinctly, and knew the grim face of Duty at last,
though he was less than five.

The second and far more tragic time was when he was requested to make
himself ready for luncheon,--Kathleen to stand near and help "a little"
if really necessary. Now Peter _au fond_ was absolutely clean. French
phrases are detestable where there is any English equivalent, but in
this case there is none, so I will explain to the youngest reader--who
may speak only one language--that the base of Peter was always clean. He
received one full bath and several partial ones in every twenty-four
hours, but su-per-im-posed on this base were evidences of his eternal
activities, and indeed of other people's! They were divided into three
classes,--those contracted in the society of Joanna when she took him
out-of-doors: such as sand, water, mud, grass stains, paint, lime,
putty, or varnish; those derived from visits to his sisters at their
occupations: such as ink, paints, lead pencils, paste, glue, and
mucilage; those amassed in his stays with Ellen in the kitchen: sugar,
molasses, spice, pudding sauce, black currants, raisins, dough, berry
stains (assorted, according to season), chocolate, jelly, jam, and
preserves; these deposits were not deep, but were simply dabs on the
facade of Peter, and through them the eyes and soul of him shone,
delicious and radiant. They could be rubbed off with a moist
handkerchief if water were handy, and otherwise if it were not, and the
person who rubbed always wanted for some mysterious reason to kiss him
immediately afterwards, for Peter had the largest kissing acquaintance
in Charlestown.

When Peter had scrubbed the parts of him that showed most, and had
performed what he considered his whole duty to his hair, he appeared for
the first time at the family table in such a guise that if the children
had not been warned they would have gone into hysterics, but he
gradually grew to be proud of his toilets and careful that they should
not occur too often in the same day, since it appeared to be the family
opinion that he should make them himself.

There was a tacit feeling, not always expressed, that Nancy, after
mother, held the reins of authority, and also that she was a person of
infinite resource. The Gloom-Dispeller had been her father's name for
her, but he had never thought of her as a Path-Finder, a gallant
adventurer into unknown and untried regions, because there had been
small opportunity to test her courage or her ingenuity.

Mrs. Carey often found herself leaning on Nancy nowadays; not as a dead
weight, but with just the hint of need, just the suggestion of
confidence, that youth and strength and buoyancy respond to so gladly.
It had been decided that the house should be vacated as soon as a tenant
could be found, but the "what next" had not been settled. Julia had
confirmed Nancy's worst fears by accepting her aunt's offer of a home,
but had requested time to make Gladys Ferguson a short visit at Palm
Beach, all expenses being borne by the Parents of Gladys. This estimable
lady and gentleman had no other names or titles and were never spoken of
as if they had any separate existence. They had lived and loved and
married and accumulated vast wealth, and borne Gladys. After that they
had sunk into the background and Gladys had taken the stage.

"I'm sure I'm glad she is going to the Fergusons," exclaimed Kathleen.
"One month less of her!"

"Yes," Nancy replied, "but she'll be much worse, more spoiled, more
vain, more luxurious than before. She'll want a gold chicken breast now.
We've just packed away the finger bowls; but out they'll have to
come again."

"Let her wash her own finger bowl a few days and she'll clamor for the
simple life," said Kathleen shrewdly. "Oh, what a relief if the
Fergusons would adopt Julia, just to keep Gladys company!"

"Nobody would ever adopt Julia," returned Nancy. "If she was yours you
couldn't help it; you'd just take her 'to the Lord in prayer,' as the
Sunday-school hymn says, but you'd never go out and adopt her."

Matters were in this uncertain and unsettled state when Nancy came into
her mother's room one evening when the rest of the house was asleep.

"I saw your light, so I knew you were reading, Muddy. I've had such a
bright idea I couldn't rest."

"Muddy" is not an attractive name unless you happen to know its true
derivation and significance. First there was "mother dear," and as
persons under fifteen are always pressed for time and uniformly
breathless, this appellation was shortened to "Motherdy," and Peter
being unable to struggle with that term, had abbreviated it into
"Muddy." "Muddy" in itself is undistinguished and even unpleasant, but
when accompanied by a close strangling hug, pats on the cheek, and
ardent if somewhat sticky kisses, grows by degrees to possess delightful
associations. Mother Carey enjoyed it so much from Peter that she even
permitted it to be taken up by the elder children.

"You mustn't have ideas after nine P.M., Nancy!" chided her mother.
"Wrap the blue blanket around you and sit down with me near the fire."

"You're not to say I'm romantic or unpractical," insisted Nancy, leaning
against her mother's knees and looking up into her face,--"indeed,
you're not to say anything of any importance till I'm all finished. I'm
going to tell it in a long story, too, so as to work on your feelings
and make you say yes."

"Very well, I'm all ears!"

"Now put on your thinking cap! Do you remember once, years and years
ago, before Peter it was, that father took us on a driving trip through
some dear little villages in Maine?"

(The Careys never dated their happenings eighteen hundred and anything.
It was always: Just before Peter, Immediately after Peter, or A Long
Time after Peter, which answered all purposes.)

"I remember."

"It was one of Gilbert's thirsty days, and we stopped at nearly every
convenient pump to give him drinks of water, and at noon we came to the
loveliest wayside well with a real moss-covered bucket; do you
remember?"

"I remember."

"And we all clambered out, and father said it was time for luncheon, and
we unpacked the baskets on the greensward near a beautiful tree, and
father said, 'Don't spread the table too near the house, dears, or
they'll cry when they see our doughnuts!' and Kitty, who had been
running about, came up and cried, 'It's an empty house; come and look!'"

"I remember."

"And we all went in the gate and loved every bit of it: the stone steps,
the hollyhocks growing under the windows, the yellow paint and the green
blinds; and father looked in the windows, and the rooms were large and
sunny, and we wanted to drive the horse into the barn and stay
there forever!"

"I remember."

"And Gilbert tore his trousers climbing on the gate, and father laid him
upside down on your lap and I ran and got your work-bag and you mended
the seat of his little trousers. And father looked and looked at the
house and said, 'Bless its heart!' and said if he were rich he would buy
the dear thing that afternoon and sleep in it that night; and asked you
if you didn't wish you'd married the other man, and you said there never
was another man, and you asked father if he thought on the whole that he
was the poorest man in the world, and father said no, the very richest,
and he kissed us all round, do you remember?"

"Do I remember? O Nancy, Nancy! What do you think I am made of that I
could ever forget?"

"Don't cry, Muddy darling, don't! It was so beautiful, and we have so
many things like that to remember."

"Yes," said Mrs. Carey, "I know it. Part of my tears are grateful ones
that none of you can ever recall an unloving word between your father
and mother!"

"The idea," said Nancy suddenly and briefly, "is to go and live in that
darling house!"

"Nancy! What for?"

"We've got to leave this place, and where could we live on less than in
that tiny village? It had a beautiful white-painted academy, don't you
remember, so we could go to school there,--Kathleen and I anyway, if
you could get enough money to keep Gilly at Eastover."

"Of course I've thought of the country, but that far-away spot never
occurred to me. What was its quaint little name,--Mizpah or Shiloh or
Deborah or something like that?"

"It was Beulah," said Nancy; "and father thought it exactly matched the
place!"

"We even named the house," recalled Mother Carey with a tearful smile.
"There were vegetables growing behind it, and flowers in front, and your
father suggested Garden Fore-and-Aft and I chose Happy Half-Acre, but
father thought the fields that stretched back of the vegetable garden
might belong to the place, and if so there would be far more than a
half-acre of land."

"And do you remember father said he wished we could do something to
thank the house for our happy hour, and I thought of the little box of
plants we had bought at a wayside nursery?"

"Oh! I do indeed! I hadn't thought of it for years! Father and you
planted a tiny crimson rambler at the corner of the piazza at the side."

"Do you suppose it ever 'rambled,' Muddy? Because it would be ever so
high now, and full of roses in summer."

"I wonder!" mused Mother Carey. "Oh! it was a sweet, tranquil, restful
place! I wonder how we could find out about it? It seems impossible that
it should not have been rented or sold before this. Let me see, that was
five years ago."

"There was a nice old gentleman farther down the street, quite in the
village, somebody who had known father when he was a boy."

"So there was; he had a quaint little law office not much larger than
Peter's playhouse. Perhaps we could find him. He was very, very old. He
may not be alive, and I cannot remember his name."

"Father called him 'Colonel,' I know that. Oh, how I wish dear Addy was
here to help us!"

"If he were he would want to help us too much! We must learn to bear our
own burdens. They won't seem so strange and heavy when we are more used
to them. Now go to bed, dear. We'll think of Beulah, you and I; and
perhaps, as we have been all adrift, waiting for a wind to stir our
sails, 'Nancy's idea' will be the thing to start us on our new voyage.
Beulah means land of promise;--that's a good omen!"

"And father found Beulah; and father found the house, and father blessed
it and loved it and named it; that makes ever so many more good omens,
more than enough to start housekeeping on," Nancy answered, kissing her
mother goodnight.



VII

"OLD BEASTS INTO NEW"


Mother Carey went to sleep that night in greater peace than she had felt
for months. It had seemed to her, all these last sad weeks, as though
she and her brood had been breasting stormy waters with no harbor in
sight. There were friends in plenty here and there, but no kith and kin,
and the problems to be settled were graver and more complex than
ordinary friendship could untangle, vexed as it always was by its own
problems. She had but one keen desire: to go to some quiet place where
temptations for spending money would be as few as possible, and there
live for three or four years, putting her heart and mind and soul on
fitting the children for life. If she could keep strength enough to
guide and guard, train and develop them into happy, useful, agreeable
human beings,--masters of their own powers; wise and discreet enough,
when years of discretion were reached, to choose right paths,--that, she
conceived, was her chief task in life, and no easy one. "Happy I must
contrive that they shall be," she thought, "for unhappiness and
discontent are among the foxes that spoil the vines. Stupid they shall
not be, while I can think of any force to stir their brains; they have
ordinary intelligence, all of them, and they shall learn to use it; dull
and sleepy children I can't abide. Fairly good they will be, if they are
busy and happy, and clever enough to see the folly of being anything
_but_ good! And so, month after month, for many years to come, I must be
helping Nancy and Kathleen to be the right sort of women, and wives, and
mothers, and Gilbert and Peter the proper kind of men, and husbands, and
fathers. Mother Carey's chickens must be able to show the good birds the
way home, as the Admiral said, and I should think they ought to be able
to set a few bad birds on the right track now and then!"

Well, all this would be a task to frighten and stagger many a person,
but it only kindled Mrs. Carey's love and courage to a white heat.

Do you remember where Kingsley's redoubtable Tom the Water Baby swims
past Shiny Wall, and reaches at last Peacepool? Peacepool, where the
good whales lie, waiting till Mother Carey shall send for them "to make
them out of old beasts into new"?

Tom swims up to the nearest whale and asks the way to Mother Carey.

"There she is in the middle," says the whale, though Tom sees nothing
but a glittering white peak like an iceberg. "That's Mother Carey,"
spouts the whale, "as you will find if you get to her. There she sits
making old beasts into new all the year round."

"How does she do that?" asks Tom.

"That's her concern, not mine!" the whale remarks discreetly.

And when Tom came nearer to the white glittering peak it took the form
of something like a lovely woman sitting on a white marble throne. And
from the foot of the throne, you remember, there swam away, out and out
into the sea, millions of new-born creatures of more shapes and colors
than man ever dreamed. And they were Mother Carey's children whom she
makes all day long.

Tom expected,--I am still telling you what happened to the famous water
baby,--Tom expected (like some grown people who ought to know better)
that he would find Mother Carey snipping, piecing, fitting, stitching,
cobbling, basting, filing, planing, hammering, turning, polishing,
moulding, measuring, chiselling, clipping, and so forth, as men do when
they go to work to make anything. But instead of that she sat quite
still with her chin upon her hand, looking down into the sea with two
great blue eyes as blue as the sea itself. (As blue as our own mother's
blue velvet bonnet, Kitty would have said.)

Was Beulah the right place, wondered Mrs. Carey as she dropped asleep.
And all night long she heard in dreams the voice of that shining little
river that ran under the bridge near Beulah village; and all night long
she walked in fields of buttercups and daisies, and saw the June breeze
blow the tall grasses. She entered the yellow painted house and put the
children to bed in the different rooms, and the instant she saw them
sleeping there it became home, and her heart put out little roots that
were like tendrils; but they grew so fast that by morning they held the
yellow house fast and refused to let it go.

She looked from its windows onto the gardens "fore and aft," and they
seemed, like the rest of little Beulah village, full of sweet promise.
In the back were all sorts of good things to eat growing in profusion,
but modestly out of sight; and in front, where passers-by could see
their beauty and sniff their fragrance, old-fashioned posies bloomed and
rioted and tossed gay, perfumed heads in the sunshine.

She awoke refreshed and strong and brave, not the same woman who took
Nancy's idea to bed with her; for this woman's heart and hope had
somehow flown from the brick house in Charlestown and had built itself a
new nest in Beulah's green trees, the elms and willows that overhung the
shining river.

An idea of her own ran out and met Nancy's half way. Instead of going
herself to spy out the land of Beulah, why not send Gilbert? It was a
short, inexpensive railway journey, with no change of cars. Gilbert was
nearly fourteen, and thus far seemed to have no notion of life as a
difficult enterprise. No mother who respects her boy, or respects
herself, can ask him flatly, "Do you intend to grow up with the idea of
taking care of me; of having an eye to your sisters; or do you consider
that, since I brought you into the world, I must provide both for myself
and you until you are a man,--or forever and a day after, if you feel
inclined to shirk your part in the affair?"

Gilbert talked of his college course as confidently as he had before his
father's death. It was Nancy who as the eldest seemed the head of the
family, but Gilbert, only a year or so her junior, ought to grow into
the head, somehow or other. The way to begin would be to give him a few
delightful responsibilities, such as would appeal to his pride and sense
of importance, and gradually to mingle with them certain duties of
headship neither so simple nor so agreeable. Beulah would be a
delightful beginning. Nancy the Pathfinder would have packed a bag and
gone to Beulah on an hour's notice; found the real-estate dealer, in
case there was such a metropolitan article in the village; looked up her
father's old friend the Colonel with the forgotten surname; discovered
the owner of the charming house, rented it, and brought back the key in
triumph! But Nancy was a girl rich in courage and enterprise, while
Gilbert's manliness and leadership and discretion and consideration for
others needed a vigorous, decisive, continued push.

If Nancy's idea was good, Mother Carey's idea matched it! To see
Gilbert, valise in hand, eight dollars in pocket, leaving Charlestown on
a Friday noon after school, was equal to watching Columbus depart for an
unknown land. Thrilling is the only word that will properly describe it,
and the group that followed his departure from the upper windows used it
freely and generously. He had gone gayly downstairs and Nancy flung
after him a small packet in an envelope, just as he reached the door.

"There's a photograph of your mother and sisters!" she called. "In case
the owner refuses to rent the house to _you_, just show him the rest of
the family! And don't forget to say that the rent is exorbitant,
whatever it is!"

They watched him go jauntily down the street, Mother Carey with special
pride in her eyes. He had on his second best suit, and it looked well on
his straight slim figure. He had a gallant air, had Gilbert, and one
could not truly say it was surface gallantry either; it simply did not,
at present, go very deep. "No one could call him anything but a fine
boy," thought the mother, "and surely the outside is a key to what is
within!--His firm chin, his erect head, his bright eye, his quick tread,
his air of alert self-reliance,--surely here is enough, for any mother
to build on!"



VIII

THE KNIGHT OF BEULAH CASTLE


Nancy's flushed face was glued to the window-pane until Gilbert turned
the corner. He looked back, took off his cap, threw a kiss to them, and
was out of sight!

"Oh! how I wish _I_ could have gone!" cried Nancy. "I hope he won't
forget what he went for! I hope he won't take 'No' for an answer. Oh!
why wasn't I a boy!"

Mrs. Carey laughed as she turned from the window.

"It will be a great adventure for the man of the house, Nancy, so never
mind. What would the Pathfinder have done if she had gone, instead of
her brother?"

"I? Oh! Millions of things!" said Nancy, pacing the sitting-room floor,
her head bent a little, her hands behind her back. "I should be going to
the new railway station in Boston now, and presently I should be at the
little grated window asking for a return ticket to Greentown station.
'Four ten,' the man would say, and I would fling my whole eight dollars
in front of the wicket to show him what manner of person I was.

"Then I would pick up the naught-from-naught-is-naught,
one-from-ten-is-nine, five-from-eight-is-three,--three dollars and
ninety cents or thereabouts and turn away.

"'Parlor car seat, Miss?' the young man would say,--a warm, worried
young man in a seersucker coat, and I would answer, 'No thank you; I
always go in the common car to study human nature.' That's what the
Admiral says, but of course the ticket man couldn't know that the
Admiral is an intimate friend of mine, and would think I said it myself.

"Then I would go down the platform and take the common car for
Greentown. Soon we would be off and I would ask the conductor if
Greentown was the station where one could change and drive to Beulah,
darling little Beulah, shiny-rivered Beulah; not breathing a word about
the yellow house for fear he would jump off the train and rent it first.
Then he would say he never heard of Beulah. I would look pityingly at
him, but make no reply because it would be no use, and anyway I know
Greentown _is_ the changing place, because I've asked three men before;
but Cousin Ann always likes to make conductors acknowledge they don't
know as much as she does.

"Then I present a few peanuts or peppermints to a small boy, and hold an
infant for a tired mother, because this is what good children do in the
Sunday-school books, but I do not mingle much with the passengers
because my brow is furrowed with thought and I am travelling on
important business."

You can well imagine that by this time Mother Carey has taken out her
darning, and Kathleen her oversewing, to which she pays little attention
because she so adores Nancy's tales. Peter has sat like a small statue
ever since his quick ear caught the sound of a story. His eyes follow
Nancy as she walks up and down improvising, and the only interruption
she ever receives from her audience is Kathleen's or Mother Carey's
occasional laugh at some especially ridiculous sentence.

"The hours fly by like minutes," continues Nancy, stopping by the side
window and twirling the curtain tassel absently. "I scan the surrounding
country to see if anything compares with Beulah, and nothing does. No
such river, no such trees, no such well, no such old oaken bucket, and
above all no such Yellow House. All the other houses I see are but as
huts compared with the Yellow House of Beulah. Soon the car door opens;
a brakeman looks in and calls in a rich baritone voice, 'Greentown!
Greentown! Do-not-leave-any-passles in the car!' And if you know
beforehand what he is going to say you can understand him quite nicely,
so I take up my bag and go down the aisle with dignity. 'Step lively,
Miss!' cries the brakeman, but I do not heed him; it is not likely that
a person renting country houses will move save with majesty. Alighting,
I inquire if there is any conveyance for Beulah, and there is, a wagon
and a white horse. I ask the driver boldly to drive me to the Colonel's
office. He does not ask which Colonel, or what Colonel, he simply says,
'Colonel Foster, I s'pose,' and I say, 'Certainly.' We arrive at the
office and when I introduce myself as Captain Carey's daughter I receive
a glad welcome. The Colonel rings a bell and an aged beldame approaches,
making a deep curtsy and offering me a beaker of milk, a crusty loaf, a
few venison pasties, and a cold goose stuffed with humming birds. When I
have reduced these to nothingness I ask if the yellow house on the
outskirts of the village is still vacant, and the Colonel replies that
it is, at which unexpected but hoped-for answer I fall into a deep
swoon. When I awake the aged Colonel is bending over me, his long white
goat's beard tickling my chin."

(Mother Carey stops her darning now and Kathleen makes no pretence of
sewing; the story is fast approaching its climax,--everybody feels that,
including Peter, who hopes that he will be in it, in some guise or
other, before it ends.)

"'Art thou married, lady?' the aged one asks courteously, 'and if not,
wilt thou be mine?'"

"I tremble, because he does not seem to notice that he is eighty or
ninety and I but fifteen, yet I fear if I reject him too scornfully and
speedily the Yellow House will never be mine. 'Grant me a little time in
which to fit myself for this great honor,' I say modestly, and a mighty
good idea, too, that I got out of a book the other day; when suddenly,
as I gaze upward, my suitor's white hair turns to brown, his beard drops
off, his wrinkles disappear, and he stands before me a young Knight, in
full armor. 'Wilt go to the yellow castle with me, sweet lady?' he asks.
'_Wilt I_!' I cry in ecstasy, and we leap on the back of a charger
hitched to the Colonel's horseblock. We dash down the avenue of elms and
maples that line the village street, and we are at our journey's end
before the Knight has had time to explain to me that he was changed into
the guise of an old man by an evil sorcerer some years before, and could
never return to his own person until some one appeared who wished to
live in the yellow house, which is Beulah Castle.

"We approach the well-known spot and the little picket gate, and the
Knight lifts me from the charger's back. 'Here are house and lands, and
all are yours, sweet lady, if you have a younger brother. There is
treasure hidden in the ground behind the castle, and no one ever finds
such things save younger brothers.'

"'I have a younger brother,' I cry, '_and his name is Peter_!'"

At this point in Nancy's chronicle Peter is nearly beside himself with
excitement. He has been sitting on his hassock, his hands outspread upon
his fat knees, his lips parted, his eyes shining. Somewhere, sometime,
in Nancy's stories there is always a Peter. He lives for that moment!

Nancy, stifling her laughter, goes on rapidly:

"And so the Knight summons Younger Brother Peter to come, and he flies
in a great air ship from Charlestown to Beulah. And when he arrives the
Knight asks him to dig for the buried treasure."

(Peter here turns up his sleeves to his dimpled elbows and seizes an
imaginary implement.)

"Peter goes to the back of the castle, and there is a beautiful garden
filled with corn and beans and peas and lettuce and potatoes and beets
and onions and turnips and carrots and parsnips and tomatoes and
cabbages. He takes his magic spade and it leads him to the cabbages. He
digs and digs, and in a moment the spade strikes metal!

"'He has found the gold!' cries the Knight, and Peter speedily lifts
from the ground pots and pots of ducats and florins, and gulden and
doubloons."

(Peter nods his head at the mention of each precious coin and then claps
his hands, and hugs himself with joy, and rocks himself to and fro on
the hassock, in his ecstasy at being the little god in the machine.)

"Then down the village street there is the sound of hurrying horses'
feet, and in a twinkling a gayly painted chariot comes into view, and in
it are sitting the Queen Mother and the Crown Prince and Princess of the
House of Carey. They alight; Peter meets them at the gate, a pot of gold
in each hand. They enter the castle and put their umbrellas in one
corner of the front hall and their rubbers in the other one, behind the
door. Lady Nancibel trips up the steps after them and, turning, says
graciously to her Knight, 'Would you just as soon marry somebody else? I
am very much attached to my family, and they will need me dreadfully
while they are getting settled.'

"'I did not recall the fact that I had asked you to be mine,'
courteously answers the youth.

"'You did,' she responds, very much embarrassed, as she supposed of
course he would remember his offer made when he was an old man with a
goat's beard; 'but gladly will I forget all, if you will relinquish
my hand.'

"'As you please!' answers the Knight generously. 'I can deny you nothing
when I remember you have brought me back my youth. Prithee, is the other
lady bespoke, she of the golden hair?'

"'Many have asked, but I have chosen none,' answers the Crown Princess
Kitty modestly, as is her wont.

"'Then you will do nicely,' says the Knight, 'since all I wish is to be
son-in-law to the Queen Mother!'

"'Right you are, my hearty!' cries Prince Gilbert de Carey, 'and as we
much do need a hand at the silver-polishing I will gladly give my sister
in marriage!'

"So they all went into Beulah Castle and locked the door behind them,
and there they lived in great happiness and comfort all the days of
their lives, and there they died when it came their time, and they were
all buried by the shores of the shining river of Beulah!"

"Oh! it is perfectly splendid!" cried Kathleen. "About the best one you
ever told! But do change the end a bit, Nancy dear! It's dreadful for
him to marry Kitty when he chose Nancibel first. I'd like him awfully,
but I don't want to take him that way!"

"Well, how would this do?" and Nancy pondered a moment before going on:
"'Right you are, my hearty!' cries Prince Gilbert de Carey, 'and as we
do need a hand at the silver-polishing I will gladly give my sister in
marriage.'

"'Hold!' cries the Queen Mother. 'All is not as it should be in this
coil! How can you tell,' she says, turning to the knightly stranger,
'that memory will not awake one day, and you recall the adoration you
felt when you first beheld the Lady Nancibel in a deep swoon?'

"The Young Knight's eyes took on a far-away look and he put his hand to
his forehead.

"'It comes back to me now!' he sighed. 'I did love the Lady Nancibel
passionately, and I cannot think how it slipped my mind!'

"'I release you willingly!' exclaimed the Crown Princess Kitty
haughtily, 'for a million suitors await my nod, and thou wert never
really mine!'

"'But the other lady rejects me also!' responds the luckless youth, the
tears flowing from his eagle eyes onto his crimson mantle.

"'Wilt delay the nuptials until I am eighteen and the castle is set in
order?' asks the Lady Nancibel relentingly.

"'Since it must be, I do pledge thee my vow to wait,' says the Knight.
'And I do beg the fair one with the golden locks to consider the claims
of my brother, not my equal perhaps, but still a gallant youth.'

"'I will enter him on my waiting list as number Three Hundred and
Seventeen,' responds the Crown Princess Kitty, than whom no violet could
be more shy. ''Tis all he can expect and more than I should promise.'

"So they all lived in the yellow castle in great happiness forever
after, and were buried by the shores of the shining river of
Beulah!--Does that suit you better?"

"Simply lovely!" cried Kitty, "and the bit about my modesty is too funny
for words!--Oh, if some of it would only happen! But I am afraid Gilbert
will not stir up any fairy stories and set them going."

"Some of it will happen!" exclaimed Peter. "I shall dig every single day
till I find the gold-pots."

"You are a pot of gold yourself, filled full and running over!"

"Now, Nancy, run and write down your fairy tale while you remember it!"
said Mother Carey.

"It is as good an exercise as any other, and you still tell a story far
better than you write it!"

Nancy did this sort of improvising every now and then, and had done it
from earliest childhood; and sometimes, of late, Mother Carey looked at
her eldest chicken and wondered if after all she had hatched in her a
bird of brighter plumage or rarer song than the rest, or a young eagle
whose strong wings would bear her to a higher flight!



IX

GILBERT'S EMBASSY


The new station had just been built in Boston, and it seemed a great
enterprise to Gilbert to be threading his way through the enormous
spaces, getting his information by his own wits and not asking questions
like a stupid schoolboy. Like all children of naval officers, the Careys
had travelled ever since their birth; still, this was Gilbert's first
journey alone, and nobody was ever more conscious of the situation, nor
more anxious to carry it off effectively.

He entered the car, opened his bag, took out his travelling cap and his
copy of "Ben Hur," then threw the bag in a lordly way into the brass
rack above the seat. He opened his book, but immediately became
interested in a young couple just in front of him. They were carefully
dressed, even to details of hats and gloves, and they had an
unmistakable air of wedding journey about them that interested the
curious boy.

Presently the conductor came in. Pausing in front of the groom he said,
"Tickets, please"; then: "You're on the wrong train!" "Wrong train? Of
course I'm not on the wrong train! You must be mistaken! The ticket
agent told me to take this train."

"Can't help that, sir, this train don't go to Lawrence."

"It's very curious. I asked the brakeman, and two porters. Ain't this
the 3.05?"

"This is the 3.05."

"Where does it go, then?"

"Goes to Lowell. Lowell the first stop."

"But I don't want to go to Lowell!"

"What's the matter with Lowell? It's a good place all right!"

"But I have an appointment in Lawrence at four o'clock."

"I'm dretful sorry, but you'll have to keep it in Lowell, I
guess!--Tickets, please!" this to a pretty girl on the opposite side
from Gilbert, a pink and white, unsophisticated maiden, very much
interested in the woes of the bride and groom and entirely sympathetic
with the groom's helpless wrath.

"On the wrong train, Miss!" said the conductor.

"On the wrong train?" She spoke in a tone of anguish, getting up and
catching her valise frantically. "It _can't_ be the wrong train! Isn't
it the White Mountain train?"

"Yes, Miss, but it don't go to North Conway; it goes to Fabyan's."

"But my father _put_ me on this train and everybody _said_ it was the
White Mountain train!"

"So it is, Miss, but if you wanted to stop at North Conway you'd ought
to have taken the 3.55, platform 8."

"Put me off, then, please, and let me wait for the 3.55."

"Can't do it, Miss; this is an express train; only stops at Lowell,
where this gentleman is going!"

(Here the conductor gave a sportive wink at the bridegroom who had an
appointment in Lawrence.)

The pretty girl burst into a flood of tears and turned her face
despairingly to the window, while the bride talked to the groom
excitedly about what they ought to have done and what they would have
done had she been consulted.

Gilbert could hardly conceal his enjoyment of the situation, and indeed
everybody within hearing--that is, anybody who chanced to be on the
right train--looked at the bride and groom and the pretty girl, and
tittered audibly.

"Why don't people make inquiries?" thought Gilbert superciliously.
"Perhaps they have never been anywhere before, but even that's
no excuse."

He handed his ticket to the conductor with a broad smile, saying in an
undertone, "What kind of passengers are we carrying this afternoon?"

"The usual kind, I guess!--You're on the wrong train, sonny!"

Gilbert almost leaped into the air, and committed himself by making a
motion to reach down his valise.

"I, on the wrong train?" he asked haughtily. "That _can't_ be so; the
ticket agent told me the 3.05 was the only fast train to Greentown!"

"Mebbe he thought you said Greenville; this train goes to Greenville, if
that'll do you! Folks ain't used to the new station yet, and the ticket
agents are all bran' new too,--guess you got hold of a tenderfoot!"

"But Greenville will _not_ 'do' for me," exclaimed Gilbert. "I want to
go to _Greentown_."

"Well, get off at Lowell, the first stop,--you'll know when you come to
it because this gentleman that wanted to go to Lawrence will get off
there, and this young lady that was intendin' to go to North Conway.
There'll be four of you; jest a nice party."

Gilbert choked with wrath as he saw the mirth of the other passengers.

"What train shall I be able to take to Greentown," he managed to call
after the conductor.

"Don't know, sonny! Ask the ticket agent in the Lowell deepot; he's an
old hand and he'll know!"

Gilbert's pride was terribly wounded, but his spirits rose a little
later when he found that he would only have to wait twenty minutes in
the Lowell station before a slow train for Greentown would pick him up,
and that he should still reach his destination before bedtime, and need
never disclose his stupidity.

After all, this proved to be his only error, for everything moved
smoothly from that moment, and he was as prudent and successful an
ambassador as Mother Carey could have chosen. He found the Colonel,
whose name was not Foster, by the way, but Wheeler; and the Colonel
would not allow him to go to the Mansion House, Beulah's one small
hotel, but insisted that he should be his guest. That evening he heard
from the Colonel the history of the yellow house, and the next morning
the Colonel drove him to the store of the man who had charge of it
during the owner's absence in Europe, after which Gilbert was conducted
in due form to the premises for a critical examination.

The Yellow House, as Garden Fore-and-Aft seemed destined to be chiefly
called, was indeed the only house of that color for ten miles square. It
had belonged to the various branches of a certain family of Hamiltons
for fifty years or more, but in course of time, when it fell into the
hands of the Lemuel Hamiltons, it had no sort of relation to their mode
of existence. One summer, a year or two before the Careys had seen it,
the sons and daughters had come on from Boston and begged their father
to let them put it in such order that they could take house parties of
young people there for the week end. Mr. Hamilton indulgently allowed
them a certain amount to be expended as they wished, and with the help
of a local carpenter, they succeeded in doing several things to their
own complete satisfaction, though it could not be said that they added
to the value of the property. The house they regarded merely as a
camping-out place, and after they had painted some bedroom floors, set
up some cots, bought a kitchen stove and some pine tables and chairs,
they regarded that part of the difficulty as solved; expending the rest
of the money in turning the dilapidated barn into a place where they
could hold high revels of various innocent sorts. The two freshman sons,
two boarding-school daughters, and a married sister barely old enough to
chaperon her own baby, brought parties of gay young friends with them
several weeks in succession. These excursions were a great delight to
the villagers, who thus enjoyed all the pleasures and excitements of a
circus with none of its attendant expenses. They were of short duration,
however, for Lemuel Hamilton was appointed consul to a foreign port and
took his wife and daughters with him. The married sister died, and in
course of time one of the sons went to China to learn tea-planting and
the other established himself on a ranch in Texas. Thus the Lemuel
Hamiltons were scattered far and wide, and as the Yellow House in Beulah
had small value as real estate and had never played any part in their
lives, it was almost forgotten as the busy years went by.

"Mr. Hamilton told me four years ago, when I went up to Boston to meet
him, that if I could get any rent from respectable parties I might let
the house, though he wouldn't lay out a cent on repairs in order to get
a tenant. But, land! there ain't no call for houses in Beulah, nor
hain't been for twenty years," so Bill Harmon, the storekeeper, told
Gilbert. "The house has got a tight roof and good underpinnin', and if
your folks feel like payin' out a little money for paint 'n' paper you
can fix it up neat's a pin. The Hamilton boys jest raised Cain out in the
barn, so 't you can't keep no critters there."

"We couldn't have a horse or a cow anyway," said Gilbert.

"Well, it's lucky you can't. I could 'a' rented the house twice over if
there'd been any barn room; but them confounded young scalawags ripped
out the horse and cow stalls, cleared away the pig pen, and laid a floor
they could dance on. The barn chamber 's full o' their stuff, so 't no
hay can go in; altogether there ain't any nameable kind of a fool-trick
them young varmints didn't play on these premises. When a farmer's
lookin' for a home for his family and stock 't ain't no use to show him
a dance hall. The only dancin' a Maine farmer ever does is dancin' round
to git his livin' out o' the earth;--that keeps his feet flyin',
fast enough."

"Well," said Gilbert, "I think if you can put the rent cheap enough so
that we could make the necessary repairs, I _think_ my mother would
consider it."

"Would you want it for more 'n this summer?" asked Mr. Harmon.

"Oh! yes, we want to live here!"

"_Want to live here_!" exclaimed the astonished Harmon. "Well, it's been
a long time sence we heard anybody say that, eh, Colonel?

"Well now, sonny" (Gilbert did wish that respect for budding manhood
could be stretched a little further in this locality), "I tell you what,
I ain't goin' to stick no fancy price on these premises--"

"It wouldn't be any use," said Gilbert boldly. "My father has died
within a year; there are four of us beside my mother, and there's a
cousin, too, who is dependent on us. We have nothing but a small pension
and the interest on five thousand dollars life insurance. Mother says we
must go away from all our friends, live cheaply, and do our own work
until Nancy, Kitty, and I grow old enough to earn something."

Colonel Wheeler and Mr. Harmon both liked Gilbert Carey at sight, and as
he stood there uttering his boyish confidences with great friendliness
and complete candor, both men would have been glad to meet him halfway.

"Well, Harmon, it seems to me we shall get some good neighbors if we can
make terms with Mrs. Carey," said the Colonel. "If you'll fix a
reasonable figure I'll undertake to write to Hamilton and interest him
in the affair."

"All right. Now, Colonel, I'd like to make a proposition right on the
spot, before you, and you can advise sonny, here. You see Lem has got
his taxes to pay,--they're small, of course, but they're an
expense,--and he'd ought to carry a little insurance on his buildings,
tho' he ain't had any up to now. On the other hand, if he can get a
tenant that'll put on a few shingles and clapboards now and then, or a
coat o' paint 'n' a roll o' wall paper, his premises won't go to rack
'n' ruin same's they're in danger o' doin' at the present time. Now,
sonny, would your mother feel like keepin' up things a little mite if we
should say sixty dollars a year rent, payable monthly or quarterly as is
convenient?"

Gilbert's head swam and his eyes beheld such myriads of stars that he
felt it must be night instead of day. The rent of the Charlestown house
was seven hundred dollars a year, and the last words of his mother had
been to the effect that two hundred was the limit he must offer for the
yellow house, as she did not see clearly at the moment how they could
afford even that sum.

"What would be your advice, Colonel?" stammered the boy.

"I think sixty dollars is not exorbitant," the Colonel answered calmly
(he had seen Beulah real estate fall a peg a year for twenty successive
years), "though naturally you cannot pay that sum and make any
extravagant repairs."

"Then I will take the house," Gilbert remarked largely. "My mother left
the matter of rent to my judgment, and we will pay promptly in advance.
Shall I sign any papers?"

"Land o' Goshen! the marks your little fist would make on a paper
wouldn't cut much of a figure in a court o' law!" chuckled old Harmon.
"You jest let the Colonel fix up matters with your ma."

"Can I walk back, Colonel?" asked Gilbert, trying to preserve some
dignity under the storekeeper's attacks. "I'd like to take some
measurements and make some sketches of the rooms for my mother."

"All right," the Colonel responded. "Your train doesn't go till two
o'clock. I'll give you a bite of lunch and take you to the station."


If Mother Carey had watched Gilbert during the next half-hour she would
have been gratified, for every moment of the time he grew more and more
into the likeness of the head of a family. He looked at the cellar, at
the shed, at the closets and cupboards all over the house, and at the
fireplaces. He "paced off" all the rooms and set down their proportions
in his note-book; he even decided as to who should occupy each room, and
for what purposes they should be used, his judgment in every case being
thought ridiculous by the feminine portion of his family when they
looked at his plans. Then he locked the doors carefully with a fine
sense of ownership and strolled away with many a backward look and
thought at the yellow house.

At the station he sent a telegram to his mother. Nancy had secretly
given him thirty-five cents when he left home. "I am hoarding for the
Admiral's Christmas present," she whispered, "but it's no use, I cannot
endure the suspense about the house a moment longer than is necessary.
Just telegraph us yes or no, and we shall get the news four hours before
your train arrives. One can die several times in four hours, and I'm
going to commit one last extravagance,--at the Admiral's expense!"

At three o'clock on Saturday afternoon a telegraph boy came through the
gate and rang the front door bell.

"You go, Kitty, I haven't the courage!" said Nancy, sitting down on the
sofa heavily. A moment later the two girls and Peter (who for once
didn't count) gazed at their mother breathlessly as she opened the
envelope. Her face lighted as she read aloud:--


  "_Victory perches on my banners. Have accomplished all I went for_.
    GILBERT."

"Hurrah!" cried both girls. "The yellow house is the House of Carey
forevermore."

"Will Peter go too?" asked the youngest Carey eagerly, his nose
quivering as it always did in excitement, when it became an animated
question point.

"I should think he would," exclaimed Kitty, clasping him in her arms.
"What would the yellow house be without Peter?"

"I wish Gilbert wouldn't talk about _his_ banners," said Nancy
critically, as she looked at the telegram over her mother's shoulder.
"They're not his banners at all, they're ours,--Carey banners; that's
what they are!"

Mother Carey had wished the same thing, but hoped that Nancy had not
noticed the Gilbertian flaw in the telegram.



X

THE CAREYS' FLITTING


The Charlestown house was now put immediately into the hands of several
agents, for Mrs. Carey's lease had still four years to run and she was
naturally anxious to escape from this financial responsibility as soon
as possible. As a matter of fact only three days elapsed before she
obtained a tenant, and the agent had easily secured an advance of a
hundred dollars a year to the good, as Captain Carey had obtained a very
favorable figure when he took the house.

It was the beginning of April, and letters from Colonel Wheeler had
already asked instructions about having the vegetable garden ploughed.
It was finally decided that the girls should leave their spring term of
school unfinished, and that the family should move to Beulah during
Gilbert's Easter vacation.

Mother Carey gave due reflection to the interrupted studies, but
concluded that for two girls like Nancy and Kathleen the making of a new
home would be more instructive and inspiring, and more fruitful in its
results, than weeks of book learning.

Youth delights in change, in the prospect of new scenes and fresh
adventures, and as it is never troubled by any doubts as to the wisdom
of its plans, the Carey children were full of vigor and energy just now.
Charlestown, the old house, the daily life, all had grown sad and dreary
to them since father had gone. Everything spoke of him. Even mother
longed for something to lift her thought out of the past and give it
wings, so that it might fly into the future and find some hope and
comfort there. There was a continual bustle from morning till night, and
a spirit of merriment that had long been absent.

The Scotch have a much prettier word than we for all this, and what we
term moving they call "flitting." The word is not only prettier, but in
this instance more appropriate. It was such a buoyant, youthful affair,
this Carey flitting. Light forms darted up and down the stairs and past
the windows, appearing now at the back, now at the front of the house,
with a picture, or a postage stamp, or a dish, or a penwiper, or a
pillow, or a basket, or a spool. The chorus of "Where shall we put this,
Muddy?" "Where will this go?" "May we throw this away?" would have
distracted a less patient parent. When Gilbert returned from school at
four, the air was filled with sounds of hammering and sawing and filing,
screwing and unscrewing, and it was joy unspeakable to be obliged (or at
least almost obliged) to call in clarion tones to one another, across
the din and fanfare, and to compel answers in a high key. Peter took a
constant succession of articles to the shed, where packing was going on,
but his chief treasures were deposited in a basket at the front gate,
with the idea that they would be transported as his personal baggage.
The pile grew and grew: a woolly lamb, two Noah's arks, bottles and
marbles innumerable, a bag of pebbles, a broken steam engine, two china
nest-eggs, an orange, a banana and some walnuts, a fishing line, a
trowel, a ball of string. These give an idea of the quality of Peter's
effects, but not of the quantity.

Ellen the cook labored loyally, for it was her last week's work with the
family. She would be left behind, like Charlestown and all the old life,
when Mother Carey and the stormy petrels flitted across unknown waters
from one haven to another. Joanna having earlier proved utterly
unromantic in her attitude, Nancy went further with Ellen and gave her
an English novel called, "The Merriweathers," in which an old family
servant had not only followed her employers from castle to hovel,
remaining there without Wages for years, but had insisted on lending all
her savings to the Mistress of the Manor. Ellen the cook had loved "The
Merriweathers," saying it was about the best book that ever she had
read, and Miss Nancy would like to know, always being so interested,
that she (Ellen) had found a place near Joanna in Salem, where she was
offered five dollars a month more than she had received with the Careys.
Nancy congratulated her warmly and then, tearing "The Merriweathers" to
shreds, she put them in the kitchen stove in Ellen's temporary absence.
"If ever I write a book," she ejaculated, as she "stoked" the fire with
Gwendolen and Reginald Merriweather, with the Mistress of the Manor, and
especially with the romantic family servitor, "if ever I write a book,"
she repeated, with emphatic gestures, "it won't have any fibs in
it;--and I suppose it will be dull," she reflected, as she remembered
how she had wept when the Merriweathers' Bridget brought her savings of
a hundred pounds to her mistress in a handkerchief.

During these preparations for the flitting Nancy had a fresh idea every
minute or two, and gained immense prestige in the family.

Inspired by her eldest daughter Mrs. Carey sold her grand piano, getting
an old-fashioned square one and a hundred and fifty dollars in exchange.
It had been a wedding present from a good old uncle, who, if he had been
still alive, would have been glad to serve his niece now that she was in
difficulties.

Nancy, her sleeves rolled up, her curly hair flecked with dust and
cobwebs, flew down from the attic into Kathleen's room just after
supper. "I have an idea!" she said in a loud whisper.

"You mustn't have too many or we shan't take any interest in them,"
Kitty answered provokingly.

"This is for your ears alone, Kitty!"

"Oh! that's different. Tell me quickly."

"It's an idea to get rid of the Curse of the House of Carey!"

"It can't be done, Nancy; you know it can't! Even if you could think out
a way, mother couldn't be made to agree."

"She must never know. I would not think of mixing up a good lovely woman
like mother in such an affair!"

This was said so mysteriously that Kathleen almost suspected that
bloodshed was included in Nancy's plan. It must be explained that when
young Ensign Carey and Margaret Gilbert had been married, Cousin Ann
Chadwick had presented them with four tall black and white marble mantel
ornaments shaped like funeral urns; and then, feeling that she had not
yet shown her approval of the match sufficiently, she purchased a large
group of clay statuary entitled You Dirty Boy.

The Careys had moved often, like all naval families, but even when their
other goods and chattels were stored, Cousin Ann generously managed to
defray the expense of sending on to them the mantel ornaments and the
Dirty Boy. "I know what your home is to you," she used to say to them,
"and how you must miss your ornaments. If I have chanced to give you
things as unwieldy as they are handsome, I ought to see that you have
them around you without trouble or expense, and I will!"

So for sixteen years, save for a brief respite when the family was in
the Philippines, their existence was blighted by these hated objects.
Once when they had given an especially beautiful party for the Admiral,
Captain Carey had carried the whole lot to the attic, but Cousin Ann
arrived unexpectedly in the middle of the afternoon, and Nancy, with the
aid of Gilbert and Joanna, had brought them down the back way and put
them in the dining room.

"You've taken the ornaments out of the parlor, I see," Cousin Ann said
at the dinner table. "It's rather nice for a change, and after all,
perhaps you spend as much time in this room as in any, and entertain as
much company here!"

Cousin Ann always had been, always would be, a frequent visitor, for she
was devoted to the family in her own peculiar way; what therefore could
Nancy be proposing to do with the Carey Curse?

"Listen, my good girl," Nancy now said to Kathleen, after she had closed
the door. "Thou dost know that the china-packer comes early to-morrow
morn, and that e'en now the barrels and boxes and excelsior are
bestrewing the dining room?"

"Yes."

"Then you and I, who have been brought up under the shadow of those
funeral urns, and have seen that tidy mother scrubbing the ears of that
unwilling boy ever since we were born,--you and I, or thou and I,
perhaps I should say, will do a little private packing before the true
packer arriveth."

"Still do I not see the point, wench!" said the puzzled Kathleen, trying
to model her conversation on Nancy's, though she was never thoroughly
successful.

"Don't call me 'wench,' because I am the mistress and you my tiring
woman, but when you Watch, and assist me, at the packing, a great light
will break upon you," Nancy answered "In the removal of cherished
articles from Charlestown to Beulah, certain tragedies will occur,
certain accidents will happen, although Cousin Ann knows that the Carey
family is a well regulated one. But if there are accidents, and _there
will be_, my good girl, then the authors of them will be forever unknown
to all but thou and I. Wouldst prefer to pack this midnight or at cock
crow, for packing is our task!"

"I simply hate cock crow, and you know it," said Kathleen testily. "Why
not now? Ellen and Gilbert are out and mother is rocking Peter
to sleep."

"Very well; come on; and step softly. It won't take long, because I have
planned all in secret, well and thoroughly. Don't puff and blow like
that! Mother will hear you!"

"I'm excited," whispered Kathleen as they stole down the back stairs and
went into the parlor for the funeral urns, which they carried silently
to the dining room. These safely deposited, they took You Dirty Boy from
its abominable pedestal of Mexican onyx (also Cousin Ann's gift) and
staggered under its heavyweight, their natural strength being
considerably sapped by suppressed laughter.

Nancy chose an especially large and stout barrel. They put a little
(very little) excelsior in the bottom, then a pair of dumb-bells, then a
funeral urn, then a little hay, and another funeral urn, crosswise. The
spaces between were carelessly filled in with Indian clubs. On these
they painfully dropped You Dirty Boy, and on top of him the other pair
of funeral urns, more dumbbells, and another Indian club. They had
packed the barrel in the corner where it stood, so they simply laid the
cover on top and threw a piece of sacking carelessly over it. The whole
performance had been punctuated with such hysterical laughter from
Kathleen that she was too weak to be of any real use,--she simply aided
and abetted the chief conspirator. The night was not as other nights.
The girls kept waking up to laugh a little, then they went to sleep, and
waked again, and laughed again, and so on. Nancy composed several
letters to her Cousin Ann dated from Beulah and explaining the sad
accident that had occurred. As she concocted these documents between her
naps she could never remember in her whole life any such night of mirth
and minstrelsy, and not one pang of conscience interfered, to cloud the
present joy nor dim that anticipation which is even greater.

Nancy was downstairs early next morning and managed to be the one to
greet the china-packers. "We filled one barrel last evening," she
explained to them. "Will you please head that up before you begin work?"
which one of the men obligingly did.

"We'll mark all this stuff and take it down to the station this
afternoon," said the head packer to Mrs. Carey.

"Be careful with it, won't you?" she begged. "We are very fond of our
glass and china, our clocks and all our little treasures."

"You won't have any breakage so long as you deal with James Perkins &
Co.!" said the packer.

Nancy went back into the room for a moment to speak with the skilful,
virtuous J.P. & Co. "There's no need to use any care with that corner
barrel," she said carelessly. "It has nothing of value in it!"

James Perkins went home in the middle of the afternoon and left his son
to finish the work, and the son tagged and labelled and painted with all
his might. The Dirty Boy barrel in the corner, being separated from the
others, looked to him especially important, so he gave particular
attention to that; pasted on it one label marked "Fragile," one "This
Side Up," two "Glass with Care," and finding several "Perishables" in
his pocket tied on a few of those, and removed the entire lot of boxes,
crates, and barrels to the freight depot.

The man who put the articles in the car was much interested in the Dirty
Boy barrel. "You'd ought to have walked to Greentown and carried that
one in your arms," he jeered. "What is the precious thing, anyway?"

"Don't you mind what it is," responded young Perkins. "Jest you keep
everybody 'n' everything from teching it! Does this lot o' stuff have to
be shifted 'tween here and Greentown?"

"No; not unless we git kind o' dull and turn it upside down jest for
fun."

"I guess you're dull consid'able often, by the way things look when you
git through carryin' 'em, on this line," said Perkins, who had no
opinion of the freight department of the A.&B. The answer, though not
proper to record in this place, was worthy of Perkins's opponent, who
had a standing grudge against the entire race of expressmen and carters
who brought him boxes and barrels to handle. It always seemed to him
that if they were all out of the country or dead he would have no
work to do.



XI

THE SERVICE ON THE THRESHOLD


From this point on, the flitting went easily and smoothly enough, and
the transportation of the Carey family itself to Greentown, on a mild
budding day in April, was nothing compared to the heavy labor that had
preceded it. All the goods and chattels had been despatched a week
before, so that they would be on the spot well in advance, and the
actual flitting took place on a Friday, so that Gilbert would have every
hour of his vacation to assist in the settling process. He had accepted
an invitation to visit a school friend at Easter, saying to his mother
magisterially: "I didn't suppose you'd want me round the house when you
were getting things to rights; men are always in the way; so I told Fred
Bascom I'd go home with him."

"Home with Fred! Our only man! Sole prop of the House of Carey!"
exclaimed his mother with consummate tact. "Why, Gilly dear, I shall
want your advice every hour! And who will know about the planting,--for
we are only 'women folks'; and who will do all the hammering and
carpenter work? You are so wonderful with tools that you'll be worth all
the rest of us put together!"

"Oh, well, if you need me so much as that I'll go along, of course,"
said Gilbert, "but Fred said his mother and sisters always did this kind
of thing by themselves."

"'By themselves,' in Fred's family," remarked Mrs. Carey, "means a
butler, footman, and plenty of money for help of every sort. And though
no wonder you're fond of Fred, who is so jolly and such good company,
you must have noticed how selfish he is!"

"Now, mother, you've never seen Fred Bascom more than half a dozen
times!"

"No; and I don't remember at all what I saw in him the last five of
them, for I found out everything needful the first time he came to visit
us!" returned Mrs. Carey quietly. "Still, he's a likable, agreeable
sort of boy."

"And no doubt he'll succeed in destroying the pig in him before he grows
up," said Nancy, passing through the room. "I thought it gobbled and
snuffled a good deal when we last met!"

Colonel Wheeler was at Greentown station when the family arrived, and
drove Mrs. Carey and Peter to the Yellow House himself, while the rest
followed in the depot carryall, with a trail of trunks and packages
following on behind in an express wagon. It was a very early season, the
roads were free from mud, the trees were budding, and the young grass
showed green on all the sunny slopes. When the Careys had first seen
their future home they had entered the village from the west, the Yellow
House being the last one on the elm-shaded street, and quite on the
outskirts of Beulah itself. Now they crossed the river below the station
and drove through East Beulah, over a road unknown to any of them but
Gilbert, who was the hero and instructor of the party. Soon the
well-remembered house came into view, and as the two vehicles had kept
one behind the other there was a general cheer.

It was more beautiful even than they had remembered it; and more
commodious, and more delightfully situated. The barn door was open,
showing crates of furniture, and the piazza was piled high with boxes.

Bill Harmon stood in the front doorway, smiling. He hoped for trade, and
he was a good sort anyway.

"I'd about given you up to-night," he called as he came to the gate.
"Your train's half an hour late. I got tired o' waitin', so I made free
to open up some o' your things for you to start housekeepin' with. I
guess there won't be no supper here for you to-night."

"We've got it with us," said Nancy joyously, making acquaintance in an
instant.

"You _are_ forehanded, ain't you! That's right!--jump, you little pint
o' cider!" Bill said, holding out his arms to Peter. Peter, carrying
many small things too valuable to trust to others, jumped, as suggested,
and gave his new friend an unexpected shower of bumps from hard
substances concealed about his person.

"Land o' Goshen, you're _loaded_, hain't you?" he inquired jocosely as
he set Peter down on the ground.

The dazzling smile with which Peter greeted this supposed tribute
converted Bill Harmon at once into a victim and slave. Little did he
know, as he carelessly stood there at the wagon wheel, that he was
destined to bestow upon that small boy offerings from his stock for
years to come.

He and Colonel Wheeler were speedily lifting things from the carryall,
while the Careys walked up the pathway together, thrilling with the
excitement of the moment. Nancy breathed hard, flushed, and caught her
mother's hand.

"O Motherdy!" she said under her breath; "it's all happening just as we
dreamed it, and now that it's really here it's like--it's like--a
dedication,--somehow. Gilbert, don't, dear! Let mother step over the
sill first and call us into the Yellow House! I'll lock the door again
and give the key to her."

Mother Carey, her heart in her throat, felt anew the solemn nature of
the undertaking. It broke over her in waves, fresher, stronger, now that
the actual moment had arrived, than it ever had done in prospect. She
took the last step upward, and standing in the doorway, trembling, said
softly as she turned the key, "Come home, children! Nancy! Gilbert!
Kathleen! Peter-bird!" They flocked in, all their laughter hushed by the
new tone in her voice. Nancy's and Kitty's arms encircled their mother's
waist. Gilbert with sudden instinct took off his hat, and Peter, looking
at his elder brother wonderingly, did the same. There was a moment of
silence; the kind of golden silence that is full to the brim of thoughts
and prayers and memories and hopes and desires,--so full of all these
and other beautiful, quiet things that it makes speech seem poor and
shabby; then Mother Carey turned, and the Yellow House was blessed.
Colonel Wheeler and Bill Harmon at the gate never even suspected that
there had been a little service on the threshold, when they came up the
pathway to see if there was anything more needed.

"I set up all the bedsteads and got the mattresses on 'em," said Bill
Harmon, "thinkin' the sandman would come early to-night."

"I never heard of anything so kind and neighborly!" cried Mrs. Carey
gratefully. "I thought we should have to go somewhere else to sleep. Is
it you who keeps the village store?"

"That's me!" said Bill.

"Well, if you'll be good enough to come back once more to-night with a
little of everything, we'll be very much obliged. We have an oil stove,
tea and coffee, tinned meats, bread and fruit; what we need most is
butter, eggs, milk, and flour. Gilbert, open the box of eatables,
please; and, Nancy, unlock the trunk that has the bed linen in it. We
little thought we should find such friends here, did we?"

"I got your extension table into the dining-room," said Bill, "and tried
my best to find your dishes, but I didn't make out, up to the time you
got here. Mebbe you marked 'em someway so't you know which to unpack
first? I was only findin' things that wan't no present use, as I guess
you'll say when you see 'em on the dining table."

They all followed him as he threw open the door, Nancy well in the
front, as I fear was generally the case. There, on the centre of the
table stood You Dirty Boy rearing his crested head in triumph, and round
him like the gate posts of a mausoleum stood the four black and white
marble funeral urns. Perfect and entire, without a flaw, they stood
there, confronting Nancy.

"It is like them to be the first to greet us!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey,
with an attempt at a smile, but there was not a sound from Kathleen or
Nancy. They stood rooted to the floor, gazing at the Curse of the House
of Carey as if their eyes must deceive them.

"You look as though you didn't expect to see them, girls!" said their
mother, "but when did they ever fail us?--Do you know, I have a courage
at this moment that I never felt before?--Beulah is so far from Buffalo
that Cousin Ann cannot visit us often, and never without warning. I
should not like to offend her or hurt her feelings, but I think we'll
keep You Dirty Boy and the mantel ornaments in the attic for the
present, or the barn chamber. What do you say?"

Colonel Wheeler and Mr. Harmon had departed, so a shout of agreement
went up from the young Careys. Nancy approached You Dirty Boy with a
bloodthirsty glare in her eye.

"Come along, you evil, uncanny thing!" she said. "Take hold of his other
end, Gilly, and start for the barn; that's farthest away; but it's no
use; he's just like that bloodstain on Lady Macbeth's hand,--he will not
out! Kathleen, open the linen trunk while we're gone. We can't set the
table till these curses are removed. When you've got the linen out, take
a marble urn in each hand and trail them along to where we are. You can
track us by a line of my tears!"

They found the stairs to the barn chamber, and lifted You Dirty Boy up
step by step with slow, painful effort. Kathleen ran out and put two
vases on the lowest step and ran back to the house for the other pair.
Gilbert and Nancy stood at the top of the stairs with You Dirty Boy
between them, settling where he could be easiest reached if he had to be
brought down for any occasion,--an unwelcome occasion that was certain
to occur sometime in the coming years.

Suddenly they heard their names called in a tragic whisper! "_Gilbert!
Nancy! Quick! Cousin Ann's at the front gate_!"

There was a crash! No human being, however self-contained, could have
withstood the shock of that surprise; coming as it did so swiftly, so
unexpectedly, and with such awful inappropriateness. Gilbert and Nancy
let go of You Dirty Boy simultaneously, and he fell to the floor in two
large fragments, the break occurring so happily that the mother and the
washcloth were on one half, and the boy on the other,--a situation long
desired by the boy, to whom the parting was most welcome!

"She got off at the wrong station," panted Kathleen at the foot of the
stairs, "and had to be driven five miles, or she would have got here as
she planned, an hour before we did. She's come to help us settle, and
says she was afraid mother would overdo. Did you drop anything? Hurry
down, and I'll leave the vases here, in among the furniture; or shall I
take back two of them to show that they were our first thought?--And oh!
I forgot. She's brought Julia! Two more to feed, and not enough beds!"

Nancy and Gilbert confronted each other.

"Hide the body in the corner, Gilly," said Nancy; "and say, Gilly--"

"Yes, what?"

"You see he's in two pieces?"

"Yes."

"_What do you say to making him four, or more_?"

"I say you go downstairs ahead of me and into the house, and I follow
you a moment later! Close the barn door carefully behind you!--Am I
understood?"

"You are, Gilly! understood, and gloried in, and reverenced. My spirit
will be with you when you do it, Gilly dear, though I myself will be
greeting Cousin Ann and Julia!"



XII

COUSIN ANN


Mother Carey, not wishing to make any larger number of persons
uncomfortable than necessary, had asked Julia not to come to them until
after the house in Beulah had been put to rights; but the Fergusons went
abroad rather unexpectedly, and Mr. Ferguson tore Julia from the arms of
Gladys and put her on the train with very little formality. Her meeting
Cousin Ann on the way was merely one of those unpleasant coincidences
with which life is filled, although it is hardly possible, usually, for
two such disagreeable persons to be on the same small spot at the same
precise moment.

On the third morning after the Careys' arrival, however, matters assumed
a more hopeful attitude, for Cousin Ann became discontented with Beulah.
The weather had turned cold, and the fireplaces, so long unused, were
uniformly smoky. Cousin Ann's stomach, always delicate, turned from
tinned meats, eggs three times a day, and soda biscuits made by Bill
Harmon's wife; likewise did it turn from nuts, apples, oranges, and
bananas, on which the children thrived; so she went to the so-called
hotel for her meals. Her remarks to the landlady after two dinners and
one supper were of a character not to be endured by any outspoken,
free-born New England woman.

"I keep a hotel, and I'll give you your meals for twenty-five cents
apiece so long as you eat what's set before you and hold your tongue,"
was the irate Mrs. Buck's ultimatum. "I'll feed you," she continued
passionately, "because it's my business to put up and take in anything
that's respectable; but I won't take none o' your sass!"

Well, Cousin Ann's temper was up, too, by this time, and she declined on
her part to take any of the landlady's "sass"; so they parted, rather to
Mrs. Carey's embarrassment, as she did not wish to make enemies at the
outset. That night Cousin Ann, still smarting under the memory of Mrs.
Buck's snapping eyes, high color, and unbridled tongue, complained after
supper that her bedstead rocked whenever she moved, and asked Gilbert if
he could readjust it in some way, so that it should be as stationary as
beds usually are in a normal state.

He took his tool basket and went upstairs obediently, spending fifteen
or twenty minutes with the much-criticised article of furniture, which
he suspected of rocking merely because it couldn't bear Cousin Ann. This
idea so delighted Nancy that she was obliged to retire from Gilbert's
proximity, lest the family should observe her mirth and Gilbert's and
impute undue importance to it.

"I've done everything to the bedstead I can think of," Gilbert said, on
coming downstairs. "You can see how it works to-night, Cousin Ann!"

As a matter of fact it _did_ work, instead of remaining in perfect quiet
as a well-bred bedstead should. When the family was sound asleep at
midnight a loud crash was heard, and Cousin Ann, throwing open the door
of her room, speedily informed everybody in the house that her bed had
come down with her, giving her nerves a shock from which they probably
would never recover.

"Gilbert is far too young for the responsibilities you put upon him,
Margaret," Cousin Ann exclaimed, drawing her wrapper more closely over
her tall spare figure; "and if he was as old as Methuselah he would
still be careless, for he was born so! All this talk about his being
skilful with tools has only swollen his vanity. A boy of his age should
be able to make a bedstead stay together."

The whole family, including the crestfallen Gilbert, proposed various
plans of relief, all except Nancy, who did not wish to meet Gilbert's
glance for fear that she should have to suspect him of a new crime.
Having embarked on a career of villainy under her direct instigation, he
might go on of his own accord, indefinitely. She did not believe him
guilty, but she preferred not to look into the matter more closely.

Mother Carey's eyes searched Gilbert's, but found there no confirmation
of her fears.

"You needn't look at me like that, mother," said the boy. "I wouldn't be
so mean as to rig up an accident for Cousin Ann, though I'd like her to
have a little one every night, just for the fun of it."

Cousin Ann refused to let Gilbert try again on the bedstead, and refused
part of Mrs. Carey's bed, preferring to sleep on two hair mattresses
laid on her bedroom floor. "They may not be comfortable," she said
tersely, "but at least they will not endanger my life."

The next morning's post brought business letters, and Cousin Ann feared
she would have to leave Beulah, although there was work for a fortnight
to come, right there, and Margaret had not strength enough to get
through it alone.

She thought the chimneys were full of soot, and didn't believe the
kitchen stove would ever draw; she was sure that there were dead toads
and frogs in the well; the house was inconvenient and always would be
till water was brought into the kitchen sink; Julia seemed to have no
leaning towards housework and had an appetite that she could only
describe as a crime, inasmuch as the wherewithal to satisfy it had to be
purchased by others; the climate was damp because of the river, and
there was no proper market within eight miles; Kathleen was too delicate
to live in such a place, and the move from Charlestown was an utter and
absolute and entire mistake from A to Z.

Then she packed her small trunk and Gilbert ran to the village on glad
and winged feet to get some one to take his depressing relative to the
noon train to Boston. As for Nancy, she stood in front of the parlor
fireplace, and when she heard the hoot of the engine in the distance she
removed the four mortuary vases from the mantelpiece and took them to
the attic, while Gilbert from the upper hall was chanting a favorite
old rhyme:--

  "She called us names till she was tired,
  She called us names till we perspired,
  She called us names we never could spell,
  She called us names we never may tell.

  "She called us names that made us laugh,
  She called us names for a day and a half,
  She called us names till her memory failed,
  But finally out of our sight she sailed."

"It must have been written about Cousin Ann in the first place," said
Nancy, joining Kathleen in the kitchen. "Well, she's gone at last!

  "Now every prospect pleases,
    And only Julia's vile,"

she paraphrased from the old hymn, into Kathleen's private ear.

"You oughtn't to say such things, Nancy," rebuked Kathleen. "Mother
wouldn't like it."

"I know it," confessed Nancy remorsefully. "I have been wicked since the
moment I tried to get rid of You Dirty Boy. I don't know what's the
matter with me. My blood seems to be too red, and it courses wildly
through my veins, as the books say. I am going to turn over a new leaf,
now that Cousin Ann's gone and our only cross is Julia!"

Oh! but it is rather dreadful to think how one person can spoil the
world! If only you could have seen the Yellow House after Cousin Ana
went! If only you could have heard the hotel landlady exclaim as she
drove past: "Well! Good riddance to bad rubbish!" The weather grew
warmer outside almost at once, and Bill Harmon's son planted the garden.
The fireplaces ceased to smoke and the kitchen stove drew. Colonel
Wheeler suggested a new chain pump instead of the old wooden one, after
which the water took a turn for the better, and before the month was
ended the Yellow House began to look like home, notwithstanding Julia.

As for Beulah village, after its sleep of months under deep snow-drifts
it had waked into the adorable beauty of an early New England summer. It
had no snow-capped mountains in the distance; no amethyst foothills to
enchain the eye; no wonderful canyons and splendid rocky passes to make
the tourist marvel; no length of yellow sea sands nor plash of ocean
surf; no trade, no amusements, no summer visitors;--it was just a quiet,
little, sunny, verdant, leafy piece of heart's content, that's what
Beulah was, and Julia couldn't spoil it; indeed, the odds were, that it
would sweeten Julia! That was what Mother Carey hoped when her heart had
an hour's leisure to drift beyond Shiny Wall into Peacepool and consider
the needs of her five children. It was generally at twilight, when she
was getting Peter to sleep, that she was busiest making "old beasts
into new."

"People fancy that I make things, my little dear," says Mother Carey to
Tom the Water Baby, "but I sit here and make them make themselves!"

There was once a fairy, so the tale goes, who was so clever that she
found out how to make butterflies, and she was so proud that she flew
straight off to Peacepool to boast to Mother Carey of her skill.

But Mother Carey laughed.

"Know, silly child," she said, "that any one can make things if he will
take time and trouble enough, but it is not every one who can make
things make themselves."

"Make things make themselves!" Mother Carey used to think in the
twilight. "I suppose that is what mothers are for!"

Nancy was making herself busily these days, and the offending Julia was
directly responsible for such self-control and gains in general virtue
as poor impetuous Nancy achieved. Kathleen was growing stronger and
steadier and less self-conscious. Gilbert was doing better at school,
and his letters showed more consideration and thought for the family
than they had done heretofore. Even the Peter-bird was a little sweeter
and more self-helpful just now, thought Mother Carey fondly, as she
rocked him to sleep. He was worn out with following Natty Harmon at the
plough, and succumbed quickly to the music of her good-night song and
the comfort of her sheltering arms. Mother Carey had arms to carry, arms
to enfold, arms to comfort and caress. She also had a fine, handsome,
strong hand admirable for spanking, but she had so many invisible
methods of discipline at her command that she never needed a visible
spanker for Peter. "Spanking is all very well in its poor way," she used
to say, "but a woman who has to fall back on it very often is sadly
lacking in ingenuity."

As she lifted Peter into his crib Nancy came softly in at the door with
a slip of paper in her hand.

She drew her mother out to the window over the front door. "Listen," she
said. "Do you hear the frogs?"

"I've been listening to them for the last half-hour," her mother said.
"Isn't everything sweet to-night, with the soft air and the elms all
feathered out, and the new moon!"

"Was it ever so green before?" Nancy wondered, leaning over the
window-sill by her mother's side. "Were the trees ever so lace-y? Was
any river ever so clear, or any moon so yellow? I am so sorry for the
city people tonight! Sometimes I think it can't be so beautiful here as
it looks, mother. Sometimes I wonder if part of the beauty isn't inside
of us!" said Nancy.

"Part of all beauty is in the eyes that look at, it," her mother
answered.

"And I've been reading Mrs. Harmon's new reference Bible," Nancy
continued, "and here is what it says about Beulah."

She held the paper to the waning light and read: "_Thou shalt no more be
termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate ...
but it shall be called Beulah, for the Lord delighteth in thee_.

"I think father would be comforted if he could see us all in the Yellow
House at Beulah!" Nancy went on softly as the two leaned out of the
window together. "He was so loving, so careful of us, so afraid that
anything should trouble us, that for months I couldn't think of him,
even in heaven, as anything but worried. But now it seems just as if we
were over the hardest time and could learn to live here in Beulah; and
so he must be comforted if he can see us or think about us at
all;--don't you feel like that, mother?"

Yes, her mother agreed gently, and her heart was grateful and full of
hope. She had lost the father of her children and the dear companion of
her life, and that loss could never be made good. Still her mind
acknowledged the riches she possessed in her children, so she confessed
herself neither desolate nor forsaken, but something in a humble human
way that the Lord could take delight in.



XIII

THE PINK OF PERFECTION


That was the only trouble with Allan Carey's little daughter Julia, aged
thirteen; she was, and always had been, the pink of perfection. As a
baby she had always been exemplary, eating heartily and sleeping
soundly. When she felt a pin in her flannel petticoat she deemed it
discourteous to cry, because she knew that her nurse had at least tried
to dress her properly. When awake, her mental machinery moved slowly and
without any jerks. As to her moral machinery, the angels must have set
it going at birth and planned it in such a way that it could neither
stop nor go wrong. It was well meant, of course, but probably the angels
who had the matter in charge were new, young, inexperienced angels, with
vague ideas of human nature and inexact knowledge of God's intentions;
because a child that has no capability of doing the wrong thing will
hardly be able to manage a right one; not one of the big sort, anyway.

At four or five years old Julia was always spoken of as "such a good
little girl." Many a time had Nancy in early youth stamped her foot and
cried: "Don't talk about Julia! I will not hear about Julia!" for she
was always held up as a pattern of excellence. Truth to tell she bored
her own mother terribly; but that is not strange, for by a curious freak
of nature, Mrs. Allan Carey was as flighty and capricious and
irresponsible and gay and naughty as Julia was steady, limited, narrow,
conventional, and dull; but the flighty mother passed out of the Carey
family life, and Julia, from the age of five onward, fell into the
charge of a pious, unimaginative governess, instead of being turned out
to pasture with a lot of frolicsome young human creatures; so at
thirteen she had apparently settled--hard, solid, and firm--into a
mould. She had smooth fair hair, pale blue eyes, thin lips, and a
somewhat too plump shape for her years. She was always tidy and wore her
clothes well, laying enormous stress upon their material and style, this
trait in her character having been added under the fostering influence
of the wealthy and fashionable Gladys Ferguson. At thirteen, when Julia
joined the flock of Carey chickens, she had the air of belonging to
quite another order of beings. They had been through a discipline seldom
suffered by "only children." They had had to divide apples and toys,
take turns at reading books, and learn generally to trot in double
harness. If Nancy had a new dress at Christmas, Kathleen had a new hat
in the spring. Gilbert heard the cry of "Low bridge!" very often after
Kathleen appeared on the scene, and Kathleen's ears, too, grew well
accustomed to the same phrase after Peter was born.

"Julia never did a naughty thing in her life, nor spoke a wrong word,"
said her father once, proudly.

"Never mind, she's only ten, and there's hope for her yet," Captain
Carey had replied cheerfully; though if he had known her a little later,
in her first Beulah days, he might not have been so sanguine. She seemed
to have no instinct of adapting herself to the family life, standing
just a little aloof and in an attitude of silent criticism. She was a
trig, smug prig, Nancy said, delighting in her accidental muster of
three short, hard, descriptive words. She hadn't a bit of humor, no fun,
no gayety, no generous enthusiasms that carried her too far for safety
or propriety. She brought with her to Beulah sheaves of school
certificates, and when she showed them to Gilbert with their hundred per
cent deportment and ninety-eight and seven-eighths per cent scholarship
every month for years, he went out behind the barn and kicked its
foundations savagely for several minutes. She was a sort of continual
Sunday child, with an air of church and cold dinner and sermon-reading
and hymn-singing and early bed. Nobody could fear, as for some
impulsive, reckless little creature, that she would come to a bad end.
Nancy said no one could imagine her as coming to anything, not even
an end!

"You never let mother hear you say these things, Nancy," Kathleen
remarked once, "but really and truly it's just as bad to say them at
all, when you know she wouldn't approve."

"My present object is to be as good as gold in mother's eyes, but there
I stop!" retorted Nancy cheerfully. "Pretty soon I shall get virtuous
enough to go a step further and endeavor to please the angels,--not
Julia's cast-iron angels, but the other angels, who understand and are
patient, because they remember our frames and know that being dust we
are likely to be dusty once in a while. Julia wasn't made of dust. She
was made of--let me see--of skim milk and baked custard (the watery
kind) and rice flour and gelatine, with a very little piece of overripe
banana,--not enough to flavor, just enough to sicken. Stir this up with
weak barley water without putting In a trace of salt, sugar, spice, or
pepper, set it in a cool oven, take it out before it is done, and you
will get Julia."

Nancy was triumphant over this recipe for making Julias, only regretting
that she could never show it to her mother, who, if critical, was always
most appreciative. She did send it in a letter to the Admiral, off in
China, and he, being "none too good for human nature's daily food,"
enjoyed it hugely and never scolded her at all.

Julia's only conversation at this time was on matters concerning Gladys
Ferguson and the Ferguson family. When you are washing dishes in the
sink of the Yellow House in Beulah it is very irritating to hear of
Gladys Ferguson's mother-of-pearl opera glasses, her French maid, her
breakfast on a tray in bed, her diamond ring, her photograph in the
Sunday "Times," her travels abroad, her proficiency in French
and German.

"Don't trot Gladys into the kitchen, for goodness' sake, Julia!"
grumbled Nancy on a warm day. "I don't want her diamond ring in my
dishwater. Wait till Sunday, when we go to the hotel for dinner in our
best clothes, if you must talk about her. You don't wipe the tumblers
dry, nor put them in the proper place, when your mind is full
of Gladys!"

"All right!" said Julia gently. "Only I hope I shall always be able to
wipe dishes and keep my mind on better things at the same time. That's
what Miss Tewksbury told me when she knew I had got to give up my home
luxuries for a long time. 'Don't let poverty drag you down, Julia,' she
said: 'keep your high thoughts and don't let them get soiled with the
grime of daily living.'"

It is only just to say that Nancy was not absolutely destitute of
self-control and politeness, because at this moment she had a really
vicious desire to wash Julia's supercilious face and neat nose with the
dishcloth, fresh from the frying pan. She knew that she could not grasp
those irritating "high thoughts" and apply the grime of daily living to
them concretely and actually, but Julia's face was within her reach, and
Nancy's fingers tingled with desire. No trace of this savage impulse
appeared in her behavior, however; she rinsed the dishpan, turned it
upside down in the sink, and gave the wiping towels to Julia, asking her
to wring them out in hot water and hang them on the barberry bushes,
according to Mrs. Carey's instructions.

"It doesn't seem as if I could!" whimpered Julia. "I have always been so
sensitive, and dish towels are so disgusting! They do _smell_, Nancy!"

"They do," said Nancy sternly, "but they will smell worse if they are
not washed! I give you the dish-wiping and take the washing, just to
save your hands, but you must turn and turn about with Kathleen and me
with some of the ugly, hateful things. If you were company of course we
couldn't let you, but you are a member of the family. Our principal
concern must be to keep mother's 'high thoughts' from grime; ours must
just take their chance!"

Oh! how Julia disliked Nancy at this epoch in their common history; and
how cordially and vigorously the dislike was returned! Many an unhappy
moment did Mother Carey have over the feud, mostly deep and silent, that
went on between these two; and Gilbert's attitude was not much more
hopeful. He had found a timetable or syllabus for the day's doings, over
Julia's washstand. It had been framed under Miss Tewksbury's guidance,
who knew Julia's unpunctuality and lack of system, and read as
follows:--

  _Syllabus_

  Rise at 6.45.
  Bathe and dress.
  Devotional Exercises 7.15.
  Breakfast 7.45.
  Household tasks till 9.
  Exercise out of doors 9 to 10.
  Study 10 to 12.
  Preparations for dinner 12 to 1.
  Recreation 2 to 4.
  Study 4 to 5.
  Preparation for supper 5 to 6.
  Wholesome reading, walking, or conversation 7 to 8.
  Devotional exercises 9.
  Bed 9.30.

There was nothing wrong about this; indeed, it was excellently
conceived; still it appeared to Gilbert as excessively funny, and with
Nancy's help he wrote another syllabus and tacked it over
Julia's bureau.

  _Time Card_

  On waking I can
  Pray for Gilly and Nan;
  Eat breakfast at seven.
  Or ten or eleven,
  Nor think when it's noon
  That luncheon's too soon.
  From twelve until one
  I can munch on a bun.
  At one or at two
  My dinner'll be due.
  At three, say, or four,
  I'll eat a bit more.
  When the clock's striking five
  Some mild exercise,
  Very brief, would be wise,
  Lest I lack appetite
  For my supper at night.
  Don't go to bed late,
  Eat a light lunch at eight,
  Nor forget to say prayers
  For my cousins downstairs.
  Then with conscience like mine
  I'll be sleeping at nine.

Mrs. Carey had a sense of humor, and when the weeping Julia brought the
two documents to her for consideration she had great difficulty in
adjusting the matter gravely and with due sympathy for her niece.

"The F-f-f-fergusons never mentioned my appetite," Julia wailed. "They
were always trying to g-g-get me to eat!"

"Gilbert and Nancy are a little too fond of fun, and a little too prone
to chaffing," said Mrs. Carey. "They forget that you are not used to it,
but I will try to make them more considerate. And don't forget, my dear,
that in a large family like ours we must learn to 'live and let live.'"



XIV

WAYS AND MEANS


It was late June, and Gilbert had returned from school, so the work of
making the Yellow House attractive and convenient was to move forward at
once. Up to now, the unpacking and distribution of the furniture, with
the daily housework and cooking, had been all that Mrs. Carey and the
girls could manage.

A village Jack-of-all-trades, Mr. Ossian Popham, generally and
familiarly called "Osh" Popham, had been called in to whitewash existing
closets and put hooks in them; also, with Bill Harmon's consent, to make
new ones here and there in handy corners. Dozens of shelves in odd
spaces helped much in the tidy stowing away of household articles,
bed-clothing, and stores. In the midst of this delightful and cheery
setting-to-rights a letter arrived from Cousin Ann. The family was all
sitting together in Mrs. Carey's room, the announced intention being to
hold an important meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, the Careys
being strong on ways and uniformly short on means.

The arrival of the letters by the hand of Bill Harmon's boy occurred
before the meeting was called to order.

"May I read Cousin Ann's aloud?" asked Nancy, who had her private
reasons for making the offer.

"Certainly," said Mrs. Carey unsuspectingly, as she took up the
inevitable stocking. "I almost wish you had all been storks instead of
chickens; then you would always have held up one foot, and perhaps that
stocking, at least, wouldn't have had holes in it!"

"Poor Muddy! I'm learning to darn," cried Kathleen, kissing her.

    LONGHAMPTON, NEW JERSEY, _June 27th_.

    MY DEAR MARGARET [so Nancy read],--The climate of this seaside
    place suits me so badly that I have concluded to spend the rest
    of the summer with you, lightening those household tasks which
    will fall so heavily on your shoulders.

[Groans from the whole family greeted this opening passage, and Gilbert
cast himself, face down, on his mother's lounge.]

    It is always foggy here when it does not rain, and the cooking
    is very bad. The manager of the hotel is uncivil and the office
    clerks very rude, so that Beulah, unfortunate place of residence
    as I consider it, will be much preferable.

    I hope you are getting on well with the work on the house,
    although I regard your treating it as if it were your own, as
    the height of extravagance. You will never get back a penny you
    spend on it, and probably when you get it in good order Mr.
    Hamilton will come back from Europe and live in it himself, or
    take it away from you and sell it to some one else.

    Gilbert will be home by now, but I should not allow him to touch
    the woodwork, as he is too careless and unreliable.

["She'll never forget that the bed came down with her!" exclaimed
Gilbert, his voice muffled by the sofa cushions.]

    Remember me to Julia. I hope she enjoys her food better than
    when I was with you. Children must eat if they would grow.

[Mother Carey pricked up her ears at this point, and Gilbert raised
himself on one elbow, but Nancy went on gravely.]

    Tell Kathleen to keep out of the sun, or wear a hat, as her
    complexion is not at all what it used to be. Without color and
    with freckles she will be an unusually plain child.

[Kathleen flushed angrily and laid down her work.]

    Give my love to darling Nancy. What a treasure you have in your
    eldest, Margaret! I hope you are properly grateful for her. Such
    talent, such beauty, such grace, such discretion--

But here the family rose _en masse_ and descended on the reader of the
spurious letter just as she had turned the first page. In the amiable
scuffle that ensued, a blue slip fell from Cousin Ann's envelope and
Gilbert handed it to his mother with the letter.

Mrs. Carey, wiping the tears of merriment that came to her eyes in spite
of her, so exactly had Nancy caught Cousin Ann's epistolary style, read
the real communication, which ran as follows:--

    DEAR MARGARET,--I have had you much in mind since I left you,
    always with great anxiety lest your strength should fail under
    the unexpected strain you put upon it. I had intended to give
    each of you a check for thirty-five dollars at Christmas to
    spend as you liked, but I must say I have not entire confidence
    in your judgment. You will be likelier far to decorate the walls
    of the house than to bring water into the kitchen sink. I
    therefore enclose you three hundred dollars and beg that you
    will have the well piped _at once_, and if there is any way to
    carry the water to the bedroom floor, do it, and let me send the
    extra amount involved. You will naturally have the well cleaned
    out anyway, but I should prefer never to know what you found in
    it. My only other large gift to you in the past was one of
    ornaments, sent, you remember, at the time of your wedding!

["We remember!" groaned the children in chorus.]

    I do not regret this, though my view of life, of its sorrows and
    perplexities, has changed somewhat, and I am more practical than
    I used to be. The general opinion is that in giving for a
    present an object of permanent beauty, your friends think of you
    whenever they look upon it.

["That's so!" remarked Gilbert to Nancy.]

    This is true, no doubt, but there are other ways of making
    yourself remembered, and I am willing that you should think
    kindly of Cousin Ann whenever you use the new pump.

    The second improvement I wish made with the money is the
    instalment of a large furnace-like stove in the cellar, which
    will send up a little heat, at least, into the hall and lower
    rooms in winter. You will probably have to get the owner's
    consent, and I should certainly ask for a five years' lease
    before expending any considerable amount of money on the
    premises.

    If there is any money left, I should suggest new sills to the
    back doors and those in the shed. I noticed that the present
    ones are very rotten, and I dare say by this time you have
    processions of red and black ants coming into your house. It
    seemed to me that I never saw so much insect life as in Beulah.
    Moths, caterpillars, brown-tails, slugs, spiders, June bugs,
    horseflies, and mosquitoes were among the pests I specially
    noted. The Mr. Popham who drove me to the station said that
    snakes also abounded in the tall grass, but I should not lay any
    stress on his remarks, as I never saw such manners in my life in
    any Christian civilized community. He asked me my age, and when
    I naturally made no reply, he inquired after a few minutes'
    silence whether I was unmarried from choice or necessity. When I
    refused to carry on any conversation with him he sang jovial
    songs so audibly that persons going along the street smiled and
    waved their hands to him. I tell you this because you appear to
    have false ideas of the people in Beulah, most of whom seemed to
    me either eccentric or absolutely insane.

    Hoping that you can endure your life there when the water smells
    better and you do not have to carry it from the well, I am

    Yours affectionately,

    ANN CHADWICH.


"Children!" said Mrs. Carey, folding the letter and slipping the check
into the envelope for safety, "your Cousin Ann is really a very
good woman."

"I wish her bed hadn't come down with her," said Gilbert. "We could
never have afforded to get that water into the house, or had the little
furnace, and I suppose, though no one of us ever thought of it, that you
would have had a hard time doing the work in the winter in a cold house,
and it would have been dreadful going to the pump."

"Dreadful for you too, Gilly," replied Kathleen pointedly.

"I shall be at school, where I can't help," said Gilbert.

Mrs. Carey made no remark, as she intended the fact that there was no
money for Gilbert's tuition at Eastover to sink gradually into his mind,
so that he might make the painful discovery himself. His fees had
fortunately been paid in advance up to the end of the summer term, so
the strain on their resources had not been felt up to now.

Nancy had disappeared from the room and now stood in the doorway.

"I wish to remark that, having said a good many disagreeable things
about Cousin Ann, and regretting them very much, I have placed the four
black and white marble ornaments on my bedroom mantelpiece, there to be
a perpetual reminder of my sins. You Dirty Boy is in a hundred pieces in
the barn chamber, but if Cousin Ann ever comes to visit us again, I'll
be the one to confess that Gilly and I were the cause of the accident."

"Now take your pencil, Nancy, and see where we are in point of income,
at the present moment," her mother suggested, with an approving smile.
"Put down the pension of thirty dollars a month."

"Down.--Three hundred and sixty dollars."

"Now the hundred dollars over and above the rent of the Charlestown
house."

"Down; but it lasts only four years."

"We may all be dead by that time." (This cheerfully from Gilbert.)

"Then the interest on our insurance money. Four per cent on five
thousand dollars is two hundred; I have multiplied it twenty times."

"Down.--Two hundred."

"Of course if anything serious happens, or any great need comes, we have
the five thousand to draw upon," interpolated Gilbert.

"I will draw upon that to save one of us in illness or to bury one of
us," said Mrs. Carey with determination, "but I will never live out of
it myself, nor permit you to. We are five,--six, while Julia is with
us," she added hastily,--"and six persons will surely have rainy days
coming to them. What if I should die and leave you?"

"Don't, mother!" they cried in chorus, so passionately that Mrs. Carey
changed the subject quickly. "How much a year does it make, Nancy?"

"Three hundred and sixty plus one hundred plus two hundred equals six
hundred and sixty," read Nancy. "And I call it a splendid big lump
of money!"

"Oh, my dear," sighed her mother with a shake of the head, "if you knew
the difficulty your father and I have had to take care of ourselves and
of you on five and six times that sum! We may have been a little
extravagant sometimes following him about,--he was always so anxious to
have us with him,--but that has been our only luxury."

"We saved enough out of exchanging the grand piano to pay all the
expenses down here, and all our railway fares, and everything so far, in
the way of boards and nails and Osh Popham's labor," recalled Gilbert.

"Yes, and we are still eating the grand piano at the end of two months,
but it's about gone, isn't it, Muddy?" Nancy asked.

"About gone, but it has been a great help, and our dear little
old-fashioned square is just as much of a comfort.--Of course there's
the tapestry and the Van Twiller landscape Uncle gave me; they may
yet be sold."

"Somebody'll buy the tapestry, but the Van Twiller'll go hard," and
Gilbert winked at Nancy.

"A picture that looks just the same upside down as the right way about
won't find many buyers," was Nancy's idea.

"Still it is a Van Twiller, and has a certain authentic value for all
time!"

"The landscapes Van Twiller painted in the dark, or when he had his
blinders on, can't be worth very much," insisted Gilbert. "You remember
the Admiral thought it was partridges nesting in the underbrush at
twilight, and then we found Joanna had cleaned the dining room and hung
the thing upside down. When it was hung the other end up neither father
nor the Admiral could tell what it was; they'd lost the partridges and
couldn't find anything else!"

"We shall get something for it because it is a Van Twiller," said Mrs.
Carey hopefully; "and the tapestry is lovely.--Now we have been doing
all our own work to save money enough to make the house beautiful; yet,
as Cousin Ann says, it does not belong to us and may be taken away at
any moment after the year is up. We have never even seen our landlord,
though Mr. Harmon has written to him. Are we foolish? What do you
think, Julia?"



XV

BELONGING TO BEULAH


The Person without a Fault had been quietly working at her embroidery,
raising her head now and then to look at some extraordinary Carey, when
he or she made some unusually silly or fantastic remark.

"I'm not so old as Gilbert and Nancy, and I'm only a niece," she said
modestly, "so I ought not to have an opinion. But I should get a
maid-of-all-work at once, so that we shouldn't all be drudges as we are
now; then I should not spend a single cent on the house, but just live
here in hiding, as it were, till better times come and till we are old
enough to go into society. You could scrimp and save for Nancy's coming
out, and then for Kathleen's. Father would certainly be well long before
then, and Kathleen and I could debut together!"

"Who wants to 'debut' together or any other way," sniffed Nancy
scornfully. "I'm coming out right here in Beulah; indeed I'm not sure
but I'm out already! Mr. Bill Harmon has asked me to come to the church
sociable and Mr. Popham has invited me to the Red Men's picnic at
Greentown. Beulah's good for something better than a place to hide in!
We'll have to save every penny at first, of course, but in three or four
years Gilly and I ought to be earning something."

"The trouble is, I _can't_ earn anything in college," objected Gilbert,
"though I'd like to."

"That will be the only way a college course can come to you now,
Gilbert," his mother said quietly. "You know nothing of the expenses
involved. They would have taxed our resources to the utmost if father
had lived, and we had had our more than five thousand a year! You and I
together must think out your problem this summer."

Gilbert looked blank and walked to the window with his hands in his
pockets.

"I should lose all my friends, and it's hard for a fellow to make his
way in the world if he has nothing to recommend him but his graduation
from some God-forsaken little hole like Beulah Academy."

Nancy looked as if she could scalp her brother when he alluded to her
beloved village in these terms, but her mother's warning look stopped
any comment.

Julia took up arms for her cousin. "We ought to go without everything
for the sake of sending Gilbert to college," she said. "Gladys Ferguson
doesn't know a single boy who isn't going to Harvard or Yale."

"If a boy of good family and good breeding cannot make friends by his
own personality and his own qualities of mind and character, I should
think he would better go without them," said Gilbert's mother casually.

"Don't you believe in a college education, mother?" inquired Gilbert in
an astonished tone.

"Certainly! Why else should we have made sacrifices to send you? To
begin with, it is much simpler and easier to be educated in college. You
have a thousand helps and encouragements that other fellows have to get
as they may. The paths are all made straight for the students. A stupid
boy, or one with small industry or little originality, must have
_something_ drummed into him in four years, with all the splendid
teaching energy that the colleges employ. It requires a very high grade
of mental and moral power to do without such helps, and it may be that
you are not strong enough to succeed without them;--I do not know your
possibilities yet, Gilbert, and neither do you know them yourself!"

Gilbert looked rather nonplussed. "Pretty stiff, I call it!" he
grumbled, "to say that if you've got brains enough you can do
without college."

"It is true, nevertheless. If you have brains enough, and will enough,
and heart enough, you can stay here in Beulah and make the universe
search you out, and drag you into the open, where men have need of you!"
(Mrs. Carey's eyes shone and her cheeks glowed.) "What we all want as a
family is to keep well and strong and good, in body and mind and soul;
to conquer our weaknesses, to train our gifts, to harness our powers to
some wished-for end, and then _pull_, with all our might. Can't my girls
be fine women, fit for New York or Washington, London or Paris, because
their young days were passed in Beulah? Can't my boys be anything that
their brains and courage fit them for, whether they make their own
associations or have them made for them? Father would never have flung
the burden on your shoulders, Gilbert, but he is no longer here. You
can't have the help of Yale or Harvard or Bowdoin to make a man of you,
my son,--you will have to fight your own battles and win your
own spurs."

"Oh! mother, but you're splendid!" cried Nancy, the quick tears in her
eyes. "Brace up, old Gilly, and show what the Careys can do without
'advantages.' Brace up, Kitty and Julia! We three will make Beulah
Academy ring next year!"

"And I don't want you to look upon Beulah as a place of hiding while
adversity lasts," said Mother Carey. "We must make it home; as beautiful
and complete as we can afford. One real home always makes others, I am
sure of that! We will ask Mr. Harmon to write Mr. Hamilton and see if he
will promise to leave us undisturbed. We cannot be happy, or prosperous,
or useful, or successful, unless we can contrive to make the Yellow
House a home. The river is our river; the village is our village; the
people are our neighbors; Beulah belongs to us and we belong to Beulah,
don't we, Peter?"

Mother Carey always turned to Peter with some nonsensical appeal when
her heart was full and her voice a trifle unsteady. You could bury your
head in Peter's little white sailor jacket just under his chin, at which
he would dimple and gurgle and chuckle and wriggle, and when you
withdrew your flushed face and presented it to the public gaze all the
tears would have been wiped off on Peter.

So on this occasion did Mrs. Carey repeat, as she set Peter down, "Don't
we belong to Beulah, dear?"

"Yes, we does," he lisped, "and I'm going to work myself, pretty soon
bimebye just after a while, when I'm a little more grown up, and then
I'll buy the Yellow House quick."

"So you shall, precious!" cried Kathleen.

"I was measured on Muddy this morning, wasn't I, Muddy, and I was half
way to her belt; and in Charlestown I was only a little farder up than
her knees. All the time I'm growing up she's ungrowing down! She's
smallering and I'm biggering."

"Are you afraid your mother'll be too small, sweet Pete?" asked Mrs.
Carey.

"No!" this very stoutly. "Danny Harmon's mother's more'n up to the
mantelpiece and I'd hate to have my mother so far away!" said Peter as
he embraced Mrs. Carey's knees.

Julia had said little during this long conversation, though her mind was
fairly bristling with objections and negatives and different points of
view, but she was always more or less awed by her Aunt Margaret, and
never dared defy her opinion. She had a real admiration for her aunt's
beauty and dignity and radiant presence, though it is to be feared she
cared less for the qualities of character that made her personality so
luminous with charm for everybody. She saw people look at her, listen to
her, follow her with their eyes, comment on her appearance, her
elegance, and her distinction, and all this impressed her deeply. As to
Cousin Ann's present her most prominent feeling was that it would have
been much better if that lady had followed her original plan of sending
individual thirty-five-dollar checks. In that event she, Julia, was
quite certain that hers never would have gone into a water-pipe or a
door-sill.

"Oh, Kathleen!" sighed Nancy as the two went into the kitchen together.
"Isn't mother the most interesting 'scolder' you ever listened to? I
love to hear her do it, especially when somebody else is getting it.
When it's I, I grow smaller and smaller, curling myself up like a little
worm. Then when she has finished I squirm to the door and wriggle out.
Other mothers say: 'If you don't, I shall tell your father!' 'Do as I
tell you, and ask no questions.' 'I never heard of such behavior in my
life!' 'Haven't you any sense of propriety?' 'If this happens again I
shall have to do something desperate.' 'Leave the room at once,' and so
on; but mother sets you to thinking."

"Mother doesn't really scold," Kathleen objected.

"No, but she shows you how wrong you are, just the same. Did you notice
how Julia _withered_ when mother said we were not to look upon Beulah as
a place of hiding?"

"She didn't stay withered long," Kathleen remarked.

"And she said just the right thing to dear old Gilly, for Fred Bascom is
filling his head with foolish notions. He needs father to set
him right."

"We all need father," sighed Kitty tearfully, "but somehow mother grows
a little more splendid every day. I believe she's trying to fill
father's place and be herself too!"



XVI

THE POST BAG


Letter from Mr. William Harmon, storekeeper at Beulah Corner, to Hon.
Lemuel Hamilton, American Consul at Breslau, Germany.

    Beulah, _June 27th._

    Dear Lem: The folks up to your house want to lay out money on it
    and don't dass for fear you'll turn em out and pocket their
    improvements. If you haint got any better use for the propety
    I advise you to hold on to this bunch of tennants as they are
    O.K. wash goods, all wool, and a yard wide. I woodent like
    Mrs. Harmon _to know how I feel about the lady_, who is
    hansome as a picture and the children are a first class crop and
    no mistake. They will not lay out much at first as they are
    short of cash but if ever good luck comes along they will fit
    up the house like a pallis and your granchildren will reep the
    proffit. I'll look out for your interest and see they don't do
    nothing outlandish. They'd have hard work to beat that
    fool-job your boys did on the old barn, fixin it up so't
    nobody could keep critters in it, so no more from your old
    school frend

    BILL HARMON.

    P.S. We've been having a spell of turrible hot wether in Beulah.
    How is it with you? I never framed it up jest what kind of a
    job an American Counsul's was; but I guess he aint never het
    up with overwork! There was a piece in a Portland paper about
    a Counsul somewhere being fired because he set in his
    shirt-sleeves durin office hours. I says to Col. Wheeler if
    Uncle Sam could keep em all in their shirtsleeves, hustlin for
    dear life, it wood be all the better for him and us!

    BILL.

Letter from Miss Nancy Carey to the Hon. Lemuel Hamilton.

    BEULAH, _June 27th_.

    DEAR MR. HAMILTON,--I am Nancy, the oldest of the Carey
    children, who live in your house. When father was alive, he
    took us on a driving trip, and we stopped and had luncheon
    under your big maple and fell in love with your empty house.
    Father (he was a Captain in the Navy and there was never
    anybody like him in the world!)--Father leaned over the gate
    and said if he was only rich he would drive the horse into the
    barn and buy the place that very day; and mother said it would
    be a beautiful spot to bring up a family. We children had
    wriggled under the fence, and were climbing the apple trees by
    that time, and we wanted to be brought up there that very
    minute. We all of us look back to that day as the happiest one
    that we can remember. Mother laughs when I talk of looking
    back, because I am not sixteen yet, but I think, although we did
    not know it, God knew that father was going to die and we were
    going to live in that very spot afterwards. Father asked us
    what we could do for the place that had been so hospitable to
    us, and I remembered a box of plants in the carryall, that we
    had bought at a wayside nursery, for the flower beds in
    Charlestown. "Plant something!" I said, and father thought it
    was a good idea and took a little crimson rambler rose bush
    from the box. Each of us helped make the place for it by taking
    a turn with the luncheon knives and spoons; then I planted the
    rose and father took off his hat and said, "Three cheers for
    the Yellow House!" and mother added, "God bless it, and the
    children who come to live in it!"--There is surely something
    strange in that, don't you think so? Then when father died
    last year we had to find a cheap and quiet place to live, and
    I remembered the Yellow House in Beulah and told mother my
    idea. She does not say "Bosh!" like some mothers, but if our
    ideas sound like anything she tries them; so she sent Gilbert
    to see if the house was still vacant, and when we found it
    was, we took it. The rent is sixty dollars a year, as I
    suppose Bill Harmon told you when he sent you mother's check
    for fifteen dollars for the first quarter. We think it is very
    reasonable, and do not wonder you don't like to spend anything
    on repairs or improvements for us, as you have to pay taxes
    and insurance. We hope you will have a good deal over for your
    own use out of our rent, as we shouldn't like to feel under
    obligation. If we had a million we'd spend it all on the
    Yellow House, because we are fond of it in the way you are
    fond of a person; it's not only that we want to paint it and
    paper it, but we would like to pat it and squeeze it. If you
    can't live in it yourself, even in the summer, perhaps you
    will be glad to know we love it so much and want to take good
    care of it always. What troubles us is the fear that you will
    take it away or sell it to somebody before Gilbert and I are
    grown up and have earned money enough to buy it. It was Cousin
    Ann that put the idea into our heads, but everybody says it is
    quite likely and sensible. Cousin Ann has made us a splendid
    present of enough money to bring the water from the well into
    the kitchen sink and to put a large stove like a furnace into
    the cellar. We would cut two registers behind the doors in the
    dining-room and sitting-room floors, and two little round
    holes in the ceilings to let the heat up into two bedrooms, if
    you are willing to let us do it. [Mother says that Cousin Ann
    is a good and generous person. It is true, and it makes us
    very unhappy that we cannot really love her on account of her
    being so fault-finding; but you, being an American Consul and
    travelling all over the world, must have seen somebody like
    her.]

    Mr. Harmon is writing to you, but I thought he wouldn't know so
    much about us as I do. We have father's pension; that is three
    hundred and sixty dollars a year; and one hundred dollars a
    year from the Charlestown house, but that only lasts for four
    years; and two hundred dollars a year from the interest on
    father's insurance. That makes six hundred and sixty dollars,
    which is a great deal if you haven't been used to three
    thousand, but does not seem to be enough for a family of six.
    There is the insurance money itself, too, but mother says
    nothing but a very dreadful need must make us touch that. You
    see there are four of us children, which with mother makes
    five, and now there is Julia, which makes six. She is Uncle
    Allan's only child. Uncle Allan has nervous prostration and
    all of mother's money. We are not poor at all, just now, on
    account of having exchanged the grand piano for an
    old-fashioned square and eating up the extra money. It is great
    fun, and whenever we have anything very good for supper
    Kathleen says, "Here goes a piano leg!" and Gilbert says,
    "Let's have an octave of white notes for Sunday supper,
    mother!" I send you a little photograph of the family taken
    together on your side piazza (we call it our piazza, and I hope
    you don't mind). I am the tallest girl, with the curly hair.
    Julia is sitting down in front, hemming. She said we should
    look so idle if somebody didn't do something, but she never
    really hems; and Kathleen is leaning over mother's shoulder.
    We all wanted to lean over mother's shoulder, but Kitty got
    there first. The big boy is Gilbert. He can't go to college
    now, as father intended, and he is very sad and depressed; but
    mother says he has a splendid chance to show what father's son
    can do without any help but his own industry and pluck. Please
    look carefully at the lady sitting in the chair, for it is our
    mother. It is only a snap shot, but you can see how beautiful
    she is. Her hair is very long, and the wave in it is natural.
    The little boy is Peter. He is the loveliest and the dearest
    of all of us. The second picture is of me tying up the crimson
    rambler. I thought you would like to see what a wonderful rose
    it is. I was standing in a chair, training the long branches
    and tacking them against the house, when a gentleman drove by
    with a camera in his wagon. He stopped and took the picture and
    sent us one, explaining that every one admired it. I happened
    to be wearing my yellow muslin, and I am sending you the one
    the gentleman colored, because it is the beautiful crimson of
    the rose against the yellow house that makes people admire it
    so. If you come to America please don't forget Beulah, because
    if you once saw mother you could never bear to disturb her,
    seeing how brave she is, living without father. Admiral
    Southwick, who is in China, calls us Mother Carey's chickens.
    They are stormy petrels, and are supposed to go out over the
    seas and show good birds the way home. We haven't done
    anything splendid yet, but we mean to when the chance comes. I
    haven't told anybody that I am writing this, but I wanted you
    to know everything about us, as you are our landlord. We could
    be so happy if Cousin Ann wouldn't always say we are spending
    money on another person's house and such a silly performance
    never came to any good.

    I enclose you a little picture cut from the wall paper we want
    to put on the front hall, hoping you will like it. The old
    paper is hanging in shreds and some of the plaster is loose,
    but Mr. Popham will make it all right. Mother says she feels
    as if he had pasted laughter and good nature on all the walls
    as he papered them. When you open the front door (and we hope
    you will, sometime, and walk right in!) how lovely it will be
    to look into yellow hayfields! And isn't the boatful of people
    coming to the haymaking, nice, with the bright shirts of the
    men and the women's scarlet aprons? Don't you love the white
    horse in the haycart, and the jolly party picnicking under the
    tree? Mother says just think of buying so much joy and color
    for twenty cents a double roll; and we children think we shall
    never get tired of sitting on the stairs in cold weather and
    making believe it is haying time. Gilbert says we are putting
    another grand piano leg on the walls, but we are not, for we are
    doing all our own cooking and dishwashing and saving the money
    that a cook would cost, to do lovely things for the Yellow
    House. Thank you, dearest Mr. Hamilton, for letting us live in
    it. We are very proud of the circular steps and very proud of
    your being an American consul.

    Yours affectionately,

    NANCY CAREY.

    P.S. It is June, and Beulah is so beautiful you feel like eating
    it with sugar and cream! We do hope that you and your children
    are living in as sweet a place, so that you will not miss this
    one so much. We know you have five, older than we are, but if
    there are any the right size for me to send my love to, please
    do it. Mother would wish to be remembered to Mrs. Hamilton,
    but she will never know I am writing to you. It is my first
    business letter.

    N.C.



XVII

JACK OF ALL TRADES


Mr. Ossian (otherwise "Osh") Popham was covering the hall of the Yellow
House with the hayfield paper. Bill Harmon's father had left
considerable stock of one sort and another in the great unfinished attic
over the store, and though much of it was worthless, and all of it was
out of date, it seemed probable that it would eventually be sold to the
Careys, who had the most unlimited ingenuity in making bricks without
straw, when it came to house decoration. They had always moved from post
to pillar and Dan to Beersheba, and had always, inside of a week, had
the prettiest and most delightful habitation in the naval colony where
they found themselves. Beulah itself, as well as all the surrounding
country, had looked upon the golden hayfield paper and scorned it as
ugly and countrified; never suspecting that, in its day, it had been
made in France and cost a dollar and a half a roll. It had been imported
for a governor's house, and only half of it used, so for thirty years
the other half had waited for the Careys. There always are Careys and
their like, and plenty of them, in every generation, so old things, if
they are good, need never be discouraged.

Mr. Popham never worked at his bricklaying or carpentering or cabinet
making or papering by the hour, but "by the job"; and a kind Providence,
intent on the welfare of the community, must have guided him in this
choice of business methods, for he talked so much more than he worked,
that unless householders were well-to-do, the rights of employer and
employee could never have been adjusted. If they were rich no one of
them would have stopped Ossian's conversation for a second. In the first
place it was even better than his work, which was always good, and in
the second place he would never consent to go to any one, unless he
could talk as much as he liked. The Careys loved him, all but Julia, who
pronounced him "common" and said Miss Tewksbury told her never to listen
to anyone who said "I done it" or "I seen it." To this Nancy replied
(her mother being in the garden, and she herself not yet started on a
line of conduct arranged to please the angels) that Miss Tewksbury and
Julia ought to have a little corner of heaven finished off for
themselves; and Julia made a rude, distinct, hideous "face" at Nancy. I
have always dated the beginning of Julia's final transformation from
this critical moment, when the old Adam in her began to work. It was
good for Nancy too, who would have trodden on Julia so long as she was
an irritating but patient, well-behaved worm; but who would have to use
a little care if the worm showed signs of turning.

"Your tongue is like a bread knife, Nancy Carey!" Julia exclaimed
passionately, after twisting her nose and mouth into terrifying and
dreadful shapes. "If it wasn't that Miss Tewksbury told me ladies never
were telltales, I could soon make trouble between you and your
blessed mother."

"No, you couldn't," said Nancy curtly, "for I'd reform sooner than let
you do that!--Perhaps I did say too much, Julia, only I can't bear to
have you make game of Mr. Popham when he's so funny and nice. Think of
his living with nagging Mrs. Popham and his stupid daughter and son in
that tiny house, and being happy as a king."

"If there wasn't something wrong with him he wouldn't _be_ happy there,"
insisted Julia.

Mr. Popham himself accounted for his contentment without insulting his
intelligence. "The way I look at it," he said, "this world's all the
world we'll git till we git to the next one; an' we might's well smile
on it, 's frown! You git your piece o' life an' you make what you can of
it;--that's the idee! Now the other day I got some nice soft wood that
was prime for whittlin'; jest the right color an' grain an' all, an' I
started in to make a little statue o' the Duke o' Wellington. Well, when
I got to shapin' him out, I found my piece o' wood wouldn't be long
enough to give him his height; so I says, 'Well, I don't care, I'll cut
the Duke right down and make Napoleon Bonaparte.' I'd 'a' been all right
if I'd cal'lated better, but I cut my block off too short, and I
couldn't make Napoleon nohow; so I says, 'Well, Isaac Watts was an awful
short man, so I guess I'll make him!' But this time my wood split right
in two. Some men would 'a' been discouraged, but I wasn't, not a mite; I
jest said, 'I never did fancy Ike Watts, an' there's one thing this
blamed chip _will_ make, an' that's a button for the barn door!'"

Osh not only whittled and papered and painted, but did anything
whatsoever that needed to be done on the premises. If the pump refused
to draw water, or the sink drain was stopped, or the gutters needed
cleaning, or the grass had to be mowed, he was the man ordained by
Providence and his own versatility to do the work. While he was papering
the front hall the entire Carey family lived on the stairs between
meals, fearful lest they should lose any incident, any anecdote, any
story, any reminiscence that might fall from his lips. Mrs. Carey took
her mending basket and sat in the doorway, within ear shot, while Peter
had all the scraps of paper and a small pasting board on the steps,
where he conducted his private enterprises.

Osh would cut his length of paper, lay it flat on the board, and apply
the wide brush up and down neatly while he began his story. Sometimes if
the tale were long and interesting the paste would dry, but in that case
he went over the surface again. At the precise moment of hanging, the
flow of his eloquence stopped abruptly and his hearers had to wait until
the piece was finished before they learned what finally became of Lyddy
Brown after she drove her husband ou' doors, or of Bill Harmon's bull
terrier, who set an entire community quarreling among themselves. His
racy accounts of Mrs. Popham's pessimism, which had grown prodigiously
from living in the house with his optimism; his anecdotes of Lallie Joy
Popham, who was given to moods, having inherited portions of her
father's incurable hopefulness, and fragments of her mother's
ineradicable gloom,--these were of a character that made the finishing
of the hall a matter of profound unimportance.

"I ain't one to hurry," he would say genially; "that's the reason I
won't work by the hour or by the day. We've got one 'hurrier' in the
family, and that's enough for Lallie Joy 'n' me! Mis' Popham does
everything right on the dot, an' Lallie Joy 'n' me git turrible sick o'
seein' that dot, 'n' hevin' our 'tention drawed to it if we _don't_ see
it. Mis' Bill Harmon's another 'hurrier,'--well, you jest ask Bill,
that's all! She an' Mis' Popham hev been at it for fifteen years, but
the village ain't ready to give out the blue ribbon yet. Last week my
wife went over to Harmon's and Mis' Harmon said she was goin' to make
some molasses candy that mornin'. Well, my wife hurried home, put on her
molasses, made her candy, cooled it and worked it, and took some over to
treat Mis' Harmon, who was jest gittin' her kittle out from under
the sink!"

The Careys laughed heartily at this evidence of Mrs. Popham's celerity,
while Osh, as pleased as possible, gave one dab with his paste brush and
went on:--

"Maria's blood was up one while, 'cause Mis' Bill Harmon always
contrives to git her wash out the earliest of a Monday morning.
Yesterday Maria got up 'bout daybreak (I allers tell her if she was real
forehanded she'd eat her breakfast overnight), and by half past five she
hed her clothes in the boiler. Jest as she was lookin' out the kitchen
winder for signs o' Mis' Bill Harmon, she seen her start for her side
door with a big basket. Maria was so mad then that she vowed she
wouldn't be beat, so she dug for the bedroom and slat some clean sheets
and piller cases out of a bureau drawer, run into the yard, and I'm
blamed if she didn't get 'em over the line afore Mis' Harmon found her
clothespins!"

Good old Osh! He hadn't had such an audience for years, for Beulah knew
all its own stories thoroughly, and although it valued them highly it
did not care to hear them too often; but the Careys were absolutely
fresh material, and such good, appreciative listeners! Mrs. Carey looked
so handsome when she wiped the tears of enjoyment from her eyes that Osh
told Bill Harmon if 't wa'n't agin the law you would want to kiss her
every time she laughed.

Well, the hall papering was, luckily, to be paid for, not by the hour,
but by an incredibly small price per roll, and everybody was pleased.
Nancy, Kathleen, and Julia sat on the stairs preparing a whiteweed and
buttercup border for the spare bedroom according to a plan of Mother
Carey's. It was an affair of time, as it involved the delicate cutting
out of daisy garlands from a wider bordering filled with flowers of
other colors, and proved a fascinating occupation.

Gilbert hovered on the outskirts of the hall, doing odd jobs of one sort
and another and learning bits of every trade at which Mr. Popham
was expert.

"If we hadn't been in such a sweat to git settled," remarked Osh with a
clip of his big shears, "I really'd ought to have plastered this front
entry all over! 'T wa'n't callin' for paper half's loud as 't was for
plaster. Old Parson Bradley hed been a farmer afore he turned minister,
and one Sunday mornin' his parish was thornin' him to pray for rain, so
he says: 'Thou knowest, O Lord! it's manure this land wants, 'n' not
water, but in Thy mercy send rain plenteously upon us.'"

"Mr. Popham," said Gilbert, who had been patiently awaiting his
opportunity, "the pieces of paper are cut for those narrow places each
side of the front door. Can't I paste those on while you talk to us?"

"'Course you can, handy as you be with tools! There ain't no trick to
it. Most anybody can be a paperer. As Parson Bradley said when he was
talkin' to a Sunday-school during a presidential campaign: 'One of you
boys perhaps can be a George Washington and another may rise to be a
Thomas Jefferson; any of you, the Lord knows, can be a James K. Polk!'"

"I don't know much about Polk," said Gilbert.

"P'raps nobody did very much, but the parson hated him like p'ison. See
here, Peter, I ain't _made_ o' paste! You've used up 'bout a quart
a'ready! What are you doin' out there anyway? I've heerd o' paintin' the
town,--I guess you're paperin' it, ain't you?"

Peter was too busy and too eager for paste to reply, the facts of the
case being that while Mr. Popham held the family spellbound by his
conversation, he himself was papering the outside of the house with
scraps of assorted paper as high up as his short arms could reach.

"There's another thing you can do, Gilbert," continued Mr. Popham. "I've
mixed a pail o' that green paint same as your mother wanted, an' I've
brought you a tip-top brush. The settin' room has a good nice floor;
matched boards, no hummocks nor hollers,--all as flat's one of my wife's
pancakes,--an' not a knot hole in it anywheres. You jest put your first
coat on, brushin' lengthways o' the boards, and let it dry good. Don't
let your folks go stepping on it, neither. The minute a floor's painted
women folks are crazy to git int' the room. They want their black
alpacky that's in the closet, an' the lookin' glass that's on the
mantelpiece, or the feather duster that's hangin' on the winder, an'
will you jest pass out the broom that's behind the door? The next
mornin' you'll find lots o' little spots where they've tiptoed in to see
if the paint's dry an' how it's goin' to look. Where I work, they most
allers say it's the cat,--well! that answer may deceive some folks, but
't wouldn't me.--Don't slop your paint, Gilbert; work quick an' neat an'
even; then paintin' ain't no trick 't all. Any fool, the Lord knows, can
pick up that trade!--Now I guess it's about noon time, an' I'll have to
be diggin' for home. Maria sets down an' looks at the clock from half
past eleven on. She'll git a meal o' cold pork 'n' greens, cold string
beans, gingerbread, 'n' custard pie on t' the table; then she'll stan'
in the front door an' holler: 'Hurry up, Ossian! it's struck twelve more
'n two minutes ago, 'n' everything 's gittin' overdone!'"

So saying he took off his overalls, seized his hat, and with a parting
salute was off down the road, singing his favorite song. I can give you
the words and the time, but alas! I cannot print Osh Popham's dauntless
spirit and serene content, nor his cheery voice as he travelled with
tolerable swiftness to meet his waiting Maria.

  Here comes a maid-en full of woe.
  Hi-dum-di-dum did-dy-i-o!
  Here comes a maid-en full of woe.
  Hi der-ry O!
  Here comes a maid-en full of woe,
  As full of woe as she can go!
  Hi dum did-dy i
  O! Hi der-ry O!



XVIII

THE HOUSE OF LORDS


The Carey children had only found it by accident. All their errands took
them down the main street to the village; to the Popham's cottage at the
foot of a little lane turning towards the river, or on to the
post-office and Bill Harmon's store, or to Colonel Wheeler's house and
then to the railway station. One afternoon Nancy and Kathleen had walked
up the road in search of pastures new, and had spied down in a distant
hollow a gloomy grey house almost surrounded by cedars. A grove of
poplars to the left of it only made the prospect more depressing, and if
it had not been for a great sheet of water near by, floating with cow
lilies and pond lilies, the whole aspect of the place would have been
unspeakably dreary.

Nancy asked Mr. Popham who lived in the grey house behind the cedars,
and when he told them a certain Mr. Henry Lord, his two children and
housekeeper, they fell into the habit of speaking of the place as the
House of Lords.

"You won't never see nothin' of 'em," said Mr. Popham. "Henry Lord ain't
never darkened the village for years, I guess, and the young ones ain't
never been to school so far; they have a teacher out from Portland
Tuesdays and Fridays, and the rest o' the week they study up for him.
Henry's 'bout as much of a hermit's if he lived in a hut on a mounting,
an' he's bringing up the children so they'll be jest as odd's he is."

"Is the mother dead?" Mrs. Carey asked.

"Yes, dead these four years, an' a good job for her, too. It's an awful
queer world! Not that I could make a better one! I allers say, when
folks grumble, 'Now if you was given the materials, could you turn out a
better world than this is? And when it come to that, what if you hed to
furnish your _own_ materials, same as the Lord did! I guess you'd be put
to it!'--Well, as I say, it's an awful queer world; they clap all the
burglars into jail, and the murderers and the wife-beaters (I've allers
thought a gentle reproof would be enough punishment for a wife-beater,
'cause he probably has a lot o' provocation that nobody knows), and the
firebugs (can't think o' the right name--something like cendenaries),
an' the breakers o' the peace, an' what not; an' yet the law has nothin'
to say to a man like Hen Lord! He's been a college professor, but I went
to school with him, darn his picter, an' I'll call him Hen whenever I
git a chance, though he does declare he's a doctor."

"Doctor of what?" asked Mrs. Carey.

"Blamed if I know! I wouldn't trust him to doctor a sick cat."

"People don't have to be doctors of medicine," interrupted Gilbert.
"Grandfather was Alexander Carey, LL.D.,--Doctor of Laws, that is."

Mr. Popham laid down his brush. "I swan to man!" he ejaculated. "If you
don't work hard you can't keep up with the times! Doctor of Laws! Well,
all I can say is they _need_ doctorin', an' I'm glad they've got round
to 'em; only Hen Lord ain't the man to do 'em any good."

"What has he done to make him so unpopular?" queried Mrs. Carey.

"Done? He ain't done a thing he'd oughter sence he was born. He keeps
the thou shalt not commandments first rate, Hen Lord does! He neglected
his wife and froze her blood and frightened her to death, poor little
shadder! He give up his position and shut the family up in that tomb of
a house so 't he could study his books. My boy knows his boy, an' I tell
you the life he leads them children is enough to make your flesh creep.
When I git roun' to it I cal'late to set the house on fire some night.
Mebbe I'd be lucky enough to ketch Hen too, an' if so, nobody in the
village'd wear mournin'! So fur, I can't get Maria's consent to be a
cendenary. She says she can't spare me long enough to go to jail; she
needs me to work durin' the summer, an' in the winter time she'd hev
nobody to jaw, if I was in the lockup." This information was delivered
in the intervals of covering the guest chamber walls with a delightful
white moire paper which Osh always alluded to as the "white maria,"
whether in memory of his wife's Christian name or because his French
accent was not up to the mark, no one could say.

Mr. Popham exaggerated nothing, but on the contrary left much unsaid in
his narrative of the family at the House of Lords. Henry Lord, with the
degree of Ph.D. to his credit, had been Professor of Zoology at a New
England college, but had resigned his post in order to write a series of
scientific text books. Always irritable, cold, indifferent, he had grown
rapidly more so as years went on. Had his pale, timid wife been a rosy,
plucky tyrant, things might have gone otherwise, but the only memories
the two children possessed were of bitter words and reproaches on their
father's side, and of tears and sad looks on their mother's part. Then
the poor little shadow of a woman dropped wearily into her grave, and a
certain elderly Mrs. Bangs, with grey hair and firm chin, came to keep
house and do the work.

A lonelier creature than Olive Lord at sixteen could hardly be imagined.
She was a tiny thing for her years, with a little white oval face and
peaked chin, pronounced eyebrows, beautifully arched, and a mass of
tangled, untidy dark hair. Her only interests in life were her younger
brother Cyril, delicate and timid, and in continual terror of his
father,--and a passion for drawing and sketching that was fairly
devouring in its intensity. When she was ten she "drew" the cat and the
dog, the hens and chickens, and colored the sketches with the paints her
mother provided. Whatever appealed to her sense of beauty was
straightway transferred to paper or canvas. Then for the three years
before her mother's death there had been surreptitious lessons from a
Portland teacher, paid for out of Mr. Lord's house allowance; for one of
his chief faults was an incredible parsimony, amounting almost to
miserliness.

"Something terrible will happen to Olive if she isn't taught to use her
talent," Mrs. Lord pleaded to her husband. "She is wild to know how to
do things. She makes effort after effort, trembling with eagerness, and
when she fails to reproduce what she sees, she works herself into a
frenzy of grief and disappointment."

"You'd better give her lessons in self-control," Mr. Lord answered.
"They are cheaper than instruction in drawing, and much more practical."

So Olive lived and struggled and grew; and luckily her talent was such a
passion that no circumstances could crush or extinguish it. She worked,
discovering laws and making rules for herself, since she had no helpers.
When she could not make a rabbit or a bird look "real" on paper, she
searched in her father's books for pictures of its bones. "If I could
only know what it is like _inside_, Cyril," she said, "perhaps its
_outside_ wouldn't look so flat! O! Cyril, there must be some better way
of doing; I just draw the outline of an animal and then I put hairs or
feathers on it. They have no bodies. They couldn't run nor move; they're
just pasteboard."

"Why don't you do flowers and houses, Olive?" inquired Cyril
solicitously. "And people paint fruit, and dead fish on platters, and
pitchers of lemonade with ice in,--why don't you try things like those?"

"I suppose they're easier," Olive returned with a sigh, "but who could
bear to do them when there are living, breathing, moving things; things
that puzzle you by looking different every minute? No, I'll keep on
trying, and when you get a little older we'll run away together and live
and learn things by ourselves, in some place where father can never
find us!"

"He wouldn't search, so don't worry," replied Cyril quietly, and the two
looked at each other and knew that it was so.

There, in the cedar hollow, then, lived Olive Lord, an angry, resentful,
little creature weighed down by a fierce sense of injury. Her gloomy
young heart was visited by frequent storms and she looked as unlovable
as she was unloved. But Nancy Carey, never shy, and as eager to give
herself as people always are who are born and bred in joy and love,
Nancy hopped out of Mother Carey's warm nest one day, and fixing her
bright eyes and sunny, hopeful glance on the lonely, frowning little
neighbor, stretched out her hand in friendship. Olive's mournful black
eyes met Nancy's sparkling brown ones. Her hand, so marvellously full of
skill, had never held another's, and she was desperately self-conscious;
but magnetism flowed from Nancy as electric currents from a battery. She
drew Olive to her by some unknown force and held her fast, not realizing
at the moment that she was getting as much as she gave.

The first interview, purely a casual one, took place on the edge of the
lily pond where Olive was sketching frogs, and where Nancy went for
cat-o'-nine-tails. It proved to be a long and intimate talk, and when
Mrs. Carey looked out of her bedroom window just before supper she saw,
at the pasture bars, the two girls with their arms round each other and
their cheeks close together. Nancy's curly chestnut crop shone in the
sun, and Olive's thick black plaits looked blacker by contrast. Suddenly
she flung her arms round Nancy's neck, and with a sob darted under the
bars and across the fields without a backward glance.

A few moments later Nancy entered her mother's room, her arms filled
with treasures from the woods and fields. "Oh, Motherdy!" she cried,
laying down her flowers and taking off her hat. "I've found such a
friend; a real understanding friend; and it's the girl from the House of
Lords. She's wonderful! More wonderful than anybody we've ever seen
anywhere, and she draws better than the teacher in Charlestown! She's
older than I am, but so tiny and sad and shy that she seems like a
child. Oh, mother, there's always so much spare room in your heart,--for
you took in Julia and yet we never felt the difference,--won't you make
a place for Olive? There never was anybody needed you so much as she
does,--never."

Have you ever lifted a stone and seen the pale, yellow, stunted shoots
of grass under it? And have you gone next day and next, and watched the
little blades shoot upward, spread themselves with delight, grow green
and wax strong; and finally, warm with the sun, cool with the dew,
vigorous with the flow of sap in their veins, seen them wave their green
tips in the breeze? That was what happened to Olive Lord when she and
Cyril were drawn into a different family circle, and ran in and out of
the Yellow House with the busy, eager group of Mother Carey's chickens.



XIX

OLD AND NEW


The Yellow House had not always belonged to the Hamiltons, but had been
built by a governor of the state when he retired from public office. He
lived only a few years, and it then passed into the hands of Lemuel
Hamilton's grandfather, who had done little or nothing in the way of
remodelling the buildings.

Governor Weatherby had harbored no extraordinary ambition regarding
architectural excellence, for he was not a rich man; he had simply built
a large, comfortable Colonial house. He desired no gardens, no luxurious
stables, no fountains nor grottoes, no bathroom (for it was only the
year 1810), while the old oaken bucket left nothing to be desired as a
means of dispensing water to the household. He had one weakness,
however, and that was a wish to make the front of the house as
impressive as possible. The window over the front door was as beautiful
a window as any in the county, and the doorway itself was celebrated
throughout the state. It had a wonderful fan light and side lights,
green blind doors outside of the white painted one with its massive
brass knocker, and still more unique and impressive, it had for its
approach, semi-circular stone steps instead of the usual oblong ones.
The large blocks of granite had been cut so that each of the four steps
should be smaller than the one below it; and when, after months of
gossip and suspense, they were finally laid in place, their straight
edges towards the house and their expensive curved sides to the road, a
procession of curious persons in wagons, carryalls, buggies, and gigs
wound their way past the premises. The governor's "circ'lar steps"
brought many pilgrims down the main street of Beulah first and last, and
the original Hamiltons had been very proud of them. Pride (of such
simple things as stone steps) had died out of the Hamilton stock in the
course of years, and the house had been so long vacant that no one but
Lemuel, the Consul, remembered any of its charming features; but Ossian
Popham, when he pried up and straightened the ancient landmarks, had
much to say of the wonderful steps.

"There's so much goin' on now-a-days," he complained, as he puffed and
pried and strained, and rested in between, "that young ones won't amount
to nothin', fust thing you know. My boy Digby says to me this mornin',
when I asked him if he was goin' to the County Fair 'No, Pop, I ain't
goin',' he says, 'it's the same old fair every year.' Land sakes! when I
was a boy, 'bout once a month, in warm weather, I used to ask father if
I could walk to the other end o' the village and look at the governor's
circ'lar steps; that used to be the liveliest entertainment parents
could think up for their young ones, an' it _was_ a heap livelier than
two sermons of a Sunday, each of 'em an hour and fifteen minutes long."

Digby, a lad of eighteen and master of only one trade instead of a
dozen, like his father, had been deputed to paper Mother Carey's bedroom
while she moved for a few days into the newly fitted guest room, which
was almost too beautiful to sleep in, with its white satiny walls, its
yellow and green garlands hanging from the ceiling, its yellow floor,
and its old white chamber set repainted by the faithful and
clever Popham.

The chintz parlor, once Governor Weatherby's study, was finished too,
and the whole family looked in at the doors a dozen times a day with
admiring exclamations. It had six doors, opening into two entries, one
small bedroom, one sitting room, one cellar, and one china closet; a
passion for entrances and exits having been the whim of that generation.
If the truth were known, Nancy had once lighted her candle and slipped
downstairs at midnight to sit on the parlor sofa and feast her eyes on
the room's loveliness. Gilbert had painted the white matting the color
of a ripe cherry. Mrs. Popham had washed and ironed and fluted the old
white ruffled muslin curtains from the Charlestown home, and they
adorned the four windows. It was the north room, on the left as you
entered the house, and would be closed during the cold winter months, so
it was fitted entirely for summer use and comfort. The old-fashioned
square piano looked in its element placed across one corner, with the
four tall silver candlesticks and snuffer tray on the shining mahogany.
All the shabbiest furniture, and the Carey furniture was mostly shabby,
was covered with a cheap, gay chintz, and crimson Jacqueminot roses
clambered all over the wall paper, so that the room was a cool bower
of beauty.

On the other side of the hall were the double parlors of the governor's
time, made into a great living room. Here was Gilbert's green painted
floor, smooth and glossy, with braided rugs bought from neighbors in
East Beulah; here all the old-fashioned Gilbert furniture that the
Careys had kept during their many wanderings; here all the quaint chairs
that Mr. Bill Harmon could pick up at a small price; here were two noble
fireplaces, one with a crane and iron pot filled with flowers, the other
filled sometimes with sprays of green asparagus and sometimes with
fragrant hemlock boughs. The paper was one in which green rushes and
cat-o'-nine-tails grew on a fawn-colored ground, and anything that the
Careys did not possess for the family sitting room Ossian Popham went
straight home and made in his barn. He could make a barrel-chair or an
hour-glass table, a box lounge and the mattress to put on top of it, or
a low table for games and puzzles, or a window seat. He could polish the
piano and then sit down to it and play "Those Tassels on Her Boots" or
"Marching through Georgia" with great skill. He could paint bunches of
gold grapes and leaves on the old-fashioned high-backed rocker, and, as
soon as it was dry, could sit down in it and entertain the whole family
without charging them a penny.

The housewarming could not be until the later autumn, Mrs. Carey had
decided, for although most of the living rooms could be finished, Cousin
Ann's expensive improvements were not to be set in motion until Bill
Harmon heard from Mr. Hamilton that his tenants were not to be disturbed
for at least three years.

The house, which was daily growing into a home, was full of the busy hum
of labor from top to bottom and from morning till night, and there was
hardly a moment when Mother Carey and the girls were not transporting
articles of furniture through the rooms, and up and down the staircases,
to see how they would look somewhere else. This, indeed, had been the
diversion of their simple life for many years, and was just as
delightful, in their opinion, as buying new things. Any Carey, from
mother down to Peter, would spring from his chair at any moment and
assist any other Carey to move a sofa, a bureau, a piano, a kitchen
stove, if necessary, with the view of determining if it would add a new
zest to life in a different position.

Not a word has been said thus far about the Yellow House barn, the barn
that the "fool Hamilton boys" (according to Bill Harmon's theories) had
converted from a place of practical usefulness and possible gain, into
something that would "make a cat laugh"; but it really needs a chapter
to itself. You remember that Dr. Holmes says of certain majestic and
dignified trees that they ought to have a Christian name, like other
folks? The barn, in the same way, deserves more distinction than a
paragraph, but at this moment it was being used as a storeroom and was
merely awaiting its splendid destiny, quite unconscious of the future.
The Hamilton boys were no doubt as extravagant and thriftless as they
were insane, but the Careys sympathized with their extravagance and
thriftlessness and insanity so heartily, in this particular, that they
could hardly conceal their real feelings from Bill Harmon. Nothing could
so have accorded with their secret desires as the "fool changes" made by
the "crazy Hamilton boys"; light-hearted, irresponsible, and frivolous
changes that could never have been compassed by the Careys' slender
income. They had no money to purchase horse or cow or pig, and no man in
the family to take care of them if purchased; so the removal of stalls
and all the necessary appurtenances for the care of cattle was no source
of grief or loss to them. A good floor had been laid over the old one
and stained to a dark color; the ceiling, with its heavy hand-hewn
beams, was almost as fine as some old oak counterpart in an English
hall. Not a new board met the eye;--old weathered lumber everywhere,
even to the quaint settle-shaped benches that lined the room. There was
a place like an old-fashioned "tie-up" for musicians to play for a
country dance, or for tableaux and charades; in fine, there would be,
with the addition of Carey ideas here and there, provision for frolics
and diversions of any sort. You no sooner opened the door and peeped in,
though few of the Beulah villagers had ever been invited to do so by the
gay young Hamiltons, than your tongue spontaneously exclaimed: "What a
place for good times!"

"I shall 'come out' here," Nancy announced, as the three girls stood in
the centre of the floor, surrounded by bedsteads, tables, bureaus, and
stoves. "Julia, you can 'debut' where you like, but I shall 'come out'
here next summer!"

"You'll be only seventeen; you can't come out!" objected Julia
conventionally.

"Not in a drawing room, perhaps, but perfectly well in a barn. Even you
and Kitty, youthful as you will still be, can attend my coming out
party, in a barn!"

"It doesn't seem proper to think of giving entertainments when everybody
knows our circumstances,--how poor we are!" Julia said rebukingly.

"We are talking of next summer, my child! Who can say how rich we shall
be next summer? A party could be given in this barn with mother to play
the piano and Mr. Popham the fiddle. The refreshments would be
incredibly weak lemonade, and I think we might 'solicit' the cake, as
they do for church sociables!"

Julia's pride was wounded beyond concealment at this humorously intended
suggestion of Nancy's.

"Of course if Aunt Margaret approves, I have nothing to say," she
remarked, "but I myself would never come to any private party where
refreshments were 'solicited.' The very idea is horrible."

"I'm 'coming out' in the barn next summer, Muddy!" Nancy called to her
mother, who just then entered the door. "If we are poorer than ever, we
can take up a collection to defray the expenses; Julia and Kitty would
look so attractive going about with tambourines! I want to do what I can
quickly, because I see plainly I shall have to marry young in order to
help the family. The heroine always does that in books; she makes a
worldly marriage with a rich nobleman, in order that her sister Kitty
and her cousin Julia may have a good education."

"I don't know where you get your ideas, Nancy," said her mother, smiling
at her nonsense. "You certainly never read half a dozen novels in
your life!"

"No, but Joanna used to read them by the hundred and tell me the
stories; and I've heard father read aloud to you; and the older girls
and the younger teachers used to discuss them at school;--oh! I know a
lot about life,--as it is in books,--and I'm just waiting to see if any
of it really happens!"

"Digby Popham is the only rich nobleman in sight for you, Nancy!" Kitty
said teasingly.

"Or freckled Cyril Lord," interpolated Julia.

"He looks like an unbaked pie!" This from Kitty.

Nancy flushed. "He's shy and unhappy and pale, and no wonder; but he's
as nice and interesting as he can be."

"I can't see it," Julia said, "but he never looks at anybody, or talks
to anybody but you, so it's well you like him; though you like all boys,
for that matter!"

"The boys return the compliment!" asserted Kitty mischievously, "while
poor you and I sit in corners!"

"Come, come, dears," and Mrs. Carey joined in the conversation as she
picked up a pillow before returning to the house. "It's a little early
for you to be talking about rich noblemen, isn't it?"

Nancy followed her out of the door, saying as she thoughtfully chewed a
straw, "Muddy, I do believe that when you're getting on to sixteen the
rich nobleman or the fairy prince or the wonderful youngest son does
cross your mind now and then!"



XX

THE PAINTED CHAMBER


Matters were in this state of forwardness when Nancy and Kathleen looked
out of the window one morning and saw Lallie Joy Popham coming down the
street. She "lugged" butter and milk regularly to the Careys (lugging is
her own word for the act), and helped them in many ways, for she was
fairly good at any kind of housework not demanding brains. Nobody could
say why some of Ossian Popham's gifts of mind and conversation had not
descended to his children, but though the son was not really stupid at
practical work, Lallie Joy was in a perpetual state of coma.

Nancy, as has been intimated before, had a kind of tendency to reform
things that appeared to her lacking in any way, and she had early seized
upon the stolid Lallie Joy as a worthy object.

"There she comes!" said Nancy. "She carries two quarts of milk in one
hand and two pounds of butter in the other, exactly as if she was
bending under the weight of a load of hay. I'll run down into the
kitchen and capture her for a half hour at five cents. She can peel the
potatoes first, and while they're boiling she can slice apples
for sauce."

"Have her chop the hash, do!" coaxed Julia for that was her special
work. "The knife is dull beyond words."

"Why don't you get Mr. Popham to sharpen it? It's a poor workman that
complains of his tools; Columbus discovered America in an open boat,"
quoted Nancy, with an irritating air of wisdom.

"That may be so," Julia retorted, "but Columbus would never have
discovered America with that chopping-knife, I'm sure of that.--Is
Lallie Joy about our age?"

"I don't know. She must have been at least forty when she was born, and
that would make her fifty-five now. What _do_ you suppose would wake her
up? If I could only get her to stand straight, or hold her head up, or
let her hair down, or close her mouth! I believe I'll stay in the
kitchen and appeal to her better feelings a little this morning; I can
seed the raisins for the bread pudding."

Nancy sat in the Shaker rocker by the sink window with the yellow bowl
in her lap. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes were bright, her lips were
red, her hair was goldy-brown, her fingers flew, and a high-necked
gingham apron was as becoming to her as it is to all nice girls. She was
thoroughly awake, was Nancy, and there could not have been a greater
contrast than that between her and the comatose Lallie Joy, who sat on a
wooden chair with her feet on the side rounds. She had taken off her
Turkey red sunbonnet and hung it on the chair-back, where its color
violently assaulted her flaming locks. She sat wrong; she held the
potato pan wrong, and the potatoes and the knife wrong. There seemed to
be no sort of connection between her mind and her body. As she peeled
potatoes and Nancy seeded raisins, the conversation was something
like this.

"How did you chance to bring the butter to-day instead of to-morrow,
Lallie Joy?"

"Had to dress me up to go to the store and get a new hat."

"What colored trimming did you get?"

"Same as old."

"Don't they keep anything but magenta?"

"Yes, blue."

"Why didn't you try blue for a change?"

"Dunno; didn't want any change, I guess."

"Do you like magenta against your hair?"

"Never thought o' my hair; jest thought o' my hat."

"Well, you see, Lallie Joy, you can't change your hair, but you needn't
wear magenta hats nor red sunbonnets. Your hair is handsome enough, if
you'd only brush it right."

"I guess I know all 'bout my hair and how red 't is. The boys ask me if
Pop painted it."

"Why do you strain it back so tight?"

"Keep it out o' my eyes."

"Nonsense; you needn't drag it out by the roots. Why do you tie the
braids with strings?"

"'Cause they hold, an' I hain't got no ribbons."

"Why don't you buy some with the money you earn here?"

"Savin' up for the Fourth."

"Well, I have yards of old Christmas ribbons that I'll give you if
you'll use them."

"All right."

"What do you scrub your face with, that makes those shiny knobs stick
right out on your forehead and cheek bones?"

"Sink soap."

"Well, you shouldn't; haven't you any other?"

"It's upstairs."

"Aren't your legs in good working order?"

Uncomprehending silence on Lallie Joy's part and then Nancy returned to
the onslaught.

"Don't you like to look at pretty things?"

"Dunno but I do, an' dunno as I do."

"Don't you love the rooms your father has finished here?"

"Kind of."

"Not any more than that?"

"Pop thinks some of 'em's queer, an' so does Bill Harmon."

Long silence, Nancy being utterly daunted.

"How did you come by your name, Lallie Joy?"

"Lallie's out of a book named Lallie Rook, an' I was born on the Joy
steamboat line going to Boston."

"Oh, I thought Joy was _Joy_!"

"Joy Line's the only joy I ever heard of!"

There is no knowing how long this depressing conversation would have
continued if the two girls had not heard loud calls from Gilbert
upstairs. Lallie Joy evinced no surprise, and went on peeling potatoes;
she might have been a sister of the famous Casabianca, and she certainly
could have been trusted not to flee from any burning deck, whatever the
provocation.

"Come and see what we've found, Digby and I!" Gilbert cried. "Come,
girls; come, mother! We were stripping off the paper because Mr. Popham
said there'd been so many layers on the walls it would be a good time to
get to the bottom of it and have it all fresh and clean. So just now, as
I was working over the mantel piece and Digby on the long wall, look in
and see what we uncovered!"

Mrs. Carey had come from the nursery, Kitty and Julia from the garden,
and Osh Popham from the shed, and they all gazed with joy and surprise
at the quaint landscapes that had been painted in water colors before
the day of wall paper had come.

Mr. Popham quickly took one of his tools and began on another side of
the room. They worked slowly and carefully, and in an hour or two the
pictures stood revealed, a little faded in color but beautifully drawn,
with almost nothing of any moment missing from the scenes.

"Je-roosh-y! ain't they handsome!" exclaimed Osh, standing in the middle
of the room with the family surrounding him in various attitudes of
ecstasy. "But they're too faced out to leave's they be, ain't they, Mis'
Carey? You'll have to cover 'em up with new paper, won't you, or shall
you let me put a coat of varnish on 'em?"

Mrs. Carey shuddered internally. "No, Mr. Popham, we mustn't have any
'shine' on the landscapes. Yes, they are dreadfully dim and faded, but I
simply cannot have them covered up!"

"It would be wicked to hide them!" said Nancy. "Oh, Muddy, _is_ it our
duty to write to Mr. Hamilton and tell him about them? He would
certainly take the house away from us if he could see how beautiful we
have made it, and now here is another lovely thing to tempt him. Could
anybody give up this painted chamber if it belonged to him?"

"Well, you see," said Mr. Popham assuringly, "if you want to use this
painted chamber much, you've got to live in Beulah; an' Lem Hamilton
ain't goin' to stop consullin' at the age o' fifty, to come here an'
rust out with the rest of us;--no, siree! Nor Mis' Lem Hamilton wouldn't
stop over night in this village if you give her the town drinkin' trough
for a premium!"

"Is she fashionable?" asked Julia.

"You bet she is! She's tall an' slim an' so chuck full of airs she'd
blow away if you give her a puff o' the bellers! The only time she come
here she stayed just twenty-four hours, but she nearly died, we was all
so 'vulgar.' She wore a white dress ruffled up to the waist, and a white
Alpine hat, an' she looked exactly like the picture of Pike's Peak in my
stereopticon. Mis' Popham overheard her say Beulah was full o' savages
if not cannibals. 'Well,' I says to Maria, 'no matter where she goes,
nobody'll ever want to eat _her_ alive!'--Look at that meetin' house
over the mantel shelf, an' that grassy Common an' elm trees! 'T wa'n't
no house painter done these walls!"

"And look at this space between the two front windows," cried Kathleen.
"See the hens and chickens and the Plymouth Rock rooster!"

"And the white calf lying down under the maple; he's about the prettiest
thing in the room," said Gilbert.

"We must just let it be and think it out," said Mother Carey. "Don't put
any new paper on, now; there's plenty to do downstairs."

"I don't know 's I should particularly like to lay abed in this room,"
said Osh, his eyes roving about the chamber judicially. "I shouldn't hev
no comfort ondressin' here, nohow; not with this mess o' live stock
lookin' at me every minute, whatever I happened to be takin' off. I
s'pose that rooster'd be right on to his job at sun-up! Well, he
couldn't git ahead of Mis' Popham, that's one thing; so 't I shouldn't
be any worse off 'n I be now! I don't get any too much good sleep as 't
is! Mis' Popham makes me go to bed long afore I'm ready, so 't she can
git the house shut up in good season; then 'bout 's soon's I've settled
down an' bed one short nap she says, 'It's time you was up, Ossian!"'

"Mother! I have an idea!" cried Nancy suddenly, as Mr. Popham took his
leave and the family went out into the hall. "Do you know who could make
the walls look as they used to? My dear Olive Lord!"

"She's only sixteen!" objected Mrs. Carey.

"But she's a natural born genius! You wait and see the things she does!"

"Perhaps I could take her into town and get some suggestions or some
instruction, with the proper materials," said Mrs. Carey, "and I suppose
she could experiment on some small space behind the door, first?"

"Nothing that Olive does would ever be put behind anybody's door," Nancy
answered decisively. "I'm not old enough to know anything about
painting, of course (except that good landscapes ought not to be
reversible like our Van Twiller), but there's something about Olive's
pictures that makes you want to touch them and love them!"

So began the happiest, most wonderful, most fruitful autumn of Olive
Lord's life, when she spent morning after morning in the painted
chamber, refreshing its faded tints. Whoever had done the original work
had done it lovingly and well, and Olive learned many a lesson while she
was following the lines of the quaint houses, like those on old china,
renewing the green of the feathery elms, or retracing and coloring the
curious sampler trees that stood straight and stiff like sentinels in
the corners of the room.



XXI

A FAMILY RHOMBOID


The Honorable Lemuel Hamilton sat in the private office of the American
Consulate in Breslau, Germany, one warm day in July. The post had been
brought in half an hour before, and he had two open letters on the desk
in front of him. It was only ten o'clock of a bright morning, but he
looked tired and worn. He was about fifty, with slightly grey hair and
smoothly shaven face. He must have been merry at one time in his life,
for there were many nice little laughing-wrinkles around his eyes, but
somehow these seemed to have faded out, as if they had not been used for
years, and the corners of his mouth turned down to increase the look of
weariness and discontent.

A smile had crept over his face at his old friend Bill Harmon's spelling
and penmanship, for a missive of that kind seldom came to the American
Consulate. When the second letter postmarked Beulah first struck his
eye, he could not imagine why he should have another correspondent in
the quaintly named little village. He had read Nancy's letter twice now,
and still he sat smoking and dreaming with an occasional glance at the
girlish handwriting, or a twinkle of the eye at the re-reading of some
particular passage. His own girls were not ready writers, and their
mother generally sent their messages for them. Nancy and Kitty did not
yet write nearly as well as they talked, but they contrived to express
something of their own individuality in their communications, which were
free and fluent, though childlike and crude.

"What a nice girl this Nancy Carey must be!" thought the American
Consul. "This is such a jolly, confidential, gossipy, winsome little
letter! Her first 'business letter' she calls it! Alas! when she learns
how, a few years later, there will be no charming little confidences; no
details of family income and expenditures; no tell-tale glimpses of
'mother' and 'Julia.' I believe I should know the whole family even
without this photograph!--The lady sitting in the chair, to whom the
photographer's snapshot has not done justice, is worthy of Nancy's
praise,--and Bill Harmon's. What a pretty, piquant, curly head Nancy
has! What a gay, vivacious, alert, spirited expression. The boy is
handsome and gentlemanly, but he'll have to wake up, or Nancy will be
the man of the family. The girl sitting down is less attractive. She's
Uncle Allan's daughter, and" (consulting the letter) "Uncle Allan has
nervous prostration and all of mother's money." Here Mr. Hamilton gave
vent to audible laughter for the third time in a quarter of an hour.
"Nancy doesn't realize with what perfection her somewhat imperfect
English states the case," he thought. "I know Uncle Allan like a book,
from his resemblance to certain other unfortunate gentlemen who have
nervous prostration in combination with other people's money. Let's see!
I know Nancy; friendly little Nancy, about fifteen or sixteen, I should
judge; I know Uncle Allan's 'Julia,' who hems in photographs, but not
otherwise; I know Gilbert, who is depressed at having to make his own
way; the small boy, who 'is the nicest of us all'; Kitty, who beat all
the others in getting to mother's shoulder; and the mother herself, who
is beautiful, and doesn't say 'Bosh' to her children's ideas, and
refuses to touch the insurance money, and wants Gilbert to show what
'father's son' can do without anybody's help, and who revels in the
color and joy of a yellow wall paper at twenty cents a roll! Bless their
simple hearts! They mustn't pay any rent while they are bringing water
into the kitchen and making expensive improvements! And what Hamilton
could be persuaded to live in the yellow house? To think of any one's
wanting to settle down in that little deserted spot, Beulah, where the
only sound that ever strikes one's ear is Osh Popham's laugh or the
tinkle of a cow bell! Oh! if my own girls would write me letters like
this, letting me see how their minds are growing, how they are taking
hold of life, above all what is in their hearts! Well, little Miss Nancy
Carey! honest, outspoken, confidential, clever little Nancy, who calls
me her 'dearest Mr. Hamilton' and thanks me for letting her live in my
yellow house, you shall never be disturbed, and if you and Gilbert ever
earn enough money to buy it, it shall go to you cheap! There's not one
of my brood that would live in it--except Tom, perhaps--for after
spending three hundred dollars, they even got tired of dancing in the
barn on Saturday nights; so if it can fall into the hands of some one
who will bring a blessing on it, good old Granny Hamilton will rest
peacefully in her grave!"

We have discoursed in another place of family circles, but it cannot be
truthfully said that at any moment the Lemuel Hamiltons had ever assumed
that symmetrical and harmonious shape. Still, during the first eight or
ten years of their married life, when the children were young, they had
at least appeared to the casual eye as, say, a rectangular
parallelogram. A little later the cares and jolts of life wrenched the
right angles a trifle "out of plumb," and a rhomboid was the result.
Mrs. Hamilton had money of her own, but wished Lemuel to amass enough
fame and position to match it. She liked a diplomatic life if her
husband could be an ambassador, but she thought him strangely slow in
achieving this dignity. No pleasure or pride in her husband's ability to
serve his country, even in a modest position, ever crossed her mind. She
had no desire to spend her valuable time in various poky Continental
towns, and she had many excuses for not doing so; the proper education
of her children being the chief among them. Luckily for her, good and
desirable schools were generally at an easy distance from the jewellers'
shops and the dressmakers' and milliners' establishments her soul loved,
so while Mr. Hamilton did his daily task in Antwerp, Mrs. Hamilton
resided mostly in Brussels or Paris; when he was in Zittau, in Saxony,
she was in Dresden. If he were appointed to some business city she
remained with him several months each year, and spent the others in a
more artistic and fashionable locality. The situation was growing
difficult because the children were gradually getting beyond school age,
although there still remained to her the sacred duty of settling them
properly in life. Agnes, her mother's favorite, was still at school, and
was devoted to foreign languages, foreign manners, and foreign modes of
life. Edith had grown restless and developed an uncomfortable fondness
for her native land, so that she spent most of her time with her
mother's relatives in New York, or in visiting school friends here or
there. The boys had gone far away; Jack, the elder, to Texas, where he
had lost what money his father and mother had put into his first
business venture; Thomas, the younger, to China, where he was woefully
lonely, but doing well in business. A really good diplomatic appointment
in a large and important city would have enabled Mr. Hamilton to collect
some of his scattered sons and daughters and provide them with the
background for which his wife had yearned without ceasing (and very
audibly) for years. But Mr. Hamilton did not get the coveted
appointment, and Mrs. Hamilton did not specially care for Mr. Hamilton
when he failed in securing the things she wanted. This was the time when
the laughing-wrinkles began to fade away from Mr. Hamilton's eyes, just
for lack of daily use; and it was then that the corners of his mouth
began to turn down; and his shoulders to stoop, and his eye to grow less
keen and brave, and his step less vigorous. It may be a commonplace
remark, but it is not at these precise moments in life that tired,
depressed men in modest positions are wafted by Uncle Sam to great and
desirable heights; but to Mrs. Hamilton it appeared that her husband was
simply indolent, unambitious, and unlucky; not at all that he needed to
be believed in, or loved, or comforted, or helped, or braced! It might
have startled her, and hurt her wifely pride, if she had seen her lonely
husband drinking in little Nancy Carey's letter as if it were dew to a
thirsty spirit; to see him set the photograph of the Carey group on his
desk and look at it from time to time affectionately, as if he had found
some new friends. It was the contentment, the hope, the unity, the
pluck, the mutual love, the confidence, the ambition, of the group that
touched his imagination and made his heart run out to them. "Airs from
the Eden of youth awoke and stirred in his soul" as he took his pen to
answer Nancy's first business communication.

Having completed his letter he lighted another cigar, and leaning back
in his revolving chair clasped his hands behind his head and fell into a
reverie. The various diplomatic posts that might be opened to him
crossed his mind in procession. If A or B or C were possible, his wife
would be content, and their combined incomes might be sufficient to
bring the children together, if not quite under one roof, then to points
not so far separated from each other but that a speaking acquaintance
might be developed. Tom was the farthest away, and he was the dearest;
the only Hamilton of the lot; the only one who loved his father.

Mr. Hamilton leaned forward abstractedly, and fumbling through one
drawer of his desk after another succeeded in bringing out a photograph
of Tom, taken at seventeen or eighteen. Then by a little extra search he
found his wife in her presentation dress at a foreign court. There was
no comfort or companionship in that, it was too furbelowed to be
anybody's wife,--but underneath it in the same frame was one taken just
after their marriage. That was too full of memories to hold much joy,
but it stirred his heart, and made it beat a little; enough at any rate
to show it was not dead. In the letter case in his vest pocket was an
almost forgotten picture of the girls when they were children. This with
the others he stood in a row in front of him, reminding himself that he
did not know the subjects much more intimately than the photographers
who had made their likenesses. He glanced from one family to the other
and back again, several times. The Careys were handsomer, there was no
doubt of that; but there was a deeper difference that eluded him. The
Hamiltons were far more stylishly dressed, but they all looked a little
conscious and a little discontented. That was it; the Careys were
happier! There were six of them, living in the forgotten Hamilton house
in a half-deserted village, on five or six hundred dollars a year, and
doing their own housework, and they were happier than his own brood,
spending forty or fifty times that sum. Well, they were grown up, his
sons and daughters, and the only change in their lives now would come
from wise or unwise marriages. No poverty-stricken sons-in-law would
ever come into the family, with Mrs. Hamilton standing at the bars, he
was sure of that! As for the boys, they might choose their mates in
Texas or China; they might even have chosen them now, for aught he knew,
though Jack was only twenty-six and Tom twenty-two. He must write to
them oftener, all of them, no matter how busy and anxious he might be;
especially to Tom, who was so far away.

He drew a sheet of paper towards him, and having filled it, another, and
yet another. Having folded and slipped it into an envelope and addressed
it to Thomas Hamilton, Esq., Hong Kong, China, he was about to seal it
when he stopped a moment. "I'll enclose the little Carey girl's letter,"
he thought. "Tom's the only one who cares a penny for the old house, and
I've told him I have rented it. He's a generous boy, and he won't grudge
a few dollars lost to a good cause. Besides, these Careys will increase
the value of the property every year they live in it, and without them
the buildings would gradually have fallen into ruins." He added a
postscript to his letter, saying: "I've sent you little Miss Nancy's
letter, the photograph of her tying up the rambler rose, and the family
group; so that you can see exactly what influenced me to write her (and
Bill Harmon) that they should be undisturbed in their tenancy, and that
their repairs and improvements should be taken in lieu of rent." This
done and the letters stamped, he put the photographs of his wife and
children here and there on his desk and left the office.

Oh! it is quite certain that Mother Carey's own chickens go out over the
seas and show good birds the way home; and it is quite true, as she
said, "One real home always makes another, I am sure of that!" It can
even send a vision of a home across fields and forests and lakes and
oceans from Beulah village to Breslau, Germany, and on to Hong
Kong, China.



XXII

CRADLE GIFTS


Mrs. Henry Lord sent out a good many invitations to the fairies for
Cyril's birthday party, but Mr. Lord was at his critical point in the
first volume of his text book, and forgot that he had a son. Where both
parents are not interested in these little affairs, something is sure to
be forgotten. Cyril's mother was weak and ill at the time, and the
upshot of it was that the anger of The Fairy Who Wasn't Invited was
visited on the baby Cyril in his cradle. In the revengeful spirit of
that fairy who is omitted from these functions, she sent a threat
instead of a blessing, and decreed that Cyril should walk in fear all
the days of his life. Of course, being a fairy, she knew very well that,
if Cyril, or anybody very much interested in Cyril, went to declare that
there was no power whatever behind her curse, she would not be able to
gratify her spite; but she knew also, being a fairy, that if Cyril got
into the habit of believing himself a coward, he would end by being one,
so she stood a good chance of winning, after all.

Cyril, when he came into the world, had come with only half a welcome.
No mother and father ever met over his cradle and looked at him
together, wondering if it were "well with the child." When he was old
enough to have his red-gold hair curled, and a sash tied around his baby
waist, he was sometimes taken downstairs, but he always fled to his
mother's or his nurse's knee when his father approached. How many times
he and his little sister Olive had hidden under the stairs when father
had called mother down to the study to scold her about the grocer's
bill! And there was a nightmare of a memory concerning a certain
birthday of father's, when mother had determined to be gay. It was just
before supper. Cyril, clad in his first brief trousers, was to knock at
the study door with a little purple nosegay in his hand, to show his
father that the lilac had bloomed. Olive, in crimson cashmere, was to
stand near, and when the door opened, present him with her own picture
of the cat and her new kittens; while mother, looking so pretty, with
her own gift all ready in her hand, was palpitating on the staircase to
see how the plans would work. Nothing could have been worse, however, in
the way of a small domestic tragedy, than the event itself when it
finally came off.

Cyril knocked. "What do you want?" came from within, in tones that
breathed vexation at being interrupted.

"Knock again!" whispered Mrs. Lord. "Father doesn't remember that it's
his birthday, and he doesn't know that it's you knocking."

Cyril knocked again timidly, but at the first sound of his father's
irritable voice as he rose hurriedly from his desk, the boy turned and
fled through the kitchen to the shed.

Olive held the fort, picture in hand.

"It's your birthday, father," she said. "There's a cake for supper, and
here's my present." There was no love in the child's voice. Her heart,
filled with passionate sympathy for Cyril, had lost all zest for its
task, and she handed her gift to her father with tightly closed lips and
heaving breast.

"All right; I'm much obliged, but I wish you would not knock at this
door when I am writing,--I've told you that before. Tell your mother I
can't come to supper to-night, but to send me a tray, please!"

As he closed the door Olive saw him lay the picture on a table, never
looking at it as he crossed the room to one of the great book-cases that
lined the walls.

Mrs. Lord had by this time disappeared forlornly from the upper hall.
Olive, aged ten, talked up the stairs in a state of mind ferocious in
its anger. Entering her mother's room she tore the crimson ribbon from
her hair and began to unbutton her dress. "I hate him! I _hate_ him!"
she cried, stamping her foot. "I will never knock at his door again! I'd
like to take Cyril and run away! I'll get the birthday cake and fling it
into the pond; nothing shall stop me!". Then, seeing her mother's white
face, she wailed, as she flung herself on the bed: "Oh, mother,
mother,--why did you ever let him come to live with us? Did we _have_ to
have him for a father? Couldn't you _help_ it, mother?"

Mrs. Lord grew paler, put her hand to her heart, wavered, caught
herself, wavered again, and fell into the great chair by the window. Her
eyes closed, and Olive, frightened by the apparent effect of her words,
ran down the back stairs and summoned the cook. When she returned,
panting and breathless, her mother was sitting quite quietly by the
window, looking out at the cedars.

"It was only a sudden pain, dear! I am all well again. Nothing is really
the matter, Bridget. Mr. Lord will not be down to supper; spread a tray
for him, please."

"I'd like to spread a tray for him at the bottom of the Red Sea; that's
where he belongs!" muttered Bridget, as she descended to the kitchen to
comfort Cyril.

"Was it my fault, mother?" asked Olive, bending over her anxiously.

Her mother drew the child's head down and leaned her own against it
feebly. "No, dear," she sighed. "It's nobody's fault, unless it's mine!"

"Is the pain gone?"

"Quite gone, dear."

Nevertheless the pain was to prove the final wrench to a heart that had
been on the verge of breaking for many a year, and it was not long
before Olive and Cyril were motherless.

Mr. Lord did not have the slightest objection to the growing intimacy
between his children and the new family in the Yellow House, so long as
he was not disturbed by it, and so long as it cost him nothing. They had
strict orders not to play with certain of their village acquaintances,
Mr. Lord believing himself to be an aristocrat; the fact being that he
was almost destitute of human sympathy, and to make a neighbor of him
you would have had to begin with his grandfather and work for three
generations. He had seen Nancy and Gilbert at the gates of his place,
and he had passed Mrs. Carey in one of his infrequent walks to the
post-office. She was not a person to pass without mental comment, and
Mr. Lord instantly felt himself in the presence of an equal, an unusual
fact in his experience; he would not have known a superior if he had met
one ever so often!

"A very fine, unusual woman," he thought. "She accounts for that
handsome, manly boy. I wish he could knock some spirit into Cyril!"

The process of "knocking spirit" into a boy would seem to be
inconsistent with educational logic, but by very different methods,
Gilbert had certainly given Cyril a trifling belief in himself, and
Mother Carey was gradually winning him to some sort of self-expression
by the warmth of her frequent welcomes and the delightful faculty she
possessed of making him feel at ease.

"Come, come!" said the petrels to the molly-mocks in "Water Babies."
"This young gentleman is going to Shiny Wall. He is a plucky one to have
gone so far. Give the little chap a cast over the ice-pack for Mother
Carey's sake."

Gilbert was delighted, in a new place, to find a boy friend of his own
age, and Cyril's speedy attachment gratified his pride. Gilbert was
doing well these summer months. The unceasing activity, the authority
given him by his mother and sisters, his growing proficiency in all
kinds of skilled labor, as he "puttered" about with Osh Popham or Bill
Harmon in house and barn and garden, all this pleased his enterprising
nature. Only one anxiety troubled his mother; his unresigned and
mutinous attitude about exchanging popular and fashionable Eastover for
Beulah Academy, which seat of learning he regarded with unutterable
scorn. He knew that there was apparently no money to pay Eastover fees,
but he was still child enough to feel that it could be found, somewhere,
if properly searched for. He even considered the education of Captain
Carey's eldest son an emergency vital enough to make it proper to dip
into the precious five thousand dollars which was yielding them a part
of their slender annual income. Once, when Gilbert was a little boy, he
had put his shoulder out of joint, and to save time his mother took him
at once to the doctor's. He was suffering, but still strong enough to
walk. They had to climb a hilly street, the child moaning with pain, his
mother soothing and encouraging him as they went on. Suddenly he
whimpered: "Oh! if this had only happened to Ellen or Joanna or Addy or
Nancy, I could have borne it _so_ much better!"

There was a good deal of that small boy left in Gilbert still, and he
endured best the economies that fell on the feminine members of the
family. It was the very end of August, and although school opened the
first Monday in September, Mrs. Carey was not certain whether Gilbert
would walk into the old-fashioned, white painted academy with the
despised Beulah "hayseeds," or whether he would make a scene, and
authority would have to be used.

"I declare, Gilly!" exclaimed Mother Carey one night, after an argument
on the subject; "one would imagine the only course in life open to a boy
was to prepare at Eastover and go to college afterwards! Yet you may
take a list of the most famous men in America, and I dare say you will
find half of them came from schools like Beulah Academy or infinitely
poorer ones. I don't mean the millionaires alone. I mean the merchants
and engineers and surgeons and poets and authors and statesmen. Go ahead
and try to stamp your school in some way, Gilly!--don't sit down feebly
and wait for it to stamp you!"

This was all very well as an exhibition of spirit on Mother Carey's
part, but it had been a very hard week. Gilbert was sulky; Peter had had
a touch of tonsillitis; Nancy was faltering at the dishwashing and
wishing she were a boy; Julia was a perfect barnacle; Kathleen had an
aching tooth, and there being no dentist in the village, Was applying
Popham remedies,--clove-chewing, roasted raisins, and disfiguring bread
poultices; Bill Harmon had received no reply from Mr. Hamilton, and when
Mother Carey went to her room that evening she felt conscious of a
lassitude, and a sense of anxiety, deeper than for months. As Gilbert
went by to his own room, he glanced in at her door, finding it slightly
ajar. She sat before her dressing table, her long hair flowing over her
shoulders, her head bent over her two hands. His father's picture was in
its accustomed place, and he heard her say as she looked at it: "Oh, my
dear, my dear! I am so careworn, so troubled, so discouraged! Gilbert
needs you, and so do I, more than tongue can tell!" The voice was so low
that it was almost a whisper, but it reached Gilbert's ears, and there
was a sob strangled in it that touched his heart.

The boy tiptoed softly into his room and sat down on his bed in the
moonlight.

"Dear old Mater!" he thought. "It's no go! I've got to give up Eastover
and college and all and settle down into a country bumpkin! No fellow
could see his mother look like that, and speak like that, and go his own
gait; he's just got to go hers!"

Meantime Mrs. Carey had put out the lamp and lay quietly thinking. The
last words that floated through her mind as she sank to sleep were those
of a half-forgotten verse, learned, she could not say how many
years before:--

  You can glad your child or grieve it!
  You can trust it or deceive it;
    When all's done
    Beneath God's sun
  You can only love and leave it.



XXIII

NEARING SHINY WALL


Another person presumably on the way to Shiny Wall and Peacepool, but
putting small energy into the journey, was that mass of positively
glaring virtues, Julia Carey. More than one fairy must have been
forgotten when Julia's christening party came off. No heart-to-heart
talk in the twilight had thus far produced any obvious effect. She had
never, even when very young, experienced a desire to sit at the feet of
superior wisdom, always greatly preferring a chair of her own. She
seldom did wrong, in her own opinion, because the moment she entertained
an idea it at once became right, her vanity serving as a pair of
blinders to keep her from seeing the truth. The doctors did not permit
any one to write to poor Allan Carey, so that Julia's heart could not be
softened by continual communication with her invalid father, who, with
Gladys Ferguson, constituted the only tribunal she was willing to
recognize. Her consciousness of superiority to the conditions that
surrounded her, her love of luxury, the silken selfishness with which
she squirmed out of unpleasant duties, these made her an unlikable and
undesirable housemate, and that these faults could exist with what Nancy
called her "everlasting stained-glass attitude" made it difficult for
Mother Carey to maintain a harmonious family circle. It was an outburst
of Nancy's impetuous temper that Mrs. Carey had always secretly dreaded,
but after all it was poor Kathleen who precipitated an unforgettable
scene which left an influence behind it for many months.

The morning after Mother Carey's interview with Gilbert she looked up as
her door was pushed open, and beheld Julia, white and rigid with temper,
standing on the threshold.

"What is the matter, child?" exclaimed her aunt, laying down her work in
alarm.

Close behind Julia came Kathleen, her face swollen with tears, her
expression full of unutterable woe.

Julia's lips opened almost automatically as she said slowly and with
bitter emphasis, "Aunt Margaret, is it true, as Kathleen says, that my
father has all your money and some of Uncle Peter's?"

Something snapped in Mother Carey! One glance at Kathleen showed only
too well that she had committed the almost unpardonable sin of telling
Julia what had been carefully and tenderly kept from her. Before she
could answer Kathleen had swept past Julia and flung herself on the
floor near her mother.

"Oh, mother, I can't say anything that will ever make you understand.
Julia knows, she knows in her heart, what she said that provoked me! She
does nothing but grumble about the work, and how few dresses we have,
and what a drudge she is, and what common neighbors we have, and how
Miss Tewksbury would pity her if she knew all, and how Uncle Allan would
suffer if he could see his daughter living such a life! And this morning
my head ached and my tooth ached and I was cross, and all at once
something leaped out of my mouth!"

"Tell her what you said," urged Julia inexorably.

Sobs choked Kathleen's voice. "I said--I said--oh! how can I tell it! I
said, if her father hadn't lost so much of my father's and my mother's
money we shouldn't have been so poor, any of us."

"Kathleen, how could you!" cried her mother.

If Julia wished to precipitate a tempest she had succeeded, and her face
showed a certain sedate triumph.

"Oh! mother! don't give me up; don't give me up!" wailed Kathleen. "It
wasn't me that said it, it was somebody else that I didn't know lived
inside of me. I don't expect you to forgive it or forget it, Julia, but
if you'll only try, just a little bit, I'll show you how sorry I feel.
I'd cut myself and make it bleed, I'd go to prison, if I could get back
to where I was before I said it! Oh! what shall I do, mother, if you
look at me like that again or say 'How could you!'"

There was no doubting Kathleen's remorse; even Julia saw that.

"Did she tell the truth, Aunt Margaret?" she repeated.

"Come here, Julia, and sit by me. It is true that your Uncle Peter and I
have both put money into your father's business, and it is true that he
has not been able to give it back to us, and perhaps may never do so.
There is just enough left to pay your poor father's living expenses, but
we trust his honor; we are as sorry for him as we can be, and we love
him dearly. Kathleen meant nothing but that your father has been
unfortunate and we all have to abide by the consequences; but I am
amazed that my daughter should have so forgotten herself as to speak of
it to you!" (Renewed sobs from the prostrate Kathleen).

"Especially," said Julia, "when, as Gladys Ferguson says, I haven't
anybody in the world but you, to turn to in my trouble. I am a
fatherless girl" (her voice quivered here), "and I am a guest in
your house."

Mrs. Carey's blood rose a little as she looked at poor Kitty's shaken
body and streaming eyes, and Julia's unforgiving face. "You are wrong
there, Julia. I fail to see why you should not take your full share of
our misfortunes, and suffer as much as we, from our too small income. It
is not our fault, it is not yours. You are not a privileged guest, you
are one of the family. If you are fatherless just now, my children are
fatherless forever; yet you have not made one single burden lighter by
joining our forces. You have been an outsider, instead of putting
yourself loyally into the breach, and working with us heart to heart. I
welcomed you with open arms and you have made my life harder, much
harder, than it was before your coming. To protect you I have had to
discipline my own children continually, and all the time you were
putting their tempers to quite unnecessary tests! I am not extenuating
Kathleen, but I merely say you have no right to behave as you do. You
are thirteen years old, quite old enough to make up your mind whether
you wish to be loved by anybody or not; at present you are not!"

Never had the ears of the Paragon heard such disagreeably plain speech.
She was not inclined to tears, but moisture began to appear in her eyes
and she looked as though a shower were imminent. Aunt Margaret was
magnificent in her wrath, and though Julia feared, she admired her. Not
to be loved, if that really were to be her lot, rather terrified Julia.
She secretly envied Nancy's unconscious gift of drawing people to her
instantly; men, women, children,--dogs and horses, for that matter. She
never noticed that Nancy's heart ran out to meet everybody, and that she
was overflowing with vitality and joy and sympathy; on the contrary, she
considered the tribute of affection paid to Nancy as a part of Nancy's
luck. Virtuous, conscientious, intelligent, and well-dressed as she felt
herself to be, she emphatically did not wish to be disliked, and it was
a complete surprise to her that she had not been a successful
Carey chicken.

"Gladys Ferguson always loved me," she expostulated after a brief
silence, and there was a quiver in her voice.

"Then either Gladys has a remarkable gift of loving, or else you are a
different Julia in her company," remarked Mother Carey, quietly, raising
Julia's astonishment and perturbation to an immeasurable height.

"Now, Kathleen," continued Mother Carey, "Mrs. Godfrey has often asked
you to spend a week with Elsie, and you can go to Charlestown on the
afternoon train. Go away from Julia and forget everything but that you
have done wrong and you must find a way to repair it. I hope Julia will
learn while you are away to make it easier for you to be courteous and
amiable. There is a good deal in the Bible, Julia, about the sin of
causing your brother to offend. Between that sin and Kathleen's offence,
there is little, in my mind, to choose!"

"Yes, there is!" cried Kathleen. "I am much, much worse than Julia.
Father couldn't bear to know that I had hurt Julia's feelings and hurt
yours too. I was false to father, and you, and Uncle Allan, and Julia.
Nothing can be said for me, _nothing_! I am so ashamed of myself that I
shall never get over it in the world. Oh, Julia, could you shake hands
with me, just to show me you know how I despise myself?"

Julia shook hands considerably less like a slug or a limpet than usual,
and something very queer and unexpected happened when her hand met poor
Kitty's wet, feverish little paw and she heard the quiver in her voice.
She suddenly stooped and kissed her cousin, quite without intention.
Kathleen returned the salute with grateful, pathetic warmth, and then
the two fell on Mother Carey's neck to be kissed and cried over for a
full minute.

"I'll go to the doctor and have my ugly tooth pulled out," exclaimed
Kathleen, wiping her eyes. "If it hadn't been for that I never could
have been so horrible!"

"That would be all very well for once," answered her mother with a tired
smile, "but if you pluck out a supposed offending member every time you
do something wrong, I fear you will not have many left when you are an
old lady!"

"Mother!" said Kathleen, almost under her breath and not daring to look
up, "couldn't I stay at home from Charlestown and show you and Julia,
here, how sorry I am?"

"Yes, let her, Aunt Margaret, and then I can have a chance to try too,"
pleaded Julia.

Had the heavens fallen? Had the Paragon, the Pink of Propriety and
Perfection, confessed a fault? Had the heart of the smug one, the prig,
melted, and did she feel at last her kinship to the Carey chickens? Had
she suffered a real grievance, the first amongst numberless deeds of
tenderness, and having resented it like an "old beast," forgiven it like
a "new" one? It certainly seemed as if Mother Carey that week were at
her old trade of making things make themselves. Gilbert, Kathleen, and
Julia had all fought their way under the ice-pack and were getting a
glimpse of Shiny Wall.



XXIV

A LETTER PROM GERMANY


Mother Carey walked down the village street one morning late in August,
while Peter, milk pail in hand, was running by her side and making
frequent excursions off the main line of travel. Beulah looked
enchanting after a night of rain, and the fields were greener than they
had been since haying time. Unless Mr. Hamilton were away from his
consular post on a vacation somewhere on the Continent, he should have
received, and answered, Bill Harmon's letter before this, she was
thinking, as she looked at the quiet beauty of the scene that had so
endeared itself to her in a few short months.

Mrs. Popham had finished her morning's work and was already sitting at
her drawing-in frame in the open doorway, making a very purple rose with
a very scarlet centre.

"Will you come inside, Mis' Carey?" she asked hospitably, "or do you
want Lallie Joy to set you a chair on the grass, same as you had
last time?"

"I always prefer the grass, Mrs. Popham," smiled Mrs. Carey. "As it's
the day for the fishman to come I thought we'd like an extra quart of
milk for chowder."

"I only hope he'll make _out_ to come," was Mrs. Popham's curt response.
"If I set out to _be_ a fishman, I vow I'd _be_ one! Mr. Tubbs stays to
home whenever he's hayin', or his wife's sick, or it's stormy, or the
children want to go to the circus!"

Mrs. Carey laughed. "That's true; but as your husband reminded me last
week, when Mr. Tubbs disappointed us, his fish is always fresh-caught,
and good."

"Oh! of course Mr. Popham would speak up for him!" returned his wife. "I
don't see myself as it makes much diff'rence whether his fish is good or
bad, if he stays to home with it! Mebbe I look on the dark side a little
mite; I can't hardly help it, livin' with Mr. Popham, and he
so hopeful."

"He keeps us all very merry at the Yellow House," Mrs. Carey ventured.

"Yes, he would," remarked Mrs. Popham drily, "but you don't git it
stiddy; hopefulness at meals, hopefulness evenin's, an' hopefulness
nights!--one everlastin' stiddy stream of hopefulness! He was jest so as
a boy; always lookin' on the bright side whether there was any or not.
His mother 'n' father got turrible sick of it; so much sunshine in the
house made a continual drouth, so old Mis' Popham used to say. For her
part, she said, she liked to think that, once in a while, there was a
cloud that was a first-class cloud; a thick, black cloud, clean through
to the back! She was tired to death lookin' for Ossian's silver linin's!
Lallie Joy's real moody like me; I s'pose it's only natural, livin' with
a father who never sees anything but good, no matter which way he looks.
There's two things I trust I shan't hear any more when I git to
heaven,--that's 'Cheer up Maria!' an' 'It's all for the best!' As for
Mr. Popham, he says any place'll be heaven to him so long as I ain't
there, callin' 'Hurry up Ossian!' so we have it, back an' forth!"

"It's a wonderful faculty, seeing the good in everything," sighed Mrs.
Carey.

"Wonderful tiresome," returned Mrs. Popham, "though I will own up it's
Ossian's only fault, and he can't see his own misfortunes any clearer
than he can see those of other folks. His new colt run away with him
last week and stove the mowin' machine all to pieces. 'Never mind,
Maria!' he says, 'it'll make fust-rate gear for a windmill!' He's out in
the barn now, fussin' over it; you can hear him singin'. They was all
here practicin' for the Methodist concert last, night, an' I didn't
sleep a wink, the tunes kep' a-runnin' in my head so! They always git
Ossian to sing 'Fly like a youthful hart or roe, over the hills where
spices grow,' an' I tell him he's too old; youthful harts an' roes don't
fly over the hills wearin' spectacles, I tell him, but he'll go right on
singin' it till they have to carry him up on the platform in a
wheeled chair!"

"You go to the Congregational church, don't you, Mrs. Popham?" asked
Mrs. Carey. "I've seen Lallie and Digby at Sunday-school."

"Yes, Mr. Popham is a Methodist and I'm a Congregationalist, but I say
let the children go where they like, so I always take them with me."

Mrs. Carey was just struggling to conceal her amusement at this
religious flexibility on Mrs. Popham's part, when she espied Nancy
flying down the street, bareheaded, waving a bit of paper in the air.

"Are you 'most ready to come home, Muddy?" she called, without coming
any nearer.

"Yes, quite ready, now Lallie has brought the milk. Good morning, Mrs.
Popham; the children want me for some new enterprise."

"You give yourself most too much to 'em," expostulated Mrs. Popham; "you
don't take no vacations."

"Ah, well, you see 'myself' is all I have to give them," answered Mrs.
Carey, taking Peter and going to meet Nancy.

"Mother," said that young person breathlessly, "I must tell you what I
didn't tell at the time, for fear of troubling you. I wrote to Mr.
Hamilton by the same post that Mr. Harmon did. Bill is so busy and such
a poor writer I thought he wouldn't put the matter nicely at all, and I
didn't want you, with all your worries, brought into it, so I wrote to
the Consul myself, and kept a copy to show you exactly what I said. I
have been waiting at the gate for the letters every day for a week, but
this morning Gilbert happened to be there and shouted, 'A letter from
Germany for you, Nancy!' So all of them are wild with curiosity; Olive
and Cyril too, but I wanted you to open and read it first because it may
be full of awful blows."

Mrs. Carey sat down on the side of a green bank between the Pophams'
corner and the Yellow House and opened the letter,--with some
misgivings, it must be confessed. Nancy sat close beside her and held
one edge of the wide sheets, closely filled.

"Why, he has written you a volume, Nancy!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey. "It
must be the complete story of his life! How long was yours to him?" "I
don't remember; pretty long; because there seemed to be so much to tell,
to show him how we loved the house, and why we couldn't spend Cousin
Ann's money and move out in a year or two, and a lot about ourselves, to
let him see we were nice and agreeable and respectable."

"I'm not sure all that was strictly necessary," commented Mrs. Carey
with some trepidation.

This was Lemuel Hamilton's letter, dated from the office of the American
Consul in Breslau, Germany.

    MY DEAR MISS NANCY,--As your letter to me was a purely
    "business" communication I suppose I ought to begin my reply:
    "Dear Madam, Your esteemed favor was received on the sixth
    inst. and contents noted," but I shall do nothing of the sort.
    I think you must have guessed that I have two girls of my own,
    for you wrote to me just as if we were sitting together side
    by side, like two friends, not a bit as landlord and tenant.

Mother Carey's eyes twinkled. She well knew Nancy's informal epistolary
style, and her facile, instantaneous friendliness!

    Every word in your letter interested me, pleased me, touched me.
    I feel that I know you all, from the dear mother who sits in
    the centre--

"What does he mean by that?"

"I sent him a snap shot of the family."

"_Nancy_! What for?"

"So that he could see what we were like; so that he'd know we were fit
to be lifelong tenants!"

Mrs. Carey turned resignedly to the letter again.

    From the dear mother who sits in the centre, to the lovable
    little Peter who looks as if he were all that you describe
    him! I was about his age when I went to the Yellow House to
    spend a few years. Old Granny Hamilton had lived there all her
    life, and when my mother, who was a widow, was seized with a
    serious illness she took me home with her for a long visit.
    She was never well enough to go away, so my early childhood
    was passed in Beulah, and I only left the village when I was ten
    years old, and an orphan.

"Oh, dear!" interpolated Nancy. "It seems, lately, as if nobody had both
father and mother!"

    Granny Hamilton died soon after my mother, and I hardly know who
    lived in the house for the next thirty years. It was my
    brother's property, and a succession of families occupied it
    until it fell to me in my turn. I have no happy memories
    connected with it, so you can go ahead and make them for
    yourselves. My only remembrance is of the west bedroom, where
    my mother lived and died.

"The west bedroom; that isn't the painted one; no, of course it is the
one where I sleep," said Mrs. Carey. "The painted one must always have
been the guest chamber."

    She could only move from bed to chair, and her greatest pleasure
    was to sit by the sunset window and look at the daisies and
    buttercups waving in that beautiful sloping stretch of field
    with the pine woods beyond. After the grass was mown, and that
    field was always left till the last for her sake, she used to
    sit there and wait for Queen Anne's lace to come up; its tall
    stems and delicate white wheels nodding among the grasses.

"Oh! I do _like_ him!" exclaimed Nancy impetuously. "Can't you _see_
him, mother? It's so nice of him to remember that they always mowed the
hayfield last for his mother's sake, and so nice of him to think of
Queen Anne's lace all these years!"

    Now as to business, your Cousin Ann is quite right when she
    tells you that you ought not to put expensive improvements on
    another person's property lest you be disturbed in your
    tenancy. That sort of cousin is always right, whatever she
    says. Mine was not named Ann; she was Emma, but the principle
    is the same.

"Nancy!" asked Mrs. Carey, looking away from the letter again, "did you
say anything about your Cousin Ann?"

"Yes, some little thing or other; for it was her money that we couldn't
spend until we knew we could stay in the house. I didn't describe her,
of course, to Mr. Hamilton; I just told him she was very businesslike,
and yes, I remember now, I told him you said she was a very fine person;
that's about all. But you see how clever he is! he just has 'instinks,'
as Mr. Popham says, and you don't have to tell him much about anything."

    If you are intending to bring the water from the well into the
    house and put a large stove in the cellar to warm some of the
    upper rooms; if you are papering and painting inside, and
    keeping the place in good condition, you are preserving my
    property and even adding to its value; so under the
    circumstances I could not think of accepting any rent in
    money.

"No rent! Not even the sixty dollars!" exclaimed Nancy.

"Look; that is precisely what he says."

"There never was such a dear since the world began!" cried Nancy
joyously. "Oh! do read on; there's a lot more, and the last may
contradict the first."

    Shall I tell you what more the Careys may do for me, they who
    have done so much already?

"So much!" quoted Nancy with dramatic emphasis. "Oh, he _is_ a dear!"

  My son Tom, when he went down to Beulah before starting for
  China, visited the house and at my request put away my
  mother's picture safely. He is a clever boy, and instead of
  placing the thing in an attic where it might be injured, he
  tucked it away,--where do you think,--in the old brick oven of
  the room that is now, I suppose, your dining room. It is a
  capital hiding-place, for there had been no fire there for fifty
  years, nor ever will be again. I have other portraits of her
    with me, on this side of the water. Please remove the one I
  speak of from its wrappings and hang it over the mantel shelf
  in the west bedroom.

"My bedroom! I shall love to have it there," said Mother Carey.

    Then, once a year, on my mother's birthday,--it is the fourth of
    July and an easy date to remember,--will my little friend Miss
    Nancy, or any of the other Careys, if she is absent, pick a
    little nosegay of daisies and buttercups (perhaps there will
    even be a bit of early Queen Anne's lace) and put it in a vase
    under my mother's picture? That shall be the annual rent paid
    for the Yellow House to Lemuel Hamilton by the Careys!

Tears of joy sprang to the eyes of emotional Nancy. She rose to her feet
and paced the greensward excitedly.

"Oh, mother, I didn't think there could be another such man after
knowing father and the Admiral. Isn't it all as wonderful as a fairy
story?"

"There's a little more; listen, dear."

    As to the term of your occupancy, the Careys may have the Yellow
    House until the day of my death, unless by some extraordinary
    chance my son Tom should ever want it as a summer home.

"Oh, dear! there comes the dreadful 'unless'! 'My son Tom' is our only
enemy, then!" said Nancy darkly.

"He is in China, at all events," her mother remarked cheerfully.

    Tom is the only one who ever had a bit of sentiment about
    Beulah, and he was always unwilling that the old place should
    be occupied by strangers. The curious thing about the matter
    is that you and yours do not seem to be strangers to me and
    mine. Do you know, dear little Miss Nancy, what brought the
    tears to my eyes in your letter? The incident of your father's
    asking what you could do to thank the Yellow House for the
    happy hour it had given you on that summer day long ago, and the
    planting of the crimson rambler by the side of the portico. I
    have sent your picture tying up the rose,--and it was so
    charming I was loath to let it go,--with your letter, and the
    snap shot of the family group, all out to my son Tom in China.
    He will know then why I have let the house, to whom, and all
    the attendant circumstances. Trust him never to disturb you
    when he sees how you love the old place. The planting of that
    crimson rambler will fix Tom, for he's a romantic boy.

"The planting of the rose was a heavenly inspiration if it does 'fix
Tom!' We'll call Tom the Chinese Enemy. No, we'll call him the Yellow
Peril," laughed Nancy in triumph.

    I am delighted with the sample of paper you have chosen for the
    front hall.

"I don't see why you didn't go over to Germany yourself, Nancy, and take
a trunk of samples!" cried Mrs. Carey, wiping the tears of merriment
from her eyes. "I can't think what the postage on your letter must have
been."

"Ten cents," Nancy confessed, "but wasn't it worth it, Muddy?--Come,
read the last few lines, and then we'll run all the way home to tell the
others."

    Send me anything more, at any time, to give me an idea of the
    delightful things you are doing. I shall be proud if you honor
    me with an occasional letter. Pray give my regards to your
    mother, whom I envy, and all the "stormy petrels," whom I envy
    too.

    Believe me, dear Miss Nancy,

    Yours sincerely,

    LEMUEL HAMILTON.


"I can't remember why I told him about Mother Carey's chickens," said
Nancy reflectively. "It just seemed to come in naturally. The Yellow
Peril must be rather nice, as well as his father, even if he is our
enemy. That was clever of him, putting his grandmother in the brick
oven!" And here Nancy laughed, and laughed again, thinking how her last
remark would sound if overheard by a person unacquainted with the
circumstances.

"A delightful, warm, kind, friendly letter," said Mother Carey, folding
it with a caressing hand. "I wish your father could have read it."

"He doesn't say a word about his children," and Nancy took the sheets
and scanned them again.

"You evidently gave him the history of your whole family, but he
confines himself to his own life."

"He mentions 'my son Tom' frequently enough, but there's not a word of
Mrs. Hamilton."

"No, but there's no reason there should be, especially!"

"If he loved her he couldn't keep her out," said Nancy shrewdly. "She
just isn't in the story at all. Could any of us write a chronicle of any
house we ever lived in, and leave you out?"

Mrs. Carey took Nancy's outstretched hands and was pulled up from the
greensward. "You have a few 'instinks' yourself, little daughter," she
said with a swift pat on the rosy cheek. "Now, Peter, put your marbles
in the pocket of your blue jeans, and take the milk pail from under the
bushes; we must hurry or there'll be no chowder."

As they neared Garden Fore-and-Aft the group of children rushed out to
meet them, Kitty in advance.

"The fish man didn't come," she said, "and it's long past his time, so
there's no hope; but Julia and I have the dinner all planned. There
wasn't enough of it to go round anyway, so we've asked Olive and Cyril
to stay, and we've set the table under the great maple,--do you care?"

"Not a bit; we'll have a real jollification, because Nancy has some good
news to tell you!"

"The dinner isn't quite appropriate for a jollification," Kitty observed
anxiously. "Is the news good enough to warrant opening a jar or a can of
anything?"

"Open all that doth hap to be closed," cried Nancy, embracing Olive
excitedly. "Light the bonfires on the encroaching hills. Set casks
a-tilt, and so forth."

"It's the German letter!" said Gilbert at a venture.

"What is the dinner, Kitty?" Mother Carey asked.

"New potatoes and string beans from the aft garden. Stale bread made
into milk toast to be served as a course. Then, not that it has anything
to do with the case, but just to give a style to the meal, Julia has
made a salad out of the newspaper."

Nancy created a diversion by swooning on the grass; a feat which had
given her great fame in charades.

"It was only the memory of Julia's last newspaper salad!" she murmured
when the usual restoratives had been applied. "Prithee, poppet, what
hast dropped into the dish to-day?"

Julia was laughing too much to be wholly intelligible, but read from a
scrap in her apron pocket: "'Any fruit in season, cold beans or peas,
minced cucumber, English walnuts, a few cubes of cold meat left from
dinner, hard boiled eggs in slices, flecks of ripe tomatoes and radishes
to perfect the color scheme, a dash of onion juice, dash of paprika,
dash of rich cream.' I have left out the okra, the shallot, the
estragon, the tarragon, the endive, the hearts of artichoke, the
Hungarian peppers and the haricot beans because we hadn't any;--do you
think it will make any difference, Aunt Margaret?"

"It will," said Nancy oracularly, "but all to the good."

"Rather a dull salad I call it," commented Gilbert. "Lacks the snap of
the last one. No mention of boned sprats, or snails in aspic, calves'
foot jelly, iced humming birds, pickled edelweiss, or any of those
things kept habitually in the cellars of families like ours. No dash of
Jamaica ginger or Pain-killer or sloe gin or sarsaparilla to give it
piquancy. Unless Julia can find a paper that gives more up-to-date
advice to its country subscribers, we'll have to transfer her from the
kitchen department to the woodshed."

Julia's whole attitude, during this discussion of her recent culinary
experiments, was indicative of the change that was slowly taking place
in her point of view. The Careys had a large sense of humor, from mother
down as far as Peter, who was still in the tadpole stage of it. They
chaffed one another on all occasions, for the most part courteously and
with entire good nature. Leigh Hunt speaks of the anxiety of certain
persons to keep their minds quiet lest any motion be clumsy, and Julia's
concern had been of this variety; but four or five months spent in a
household where mental operations, if not deep, were incredibly quick,
had made her a little more elastic. Mother Carey had always said that if
Julia had any sense of humor she would discover for herself what a
solemn prig she was, and mend her ways, and it seemed as if this might
be true in course of time.

"What'll we do with all the milk?" now demanded Peter, who had carried
it all the way from the Pophams', and to whom it appeared therefore of
exaggerated importance.

"Angel boy!" cried Nancy, embracing him. "The only practical member of
the family! What wouldst thou suggest?"

"Drink it," was the terse reply.

"And so't shall be, my liege! Fetch the beaker, lackey," identifying
Cyril with a royal gesture. "Also crystal water from the well, which by
the command of our Cousin Ann will speedily flow in a pipe within the
castle walls. There are healths to be drunk this day when we assemble
under the Hamilton maple, and first and most loyally the health of our
American Consul at Breslau, Germany!"



XXV

"FOLLOWING THE GLEAM"


If the summer months had brought many changes to the dwellers in the
Yellow House and the House of Lords, the autumn was responsible for many
more. Cousin Ann's improvements were set in motion and were promised to
be in full force before cold weather set in, and the fall term at Beulah
Academy had opened with six new, unexpected, and interesting students.
Happily for the Careys and happily for Beulah, the old principal, a
faithful but uninspired teacher, had been called to Massachusetts to
fill a higher position; and only a few days before the beginning of the
term, a young college man, Ralph Thurston, fresh from Bowdoin and
needing experience, applied for and received the appointment. The thrill
of rapture that ran like an electric current through the persons of the
feminine students when they beheld Ralph Thurston for the first
time,--dignified, scholarly, unmistakably the gentleman,--beheld him
mount the platform in the assembly room, and knew him for their own,
this can better be imagined than described! He was handsome, he was
young, he had enough hair (which their principals seldom had possessed),
he did not wear spectacles, he had a pleasing voice, and a manner of
speaking that sent tremors of delight up and down a thirteen-year-old
spine. He had a merry wit and a hearty laugh, but one had only to look
at him closely to feel that he had borne burdens and that his
attainments had been bought with a price. He was going to be difficult
to please, and the girls of all ages drew deep breaths of anticipation
and knew that they should study as never before. The vice-principal, a
lady of fine attainments, was temporarily in eclipse, and such an
astounding love for the classics swept through young Beulah that nobody
could understand it. Ralph Thurston taught Latin and Greek himself, but
parents did not at first observe the mysterious connection between cause
and effect. It was all very young and artless and innocent; helpful and
stimulating too, for Thurston was no budding ladies' man, but a
thoroughly good fellow, manly enough to attract the boys and hold
their interest.

The entrance of the four Careys and two Lords into the list of students
had an inspiring effect upon the whole school. So far as scholarship was
concerned they were often outstripped by their country neighbors, but
the Careys had seen so much of the world that they had a great deal of
general culture, and the academy atmosphere was affected by it. Olive,
Nancy, and Gilbert went into the highest class; Kathleen, Julia, and
Cyril into the one below.

The intimacy of Nancy and Olive was a romantic and ardent one. Olive had
never had a real companion in her life; Nancy's friends dotted the
universe wherever she had chanced to live. Olive was uncommunicative,
shy, and stiff with all but a chosen few; Nancy was at ease in all
assemblies. It was Nancy's sympathy and enthusiasm and warmth that
attracted Olive Lord, and it was the combination of Olive's genius and
her need of love, that held Nancy.

Never were two human creatures more unlike in their ways of thought.
Olive had lived in Beulah seven years, and knew scarcely any one because
of her father's eccentricities and his indifference to the world; but
had you immured Nancy in a convent she would have made a large circle of
acquaintances from the window of her cell, before a month passed over
her head. She had an ardent interest in her fellow creatures, and
whenever they strayed from the strict path of rectitude, she was
consumed with a desire to set them straight. If Olive had seen a drunken
man lying in a ditch, she would scarcely have looked at him, much less
inquired his name. Nancy would have sat by until he recovered himself,
if possible, or found somebody to take him to his destination. As for
the delightful opportunity of persuading him of his folly, she would
have jumped at the chance when she was fifteen or sixteen, but as she
grew older she observed a little more reticence in these delicate
matters, at least when she was endeavoring to reform her elders. She had
succeeded in making young Nat Harmon stop cigarette smoking, but he was
privately less convinced of the error of his ways than he was bewitched
by Nancy. She promised readily to wear a blue ribbon and sit on the
platform in the Baptist Chapel at the Annual Meeting of the Junior
Temperance League. On the eve of the affair she even would gladly have
made a speech when the president begged her to do so, but the
horror-stricken Olive succeeded in stopping her, and her mother firmly
stood by Olive.

"Oh! all right; I don't care a bit about it, Muddy," she answered
nonchalantly. "Only there is something splendid about rising from a band
of blue-ribboned girls and boys and addressing the multitude for a great
cause." "What do you know about this great cause, Nancy dear, at
your age?"

"Oh, not much! but you don't have to know much if you say it loud and
clear to the back settees. I've watched how it goes! It was thrilling
when we gave 'Esther the Beautiful Queen' in the Town Hall; when we
waved our hands and sang 'Haman! Haman! Long live Haman!' I almost
fainted with joy."

"It was very good; I liked it too; but perhaps if you 'faint with joy'
whenever your feet touch a platform, it will be more prudent for you to
keep away!" and Mother Carey laughed.

"Very well, madam, your will is my law! When you see the youth of Beulah
treading the broad road that leadeth to destruction, and looking on the
wine when it is red in the cup, remember that you withheld my hand
and voice!"

Gilbert and Cyril were much together, particularly after Cyril's
standing had been increased in Beulah by the news that Mr. Thurston
thought him a remarkable mathematician and perhaps the leading student
in his class. Cyril himself, too pale for a country boy of fourteen,
narrow-shouldered, silent, and timid, took this unexpected fame with
absolute terror, but Olive's pride delighted in it and she positively
bloomed, in the knowledge that her brother was appreciated. She herself
secretly thought books were rather a mistake when paints and brushes
were at hand, and it was no wonder that she did not take high rank,
seeing that she painted an hour before school, and all day Saturday,
alternating her work on the guest chamber of the Yellow House with her
portrait of Nancy for Mother Carey's Christmas present.

Kathleen and Julia had fallen into step and were good companions.
Kathleen had never forgotten her own breach of good manners and family
loyalty; Julia always remembered the passion of remorse that Kathleen
felt, a remorse that had colored her conduct to Julia ever since. Julia
was a good plodder, and Mr. Thurston complimented her on the excellence
of her Latin recitations, when he had his wits about him and could
remember that she existed. He never had any difficulty in remembering
Nancy. She was not, it must be confessed, especially admirable as a
_verbatim et literatim_ "reciter." Sometimes she forgot entirely what
the book had said on a certain topic, but she usually had some original
observation of her own to offer by way of compromise. At first Mr.
Thurston thought that she was trying to conceal her lack of real
knowledge, and dazzle her instructor at the same time, so that he should
never discover her ignorance. Later on he found where her weakness and
her strength lay. She adapted, invented, modified things
naturally,--embroidered all over her task, so to speak, and delivered it
in somewhat different shape from the other girls. (When she was twelve
she pricked her finger in sewing and made a blood-stain on the little
white mull apron that she was making. The stuff was so delicate that she
did not dare to attempt any cleansing process, and she was in a great
hurry too, so she embroidered a green four leaf clover over the
bloodstain, and all the family exclaimed, "How like Nancy!") Grammar
teased Nancy, algebra and geometry routed her, horse, foot, and
dragoons. No room for embroidery there! Languages delighted her,
map-drawing bored her, and composition intoxicated her, although she was
better at improvising than at the real task of setting down her thoughts
in black and white. The class chronicles and prophecies and songs and
poems would flow to her inevitably, but Kathleen would be the one who
would give new grace and charm to them if she were to read them to
an audience.

How Beulah Academy beamed, and applauded, and wagged its head in pride
on a certain day before Thanksgiving, when there were exercises in the
assembly room. Olive had drawn The Landing of the Pilgrims on the
largest of the blackboards, and Nancy had written a merry little story
that caused great laughter and applause in the youthful audience.
Gilbert had taken part in a debate and covered himself with glory, and
Kathleen closed the impromptu programme by reciting Tennyson's--

  O young Mariner,
  You from the haven
  Under the sea-cliff,
  You that are watching
  The gray Magician
  With eyes of wonder,...
    follow the Gleam.

  Great the Master,
  And sweet the Magic,
  When over the valley,
  In early summers,
  Over the mountain,
  On human faces,
  And all around me,
  Moving to melody
  Floated the Gleam.

  O young Mariner,
  Down to the haven,
  Call your companion,
  Launch your vessel
  And crowd your canvas,
  And, ere it vanishes
  Over the margin,
  After it, follow it,
  Follow the Gleam.

Kathleen's last year's brown velveteen disclosed bronze slippers and
stockings,--a novelty in Beulah,--her hair fell in such curls as Beulah
had rarely beheld, and her voice was as sweet as a thrush's note; so
perhaps it is not strange that the poem set a kind of fashion at the
academy, and "following the gleam" became a sort of text by which to
study and grow and live.

Thanksgiving Day approached, and everybody was praying for a flurry of
snow, just enough to give a zest to turkey and cranberry sauce. On the
twentieth it suddenly occurred to Mother Carey that this typical New
England feast day would be just the proper time for the housewarming, so
the Lord children, the Pophams, and the Harmons were all bidden to come
at seven o'clock in the evening. Great preparations ensued. Rows of Jack
o' Lanterns decorated the piazza, and the Careys had fewer pumpkin pies
in November than their neighbors, in consequence of their extravagant
inroads upon the golden treasures of the aft garden. Inside were a few
late asters and branches of evergreen, and the illumination suggested
that somebody had been lending additional lamps and candles for the
occasion. The original equipment of clothes possessed by the Careys on
their arrival in Beulah still held good, and looked well by lamplight,
so that the toilettes were fully worthy of so important a function.

Olive's picture of Nancy was finished, and she announced the absolute
impossibility of keeping it until Christmas, so it reached the Yellow
House on Thanksgiving morning. When it was unwrapped by Nancy and
displayed for the first time to the family, Mother Carey's lips parted,
her eyes opened in wonder, but no words came for an instant, in the
bewilderment of her mind. Olive had written the title "Young April"
under the picture. Nancy stood on a bit of dandelion-dotted turf, a
budding tree in the background, her arm flung over the neck of a Jersey
calf. The calf had sat for his portrait long before, but Nancy had been
added since May. Olive, by a clever inspiration, had turned Nancy's face
away and painted her with the April breeze blowing her hair across her
cheek. She was not good at painting features, her art was too crude, but
somehow the real thing was there; and the likeness to Nancy, in figure,
pose, and hair, was so unmistakable that her mother caught her breath.
As for the calf, he, at least, was distinctly in Olive's line, and he
was painted with a touch of genius.

"It is better of the calf than it is of you, Nancy," said Gilbert
critically.

"Isn't Mr. Bossy lovely?" his sister responded amiably. "Wouldn't he put
any professional beauty out of countenance? I am proud to be painted
beside him! Do you like it, Muddy dear?"

"Like it?" she exclaimed, "it is wonderful! It must be sent to Boston
for criticism, and we must invent some way of persuading Mr. Lord to
give Olive the best instruction to be had. This picture is even better
than anything she has done in the painted chamber. I shouldn't wonder a
bit, Nancy, if little Beulah were to be very proud of Olive in the
years to come!"

Nancy was transported at her mother's praise. "I felt it, I knew it! I
always said Olive was a genius," she cried, clapping her hands. "Olive
is 'following the gleam'! Can't you feel the wind blowing my hair and
dress? Don't you see that the calf is chewing his cud and is going to
move in just a minute? Olive's animals are always just going to
move!--Oh, Muddy dear! when you see Olive nowadays, smiling and busy and
happy, aren't you glad you stretched your wings and took her under them
with the rest of us? And don't you think you could make a 'new beast'
out of Mr. Henry Lord, or is he too old a beast even for Mother Carey?"



XXVI

A ZOOLOGICAL FATHER


That was just what Mother Carey was wondering when Nancy spoke, and as
the result of several hours' reflection she went out for a walk just
before dusk and made her way towards The Cedars with a package under
her cloak.

She followed the long lane that led to the house, and knocked at the
front door rather timidly. In her own good time Mrs. Bangs answered the
knock and admitted Mrs. Carey into the dreariest sitting room she had
ever entered.

"I am Mrs. Carey from the Hamilton house," she said to Mrs. Bangs. "Will
you ask Mr. Lord if he will see me for a moment?"

Mrs. Bangs was stupefied at the request, for, in her time, scarcely a
single caller from the village had crossed the threshold, although there
had been occasional visitors from Portland or Boston.

Mrs. Carey waited a few moments, silently regarding the unequalled
bareness, ugliness, and cheerlessness of the room. "Olive has a sense of
beauty," she thought, "and Olive is sixteen; it is Olive who ought to
make this place different from what it is, and she can, unless her
father is the stumbling-block in the way."

At this moment the possible stumbling-block, Henry Lord, Ph.D., came in
and greeted her civilly. His manner was never genial, for there was
neither love in his heart nor warm blood in his veins; but he was
courteous, for he was an educated fossil, of good birth and up-bringing.
He had been dissecting specimens in his workroom, and he looked capable
of dismembering Mother Carey; but bless your heart, she had weapons in
her unseen armory that were capable of bringing confusion to his paltry
apparatus!--among others a delicate, slender little sword that pierced
deep on occasion.

Henry Lord was of medium height; spare, clean-shaven, thin-lipped, with
scanty auburn hair, high forehead, and small keen eyes, especially
adapted to the microscope, though ill fitted to use in friendly
conversation.

"We are neighbors, Professor Lord, though we have never met," said Mrs.
Carey, rising and giving him her hand.

"My children know you better than I," he answered, "and I feel it very
kind in you to allow them to call on you so frequently." They had lived
at the Yellow House for four months save at meal times, but as their
father was unaware of the number and extent of their visits Mrs. Carey
thought it useless to speak of them, so she merely said:

"It is a great pleasure to have them with us. My children have left many
friends behind them in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and might have been
lonely in Beulah; besides, I often think the larger the group (within
certain limits), the better chance children have of learning how
to live."

"I should certainly not have permitted Olive and Cyril to attend the
local academy but for your family," said Professor Lord. "These country
schools never have any atmosphere of true scholarliness, and the speech
and manners of both teachers and pupils are execrable."

"I dare say that is often the case. If the academies could furnish such
teachers as existed fifty years ago; and alas! if we parents could
furnish such vigorous, determined, ambitious, self-denying pupils as
used to be sent out from country homes, we should have less to complain
of. Of course we are peculiarly fortunate here in Beulah."

Mr. Lord looked faintly amused and infinitely superior. "I am afraid, my
dear lady," he remarked, "that you have not had long enough experience
to comprehend the slenderness of Mr. Philpot's mental equipment."

"Oh, Mr. Philpot resigned nearly three months ago," said Mrs. Carey
easily, giving Henry Lord, Ph.D., her first stab, and a look of
amusement on her own behalf. "Ralph Thurston, the present principal, is
a fine, unusual fellow."

"Really? The children have never mentioned any change, but I regret to
say I am absent-minded at meals. The death of my wife left many gaps in
the life of the household."

"So that you have to be mother and father in one!" (Stab two: very
delicately delivered.)

"I fear I am too much of a student to be called a good family man."

"So I gathered." (Stab three. She wanted to provoke curiosity.)

Mr. Lord looked annoyed. He knew his unpopularity, and did not wish any
village gossip to reach the ears of strangers. "You, my dear madam, are
capable of appreciating my devotion to my life work, which the neighbors
naturally wholly misunderstand," he said.

"I gathered nothing from the neighbors," responded Mrs. Carey, "but a
woman has only to know children well to see at a glance what they need.
You are so absorbed in authorship just now, that naturally it is a
little hard for the young people; but I suppose there are breathing
places, 'between books'?"

"There are no breathing places between mine; there will be six volumes,
and I am scarcely half through the third, although I have given seven
years to the work. Still, I have an excellent housekeeper who attends to
all our simple needs. My children are not fitted for society."

"No, not quite." (Stab four). "That is the reason they ought to see a
good deal of it, but they are very fine children and very clever."

"I am glad you think so, but they certainly write bad English and have
no general knowledge whatsoever."

"Oh, well, that will come, doubtless, when you have more time with
them." (Stab five.) "I often think such mysterious things as good speech
and culture can never be learned in school. I shouldn't wonder if that
were our department, Dr. Lord!" (Stab six.) "However, you will agree,
modest parent as you are, that your Olive is a genius?"

"I have never observed it," replied her father. "I cannot, of course,
allow her to practice on any musical instrument, because my studies
demand quiet, but I don't think she cares for music."

"She draws and paints, however, in the most astonishing way, and she has
a passionate energy, and concentration, and devotion to her work that I
have never seen coupled with anything but an extraordinary talent. She
is destined to go very far, in my opinion."

"Not too far, I hope," remarked Mr. Lord, with an icy smile. "Olive can
paint on plush and china as much as she likes, but I am not partial to
'careers' for young women."

"Nor am I; save when the gift is so commanding, so obvious, that it has
to be reckoned with;--but I must not delay my business any longer, nor
keep you from your work. We are having a housewarming this evening at
seven. Olive and Cyril are there now, helping in the preparations, and I
want to know if they may stay to supper, and if you can send for them at
half past nine or ten."

"Certainly they may stay, though I should think your supper table could
hardly stand the strain."

"Where there are five already, two more make no difference, save in
better appetite for all," said Mother Carey, smiling and rising.

"If you will allow me to get my hat and coat I will accompany you to the
main road," said Mr. Lord, going to the front hall, and then opening the
door for Mrs. Carey. "Let me take your parcel, please."

He did not know in the least why he said it and why he did it. The lady
had interfered with his family affairs to a considerable extent, and had
made several remarks that would have appeared impertinent, had they not
issued from a very winsome, beautiful mouth. Mrs. Ossian Popham or Mrs.
Bill Harmon would have been shown the door for saying less, yet here was
Henry Lord, Ph.D., ambling down the lane by Mother Carey's side,
thinking to himself what a burden she lifted from his shoulders by her
unaccountable interest in his unattractive children. He was also
thinking how "springy" was the lady's step in her short black dress, how
brilliant the chestnut hair looked under the black felt hat, and how
white the skin gleamed above the glossy lynx boa. A kind of mucilaginous
fluid ran in his veins instead of blood, but Henry Lord, Ph.D., had his
assailable side nevertheless, and he felt extraordinarily good natured,
almost as if the third volume were finished, with public and publishers
clamoring for its appearance.

"I don't know where Olive could have got any such talent as you
describe," he said, as they were walking along the lane. "She had some
lessons long ago, I remember, and her mother used to talk of her amusing
herself with pencil and paint, but I have heard nothing of it
for years."

"Ask to see her sketches when you are talking with her about her work
some day," suggested Mother Carey. (Stab seven.) "As a matter of fact
she probably gets her talent from you."

"From me!" Printed letters fail to register the amazement in Professor
Lord's tone.

"Why not, when you consider her specialty?"

"_What_ specialty?"

Really, a slender sword was of no use with this man; a bludgeon was the
only instrument, yet it might wound, and she only wanted to prick. Had
the creature never seen Olive sketching, nor noted her choice
of subjects?

"She paints animals; paints nothing else, if she can help it; though she
does fairly well with other things. Is it impossible that your study of
zoology--your thought, your absorption for years and years, in the
classification, the structure, the habits of animals--may have been
stamped on your child's mind? She has an ardor equal to your own, only
showing itself in a different manner. You may have passed on, in some
mysterious way, your knowledge to Olive. She may have unconsciously
blended it with some instinct for expression of her own, and it comes
out in pictures. Look at this, Professor Lord. Olive gave it to
me to-day."

They stood together at the gate leading out into the road, and Mrs.
Carey unwrapped the painting and poised it against the top of the gate.

Olive's father looked at it for a moment and then said, "I am no judge
of these things, technically or otherwise, but it certainly seems very
creditable work for a girl of Olive's age."

"Oh, it is surely more than that! My girl Nancy stands there in the
flesh, though her face is hidden. Look at the wind blowing, look at the
delightful, the enchanting calf; above all look at the title! Who in the
world but a little genius could have composed that sketch, breathing
youth in every inch of it,--and called it 'Young April'! Oh! Professor
Lord, I am very bold, because your wife is not living, and it is women
who oftenest see these budding tendencies in children; forgive me, but
do cherish and develop this talent of Olive's."

The eyes the color of the blue velvet bonnet were turned full upon Henry
Lord, Ph.D. They swam in tears and the color came and went in her cheek;
she was forty, but it was a lovely cheek still.

"I will think it over," he replied with some embarrassment as he wrapped
the picture again and handed it to her. "Meantime I am certainly very
much obliged to you. You seem to have an uncommon knowledge of young
people. May I ask if you are, or have been, a teacher?" "Oh, no!" Mrs.
Carey remarked with a smile, "I am just a mother,--that's all!
Good night."



XXVII

THE CAREY HOUSEWARMING


The housewarming was at its height, and everybody agreed once in every
ten minutes that it was probably the most beautiful party that had ever
happened in the history of the world.

Water flowed freely through Cousin Ann's expensive pipes, that had been
buried so deep in their trenches that the winter frosts could not affect
them. Natty Harmon tried the kitchen pump secretly several times during
the evening, for the water had to run up hill all the way from the well
to the kitchen sink, and he believed this to be a continual miracle that
might "give out" at any moment. The stove in the cellar, always alluded
to by Gilbert as the "young furnace," had not yet been used, save by way
of experiment, but it was believed to be a perfect success. To-night
there was no need of extra heat, and there were great ceremonies to be
observed in lighting the fires on the hearthstones. They began with the
one in the family sitting room; Colonel Wheeler, Ralph Thurston, Mr. and
Mrs. Bill Harmon with Natty and Rufus, Mr. and Mrs. Popham with Digby
and Lallie Joy, all standing in admiring groups and thrilling with
delight at the order of events. Mother Carey sat by the fireplace;
little Peter, fairly radiant with excitement, leaning against her knee
and waiting for his own great moment, now close at hand.

"_When ye come into a house, salute it; and if the house be worthy, let
your peace come upon it_.

"_To all those who may dwell therein from generation to generation may
it be a house of God, a gate of heaven_.

"_For every house is builded by some man, but he that built all things
is God, seeing that he giveth to every one of us life and breath and all
good things_."

Mother Carey spoke these words so simply and naturally, as she looked
towards her neighbors one after another, with her hand resting on
Peter's curly head, that they hardly knew whether to keep quiet or
say Amen.

"Was that the Bible, Osh?" whispered Bill Harmon.

"Don't know; 'most everything she says sounds like the Bible or
Shakespeare to me."

In the hush that followed Mother Carey's salutation Gilbert approached
with a basket over his arm, and quickly and neatly laid a little fire
behind the brass andirons on the hearth. Then Nancy handed Peter a
loosely bound sheaf, saying: "To light this fire I give you a torch. In
it are herbs of the field for health of the body, a fern leaf for grace,
a sprig of elm for peace, one of oak for strength, with evergreen to
show that we live forever in the deeds we have done. To these we have
added rosemary for remembrance and pansies for thoughts."

Peter crouched on the hearth and lighted the fire in three places, then
handed the torch to Kathleen as he crept again into his mother's lap,
awed into complete silence by the influence of his own mystic rite.
Kathleen waved the torch to and fro as she recited some beautiful lines
written for some such purpose as that which called them
together to-night.

      "Burn, fire, burn!
    Flicker, flicker, flame!
  Whose hand above this blaze is lifted
  Shall be with touch of magic gifted,
  To warm the hearts of chilly mortals
  Who stand without these open portals.
  The touch shall draw them to this fire,
      Nigher, nigher,
      By desire.
  Whoso shall stand on this hearth-stone,
      Flame-fanned,
  Shall never, never stand alone.
  Whose home is dark and drear and old,
      Whose hearth is cold,
      This is his own.
  Flicker, flicker, flicker, flame!
      Burn, fire, burn!"[1]

[Footnote 1: Florence Converse.]

Next came Olive's turn to help in the ceremonies. Ralph Thurston had
found a line of Latin for them in his beloved Horace: _Tibi splendet
focus_ (For you the hearth-fire shines). Olive had painted the motto on
a long narrow panel of canvas, and, giving it to Mr. Popham, stood by
the fireside while he deftly fitted it into the place prepared for it.
The family had feared that he would tell a good story when he found
himself the centre of attraction, but he was as dumb as Peter, and for
the same reason.

"Olive has another lovely gift for the Yellow House," said Mother Carey,
rising, "and to carry out the next part of the programme we shall have
to go in procession upstairs to my bedroom."

"Guess there wan't many idees to give round to other folks after the
Lord made _her_!" exclaimed Bill Harmon to his wife as they went through
the lighted hall.

Gilbert, at the head of the procession, held Mother Hamilton's picture,
which had been taken from the old brick oven where "my son Tom" had
hidden it. Mother Carey's bedroom, with its bouquets of field flowers on
the wall paper, was gaily lighted and ready to receive the gift. Nancy
stood on a chair and hung the portrait over the fireplace, saying, "We
place this picture here in memory of Agatha, mother of Lemuel Hamilton,
owner of the Yellow House. Underneath it we lay a posy of pressed
daisies, buttercups, and Queen Anne's lace, the wild flowers she
loved best."

Now Olive took away a green garland covering the words "_Mater Cara_,"
that she had painted in brown letters just over the bricks of the
fireplace. The letters were in old English text, and a riot of
buttercups and grasses twined their way amongst them.

"_Mater Cara_ stands for 'mother dear,'" said Nancy, "and thus this room
will be full of memories of two dear mothers, an absent and a
present one."

Then Kathleen and Gilbert and Julia, Mother Carey and Peter bowed their
heads and said in chorus: "_O Thou who dwellest in so many homes,
possess thyself of this. Thou who settest the solitary in families,
bless the life that is sheltered here. Grant that trust and peace and
comfort may abide within, and that love and light and usefulness may go
out from this house forever. Amen_."

There was a moment's silence and then all the party descended the stairs
to the dining room.

"Ain't they the greatest?" murmured Lallie Joy, turning to her father,
but he had disappeared from the group.

The dining room was a blaze of glory, and great merriment ensued as they
took their places at the table. Mother Carey poured coffee, Nancy
chocolate, and the others helped serve the sandwiches and cake,
doughnuts and tarts.

"Where is Mr. Popham?" asked Nancy at the foot of the table. "We cannot
be happy without Mr. Popham."

At that moment the gentleman entered, bearing a huge object concealed by
a piece of green felt. Approaching the dining table, he carefully placed
the article in the centre and removed the cloth.

It was the Dirty Boy, carefully mended!

The guests naturally had no associations with the Carey Curse, and the
Careys themselves were dumb with amazement and despair.

"I've seen this thing layin' in the barn chamber in a thousand pieces
all summer!" explained Mr. Popham radiantly. "It wan't none o' my
business if the family throwed it away thinkin' it wan't no more good.
Thinks I to myself, I never seen anything Osh Popham couldn't mend if he
took time enough and glue enough; so I carried this little feller home
in a bushel basket one night last month, an' I've spent eleven evenin's
puttin' him together! I don't claim he's good 's new, 'cause he ain't;
but he's consid'able better'n he was when I found him layin' in the
barn chamber!"

"Thank you, Mr. Popham!" said Mrs. Carey, her eyes twinkling as she
looked at the laughing children. "It was kind of you to spend so much
time in our behalf."

"Well, I says to myself there's nothin' too good for 'em, an' when it
comes Thanksgivin' I'll give 'em one thing more to be thankful for!"

"Quit talkin', Pop, will yer?" whispered Digby, nudging his father.
"You've kep' us from startin' to eat 'bout five minutes a'ready, an' I'm
as holler as a horn!"

It was as cheery, gay, festive, neighborly, and friendly a supper as
ever took place in the dining room of the Yellow House, although
Governor Weatherby may have had some handsomer banquets in his time.
When it was over all made their way into the rosy, bowery, summer
parlor. Soon another fire sparkled and snapped on the hearth, and there
were songs and poems and choruses and Osh Popham's fiddle, to say
nothing of the supreme event of the evening, his rendition of "Fly like
a youthful hart or roe, over the hills where spices grow," to Mother
Carey's accompaniment. He always slipped up his glasses during this
performance and closed his eyes, but neither grey hairs nor "specs"
could dim the radiant smile that made him seem about fifteen years old
and the junior of both his children.

Mrs. Harmon thought he sang too much, and told her husband privately
that if he was a canary bird she should want to keep a table cover over
his head most of the time, but he was immensely popular with the rest of
his audience.

Last of all the entire company gathered round the old-fashioned piano
for a parting hymn. The face of the mahogany shone with delight, and why
not, when it was doing everything (almost everything!) within the scope
of a piano, and yet the family had enjoyed weeks of good nourishing
meals on what had been saved by its exertions. Also, what rational
family could mourn the loss of an irregularly shaped instrument standing
on three legs and played on one corner? The tall silver candle sticks
gleamed in the firelight, the silver dish of polished Baldwins blushed
rosier in the glow. Mother Carey played the dear old common metre tune,
and the voices rang out in Whittier's hymn. The Careys all sang like
thrushes, and even Peter, holding his hymn book upside down, put in
little bird notes, always on the key, whenever he caught a
familiar strain.

  "Once more the liberal year laughs out
    O'er richer stores than gems or gold;
  Once more, with harvest-song and shout
    Is Nature's bloodless triumph told."

  "We shut our eyes, the flowers bloom on;
    We murmur, but the corn-ears fill;
  We choose the shadow, but the sun
    That casts it shines behind us still."

  "O favors every year made new!
    O gifts with rain and sunshine sent!
  The bounty overruns our due,
    The fulness shames our discontent."



XXVIII

"TIBI SPLENDET FOCUS"


There was one watcher of all this, and one listener, outside of the
Yellow House, that none of the party suspected, and that was Henry
Lord, Ph.D.

When he left Mrs. Carey at the gate at five o'clock, he went back to his
own house and ordered his supper to be brought him on a tray in his
study. He particularly liked this, always, as it freed him from all
responsibility of serving his children, and making an occasional remark;
and as a matter of fact everybody was as pleased as he when he ate
alone, the occasional meals Olive and Cyril had by themselves being the
only ones they ever enjoyed or digested.

He studied and wrote and consulted heavy tomes, and walked up and down
the room, and pulled out colored plates from portfolios, all with great
satisfaction until he chanced to look at the clock when it struck ten.
He had forgotten to send for the children as he had promised Mother
Carey! He went out into the hall and called Mrs. Bangs in a stentorian
voice. No answer. Irritated, as he always was when crossed in the
slightest degree, he went downstairs and found the kitchen empty.

"Her cub of a nephew has been staying to supper with her, guzzling and
cramming himself at my expense," he thought, "and now she has walked
home with him! It's perfect nonsense to go after a girl of sixteen and a
boy of thirteen. As if they couldn't walk along a country road at ten
o'clock! Still, it may look odd if some one doesn't go, and I can't lock
the house till they come, anyway."

He drew on his great coat, put on his cap, and started down the lane in
no good humor. It was a crisp, starlight night and the ground was
freezing fast. He walked along, his hands in his pockets, his head bent.
As he went through the gate to the main road he glanced up. The Yellow
House, a third of a mile distant, was a blaze of light! There must have
been a candle or a lamp in every one of its windows, he thought. The
ground rose a little where the house stood, and although it could not be
seen in summer because of the dense foliage everywhere, the trees were
nearly bare now.

"My handsome neighbor is extravagant," he said to himself with a grim
smile. "Is the illumination for Thanksgiving, I wonder? Oh, no, I
remember she said the party was in the nature of a housewarming."

As he went up the pathway he saw that the shades were up and no curtains
drawn anywhere. The Yellow House had no intention of hiding its lights
under bushels that evening, of all others; besides, there were no
neighbors within a long distance.

Standing on the lowest of the governor's "circ'lar steps" he could see
the corner where the group stood singing, with shining faces:--

  "Once more the liberal year laughs out
  O'er richer stores than gems or gold."

Mother Carey's fine head rose nobly from her simple black dress, and her
throat was as white as the deep lace collar that was her only ornament.

Nancy he knew by sight, and Nancy in a crimson dress was singing her
thankful heart out. Who was the dark-haired girl standing by her side,
the two with arms round each other's waists,--his own Olive! He had
always thought her unattractive, but her hair was smoothly braided and
her eyes all aglow. Cyril stood between Gilbert and Mother Carey. Cyril,
he knew, could not carry a tune to save his life, but he seemed to be
opening his lips and uttering words all the same. Where was the timid
eye, the "hangdog look," the shrinking manner, he so disliked in his
son? Great Heavens! the boy laid his hand on Mrs. Carey's shoulder and
beat time there gently with a finger, as if a mother's shoulder could be
used for any nice, necessary sort of purpose.

If he knocked at the door now, he thought, he should interrupt the
party; which was seemingly at its height. He, Henry Lord, Ph.D.,
certainly had no intention of going in to join it, not with Ossian
Popham and Bill Harmon as fellow guests.

He made his way curiously around the outside of the house, looking in at
all the windows, and by choosing various positions, seeing as much as he
could of the different rooms. Finally he went up on the little back
piazza, attracted by the firelight in the family sitting room. There was
a noble fire, and once, while he was looking, Digby Popham stole quietly
in, braced up the logs with a proprietary air, swept up the hearth,
replaced the brass wire screen, and stole out again as quickly as
possible, so that he might not miss too much of the party.

"They seem to feel pretty much at home," thought Mr. Lord.

The fire blazed higher and brighter. It lighted up certain words painted
in dark green and gold on the white panel under the mantelpiece. He
pressed his face quite close to the window, thinking that he must be
mistaken in seeing such unconnected letters as T-i-b-i, but gradually
they looked clearer to him and he read distinctly "Tibi splendet focus."

"Somebody knows his Horace," thought Henry Lord, Ph.D., as he stumbled
off the piazza. "'For you the hearth-fire glows,' I shan't go in; not
with that crew; let them wait; and if it gets too late, somebody else
will walk home with the children."

"For you the hearth-fire glows."

He picked his way along the side of the house to the front, every window
sending out its candle gleam.

"For you the hearth-fire glows."

From dozens of windows the welcome shone. Its gleams and sparkles
positively pursued him as he turned his face towards the road and his
own dark, cheerless house. Perhaps he had better, on the whole, keep one
lamp burning in the lower part after this, to show that the place was
inhabited?

"For you the hearth-fire glows."

He had "bricked up" the fireplace in his study and put an air-tight
stove in, because it was simply impossible to feed an open fire and
write a book at the same time. He didn't know that you could write twice
as good a book in half the time with an open fire to help you! He didn't
know any single one of the myriad aids that can come to you from such
cheery, unexpected sources of grace and inspiration!

"For you the hearth-fire glows."

Would the words never stop ringing in his ears? Perhaps, after all, it
would look queer to Mrs. Carey (he cared nothing for Popham or Harmon
opinion) if he left the children to get home by themselves. Perhaps--

"FOR YOU THE HEARTH-FIRE GLOWS."

Henry Lord, Ph.D., ascended the steps, and plied the knocker. Digby
Popham came out of the parlor and opened the front door.

Everybody listened to see who was the late comer at the party.

"Will you kindly tell Miss Olive and Master Cyril Lord that their father
has called for them?"

Mr. Lord's cold, severe voice sounded clearly in the parlor, and every
word could be distinctly heard.

Gilbert and Nancy were standing together, and Gilbert whispered
instantly to his sister: "The old beast has actually called for Olive
and Cyril!"

"Hush, Gilly! He must be a 'new beast' or he wouldn't have come at all!"
answered Nancy.



XXIX

"TH' ACTION FINE"


December, January, and February passed with a speed that had something
of magic in it. The Careys had known nothing heretofore of the rigors of
a State o' Maine winter, but as yet they counted it all joy. They were
young and hearty and merry, and the air seemed to give them all new
energy. Kathleen's delicate throat gave no trouble for the first time in
years; Nancy's cheeks bloomed more like roses than ever; Gilbert,
growing broader shouldered and deeper chested daily, simply revelled in
skating and coasting; even Julia was forced into an activity wholly
alien to her nature, because it was impossible for her to keep warm
unless she kept busy.

Mother Carey and Peter used to look from a bedroom window of a clear
cold morning and see the gay little procession start for the academy.
Over the dazzling snow crust Olive and Cyril Lord would be skimming to
meet the Careys, always at the same point at the same hour. There were
rough red coats and capes, red mittens, squirrel caps pulled well down
over curly and smooth heads; glimpses of red woolen stockings; thick
shoes with rubbers over them; great parcels of books in straps. They
looked like a flock of cardinal birds, Mother Carey thought, as the
upturned faces, all aglow with ruddy color, smiled their morning
good-bye. Gilbert had "stoked" the great stove in the cellar full of
hard wood logs before he left, and Mrs. Carey and Peter had a busy
morning before them with the housework. The family had risen at seven.
Julia had swept and dusted; Kathleen had opened the bedroom windows,
made the washstands tidy, filled the water pitchers, and changed the
towels. Gilbert had carried wood and Peter kindlings, for the fires that
had to be laid on the hearths here and there. Mother had cooked the
plain breakfast while Nancy put the dining room in order and set the
table, and at eight o'clock, when they sat down to plates piled high
with slices of brown and white bread, to dishes of eggs or picked-up cod
fish, or beans warmed over in the pot, with baked potatoes sometimes,
and sometimes milk toast, or Nancy's famous corn muffins, no family of
young bears ever displayed such appetites! On Saturday mornings there
were griddle cakes and maple syrup from their own trees; for Osh Popham
had shown them in the spring how to tap their maples, and collect the
great pails of sap to boil down into syrup. Mother Carey and Peter made
the beds after the departure of the others for school, and it was pretty
to see the sturdy Peter-bird, sometimes in his coat and mittens,
standing on the easiest side of the beds and helping his mother to
spread the blankets and comforters smooth. His fat legs carried him up
and downstairs a dozen times on errands, while his sweet piping voice
was lifted in a never ending stream of genial conversation, as he told
his mother what he had just done, what he was doing at the present
moment, how he was doing it, and what he proposed to do in a minute or
two. Then there was a lull from half past ten to half past eleven,
shortened sometimes on baking days, when the Peter-bird had his lessons.
The old-fashioned kitchen was clean and shining by that time. The stove
glistened and the fire snapped and crackled. The sun beamed in at the
sink window, doing all he could for the climate in the few hours he was
permitted to be on duty in a short New England winter day. Peter sat on
a cricket beside his mother's chair and clasped his "Reading without
Tears" earnestly and rigidly, believing it to be the key to the
universe. Oh! what an hour of happiness to Mother Carey when the boy
would lift the very copy of his father's face to her own; when the
well-remembered smile and the dear twinkle of the eyes in Peter's face
would give her heart a stab of pain that was half joy after all, it was
so full to the brim of sweet memories. In that warm still hour, when she
was filling the Peter-bird's mind and soul with heavenly learning, how
much she learned herself! Love poured from her, through voice and lips
and eyes, and in return she drank it in thirstily from the little
creature who sat there at her knee, a twig growing just as her bending
hand inclined it; all the buds of his nature opening out in the
mother-sunshine that surrounded him. Eleven thirty came all too soon.
Then before long the kettle would begin to sing, the potatoes to bubble
in the saucepan, and Mother Carey's spoon to stir the good things that
had long been sizzling quietly in an iron pot. Sometimes it was bits of
beef, sometimes mutton, but the result was mostly a toothsome mixture of
turnips and carrots and onions in a sea of delicious gravy, with
surprises of meat here and there to vary any possible monotony. Once or
twice a week dumplings appeared, giving an air of excitement to the
meal, and there was a delectable "poor man's stew" learned from Mrs.
Popham; the ingredients being strips of parsnip, potatoes cut in
quarters, a slice or two of sweet browned pork for a flavor, and a quart
of rich milk, mixed with the parsnip juices into an appetizing sauce.
The after part of the dinner would be a dish of baked apples with warm
gingerbread, or sometimes a deep apple pandowdy, or the baked Indian
pudding that was a syrupy, fragrant concoction made of corn meal and
butter and molasses baked patiently in the oven for hours.


Mother had the dishes to wash after she had tucked the Peter-bird under
the afghan on the sitting room sofa for his daily nap, but there was
never any grumbling in her heart over the weary days and the
unaccustomed tasks; she was too busy "making things make themselves." If
only there were a little more money! That was her chief anxiety; for the
unexpected, the outside sources of income were growing fewer, and in a
year's time the little hoard would be woefully small. Was she doing all
that she could, she wondered, as her steps flew over the Yellow House
from attic to cellar. She could play the piano and sing; she could speak
three languages and read four; she had made her curtsy at two foreign
courts; admiration and love had followed her ever since she could
remember, and here she was, a widow at forty, living in a half-deserted
New England village, making parsnip stews for her children's dinner.
Well, it was a time of preparation, and its rigors and self-denials must
be cheer fully faced. She ought to be thankful that she was able to get
a simple dinner that her children could eat; she ought to be thankful
that her beef and parsnip stews and cracker puddings and corn bread were
being transmuted into blood and brawn and brain-tissue, to help the
world along somewhere a little later! She ought to be grateful that it
was her blessed fortune to be sending four rosy, laughing, vigorous
young people down the snowy street to the white-painted academy; that it
was her good luck to see four heads bending eagerly over their books
around the evening lamp, and have them all turn to her for help and
encouragement in the hard places. Why should she complain, so long as
the stormy petrels were all working and playing in Mother Carey's water
garden where they ought to be; gathering strength to fly over or dive
under the ice-pack and climb Shiny Wall? There is never any gate in the
wall; Tom the Water Baby had found that out for himself; so it is only
the plucky ones who are able to surmount the thousand difficulties they
encounter on their hazardous journey to Peacepool. How else, if they had
not learned themselves, could Mother Carey's chickens go out over the
seas and show good birds the way home? At such moments Mrs. Carey would
look at her image in the glass and say, "No whimpering, madam! You can't
have the joys of motherhood without some of its pangs! Think of your
blessings, and don't be a coward!--

  "Who sweeps a room as by God's laws
   Makes that and th' action fine."

Then her eyes would turn from blue velvet to blue steel, and strength
would flow into her from some divine, benignant source and transmute her
into father as well as mother!

Was the hearth fire kindled in the Yellow House sending its glow through
the village as well as warming those who sat beside it? There were
Christmas and New Year's and St. Valentine parties, and by that time
Bill Harmon saw the woodpile in the Carey shed grow beautifully less. He
knew the price per cord,--no man better; but he and Osh Popham winked at
each other one windy February day and delivered three cords for two,
knowing that measurement of wood had not been included in Mother Carey's
education. Natty Harmon and Digby Popham, following examples a million
per cent better than parental lectures, asked one afternoon if they
shouldn't saw and chop some big logs for the fireplaces.

Mrs. Carey looked at them searchingly, wondering if they could possibly
guess the state of her finances, concluded they couldn't and said
smilingly: "Indeed I will gladly let you saw for an hour or two if
you'll come and sit by the fire on Saturday night, when we are going to
play spelling games and have doughnuts and root beer."

The Widow Berry, who kept academy boarders, sent in a luscious mince pie
now and then, and Mrs. Popham and Mrs. Harmon brought dried apples or
pumpkins, winter beets and Baldwin apples. It was little enough, they
thought, when the Yellow House, so long vacant, was like a beacon light
to the dull village; sending out its beams on every side.

"She ain't no kind of a manager, I'm 'fraid!" said Bill Harmon. "I give
her 'bout four quarts and a half of kerosene for a gallon every time she
sends her can to be filled, but bless you, she ain't any the wiser! I
try to give her as good measure in everything as she gives my children,
but you can't keep up with her! She's like the sun, that shines on the
just 'n' on the unjust. Hen Lord's young ones eat their lunch or their
supper there once or twice a week, though the old skinflint's got fifty
thousand dollars in the bank."

"Never mind, Bill." said Osh Popham; "there's goin' to be an everlastin'
evenupness somewheres! Probably God A'mighty hez his eye on that woman,
and He'll see her through. The young ones are growin' up, and the
teacher at the academy says they beat the devil on book learnin'! The
boy'll make a smart man, pretty soon, and bring good wages home to his
mother. The girls are handsome enough to pick up husbands as soon as
they've fully feathered out, so it won't be long afore they're all on
the up grade. I've set great store by that family from the outset, and
I'm turrible glad they're goin' to fix up the house some more when it
comes spring. I'm willin' to work cheap for such folks as them."

"You owe 'em somethin' for listenin' to you, Osh! Seems if they moved
here jest in time to hear your stories when you'd 'bout tuckered out the
rest o' the village!"

"It's a pity you didn't know a few more stories yourself, Bill,"
retorted Mr. Popham; "then you'd be asked up oftener to put on the
back-log for 'em, and pop corn and roast apples and pass the evenin'. I
ain't hed sech a gay winter sence I begun settin' up with Maria, twenty
years ago."

"She's kept you settin' up ever since, Osh!" chuckled Bill Harmon.

"She has so!" agreed Osh cheerfully, "but you ain't hardly the one to
twit me of it; bein' as how you've never took a long breath yourself
sence you was married! But you don't ketch me complainin'! It's a poor
rule that won't work both ways! Maria hurried me into poppin' the
question, and hurried me into marryin' her, an' she ain't let up on me a
minute sence then; but she'll railroad me into heaven the same way, you
see if she don't. She'll arrive 'head o' time as usual and stan' right
there at the bars till she gits Dig 'n' Lallie Joy 'n' me under cover!"

"She's a good woman, an' so's my wife," remarked Bill sententiously;
"an' Colonel Wheeler says good women are so rigged inside that they
can't be agreeable all the time. The couple of 'em are workin' their
fingers to the bone for the school teacher to-day; fixin' him up for all
the world as if he was a bride. He's got the women folks o' this village
kind o' mesmerized, Thurston has."

"He's a first-rate teacher; nobody that ain't hed experience in the
school room is fitted to jedge jest how good a teacher Ralph Thurston
is, but I have, an' I know what I 'm talkin' about."

"I never heard nothin' about your teachin' school, Osh."

"There's a good deal about me you never heard; specially about the time
afore I come to Beulah, 'cause you ain't a good hearer, Bill! I taught
the most notorious school in Digby once, and taught it to a finish; I
named my boy Digby after that school! You see my father an' mother was
determined to give me an education, an' I wa'n't intended for it. I was
a great big, strong, clumsy lunkhead, an' the only thing I could do,
even in a one-horse college, was to play base ball, so they kep' me
along jest for that. I never got further than the second class, an' I
wouldn't 'a' got there if the Faculty hadn't 'a' promoted me jest for
the looks o' the thing. Well Prof. Millard was off in the country
lecturin' somewheres near Bangor an' he met a school superintendent who
told him they was awful hard up for a teacher in Digby. He said they'd
hed three in three weeks an' had lost two stoves besides; for the boys
had fired out the teachers and broke up the stoves an' pitched 'em out
the door after 'em. When Prof. Millard heard the story he says, 'I've
got a young man that could teach that school; a feller named Ossian
Popham.' The superintendent hed an interview with me, an' I says: 'I'll
agree to teach out your nine weeks o' school for a hundred dollars, an'
if I leave afore the last day I won't claim a cent!' 'That's the right
sperit,' says the Supe, an' we struck a bargain then an' there. I was
glad it was Saturday, so 't I could start right off while my blood was
up. I got to Digby on Sunday an' found a good boardin' place. The
trustees didn't examine me, an' 't was lucky for me they didn't. The
last three teachers hed been splendid scholars, but that didn't save the
stoves any, so they just looked at my six feet o' height, an' the muscle
in my arms, an' said they'd drop in sometime durin' the month. 'Look in
any time you like after the first day,' I says. 'I shall be turrible
busy the first day!'

"I went into the school house early Monday mornin' an' built a good fire
in the new stove. When it was safe to leave it I went into the next
house an' watched the scholars arrive. The lady was a widder with one
great unruly boy in the school, an' she was glad to give me a winder to
look out of. It was a turrible cold day, an' when 't was ten minutes to
nine an' the school room was full I walked in as big as Cuffy. There was
five rows of big boys an' girls in the back, all lookin' as if they was
loaded for bear, an' they graded down to little ones down in front, all
of 'em hitchin' to an' fro in their seats an' snickerin'. I give 'em a
surprise to begin with, for I locked the door when I come in, an' put
the key in my pocket, cool as a cucumber.

"I never said a word, an' they never moved their eyes away from me. I
took off my fur cap, then my mittens, then my overcoat, an' laid 'em in
the chair behind my desk. Then my undercoat come off, then my necktie
an' collar, an' by that time the big girls begun to look nervous; they
'd been used to addressin', but not undressin', in the school room. Then
I wound my galluses round my waist an' tied 'em; then I says, clear an'
loud:' I'm your new teacher! I'm goin' to have a hundred dollars for
teachin' out this school, an' I intend to teach it out an' git my money.
It's five minutes to nine. I give you just that long to tell me what
you're goin' to do about it. Come on now!' I says, 'all o' you big boys,
if you're comin', an' we'll settle this thing here an' now. We can't hev
fights an' lessons mixed up together every day, more 'n 's necessary;
better decide right now who's boss o' this school. The stove's new an'
I'm new, an' we call'ate to stay here till the end o' the term!'

"Well, sir, not one o' that gang stirred in their seats, an' not one of
'em yipped! I taught school in my shirt sleeves consid'able the first
week, but I never hed to afterwards. I was a little mite weak on
mathematics, an' the older boys an' girls hed to depend on their study
books for their information,--they never got any from me,--but every
scholar in that Digby school got a hundred per cent in deportment the
nine weeks I taught there!"



XXX

THE INGLENOOK


It was a wild Friday night in March, after days of blustering storms and
drifting snow. Beulah was clad in royal ermine; not only clad, indeed,
but nearly buried in it. The timbers of the Yellow House creaked, and
the wreaths of snow blew against the windows and lodged there. King
Frost was abroad, nipping toes and ears, hanging icicles on the eaves of
houses, and decorating the forest trees with glittering pendants. The
wind howled in the sitting room chimney, but in front of the great
back-log the bed of live coals glowed red and the flames danced high,
casting flickering shadows on the children's faces. It is possible to
bring up a family by steam heat, and it is often necessary, but nobody
can claim that it is either so simple or so delightful as by an
open fire!

The three cats were all nestled cosily in Nancy's lap or snuggled by her
side. Mother Carey had demurred at two, and when Nancy appeared one day
after school with a third, she spoke, with some firmness, of refusing it
a home. "If we must economize on cats," cried Nancy passionately, "don't
let's begin on this one! She doesn't look it, but she is a heroine. When
the Rideout's house burned down, her kittens were in a basket by the
kitchen stove. Three times she ran in through the flames and brought out
a kitten in her mouth. The tip of her tail is gone, and part of an ear,
and she's blind in one eye. Mr. Harmon says she's too homely to live;
now what do you think?"

"I think nobody pretending to be a mother could turn her back on another
mother like that," said Mrs. Carey promptly. "We'll take a pint more
milk, and I think you children will have to leave something in your
plates now and then, you polish them until it really is indecent."

To-night an impromptu meeting of the Ways and Means Committee was taking
place by the sitting room fire, perhaps because the family plates had
been polished to a terrifying degree that week.

"Children," said Mother Carey, "we have been as economical as we knew
how to be; we have worked to the limit of our strength; we have spent
almost nothing on clothing, but the fact remains that we have scarcely
money enough in our reserve fund to last another six months. What
shall we do?"

Nancy leaped to her feet, scattering cats in every direction.

"Mother Carey!" she exclaimed remorsefully. "You haven't mentioned money
since New Year's, and I thought we were rubbing along as usual. The
bills are all paid; what's the matter?"

"That is the matter!" answered Mrs. Carey with the suspicion of a tear
in her laughing voice, "The bills _are_ paid, and there's too little
left! We eat so much, and we burn so much wood, and so many gallons
of oil'"

"The back of the winter's broken, mother dear!" said Gilbert, as a
terrific blast shook the blinds as a terrier would a rat. "Don't listen
to that wind; it 's only a March bluff! Osh Popham says snow is the poor
man's manure; he says it's going to be an early season and a grand hay
crop. We'll get fifty dollars for our field."

"That will be in July, and this is March," said his mother. "Still, the
small reversible Van Twiller will carry us through May, with our other
income. But the saving days are over, and the earning days have come,
dears! I am the oldest and the biggest, I must begin."

"Never!" cried Nancy. "You slave enough for us, as it is, but you shall
never slave for anybody else; shall she, Gilly?"

"Not if I know it!" answered Gilbert with good ringing emphasis.

"Another winter I fear we must close the Yellow House and--"

The rest of Mother Carey's remark was never heard, for at Nancy's given
signal the four younger Careys all swooned on the floor. Nancy had
secretly trained Peter so that he was the best swooner of the family,
and his comical imitation of Nancy was so mirth-compelling that Mother
Carey laughed and declared there was no such thing as talking seriously
to children like hers.

"But, Muddy dear, you weren't in earnest?" coaxed Nancy, bending her
bright head over her mother's shoulder and cuddling up to her side;
whereupon Gilbert gave his imitation of a jealous puppy; barking,
snarling, and pushing his frowzly pate under his mother's arm to crowd
Nancy from her point of vantage, to which she clung valiantly. Of course
Kitty found a small vacant space on which she could festoon herself, and
Peter promptly climbed on his mother's lap, so that she was covered
with--fairly submerged in--children! A year ago Julia used to creep away
and look at such exhibitions of family affection, with a curling lip,
but to-night, at Mother Carey's outstretched hand and smothered cry of
"Help, Judy!" she felt herself gathered into the heart of the laughing,
boisterous group. That hand, had she but known it, was stretched out to
her because only that day a letter had come, saying that Allan Carey was
much worse and that his mental condition admitted of no cure. He was
bright and hopeful and happy, so said Mr. Manson;--forever sounding the
praises of the labor-saving device in which he had sunk his last
thousands. "We can manufacture it at ten cents and sell it for ten
dollars," he would say, rubbing his hands excitedly. "We can pay fifty
dollars a month office rent and do a business of fifty thousand dollars
a year!" "And I almost believe we could!" added Mr. Manson, "if we had
faith enough and capital enough!"

"Of course you know, darlings, I would never leave Beulah save for the
coldest months; or only to earn a little money," said Mrs. Carey,
smoothing her dress, flattening her collar, and pinning up the braids
that Nancy's hugs had loosened.

"I must put my mind on the problem at once," said Nancy, pacing the
floor. "I've been so interested in my Virgil, so wrapped up in my
rhetoric and composition, that I haven't thought of ways and means for a
month, but of course we will never leave the Yellow House, and of course
we must contrive to earn money enough to live in it. We must think about
it every spare minute till vacation comes; then we'll have nearly four
months to amass a fortune big enough to carry us through the next year.
I have an idea for myself already. I was going to wait till my
seventeenth birthday, but that's four months away and it's too long. I'm
old enough to begin any time. I feel old enough to write my
Reminiscences this minute."

"You might publish your letters to the American Consul in Breslau;
they'd make a book!" teased Gilbert.

"Very likely I shall, silly Gilly," retorted Nancy, swinging her mane
haughtily. "It isn't every girl who has a monthly letter from an Admiral
in China and a Consul in Germany."

"You wouldn't catch me answering the Queen of Sheba's letters or the
Empress of India's," exclaimed Gilbert, whose pen was emphatically less
mighty than his sword. "Hullo, you two! what are you whispering about?"
he called to Kathleen and Julia, who were huddled together in a far
corner of the long room, gesticulating eloquently.

"We've an idea! We've an idea! We've found a way to help!" sang the two
girls, pirouetting back into the circle of firelight. "We won't tell
till it's all started, but it's perfectly splendid, and practical too."

"And so ladylike!" added Julia triumphantly.

"How much?" asked Gilbert succinctly.

The girls whispered a minute or two, and appeared to be multiplying
twenty-five first by fifteen, and then again by twenty.

"From three dollars and seventy-five cents to four dollars and a half a
week according to circumstances!" answered Kathleen proudly.

"Will it take both of you?"

"Yes."

"All your time?"

More nods and whispers and calculation.

"No, indeed; only three hours a day."

"Any of my time?"

"Just a little."

"I thought so!" said Gilbert loftily. "You always want me and my hammer
or my saw; but I'll be busy on my own account; you'll have to paddle
your own canoe!"

"You'll be paid for what you do for us," said Julia slyly, giving
Kathleen a poke, at which they both fell into laughter only possible to
the very young.

Then suddenly there came a knock at the front door; a stamping of feet
on the circular steps, and a noise of shaking off snow.

"Go to the door, Gilbert; who can that be on a night like
this,--although it is only eight o'clock after all! Why, it's Mr.
Thurston!"

Ralph Thurston came in blushing and smiling, glad to be welcomed,
fearful of intruding, afraid of showing how much he liked to be there.

"Good-evening, all!" he said. "You see I couldn't wait to thank you,
Mrs. Carey! No storm could keep me away to-night."

"What has mother been doing, now?" asked Nancy. "Her right hand is
forever busy, and she never tells her left hand a thing, so we children
are always in the dark."

"It was nothing much," said Mrs. Carey, pushing the young man gently
into the high-backed rocker. "Mrs. Harmon, Mrs. Popham, and I simply
tried to show our gratitude to Mr. Thurston for teaching our troublesome
children."

"How did you know it was my birthday?" asked Thurston.

"Didn't you write the date in Lallie Joy's book?"

"True, I did; and forgot it long ago; but I have never had my birthday
noticed before, and I am twenty-four!"

"It was high time, then!" said Mother Carey with her bright smile.

"But what did mother do?" clamored Nancy, Kathleen and Gilbert in
chorus.

"She took my forlorn, cheerless room and made it into a home for me,"
said Thurston. "Perhaps she wanted me to stay in it a little more, and
bother her less! At any rate she has created an almost possible rival to
the Yellow House!"

Ralph Thurston had a large, rather dreary room over Bill Harmon's store,
and took his meals at the Widow Berry's, near by. He was an orphan and
had no money to spend on luxuries, because all his earnings went to pay
the inevitable debts incurred when a fellow is working his way
through college.

Mrs. Carey, with the help of the other two women, had seized upon this
stormy Friday, when the teacher always took his luncheon with him to the
academy, to convert Ralph's room into something comfortable and
cheerful. The old, cracked, air-tight stove had been removed, and Bill
Harmon had contributed a second-hand Franklin, left with him for a bad
debt. It was of soapstone and had sliding doors in front, so that the
blaze could be disclosed when life was very dull or discouraging. The
straw matting on the floor had done very well in the autumn, but Mrs.
Carey now covered the centre of the room with a bright red drugget left
from the Charlestown house-furnishings, and hung the two windows with
curtains of printed muslin. Ossian Popham had taken a clotheshorse and
covered it with red felting, so that the screen, so evolved could be
made to hide the bed and washstand. Ralph's small, rickety table had
been changed for a big, roomy one of pine, hidden by the half of an old
crimson piano cloth. When Osh had seen the effect of this he hurried
back to his barn chamber and returned with some book shelves that he had
hastily glued and riveted into shape. These he nailed to the wall and
filled with books that he found in the closet, on the floor, on the foot
of the bed, and standing on the long, old-fashioned mantel shelf.

"Do you care partic'larly where you set, nights, Ossian?" inquired Mrs.
Popham, who was now in a state of uncontrolled energy bordering on
delirium. "Because your rockin' chair has a Turkey red cushion and it
would look splendid in Mr. Thurston's room. You know you fiddle 'bout
half the time evenin's, and you always go to bed early."

"Don't mind me!" exclaimed Ossian facetiously, starting immediately for
the required chair and bringing back with it two huge yellow sea shells,
which he deposited on the floor at each end of the hearth rug.

"How do you like 'em?" he inquired of Mrs. Carey.

"Not at all," she replied promptly.

"You don't?" he asked incredulously. "Well, it takes all kinds o' folks
to make a world! I've been keepin' 'em fifteen years, hopin' I'd get
enough more to make a border for our parlor fireplace, and now you don't
take to 'em! Back they go to the barn chamber, Maria; Mis' Carey's
bossin' this job, and she ain't got no taste for sea shells. Would you
like an old student lamp? I found one that I can bronze up in about two
minutes if Mis' Harmon can hook a shade and chimbly out of Bill's stock."

They all stayed in the room until this last feat was accomplished;
stayed indeed until the fire in the open stove had died down to ruddy
coals. Then they pulled down the shades, lighted the lamp, gave one last
admiring look, and went home.

It had meant only a few hours' thought and labor, with scarcely a penny
of expense, but you can judge what Ralph Thurston felt when he entered
the door out of the storm outside. To him it looked like a room conjured
up by some magician in a fairy tale. He fell into the rocking-chair and
looked at his own fire; gazed about at the cheerful crimson glow that
radiated from the dazzling drugget, in a state of puzzled ecstasy, till
he caught sight of a card lying near the lamp,--"A birthday present
from three mothers who value your work for their boys and girls."

He knew Mrs. Carey's handwriting, so he sped to the Yellow House as soon
as his supper was over, and now, in the presence of the whole family, he
felt tongue-tied and wholly unable to express his gratitude.

It was bed time, and the young people melted away from the fireside.

"Kiss your mother good-night, sweet Pete," said Nancy, taking the
reluctant cherub by the hand. "'_Hoc opus, hic labor est_,' Mr.
Thurston, to get the Peter-bird upstairs when once he is down. Shake
hands with your future teacher, Peter; no, you mustn't kiss him; little
boys don't kiss great Latin scholars unless they are asked."

Thurston laughed and lifted the gurgling Peter high in the air. "Good
night, old chap!" he said "Hurry up and come to school!"

"I'm 'bout ready now!" piped Peter. "I can read
'Up-up-my-boy-day-is-not-the-time-for-sleep-the-dew-will-soon-be-gone'
with the book upside down,--can't I, Muddy?"

"You can, my son; trot along with sister."

Thurston opened the door for Nancy, and his eye followed her for a
second as she mounted the stairs. She glowed like a ruby to-night in her
old red cashmere. The sparkle of her eye, the gloss of her hair, the
soft red of her lips, the curve and bend of her graceful young body
struck even her mother anew, though she was used to her daughter's
beauty. "She is growing!" thought Mrs. Carey wistfully. "I see it all at
once, and soon others will be seeing it!"

Alas! young Ralph Thurston had seen it for weeks past! He was not
perhaps so much in love with Nancy the girl, as he was with Nancy the
potential woman. Some of the glamour that surrounded the mother had
fallen upon the daughter. One felt the influences that had rained upon
Nancy ever since she had come into the world, One could not look at her,
nor talk with her, without feeling that her mother--like a vine in the
blood, as the old proverb says--was breathing, growing, budding,
blossoming in her day by day.

The young teacher came back to the fireplace, where Mother Carey was
standing in a momentary brown study.

"I've never had you alone before," he stammered, "and now is my chance
to tell you what you've been to me ever since I came to Beulah."

"You have helped me in my problems more than I can possibly have aided
you," Mrs. Carey replied quietly. "Gilbert was so rebellious about
country schools, so patronizing, so scornful of their merits, that I
fully expected he would never stay at the academy of his own free will.
You have converted him, and I am very grateful."

"Meantime I am making a record there," said Ralph, "and I have this
family to thank for it! Your children, with Olive and Cyril Lord, have
set the pace for the school, and the rest are following to the best of
their ability. There is not a shirk nor a dunce in the whole roll of
sixty pupils! Beulah has not been so proud of its academy for thirty
years, and I shall come in for the chief share in the praise. I am
trying to do for Gilbert and Cyril what an elder brother would do, but I
should have been powerless if I had not had this home and this fireside
to inspire me!"

"_Tibi splendet focus_!" quoted Mrs. Carey, pointing to Olive's
inscription under the mantelpiece. "For you the hearth fire glows!"

"Have I not felt it from the beginning?" asked Ralph. "I never knew my
mother, Mrs. Carey, and few women have come into my life; I have been
too poor and too busy to cultivate their friendship. Then I came to
Beulah and you drew me into your circle; admitted an unknown, friendless
fellow into your little group! It was beautiful; it was wonderful!"

"What are mothers for, but to do just that, and more than all, for the
motherless boys?"

"Well, I may never again have the courage to say it, so just believe me
when I say your influence will be the turning-point in my life. I will
never, so help me God, do anything to make me unworthy to sit in this
fireglow! So long as I have brains and hands to work with, I will keep
striving to create another home like this when my time comes. Any girl
that takes me will get a better husband because of you; any children I
may be blessed with will have a better father because I have known you.
Don't make any mistake, dear Mrs. Carey, your hearth fire glows a long,
long distance!"

Mother Carey was moved to the very heart. She leaned forward and took
Ralph Thurston's young face, thin with privation and study, in her two
hands. He bent his head instinctively, partly to hide the tears that had
sprung to his eyes, and she kissed his forehead simply and tenderly. He
was at her knees on the hearth rug in an instant; all his boyish
affection laid at her feet; all his youthful chivalry kindled at the
honor of her touch.

And there are women in the world who do not care about being mothers!



XXXI

GROOVES OF CHANGE


The winter passed. The snow gradually melted in the meadows and the
fields, which first grew brown and then displayed patches of green here
and there where the sun fell strongest. There was deep, sticky mud in
the roads, and the discouraged farmers urged their horses along with the
wheels of their wagons sunk to the hub in ooze. Then there were wet
days, the wind ruffling the leaden surface of the river, the sound of
the rain dripping from the bare tree-boughs, the smell of the wet grass
and the clean, thirsty soil. Milder weather came, then blustery days,
then chill damp ones, but steadily life grew, here, there, everywhere,
and the ever-new miracle of the awakening earth took place once again.
Sap mounted in the trees, blood coursed in the children's veins, mothers
began giving herb tea and sulphur and molasses, young human nature was
restless; the whole creation throbbed and sighed, and was tremulous, and
had growing pains.

April passed, with all its varying moods of sun and shower, and settled
weather came.

  All the earth was gay.
    Land and sea
  Gave themselves up to jollity
    And with the heart of May
  Did every Beast keep holiday.

The Carey girls had never heard of "the joy of living" as a phrase, but
oh! they knew a deal about it in these first two heavenly springs in
little Beulah village! The sunrise was so wonderful; the trees and grass
so marvellously green; the wild flowers so beautiful! Then the river on
clear days, the glimpse of the sea from Beulah's hill tops, the walks in
the pine woods,--could Paradise show anything to compare?

And how good the food tasted; and the books they read, how fresh, how
moving, how glorious! Then when the happy day was over, sleep came
without pause or effort the moment the flushed cheek touched the
cool pillow.

"These," Nancy reflected, quoting from her favorite Wordsworth as she
dressed beside her open window, "These must be

              "The gifts of morn,
  Ere life grows noisy and slower-footed thought
  Can overtake the rapture of the sense.

"I was fifteen and a half last spring, and now, though it is only a year
ago, everything is different!" she mused. "When did it get to be
different, I wonder? It never was all at once, so it must have been a
little every day, so little that I hardly noticed it until just now."

A young girl's heart is ever yearning for and trembling at the future.
In its innocent depths the things that are to be are sometimes rustling
and whispering secrets, and sometimes keeping an exquisite, haunting
silence. In the midst of the mystery the solemn young creature is
sighing to herself, "What am I meant for? Am I everything? Am I nothing?
Must I wait till my future comes to me, or must I seek it?"

This was all like the sound of a still, small voice in Nancy's mind, but
it meant that she was "growing up," taking hold on life at more points
than before, seeing new visions, dreaming new dreams. Kathleen and Julia
seemed ridiculously young to her. She longed to advise them, but her
sense of humor luckily kept her silent. Gilbert appeared crude, raw;
promising, but undeveloped; she hated to think how much experience he
would have to pass through before he could see existence as it really
was, and as she herself saw it. Olive's older view of things, her sad,
strange outlook upon life, her dislike of anything in the shape of man,
her melancholy aversion to her father, all this fascinated and puzzled
Nancy, whose impetuous nature ran out to every living thing, revelling
in the very act of loving, so long as she did not meet rebuff.

Cyril perplexed her. Silent, unresponsive, shy, she would sometimes
raise her eyes from her book in school and find him gazing steadily at
her like a timid deer drinking thirstily at a spring. Nancy did not like
Cyril, but she pitied him and was as friendly with him, in her offhand,
boyish fashion, as she was with every one.

The last days of the academy term were close at hand, and the air was
full of graduation exercises and white muslin and ribbon sashes. June
brought two surprises to the Yellow House. One morning Kathleen burst
into Nancy's room with the news: "Nancy! The Fergusons offer to adopt
Judy, and she doesn't want to go. Think of that! But she's afraid to ask
mother if she can stay. Let's us do it; shall we?"

"I will; but of course there is not enough money to go around, Kitty,
even if we all succeed in our vacation plans. Julia will never have any
pretty dresses if she stays with us, and she loves pretty dresses. Why
didn't the Fergusons adopt her before mother had made her over?"

"Yes," chimed in Kathleen. "Then everybody would have been glad, but now
we shall miss her! Think of missing Judy! We would never have
believed it!"

"It's like seeing how a book turns out, to watch her priggishness and
smuggishness all melting away," Nancy said. "I shouldn't like to see her
slip back into the old Judyisms, and neither would mother. Mother'll
probably keep her, for I know Mr. Manson thinks it's only a matter of a
few months before Uncle Allan dies."

"And mother wouldn't want a Carey to grow up into an imitation Gladys
Ferguson; but that's what Judy would be, in course of time."

Julia took Mrs. Ferguson's letter herself to her Aunt Margaret, showing
many signs of perturbation in her usually tranquil face.

Mrs. Carey read it through carefully. "It is a very kind, generous
offer, Julia. Your father cannot be consulted about it, so you must
decide. You would have every luxury, and your life would be full of
change and pleasure; while with us it must be, in the nature of things,
busy and frugal for a long time to come."

"But I am one more to feed and clothe, Aunt Margaret, and there is so
little money!"

"I know, but you are one more to help, after all. The days are soon
coming when Nancy and Gilbert will be out in the world, helping
themselves. You and Kathleen could stay with Peter and me, awaiting your
turn. It doesn't look attractive in comparison with what the Fergusons
offer you!"

Then the gentle little rivers that had been swelling all the past year
in Julia's heart, rivers of tenderness and gratitude and sympathy,
suddenly overflowed their banks and, running hither and thither,
softened everything with which they came in contact. Rocky places
melted, barren spots waked into life, and under the impulse of a new
mood that she scarcely understood Julia cried, "Oh! dear Aunt Margaret,
keep me, keep me! This is home; I never want to leave it! I want to be
one of Mother Carey's chickens!"

The child had flung herself into the arms that never failed anybody, and
with tears streaming down her cheeks made her plea.

"There, there, Judy dear; you are one of us, and we could not let you go
unless you were to gain something by it. If you really want to stay we
shall love you all the better, and you will belong to us more than you
ever did; so dry your eyes, or you will be somebody's duckling instead
of my chicken!"

The next surprise was a visit from Cousin Ann Chadwick, who drove up to
the door one morning quite unannounced, and asked the driver of the
depot wagon to bring over her two trunks immediately.

"Two trunks!" groaned Gilbert. "That means the whole season!"

But it meant nothing of the kind; it meant pretty white dresses for the
three girls, two pairs of stockings and two of gloves for the whole
family, a pattern of black silk for Mrs. Carey, and numberless small
things to which the Carey wardrobe had long been a stranger.

Having bestowed these offerings rather grimly, as was her wont, and
having received the family's grateful acknowledgments with her usual
lack of grace, she proceeded in the course of a few days to make herself
far more disagreeable than had been the case on any previous visit of
her life. She had never seen such dusty roads as in Beulah; so many
mosquitoes and flies; such tough meat; such a lack of fruit, such
talkative, over-familiar neighbors, such a dull minister, such an
inattentive doctor, such extortionate tradesmen.

"What shall we do with Cousin Ann!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey to Nancy in
despair. "She makes us these generous presents, yet she cannot possibly
have any affection for us. We accept them without any affection for her,
because we hardly know how to avoid it. The whole situation is
positively degrading! I have borne it for years because she was good to
your father when he was a boy, but now that she has grown so much more
difficult I really think I must talk openly with her."

"She talked openly enough with me when I confessed that Gilbert and I
had dropped and broken the Dirty Boy!" said Nancy, "and she has been
very cross with me ever since."

"Cousin Ann," said Mrs. Carey that afternoon on the piazza, "it is very
easy to see that you do not approve of the way we live, or the way we
think about things in general. Feeling as you do, I really wish you
would not spend your money on us, and give us these beautiful and
expensive presents. It puts me under an obligation that chafes me and
makes me unhappy."

"I don't disapprove of you, particularly," said Miss Chadwick. "Do I act
as if I did?"

"Your manner seems to suggest it."

"You can't tell much by manners," replied Cousin Ann. "I think you're
entirely too soft and sentimental, but we all have our faults. I don't
think you have any right to feed the neighbors and burn up fuel and oil
in their behalf when you haven't got enough for your own family. I think
you oughtn't to have had four children, and having had them you needn't
have taken another one in, though she's turned out better than I
expected. But all that is none of my business, I suppose, and,
wrong-headed as you are, I like you better than most folks, which isn't
saying much."

"But if you don't share my way of thinking, why do you keep fretting
yourself to come and see us? It only annoys you."

"It annoys me, but I can't help coming, somehow. I guess I hate other
places and other ways worse than I do yours. You don't grudge me bed and
board, I suppose?"

"How could I grudge you anything when you give us so much,--so much more
than we ought to accept, so much more than we can ever thank you for?"

"I don't want to be thanked; you know that well enough; but there's so
much demonstration in your family you can't understand anybody's keeping
themselves exclusive. I don't like to fuss over people or have them fuss
over me. Kissing comes as easy to you as eating, but I never could abide
it. A nasty, common habit, I call it! I want to give what I like and
where and when I like, and act as I'm a mind to afterwards. I don't give
because I see things are needed, but because I can't spend my income
unless I do give. If I could have my way I'd buy you a good house in
Buffalo, right side of mine; take your beggarly little income and manage
it for you; build a six-foot barbed wire fence round the lot so 't the
neighbors couldn't get in and eat you out of house and home, and in a
couple of years I could make something out of your family!"

Mrs. Carey put down her sewing, leaned her head back against the crimson
rambler, and laughed till the welkin rang.

"I suppose you think I'm crazy?" Cousin Ann remarked after a moment's
pause.

"I don't know, Cousin Ann," said Mrs. Carey, taking up her work again.
"Whatever it is, you can't help it! If you'll give up trying to
understand my point of view, I won't meddle with yours!"

"I suppose you won't come to Buffalo?"

"No indeed, thank you, Cousin Ann!"

"You'll stay here, in this benighted village, and grow old,--you that
are a handsome woman of forty and might have a millionaire husband to
take care of you?"

"My husband had money enough to please me, and when I meet him again and
show him the four children, he will be the richest man in Paradise."

Cousin Ann rose. "I'm going to-morrow, and I shan't be back this year.
I've taken passage on a steamer that's leaving for Liverpool next week!"

"Going abroad! Alone, Cousin Ann?"

"No, with a party of Cook's tourists."

"What a strange idea!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey.

"I don't see why; 'most everybody's been abroad. I don't expect to like
the way they live over there, but if other folks can stand it, I guess I
can. It'll amuse me for a spell, maybe, and if it don't, I've got money
enough to break away and do as I'm a mind to."

The last evening was a pleasant, friendly one, every Carey doing his or
her best to avoid risky subjects and to be as agreeable as possible.
Cousin Ann Chadwick left next day, and Mrs. Carey, bidding the strange
creature good-bye, was almost sorry that she had ever had any
arguments with her.

"It will be so long before I see you again, Cousin Ann, I was on the
point of kissing you,--till I remembered!" she said with a smile as she
stood at the gate.

"I don't know as I mind, for once," said Miss Chadwick. "If anybody's
got to kiss me I'd rather it would be you than anybody!"

She drove away, her two empty trunks in the back of the wagon. She
sailed for Liverpool the next week and accompanied her chosen party to
the cathedral towns of England. There, in a quiet corner of York
Minster, as the boy choir was chanting its anthems, her heart, an organ
she had never been conscious of possessing, gave one brief sudden
physical pang and she passed out of what she had called life. Neither
her family affairs nor the names of her relations were known, and the
news of her death did not reach far-away Beulah till more than two
months afterward, and with it came the knowledge that Cousin Ann
Chadwick had left the income of five thousand dollars to each of the
five Carey children, with five thousand to be paid in cash to Mother
Carey on the settlement of the estate.



XXXII

DOORS OF DARING


Little the Careys suspected how their fortunes were mending, during
those last days of June! Had they known, they might almost have been
disappointed, for the spur of need was already pricking them, and their
valiant young spirits longed to be in the thick of the fray. Plans had
been formed for the past week, many of them in secret, and the very next
day after the close of the academy, various business projects would
burst upon a waiting world. One Sunday night Mother Carey had read to
the little group a poem in which there was a verse that struck on their
ears with a fine spirit:--

  "And all the bars at which we fret,
  That seem to prison and control,
  Are but the doors of daring set
  Ajar before the soul."

They recited it over and over to themselves afterwards, and two or three
of them wrote it down and pinned it to the wall, or tucked it in the
frame of the looking glass.


Olive Lord knocked at her father's study door the morning of the
twenty-first of June. Walking in quietly she said, "Father, yesterday
was my seventeenth birthday. Mother left me a letter to read on that
day, telling me that I should have fifty dollars a month of my own when
I was seventeen, Cyril to have as much when he is the same age."

"If you had waited courteously and patiently for a few days you would
have heard this from me," her father answered.

"I couldn't be sure!" Olive replied. "You never did notice a birthday;
why should you begin now?"

"I have more important matters to take up my mind than the consideration
of trivial dates," her father answered. "You know that very well, and
you know too, that notwithstanding my absorbing labors, I have
endeavored for the last few months to give more of my time to you
and Cyril."

"I realize that, or I should not speak to you at all," said Olive. "It
is because you have shown a little interest in us lately that I consult
you. I want to go at once to Boston to study painting. I will deny
myself everything else, if necessary, but I will go, and I will study!
It is the only life I care for, the only life I am likely to have, and I
am determined to lead it."

"You must see that you are too young to start out for yourself anywhere;
it is simply impossible."

"I shall not be alone. Mrs. Carey will find me a good home in
Charlestown, with friends of hers. You trust her judgment, if no
one else's."

"If she is charitable enough to conduct your foolish enterprises as well
as those of her own children, I have nothing to say. I have talked with
her frequently, and she knows that as soon as I have finished my last
volume I shall be able to take a more active interest in your affairs
and Cyril's."

"Then may I go?"

"When I hear from the person in Charlestown, yes. There is an expedition
starting for South America in a few months and I have been asked to
accompany the party. If you are determined to leave home I shall be free
to accept the invitation. Perhaps Mrs. Carey would allow Cyril to stay
with her during my absence."

"I dare say, and I advise you to go to South America by all means; you
will be no farther away from your family than you have always been!"
With this parting shot Olive Lord closed the study door behind her.

"That girl has the most unpleasant disposition, and the sharpest tongue,
I ever met in the course of my life!" said Henry Lord to himself as he
turned to his task.

Mother Carey's magic was working very slowly in his blood. It had roused
him a little from the bottomless pit of his selfishness, but much
mischief had been done on all sides, and it would be a work of time
before matters could be materially mended. Olive's nature was already
warped and embittered, and it would require a deal of sunshine to make a
plant bloom that had been so dwarfed by neglect and indifference.

Nancy's door of daring opened into an editorial office. An hour here, an
hour there, when the Yellow House was asleep, had brought about a story
that was on its way to a distant city. It was written, with incredible
care, on one side of the paper only; it enclosed a fully stamped
envelope for a reply or a return of the manuscript, and all day long
Nancy, trembling between hope and despair, went about hugging her first
secret to her heart.

Gilbert had opened his own particular door, and if it entailed no more
daring than that of Nancy's effort, it required twice the amount of
self-sacrifice. He was to be, from June twenty-seventh till August
twenty-seventh, Bill Harmon's post-office clerk and delivery boy, and
the first that the family would know about it would be his arrival at
the back door, in a linen jacket, with an order-book in his hand. Bravo,
Gilly! One can see your heels disappearing over the top of Shiny Wall!

The door of daring just ready to be opened by Kathleen and Julia was of
a truly dramatic and unexpected character.

Printed in plain letters, twenty-five circulars reposed in the folds of
Julia's nightdresses in her lower bureau drawer. The last thing to be
done at night and the first in the morning was the stealthy, whispered
reading of one of these documents, lest even after the hundredth time,
something wrong should suddenly appear to the eye or ear. They were
addressed, they were stamped, and they would be posted to twenty-five
families in the neighborhood on the closing day of the academy.


                      SUMMER VACATION SCHOOL

  The Misses Kathleen and Julia Carey announce the opening of
  classes for private instruction on July 1st, from two to four
  o'clock daily in the

                         Hamilton Barn.

                            Faculty.

  Miss Kathleen Carey    Reading & Elocution               2 P.M.
  Miss Julia Carey       Dancing, Embroidery            2-30 P.M.
  Mrs. Peter Carey       Vocal Music, Part Singing         3 P.M.
  Miss Nancy Carey       Composition                       4 P.M.
  Mr. Gilbert Carey      Wood carving, Jig Sawing, Manual
                         Training from 4 to 5 Fridays only.

                 Terms cash. 25 cents a week.

  N. B. Children prepared for entrance to the academy at special prices.


Meantime the Honorable Lemuel Hamilton had come to America, and was
opening doors of daring at such a rate of speed that he hardly realized
the extent of his own courage and what it involved. He accepted an
official position of considerable honor and distinction in Washington,
rented a house there, and cabled his wife and younger daughter to come
over in September. He wrote his elder daughter that she might go with
some friends to Honolulu if she would return for Christmas. ("It's
eleven years since we had a Christmas tree," he added, "and the first
thing you know we shall have lost the habit!")

To his son Jack in Texas he expressed himself as so encouraged by the
last business statement, which showed a decided turn for the better,
that he was willing to add a thousand dollars to the capital and
irrigate some more of the unimproved land on the ranch.

"If Jack has really got hold out there, he can come home every two or
three years," he thought. "Well, perhaps I shall succeed in getting part
of them together, part of the time, if I work hard enough; all but Tom,
whom I care most about! Now that everything is in train I'll take a
little vacation myself, and go down to Beulah to make the acquaintance
of those Careys. If I had ever contemplated returning to America I
suppose I shouldn't have allowed them to settle down in the old house,
still, Eleanor would never have been content to pass her summers there,
so perhaps it is just as well."

The Peter-bird was too young to greatly dare; still it ought perhaps to
be set down that he sold three dozen marbles and a new kite to Billy
Harmon that summer, and bought his mother a birthday present with the
money. All Peter's "doors of daring" had hitherto opened into places
from which he issued weeping, with sprained ankles, bruised hands,
skinned knees or burned eyelashes.



XXXIII

MOTHER HAMILTON'S BIRTHDAY


It was the Fourth of July; a hot, still day when one could fairly see
the green peas swelling in their pods and the string beans climbing
their poles like acrobats! Young Beulah had rung the church bell at
midnight, cast its torpedoes to earth in the early morning, flung its
fire-crackers under the horses' feet, and felt somewhat relieved of its
superfluous patriotism by breakfast time. Then there was a parade of
Antiques and Horribles, accompanied by the Beulah Band, which, though
not as antique, was fully as horrible as anything in the procession.

From that time on, the day had been somnolent, enlivened in the Carey
household only by the solemn rite of paying the annual rent of the
Yellow House. The votive nosegay had been carefully made up, and laid
lovingly by Nancy under Mother Hamilton's portrait, in the presence not
only of the entire family, but also of Osh Popham, who had called to
present early radishes and peppergrass.

"I'd like to go upstairs with you when you get your boquet tied up," he
said, "because it's an awful hot day, an' the queer kind o' things you
do 't this house allers makes my backbone cold! I never suspicioned that
Lena Hamilton hed the same kind o' fantasmic notions that you folks
have, but I guess it's like tenant, like landlord, in this case! Anyhow,
I want to see the rent paid, if you don't mind. I wish't you'd asked
that mean old sculpin of a Hen Lord over; he owns my house an' it might
put a few idees into his head!"

In the afternoon Nancy took her writing pad and sat on the circular
steps, where it was cool. The five o'clock train from Boston whistled at
the station a mile away as she gathered her white skirts daintily up and
settled herself in the shadiest corner. She was unconscious of the
passing time, and scarcely looked up until the rattling of wheels caught
her ear. It was the station wagon stopping at the Yellow House gate, and
a strange gentleman was alighting. He had an unmistakable air of the
town. His clothes were not as Beulah clothes and his hat was not as
Beulah hats, for it was a fine Panama with a broad sweeping brim. Nancy
rose from the steps, surprise dawning first in her eyes, then wonder,
then suspicion, then conviction; then two dimples appeared in
her cheeks.

The stranger lifted the foreign-looking hat with a smile and said, "My
little friend and correspondent, Nancy Carey, I think?"

"My American Consul, I do believe!" cried Nancy joyously, as she ran
down the path with both hands outstretched. "Where did you come from?
Why didn't you tell us beforehand? We never even heard that you were in
this country! Oh! I know why you chose the Fourth of July! It's pay day,
and you thought we shouldn't be ready with the rent; but it's all
attended to, beautifully, this morning!"

"May I send my bag to the Mansion House and stay a while with you?"
asked Mr. Hamilton. "Are the rest of you at home? How are Gilbert and
Kathleen and Julia and Peter? How, especially, is Mother Carey?"

"What a memory you have!" exclaimed Nancy. "Take Mr. Hamilton's bag,
please, Mr. Bennett, and tell them at the hotel that he won't be there
until after supper."

It was a pleasant hour that ensued, for Nancy had broken the ice and
there was plenty of conversation. Then too, the whole house had to be
shown, room by room, even to Cousin Ann's stove in the cellar and the
pump in the kitchen sink.

"I never saw anything like it!" exclaimed Hamilton. "It is like magic! I
ought to pay you a thousand dollars on the spot! I ought to try and buy
the place of you for five thousand! Why don't you go into the business
of recreating houses and selling them to poor benighted creatures like
me, who never realize their possibilities?"

"If we show you the painted chamber will you promise not to be too
unhappy?" asked Nancy. "You can't help crying with rage and grief that
it is our painted chamber, not yours; but try to bear up until you get
to the hotel, because mother is so soft-hearted she will be giving it
back to you unless I interfere."

"You must have spent money lavishly when you restored this room," said
the Consul; "it is a real work of art."

"Not a penny," said Mrs. Carey. "It is the work of a great friend of
Nancy's, a seventeen-year-old girl, who, we expect, will make Beulah
famous some day. Now will you go into your mother's room and find your
way downstairs by yourself? Julia, will you show Mr. Hamilton the barn a
little later, while Nancy and I get supper? Kitty must go to the
Pophams' for Peter; he is spending the afternoon with them."

Nancy had enough presence of mind to intercept Kitty and hiss into her
ear: "Borrow a loaf of bread from Mrs. Popham, we are short; and see if
you can find any way to get strawberries from Bill Harmon's; it was to
have been a bread-and-milk supper on the piazza, to-night, and it must
be hurriedly changed into a Consular banquet! _Verb. sap._ Fly!"

Gilbert turned up a little before six o'clock and was introduced proudly
by his mother as a son who had just "gone into business."

"I'm Bill Harmon's summer clerk and delivery boy," he explained. "It's
great fun, and I get two dollars and a half a week."

Nancy and her mother worked like Trojans in the kitchen, for they agreed
it was no time for economy, even if they had less to eat for a week
to come.

"Mr. Hamilton is just as nice as I guessed he was, when his first letter
came," said Nancy. "I went upstairs to get a card for the supper menu,
and he was standing by your mantelpiece with his head bent over his
arms. He had the little bunch of field flowers in his hand, and I know
he had been smelling them, and looking at his mother's picture, and
remembering things!"

What a merry supper it was, with a jug of black-eyed Susans in the
centre of the table and a written bill of fare for Mr. Hamilton,
"because he was a Consul," so Nancy said.

Gilbert sat at the head of the table, and Mr. Hamilton thought he had
never seen anything so beautiful as Mrs. Carey in her lavender challie,
sitting behind the tea cups; unless it was Nancy, flushed like a rose,
changing the plates and waiting on the table between courses. He had
never exerted himself so much at any diplomatic dinner, and he won the
hearts of the entire family before the meal was finished.

"By the way, I have a letter of introduction to you all, but especially
to Miss Nancy here, and I have never thought to deliver it," he said.
"Who do you think sent it,--all the way from China?"

"My son Tom!" exclaimed Nancy irrepressibly; "but no, he couldn't,
because he doesn't know us."

"The Admiral, of course!" cried Gilbert.

"You are both right," Mr. Hamilton answered, drawing a letter from his
coat pocket. "It is a Round Robin from the Admiral and my son Tom, who
have been making acquaintance in Hong Kong. It is addressed:

    "FROM THE YELLOW PERIL, IN CHINA

    "to

    "THE YELLOW HOUSE, IN BEULAH,

    "_Greeting_!"

Nancy crimsoned. "Did the Admiral tell your son Tom I called him the
Yellow Peril? It was wicked of him! I did it, you know, because you
wrote me that the only Hamilton who cared anything for the old house, or
would ever want to live in it, was your son Tom. After that I always
called him the Yellow Peril, and I suppose I mentioned it in a letter to
the Admiral."

"I am convinced that Nancy's mind is always empty at bedtime," said her
mother, "because she tells everything in it to somebody during the day.
I hope age will bring discretion, but I doubt it."

"My son Tom is coming home!" said his father, with unmistakable delight
in his voice.

Nancy, who was passing the cake, sat down so heavily in her chair that
everybody laughed.

"Come, come, Miss Nancy! I can't let you make an ogre of the boy," urged
Mr. Hamilton. "He is a fine fellow, and if he comes down here to look at
the old place you are sure to be good friends."

"Is he going back to China after his visit?" asked Mrs. Carey, who felt
a fear of the young man something akin to her daughter's.

"No, I am glad to say. Our family has been too widely separated for the
last ten years. At first it seemed necessary, or at least convenient and
desirable, and I did not think much about it. But lately it has been
continually on my mind that we were leading a cheerless existence, and I
am determined to arrange matters differently."

Mrs. Carey remembered Ossian Popham's description of Mrs. Lemuel
Hamilton and forebore to ask any questions with regard to her
whereabouts, since her husband did not mention her.

"You will all be in Washington then," she said, "and your son Tom with
you, of course?"

"Not quite so near as that," his father replied. "Tom's firm is opening
a Boston office and he will be in charge of that. When do you expect the
Admiral back? Tom talks of their coming together on the Bedouin, if it
can be arranged."

"We haven't heard lately," said Mrs. Carey; "but he should return within
a month or two, should he not, Nancy? My daughter writes all the letters
for the family, Mr. Hamilton, as you know by this time."

"I do, to my great delight and satisfaction. Now there is one thing I
have not seen yet, something about which I have a great deal of
sentiment. May I smoke my cigar under the famous crimson rambler?"

The sun set flaming red, behind the Beulah hills. The frogs sang in the
pond by the House of Lords, and the grasshoppers chirped in the long
grass of Mother Hamilton's favorite hayfield. Then the moon, round and
deep-hued as a great Mandarin orange, came up into the sky from which
the sun had faded, and the little group still sat on the side piazza,
talking. Nothing but their age and size kept the Carey chickens out of
Mr. Hamilton's lap, and Peter finally went to sleep with his head
against the consul's knee. He was a "lappy" man, Nancy said next
morning; and indeed there had been no one like him in the family circle
for many a long month. He was tender, he was gay, he was fatherly, he
was interested in all that concerned them; so no wonder that he heard
all about Gilbert's plans for earning money, and Nancy's accepted story.
No wonder he exclaimed at the check for ten dollars proudly exhibited in
payment, and no wonder he marvelled at the Summer Vacation School in the
barn, where fourteen little scholars were already enrolled under the
tutelage of the Carey Faculty. "I never wanted to go to anything in my
life as much as I want to go to that school!" he asserted. "If I could
write a circular as enticing as that, I should be a rich man. I wish
you'd let me have some new ones printed, girls, and put me down for
three evening lectures; I'd do almost anything to get into that
Faculty." "I wish you'd give the lectures for the benefit of the
Faculty, that would be better still," said Kitty. "Nancy's coming-out
party was to be in the barn this summer; that's one of the things we're
earning money for; or at least we make believe that it is, because it's
so much more fun to work for a party than for coal or flour or meat!"

A look from Mrs. Carey prevented the children from making any further
allusions to economy, and Gilbert skillfully turned the subject by
giving a dramatic description of the rise and fall of The Dirty Boy,
from its first appearance at his mother's wedding breakfast to its last,
at the house-warming supper.

After Lemuel Hamilton had gone back to the little country hotel he sat
by the open window for another hour, watching the moonbeams shimmering
on the river and bathing the tip of the white meeting-house steeple in a
flood of light. The air was still and the fireflies were rising above
the thick grass and carrying their fairy lamps into the lower branches
of the feathery elms. "Haying" would begin next morning, and he would be
wakened by the sharpening of scythes and the click of mowing machines.
He would like to work in the Hamilton fields, he thought, knee-deep in
daisies,--fields on whose grass he had not stepped since he was a boy
just big enough to _go_ behind the cart and "rake after." What an
evening it had been! None of them had known it, but as a matter of fact
they had all scaled Shiny Wall and had been sitting with Mother Carey in
Peacepool; that was what had made everything so beautiful! Mr.
Hamilton's last glimpse of the Careys had been the group at the Yellow
House gate. Mrs. Carey, with her brown hair shining in the moonlight
leaned against Gilbert, the girls stood beside her, their arms locked in
hers, while Peter clung sleepily to her hand.

"I believe they are having hard times!" he thought, "and I can't think
of anything I can safely do to make things easier. Still, one cannot
pity, one can only envy them! That is the sort of mother I would have
made had I been Nature and given a free hand! I would have put a label
on Mrs. Carey, saying: 'This is what I meant a woman to be!'"



XXXIV

NANCY COMES OUT


Nancy's seventeenth birthday was past, and it was on the full of the
August moon that she finally "came out" in the Hamilton barn. It was the
barn's first public appearance too, for the villagers had not been
invited to the private Saturday night dances that took place during the
brief reign of the Hamilton boys and girls. Beulah was more excited
about the barn than it was about Nancy, and she was quite in sympathy
with this view of things, as the entire Carey family, from mother to
Peter, was fairly bewitched with its new toy. Day by day it had grown
more enchanting as fresh ideas occurred to one or another, and
especially to Osh Popham, who lived, breathed, and had his being in the
barn, and who had lavished his ingenuity and skill upon its fittings.
Not a word did he vouchsafe to the general public of the extraordinary
nature of these fittings, nor of the many bewildering features of the
entertainment which was to take place within the almost sacred
precincts. All the Carey festivities had heretofore been in the house
save the one in honor of the hanging of the weather vane, which had been
an out-of-door function, attended by the whole village. Now the
community was all agog to disport itself in pastures new; its curiosity
being further piqued by the reception of written invitations, a
convention not often indulged in by Beulah.

The eventful day dawned, clear and cool; a day with an air like liquid
amber, that properly belonged to September,--the weather prophet really
shifting it into August from pure kindness, having taken a sticky dogday
out and pitchforked it into the next month.

The afternoon passed in various stages of plotting, planning, and
palpitation, and every girl in Beulah, of dancing age, was in her
bedroom, trying her hair a new way. The excitement increased a thousand
fold when it was rumored that an Admiral (whatever that might be) had
arrived at the hotel and would appear at the barn in full uniform. After
that, nobody's braids or puffs would go right!

Nancy never needed to study Paris plates, for her hair dressed itself
after a fashion set by all the Venuses and Cupids and little Loves since
the world began. It curled, whether she would or no, so the only method
was to part the curls and give them a twist into a coil, from which
vagrant spirals fell to the white nape of her neck. Or, if she felt gay
and coquettish as she did tonight, the curls were pinned high to the
crown of her head and the runaways rioted here and there, touching her
cheek, her ear, her neck, never ugly, wherever they ran.

Nancy had a new yellow organdy made "almost to touch," and a twist of
yellow ribbon in her hair. Kathleen and Julia were in the white dresses
brought them by Cousin Ann, and Mrs. Carey wore her new black silk, made
with a sweeping little train. Her wedding necklace of seed pearls was
around her neck, and a tall comb of tortoise shell and pearls rose from
the low-coiled knot of her shining hair.

The family "received" in the old carriage house, and when everybody had
assembled, to the number of seventy-five or eighty, the door into the
barn was thrown open majestically by Gilbert, in his character as head
of the house of Carey. Words fail to describe the impression made by the
barn as it was introduced to the company, Nancy's debut sinking into
positive insignificance beside it.

Dozens of brown japanned candle-lanterns hung from the beamed ceiling,
dispensing little twinkles of light here and there, while larger ones
swung from harness pegs driven into the sides of the walls. The soft
gray-brown of the old weathered lumber everywhere, made a lovely
background for the birch-bark brackets, and the white birch-bark vases
that were filled with early golden-rod, mixed with tall Queen Anne's
lace and golden glow. The quaint settles surrounding the sides of the
room were speedily filled by the admiring guests. Colonel Wheeler's tiny
upright piano graced the platform in the "tie up." Miss Susie Bennett,
the church organist, was to play it, aided now and then by Mrs. Carey or
Julia. Osh Popham was to take turns on the violin with a cousin from
Warren's Mills, who was reported to be the master fiddler of the county.

When all was ready Mrs. Carey stood between the master fiddler and Susie
Bennett, and there was a sudden hush in the room. "Friends and
neighbors," she said, "we now declare the Hall of Happy Hours open for
the general good of the village. If it had not been for the generosity
of our landlord, Mr. Lemuel Hamilton, we could never have given you this
pleasure, and had not our helpers been so many, we could never have made
the place so beautiful. Before the general dancing begins there will be
a double quadrille of honor, in which all those will take part who have
driven a nail, papered or painted a wall, dug a spadeful of earth, or
done any work in or about the Yellow House."

"Three cheers for Mrs. Carey!" called Bill Harmon, and everybody
complied lustily.

"Three cheers for Lemuel Hamilton!" and the rafters of the barn rang
with the response.

Just then the Admiral changed his position to conceal the moisture that
was beginning to gather in his eyes; and the sight of a personage so
unspeakably magnificent in a naval uniform induced Osh Popham to cry
spontaneously: "Three cheers for the Admiral! I don't know what he ever
done, but he looks as if he could, all right!" at which everybody
cheered and roared, and the Admiral to his great surprise made a speech,
during which the telltale tears appeared so often in his eyes and in his
voice, that Osh Popham concluded privately that if the naval hero ever
did meet an opposing battleship he would be likelier to drown the enemy
than fire into them!

The double quadrille of honor passed off with much elegance, everybody
not participating in it being green with envy because he was not. Mrs.
Carey and the Admiral were partners; Nancy danced with Mr. Popham,
Kathleen with Digby, Julia with Bill Harmon. The other couples were Mrs.
Popham and Gilbert, Lallie Joy and Cyril Lord, Olive and Nat Harmon,
while Mrs. Bill led out a very shy and uncomfortable gentleman who had
dug the ditches for Cousin Ann's expensive pipes.

Then the fun and the frolic began in earnest. The girls had been
practising the old-fashioned contra dances all summer, and training the
younger generation in them at the Vacation School. The old folks needed
no rehearsal! If you had waked any of them in the night suddenly they
could have called the changes for Speed the Plough, The Soldier's Joy,
The Maid in the Pump Room, or Hull's Victory.

Money Musk brought Nancy and Mr. Henry Lord on to the floor as head
couple; a result attained by that young lady by every means, fair or
foul, known to woman; at least a rudimentary, budding woman of seventeen
summers! His coming to the party at all was regarded by Mother Carey,
who had spent the whole force of her being in managing it, as nothing
short of a miracle. He had accepted partly from secret admiration of his
handsome neighbor, partly to show the village that he did not choose
always to be a hermit crab, partly out of curiosity to see the unusual
gathering. Having crawled out of his selfish shell far enough to grace
the occasion, he took another step when Nancy asked him to dance. It was
pretty to see her curtsey when she put the question, pretty to see the
air of triumph with which she led him to the head of the line, and
positively delightful to the onlookers to see Hen Lord doing right and
left, ladies' chain, balance to opposite and cast off, at a girl's beck
and call. He was not a bad dancer, when his sluggish blood once got into
circulation; and he was considerably more limber at the end of Money
Musk, considerably less like a wooden image, than at the beginning
of it.

In the interval between this astounding exhibition and the Rochester
Schottisch which followed it, Henry Lord went up to Mrs. Carey, who was
sitting in a corner a little apart from her guests for the moment.

"Shall I go to South America, or shall I not?" he asked her in an
undertone. "Olive seems pleasantly settled, and Cyril tells me you will
consent to take him into your family for six months; still, I would like
a woman's advice."

Mother Carey neither responded, "I should prefer not to take the
responsibility of advising you," nor "Pray do as you think best"; she
simply said, in a tone she might have used to a fractious boy:

"I wouldn't go, Mr. Lord! Wait till Olive and Cyril are a little older.
Cyril will grow into my family instead of into his own; Olive will learn
to do without you; worse yet, you will learn to do without your
children. Stay at home and have Olive come back to you and her brother
every week end. South America is a long distance when there are only
three of you!"

Prof. Lord was not satisfied with Mrs. Carey's tone. It was so maternal
that he expected at any moment she might brush his hair, straighten his
necktie, and beg him not to sit up too late, but his instinct told him
it was the only tone he was ever likely to hear from her, and so he said
reluctantly, "Very well; I confess that I really rely on your judgment,
and I will decline the invitation."

"I think you are right," Mrs. Carey answered, wondering if the man would
ever see his duty with his own eyes, or whether he had deliberately
blinded himself for life.



XXXV

THE CRIMSON RAMBLER


While Mrs. Carey was talking with Mr. Lord, Nancy skimmed across the
barn floor intent on some suddenly remembered duty, went out into the
garden, and met face to face a strange young man standing by the rose
trellis and looking in at the dance through the open door.

He had on a conventional black dinner-coat, something never seen in
Beulah, and wore a soft travelling cap. At first Nancy thought he was a
friend of the visiting fiddler, but a closer look at his merry dark eyes
gave her the feeling that she had seen him before, or somebody very like
him. He did not wait for her to speak, but taking off his cap, put out
his hand and said: "By your resemblance to a photograph in my possession
I think you are the girl who planted the crimson rambler."

"Are you 'my son Tom'?" asked Nancy, open astonishment in her tone. "I
mean my Mr. Hamilton's son Tom?"

"I am _my_ Mr. Hamilton's son Tom; or shall we say _our_ Mr. Hamilton's?
Do two 'mys' make one 'our'?"

"Upon my word, wonders will never cease!" exclaimed Nancy. "The Admiral
said you were in Boston, but he never told us you would visit Beulah
so soon!"

"No, I wanted it to be a secret. I wanted to appear when the ball was at
its height; the ghost of the old regime confronting the new, so
to speak."

"Beulah will soon be a summer resort; everybody seems to be coming
here."

"It's partly your fault, isn't it?"

"Why, pray?"

"'The Water Babies' is one of my favorite books, and I know all about
Mother Carey's chickens. They go out over the seas and show good birds
the way home."

"Are _you_ a good bird?" asked Nancy saucily.

"I'm _home_, at all events!" said Tom with an emphasis that made Nancy
shiver lest the young man had come to Beulah with a view of taking up
his residence in the paternal mansion.

The two young people sat down on the piazza steps while the music of
The Sultan's Polka floated out of the barn door. Old Mrs. Jenks was
dancing with Peter, her eighty-year-old steps as fleet as his, her white
side-curls bobbing to the tune. Her withered hands clasped his dimpled
ones and the two seemed to be of the same age, for in the atmosphere of
laughter and goodwill there would have been no place for the old in
heart, and certainly Mrs. Jenks was as young as any one at the party.

"I can't help dreading you, nice and amiable as you look," said Nancy
candidly to Tom Hamilton; "I am so afraid you'll fall in love with the
Yellow House and want it back again. Are you engaged to be married to a
little-footed China doll, or anything like that?" she asked with a
teasing, upward look and a disarming smile that robbed the question of
any rudeness.

"No, not engaged to anything or anybody, but I've a notion I shall be,
soon, if all goes well! I'm getting along in years now!"

"I might have known it!" sighed Nancy. "It was a prophetic instinct, my
calling you the Yellow Peril."

"It isn't a bit nice of you to dislike me before you know me; I didn't
do that way with you!"

"What do you mean?"

"Why, in the first letter you ever wrote father you sent your love to
any of his children that should happen to be of the right size. I
chanced to be _just_ the right size, so I accepted it, gratefully; I've
got it here with me to-night; no, I left it in my other coat," he said
merrily, making a fictitious search through his pockets.

Nancy laughed at his nonsense; she could not help it.

"Will you promise to get over your foolish and wicked prejudices if I on
my part promise never to take the Yellow House away from you unless you
wish?" continued Tom.

"Willingly," exclaimed Nancy joyously. "That's the safest promise I
could make, for I would never give up living in it unless I had to.
First it was father's choice, then it was mother's, now all of us seem
to have built ourselves into it, as it were. I am almost afraid to care
so much about anything, and I shall be so relieved if you do not turn
out to be really a Yellow Peril after all!"

"You are much more of a Yellow Peril yourself!" said Tom, "with that
dress and that ribbon in your hair! Will you dance the next dance with
me, please?"

"It's The Tempest; do you know it?"

"No, but I'm not so old but I may learn. I'll form myself on that
wonderful person who makes jokes about the Admiral and plays
the fiddle."

"That's Ossian Popham, principal prop of the House of Carey!"

"Lucky dog! Have you got all the props you need?"

Nancy's hand was not old or strong or experienced enough to keep this
strange young man in order, and just as she was meditating some
blighting retort he went on:--

"Who is that altogether adorable, that unspeakably beautiful lady in
black?--the one with the pearl comb that looks like a crown?"

"That's mother," said Nancy, glowing.

"I thought so. At least I didn't know any other way to account for her."

"Why does she have to be accounted for?" asked Nancy, a little
bewildered.

"For the same reason that you do," said the audacious youth. "You
explain your mother and your mother explains you, a little, at any rate.
Where is the celebrated crimson rambler, please?"

"You are sitting on it," Nancy answered tranquilly.

Tom sprang away from the trellis, on which he had been half reclining.
"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me? I have a great
affection for that rambler; it was your planting it that first made
me--think favorably of you. Has it any roses on it? I can't see in
this light."

"It is almost out of bloom; there may be a few at the top somewhere;
I'll look out my window to-morrow morning and see."

"At about what hour?"

"How should I know?" laughed Nancy.

"Oh! you're not to be depended on!" said Tom rebukingly. "Just give me
your hand a moment; step on that lowest rung of the trellis, now one
step higher, please; now stretch up your right hand and pick that little
cluster, do you see it?--That's right; now down, be careful, there you
are, thank you! A rose in the hand is worth two in the morning."

"Put it in your button hole," said Nancy. "It is the last; I gave your
father one of the first a month ago."

"I shall put this in my pocket book and send it to my mother in a
letter," Tom replied. ("And tell her it looks just like the girl who
planted it," he thought; "sweet, fragrant, spicy, graceful, vigorous,
full of color.")

"Now come in and meet mother," said Nancy. "The polka is over, and soon
they will be 'forming on' for The Tempest."

Tom Hamilton's entrance and introduction proved so interesting that it
delayed the dance for a few moments. Then Osh Popham and the master
fiddler tuned their violins and Mrs. Carey assisted Susie Bennett at the
piano, so that there were four musicians to give fresh stimulus to the
impatient feet.

Tom Hamilton hardly knew whether he would rather dance with Nancy or
stand at the open door and watch her as he had been doing earlier in the
evening. He could not really see her now, although he was her partner,
his mind was so occupied with the intricate figures, but he could feel
her, in every fibre of his body, the touch of her light hand was so
charged with magnetism.

Somebody swung the back doors of the barn wide open. The fields, lately
mown, sloped gently up to a fringe of pines darkly green against the
sky. The cool night air stirred the elms, and the brilliant moon
appeared in the very centre of the doorway. The beauty of the whole
scene went to Tom Hamilton's head a little, but he kept his thoughts
steadily on the changes as Osh Popham called them.

To watch Nancy Carey dance The Tempest was a sight to stir the blood.
The two head couples joined hands and came down the length of the barn
four abreast; back they went in a whirl; then they balanced to the next
couple, then came four hands round and ladies' chain, and presently they
came down again flying, with another four behind them. The first four
were Nancy and Tom, Ralph Thurston and Kathleen, the last two among the
best dancers in Beulah; but while Kitty was slim and straight and
graceful as a young fawn, Nancy swept down the middle of the barn floor
like a flower borne by the breeze. She was Youth, Hope, Joy incarnate!
She had washed the dishes that night, would wash them again in the
morning, but what of that? What mattered it that the years just ahead
(for aught she knew to the contrary) were full of self-denial and
economy? Was she not seventeen? Anything was possible at seventeen! What
if the world was to be a work-a-day world? There was music and laughter
in it as well as work, and there was love in it, too, oceans of love, so
why not trip and be merry and guide one's young partner safely through
the difficult mazes of the dance and bring him out flushed and
triumphant, to receive mother's laughing compliments?

Everybody was dancing The Tempest in his or her own fashion, thought the
Admiral, looking on. Mrs. Popham was grave, even gloomy from the waist
up, but incredibly lively from the waist down, moving with the precision
of machinery, while her partner, a bricklayer from Beulah Centre,
engaged the attention of the entire company by his wonderful steps. She
was fully up to time too, you may be sure, as her rival, Mrs. Bill
Harmon, was opposite her in the set. Lallie Joy, clad in one of
Kathleen's dresses, her hair dressed by Julia, was a daily attendant at
the Vacation School, but five weeks of steady instruction had not
sufficed to make her sure of ladies' grand chain. Olive moved like a shy
little wild thing, with a bending head and a grace all her own, while
Gilbert had great ease and distinction.

There was a brief interval for ice cream, accompanied by marble cake,
gold cake, silver cake, election cake, sponge cake, cup cake, citron
cake, and White Mountain cake, and while it was being eaten, Susie
Bennett played The Sliding Waltz, The Maiden's Prayer, and Listen to the
Mocking Bird with variations; variations requiring almost
supernatural celerity.

"I guess there ain't many that can touch Sutey at the piano!" said Osh
Popham, who sat beside the Admiral. "Have you seen anybody in the cities
that could play any faster'n she can? And Jo you ever ketch her landin'
on a black note when she started for a white one? I guess not!"

"You are right!" replied the Admiral, "and now there seems to be a
general demand for you. What are they requesting you to do,--fly?"

"That's it," said Osh. "Mis' Carey, will you play for me? Maria, you can
go into the carriage house if you don't want to be disgraced."

  "Come, my beloved, haste away,
  Cut short the hours of thy delay.
  Fly like a youthful hart or roe
  Over the hills where spices grow."

At length the strains of the favorite old tune faded on the ears of the
delighted audience. Then they had The Portland Fancy and The Irish
Washerwoman and The College Hornpipe, and at last the clock in the
carriage house struck midnight and the guests departed in groups of twos
and threes and fours, their cheerful voices sounding far down the
village street.

Osh Popham stayed behind to cover the piano, put out the lanterns, close
the doors and windows, and lock the barn, while Mrs. Carey and the
Admiral strolled slowly along the greensward to the side door of
the house.

"Good-night," Osh called happily as he passed them a few minutes later.
"I guess Beulah never see a party such as ourn was, this evenin'! I
guess if the truth was known, the State o' Maine never did, neither!
Good-night, all! Mebbe if I hurry along I can ketch up with Maria!"

His quick steps brushing the grassy pathway could be heard for some
minutes in the clear still air, and presently the sound of his mellow
tenor came floating back:--

  "Come, my beloved, haste away,
  Cut short the hours of thy delay.
  Fly like a youthful hart or roe
  Over the hills where spices grow."

Julia had gone upstairs with the sleepy Peter-bird, who had been
enjoying his first experience of late hours on the occasion of Nancy's
coming out; the rest of the young folks were gathered in a group under
the elms, chatting in couples,--Olive and Ralph Thurston, Kathleen and
Cyril Lord, Nancy and Tom Hamilton. Then they parted, Tom Hamilton
strolling to the country hotel with the young school teacher for
companion, while Olive and Cyril walked across the fields to the
House of Lords.

It was a night in a thousand. The air was warm, clear, and breathlessly
still; so still that not a leaf stirred on the trees. The sky was
cloudless, and the moon, brilliant and luminous, shone as it seldom
shines in a northern clime. The water was low in Beulah's shining river
and it ran almost noiselessly under the bridge. While Kathleen and Julia
were still unbraiding their hair, exclaiming at every twist of the hand
as to the "loveliness" of the party, Nancy had kissed her mother and
crept silently into bed. All night long the strains of The Tempest ran
through her dreams. There was the touch of a strange hand on hers, an
altogether new touch, warm and compelling. There was the gay trooping
down the centre of the barn in fours,--some one by her side who had
never been there before,--and a sensation entirely new and intoxicating,
that whenever she met the glance of her partner's merry dark eyes she
found herself at the bottom of them.

Was she a child when she heard Osh Popham cry: "Take your partners for
The Tempest!" and was she a woman when he called: "All promenade to
seats!" She hardly knew. Beulah was a dream; the Yellow House was a
dream, the dance was a dream, the partner was a dream. At one moment she
was a child helping her father to plant the crimson rambler, at another
she was a woman pulling a rose from the topmost branch and giving it to
some one who steadied her hand on the trellis; some one who said "Thank
you" and "Good-night" differently from the rest of the world.

Who was the young stranger? Was he the Knight of Beulah Castle, the
Overlord of the Yellow House, was he the Yellow Peril, was he a good
bird to whom Mother Carey's chicken had shown the way home? Still the
dream went on in bewildering circles, and Nancy kept hearing mysterious
phrases spoken with a new meaning,--"Will you dance with me?" "Doesn't
the House of Carey need another prop?" "Won't you give me a rose?" and
above all: "You sent your love to any one of the Hamilton children who
should be of the right size; I was just the right size, and I took it!"

"Love couldn't be sent in a letter!" expostulated Nancy in the dream;
and somebody, in the dream, always answered, "Don't be so sure! Very
strange things happen when Mother Carey's messengers go out over the
seas. Don't you remember how they spoke to Tom in 'The Water
Babies'?--Among all the songs that came across the water one was more
sweet and clear than all, for it was the song of a young girl's
voice.... And what was the song that she sung?... Have patience, keep
your eye single and your hands clean, and you will learn some day to
sing it yourself, without needing any man to teach you!"





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