SILVER PITCHERS: AND INDEPENDENCE,
A Centennial Love Story.
By LOUISA M. ALCOTT,
AUTHOR OF "LITTLE WOMEN," "AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL," "LITTLE MEN," "EIGHT
COUSINS," "WORK," "HOSPITAL SKETCHES," ETC.
BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT.
UNIVERSITY PRESS: JOHN WILSON & SON,
TRANSCENDENTAL WILD OATS
THE ROMANCE OF A SUMMER DAY
MY ROCOCO WATCH
BY THE RIVER
INDEPENDENCE: A CENTENNIAL LOVE STORY
_HOW IT BEGAN._
"We can do nothing about it except show our displeasure in some proper
manner," said Portia, in her most dignified tone.
"_I_ should like to cut them all dead for a year to come; and I'm not
sure that I won't!" cried Pauline, fiercely.
"We _ought_ to make it impossible for such a thing to happen again, and
I think we _might_," added Priscilla, so decidedly that the others
looked at her in surprise.
The three friends sat by the fire "talking things over," as girls love
to do. Pretty creatures, all of them, as they nestled together on the
lounge in dressing-gowns and slippers, with unbound hair, eyes still
bright with excitement, and tongues that still wagged briskly.
Usually the chat was of dresses, compliments, and all the little
adventures that befall gay girls at a merry-making. But to-night
something of uncommon interest absorbed the three, and kept them talking
earnestly long after they should have been asleep.
Handsome Portia looked out from her blonde locks with a disgusted
expression, as she sipped the chocolate thoughtful mamma had left inside
the fender. Rosy-faced Pauline sat staring indignantly at the fire;
while in gentle Priscilla's soft eyes the shadow of a real sorrow seemed
to mingle with the light of a strong determination.
Yes, something had happened at this Thanksgiving festival which much
offended the three friends, and demanded grave consideration on their
part; for the "Sweet P's," as Portia, Pris, and Polly were called, were
the belles of the town. One ruled by right of beauty and position, one
by the power of a character so sweet and strong that its influence was
widely felt, and one by the wit and winsomeness of a high yet generous
It had been an unusually pleasant evening, for after the quilting bee in
the afternoon good Squire Allen had given a bountiful supper, and all
the young folks of the town had joined in the old-fashioned games, which
made the roof ring with hearty merriment.
All would have gone well if some one had not privately introduced
something stronger than the cider provided by the Squire,--a mysterious
and potent something, which caused several of the young men to betray
that they were decidedly the worse for their libations.
That was serious enough; but the crowning iniquity was the putting of
brandy into the coffee, which it was considered decorous for the young
girls to prefer instead of cider.
Who the reprobates were remained a dead secret, for the young men
laughed off the dreadful deed as a joke, and the Squire apologized in
the handsomest manner.
But the girls felt much aggrieved and would not be appeased, though the
elders indulgently said, "Young men will be young men," even while they
shook their heads over the pranks played and the nonsense spoken under
the influence of the wine that had been so slyly drank.
Now what should be done about it? The "Sweet P's" knew that their mates
would look to them for guidance at this crisis, for they were the
leaders in all things. So they must decide on some line of conduct for
all to adopt, as the best way of showing their disapproval of such
When Pris spoke, the others looked at her with surprise; for there was a
new expression in her face, and both asked wonderingly, "How?"
"There are several ways, and we must decide which is the best. One is to
refuse invitations to the sociable next week."
"But I've just got a lovely new dress expressly for it!" cried Portia,
"Then we might decline providing any supper," began Pris.
"That wouldn't prevent the boys from providing it, and I never could get
through the night without a morsel of something!" exclaimed Polly, who
loved to see devoted beings bending before her, with offerings of ice,
or struggling manfully to steer a glass of lemonade through a tumultuous
sea of silk and broadcloth, feeling well repaid by a word or smile from
her when they landed safely.
"True, and it _would_ be rather rude and resentful; for I am sure they
will be models of deportment next time," and gentle Pris showed signs of
relenting, though that foolish joke bad cost her more than either of the
For a moment all sat gazing thoughtfully at the fire, trying to devise
some awful retribution for the sinners, no part of which should fall
upon themselves. Suddenly Polly clapped her hands, crying with a
"I've got it, girls! I've got it!"
"What? How? Tell us quick!"
"We _will_ refuse to go to the first sociable, and that will make a
tremendous impression, for half the nice girls will follow our lead, and
the boys will be in despair. Every one will ask why we are not there;
and what can those poor wretches say but the truth? Won't that be a
bitter pill for my lords and gentlemen?"
"It will certainly be one to us," said Portia, thinking of the "heavenly
blue dress" with a pang.
"Wait a bit; our turn will come at the next sociable. To this we can go
with escorts of our own choosing, or none at all, for they are free and
easy affairs, you know. So we need be under no obligation to any of
those sinners, and can trample upon them as much as we please."
"But how about the games, the walks home, and all the pleasant little
services the young men of our set like to offer and we to receive?"
asked Portia, who had grown up with these "boys," as Polly called them,
and found it hard to turn her back on the playmates who had now become
friends or lovers.
"Bless me! I forgot that the feud might last more than one evening. Give
me an idea, Pris," and Polly's triumph ended suddenly.
"I will," answered Pris, soberly; "for at this informal sociable we can
institute a new order of things. It will make a talk, but I think we
have a right to do it, and I'm sure it will have a good effect, if we
only hold out, and don't mind being laughed at. Let us refuse to
associate with the young men whom we know to be what is called 'gay,'
and accept as friends those of whose good habits we are sure. If they
complain, as of course they will, we can say their own misconduct made
it necessary, and there we have them."
"But, Pris, who ever heard of such an idea? People will say all sorts of
things about us!" said Portia, rather startled at the proposition.
"Let them! I say it's a grand plan, and I'll stand by you, Pris, through
thick and thin!" cried Polly, who enjoyed the revolutionary spirit of
"We can but try it, and give the young men a lesson; for, girls, matters
are coming to a pass, when it is our _duty_ to do something. I cannot
think it is right for us to sit silent and see these fine fellows
getting into bad habits because no one dares or cares to speak out,
though we gossip and complain in private."
"Do you want us to begin a crusade?" asked Portia, uneasily.
"Yes, in the only way we girls can do it. We can't preach and pray in
streets and bar-rooms, but we may at home, and in our own little world
show that we want to use our influence for good. I know that you two can
do any thing you choose with the young people in this town, and it is
just that set who most need the sort of help you can give, if you will."
"You have more influence than both of us put together; so don't be
modest, Pris, but tell us what to do, and I'll do it, even if I'm hooted
at," cried warm-hearted Polly, won at once.
"You must do as you think right; but _I_ have made up my mind to protest
against wine-drinking in every way I can. I know it will cost me much,
for I have nothing to depend upon but the good opinion of my friends;
nevertheless, I shall do what seems my duty, and I may be able to save
some other girl from the heart-aches I have known."
"You won't lose our good opinion, you dear little saint! Just tell us
how to begin and we will follow our leader," cried both Portia and
Polly, fired with emulation by their friend's quiet resolution.
Pris looked from one to the other, and, seeing real love and confidence
in their faces, was moved to deepen the impression she had made, by
telling them the sad secret of her life. Pressing her hands tightly
together, and drooping her head, she answered in words that were the
more pathetic for their brevity,--
"Dear girls, don't think me rash or sentimental, for I _know_ what I am
trying to do, and you will understand my earnestness better when I tell
you that a terrible experience taught me to dread this appetite more
than death. It killed my father, broke mother's heart, and left me all
As she paused, poor Pris hid her face and shrank away, as if by this
confession she had forfeited her place in the respect of her mates. But
the girlish hearts only clung the closer to her, and proved the
sincerity of their affection by sympathetic tears and tender words, as
Portia and Polly held her fast, making a prettier group than the marble
nymphs on the mantelpiece; for the Christian graces quite outdid the
Polly spoke first, and spoke cheerfully, feeling, with the instinct of a
fine nature, that Priscilla's grief was too sacred to be talked about,
and that they could best show their appreciation of her confidence by
proving themselves ready to save others from a sorrow like hers.
"Let us be a little society of three, and do what we can. I shall begin
at home, and watch over brother Ned; for lately he has been growing away
from me somehow, and I'm afraid he is beginning to be 'gay.' I shall get
teased unmercifully; but I won't mind if I keep him safe."
"I have no one at home to watch over but papa, and he is in no danger,
of course; so I shall show Charley Lord that I am not pleased with him,"
said Portia, little dreaming where her work was to be done.
"And you will set about reforming that delightful scapegrace, Phil
Butler?" added Polly, peeping archly into the still drooping face of
"I have lost my right to do it, for I told him to-night that love and
respect must go together in my heart," and Pris wiped her wet eyes with
a hand that no longer wore a ring.
Portia and Polly looked at one another in dismay, for by this act Pris
proved how thoroughly in earnest she was.
Neither had any words of comfort for so great a trouble, and sat
silently caressing her, till Pris looked up, with her own serene smile
again, and said, as if to change the current of their thoughts,--
"We must have a badge for the members of our new society, so let us each
wear one of these tiny silver pitchers. I've lost the mate to mine, but
Portia has a pair just like them. You can divide, then we are all
Portia ran to her jewel-case, caught up a pair of delicate filigree
ear-rings, hastily divided a narrow velvet ribbon into three parts,
attached to each a silver pitcher, and, as the friends smilingly put on
these badges, they pledged their loyalty to the new league by a silent
_A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE._
Great was the astonishment of their "set" when it was known that the
"Sweet P's" had refused all invitations to the opening sociable.
The young men were in despair, the gossips talked themselves hoarse
discussing the affair, and the girls exulted; for, as Polly predicted,
the effect of their first step was "tremendous."
When the evening came, however, by one accord they met in Portia's room,
to support each other through that trying period. They affected to be
quite firm and cheerful; but one after the other broke down, and sadly
confessed that the sacrifice to principle was harder than they expected.
What added to their anguish was the fact that the Judge's house stood
just opposite the town-hall, and every attempt to keep away from certain
windows proved a dead failure.
"It is _so_ trying to see those girls go in with their dresses bundled
up, and not even know what they wear," mourned Portia, watching shrouded
figures trip up the steps that led to the paradise from which she had
"They must be having a capital time, for every one seems to have gone. I
wonder who Phil took," sighed Pris, when at length the carriages ceased
"Girls! I wish to be true to my vow, but if you don't hold me I shall
certainly rush over there and join in the fun, for that music is too
much for me," cried Polly, desperately, as the singing began.
It was an endless evening to the three pretty pioneers, though they went
early to bed, and heroically tried to sleep with that distracting music
in their ears. Slumber came at last, but as the clocks were striking
twelve a little ghost emerged from Portia's room, and gliding to the
hall window vanished among the heavy damask curtains.
Presently another little ghost appeared from the same quarter, and
stealing softly to the same window was about to vanish in the same
capacious draperies, when a stifled cry was heard, and Portia, the
second sprite, exclaimed in an astonished whisper,--
"Why, Pris, are you here, too? I saw Polly creep away from me, and came
to take her back. How dare you go wandering about and startling me out
of my wits in this way?"
"I was only looking to see if it was all over," quavered Pris, meekly,
emerging from the right-hand curtain.
"So was I!" laughed Polly, bouncing out from the left-hand one.
There was a sound of soft merriment in that shadowy hall for a moment,
and then the spirits took a look at the world outside, for the moon was
shining brightly. Yes, the fun was evidently over, for the lamps were
being extinguished, and several young men stood on the steps exchanging
last words. One wore a cloak theatrically thrown over the shoulder, and
Polly knew him at once.
"That's Ned! I _must_ hear what they are saying. Keep quiet and I'll
listen," she whispered, rolling herself in the dark folds of the curtain
and opening the window a crack, so that a frosty breeze could blow
freely into her left ear.
"You'll get your death," murmured Portia, shivering in her quilted
"O, never mind!" cried Pris, who recognized the tallest man in the
group, and was wild to catch a word from "poor Phil."
"They think they've done a fine thing; but, bless their little hearts,
we'll show that we can do without them by not asking them to the next
sociable, or taking notice of them if they go. That will bring them
round without fail," said one masculine voice, with a jolly laugh.
"Many thanks for letting us know your plots, Mr. Lord. Now we can
arrange a nice little surprise for _you_," and Portia made a scornful
courtesy in the dark.
"Faith! I don't blame the girls much, for that was a confoundedly
ungentlemanly trick of yours, and I'll thank you not to lay any of the
blame of it on me; I've got as much as I can carry without that," said
the tall figure, stalking away alone.
"I'm _so_ glad to know that Phil had nothing to do with it!" breathed
"Come on, Charley! I must get home as soon as possible, or Polly will be
down on me, for she has taken a new tack lately, and holds forth on the
error of my ways like a granny."
"Won't I give Ned an extra lecture for that speech, the rascal!" and
Polly shook a small fist at him as her brother passed under the window,
blissfully unconscious of the avenging angels up aloft.
"'Tis well; let us away and take sweet counsel how we may annihilate
them," added Polly, melodramatically, as the three ghosts vanished from
the glimpses of the moon.
Every one turned out to the sociables, for they were town affairs, and
early hours, simple suppers, and games of all sorts, made it possible
for old and young to enjoy them together.
On the night of the second one there was a goodly gathering, for the
public rebuke administered to the young men had made a stir, and
everybody was curious to see what the consequences would be when the
There was a sensation, therefore, when a whisper went round that the
"Sweet P's" had come, and a general smile of wonder and amusement
appeared when the girls entered, Portia on the arm of her father, Polly
gallantly escorted by her twelve-year-old brother Will, and Pris beside
Belinda Chamberlain, whose five feet seven made her a capital cavalier.
"Outwitted!" laughed Charley Lord, taking the joke at once as he saw
Portia's gray-headed squire.
"I _knew_ Polly was plotting mischief, she has been so quiet lately,"
muttered Ned, eying his little brother with lofty scorn.
Phil said nothing, but he gave a sigh of relief on seeing that Pris had
chosen an escort of whom it was impossible to be jealous.
The Judge seldom honored these gatherings, but Portia ruled papa, and
when she explained the peculiar state of things, he had heroically left
his easy chair to cast himself into the breach.
Master Will was in high feather at his sudden promotion, and bore
himself gallantly, though almost as much absorbed by his wristbands as
Mr. Toots; for Polly had got him up regardless of expense, with a gay
tie, new gloves, and, O, crowning splendor! a red carnation in his
Buxom Belinda was delighted with the chance to play cavalier, and so get
her fair share of all the fun going, for usually she stood in a corner
smiling at an unappreciative world, like a patient sunflower.
The faces of the young men were a study as the games began, and the
three girls joined in them with the partners they had chosen.
"The Judge is evidently on his mettle, but he can't stand that sort of
thing long, even to please Portia; and then her Majesty will have to
give in, or condescend to some one out of our set," thought Charley
Lord, longing already to be taken into favor again.
"Polly will have to come and ask me to lead, if she wants to sing her
favorite songs; for I'll be hanged if I do it till she has humbled
herself by asking," said Ned, feeling sure that his sister would soon
"If it was any one but Belinda, I don't think I could stand it,"
exclaimed Phil, as he watched his lost sweetheart with wistful eyes;
for, though he submitted to the sentence which he knew he deserved, he
could not relinquish so much excellence without deep regret.
But the young men underrated the spirit of the girls, and overrated
their own strength. The "Sweet P's" went on enjoying themselves,
apparently quite indifferent to the neglect of their once devoted
friends. But to the outcasts it was perfectly maddening to see stately
Portia promenading with stout Major Quackenboss, who put his best foot
foremost with the air of a conquering hero; also to behold sweet Pris
playing games with her little pupils in a way that filled their small
souls with rapture. But the most aggravating spectacle of all was
captivating Polly, chatting gayly with young Farmer Brown, who was
evidently losing both head and heart in the light of her smiles.
"It's no use, boys; I _must_ have one turn with Portia, and you may hang
me for a traitor immediately afterward," cried Charley at last,
recklessly casting both pride and promise to the winds.
"O, very well; if you are going to give in, we may as well all eat
humble pie 'together,'" and Ned imitated his weak-minded friend, glad of
an excuse to claim the leadership of the little choir who led off the
Phil dared not follow their example as far as Pris was concerned, but
made his most elegant bow to Belinda, and begged to have the honor of
seeing her home. His chagrin may be imagined when the lofty wall-flower
replied, with a significant emphasis that made his face burn,--
"No, thank you. I need a very _steady_ escort, for I shouldn't take a
fall into a snow-bank as lightly as Pris did not long ago."
Charley met with a like fate at Portia's hands, for she outraged
established etiquette by coldly declining his meek invitation to
promenade, and two minutes later graciously accepting that of an
unfashionable young man, who was known to belong to a temperance lodge.
But Ned's repulse was the most crushing of all, for in reply to his
"I suppose people won't be satisfied unless we give them our favorites,
hey, Polly?" he received a verbal box on the ear in the sharp answer,--
"We don't want _you_, for I intend to lead myself, and introduce a new
set of songs which won't be at all to your taste."
Then, to his utter amazement and confusion, Miss Polly began to sing one
of the good old temperance songs, the burden whereof was,--
"O, that will be joyful, joyful, joyful,
O, that will be joyful,
When young men drink no more!"
It was taken up all over the hall, and the chorus rang out with an
energy that caused sundry young men to turn red and dodge behind any
capacious back they could find, for every one understood Polly's motive,
and looked approvingly upon her as she stood singing, with an occasional
quiver in the voice that usually was as clear and sweet as a
This unexpected manoeuvre on the part of the fair enemy produced
direful perplexity and dismay in the opposing camp, whither the
discomfited trio fled with tidings of their defeat. None of them dared
try again in that quarter, but endeavored to console themselves by
flirting wildly with such girls as still remained available, for, sad to
relate, many of the most eligible took courage and followed the example
of the "Sweet P's." This fact cast added gloom over the hapless
gentlemen of the offending set, and caused them to fear that a social
revolution would follow what they had considered merely a girlish freak.
"Shouldn't wonder if they got up a praying-band after this," groaned
Ned, preparing himself for the strongest measures.
"Portia had better lead off, then, for the first time I indulged too
freely in the 'rosy' was at her father's house," added Charley, laying
all the blame of his expulsion from Eden upon Eve, like a true Adam.
"Look here, boys, we ought to thank, not blame them, for they want to
help us, I'm sure, and some of us need help, God knows!" sighed Phil,
with a look and tone that made his comrades forget their pique in sudden
self-reproach; for not one of them could deny his words, or help feeling
that the prayers of such innocent souls would avail much.
_WHAT PORTIA DID._
"I know your head aches, mamma, so lie here and rest while I sit in my
little chair and amuse you till papa comes in."
As Portia bent to arrange the sofa-cushions comfortably, the tiny silver
pitcher hanging at her neck swung forward and caught her mother's eye.
"Is it the latest fashion to wear odd ear-rings instead of lockets?" she
asked, touching the delicate trinket with an amused smile.
"No, mamma, it is something better than a fashion; it is the badge of a
temperance league that Pris, Polly, and I have lately made," answered
Portia, wondering how her mother would take it.
"Dear little girls! God bless and help you in your good work!" was the
quick reply, that both surprised and touched her by its fervency.
"Then you don't mind, or think us silly to try and do even a very little
towards curing this great evil?" she asked, with a sweet seriousness
that was new and most becoming to her.
"My child, I feel as if it was a special providence," began her mother,
then checked herself and added more quietly, "Tell me all about this
league, dear, unless it is a secret."
"I have no secrets from you, mother," and nestling into her low chair
Portia told her story, ending with an earnestness that showed how much
she had the new plan at heart.
"So you see Polly is trying to keep Ned safe, and Pris prays for Phil;
not in vain, I think, for he has been very good lately, they tell me.
But _I_ have neither brother nor lover to help, and I cannot go out to
find any one, because I am only a girl. Now what _can_ I do, mamma, for
I truly want to do my share?"
The mother lay silent for a moment, then, as if yielding to an
irresistible impulse, drew her daughter nearer, and whispered with lips
that trembled as they spoke,--
"You can help your father, dear."
"Mamma, what can you mean?" cried Portia, in a tone of indignant
"Listen patiently, child, or I shall regret that your confidence
inspired me with courage to give you mine. Never think for one moment
that I accuse my husband of any thing like drunkenness. He has always
taken his wine like a gentleman, and never more than was good for him
till of late. For this there are many excuses; he is growing old, his
life is less active than it was, many of the pleasures he once enjoyed
fail now, and he has fallen into ways that harm his health."
"I know, mamma; he doesn't care for company as he used to, or business,
either, but seems quite contented to sit among his papers half the
morning, and doze over the fire half the evening. I've wondered at it,
for he is not really old, and looks as hale and handsome as ever," said
Portia, feeling that something hovered on her mother's lips which she
found it hard to utter.
"You are right; it is _not_ age alone that makes him so unlike his once
cheerful, active self; it is--bend lower, dear, and never breathe to any
one what I tell you now, only that you may help me save your father's
Startled by the almost solemn earnestness of these words, Portia laid
her head upon the pillow, and twilight wrapt the room in its soft gloom,
as if to shut out all the world, while the mother told the daughter the
danger that threatened him whom they both so loved and honored.
"Papa has fallen into the way of taking more wine after dinner than is
good for him. He does not know how the habit is growing upon him, and is
hurt if I hint at such a thing. But Dr. Hall warned me of the danger
after papa's last ill turn, saying that at his age and with his
temperament apoplexy would be sure to follow over-indulgence of this
"O mamma, what can I do?" whispered Portia, with a thrill, as the words
of Pris returned to her with sudden force, "It killed my father, broke
mother's heart, and left me all alone."
"Watch over him, dear, amuse him as you only can, and wean him from this
unsuspected harm by all the innocent arts your daughterly love can
devise. I have kept this to myself, because it is hard for a wife to see
any fault in her husband; still harder for her to speak of it even to so
good a child as mine. But my anxiety unfits me to do all I might, so I
need help; and of whom can I ask it but of you? My darling, make a
little league with mother, and let us watch and pray in secret for this
dear man who is all in all to us."
What Portia answered, what comfort she gave, and what further
confidences she received, may not be told, for this household covenant
was too sacred for report. No visible badge was assumed, no audible vow
taken, but in the wife's face, as it smiled on her husband that night,
there was a tenderer light than ever, and the kiss that welcomed papa
was the seal upon a purpose as strong as the daughter's love.
Usually the ladies left the Judge to read his paper and take his wine in
the old-fashioned way, while they had coffee in the drawing-room. As
they rose, Portia saw the shadow fall upon her mother's face, which she
had often seen before, but never understood till now; for _this_ was the
dangerous hour, this the moment when the child must stand between
temptation and her father, if she could.
That evening, very soon after the servant had cleared the table of all
but the decanters, a fresh young voice singing blithely in the parlor
made the Judge put down his glass to listen in pleased surprise.
Presently he stepped across the hall to set both doors open, saying, in
a half reproachful tone,--
"Sing away, my lark, and let papa hear you, for he seldom gets a chance
"Then he must stay and applaud me, else I shall think that speech only
an empty compliment," answered Portia, as she beckoned with her most
The Judge never dreamed that his good angel spoke; but he saw his
handsome girl beaming at him from the music stool, and strolled in,
meaning to go back when the song ended.
But the blue charmer in the parlor proved more potent than the red one
in the dining-room, and he sat on, placidly sipping the excellent
coffee, artfully supplied by his wife, quite unconscious of the little
plot to rob him of the harmful indulgence which too often made his
evenings a blank, and his mornings a vain attempt to revive the spirits
that once kept increasing years from seeming burdensome.
That was the beginning of Portia's home mission; and from that hour she
devoted herself to it, thinking of no reward, for such "secret service"
could receive neither public sympathy nor praise.
It was not an easy task, as she soon found, in spite of the stanch and
skilful ally who planned the attacks she dutifully made upon the enemy
threatening their domestic peace.
When music ceased to have charms, and the Judge declared he _must_ get
his "forty winks" after dinner, Portia boldly declared that she would
stay and see that he had them comfortably. So papa laughed and
submitted, took a brief nap, and woke in such good-humor that he made no
complaint on finding the daughter replacing the decanter.
This answered for a while; and when its effacacy seemed about to fail,
unexpected help appeared; for mamma's eyes began to trouble her, and
Portia proposed that her father should entertain the invalid in the
evening, while she served her through the day.
This plan worked capitally, for the Judge loved his good wife almost as
much as she deserved, and devoted himself to her so faithfully that the
effort proved a better stimulant than any his well-stocked cellar could
Dr. Hall prescribed exercise and cheerful society for his new patient,
and in seeing that these instructions were obeyed the Judge got the
benefit of them, and found no time for solitary wine-bibbing.
"I do believe I'm growing young again, for the old dulness is quite
gone, and all this work and play does not seem to tire me a bit," he
said, after an unusually lively evening with the congenial guests Portia
took care to bring about him.
"But it must be very stupid for you, my dear, as we old folks have all
the fun. Why don't you invite the young people here oftener?" he added,
as his eye fell on Portia, gazing thoughtfully into the fire.
"I wish I dared tell you why," she answered wistfully.
"Afraid of your old papa?" and he looked both surprised and grieved.
"I won't be, for you are the kindest father that ever a girl had, and I
know you'll help me, as you always do, papa. I don't dare ask my young
friends here because I'm not willing to expose some of them to
temptation," began Portia, bravely.
"What temptation? This?" asked her father, turning her half-averted face
to the light, with a smile full of paternal pride.
"No, sir; a far more dangerous one than ever I can be."
"Then I should like to see it!" and the old gentleman looked about him
for this rival of his lovely daughter.
"It is these," she said, pointing to the bottles and glasses on the
The Judge understood her then, and knit his brows but before he could
reply Portia went steadily on, though her cheeks burned, and her eyes
were bent upon the fire again.
"Father, I belong to a society of three, and we have promised to do all
we can for temperance. As yet I can only show bravely the faith that is
in me; therefore I can never offer any friend of mine a drop of wine,
and so I do not ask them here, where it would seem most uncourteous to
"I trust no gentleman ever had cause to reproach me for the hospitality
I was taught to show my guests," began the Judge, in his most stately
But he got no further, for a soft hand touched his lips, and Portia
"One man has, sir; Charley Lord says the first time he took too much was
in this house, and it has grieved me to the heart, for it is true. O
papa, never let any one have the right to say that again of us! Forgive
me if I seem undutiful, but I _must_ speak out, for I want my dear
father to stand on my side, and set an example which will make me even
fonder and prouder of him than I am now."
As Portia paused, half frightened at her own frankness, she put her arms
about his neck, and hid her face on his breast, still pleading her cause
with the silent eloquence so hard to resist.
The Judge made no reply for several minutes, and in that pause many
thoughts passed through his mind, and a vague suspicion that had haunted
him of late became a firm conviction. For suddenly he seemed to see his
own weakness in its true light, to understand the meaning of the
watchful love, the patient care that had so silently and helpfully
surrounded him; and in Portia's appeal for younger men, he read a tender
warning to himself.
He was a proud man, but a very just one; and though a flush of anger
swept across his face at first, he acknowledged the truth of the words
that were so hard to speak.
With his hand laid fondly on the head that was half-hidden, lest a look
should seem to reproach him, this brave old gentleman proved that he
loved his neighbor better than himself, and honestly confessed his own
"No man shall ever say again that _I_ tempted him."
Then as Portia lifted up a happy face, he looked straight into the
grateful eyes that dimmed with sudden tears, and added tenderly,--
"My daughter, I am not too proud to own a fault, nor, please God, too
old to mend it."
_WHAT POLLY DID._
Since their mother's death, Polly had tried to fill her place, and take
good care of the boys. But the poor little damsel had a hard time of it
sometimes; for Ned, being a year or two older, thought it his duty to
emancipate himself from petticoat government as rapidly as possible, and
do as he pleased, regardless of her warnings or advice.
Yet at heart he was very fond of his pretty sister. At times he felt
strongly tempted to confide his troubles and perplexities to her, for
since the loss of his mother he often longed for a tender, helpful
creature to cheer and strengthen him.
Unfortunately he had reached the age when boys consider it "the thing"
to repress every sign of regard for their own women-folk, sisters
especially; so Ned barricaded himself behind the manly superiority of
his twenty years, and snubbed Polly.
Will had not yet developed this unpleasant trait, but his sister
expected it, and often exclaimed, despairingly, to her bosom friends,--
"When _he_ follows Ned's example, and begins to rampage, what _will_
become of me?"
The father--a learned and busy man--was so occupied by the duties of his
large parish, or so absorbed in the abstruse studies to which his brief
leisure was devoted, that he had no time left for his children. Polly
took good care of him and the house, and the boys seemed to be doing
well, so he went his way in peace, quite unconscious that his eldest son
needed all a father's care to keep him from the temptations to which a
social nature, not evil propensities, exposed him.
Polly saw the danger, and spoke of it; but Mr. Snow only answered
"Tut, tut, my dear; you are over-anxious, and forget that young men all
have a few wild oats to sow."
While Ned silenced her with that other familiar and harmful phrase, "I'm
only seeing life a bit, so don't you fret, child," little dreaming that
such "seeing life" too often ends in seeing death.
So Polly labored in vain, till something happened which taught them all
a lesson. Ned went on a sleighing frolic with the comrades whom of all
others his sister dreaded most.
"Do be careful and not come home as you did last time, for father will
be in, and it would shock him dreadfully if I shouldn't be able to keep
you quiet," she said anxiously.
"You little granny, I wasn't tipsy, only cheerful, and that scared you
out of your wits. I've got my key, so don't sit up. I hate to have a
woman glowering at me when I come in," was Ned's ungracious reply; for
the memory of that occasion was not a pleasant one.
"If a woman had not been sitting up, you'd have frozen on the door-mat,
you ungrateful boy," cried Polly, angrily.
Ned began to whistle, and was going off without a word, when Polly's
loving heart got the better of her quick temper, and, catching up a
splendid tippet she had made for him, she ran after her brother. She
caught him just as he opened the front door, and, throwing both her arms
and her gift about his neck, said, with a kiss that produced a sensation
in the sleigh-full of gentlemen at the gate,--
"Ah, do be friends, for I can't bear to part so."
Now if no one had been by, Ned would have found that pleasant mingling
of soft arms and worsted a genuine comforter; but masculine pride would
not permit him to relent before witnesses, and the fear of being laughed
at by "those fellows" made him put both sister and gift roughly aside,
with a stern,--
"I won't be molly-coddled! Let me alone and shut the door!"
Polly did let him alone, with a look that haunted him, and shut the door
with a spirited bang, that much amused the gentlemen.
"I'll never try to do any thing for Ned again! It's no use, and he may
go to the bad for all I care!" said Polly to herself, after a good cry.
But she bitterly repented that speech a few hours later, when her
brother was brought back, apparently dead, by such of the "cheerful"
party as escaped unhurt from a dangerous upset.
There was no concealing this sad home-coming from her father, though
poor Ned was quiet enough now, being stunned by the fall, which had
wounded his head and broken his right arm.
It _was_ a shock, both to the man and the minister; and, when the worst
was over, he left Polly to watch her brother, with eyes full of
penitential tears, and went away, to reproach himself in private for
devoting to ancient Fathers the time and thought he should have given to
Ned was very ill, and when, at last, he began to mend, his helplessness
taught him to see and love the sweetest side of Polly's character; for
she was in truth his right hand, and waited on him with a zeal that
touched his heart.
Not one reproach did she utter, not even by a look did she recall past
warnings, or exult in the present humiliation, which proved how needful
they had been. Every thing was forgotten except the fact that she had
the happy privilege of caring for him almost as tenderly as a mother.
Not quite, though, and the memory of her whose place it was impossible
to fill seemed to draw them closer together; as if the silent voice
repeated its last injunctions to both son and daughter, "Take care of
the boys, dear;" "Be good to your sister, Ned."
"I've been a regular brute to her, and the dear little soul is heaping
coals of fire on my head by slaving over me like an angel," thought the
remorseful invalid, one day, as he lay on the sofa, with a black patch
adorning his brow, and his arm neatly done up in splints.
Polly thought he was asleep, and sat quietly rolling bandages till a
head popped in at the door, and Will asked, in a sepulchral whisper,--
"I've got the book Ned wanted. Can I come and give it to you?"
Polly nodded, and he tiptoed in to her side, with a face so full of
good-will and spirits that it was as refreshing as a breath of fresh air
in that sick room.
"Nice boy! he never forgets to do a kindness and be a comfort to his
Polly," she said, leaning her tired head on his buttony jacket, as he
stood beside her.
Will wasn't ashamed to show affection for "his Polly," so he patted the
pale cheeks with a hand as red as his mittens, and smiled down at her
with his honest blue eyes full of the protecting affection it was so
pleasant to receive.
"Yes, _I'm_ going to be a tiptop boy, and never make you and father
ashamed of me, as you were once of somebody we know. Now don't you
laugh, and I'll show you something; it's the best I could do, and I
wanted to prove that I mean what I say; truly, truly, wish I may die if
As he spoke, Will pulled out of his vest-pocket a little pewter
cream-pot, tied to a shoe-string, and holding it up said, with a funny
mixture of boyish dignity and defiance,--
"I bought it of Nelly Hunt, because her tea-set was half-smashed up.
Folks may laugh at my badge, but I don't care; and if you won't have me
in your society I'll set up all alone, for I'm going into the temperance
business, any way!"
Polly hugged him on the spot, and made his youthful countenance glow
with honest pride by saying solemnly,--
"William G. Snow, I consider our league honored by the addition of so
valuable a member; for a boy who can bear to be laughed at, and yet
stick to his principles, is a treasure."
"The fellows _do_ laugh at me, and call me 'Little Pitcher;' but I'd
rather be that than 'Champagne Charlie,' as Ned called Mr. Lord," said
"Bless the little pitchers!" cried Polly, enthusiastically surveying
both the pewter pot and its wearer.
A great tear was lying on her cheek, checked in its fall by the dimple
that came as she looked at her brother's droll badge. Will caught it
dexterously in the tiny cup, saying, with a stifled laugh,--
"Now you've baptized it, Polly, and it's as good as silver; for your
tear shines in there like a great big diamond. Wonder how many it would
take to fill it?"
"You'll never make me cry enough to find out. Now go and get my little
silver chain, for that dear pewter pot deserves a better one than an old
shoe-string," said Polly, looking after him with a happy face, as the
small youth gave one ecstatic skip and was off.
"I'm afraid we've waked you up," she added, as Ned stirred.
"I was only day-dreaming; but I mean this one shall come true," and Ned
rose straight up, with an energy that surprised his sister.
"Come and have your lunch, for it's time. Which will you take, Mrs.
Neal's wine-jelly or my custard?" asked Polly, settling him in his big
To her astonishment, Ned pitched the little mould of amber jelly into
the fire, and tried to eat the custard with his left hand.
"My dear boy, have you lost your senses?" she ejaculated.
"No; I've just found them," he answered, with a flash of the eye, that
seemed to enlighten Polly without more words.
Taking her usual seat on the arm of the chair, she fed her big nursling
in silence, till a sigh made her ask tenderly,--
"Isn't it right? I put in lots of sugar because you like it sweet."
"All the sugar in the world won't sweeten it to me, Polly; for there's a
bitter drop at the bottom of all my cups. Will said your tear shone like
a diamond in his little pitcher, and well it might. But you can't cry
happy tears over me, though I've made you shed enough sad ones to fill
the big punch-bowl."
Ned tried to laugh, but somehow the custard choked him; and Polly laid
the poor, cropped head on her shoulder for a minute, saying softly,--
"Never mind, dear, I wouldn't think about the old troubles now."
She got no farther, for with a left-handed thump that made all the cups
dance wildly on the table, Ned cried out,--
"But I _will_ think about the old troubles, for I don't intend to have
any new ones of that sort! Do you suppose I'll see that snip of a boy
standing up for what is right, and not have the pluck to do the same? Do
you suppose I'll make my own father ashamed of me more than once? Or let
the dearest little girl in the world wear herself out over me, and I not
try to thank her in the way she likes best? Polly, my dear, you can't be
as proud of your elder brother as you are of the younger, but you shall
never have cause to blush for him again; _never_, sir, _never_!"
Ned lifted his hand for another emphatic thump, but changed his mind,
and embraced his sister as closely as one arm could do it.
"I ought to have a badge if I'm going to belong to your select society;
but I don't know any lady who will give me an ear-ring or a cream-pot,"
said Ned, when the conversation got round again to the cheerful side of
"I'll give you something better than either," answered Polly, as she
transferred a plain locket from her watch-guard to the one lying on the
Ned knew that a beloved face and a lock of gray hair were inside; and
when his sister added, with a look full of sweet significance, "For her
sake, dear," he answered manfully,--
"I'll try, Polly!"
_WHAT PRIS DID._
Priscilla, meantime, was racking her brain to discover how she could
help Philip; for since she had broken off her engagement no one spoke of
him to her, and she could only judge of how things were going with him
by what she saw and heard as she went about her daily task.
Pris kept school, and the road which she must take twice a day led
directly by the office where Phil was studying medicine with old Dr.
Buffum. Formerly she always smiled and nodded as she passed, or stopped
to chat a moment with the student, who usually chanced to be taking a
whiff of fresh air at that instant. Little notes flew in and out, and
often her homeward walk was cheered by a companion, who taught the
pretty teacher lessons she found it very easy to learn.
A happy time! But it was all over now, and brief glimpses of a brown
head bent above a desk near that window was the only solace poor Pris
had. The head never turned as she went by, but she felt sure that Phil
knew her step, and found that moment, as she did, the hardest of the
She longed to relent, but dared not yet. He longed to show that he
repented, but found it difficult without a sign of encouragement. So
they went their separate ways, seldom meeting, for Phil stuck to his
books with dogged resolution, and Pris had no heart for society.
Of course the affair was discussed with all the exasperating freedom of
a country town, some blaming Pris for undue severity, some praising her
spirit, and some, friends,--not gossips,--predicting that both would be
the better for the trial, which would not separate them long. Of this
latter class were Portia and Polly, who felt it their duty to lend a
hand when matters reached a certain point.
"Pris, dear, may I tell you something that I think you'd be glad to
know?" began Polly, joining her friend one afternoon, as she went home
weary and alone.
"_You_ may tell me any thing," and Pris took her arm as if she felt the
need of sympathy.
"You know Dr. Buffum let Phil help with Ned, so we have seen a good deal
of him, and that is how I found out what I've got to tell you."
"He spoke of me, then?" whispered Pris, eagerly.
"Not a word till Ned made him. My boy is fond of your boy, and they had
confidences which seem to have done them both good. Of course Ned didn't
tell me all about it, as _we_ tell things (men never do, they are so
proud and queer), but he said this,--
"'Look here, Polly, you must be very kind to Phil, and stand by him all
you can, or he will go down. He is doing his best, and will hold on as
long as he can, but a fellow _must_ have comfort and encouragement of
some sort, and if he don't get the right kind he'll try the wrong.'"
"O Polly! you will stand by him?"
"I have; for I just took Phil in a weakish moment, and found out all I
wanted to know. Ned is right and you are wrong, Pris,--not in giving
back the ring, but in seeming to cast him off entirely. He does not
deserve that, for he was not to blame half so much as you think. But he
won't excuse himself, for he feels that you are unjust; yet he loves you
dearly, and you could do any thing with him, if you chose."
"I do choose, Polly; but how _can_ I marry a man whom I cannot trust?"
began Pris, sadly.
"Now, my child, I'm going to talk to you like a mother, for I've had
experience with boys, and I know how to manage them," interrupted Polly,
with such a charmingly maternal air that Pris laughed in spite of her
trouble. "Be quiet and listen to the words of wisdom," continued her
"Since I've taken care of Ned, I've learned a great deal, for the poor
lad was so sick and sorry he couldn't shut his heart against me any
more. So now I understand how to help and comfort him, for hearts are
very much alike, Pris, and all need lots of love and patience to keep
them good and happy. Ned told me his troubles, and I made up my mind
that as _we_ don't have so many temptations as boys, we should do all we
can to help them, and make them the sort of men we can both love and
"You are right, Polly. I've often thought how wrong it is for us to sit
safe and silent while we know things are going wrong, just because it
isn't considered proper for us to speak out. Then when the harm is done
we are expected to turn virtuously away from the poor soul we might
perhaps have saved if we had dared. God does not do so to us, and we
ought not to do so to those over whom we have so much power," said Pris,
with a heart full of sad and tender memories.
"We won't!" cried Polly, firmly. "We began in play, but we will go on in
earnest, and use our youth, our beauty, our influence for something
nobler than merely pleasing men's eyes, or playing with their hearts.
We'll help them to be good, and brave, and true, and in doing this we
shall become better women, and worthier to be loved, I know."
"Why, Polly, you are quite inspired!" and Pris stopped in the snowy road
to look at her.
"It isn't all _my_ wisdom. I've talked with father as well as Ned and
Phil, and they have done me good. I've discovered that confidence is
better than compliments, and friendship much nicer than flirting; so I'm
going to turn over a new leaf, and use my good gifts for higher ends."
"Dear thing, what a comfort you are!" said Pris, pressing Polly's hands,
and looking into her bright face with grateful eyes. "You have given me
courage to do my duty, and I'll follow your example as fast as I can.
Don't come any farther, please: I'd better be alone when I pass Phil's
window, for I'm going to nod and smile, as I used to in the happy time.
Then he will see that I don't cast him off and leave him to 'go down'
for want of help, but am still his friend until I dare be more."
"Now, Pris, that's just lovely of you, and I know it will work wonders.
Smile and nod away, dear, and try to do your part, as I'm trying to do
For an instant the little gray hat and the jaunty one with the scarlet
feather were bent close together; but what went on under the brims, who
can say? Then Polly trotted off as fast as she could go, and Pris turned
into a certain street with a quicker step and a brighter color than she
had known for weeks.
She was late, for she had lingered with Polly, and she feared that
patient watcher at the window would be gone. No; the brown head was
there, but it lay wearily on the arms folded over a big book, and the
eyes that stared out at the wintry sky had something tragic in them.
Poor Phil did need encouragement, and was in the mood to take the worst
sort if the best failed him, for life looked very dark just then, and
solitude was growing unbearable.
Suddenly, between him and the ruddy sunset a face appeared,--the dearest
and the loveliest in the world to him. Not half averted now, nor set
straightforward, cold and quiet as a marble countenance, but bent
towards him, with a smile on the lips, and a wistful look in the tender
eyes that made his heart leap up with sudden hope. Then it vanished; and
when he sprung to the window nothing could be seen but the last wave of
a well-known cloak, fluttering round the corner.
But Priscilla's first effort was a great success; for the magic of a
kind look glorified the dingy office, and every bottle on the shelves
might have been filled with the elixir of life, so radiant did Phil's
face become. The almost uncontrollable desire to rush away and
recklessly forget his loneliness in the first companionship that offered
was gone now, for a happy hope peopled his solitude with helpful
thoughts and resolutions; the tragic look left the eyes, that still saw
a good angel instead of a tempting demon between them and the evening
sky; and when Phil shut up the big book he had been vainly trying to
study, he felt that he had discovered a new cure for one of the sharpest
pains the heart can suffer.
Next morning Pris unconsciously started for school too soon, so when she
passed that window the room was empty. Resolved that Phil should not
share her disappointment, she lifted the sash and dropped a white azalea
on his desk. She smiled as she did it, and then whisked away as if she
had taken instead of left a treasure. But the smile remained with the
flower, I think, and Phil found it there when he hurried in to discover
this sweet good-morning waiting for him.
He put it in the wine-glass which he had sworn never should be filled
again with any thing but water, and sitting down before it listened to
the little sermon the flower preached; for the delicate white azalea was
Pris to him, and the eloquence of a pure and tender heart flowed from
it, working miracles. One of them was that when sunset came it shone on
two faces at the window, and the little snow-birds heard two voices
breaking a long silence.
"God bless you, Pris!"
"God help you, Phil!"
That was all, but from that hour the girl felt her power for good, and
used it faithfully; and from that hour the young man worked bravely to
earn the respect and confidence without which no love is safe and happy.
"We are friends now," they said, when they were seen together again; and
friends they remained, in spite of shrugs and smiles, ill-natured
speeches, and more than one attempt to sow discord between them, for
people did not understand the new order of things.
"I trust him," was the only answer Pris gave to all warnings and
"I _will_ be worthy of her," the vow that kept Phil steady in spite of
the ridicule that is so hard to bear, and gave him courage to flee from
the temptation he was not yet strong enough to meet face to face.
Portia and Polly stood by them stanchly; for having made her father's
house a safe refuge, Portia offered Phil all the helpful influences of a
happy home. Polly, with Ned to lend a hand, gave his comrade many a
friendly lift; and when it was understood that the Judge, the minister,
and the "Sweet P's" indorsed the young M. D., no one dared cast a stone
All this took time, of course, but Phil got his reward at last, for one
night a little thing happened which showed him his own progress, and
made Pris feel that she might venture to wear the ring again.
At a party Phil was graciously invited to take wine with a lady, and
refused. It was a very hard thing to do, for the lady was his hostess, a
handsome woman, and the mother of a flock of little children, who all
preferred the young doctor to the old one; and, greatest trial of all,
several of his most dreaded comrades stood by to laugh at him, if he
dared to let principle outweigh courtesy.
But he did it, though he grew pale with the effort to say steadily,--
"Will Mrs. Ward pardon me if I decline the honor? I am"--
There he stopped and turned scarlet, for a lie was on his lips,--a lie
so much easier to tell than the honest truth that many would have
forgiven its utterance at that minute.
His hostess naturally thought ill health was his excuse, and, pitying
his embarrassment, said, smiling,--
"Ah! you doctors don't prescribe wine for your own ailments as readily
as for those of your patients."
But Phil, angry at his own weakness, spoke out frankly, with a look that
said more than his words,--
"I cannot even accept the kind excuse you offer me, for I am not ill. It
may be my duty to order wine sometimes for my patients, but it is also
my duty to prescribe water for myself."
A dreadful little pause followed that speech; but Mrs. Ward understood
now, and though she thought the scruple a foolish one, she accepted the
apology like a well-bred woman, and, with a silent bow that ended the
matter, turned to other guests, leaving poor Phil to his fate.
Not a pleasant one, but he bore it as well as he could, and when his
mates left him stranded in a corner, he said, half aloud, with a long
breath, as if the battle had been a hard one,--
"Yes, I suppose I _have_ lost my best patient, but I've kept my own
respect, and that ought to satisfy me."
"Let me add mine, and wish you health and happiness, dear Phil," said a
voice behind him, and turning quickly he saw Pris standing there with
two goblets of water, and a smile full of love and pride.
"You know what that toast means for me?" he whispered, with sudden
sunshine in his face, as he took the offered glass.
"Yes; and I drink it with all my heart," she answered, with her hand in
_HOW IT ENDED._
The leaven dropped by three girls in that little town worked so slowly
that they hardly expected to do more than "raise their own patty-cakes,"
as Polly merrily expressed it. But no honest purpose is ever wasted, and
by-and-by the fermentation began.
Several things helped it amazingly. The first of these was a temperance
sermon, preached by Parson Snow, which produced a deep impression,
because in doing this he had the courage, like Brutus, to condemn his
own son. The brave sincerity, the tender earnestness of that sermon,
touched the hearts of his people as no learned discourse had ever done,
and bore fruit that well repaid him for the effort it cost.
It waked up the old people, set the young ones to thinking, and showed
them all that they had a work to do. For those who were down felt that
they might be lifted up again, those who were trifling ignorantly or
recklessly with temptation saw their danger, and those who had longed to
speak out now dared to do it because he led the way.
So, warned by the wolf in his own fold, this shepherd of souls tried to
keep his flock from harm, and, in doing it, found that his Christianity
was the stronger, wiser, and purer for his humanity.
Another thing was the fact that the Judge was the first to follow his
pastor's example, and prove by deeds that he indorsed his words. It was
hard for the hospitable old gentleman to banish wine from his table, and
forego the pleasant customs which long usage and many associations
endeared to him; but he made his sacrifice handsomely, and his daughter
She kept the side-board from looking bare by filling the silver tankards
with flowers, offered water to his guests with a grace that made a
cordial of it, and showed such love and honor for her father that he was
a very proud and happy man.
What the Judge did was considered "all right" by his neighbors, for he
was not only the best-born, but the richest man in town, and with a
certain class these facts had great weight. Portia knew this, and
counted on it when she said she wanted him on her side; so she exulted
when others followed the new fashion, some from principle, but many
simply because he set it.
At first the young reformers were disappointed that every one was not as
enthusiastic as themselves, and as ready to dare and do for the cause
they had espoused. But wiser heads than those on their pretty shoulders
curbed their impetuosity, and suggested various ways of gently
insinuating the new idea, and making it so attractive that others would
find it impossible to resist; for sunshine often wins when bluster makes
us wrap our prejudices closer around us, like the traveller in the
Portia baited _her_ trap with Roman parties,--for she had been
abroad,--and made them so delightful that no one complained when only
cake and tea was served (that being the style in the Eternal City), but
went and did likewise.
Artful Polly set up a comic newspaper, to amuse Ned, who was an invalid
nearly all winter, and in it freed her mind on many subjects in such a
witty way that the "Pollyanthus," as her brother named it, circulated
through their set, merrily sowing good seed; for young folks will
remember a joke longer than a sermon, and this editor made all hers
Pris was not behindhand in her efforts, but worked in a different way,
and got up a branch society among her little pupils, called "The Water
Babies." That captivated the mothers at once, and even the fathers found
it difficult to enjoy their wine with blue eyes watching them wistfully
over the rims of silver mugs; while the few topers of the town hid
themselves like night-birds flying from the sun, when, led by their
gentle General, that little army of innocents marched through the
streets with banners flying, blithe voices singing, rosy faces shining,
and childish hearts full of the sweet delusion that _they_ could save
Of course the matrons discussed these events at the sewing-circle, and
much talk went on of a more useful sort than the usual gossip about
servants, sickness, dress, and scandal.
Mrs. Judge waxed eloquent upon the subject, and, being president, every
one listened with due respect. Mrs. Ward seconded all her motions, for
this lady had much surprised the town, not only by installing Phil as
family physician, but by coming out strong for temperance. Somebody had
told her all about the girls' labor of love, and she had felt ashamed to
be outdone by them; so, like a conscientious woman, she decided to throw
her influence into the right scale, take time by the forelock, and help
to make the town a safer place for her five sons to grow up in than it
These two leading ladies kept the ball rolling so briskly that others
were soon converted and fell into rank, till a dozen or so were heartily
in earnest. And then the job was half done; for in a great measure women
make society what they choose to have it.
"We are told that home is our sphere, and advised to keep in it; so let
us see that it is what it should be, and then we shall have proved our
fitness for larger fields of labor, if we care to claim them," said Mrs.
Judge, cutting out red flannel with charitable energy, on one occasion.
"Most of us will find that quite as much as we can accomplish, I fancy,"
answered Mrs. Ward, thinking of her own riotous lads, who were probably
pulling the house about their ears, while she made hoods for Mrs.
Flanagan's bare-headed lasses.
"'Pears to me we hain't no call to interfere in other folks's affairs.
This never was a drinkin' town, and things is kep' in fustrate order, so
_I_ don't see the use of sech a talk about temperance," remarked Miss
Simmons, an acid spinster, whose principal earthly wealth consisted of a
choice collection of cats.
"If your tabbies took to drinking, you _would_ see the use, I'm sure,"
laughed Polly, from the corner, which was a perfect posy-bed of girls.
"Thank goodness, _I've_ no men folks to pester myself about," began Miss
Simmons, with asperity.
"Ah, but you should; for if you refuse to make them happy, you ought at
least to see that they console themselves in ways which can work them no
further woe," continued Polly, gravely, though her black eyes danced
"Well, that wouldn't be no more than fair, I'm free to confess; but,
sakes alive, I couldn't attend to 'em all!" said Miss Simmons, bridling
with a simper that nearly upset the whole bevy of girls.
"Do make the effort, and help us poor things who haven't had your
experience," added Pris, in her most persuasive voice.
"I declare I will! I'll have Hiram Stebbins in to tea; and when he's as
good-natured as muffins and pie can make him, I'll set to and see if I
can't talk him out of his attachment to that brandy bottle," cried Miss
Simmons, with a sudden yearning towards the early sweetheart, who had
won, but never claimed her virgin affections.
"I think you'll do it; and, if so, you will have accomplished what no
one else could, and you shall have any prize you choose," cried Portia,
smiling so hopefully that the faded old face grew almost young again, as
Miss Simmons went home with something better to do than tend her
"We've bagged that bird," said Polly, with real satisfaction.
"That's the way we set people to work," added Portia, smiling.
"She will do what we can't, for her heart is in it," said Pris, softly;
and it was pleasant to see the blooming girls rejoice that poor old
Hiram was in a fair way to be saved.
So the year went round, and Thanksgiving came again, with the home
jollity that makes a festival throughout the land. The day would not be
perfect if it did not finish with a frolic of some sort, and for reasons
of their own the young gentlemen decided to have the first sociable of
the year an unusually pleasant one.
"Everybody is going, and Ned says the supper is to be water-ice and
ice-water," said Polly, taking a last look at herself in the long
mirror, when the three friends were ready on that happy evening.
"I needn't sigh now over other girls' pretty dresses, as I did last
year;" and Portia plumed herself like a swan, as she settled Charley's
roses in her bosom.
"And I needn't wonder who Phil will take," added Pris, stopping, with
her glove half on, to look at the little ring back again from its long
banishment in somebody's waistcoat pocket.
Never had the hall looked so elegant and gay, for it was charmingly
decorated; couches were provided for the elders, mirrors for the
beauties, and music of the best sounded from behind a thicket of shrubs
and flowers. Every one seemed in unusually good spirits; the girls
looked their loveliest, and the young men were models of propriety;
though a close observer might have detected a suspicious twinkle in the
eyes of the most audacious, as if they plotted some new joke.
The girls saw it, were on the watch, and thought the secret was out when
they discovered that the gentlemen of their set all wore tiny pitchers,
hanging like orders from the knots of sweet-peas in their button-holes.
But, bless their innocent hearts! that was only a ruse, and they were
taken entirely by surprise when, just before supper, the band struck up,
"Drink to me only with thine eyes;"
and every one looked smilingly at the three girls who were standing
together near the middle of the hall.
They looked about them in pretty confusion, but in a moment beheld a
spectacle that made them forget themselves; for the Judge, in an
impressive white waistcoat, marched into the circle gathered about them,
made a splendid bow, and said, with a smile that put the gas to shame,--
"Young ladies! I am desired by the gentlemen now present to beg your
acceptance of a slight token of their gratitude, respect, and penitence.
As the first man who joined the society which has proved a blessing to
our town, Mr. William Snow will now have the honor of presenting the
Then appeared Mr. William Snow, looking as proud as a peacock; and well
he might, for on the salver which he bore stood a stately silver
pitcher. A graceful little Hebe danced upon the handle, three names
shone along the fretted brim, and three white lilies rose from the
slender vase,--fit emblems of the maiden founders of the league.
Arriving before them, Master Will nearly upset the equilibrium of his
precious burden in attempting to make a bow equal to the Judge's; but
recovered himself gallantly, and delivered the following remarkable
poem, which the public was expected to believe an emanation of his own
"Hebe poured the nectar forth
When gods of old were jolly,
But graces three _our_ goblets fill,
Fair Portia, Pris and Polly.
Their draughts make every man who tastes
Happier, better, richer;
So here we vow ourselves henceforth
Knights of the Silver Pitcher."
"Now just look at that!" cried a young lady, pausing suddenly in her
restless march to and fro on one of the wide piazzas of a seaside hotel.
"At what?" asked her companion, lazily swinging in a hammock.
"The difference in those two greetings. It's perfectly disgraceful!" was
the petulant reply.
"I didn't see any thing. Do tell me about it," said Clara, opening her
drowsy eyes with sudden interest.
"Why, young Barlow was lounging up the walk, and met pretty Miss Ellery.
Off went his hat; he gave her a fine bow, a gracious smile, a worn-out
compliment, and then dawdled on again. The next minute Joe King came
along. Instantly Barlow woke up, laughed out like a pleased boy, gave
him a hearty grip of the hand, a cordial 'How are you, old fellow? I'm
no end glad to see you!' and, linking arms, the two tramped off, quite
beaming with satisfaction."
"But, child, King is Barlow's best friend; Kitty Ellery only an
acquaintance. Besides, it wouldn't do to greet a woman like a man."
"Yes, it would, especially in this case; for Barlow adores Kate, and
might, at least, treat her to something better than the nonsense he
gives other girls. But, no, it's proper to simper and compliment; and
he'll do it till his love gets the better of 'prunes and prisms,' and
makes him sincere and earnest."
"This is a new whim of yours. You surely wouldn't like to have any man
call out 'How are you, Anna?' slap you on the shoulder, and nearly shake
your hand off, as Barlow did King's, just now," said Clara, laughing at
"Yes, I would," answered Anna, perversely, "if he really meant it to
express affection or pleasure. A good grip of the hand and a plain,
hearty word would please me infinitely better than all the servile
bowing down and sweet nonsense I've had lately. I'm not a fool; then,
why am I treated like one?" she continued, knitting her handsome brows
and pacing to and fro like an angry leopardess. "Why don't men treat me
like a reasonable being?--talk sense to me, give me their best ideas,
tell me their plans and ambitions, let me enjoy the real man in them,
and know what they honestly are? I don't want to be a goddess stuck up
on a pedestal. I want to be a woman down among them, to help and be
helped by our acquaintance."
"It wouldn't do, I fancy. They wouldn't like it, and would tell you to
keep to your own sex."
"But my own sex don't interest or help me one bit. Women have no hope
but to be married, and that is soon told; no ideas but dress and show,
and I'm tired to death of both; no ambition but to outshine their
neighbors, and I despise that."
"Thank you, love," blandly murmured Clara.
"It is true, and you know it. There _are_ sensible women; but not in my
set. And I don't seem to find them. I've tried the life set down for
girls like me, and for three years I've lived and enjoyed it. Now I'm
tired of it. I want something better, and I mean to have it. Men _will_
follow, admire, flatter, and love me; for I please them and they enjoy
my society. Very well. Then it's fair that I should enjoy theirs. And I
should if they would let me. It's perfectly maddening to have flocks of
brave, bright fellows round me, full of every thing that is attractive,
strong, and helpful, yet not be able to get at it, because society
ordains twaddle between us, instead of sensible conversation and sincere
"What shall we do about it, love?" asked Clara, enjoying her friend's
"_You_ will submit to it, and get a mental dyspepsia, like all the other
fashionable girls. I won't submit, if I can help it; even if I shock
Mrs. Grundy by my efforts to get plain bread and beef instead of
Anna walked in silence for a moment, and then burst out again, more
energetically than ever.
"Oh! I do wish I could find one sensible man, who would treat me as he
treats his male friends,--even roughly, if he is honest and true; who
would think me worthy of his confidence, ask my advice, let me give him
whatever I have that is wise and excellent, and be my friend in all good
"Ahem!" said Clara, with a significant laugh, that angered Anna.
"You need not try to abash me with your jeers. I know what I mean, and I
stand by my guns, in spite of your 'hems.' I do _not_ want lovers. I've
had dozens, and am tired of them. I will not marry till I know the man
thoroughly; and how _can_ I know him with this veil between us? They
don't guess what I really am; and I want to prove to them and to myself
that I possess brains and a heart, as well as 'heavenly eyes,' a
'queenly figure,' and a 'mouth made for kissing.'"
The scorn with which Anna uttered the last words amused her friend
immensely, for the petulant beauty had never looked handsomer than at
"If any man saw you now, he'd promise whatever you ask, no matter how
absurd. But don't excite yourself, dear child; it is too warm for
Anna leaned on the wide baluster a moment, looking thoughtfully out upon
the sea; and as she gazed a new expression stole over her charming face,
changing its disdainful warmth to soft regret.
"This is not all a whim. I know what I covet, because I had it once,"
she said, with a sigh. "I had a boy friend when I was a girl, and for
several years we were like brother and sister. Ah! what happy times we
had together, Frank and I. We played and studied, quarrelled and made
up, dreamed splendid dreams, and loved one another in our simple child
fashion, never thinking of sex, rivalry, or any of the forms and follies
that spoil maturer friendships."
"What became of him? Did he die angelically in his early bloom, or
outgrow his Platonics with round jackets?" asked Clara.
"He went to college. I went abroad, to be 'finished off;' and when we
met a year ago the old charm was all gone, for we were 'in society' and
had our masks on."
"So the boy and girl friendship did not ripen into love and end the
"No, thank Heaven! no flirtation spoilt the pretty story. Frank was too
wise, and I too busy. Yet I remember how glad I was to see him; though I
hid it properly, and pretended to be quite unconscious that I was any
thing but a belle. I got paid for my deceit, though; for, in spite of
his admiration, I saw he was disappointed in me. I should not have cared
if I had been disappointed in him; but I was quick to see that he was
growing one of the strong, superior men who command respect. I wanted to
keep his regard, at least; and I seemed to have nothing but beauty to
give in return. I think I never was so hurt in my life as I was by his
not coming to see me after a week or two, and hearing him say to a
friend, one night, when I thought I was at my very best, 'She is spoilt,
like all the rest.'"
"I do believe you loved him, and that is why you won't love any one
else," cried Clara, who had seen her friend in her moods before; but
never understood them, and thought she had found a clew now.
"No," said Anna, with a quiet shake of the head. "No, I only wanted my
boy friend back, and could not find him. The fence between us was too
high; and I could not climb over, as I used to do when I leaped the
garden-wall to sit in a tree and help Frank with his lessons."
"Has the uncivil wretch never come back?" asked Clara, interested in the
"Never. He is too busy shaping his life bravely and successfully to
waste his time on a frivolous butterfly like Anna West."
An eloquent little gesture of humility made the words almost pathetic.
Kind-hearted Clara was touched by the sight of tears in the "heavenly
eyes," and tumbling out of the hammock she embraced the "queenly figure"
and warmly pressed the "lips that were made for kissing," thereby
driving several approaching gentlemen to the verge of distraction.
"Now don't be tragical, darling. You have nothing to cry for, I'm sure.
Young, lovely, rich, and adored, what more _can_ any girl want?" said
"Something besides admiration to live for," answered Anna, adding, with
a shrug, as she saw several hats fly off and several manly countenances
beam upon her, "Never mind, my fit is over now; let us go and dress for
Miss West usually took a brisk pull in her own boat before breakfast; a
habit which lured many indolent young gentlemen out of their beds at
unaccustomed hours, in the hope that they might have the honor of
splashing their legs helping her off, the privilege of wishing her "_Bon
voyage_," or the crowning rapture of accompanying her.
On the morning after her "fit," as she called the discontent of a really
fine nature with the empty life she led, she was up and out unusually
early; for she had kept her room with a headache all the evening, and
now longed for fresh air and exercise.
As she prepared the "Gull" for a start, she was idly wondering what
early bird would appear eager to secure the coveted worm, when a loud
and cheerful voice was heard calling,--
"Hullo, Anna!" and a nautically attired gentleman hove in sight, waving
his hat as he hailed her.
She started at the unceremonious salute and looked back. Then her whole
face brightened beautifully as she sprang up the bank, saying, with a
pretty mixture of hesitation and pleasure,--
"Why, Frank, is that you?"
"Do you doubt it?"
And the new-comer shook both her hands so vigorously that she winced a
little as she said, laughing,--
"No, I don't. That is the old squeeze with extra power in it."
"How are you? Going for a pull? Take me along and show me the lions.
There's a good soul."
"With pleasure. When did you come?" asked Anna, settling the black
ribbon under the sailor collar which set off her white throat
"Last night. I caught a glimpse of you at tea; but you were surrounded
then and vanished immediately afterward. So when I saw you skipping over
the rocks just now, I gave chase, and here I am. Shall I take an oar?"
asked Frank, as she motioned him to get in.
"No, thank you. I prefer to row myself and don't need any help," she
answered, with an imperious little wave of the hand; for she was glad to
show him she could do something besides dance, dress, and flirt.
"All right. Then I'll do the luxurious and enjoy myself." And, without
offering to help her in, Frank seated himself, folded his arms,
stretched out his long legs, and placidly remarked,--
"Pull away, skipper."
Anna was pleased with his frank and friendly greeting, and, feeling as
if old times had come again, sprang in, prepared to astonish him with
"Might I suggest that you"--began Frank, as she pushed off.
"No suggestions or advice allowed aboard this ship. I know what I'm
about, though I _am_ a woman," was the severe answer, as the boat glided
from the wharf.
"Ay, ay, sir!" And Frank meekly subsided, with a twinkle of amusement in
the eyes that rested approvingly on the slender figure in a blue boating
suit and the charming face under the sailor hat.
Anna paddled her way dexterously out from among the fleet of boats
riding at anchor in the little bay; then she seated herself, adjusted
one oar, and looked about for the other rowlock. It was nowhere visible;
and, after a silent search, she deigned to ask,--
"Have you seen the thing anywhere?"
"I saw it on the bank."
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
"I began to, but was quenched; so I obeyed orders."
"You haven't forgotten how to tease," said Anna, petulantly.
"Nor you to be wilful."
She gave him a look that would have desolated most men; but only made
Frank smile affably as she paddled laboriously back, recovered the
rowlock and then her temper, as, with a fine display of muscle, she
pulled out to sea.
Getting into the current, she let the boat drift, and soon forgot time
and space in the bewildering conversation that followed.
"What have you been doing since I saw you last?" she asked, looking as
rosy as a milkmaid, as she stopped rowing and tied up her wind-tossed
"Working like a beaver. You see"--and then, to her utter amazement,
Frank entered into an elaborate statement of his affairs, quite as if
she understood all about it and her opinion was valuable. It was all
Greek to Anna, but she was immensely gratified; for it was just the way
the boy used to tell her his small concerns in the days when each had
firm faith in the other's wisdom. She tried to look as if she understood
all about "investments, percentage, and long credit;" but she was out of
her depth in five minutes, and dared say nothing, lest she should betray
her lamentable ignorance on all matters of business. She got out of the
scrape by cleverly turning the conversation to old times, and youthful
reminiscences soon absorbed them both.
The faint, far-off sound of a gong recalled her to the fact that
breakfast was nearly ready; and, turning the boat, she was dismayed to
see how far they had floated. She stopped talking and rowed her best;
but wind and tide were against her, she was faint with hunger, and her
stalwart passenger made her task doubly hard. He offered no help,
however; but did the luxurious to the life, leaning back, with his hat
off, and dabbling his hands in the way that most impedes the progress of
Pride kept Anna silent till her face was scarlet, her palms blistered,
and her breath most gone. Then, and not till then, did she condescend to
say, with a gasp, poorly concealed by an amiable smile,--
"Do you care to row? I ought to have asked you before."
"I'm very comfortable, thank you," answered Frank. Then, as an
expression of despair flitted over poor Anna's face, he added bluntly,
"I'm getting desperately hungry, so I don't care if I do shorten the
voyage a bit."
With a sigh of relief, she rose to change seats, and, expecting him to
help her, she involuntarily put out her hands, as she passed. But Frank
was busy turning back his cuffs, and never stirred a finger; so that she
would have lost her balance and gone overboard if she had not caught his
"What's the matter, skipper?" he asked, standing the sudden grip as
steadily as a mast.
"Why didn't you help me? You have no more manners than a turtle!" cried
Anna, dropping into the seat with the frown of a spoiled beauty,
accustomed to be gallantly served and supported at every step.
Frank only added to his offence by laughing, as he said carelessly,--
"You seemed so independent, I didn't like to interfere."
"So, if I had gone overboard, you would not have fished me out, unless I
asked you to do it, I suppose?"
"In that case, I'm afraid I shouldn't have waited for orders. We can't
spare you to the mermen yet."
Something in the look he gave her appeased Anna's resentment; and she
sat silently admiring the strong swift strokes that sent the "Gull"
skimming over the water.
"Not too late for breakfast, after all," she said graciously, as they
reached the wharf, where several early strollers stood watching their
"Poor thing! You look as if you needed it," answered Frank. But he let
her get out alone, to the horror of Messrs. Barlow, King, & Co.; and,
while she fastened the boat, Frank stood settling his hatband, with the
most exasperating unconsciousness of his duty.
"What are you going to do with yourself this morning?" she asked, as she
walked up the rocky path, with no arm to lean upon.
"Fish. Will you come along?"
"No, thank you. One gets so burnt. I shall go to my hammock under the
pine," was the graciously suggestive reply of the lady who liked a slave
to fan or swing her, and seldom lacked several to choose from.
"See you at dinner, then. My room is in the Cottage. So by-by for the
present." And, with a nod, Frank strolled away, leaving the lovely Miss
West to mount the steps and cross the hall unescorted.
"The dear fellow's manners need polish. I must take him in hand, I see.
And yet he is very nice, in spite of his brusque ways," thought Anna,
indulgently. And more than once that morning she recalled his bluff
"Hullo, Anna!" as she swung languidly in her hammock, with a devoted
being softly reading Tennyson to her inattentive ears.
At dinner she appeared in unusual spirits, and kept her end of the table
in a ripple of merriment by her witty and satirical sallies, privately
hoping that her opposite neighbor would discover that she could talk
well when she chose to do so. But Frank was deep in politics, discussing
some new measure with such earnestness and eloquence that Anna, pausing
to listen for a moment, forgot her lively gossip in one of the great
questions of the hour.
She was listening with silent interest, when Frank suddenly appealed to
her to confirm some statement he had just made; and she was
ignominiously obliged to confess she knew too little about the matter to
give any opinion. No compliment ever paid her was more flattering than
his way of turning to her now and then, as if including her in the
discussion as a matter of course; and never had she regretted any thing
more keenly than she did her ignorance on a subject that every man and
woman should understand and espouse.
She did her best to look intelligent; racked her brain to remember facts
which she had heard discussed for weeks, without paying any attention to
them; and, thanks to her quick wit and womanly sympathy, she managed to
hold her own, saying little, but looking much.
The instant dinner was over, she sent a servant to the reading-room for
a file of late papers, and, retiring to a secluded corner, read up with
a diligence that not only left her with clearer ideas on one subject,
but also a sense of despair at her own deficiencies in the knowledge of
"I really must have a course of solid reading. I do believe that is what
I need; and I'll ask Frank where to begin. He always was an intelligent
boy; but I was surprised to hear how well he talked. I was actually
proud of him. I wonder where he is, by the way. Clara wants to be
introduced, and I want to see how he strikes her."
Leaving her hiding-place, Anna walked forth in search of her friends,
looking unusually bright and beautiful, for her secret studies had waked
her up and lent her face the higher charm it needed. Clara appeared
first. The new-comer had already been presented to her, and she
professed herself "perfectly fascinated." "Such a personable man! Quite
distinguished, you know, and so elegant in his manners! Devoted,
graceful, and altogether charming."
"You like his manners, do you?" and Anna smiled at Clara's enthusiasm.
"Of course I do; for they have all the polish of foreign travel, with
the indescribable something which a really fine character lends to every
little act and word."
"Frank has never been abroad, and if I judged his character by his
manners I should say he was rather a rough customer," said Anna, finding
fault because Clara praised.
"You are so fastidious, nothing ever suits you, dear. I didn't expect to
like this old friend of yours. But I frankly confess I do immensely; so,
if you are tired of him, I'll take him off your hands."
"Thank you, love. You are welcome to poor Frank, if you can win him. Men
are apt to be more loyal to friendship than women; and I rather fancy,
from what I saw this morning, that he is in no haste to change old
friends for new."
Anna spoke sweetly, but at heart was ill pleased with Clara's admiration
of her private property, as she considered "poor Frank," and inwardly
resolved to have no poaching on her preserves.
Just then the gentleman in question came up, saying to Anna, in his
"Every one is going to ride, so I cannot get the best horses; but I've
secured two, and now I want a companion. Will you come for a good
Anna thought of her blistered hands, and hesitated, till a look at
Clara's hopeful face decided her to accept. She did so, and rode like an
Amazon for several hours, in spite of heat, dust, and a hard-mouthed
horse, who nearly pulled her arms out of the sockets.
She hoped to find a chance to consult Frank about her course of useful
reading; but he seemed intent on the "old-time gallop," and she kept up
gallantly till the ride was over, when she retired to her room, quite
exhausted, but protesting with heroic smiles that she had had a
She did not appear at tea; but later in the evening, when an informal
dance was well under way, she sailed in on the arm of a distinguished
old gentleman, "evidently prepared to slay her thousands," as young
Barlow said, observing the unusual brilliancy of her eyes and the
elaborate toilette she had made.
"She means mischief to-night. Who is to be the victim, I wonder?" said
another man, putting up his glass for a survey of the charmer.
"Not the party who came last evening. He is only an old friend," she
"He might be her brother or her husband, judging by the cavalier way in
which he treats her. I could have punched his head this morning, when he
let her pull up that boat alone," cried a youthful adorer, glaring
irefully at the delinquent, lounging in a distant doorway.
"If she said he was an old friend, you may be sure he is an accepted
lover. The dear creatures all fib in these matters; so I'll lay wagers
to an enormous amount that all this splendor is for the lord and master,
not for our destruction," answered Barlow, who was wise in the ways of
women and wary as a moth should be who had burnt his wings more than
once at the same candle.
Clara happened to overhear these pleasing remarks, and five minutes
after they were uttered she breathed them tenderly into Anna's ear. A
scornful smile was all the answer she received; but the beauty was both
pleased and annoyed, and awaited with redoubled interest the approach of
the old friend, who was regarded in the light of a successful lover. But
he seemed in no haste to claim his privileges, and dance after dance
went by, while he sat talking with the old general or absently watching
the human teetotums that spun about before him.
"I can't stand this another moment!" said Anna to herself, at last, and
beckoned the recreant knight to approach, with a commanding gesture.
"Why don't you dance, sir?"
"I've forgotten how, ma'am."
"After all the pains I took with you when we had lessons together, years
"I've been too busy to attend to trifles of that sort."
"Elegant accomplishments are not trifles, and no one should neglect them
who cares to make himself agreeable."
"Well, I don't know that I do care, as a general thing."
"You ought to care; and, as a penance for that rude speech, you must
dance this dance with me. I cannot let you forget all your
accomplishments for the sake of business; so I shall do my duty as a
friend and take you in hand," said Anna, severely.
"You are very kind; but is it worth the trouble?"
"Now, Frank, don't be provoking and ungrateful. You know you like to
give pleasure, to be cared for, and to do credit to your friends; so
just rub up your manners a bit, and be as well-bred as you are sensible
and brave and good."
"Thank you, I'll try. May I have the honor, Miss West?" and he bowed low
before her, with a smile on his lips that both pleased and puzzled Anna.
They danced the dance, and Frank acquitted himself respectably, but
relapsed into his objectionable ways as soon as the trial ended; for the
first thing he said, with a sigh of relief, was,--
"Come out and talk; for upon my life I can't stand this oven any
Anna obediently followed, and, seating herself in a breezy corner,
waited to be entertained. But Frank seemed to have forgotten that
pleasing duty; for, perching himself on the wide baluster of the piazza,
he not only proceeded to light a cigarette, without even saying, "By
your leave," but coolly offered her one also.
"How dare you!" she said, much offended at this proceeding. "I am not
one of the fast girls who do such things, and I dislike it exceedingly."
"You used to smoke sweet-fern in corn-cob pipes, you remember; and these
are not much stronger," he said, placidly restoring the rejected
offering to his pocket.
"I did many foolish things then which I desire to forget now."
"And some very sweet and sensible ones, also. Ah, well! it can't be
helped, I suppose."
Anna sat silent a moment, wondering what he meant; and when she looked
up, she found him pensively staring at her, through a fragrant cloud of
"What is it?" she asked, for his eyes seemed seeking something.
"I was trying to see some trace of the little Anna I used to know. I
thought I'd found her again this morning in the girl in the round hat;
but I don't find her anywhere to-night."
"Indeed, Frank, I'm not so much changed as I seem. At least, to you I am
the same, as far as I can be. Do believe it, and be friends, for I want
one very much?" cried Anna, forgetting every thing but the desire to
reestablish herself in his good opinion. As she spoke, she turned her
face toward the light and half extended her hand, as if to claim and
hold the old regard that seemed about to be withdrawn from her.
Frank bent a little and scanned the upturned face with a keen glance. It
flushed in the moonlight and the lips trembled like an anxious child's;
but the eyes met his with a look both proud and wistful, candid and
sweet,--a look few saw in those lovely eyes, or, once seeing, ever
forgot. Frank gave a little nod, as if satisfied, and said, with that
perplexing smile of his,--
"Most people would see only the beautiful Miss West, in a remarkably
pretty gown; but I think I catch a glimpse of little Anna, and I am very
glad of it. You want a friend? Very good. I'll do my best for you; but
you must take me as I am, thorns and all."
"I will, and not mind if they wound sometimes. I've had roses till I'm
tired of them, in spite of their sweetness."
As he spoke, Frank had taken the hand she offered, and, having gravely
shaken it, held the "white wonder" for an instant, glancing from the
little blisters on the delicate palm to the rings that shone on several
"Are you reading my fortune?" asked Anna, wondering if he was going to
be sentimental and kiss it.
"After a fashion; for I am looking to see if there is a suspicious
diamond anywhere about. Isn't it time there was one?"
"That is not a question for you to ask;" and Anna caught away her hand,
as if one of the thorns he spoke of had suddenly pricked.
"Why not? We always used to tell each other every thing; and, if we are
to go on in the old friendly way, we must be confidential and
comfortable, you know."
"You can begin yourself then, and I'll see how I like it," said Anna,
aroused and interested, in spite of her maidenly scruples about the new
"I will, with all my heart. To own the truth, I've been longing to tell
you something; but I wasn't sure that you'd take any interest in it,"
began Frank, eating rose-leaves with interesting embarrassment.
"I can imagine what it is," said Anna, quickly, while her heart began to
flutter curiously, for these confidences were becoming exciting. "You
have found your fate, and are dying to let everybody know how happy you
"I think I have. But I'm not happy yet. I'm desperately anxious, for I
cannot decide whether it is a wise or foolish choice."
"Who is it?"
"Never mind the name. I haven't spoken yet, and perhaps never shall; so
I may as well keep that to myself,--for the present, at least."
"Tell me what you like then, and I will ask no more questions," said
Anna, coldly; for this masculine discretion annoyed her.
"Well, you see, this dear girl is pretty, rich, accomplished, and
admired. A little spoilt, in fact; but very captivating, in spite of it.
Now, the doubt in my mind is whether it is wise to woo a wife of this
sort; for I know I shall want a companion in all things, not only a
pretty sweetheart or a graceful mistress for my house."
"I should say it was _not_ wise," began Anna, decidedly; then hastened
to add, more quietly: "But perhaps you only see one side of this girl's
character. She may have much strength and sweetness hidden away under
her gay manner, waiting to be called out when the right mate comes."
"I often think so myself, and long to learn if I am the man; but some
frivolous act, thoughtless word, or fashionable folly on her part
dampens my ardor, and makes me feel as if I had better go elsewhere
before it is too late."
"You are not madly in love, then?"
"Not yet; but I should be if I saw much of her, for when I do I rather
lose my head, and am tempted to fall upon my knees, regardless of time,
place, and consequences."
Frank spoke with sudden love and longing in his voice, and stretched out
his arms so suggestively that Anna started. But he contented himself
with gathering a rose from the clusters that hung all about, and Anna
slapped an imaginary mosquito as energetically as if it had been the
unknown lady, for whom she felt a sudden and inexplicable dislike.
"So you think I'd better not say to my love, like the mad gentleman to
Mrs. Nickleby, 'Be mine, be mine'?" was Frank's next question, as he sat
with his nose luxuriously buried in the fragrant heart of the rose.
"Decidedly not. I'm sure, from the way you speak of her, that she is not
worthy of you; and your passion cannot be very deep if you can quote
Dickens's nonsense at such a moment," said Anna, more cheerfully.
"It grows rapidly, I find; and I give you my word, if I should pass a
week in the society of that lovely butterfly, it would be all over with
me by Saturday night."
"Then don't do it."
"Ah! but I want to desperately. Do say that I may, just for a last
nibble at temptation, before I take your advice and go back to my
bachelor life again," he prayed beseechingly.
"Don't go back, love somebody else, and be happy. There are plenty of
superior women in the world who would be just the thing for you. I am
sure you are going to be a man of mark, and you _must_ have a good
wife,--not a silly little creature, who will be a clog upon you all your
life. So _do_ take my advice, and let me help you, if I can."
Anna spoke earnestly, and her face quite shone with friendly zeal; while
her eyes were full of unspoken admiration and regard for this friend,
who seemed tottering on the verge of a precipice. She expected a serious
reply,--thanks, at least, for her interest; and great was her surprise
to see Frank lean back against the vine-wreathed pillar behind him, and
laugh till a shower of rose-leaves came fluttering down on both their
"I don't see any cause for such unseemly merriment," was her dignified
reproof of this new impropriety.
"I beg your pardon. I really couldn't help it, for the comical contrast
between your sage counsels and your blooming face upset me. Your manner
was quite maternal and most impressive, till I looked at you in your
French finery, and then it was all up with me," said Frank, penitently,
though his eyes still danced with mirth.
The compliment appeased Anna's anger; and, folding her round white arms
on the railing in front of her, she looked up at him with a laugh as
blithe as his own.
"I dare say I was absurdly sober and important; but you see it is so
long since I have had a really serious thought in my head or felt a
really sincere interest in any one's affairs but my own that I overdid
the matter. If you don't care for my advice, I'll take it all back; and
you can go and marry your butterfly as soon as you like."
"I rather think I shall," said Frank, slowly. "For I fancy she _has_ got
a hidden self, as you suggested, and I'd rather like to find it out. One
judges people so much by externals that it is not fair. Now, you, for
instance, if you won't mind my saying it, don't show half your good
points; and a casual observer would consider you merely a fashionable
woman,--lovely, but shallow."
"As you did the last time we met," put in Anna, sharply.
If she expected him to deny it, she was mistaken for he answered, with
"Exactly. And I quite grieved about it; for I used to be very fond of my
little playmate and thought she'd make a fine woman. I'm glad I've seen
you again; for I find I was unjust in my first judgment, and this
discovery gives me hope that I may have been mistaken in the same way
about my--well, we'll say sweetheart. It's a pretty old word and I like
"If he only _would_ forget that creature a minute and talk about
something more interesting!" sighed Anna to herself. But she answered,
meekly enough: "I knew you were disappointed in me, and I did not wonder
for I am not good for much, thanks to my foolish education and the life
I have led these last few years. But I do sincerely wish to be more of a
woman, only I have no one to tell me how. Everybody flatters me and"--
"I don't!" cried Frank, promptly.
"That's true." And Anna could not help laughing in the middle of her
confessions at the tone of virtuous satisfaction with which he repelled
the accusation. "No," she continued, "you are honest enough for any one;
and I like it, though it startles me now and then, it is so new."
"I hope I'm not disrespectful," said Frank, busily removing the thorns
from the stem of his flower.
"Oh, no! Not that exactly. But you treat me very much as if I was a
sister or a--masculine friend." Anna meant to quote the expression Clara
had reported; but somehow the word "wife" was hard to utter, and she
finished the sentence differently.
"And you don't like it?" asked Frank, lifting the rose to hide the
mischievous smile that lurked about his mouth.
"Yes, I do,--infinitely better than the sentimental homage other men pay
me or the hackneyed rubbish they talk. It does me good to be a little
neglected; and I don't mind it from you, because you more than atone for
it by talking to me as if I could understand a man's mind and had one of
"Then you don't quite detest me for my rough ways and egotistical
confidences?" asked Frank, as if suddenly smitten with remorse for the
small sins of the day.
"No, I rather fancy it, for it seems like old times, when you and I
played together. Only then I could help you in many ways, as you helped
me; but now I don't seem to know any thing, and can be of no use to you
or any one else. I should like to be; and I think, if you would kindly
tell me what books to read, what people to know, and what faculties to
cultivate, I might become something besides 'a fashionable woman, lovely
There was a little quiver of emotion in Anna's voice as she uttered the
last words that did not escape her companion's quick ear. But he only
smiled a look of heartfelt satisfaction to the rose, and answered
"Now that is a capital idea, and I'll do it with pleasure. I have often
wondered how you bright girls _could_ be contented with such an empty
sort of life. We fellows are just as foolish for a time, I know,--far
worse in the crops of wild oats we sow; but we have to pull up and go to
work, and that makes men of us. Marriage ought to do that for women, I
suppose; but it doesn't seem to nowadays, and I do pity you poor little
things from the bottom of my heart."
"I'm ready now to 'pull up and go to work.' Show me how, Frank, and I'll
change your pity into respect," said Anna, casting off her lace shawl,
as if preparing for immediate action; for his tone of masculine
superiority rather nettled her.
"Come, I'll make a bargain with you. I'll give you something strong and
solid to brace up your mind, and in return you shall polish my manners,
see to my morals, and keep my heart from wasting itself on false idols.
Shall we do this for one another, Anna?"
"Yes, Frank," she answered heartily. Then, as Clara was seen
approaching, she added playfully, "All this is _sub rosa_, you
He handed her the flower without a word, as if the emblem of silence was
the best gage he could offer. Many flowers had been presented to the
beauty; but none were kept so long and carefully as the thornless rose
her old friend gave her, with a cordial smile that warmed her heart.
A great deal can happen in a week, and the seven days that followed that
moonlight _tête-à-tête_ seemed to Anna the fullest and the happiest she
had ever known. She had never worked so hard in her life; for her new
tutor gave her plenty to do, and she studied in secret to supply sundry
deficiencies which she was too proud to confess. No more novels now; no
more sentimental poetry, lounging in a hammock. She sat erect upon a
hard rock and read Buckle, Mill, and Social Science Reports with a
diligence that appalled the banished dawdlers who usually helped her
kill time. There was early boating, vigorous horse exercise, and tramps
over hill and dale, from which she returned dusty, brown, and tired, but
as happy as if she had discovered something fairer and grander than wild
flowers or the ocean in its changeful moods. There were afternoon
concerts in the breezy drawing-rooms, when others were enjoying siestas,
and Anna sang to her one listener as she had never sung before. But best
of all were the moonlight _séances_ among the roses; for there they
interchanged interesting confidences and hovered about those dangerous
but delightful topics that need the magic of a midsummer night to make
the charm quite perfect.
Anna intended to do her part honorably; but soon forgot to correct her
pupil's manners, she was so busy taking care of his heart. She presently
discovered that he treated other women in the usual way; and at first it
annoyed her that she was the only one whom he allowed to pick up her own
fan, walk without an arm, row, ride, and take care of herself as if she
was a man. But she also discovered that she was the only woman to whom
he talked as to an equal, in whom he seemed to find sympathy,
inspiration, and help, and for whom he frankly showed not admiration
alone, but respect, confidence, and affection.
This made the loss of a little surface courtesy too trifling for
complaint or reproof; this stimulated and delighted her; and, in
striving to deserve and secure it, she forgot every thing else, prouder
to be one man's true friend than the idol of a dozen lovers.
What the effect of this new league was upon the other party was less
evident; for, being of the undemonstrative sex, he kept his
observations, discoveries, and satisfaction to himself, with no sign of
especial interest, except now and then a rapturous allusion to his
sweetheart, as if absence was increasing his passion.
Anna tried to quench his ardor, feeling sure, she said that it was a
mistake to lavish so much love upon a person who was so entirely
unworthy of it. But Frank seemed blind on this one point; and Anna
suffered many a pang, as day after day showed her some new virtue,
grace, or talent in this perverse man, who seemed bent on throwing his
valuable self away. She endeavored to forget it, avoided the subject as
much as possible, and ignored the existence of this inconvenient being
entirely. But as the week drew to an end a secret trouble looked out at
her eyes, a secret unrest possessed her, and every moment seemed to grow
more precious as it passed, each full of a bitter sweet delight never
"I must be off to-morrow," said Frank, on the Saturday evening, as they
strolled together on the beach, while the sun set gloriously and the
great waves broke musically on the sands.
"Such a short holiday, after all those months of work!" answered Anna,
looking away, lest he should see how wistful her tell-tale eyes were.
"I may take a longer holiday, the happiest a man can have, if somebody
will go with me. Anna, I've made up my mind to try my fate," he added
"I have warned you, I can do no more." Which was quite true, for the
poor girl's heart sunk at his words, and for a moment all the golden sky
was a blur before her eyes.
"I won't be warned, thank you; for I'm quite sure now that I love her.
Nothing like absence to settle that point. I've tried it, and I can't
get on without her; so I'm going to 'put my fortune to the touch and win
or lose it all.'"
"If you truly love her, I hope you will win, and find her the wife you
deserve. But think well before you put your happiness into any woman's
hands," said Anna, bravely trying to forget herself.
"Bless you! I've hardly thought of any thing else this week! I've
enjoyed myself, though; and am very grateful to you for making my visit
so pleasant," Frank added warmly.
"Have I? I'm so glad!" said Anna, as simply as a pleased child; for real
love had banished all her small coquetries, vanities, and affectations,
as sunshine absorbs the mists that hide a lovely landscape.
"Indeed, you have. All the teaching has not been on my side, I assure
you; and I'm not too proud to own my obligation to a woman! We lonely
fellows, who have neither mother, sister, nor wife, need some gentle
soul to keep us from getting selfish, hard, and worldly; and few are so
fortunate as I in having a friend like little Anna."
"Oh, Frank! what have I done for you? I haven't dared to teach one so
much wiser and stronger than myself. I've only wanted to, and grieved
because I was so ignorant, so weak, and silly," cried Anna, glowing
beautifully with surprise and pleasure at this unexpected revelation.
"Your humility blinded you; yet your unconsciousness was half the charm.
I'll tell you what you did, dear. A man's moral sense gets blunted
knocking about this rough-and-tumble world, where the favorite maxim is,
'Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.' It is so with
me; and in many of our conversations on various subjects, while I seemed
to be teaching you, your innocent integrity was rebuking my worldly
wisdom, your subtle instincts were pointing out the right which is above
all policy, your womanly charity softening my hard judgments, and your
simple faith in the good, the beautiful, the truly brave was waking up
the high and happy beliefs that lay, not dead, but sleeping, in my soul.
All this you did for me, Anna, and even more; for, in showing me the
hidden side of your nature, I found it so sweet and deep and worshipful
that it restores my faith in womankind, and shows me all the lovely
possibilities that may lie folded up under the frivolous exterior of a
Anna's heart was so full she could not speak for a moment; then like a
dash of cold water came the thought, "And all this that I have done has
only put him further from me, since it has given him courage to love and
trust that woman." She tried to show only pleasure at his praise; but
for the life of her she could not keep a tone of bitterness out of her
voice as she answered gratefully,--
"You are too kind, Frank. I can hardly believe that I have so many
virtues; but if I have, and they, like yours, have been asleep, remember
you helped wake them up, and so you owe me nothing. Keep your sweet
speeches for the lady you go to woo. I am contented with honest words
that do not flatter."
"You shall have them;" and a quick smile passed over Frank's face, as if
he knew what thorn pricked her just then, and was not ill pleased at the
discovery. "Only, if I lose my sweetheart, I may be sure that my old
friend won't desert me?" he asked, with a sincere anxiety that was a
balm to Anna's sore heart.
She did not speak, but offered him her hand with a look which said much.
He took it as silently, and, holding it in a firm, warm grasp, led her
up to a cleft in the rocks, where they often sat to watch the great
breakers thunder in. As she took her seat, he folded his plaid about her
so tenderly that it felt like a friendly arm shielding her from the
fresh gale that blew up from the sea. It was an unusual attention on his
part, and coming just then it affected her so curiously that, when he
lounged down beside her, she felt a strong desire to lay her head on his
shoulder and sob out,--
"Don't go and leave me! No one loves you half as well as I, or needs you
half so much!"
Of course, she did nothing of the sort; but began to sing, as she
covertly whisked away a rebellious tear. Frank soon interrupted her
music, however, by a heavy sigh; and followed up that demonstration with
the tragical announcement,--
"Anna, I've got something awful to tell you."
"What is it?" she asked, with the resignation of one who has already
heard the worst.
"It is so bad that I can't look you in the face while I tell it. Listen
calmly till I am done, and then pitch me overboard if you like, for I
deserve it," was his cheerful beginning.
"Go on." And Anna prepared herself to receive some tremendous shock with
Frank pulled his hat over his eyes, and, looking away from her, said
rapidly, with an odd sound in his voice.--
"The night I came I was put in a room opening on the back piazza; and,
lying there to rest and cool after my journey, I heard two ladies
talking. I knocked my boots about to let them know I was near; but they
took no notice, so I listened. Most women's gabble would have sent me to
sleep in five minutes; but this was rather original, and interested me,
especially when I found by the names mentioned that I knew one of the
parties. I've been trying your experiment all the week. Anna, how do you
She did not answer for a moment, being absorbed in swift retrospection.
Then she colored to her hat-brim, looked angry, hurt, amused, gratified,
and ashamed, all in a minute, and said slowly, as she met his laughing
"Better than I thought I should."
"That's good! Then you forgive me for my eavesdropping, my rudeness, and
manifold iniquities? It was abominable; but I could not resist the
temptation of testing your sincerity. It was great fun; but I'm not sure
that I shall not get the worst of it, after all," said Frank, sobering
"You have played so many jokes upon me in old times that I don't find it
hard to forgive this one; though I think it rather base in you to
deceive me so. Still, as I have enjoyed and got a good deal out of it, I
don't complain, and won't send you overboard yet," said Anna,
"You always were a forgiving angel." And Frank settled the plaid again
more tenderly than before.
"It was this, then, that made you so brusque to me alone, so odd and
careless? I could not understand it and it hurt me at first; but I
thought it was because we had been children together and soon forgot it,
you were so kind and confidential, so helpful and straightforward. It
_was_ 'great fun,' for I always knew you meant what you said; and that
was an unspeakable comfort to me in this world of flattery and
falsehood. Yes, you may laugh at me, Frank, and leave me to myself
again. I can bear it, for I've proved that my whim was a possibility. I
see my way now, and can go on alone to a truer, happier life than that
in which you found me."
She spoke out bravely, and looked above the level sands and beyond the
restless sea, as if she had found something worth living for and did not
fear the future. Frank watched her an instant, for her face had never
worn so noble an expression before. Sorrow as well as strength had come
into the lovely features, and pain as well as patience touched them with
new beauty. His own face changed as he looked, as if he let loose some
deep and tender sentiment, long held in check, now ready to rise and
claim its own.
"Anna," he said penitently, "I've got one other terrible confession to
make, and then my conscience will be clear. I want to tell you who my
sweetheart is. Here's her picture. Will you look at it?"
She gave a little shiver, turned steadily, and looked where he pointed.
But all she saw was her own astonished face reflected in the shallow
pool behind them. One glance at Frank made any explanation needless;
indeed, there was no time for her to speak before something closer than
the plaid enfolded her, something warmer than tears touched her cheek,
and a voice sweeter to her than wind or wave whispered tenderly in her
"All this week I have been studying and enjoying far more than you; for
I have read a woman's heart and learned to trust and honor what I have
loved ever since I was a boy. Absence proved this to me: so I came to
look for little Anna, and found her better and dearer than ever. May I
ask her to keep on teaching me? Will she share my work as well as
holiday, and be the truest friend a man can have?"
And Anna straightway answered, "Yes."
TRANSCENDENTAL WILD OATS.
A CHAPTER FROM AN UNWRITTEN ROMANCE.
On the first day of June, 184--, a large wagon, drawn by a small horse
and containing a motley load, went lumbering over certain New England
hills, with the pleasing accompaniments of wind, rain, and hail. A
serene man with a serene child upon his knee was driving, or rather
being driven, for the small horse had it all his own way. A brown boy
with a William Penn style of countenance sat beside him, firmly
embracing a bust of Socrates. Behind them was an energetic-looking
woman, with a benevolent brow, satirical mouth, and eyes brimful of hope
and courage. A baby reposed upon her lap, a mirror leaned against her
knee, and a basket of provisions danced about at her feet, as she
struggled with a large, unruly umbrella. Two blue-eyed little girls,
with hands full of childish treasures, sat under one old shawl, chatting
In front of this lively party stalked a tall, sharp-featured man, in a
long blue cloak; and a fourth small girl trudged along beside him
through the mud as if she rather enjoyed it.
The wind whistled over the bleak hills; the rain fell in a despondent
drizzle, and twilight began to fall. But the calm man gazed as
tranquilly into the fog as if he beheld a radiant bow of promise
spanning the gray sky. The cheery woman tried to cover every one but
herself with the big umbrella. The brown boy pillowed his head on the
bald pate of Socrates and slumbered peacefully. The little girls sang
lullabies to their dolls in soft, maternal murmurs. The sharp-nosed
pedestrian marched steadily on, with the blue cloak streaming out behind
him like a banner; and the lively infant splashed through the puddles
with a duck-like satisfaction pleasant to behold.
Thus these modern pilgrims journeyed hopefully out of the old world, to
found a new one in the wilderness.
The editors of "The Transcendental Tripod" had received from Messrs.
Lion & Lamb (two of the aforesaid pilgrims) a communication from which
the following statement is an extract:--
"We have made arrangements with the proprietor of an estate of about a
hundred acres which liberates this tract from human ownership. Here we
shall prosecute our effort to initiate a Family in harmony with the
primitive instincts of man.
"Ordinary secular farming is not our object. Fruit, grain, pulse, herbs,
flax, and other vegetable products, receiving assiduous attention, will
afford ample manual occupation, and chaste supplies for the bodily
needs. It is intended to adorn the pastures with orchards, and to
supersede the labor of cattle by the spade and the pruning-knife.
"Consecrated to human freedom, the land awaits the sober culture of
devoted men. Beginning with small pecuniary means, this enterprise must
be rooted in a reliance on the succors of an ever-bounteous Providence,
whose vital affinities being secured by this union with uncorrupted
field and unworldly persons, the cares and injuries of a life of gain
"The inner nature of each member of the Family is at no time neglected.
Our plan contemplates all such disciplines, cultures, and habits as
evidently conduce to the purifying of the inmates.
"Pledged to the spirit alone, the founders anticipate no hasty or
numerous addition to their numbers. The kingdom of peace is entered only
through the gates of self-denial; and felicity is the test and the
reward of loyalty to the unswerving law of Love."
This prospective Eden at present consisted of an old red farm-house, a
dilapidated barn, many acres of meadow-land, and a grove. Ten ancient
apple-trees were all the "chaste supply" which the place offered as yet;
but, in the firm belief that plenteous orchards were soon to be evoked
from their inner consciousness, these sanguine founders had christened
their domain Fruitlands.
Here Timon Lion intended to found a colony of Latter Day Saints, who,
under his patriarchal sway, should regenerate the world and glorify his
name for ever. Here Abel Lamb, with the devoutest faith in the high
ideal which was to him a living truth, desired to plant a Paradise,
where Beauty, Virtue, Justice, and Love might live happily together,
without the possibility of a serpent entering in. And here his wife,
unconverted but faithful to the end, hoped, after many wanderings over
the face of the earth, to find rest for herself and a home for her
"There is our new abode," announced the enthusiast, smiling with a
satisfaction quite undamped by the drops dripping from his hat-brim, as
they turned at length into a cart-path that wound along a steep hillside
into a barren-looking valley.
"A little difficult of access," observed his practical wife, as she
endeavored to keep her various household gods from going overboard with
every lurch of the laden ark.
"Like all good things. But those who earnestly desire and patiently seek
will soon find us," placidly responded the philosopher from the mud,
through which he was now endeavoring to pilot the much-enduring horse.
"Truth lies at the bottom of a well, Sister Hope," said Brother Timon,
pausing to detach his small comrade from a gate, whereon she was perched
for a clearer gaze into futurity.
"That's the reason we so seldom get at it, I suppose," replied Mrs.
Hope, making a vain clutch at the mirror, which a sudden jolt sent
flying out of her hands.
"We want no false reflections here," said Timon, with a grim smile, as
he crunched the fragments under foot in his onward march.
Sister Hope held her peace, and looked wistfully through the mist at her
promised home. The old red house with a hospitable glimmer at its
windows cheered her eyes; and, considering the weather, was a fitter
refuge than the sylvan bowers some of the more ardent souls might have
The new-comers were welcomed by one of the elect precious,--a regenerate
farmer, whose idea of reform consisted chiefly in wearing white cotton
raiment and shoes of untanned leather. This costume, with a snowy beard,
gave him a venerable, and at the same time a somewhat bridal appearance.
The goods and chattels of the Society not having arrived, the weary
family reposed before the fire on blocks of wood, while Brother Moses
White regaled them with roasted potatoes, brown bread and water, in two
plates, a tin pan, and one mug; his table service being limited. But,
having cast the forms and vanities of a depraved world behind them, the
elders welcomed hardship with the enthusiasm of new pioneers, and the
children heartily enjoyed this foretaste of what they believed was to be
a sort of perpetual picnic.
During the progress of this frugal meal, two more brothers appeared. One
a dark, melancholy man, clad in homespun, whose peculiar mission was to
turn his name hind part before and use as few words as possible. The
other was a bland, bearded Englishman, who expected to be saved by
eating uncooked food and going without clothes. He had not yet adopted
the primitive costume, however; but contented himself with meditatively
chewing dry beans out of a basket.
"Every meal should be a sacrament, and the vessels used should be
beautiful and symbolical," observed Brother Lamb, mildly, righting the
tin pan slipping about on his knees. "I priced a silver service when in
town, but it was too costly; so I got some graceful cups and vases of
"Hardest things in the world to keep bright. Will whiting be allowed in
the community?" inquired Sister Hope, with a housewife's interest in
"Such trivial questions will be discussed at a more fitting time,"
answered Brother Timon, sharply, as he burnt his fingers with a very hot
potato. "Neither sugar, molasses, milk, butter, cheese, nor flesh are to
be used among us, for nothing is to be admitted which has caused wrong
or death to man or beast."
"Our garments are to be linen till we learn to raise our own cotton or
some substitute for woollen fabrics," added Brother Abel, blissfully
basking in an imaginary future as warm and brilliant as the generous
fire before him.
"Haou abaout shoes?" asked Brother Moses, surveying his own with
"We must yield that point till we can manufacture an innocent substitute
for leather. Bark, wood, or some durable fabric will be invented in
time. Meanwhile, those who desire to carry out our idea to the fullest
extent can go barefooted," said Lion, who liked extreme measures.
"I never will, nor let my girls," murmured rebellious Sister Hope, under
"Haou do you cattle'ate to treat the ten-acre lot? Ef things ain't
'tended to right smart, we shan't hev no crops," observed the practical
patriarch in cotton.
"We shall spade it," replied Abel, in such perfect good faith that Moses
said no more, though he indulged in a shake of the head as he glanced at
hands that had held nothing heavier than a pen for years. He was a
paternal old soul and regarded the younger men as promising boys on a
new sort of lark.
"What shall we do for lamps, if we cannot use any animal substance? I do
hope light of some sort is to be thrown upon the enterprise," said Mrs.
Lamb, with anxiety, for in those days kerosene and camphene were not,
and gas unknown in the wilderness.
"We shall go without till we have discovered some vegetable oil or wax
to serve us," replied Brother Timon, in a decided tone, which caused
Sister Hope to resolve that her private lamp should be always trimmed,
if not burning.
"Each member is to perform the work for which experience, strength, and
taste best fit him," continued Dictator Lion. "Thus drudgery and
disorder will be avoided and harmony prevail. We shall rise at dawn,
begin the day by bathing, followed by music, and then a chaste repast of
fruit and bread. Each one finds congenial occupation till the meridian
meal; when some deep-searching conversation gives rest to the body and
development to the mind. Healthful labor again engages us till the last
meal, when we assemble in social communion, prolonged till sunset, when
we retire to sweet repose, ready for the next day's activity."
"What part of the work do you incline to yourself?" asked Sister Hope,
with a humorous glimmer in her keen eyes.
"I shall wait till it is made clear to me. Being in preference to doing
is the great aim, and this comes to us rather by a resigned willingness
than a wilful activity, which is a check to all divine growth,"
responded Brother Timon.
"I thought so." And Mrs. Lamb sighed audibly, for during the year he had
spent in her family Brother Timon had so faithfully carried out his idea
of "being, not doing," that she had found his "divine growth" both an
expensive and unsatisfactory process.
Here her husband struck into the conversation, his face shining with the
light and joy of the splendid dreams and high ideals hovering before
"In these steps of reform, we do not rely so much on scientific
reasoning or physiological skill as on the spirit's dictates. The
greater part of man's duty consists in leaving alone much that he now
does. Shall I stimulate with tea, coffee, or wine? No. Shall I consume
flesh? Not if I value health. Shall I subjugate cattle? Shall I claim
property in any created thing? Shall I trade? Shall I adopt a form of
religion? Shall I interest myself in politics? To how many of these
questions--could we ask them deeply enough and could they be heard as
having relation to our eternal welfare--would the response be
A mild snore seemed to echo the last word of Abel's rhapsody, for
Brother Moses had succumbed to mundane slumber and sat nodding like a
massive ghost. Forest Absalom, the silent man, and John Pease, the
English member, now departed to the barn; and Mrs. Lamb led her flock to
a temporary fold, leaving the founders of the "Consociate Family" to
build castles in the air till the fire went out and the symposium ended
The furniture arrived next day, and was soon bestowed; for the principal
property of the community consisted in books. To this rare library was
devoted the best room in the house, and the few busts and pictures that
still survived many flittings were added to beautify the sanctuary, for
here the family was to meet for amusement, instruction, and worship.
Any housewife can imagine the emotions of Sister Hope, when she took
possession of a large, dilapidated kitchen, containing an old stove and
the peculiar stores out of which food was to be evolved for her little
family of eleven. Cakes of maple sugar, dried peas and beans, barley and
hominy, meal of all sorts, potatoes, and dried fruit. No milk, butter,
cheese, tea, or meat, appeared. Even salt was considered a useless
luxury and spice entirely forbidden by these lovers of Spartan
simplicity. A ten years' experience of vegetarian vagaries had been good
training for this new freak, and her sense of the ludicrous supported
her through many trying scenes.
Unleavened bread, porridge, and water for breakfast; bread, vegetables,
and water for dinner; bread, fruit, and water for supper was the bill of
fare ordained by the elders. No tea-pot profaned that sacred stove, no
gory steak cried aloud for vengeance from her chaste gridiron; and only
a brave woman's taste, time, and temper were sacrificed on that domestic
The vexed question of light was settled by buying a quantity of bayberry
wax for candles; and, on discovering that no one knew how to make them,
pine-knots were introduced, to be used when absolutely necessary. Being
summer, the evenings were not long, and the weary fraternity found it no
great hardship to retire with the birds. The inner light was sufficient
for most of them. But Mrs. Lamb rebelled. Evening was the only time she
had to herself, and while the tired feet rested the skilful hands mended
torn frocks and little stockings, or anxious heart forgot its burden in
So "mother's lamp" burned steadily, while the philosophers built a new
heaven and earth by moonlight; and through all the metaphysical mists
and philanthropic pyrotechnics of that period Sister Hope played her own
little game of "throwing light," and none but the moths were the worse
Such farming probably was never seen before since Adam delved. The band
of brothers began by spading garden and field; but a few days of it
lessened their ardor amazingly. Blistered hands and aching backs
suggested the expediency of permitting the use of cattle till the
workers were better fitted for noble toil by a summer of the new life.
Brother Moses brought a yoke of oxen from his farm,--at least, the
philosophers thought so till it was discovered that one of the animals
was a cow; and Moses confessed that he "must be let down easy, for he
couldn't live on garden sarse entirely."
Great was Dictator Lion's indignation at this lapse from virtue. But
time pressed, the work must be done; so the meek cow was permitted to
wear the yoke and the recreant brother continued to enjoy forbidden
draughts in the barn, which dark proceeding caused the children to
regard him as one set apart for destruction.
The sowing was equally peculiar, for, owing to some mistake, the three
brethren, who devoted themselves to this graceful task, found when about
half through the job that each had been sowing a different sort of grain
in the same field; a mistake which caused much perplexity, as it could
not be remedied; but, after a long consultation and a good deal of
laughter, it was decided to say nothing and see what would come of it.
The garden was planted with a generous supply of useful roots and herbs;
but, as manure was not allowed to profane the virgin soil, few of these
vegetable treasures ever came up. Purslane reigned supreme, and the
disappointed planters ate it philosophically, deciding that Nature knew
what was best for them, and would generously supply their needs, if they
could only learn to digest her "sallets" and wild roots.
The orchard was laid out, a little grafting done, new trees and vines
set, regardless of the unfit season and entire ignorance of the
husbandmen, who honestly believed that in the autumn they would reap a
Slowly things got into order, and rapidly rumors of the new experiment
went abroad, causing many strange spirits to flock thither, for in those
days communities were the fashion and transcendentalism raged wildly.
Some came to look on and laugh, some to be supported in poetic idleness,
a few to believe sincerely and work heartily. Each member was allowed to
mount his favorite hobby and ride it to his heart's content. Very queer
were some of the riders, and very rampant some of the hobbies.
One youth, believing that language was of little consequence if the
spirit was only right, startled new-comers by blandly greeting them with
"good-morning, damn you," and other remarks of an equally mixed order. A
second irrepressible being held that all the emotions of the soul should
be freely expressed, and illustrated his theory by antics that would
have sent him to a lunatic asylum, if, as an unregenerate wag said, he
had not already been in one. When his spirit soared, he climbed trees
and shouted; when doubt assailed him, he lay upon the floor and groaned
lamentably. At joyful periods, he raced, leaped, and sang; when sad, he
wept aloud; and when a great thought burst upon him in the watches of
the night, he crowed like a jocund cockerel, to the great delight of the
children and the great annoyance of the elders. One musical brother
fiddled whenever so moved, sang sentimentally to the four little girls,
and put a music-box on the wall when he hoed corn.
Brother Pease ground away at his uncooked food, or browsed over the farm
on sorrel, mint, green fruit, and new vegetables. Occasionally he took
his walks abroad, airily attired in an unbleached cotton _poncho_, which
was the nearest approach to the primeval costume he was allowed to
indulge in. At midsummer he retired to the wilderness, to try his plan
where the woodchucks were without prejudices and huckleberry-bushes were
hospitably full. A sunstroke unfortunately spoilt his plan, and he
returned to semi-civilization a sadder and wiser man.
Forest Absalom preserved his Pythagorean silence, cultivated his fine
dark locks, and worked like a beaver, setting an excellent example of
brotherly love, justice, and fidelity by his upright life. He it was who
helped overworked Sister Hope with her heavy washes, kneaded the endless
succession of batches of bread, watched over the children, and did the
many tasks left undone by the brethren, who were so busy discussing and
defining great duties that they forgot to perform the small ones.
Moses White placidly plodded about, "chorin' raound," as he called it,
looking like an old-time patriarch, with his silver hair and flowing
beard, and saving the community from many a mishap by his thrift and
Brother Lion domineered over the whole concern; for, having put the most
money into the speculation, he was resolved to make it pay,--as if any
thing founded on an ideal basis could be expected to do so by any but
Abel Lamb simply revelled in the Newness, firmly believing that his
dream was to be beautifully realized, and in time not only little
Fruitlands, but the whole earth, be turned into a Happy Valley. He
worked with every muscle of his body, for _he_ was in deadly earnest. He
taught with his whole head and heart; planned and sacrificed, preached
and prophesied, with a soul full of the purest aspirations, most
unselfish purposes, and desires for a life devoted to God and man, too
high and tender to bear the rough usage of this world.
It was a little remarkable that only one woman ever joined this
community. Mrs. Lamb merely followed wheresoever her husband led,--"as
ballast for his balloon," as she said, in her bright way.
Miss Jane Gage was a stout lady of mature years, sentimental, amiable,
and lazy. She wrote verses copiously, and had vague yearnings and
graspings after the unknown, which led her to believe herself fitted for
a higher sphere than any she had yet adorned.
Having been a teacher, she was set to instructing the children in the
common branches. Each adult member took a turn at the infants; and, as
each taught in his own way, the result was a chronic state of chaos in
the minds of these much-afflicted innocents.
Sleep, food, and poetic musings were the desires of dear Jane's life,
and she shirked all duties as clogs upon her spirit's wings. Any thought
of lending a hand with the domestic drudgery never occurred to her; and
when to the question, "Are there any beasts of burden on the place?"
Mrs. Lamb answered, with a face that told its own tale, "Only one
woman!" the buxom Jane took no shame to herself, but laughed at the
joke, and let the stout-hearted sister tug on alone.
Unfortunately, the poor lady hankered after the flesh-pots, and
endeavored to stay herself with private sips of milk, crackers, and
cheese, and on one dire occasion she partook of fish at a neighbor's
One of the children reported this sad lapse from virtue, and poor Jane
was publicly reprimanded by Timon.
"I only took a little bit of the tail," sobbed the penitent poetess.
"Yes, but the whole fish had to be tortured and slain that you might
tempt your carnal appetite with that one taste of the tail. Know ye not,
consumers of flesh meat, that ye are nourishing the wolf and tiger in
At this awful question and the peal of laughter which arose from some of
the younger brethren, tickled by the ludicrous contrast between the
stout sinner, the stern judge, and the naughty satisfaction of the young
detective, poor Jane fled from the room to pack her trunk, and return to
a world where fishes' tails were not forbidden fruit.
Transcendental wild oats were sown broadcast that year, and the fame
thereof has not yet ceased in the land; for, futile as this crop seemed
to outsiders, it bore an invisible harvest, worth much to those who
planted in earnest. As none of the members of this particular community
have ever recounted their experiences before, a few of them may not be
amiss, since the interest in these attempts has never died out and
Fruitlands was the most ideal of all these castles in Spain.
A new dress was invented, since cotton, silk, and wool were forbidden as
the product of slave-labor, worm-slaughter, and sheep-robbery. Tunics
and trowsers of brown linen were the only wear. The women's skirts were
longer, and their straw hat-brims wider than the men's, and this was the
only difference. Some persecution lent a charm to the costume, and the
long-haired, linen-clad reformers quite enjoyed the mild martyrdom they
endured when they left home.
Money was abjured, as the root of all evil. The produce of the land was
to supply most of their wants, or be exchanged for the few things they
could not grow. This idea had its inconveniences; but self-denial was
the fashion, and it was surprising how many things one can do without.
When they desired to travel, they walked, if possible, begged the loan
of a vehicle, or boldly entered car or coach, and, stating their
principles to the officials, took the consequences. Usually their dress,
their earnest frankness, and gentle resolution won them a passage; but
now and then they met with hard usage, and had the satisfaction of
suffering for their principles.
On one of these penniless pilgrimages they took passage on a boat, and,
when fare was demanded, artlessly offered to talk, instead of pay. As
the boat was well under way and they actually had not a cent, there was
no help for it. So Brothers Lion and Lamb held forth to the assembled
passengers in their most eloquent style. There must have been something
effective in this conversation, for the listeners were moved to take up
a contribution for these inspired lunatics, who preached peace on earth
and good-will to man so earnestly, with empty pockets. A goodly sum was
collected; but when the captain presented it the reformers proved that
they were consistent even in their madness, for not a penny would they
accept, saying, with a look at the group about them, whose indifference
or contempt had changed to interest and respect, "You see how well we
get on without money;" and so went serenely on their way, with their
linen blouses flapping airily in the cold October wind.
They preached vegetarianism everywhere and resisted all temptations of
the flesh, contentedly eating apples and bread at well-spread tables,
and much afflicting hospitable hostesses by denouncing their food and
taking away their appetites, discussing the "horrors of shambles," the
"incorporation of the brute in man," and "on elegant abstinence the sign
of a pure soul." But, when the perplexed or offended ladies asked what
they should eat, they got in reply a bill of fare consisting of "bowls
of sunrise for breakfast," "solar seeds of the sphere," "dishes from
Plutarch's chaste table," and other viands equally hard to find in any
Reform conventions of all sorts were haunted by these brethren, who said
many wise things and did many foolish ones. Unfortunately, these
wanderings interfered with their harvest at home; but the rule was to do
what the spirit moved, so they left their crops to Providence and went
a-reaping in wider and, let us hope, more fruitful fields than their
Luckily, the earthly providence who watched over Abel Lamb was at hand
to glean the scanty crop yielded by the "uncorrupted land," which,
"consecrated to human freedom," had received "the sober culture of
About the time the grain was ready to house, some call of the Oversoul
wafted all the men away. An easterly storm was coming up and the yellow
stacks were sure to be ruined. Then Sister Hope gathered her forces.
Three little girls, one boy (Timon's son), and herself, harnessed to
clothes-baskets and Russia-linen sheets, were the only teams she could
command; but with these poor appliances the indomitable woman got in the
grain and saved food for her young, with the instinct and energy of a
mother-bird with a brood of hungry nestlings to feed.
This attempt at regeneration had its tragic as well as comic side,
though the world only saw the former.
With the first frosts, the butterflies, who had sunned themselves in the
new light through the summer, took flight, leaving the few bees to see
what honey they had stored for winter use. Precious little appeared
beyond the satisfaction of a few months of holy living.
At first it seemed as if a chance to try holy dying also was to be
offered them. Timon, much disgusted with the failure of the scheme,
decided to retire to the Shakers, who seemed to be the only successful
"What is to become of us?" asked Mrs. Hope, for Abel was heart-broken at
the bursting of his lovely bubble.
"You can stay here, if you like, till a tenant is found. No more wood
must be cut, however, and no more corn ground. All I have must be sold
to pay the debts of the concern, as the responsibility rests with me,"
was the cheering reply.
"Who is to pay us for what we have lost? I gave all I had,--furniture,
time, strength, six months of my children's lives,--and all are wasted.
Abel gave himself body and soul, and is almost wrecked by hard work and
disappointment. Are we to have no return for this, but leave to starve
and freeze in an old house, with winter at hand, no money, and hardly a
friend left, for this wild scheme has alienated nearly all we had. You
talk much about justice. Let us have a little, since there is nothing
But the woman's appeal met with no reply but the old one: "It was an
experiment. We all risked something, and must bear our losses as we
With this cold comfort, Timon departed with his son, and was absorbed
into the Shaker brotherhood, where he soon found that the order of
things was reversed, and it was all work and no play.
Then the tragedy began for the forsaken little family. Desolation and
despair fell upon Abel. As his wife said, his new beliefs had alienated
many friends. Some thought him mad, some unprincipled. Even the most
kindly thought him a visionary, whom it was useless to help till he took
more practical views of life. All stood aloof, saying: "Let him work out
his own ideas, and see what they are worth."
He had tried, but it was a failure. The world was not ready for Utopia
yet, and those who attempted to found it only got laughed at for their
pains. In other days, men could sell all and give to the poor, lead
lives devoted to holiness and high thought, and, after the persecution
was over, find themselves honored as saints or martyrs. But in modern
times these things are out of fashion. To live for one's principles, at
all costs, is a dangerous speculation; and the failure of an ideal, no
matter how humane and noble, is harder for the world to forgive and
forget than bank robbery or the grand swindles of corrupt politicians.
Deep waters now for Abel, and for a time there seemed no passage
through. Strength and spirits were exhausted by hard work and too much
thought. Courage failed when, looking about for help, he saw no
sympathizing face, no hand outstretched to help him, no voice to say
"We all make mistakes, and it takes many experiences to shape a life.
Try again, and let us help you."
Every door was closed, every eye averted, every heart cold, and no way
open whereby he might earn bread for his children. His principles would
not permit him to do many things that others did; and in the few fields
where conscience would allow him to work, who would employ a man who had
flown in the face of society, as he had done?
Then this dreamer, whose dream was the life of his life, resolved to
carry out his idea to the bitter end. There seemed no place for him
here,--no work, no friend. To go begging conditions was as ignoble as to
go begging money. Better perish of want than sell one's soul for the
sustenance of his body. Silently he lay down upon his bed, turned his
face to the wall, and waited with pathetic patience for death to cut the
knot which he could not untie. Days and nights went by, and neither food
nor water passed his lips. Soul and body were dumbly struggling
together, and no word of complaint betrayed what either suffered.
His wife, when tears and prayers were unavailing, sat down to wait the
end with a mysterious awe and submission; for in this entire resignation
of all things there was an eloquent significance to her who knew him as
no other human being did.
"Leave all to God," was his belief; and in this crisis the loving soul
clung to this faith, sure that the All-wise Father would not desert this
child who tried to live so near to Him. Gathering her children about
her, she waited the issue of the tragedy that was being enacted in that
solitary room, while the first snow fell outside, untrodden by the
footprints of a single friend.
But the strong angels who sustain and teach perplexed and troubled souls
came and went, leaving no trace without, but working miracles within.
For, when all other sentiments had faded into dimness, all other hopes
died utterly; when the bitterness of death was nearly over, when body
was past any pang of hunger or thirst, and soul stood ready to depart,
the love that outlives all else refused to die. Head had bowed to
defeat, hand had grown weary with too heavy tasks, but heart could not
grow cold to those who lived in its tender depths, even when death
"My faithful wife, my little girls,--they have not forsaken me, they are
mine by ties that none can break. What right have I to leave them alone?
What right to escape from the burden and the sorrow I have helped to
bring? This duty remains to me, and I must do it manfully. For their
sakes, the world will forgive me in time; for their sakes, God will
sustain me now."
Too feeble to rise, Abel groped for the food that always lay within his
reach, and in the darkness and solitude of that memorable night ate and
drank what was to him the bread and wine of a new communion, a new
dedication of heart and life to the duties that were left him when the
In the early dawn, when that sad wife crept fearfully to see what change
had come to the patient face on the pillow, she found it smiling at her,
saw a wasted hand outstretched to her, and heard a feeble voice cry
What passed in that little room is not to be recorded except in the
hearts of those who suffered and endured much for love's sake. Enough
for us to know that soon the wan shadow of a man came forth, leaning on
the arm that never failed him, to be welcomed and cherished by the
children, who never forgot the experiences of that time.
"Hope" was the watchword now; and, while the last logs blazed on the
hearth, the last bread and apples covered the table, the new commander,
with recovered courage, said to her husband,--
"Leave all to God--and me. He has done his part; now I will do mine."
"But we have no money, dear."
"Yes, we have. I sold all we could spare, and have enough to take us
away from this snow-bank."
"Where can we go?"
"I have engaged four rooms at our good neighbor, Lovejoy's. There we can
live cheaply till spring. Then for new plans and a home of our own,
"But, Hope, your little store won't last long, and we have no friends."
"I can sew and you can chop wood. Lovejoy offers you the same pay as he
gives his other men; my old friend, Mrs. Truman, will send me all the
work I want; and my blessed brother stands by us to the end. Cheer up,
dear heart, for while there is work and love in the world we shall not
"And while I have my good angel Hope, I shall not despair, even if I
wait another thirty years before I step beyond the circle of the sacred
little world in which I still have a place to fill."
So one bleak December day, with their few possessions piled on an
ox-sled, the rosy children perched atop, and the parents trudging arm in
arm behind, the exiles left their Eden and faced the world again.
"Ah, me! my happy dream. How much I leave behind that never can be mine
again," said Abel, looking back at the lost Paradise, lying white and
chill in its shroud of snow.
"Yes, dear; but how much we bring away," answered brave-hearted Hope,
glancing from husband to children.
"Poor Fruitlands! The name was as great a failure as the rest!"
continued Abel, with a sigh, as a frostbitten apple fell from a leafless
bough at his feet.
But the sigh changed to a smile as his wife added, in a half-tender,
"Don't you think Apple Slump would be a better name for it, dear?"
THE ROMANCE OF A SUMMER DAY.
"What shall we do about Rose? We have tried Saratoga, and that failed to
cheer her up; we tried the sea-shore, and that failed; now we have tried
the mountains, and they are going to fail, like the rest. See if your
woman's wit can't devise something to help the child, Milly."
"Time and tenderness will work the cure; and she will be all the better
for this experience, I hope."
"So do I. But I don't pretend to understand these nervous ailments; so,
if air, exercise, and change of scene don't cure the vapors, I give it
up. Girls didn't have such worries in my day."
And the old gentleman shook his head, as if modern ills perplexed him
But Milly smiled the slow, wise smile of one who had learned much from
experience; among other things, the wisdom of leaving certain troubles
to cure themselves.
"Has the child expressed a wish for any thing? If so, out with it, and
she shall be gratified, if it can be done," began Uncle Ben, after a
moment of silence, as they sat watching the moonlight, that glorified
the summer night.
"The last wish is one that we can easily gratify, if you don't mind the
fatigue. The restless spirit that possesses her keeps suggesting new
things. Much exercise does her good, and is an excellent way to work off
this unrest. She likes to tire herself out; for then she sleeps, poor
"Well, well, what does the poor dear want to do?" asked Uncle Ben,
"She said to-day that, instead of going off on excursions, as we have
been doing, she would like to stroll away some pleasant morning, and
follow the road wherever it led, finding and enjoying any little
adventures that might come along,--as Richter's heroes do."
"Yes, I see: white butterflies, morning red, disguised counts,
philosophic plowmen, and all the rest of the romantic rubbish. Bless the
child, does she expect to find things of that sort anywhere out of a
"Plenty of butterflies and morning-glories, uncle, and a girl's
imagination will supply the romance. Perhaps we can get up some little
surprise to add flavor to our day's adventures," said Milly, who rather
favored the plan, for much romance still lay hidden in that quiet heart
"Where shall we go? What shall we do? I don't know how this sort of
thing is managed."
"Do nothing but follow us. Let her choose her road; and we will merely
see that she has food and rest, protection, and as much pleasure as we
can make for her out of such simple materials. Having her own way will
gratify her, and a day in the open air do her good. Shall we try it,
"With all my heart, if the fancy lasts till morning. I'll have some
lunch put up, and order Jim to dawdle after us with the wagon full of
waterproofs, and so on, in case we break down. I rather like the idea,
now I fairly take it in." And Uncle Ben quite beamed with interest and
good-will; for a kinder-hearted man never breathed, and, in spite of his
fifty years, he was as fond of adventures as any boy.
"Then, as we must be up and away very early, I'll say good-night, sir,"
and Milly rose to go, looking well satisfied with the success of her
"Good-night, my dear," and Uncle Ben rose also, flung away his cigar,
and offered his hand with the old-fashioned courtesy which he always
showed his niece's friend; for Milly only called him uncle to please
"You are sure this wild whim won't be too much for _you_? You are such a
self-sacrificing soul, I'm afraid my girl will wear you out," he said,
looking down at her with a fatherly expression, very becoming to his
"Not a bit, sir. I like it, and would gladly do any thing to please and
help Rose. I'm very fond of her, and love to pet and care for her. I'm
so alone in the world I cling to my few friends, and feel as if I
couldn't do enough for them."
Something in Milly's face made Uncle Ben hold her hand close in both of
his a moment, and look as if he was going to stoop and kiss her. But he
seemed to think better of it; for he only shook the soft hand warmly,
and said, in his hearty tone,--
"I don't know what we should do without you, my dear. You are one of the
women born to help and comfort others, and ask no reward but love."
As the first streaks of dawn touched the eastern sky, three faces
appeared at three different windows of the great hotel. One was a
masculine face, a ruddy, benevolent countenance, with kind eyes, grayish
hair cheerfully erect upon the head, and a smile on the lips, that
softly whistled the old air of
"A southerly wind and a cloudy sky
Proclaim a hunting morning."
The second was one of those serene, sweet faces, possessing an
attraction more subtle than beauty; eyes always full of silent sympathy,
a little wistful sometimes, but never sad, and an expression of peace
and patience that told of battles fought and victories won. A happy,
helpful soul shone from that face and made it lovely, though its first
bloom was past and a solitary future lay before it.
The third was rich in the charms that youth and health lend any
countenance. But, in spite of the bloom on the rounded cheeks, the
freshness of the lips, and the soft beauty of the eyes, the face that
looked out from the bonny brown hair, blowing in the wind, was not a
happy one. Discontent, unrest, and a secret hunger seemed to sadden and
sharpen all its outlines, making it pathetic to those who could read the
language of an unsatisfied heart.
Poor little Rose was waiting, as all women must wait, for the good gift
that brightens life; and, while she waited, patience and passion were
having a hard fight in the proud silence of her heart.
"It will be a capital day, girls," called Uncle Ben, in his cheery
"I thought it would be," answered Milly, nodding back, with a smile.
"I know it will pour before night," added Rose, who saw every thing just
then through blue spectacles.
"Breakfast is ready for us. Come on, girls, or you'll miss your morning
red," called Uncle Ben, retiring, with a laugh.
"I lost mine six months ago," sighed Rose, as she listlessly gathered up
the brown curls, that were once her pride.
"Hark! hark! the lark at Heaven's gate sings," sounded from Milly's
room, in her blithe voice.
"Tiresome little bird! Why don't he stay in his nest and cheer his
mate?" muttered Rose, refusing to be cheered.
"Now lead on, my dear, we'll follow till we drop," said Uncle Ben,
stoutly, as they stood on the piazza, half an hour later, with no one
but a sleepy waiter to watch and wonder at the early start.
"I have always wondered where that lonely road went to, and now I shall
find out," answered Rose, with an imperious little gesture, as she led
the way. The others followed so slowly that she felt alone, and enjoyed
it, in spite of herself.
It was the most eloquent hour of the day, for all was beautiful, all was
fresh; nothing was out of order, nothing disturbed eye or ear, and the
world seemed to welcome her with its morning face. The road wound
between forests full of the green gloom no artist can ever paint. Pines
whispered, birches quivered, maples dropped grateful shadows, and a
little river foamed and sparkled by, carrying its melodious message from
the mountains to the sea. Glimpses of hoary peaks broke on her now and
then, dappled with shadows or half-veiled in mists, floating and fading
like incense from altars fit for a cathedral not built with hands. Leafy
vistas opened temptingly on either side, berries blushed ripely in the
grass, cow-bells tinkled pleasantly along the hillsides, and that busy
little farmer, the "Peabody bird," cried from tree to tree, "Sow your
wheat, Peabody! Peabody! Peabody!" with such musical energy one ceased
to wonder that fields were wrested from the forest, to wave like green
and golden breast-knots on the bosoms of the hills.
The fresh beauty and the healthful peace of the hour refreshed the girl
like dew. The human rose lifted up her drooping head and smiled back at
the blithe sunshine, as if she found the world a pleasant place, in
spite of her own thorns. Presently a yellow butterfly came wandering by;
and she watched it as she walked, pleasing herself with the girlish
fancy that it was a symbol of herself.
At first it fluttered idly from side to side, now lighting on a purple
thistle-top, then away to swing on a dewy fern; now vanishing among the
low-hanging boughs overhead, then settling in the dust of the road,
where a ray of light glorified its golden wings, unmindful of its lowly
"Little Psyche is looking for her Cupid everywhere, as I have looked for
mine. I wonder if she ever found and lost him, as I did? If she does
find him again, I'll accept it as a good omen."
Full of this fancy, Rose walked quickly after her airy guide, leaving
her comrades far behind. Some tenderhearted spirit surely led that
butterfly, for it never wandered far away, but floated steadily before
the girl, till it came at last to a wild rose-bush, full of delicate
blossoms. Above it a cloud of yellow butterflies were dancing in the
sun; and from among them one flew to meet and welcome the new-comer.
Together they fluttered round the rosy flowers for a moment, then rose
in graceful circles, till they vanished in the wood.
Rose followed them with eyes that slowly dimmed with happy tears, for
the innocent soul accepted the omen and believed it gratefully.
"He will come," she said softly to herself, as she fastened a knot of
wild roses in her bosom and sat down to rest and wait.
"Tired out, little girl?" asked Uncle Ben, coming up at a great pace,
rather amazed at this sudden burst of energy, but glad to see it.
"No, indeed! It was lovely!" and Rose looked up with a brighter face
than she had worn for weeks.
"Upon my word, I think we have hit upon the right thing at last," said
Uncle Ben, aside, to Milly. "What have you been doing to get such a look
as that?" he added aloud.
"Chasing butterflies," was all the answer Rose gave; for she could not
tell the foolish little fancy that had comforted her so much.
"Then, my dear, I beg you will devote yourself to that amusement. I
never heard it recommended, but it seems to be immensely beneficial; so
keep it up, Rosy, keep it up."
"I will, sir," and on went Rose, as if in search of another one.
For an hour or two she strolled along the woody road, gathering red
raspberries, with the dew still on them, garlanding her hat with
fragrant Linnæea wreaths, watching the brown brooks go singing away into
the forest, and wishing the little wood creatures good-morrow, as they
went fearlessly to and fro, busy with their sylvan housekeeping. At
every turn of the road Rose's wistful eyes looked forward, as if hoping
to see some much-desired figure approaching. At every sound of steps she
lifted her head like a deer, listening and watching till the stranger
had gone by; and down every green vista she sent longing looks, as if
memory recalled happy hours in green nooks like those.
Presently the road wound over a bridge, below which flowed a wide,
smooth river, flecked with alternate sun and shadow.
"How beautiful it is! I must float down this stream a little way. It is
getting warm and I am tired, yet don't want to stop or turn back yet,"
said Rose; adding, as her quick eye roved to and fro: "I see a boat down
there, and a lazy man reading. I'll hire or borrow it; so come on."
Away she went into the meadow, and, accosting the countryman, who lay in
the shade, she made her request.
"I get my livin' in summer by rowin' folks down to the Falls. It ain't
fur. Will you go, Miss?" he said, smiling all over his brown face, as he
regarded the pretty vision that so suddenly appeared beside him.
Rose accepted the proposition at once; but half regretted it a minute
after, for, as the man rose, she saw that he had a wooden leg.
"I'm afraid we shall be too heavy a load for you," she began, as he
stumped about, preparing his boat.
The young fellow laughed and squared his broad shoulders, with a quick
look, that thanked her for the pitiful glance she gave him, as he
answered, in a bluff, good-natured tone,--
"Don't be afraid. I could row a dozen of you. I look rather the worse
for wear; but my old mother thinks I'm about the strongest man in the
State. Now, then, give us your hand, Miss, and there you are."
With that he helped her in. The others obediently followed their
capricious leader, and in a moment they were floating down the river,
with a fresh wind cooling their hot faces.
"You have been in the army, I take it?" began Uncle Ben, in his social
way, as he watched the man pulling with long, easy strokes.
"Pretty nigh through the war, sir," with a nod and a glance at the
Uncle Ben lifted his hat, and Rose turned with a sudden interest from
the far-off bend of the river to the honest face before her.
"Oh! tell us about it. I love to hear brave men fight their battles
over," she cried, with a look half pleading, half commanding, and wholly
"Sho! It ain't much to tell. No more than the rest of 'em; not so much
as some. I done my best, lost my leg, got a few bullets here and there,
and ain't much use any way now."
A shadow passed over the man's face as he spoke; and well it might, for
it was hard to be disabled at twenty-five with a long life of partial
helplessness before him. Uncle Ben, who was steering, forgot his duty in
his sympathy, and regarded the wooden leg with silent interest.
Milly showed hers by keeping the mosquitoes off him by gently waving a
green bough, as she sat behind him. But Rose's soft eyes shone upon him
full of persuasive interest, and a new tone of respect was in her voice
as she said, with a martial salute,--
"Please tell about your last battle. I had a cousin in the war, and feel
as if every soldier was my friend and comrade since then."
"Thanky, Miss. I'll tell you that with pleasure, though it ain't much,
any way." And, pushing back his hat, the young man rested on his oars,
as he rapidly told his little tale.
"My last battle was----," naming one of the latest and bloodiest of the
war. "We were doing our best, when there came a shell and scattered
half-a-dozen of us pretty lively. I was knocked flat. But I didn't feel
hurt, only mad, and jumped up to hit 'em agin; but just dropped, with an
awful wrench, and the feeling that both my legs was gone."
"Did no one stop to help you?" cried Rose.
"Too busy for that, Miss. The boys can't stop to pick up their mates
when there are Rebs ahead to be knocked down. I knew there was no more
fighting for me; and just laid still, with the balls singing round me,
and wondering where they'd hit next."
"How did you feel?" questioned the girl, eagerly.
"Dreadful busy at first; for every thing I'd ever said, seen, or done,
seemed to go spinning through my head, till I got so dizzy trying to
keep my wits stiddy that I lost 'em altogether. I didn't find 'em again
till some one laid hold of me. Two of our boys were luggin' me along
back; but they had to dodge behind walls and cut up and down, for the
scrimmage was going on all round us. One of the fellers was hit in the
shoulder and the other in the face, but not bad; and they managed to get
me into a sort of a ravine, out of danger. There I begged 'em to leave
me. I thought I was bleeding to death rapid, and just wanted to die in
"But they didn't leave you?" And Rose's face was all alive with interest
"Guess they didn't," answered the man, giving a stroke or two, and
looking as if he found it pleasant to tell his story to so winsome a
listener. "Just as they were at their wit's end what to do with me, we
come upon a young surgeon, lurking there to watch the fight or to
hide,--don't know which. There he was any way, looking scared half to
death. Tom Hunt, my mate, made him stop and look at me. My leg was
smashed, and ought to come off right away, he said. 'Do it, then!' says
Tom. He was one of your rough-and-readys, Tom was; but at heart as kind
as a--well, as a woman."
And the boatman gave a smile and a nod at the one opposite him.
"Thanks; but do tell on. It is so interesting."
And Rose let all her flowers stray down into the bottom of the boat, as
she clasped her hands and leaned forward to listen.
"Don't know as I'd better tell this part. It ain't pleasant," began the
"You must. I want it all. Dreadful things do me good, and other people's
sufferings teach me how to bear my own," said Rose, in her imperious
"You don't look as if you ought to have any."
And the man's eyes rested on the delicate face opposite, full of a
pleasant blending of admiration, pity, and protection.
"I have; but not like yours. Go on, please."
"Well, if you say so, here goes. The surgeon was worried, and said he
couldn't do nothing,--hadn't got his instruments, and so on. 'Yes, you
have. Out with em,' says Tom, rapping on a case he sees in the chap's
breast-pocket. 'Can't do it without bandages,' he says next. 'Here they
are, and more where they came from,' says Tom; and off came his
shirt-sleeves, and was stripped up in a jiffy. 'I must have help,' says
that confounded surgeon, dawdling round, and me groaning my life out at
his feet. 'Here's help,--lots of it,' says Tom, taking my head on his
arm; while Parkes tied up his wounded face and stood ready to lend a
hand. Seeing no way out of it, the surgeon went to work. Good Lord, but
that _was_ awful!"
The mere memory of it made the speaker shut his eyes with a shiver, as
if he felt again the sharp agony of shattered bones, rent flesh, and
"Never mind that. Tell how you got comfortable again," said Milly,
shaking her head at Rose.
"I wasn't comfortable for three months, ma'am. Don't mind telling about
it, 'cause Tom done so well, and I'm proud of him," said the rower, with
kindling eyes. "Things of that sort are hard enough done well, with
chloroform and every thing handy. But laying on the bare ground, with
nothing right, and a scared boy of a surgeon hacking away at you, it's
torment and no mistake. I never could have stood it, if it hadn't been
for Tom. He held me close and as steady as a rock; but he cried like a
baby the whole time, and that did me good. Don't know why; but it did.
As for Parkes, he gave out at once and went off for help. I'll never
forget that place, if I live to be a hundred. Seems as if I could see
the very grass I tore up; the muddy brook they laid me by; the steep
bank, with Parkes creeping up; Tom's face, wet and white, but so full of
pity; the surgeon, with his red hands; and all the while such a roar of
guns I could hardly hear myself groaning for some one to shoot me and
put me out of my misery."
"How did you get to the hospital?" asked Uncle Ben, anxious to get over
this part of the story, for Rose was now as pale as if she actually saw
the scene described.
"Don't know, sir. There come a time when I couldn't bear any more, and
what happened then I've never been very clear about. I didn't know much
for a day or two; then I was brought round by being put in a transport.
I was packed with a lot of poor fellows, and was beginning to wish I'd
stayed queer, till I heard Tom's voice saying, 'Never mind, boys; put me
down anywheres, and tend to the others. I can wait.' That set me up. I
sung out, and they stowed him alongside. It was so dark down there I
could hardly see his face; but his voice and ways were just as hearty
and comforting as ever, and he kept up my spirits wonderful that day. I
was pretty weak, and kept dozing off; but whenever I woke I felt for
Tom, and he was always there. He told me, when Parkes came with help, he
saw me off, and then went back for another go at the Rebs; but got a
ball in the breast, and was in rather a bad way, he guessed. He couldn't
lay down; but sat by me, leaning back, with his hand on my pillow, where
I could find it easy. He talked to me all he could, till his voice give
out; for he got very weak, and there was a dreadful groaning all around
"I know, I know. I went aboard one of those transports to help; but
couldn't stay, it was so terrible," said Uncle Ben, with a groan at the
mere memory of it.
"That was a long day, and I thought it was my last; for when night came
I felt so gone I reckoned I was 'most over Jordan. I gave my watch to
Tom as a keepsake, and told him to say good-by to the boys for me. I
hadn't any folks of my own, so it wasn't hard to go. Tom had a
sweetheart, an old mother, and lots of friends; but he didn't repine a
word,--only said: 'If you do pull through, Joel, just tell mother I done
my best, and give Hetty my love.' I promised, and dropped asleep,
holding on to Tom as if he was my sheet-anchor. So he was; but I can't
tell all he done for me in different ways."
For a minute Joel rowed in silence, and no one asked a question. Then he
pushed up his old hat again, and went on, as if anxious to be done.
"Soon's ever I woke, next morning, I looked round to thank Tom, for his
blanket was over me. He was sitting as I left him, his hand on my
pillow, his face toward me, so quiet and happy-looking I couldn't
believe he was gone. But he was, and I have had no mate since."
"Where did he live?" asked Rose, as softly as if speaking of one she had
known and loved.
"Over yonder." And Joel pointed to a little brown house on the hillside.
"Are his mother and Hetty there?"
"Hetty married a number of years ago; but the old lady is there."
"And you are visiting her?"
"I live with her. You see Tom was all she had; and, when Hetty left, it
was only natural that I tried to take Tom's place. Can't never fill it
of course; but I do what I can, and she's comfortable."
"So _she_ is the 'old mother' who thinks so much of you? Well she may,"
said Rose, giving him her brightest smile.
"Yes, she's all I've got now. Couldn't do no less, could I, seein' how
much Tom done for me?" answered the man, with a momentary quiver of
emotion in his rough voice.
"You're a trump!" said Uncle Ben, emphatically.
"Thanky, sir. Starboard, if you please. I don't care to get into the
rapids just here."
Joel seemed to dislike telling this part of the story; but the three
listeners beamed upon him with such approving faces that he took to his
oars in self-defence, rowing with all his might, till the roar of the
Fall was faintly heard.
"Now, where shall I land you, sir?"
"Let us lunch on the island," proposed Rose.
"I see a tent, and fancy some one is camping there," said Milly.
"A lot of young fellows have been there this three days," said Joel.
"Then we will go on, and take to the grove above the Fall," ordered
Alas! alas! for Rose. That decision delayed her happiness a whole half
day; for on that island, luxuriously reading "The Lotus Eaters," as he
lay in the long grass, was the Gabriel this modern Evangeline was
waiting for. She never dreamed he was so near. And the brown-bearded
student never lifted up his head as the boat floated by, carrying the
lady of his love.
"I want to give him more than his fare. So I shall slip my cigar-case
into the pocket of this coat," whispered Uncle Ben, as Joel was busy
drawing up the boat and getting a stone or two to facilitate the ladies'
"I shall leave my book for him. He was poring over an old newspaper, as
if hungry for reading. The dash and daring of 'John Brent' will charm
him; and the sketch of Winthrop's life in the beginning will add to its
value, I know." And, hastily scribbling his name in it, Rose slipped the
book under the coat.
But Milly, seeing how old that coat was, guessed that Joel gave his
earnings to the old woman to whom he dutifully played a son's part.
Writing on a card "For Tom's mother and mate," she folded a five-dollar
bill round it, fastened it with a little pearl cross from her own
throat, and laid it in the book.
Then all landed, and, with a cordial hand-shake and many thanks, left
Joel to row away, quite unconscious that he was a hero in the pretty
girl's eyes, till he found the tokens of his passengers' regard and
"Now that is an adventure after my own heart," said Rose, as they
rustled along the grassy path toward the misty cloud that hung over the
"We have nothing but sandwiches and sherry for lunch, unless we find a
house and add to our stores," said Uncle Ben, beginning to feel hungry
and wondering how far his provisions would go.
"There is a little girl picking berries. Call her and buy some,"
suggested Milly, who had her doubts about the state of the sandwiches,
as the knapsack had been sat upon.
A shout from Uncle Ben caused the little girl to approach,--timidly at
first; but, being joined by a boy, her courage rose, and when the idea
of a "trade" was impressed upon their minds fear was forgotten and the
"How much a quart?"
"Eight cents, sir."
"But that birch-bark thing is not full."
"Now it is," and the barefooted, tow-headed lad filled the girl's
pannier from his own.
"Here's chivalry for you," said Rose, watching the children with
interest; for the girl was pretty, and the boy evidently not her
"You don't pick as fast as she does," said Milly, while Uncle Ben hunted
up the money.
"He's done his stent, and was helpin' me. I'll have to pick a lot before
I git my quarter," said the girl, defending her friend, in spite of her
"Must you each make a quarter?"
"Yes'm. We don't have to; but we wanter, so we can go to the circus
that's comin' to-morrer. He made his'n ketchin' trout; so he's helpin'
me," explained the girl.
"Where do you get your trout?" asked Uncle Ben, sniffing the air, as if
he already smelt them cooking.
"In the brook. I ain't sold mine yet. Want to buy 'em? Six big ones for
a quarter," said the boy, seeing hunger in the good man's eye and many
greenbacks in the corpulent purse.
"Yes, if you'll clean them."
"But, Uncle, we can't cook them," began Milly.
"_I_ can. Let an old campaigner alone for getting up a gipsy lunch. You
wanted a surprise; so I'll give you one. Now, Billy, bring on your
"My name is Daniel Webster Butterfield Brown," returned the boy, with
dignity; adding, with a comical change of tone: "Them fish _is_ cleaned,
or you'd a got 'em cheaper."
"Very well. Hand them over."
Off ran the boy to the brook; and the girl was shyly following, when
"Will you sell me that pretty bark pannier of yours? I want one for my
"No'm. I guess I'd ruther not."
"I'll give you a quarter for it. Then you can go to the circus without
working any more."
"Dan made this for me, real careful; and I couldn't sell it, no way. He
wouldn't go without me. And I'll pick stiddy all day, and git my money.
See if I don't!" answered the child, hugging her treasure close.
"Here's your romance in the bud," said Uncle Ben, trying not to laugh.
"It's beautiful!" said Rose, with energy. "What is your name, dear?"
"Gusty Medders, please'm."
"Dan isn't your brother?"
"No'm. He lives to the poor-house. But he's real smart, and we play
together. And him and me is going to the show. He always takes care o'
me; and my mother thinks a sight of him, and so do I," returned the
child, in a burst of confidence.
"Happy little Gusty!" said Rose, to herself.
"Thrice happy Dan," added Uncle Ben, producing the fat pocket-book
again, with the evident intention of bestowing a fortune on the small
"Don't spoil the pretty little romance. Don't rob it of its
self-sacrifice and simplicity. Let them earn their money. Then they will
enjoy it more," cried Milly, holding his hand.
Uncle Ben submitted, and paid Dan his price, without adding a penny.
"The lady wanted to buy my basket. But I didn't sell it, Danny; 'cause
you give it as a keepsake," they heard Gusty say, as the children turned
"Good for you, Gus; but I'll sell mine." And back came Dan, to dispose
of his for the desired quarter. "Now we're fixed complete, and you
needn't pick a darned berry. We've got fifty cents for the show, and
eight, over for peanuts and candy. Won't we have a good time, though?"
With which joyful remark Dan turned a somersault, and then the little
pair vanished in the wood, with shining faces, to revel in visions of
the splendors to come.
"Now you have got your elephant, what are you going to do with him?"
asked Rose, as they went on again,--she with her pretty basket of fruit,
and he with a string of fish wrapped in leaves.
"Come on a bit, and you will see."
Uncle Ben led them to the shade of a great maple, on a green slope, in
sight of the noisy Fall, leaping from rock to rock, till the stream went
singing away through wide, green meadows below.
"Now rest and cool yourselves, while I cook the dinner." And away
bustled the good man, on hospitable thoughts intent.
Plenty of dry drift-wood lay about the watercourse, and soon a brisk
fire burned on the rocks not far away. Shingles for plates, with pointed
sticks for forks, seemed quite in keeping with the rustic feast; and
when the edibles were set forth on leaves the girls were charmed, and
praised the trout, as it came hot from the coals, till even the flushed
cook was satisfied.
"I'd like to live so always. It is so interesting to pick up your food
as you go, and eat it when and where you like. I think I could be quite
happy leading a wild life like this," said Rose, as she lay in the
grass, dropping berries one by one into her mouth.
"You would soon tire of it, Miss Caprice; but, if it amuses for a single
day, I am satisfied," answered Milly, with her motherly smile, as she
stroked the bright head in her lap, feeling sure that happiness was in
store for so much youth and beauty.
Lulled by the soft caress, and the song of the waterfall, Rose fell
asleep, and for an hour dreamed blissfully, while the maple dropped its
shadows on her placid face, and all the wholesome influences of the
place worked their healing spell on soul and body.
"A thunder-shower is rolling up in the west, my dears. We must be
getting toward some shelter, unless we are to take a drenching as part
of the day's pleasure," said Uncle Ben, rising briskly after his own
"I see no house anywhere; but a big barn down in the intervale, and a
crowd of people getting in their hay. Let us make for that, and lie on
the sweet haycocks till the shower comes," proposed Milly.
As they went down the steep path, Rose began to sing; and at the
unwonted sound her uncle and friend exchanged glances of satisfaction,
for not a note had she sung for weeks. A happy mood seemed to have taken
possession of her; and when they reached the intervale she won the old
farmer's heart by catching up a rake and working stoutly, till the first
heavy drops began to fall. Then she rode up to the barn on a fragrant
load, and was so charmed with the place that she declined his invitation
to "Come up and see the old woman and set a spell," and declared that
she depended on enjoying the thunder-storm where she was.
The farmer and his men went their way, and Rose was just settling
herself at the upper window, where the hay had been pitched in, when a
long line of gay red vans came rattling down the road, followed by
carriages and gilded cars, elephants and camels, fine horses and frisky
ponies, all more or less excited by the coming storm.
"It's the circus! How I wish Gusty and Dan could see it!" cried Rose,
clapping her hands like a child. "I do believe they are coming here. Now
that will be charming, and the best adventure of all," she added, as a
carriage and several vans turned into the grassy road leading to the
A pair of elephants slowly lumbered after, with a camel or two, and the
finest gilded car. The rest rattled on, hoping to reach the town in
time. In a moment the quiet country scene was changed, and the big barn
transformed into a theatrical Babel.
Our party retreated to a loft, and sat looking down on the show,
enjoying it heartily; especially Rose, who felt as if suddenly
translated into an Eastern tale. The storm came on dark and wild, rain
poured, thunder rolled, and lightning gave lurid glimpses of the strange
The elephants placidly ate hay; the tired camels lay down with gusty
sighs and queer groanings; but the lion in his lonely van roared royally
at intervals, and the tigers snarled and tore about their cage like
The great golden car lit up the gloom; and in it sat, or lay, the
occupants of the carriage,--a big, dark man, and a little blonde
creature, with a pretty, tired, painted face. Rose soon found herself
curiously attracted to this pair, for they were evidently lovers; and
there was a certain frank, melodramatic air about them that took her
fancy. The dark man lay on the red cushion, smoking tranquilly; while
the girl hovered about him with all manner of small attentions.
Presently he seemed to drop asleep, undisturbed by the thunder without
or the clamor within. Then the small creature smoothed her gay yet
shabby dress, and braided up her hair, as composedly as if in her own
room. That done, she looked about her for amusement; and, spying Rose's
interested face peering down at her from above, she nodded, and called
out, in a saucy voice,--
"How do you like us? Shall I come up and make you a visit?"
"I beg you will," answered Rose, in spite of a warning touch from Milly.
Up sprang the little circus-rider; and, disdaining the ladder, skipped
to the gilded dome of the car, and then took a daring leap on to the
loft, landing near them with a laugh.
For a minute she eyed the others with a curious mixture of coolness and
hesitation, as if it suddenly struck her that they were not country
girls, to be dazzled by her audacity. Milly saw and understood the
pause, liked the girl for it, and said, as courteously as if to a lady
in her own parlor,--
"There is plenty of room for us all. Pray sit down and enjoy this fine
view with us. The storm is passing over now, and it will soon be fair."
"Thank you!" said the girl, dropping on to the hay, with her bold,
bright eyes, full of admiration, fixed on Rose, who smiled, and said
"You belong to the troop, I suppose?"
"First lady rider," replied the girl, with a toss of the head.
"It must be very romantic to lead such a life, and go driving from place
to place in this way."
"It's a hard life, any way; and not much romance, you'd better believe."
"Not even for _you_." And Rose glanced at the sleeper below.
The girl smiled. Her bold eyes turned to him with a softened look, and
the natural color deepened on her painted cheeks, as she said, in a
"Yes, Joe does make a difference for me. We've only been married three
"What does he do?"
"He's the lion-tamer." And the girl gave them a glance of wifely pride
in her husband's prowess.
"Oh! tell me about it!" cried Rose. "I admire courage so much."
"You ought to see him do Daniel in the lion's den, then. Or his great
tiger act, where he piles four of 'em up, and lays on top. It's just
"But very dangerous! Does he never fear them? And do they never hurt
"He don't fear any thing in the world," said the girl, entirely
forgetting herself, in enthusiastic praise of her husband.
"Cæsar, the lion, loves him like a dog; and Joe trusts him as he does
me. But them tigers are deceitful beasts, and can't be trusted a minute.
Judas went at Joe once, and half killed him. He seems tame enough now;
but I hate him, for they say that if a tiger once tastes a man's blood
he's sure to kill him sooner or later. So I don't have a minute's peace
when Joe is in that cage." And the little woman shivered with very
genuine anxiety at the thought of her husband's danger.
"And, knowing this, he runs the risk every day! What a life!" said Uncle
Ben, looking down at the unconscious Joe.
"A brave life, Uncle, and full of excitement. The minutes in that cage
must be splendid. I wish I could see him once!" cried Rose, with the
restless look in her eyes again.
"He'd do it, if he had his things here. He'll do any thing _I_ ask him,"
said the girl, evidently proud of her power over the lion-tamer.
"We will come and see him to-morrow. Can't you tell us how he manages to
subdue these wild animals? I always wanted to know about it," said Rose,
wondering if she could not get some hints for the taming of men.
"Joe'll tell you." And, calling from her perch, the girl waked the
sleeper and ordered him up to amuse the gentle-folk.
The big man came, with comical meekness; and, lounging on the hay,
readily answered the questions showered upon him. Rose enjoyed that hour
intensely; for the tales Joe told were full of wild adventure,
hair-breadth escapes, and feats of strength or skill, that kept his
listeners half breathless with interest. The presence of the little wife
gave an added charm to these stories; for it was evident that the tamer
of lions was completely subdued by the small woman. His brown, scarred
face softened as it turned to her. While he talked, the strong hands
that clutched lions by the throat were softly stroking the blonde head
at his side; and, when he told of the fierce struggle with Judas, he
grew so eloquent over the account of Kitty's nursing him that it was
plain to see he was prouder of the conquest of her girl's heart than of
his hard-won victory over the treacherous tiger.
The man's courage lent romance to his vulgar life, and his love ennobled
his whole nature for a time. Kitty ate peanuts while he thrilled his
hearers with his feats; but her face was so full of pride and affection
all the while that no one minded what she did, and even Milly forgave
the painted cheeks and cotton velvet dress for the sake of the womanly
The storm passed, the circus people bestirred themselves, and in a few
minutes were on their way again. Joe and Kitty said "Good-by" as
heartily as if that half-hour had made them friends; and, packing
themselves into the little carriage drawn by the calico tandem, dashed
away as gayly as if their queer honeymoon journey had just begun. Like
parts of a stage pageant, the gilded car, the elephants and camels,
frisky ponies, and gay red vans vanished along the winding road, leaving
the old barn to silence and the scandalized swallows twittering among
"I feel as if I'd been to an Arabian Night's entertainment," said Rose,
as they descended and turned toward home.
"It was very interesting, and I do hope that brave Joe won't get eaten
up by the tigers. What would poor Kitty do?" returned Milly, warmly.
"It would be sad and dreadful; but she would have the comfort of knowing
how much he loved her. Some women don't even have that," added Rose,
under her breath.
"A capital fellow and a nice little woman. We'll go and see them
to-morrow; though I fancy I shall not like Mrs. Kitty half so well in
gauze and spangles, jumping through hoops and over banners on horseback,
as I did on the hayloft. And I shall be desperately anxious till Joe is
safely out of the tiger's cage," said Uncle Ben, who had been as
interested as a boy in the wild tales told them.
For an hour they walked back along the river-side, enjoying the wood
odors brought out by the shower, the glories of the sunset sky, and the
lovely rainbow that arched overhead,--a bow of promise to those who
seemed passing under it from the old life to a new one, full of tender
"I see a nice old woman in that kitchen, and I want to stop and ask for
some new milk. Perhaps she will give us our supper, and then we can go
on by moonlight," said Rose, as they came to a weather-beaten
farm-house, standing under an ancient elm, with its door hospitably
open, and a grandmotherly figure going to and fro within.
Rose's request was most graciously received, for the old woman seemed to
regard them as most welcome cheerers of her solitude, and bustled about
with an infectious cordiality that set them at their ease directly.
"Do tell! Caught in the shower? It come so suddin', I mistrusted some
folks would get a duckin'. You kin hev supper jest as wal as not.
'Tain't a mite o' trouble, ef you don't mind plain vittles. Enos and me
lives alone, and he ain't no gret of an eater; but I allers catle'ate to
hev a good store of pervision on hand this time a year, there's such a
sight of strangers round the mountains. The table's all set; and I'll
jest add a pinch of tea and a couple of pies, and there we be. Now draw
right up, and do the best you kin."
The cheery old soul was so hospitable that her presence gave a grace to
her homely table and added flavor to her plain fare. Uncle Ben's eyes
twinkled when he saw dainty Rose eating brown-bread and milk out of a
yellow bowl, with the appetite of a dairymaid; and Milly rejoiced over
the happy face opposite; wishing that it might always wear that
Enos was a feeble, bed-ridden, old man, who lay in a small room opening
from the kitchen. A fretful invalid he seemed to be, hard to suit and
much given to complaint. But the tender old wife never lost patience
with him; and it was beautiful to see how cheerfully she trotted to and
fro, trying to gratify every whim, without a reproachful word or thought
After tea, as Rose wanted to wait till moonrise, Uncle Ben went in to
chat with the invalid, while Milly insisted on wiping the cups for the
old lady; and Rose sat on the doorstep, listening to their chat, and
watching twilight steal softly up the valley. Presently her attention
was fixed by something the old lady said in answer to Milly's praises of
the quaint kitchen.
"Yes, dear, I've lived here all my days. Was born in that bed-room; and
don't ask no better than to die there when my time comes."
"Most people are not fortunate enough to keep their old home when they
marry. It must be very dear to you, having spent both your maiden and
married life here," said Milly, interested in her hostess.
"Wal, you see my maiden life lasted sixty year; and my married life
ain't but jest begun," answered the old lady, with a laugh as gay as a
Seeing curiosity in the quick glance Rose involuntarily gave her, the
chatty old soul went on, as if gossip was dear to her heart, and her
late-coming happiness still so new that she loved to tell it.
"I s'pose that sounds sing'lar to you young things; but, you see, though
me and Enos was engaged at twenty or so, we warn't married till two year
ago. Things was dreadful con'try, and we kep a waitin' and a waitin',
till I declare for't I really did think I should die an old maid." And
she laughed again, as if her escape was the best joke in the world.
"And you waited forty years?" cried Rose, with her great eyes full of
"Yes, dear. I had other chances; but somehow they didn't none of them
suit, and the more unfort'nate Enos was the more I kinder held on to
him. He was one of them that's allers tryin' new things, and didn't
never seem to make a fortin out of any on 'em. He kept a tryin' because
he had nothin', and would'nt marry till he was wal off. My mother was
dead, and left a family to be took care on. I was the oldest gal, and so
I nat'rally kept house for father till he died, and the children grew up
and married off. So I warn't idle all them years, and got on first-rate,
allers hopin' Enos's luck would turn. But it didn't (them cups goes in
the right-hand corner, dear); and so I waited and waited, and hoped and
"Oh! how could you?" sighed Rose, from the soft gloom of the doorway.
"'Pears to me strength is give us most wonderful to bear trials, if we
take 'em meek. I used to think I couldn't bear it no way when I was left
here alone, while Enos was in Californy; and I didn't know for seven
year whether he was dead or alive. His folks give him up; but I never
did, and kept on hopin' and prayin' for him till he come back."
"How happy you were then!" cried Rose, as if she could sympathize
heartily with that joy.
"No, I warn't, dear. That was the hardest part on't; for Enos was
married to a poor, shiftless thing, that was a burden to him for ten
"That _was_ hard," and Rose gave a groan, as if a new trouble had
suddenly come upon her.
"I done my best for 'em, in their ups and downs, till they went West.
Then I settled down to end my days here alone. My folks was all dead or
fur away, and it was uncommon lonesome. But I kinder clung to the old
place, and had it borne in upon me strong that Enos would turn up agin
in time. I wanted him to find me here, ready to give him a helpin' hand
whenever and however he come."
"And he did, at last?" asked Rose, with a sympathetic quiver in her
voice that went to the old woman's heart.
"Yes, my deary; he did come at last," she said, in a voice full of a
satisfaction that was almost solemn in its intensity. "Ruther mor'n two
years ago he knocked at that door, a poor, broken-down old man, without
wife, or child, or money, or home,--nothin' in the wide world but me. He
didn't think I'd take him in, he was so mis'able. But, Lord love him,
what else had I been a waitin' for them forty year? It warn't the Enos
that I loved fust; but that didn't matter one mite. And when he sat
sobbin' in that chair, and sayin' he had no friend but me, why I just
answered back: 'My home is your'n, Enos; and I give it jest as hearty as
I did when you fust pupposed, under the laylock bushes, in the back
gardin. Rest here, my poor dear, and let Becky take care on you till she
"So he stayed?" said Milly, with tears in her voice, for Rose's head was
down on her knees, so eloquent had been the pathos of that old voice,
telling its little tale of faithful love.
"Certin. And we was married, so no one need make no talk. Folks said it
was a dreadful poor match, and took on about my doin' on't; for I'm wal
off, and Enos hadn't a cent. But we was satisfied, and I ain't never
repented of that day's work; for he took to his bed soon after, and
won't quit it, the doctor says, till he's took to his grave."
"You dear soul, I must kiss you for that lovely deed of yours, and thank
you from my heart for this lesson in fidelity." And, obeying an
irresistible impulse, Rose threw her arms round the old lady's neck,
kissing the wrinkled cheek with real reverence and tenderness.
"Sakes alive! Wal, I never did see sech a softhearted little creter.
Why, child, what I done warn't nothin' but a pleasure. We women are such
queer things, we don't care how long we wait, ef we only hev our way at
As she spoke, the old woman hugged the blooming girl with a motherly
warmth, most sweet and comfortable to see; yet the longing look, the
lingering touch, betrayed how much the tender old heart would have loved
to pillow there a child of its own.
Just then Uncle Ben appeared, and the early moon peeped over the
mountain-top, plainly hinting that it was time for the wanderers to turn
homeward. Bidding their hospitable hostess good night, they came again
into the woody road, now haunted with soft shadows and silvery with
falling dew. The brown brooks were singing lullabies, the pines
whispering musically in the wind, the mellow moonlight was falling
everywhere, and the world was full of the magical beauty of a
"Go on, please, and let me follow alone. I want to think over my
pleasant day, and finish it with waking dreams, as I go through this
enchanted wood," said Rose, whose mind was full of sweet yet sober
thoughts; for she had gathered herbs of grace while carelessly pulling
wayside flowers, and from the simple adventures of the day had
unconsciously received lessons that never were forgotten.
The other walked on, and the girl followed, living over again the happy
winter during which she had learned to know and love the young neighbor
who had become the hero of her dreams. She had felt sure he loved her,
though the modest youth had never told her so, except with eloquent
glances and tender devotion. She believed in him, loved him truly, and
waited with maidenly patience to hear the words that would unseal her
lips. They did not come, and he had left her with no hope but such as
she could find in the lingering pressure of his hand and the warmly
uttered "I shall see you again."
Since then, no line, no word; and all through the lovely spring she had
looked and waited for the brown-bearded student,--looked and waited in
vain. Then unrest took possession of her, anxiety tormented her, and
despair made her young face pathetic. Only the sad, simple old story,
but as bitter to live through now as in poor Dido's day; more bitter,
perhaps, because we cannot erect funeral pyres and consume the body with
a flame less fierce than that which burns away the soul unseen.
Now in the silence of that summer night a blessed peace seemed to fall
on the girl's unquiet heart, as she trod thoughtfully along the shadowy
road. Courage and patience seemed to spring up within her. To wait and
hope and love without return became a possibility; and, though a few hot
tears rolled down the cheeks, that had lost their roses, the eyes that
shed them were more tender for the tears, and the heart that echoed the
old wife's words--"Strength is given us to bear our trials, if we take
them meekly"--was worthier of life's best blessing, love, because of its
As she paused a moment to wipe away the tell-tale drops, before she
joined the others, the sound of far-off music came on the wings of the
wind,--a man's voice, singing one of the love-lays that are never old.
As if spell-bound, Rose stood motionless in the broad streak of light
that fell athwart the road. She knew the voice, the sweet old song
seemed answering her prayer, and now it needed no golden butterfly to
guide her to her lover.
Nearer and nearer came the singer, pouring out his lay as if his heart
was in it. Brighter and brighter glowed the human rose, as the
featherless nightingale told his tale in music, unconsciously
approaching the happy sequel with each step.
Out from the gloom he came, at last; saw her waiting for him in the
light; seemed to read the glad truth in her face, and stretched both
hands to her without a word. She took them; and what followed who shall
say? For the moon, best friend of lovers, discreetly slipped behind a
cloud, and the pines whispered their congratulations as they wrapped the
twain in deepest shadow.
When, half an hour later, they joined the other pair (who, strange to
say, had quite forgotten their charge), Uncle Ben exclaimed, as he
welcomed the new-comer with unusual cordiality: "Why, Rose! You look
quite glorified in this light and as well as ever. We must try this cure
"No need, sir. I have done with the heartache, and here is my
physician," answered Rose, with a look at her lover which told the story
better than the best chosen words.
"And here is mine," echoed Milly, leaning on Uncle Ben's arm as if it
belonged to her; as it did, for the moonlight had been too much for the
old bachelor, and, in spite of his fifty years, he had wooed and won
Milly as ardently as any boy. So the lonely future she had accepted so
cheerfully suddenly bloomed with happy hopes; and the older couple
looked as blissfully content as the young pair, who greeted with the
blithest laughter that ever woke the echoes of the wood, this fit ending
to the romance of a summer day.
MY ROCOCO WATCH.
All three of us were inspired with an intense desire to possess one of
these quaint watches, the moment we saw one hanging at the side of a
certain lovely woman at a party where it created a great sensation.
Imitations we would not have, and the genuine article could not be found
even in Geneva, the paradise of time-pieces. My sisters soon ceased to
pine for the impossible, and contented themselves with other antique
gauds. Fan rejoiced in a very ugly Cinque-Cento ring like a tiny coffin,
and Mary was the proud possessor of a Roman necklace composed of gods
I, however, remained true to my first love and refused to be satisfied
with any thing but a veritable rococo watch, for that, I maintained,
united the useful and the beautiful. Resisting the temptations of Rome,
Paris, and Geneva, I skilfully lured my unsuspecting party into all
sorts of out-of-the-way places under pretence of studying up the old
The girls did the churches faithfully, but I shirked them and spent my
shining hours poking about dirty streets and staring in at the windows
of ancient jewelry shops, patiently seeking for the watch of my dreams.
I was rallied unmercifully upon my mania, and many jokes were played
upon me by the frolicksome girls, who more than once sent me posting off
by reports of some remarkable trinket in some almost unattainable place.
But, nothing daunted, I continued my vain search all through France, and
never relinquished my hope till we left St. Malo on our way to Brest,
whence we were to sail for home. Then I despaired, and, having nothing
more to toil for, began to enjoy myself with a free mind, and then it
was that capricious fortune chose to smile upon me and reward my long
Finding that we had a day before us, we explored the queer old town,
and, as our tastes varied, each went a different way. I roamed about the
narrow streets, seeking some odd souvenir to carry away, and was peering
into a dark lane, attracted by some fine shells, when suddenly I was
arrested by a sight which caused me to pause in the middle of a puddle,
exclaiming dramatically, "At last! at last!"
Yes, there, in the dusty window of a pawnbroker's shop, hung the most
enchanting watch, crystal ball, silver chains, enamelled medallions, and
cluster of charms, all encrusted with pearls, garnets, and turquoises
set in the genuine antique style. One long gaze, one rapturous
exclamation, and I skipped from the puddle to the doorstep, bent on
securing the prize at all costs.
Bouncing in upon a withered little man, who was taking coffee in a
shadowy recess, I demanded the price of the watch. Of course the little
man was on the alert at once, and began by protesting that it was not
for sale; but I saw the fib in his eye, and sweetly insisted that I must
have it. Then he improvised a mournful tale about a family of rank
reduced by misfortune and forced to dispose of their cherished relics in
some private manner. I affected to believe the touching romance, and
offered a handsome sum for the watch, which, on closer inspection,
struck me as rather more antique than even I desired.
Instantly the little man clasped his hands and protested that it was an
insult to propose such a paltry price for so beautiful and perfect a
treasure. Double the sum might be a temptation, but not a sou less.
This was so absurd that I tried to haggle a little; but I never
succeeded in that line, so my attempt ended in both of us getting angry,
when the little man tore the watch from my hands, and I left the shop as
precipitately as I entered it.
Retiring to the square to cool my indignation, I was reposing on a
bench, when I beheld the little man approaching with the blandest
expression, and, bowing profoundly, he resumed the subject as if we had
"If madame would allow him to consult the owner of this so charming
watch, the affair might yet be arranged in a satisfactory manner. If
madame would leave her address, he would report to her in a few hours,
and have the happiness of obliging the dear lady."
I consented, but preferred to return to his shop later in the day, for I
wished to astonish the girls by producing my prize at some opportune
moment, and I much feared if I told them of my discovery that the
bargain would never be made.
I suffered agonies of suspense for hours, but basely attributed my
restlessness to the heat and weariness. Five o'clock and dinner, but I
declined going down, and slipped away to my tryst with the little old
man. He was ready for me with another romance of the noble owner's
reluctance to part with an heirloom for less than the price he had
named. In vain I talked, wheedled, and protested; the crafty little man
saw that I meant to have that watch, and was firm. At last I pretended
to give it up, and, thanking him for his trouble, retired mournfully,
hoping he would follow me again, for I had told him that I should leave
in the steamer expected next day.
But the evening passed, and no little man appeared, although I sat on
the balcony till the moon rose. Morning came, and with it the steamer,
but still no watch arrived, as other coveted articles had often done,
when we firmly refused to be imposed upon.
My secret agitation increased, and my temptation waxed stronger and
stronger as the hour of departure approached. The girls thought me
nervous about the voyage, but were too busy to heed my preoccupation,
while I was too much ashamed of my infatuation to confess it and ask
Fifteen minutes before we started for the wharf, I gave in, and
muttering something about looking up the carriage, I flew round the
corner, demanded the watch, paid an abominable price for it, and sneaked
back, knowing I had been cheated by the sly old fellow, who had
evidently expected me, and whom I left chuckling over his bargain, as
well he might, the rascal!
The moment the deed was done my spirits returned, and I beamed upon my
sisters as benignly as if I carried a boundless supply of good humor in
my pocket instead of that costly watch packed up in a shabby little box.
We sailed, and for several days I forgot every thing but my own woe;
then came a calm, and then choosing a moment when the girls were
comparing their treasures with those of other returning voyagers, I
proudly produced my watch. The effect was superb. Cries of admiration
greeted it from all but my sisters, who looked at one another in comic
dismay and burst into fits of laughter.
"We saw it and tried to get it, but it cost so much we gave it up, and
never told lest Penelope should be tempted beyond her strength. We might
have spared our pains, for it was to be, and it is vain to fight against
fate, only do tell us if you paid that Shylock what he asked us?" said
Mary, naming a smaller sum than my first handsome offer.
"I did not pay that, and I shall never tell what it cost, for you
wouldn't believe me if I did. It was a good bargain, I assure you--for
Shylock," I added to myself, and kept my secret jealously, knowing I
never should hear the last of it if the awful truth was known.
My treasure was so much admired that I was afraid it would be ravished
from me, and I hid it in all sorts of places, like a magpie with a
stolen spoon. I never went on deck without taking it with me for safe
keeping. I never woke in the morning without burrowing under my mattress
to see if it was safe, and never turned in for the night without seeing
that I was prepared for shipwreck by having my life-preserver handy and
half-a-dozen ship biscuits, a bottle of water, and the precious box
lashed firmly together, for with that dearly bought watch I was resolved
to sink or swim, live or die.
Being permitted to reach land in safety, I prepared to eclipse Fan's
ring and Mary's necklace with my rich and rare rococo watch. But I found
it impossible to set it going, though I tried all the keys in the house,
so I took it to an experienced watchmaker and left it to be regulated.
Every one knows what that means, and can imagine my impatience as week
after week went by and still that blessed thing was not done. It came at
last, however, and with it a bill that startled me; but I could not
dispute it, for the job was a difficult one, owing to the antiquity of
the works and the skill required to set a watch going that probably had
not been wound up for half a century.
It went for a week, and then stopped for ever; for the general verdict
was that no modern tinkering would restore its tone, since the springs
of life were broken and the venerable wheels at a dead lock.
"Well, it is ornamental if not useful, only I am sorry I gave away my
good old watch, thinking this would be all I needed," I said, making the
best of what I alone knew to be a desperately bad bargain.
So I hung the silent thing to my girdle and went forth to awaken the
envy and admiration of all beholders. But, alas! the second time I wore
it, one of the medallions was lost, could not be found, and its place
had to be filled with a modern one, entirely out of keeping with the
others. Bill the second was paid with much lamentation, and again I
tried to enjoy my watch. But the fates seemed to be against me, for
presently it was stolen by a maid who admired mediæval jewelry as well
as her mistress.
What a state of excitement we were in then, to be sure! Cousin Dick took
the matter in hand, and searched for the lost watch with the patience,
if not the skill, of a detective. Mysterious men came to examine the
servants, dreadful questions as to its value were put to me, and, worst
of all, I knew that this sort of hide-and-go-seek was a fearfully
expensive game, and of course I wasn't going to let Dick pay for it.
It was found at last, and restored to me somewhat the worse for the
rough handling of curious admirers. Bill the third was paid with the
calmness of despair, for I really began to think some evil spell was
hidden in that crystal ball; a spell which attracted, then infatuated,
and now controlled me, leading me slowly and surely, through tribulation
after tribulation, to the poor-house in the end.
The accidents that befell that fatal watch would fill a chapter, and the
narrow escapes it had would make a thrilling tale. Babies half choked
themselves with the charms, little Tommy was discovered trying to divest
it of all incumbrances that he might use it as a "jolly big marble." It
was always falling off, catching in buttons, or bobbing wildly about
when I danced, and more than once I was cut to the soul by hearing
benighted people wonder at Miss Pen's bad taste in wearing Salom
jewelry. Salom, be it known to the ignorant, is an excellent man who
deals in mock ornaments of great brilliancy and cheapness.
Soon the jewels began to fall out, and I scattered pearls about me like
the young lady in the fairy tale. Then the chain broke, and the charms
were lost. In one of the many falls, the crystal got cracked; the silver
tarnished till it looked like dingy lead, and at last no beauty remained
to reconcile me to its utter uselessness. My poor watch was the standing
joke of the family, and kept every one merry but its owner. To me it was
a disgrace, and I suffered endless disappointments and delays by having
no trusty time-keeper at hand. Pride prevented my applying to others,
and bitterly I mourned in secret for the true old friend I had deserted
when the false new one came.
I ceased to wear the hollow mockery, and hoped people would forget it,
but the girls still displayed their more successful ornaments; and I was
forced to tell the sad tale of my mortifying failure in reply to the
"And what charming old trinket did Pen get?"
But this was not the worst of it. Like little Rosamond in the moral
tale, I had to wear my old shoes when the purple jar proved a delusion
and a snare. I had overrun my allowance by that rash purchase, and had
to economize just when I most wished to be fine. "Beauty unadorned," and
that sort of thing, is all nonsense when a woman burns to look her
loveliest in the eyes of certain persons, and the anguish I endured when
I looked at that rubbishy old watch, and thought what sweet things could
have been bought with the money recklessly lavished upon it, can better
be imagined than described.
Fain would I have sold my treasure for a quarter what I gave for it, but
who would buy the ruined relic now? And the mere idea of having it even
partially repaired made my blood run cold. So I laid it away as a
warning example of woman's folly, and began to save up, that I might
replace it by a modern watch with all the improvements procurable for
I was effectually cured of my passion for antiquities, and hated the
sound of the word _rococo_. Nothing could be too new for me now, and I
privately studied up on watches, being bound never to buy another,
which, though it might last to all eternity, yet had no connection with
Slowly the memory of that temptation and fall seemed to fade from all
minds but my own; slowly my little hoard increased at the expense of
many an ungratified whim, inviting bargain, or girlish vanity, and
slowly I decided what sort of watch would most entirely combine the
solid virtues and modest graces I desired to possess in the new one I
intended to choose so wisely and well.
But just as my hundred dollars was nearly completed, I discovered that
Dick's younger brother, Geordie, had got himself into a boyish scrape,
and was planning to run away to sea as the best means of settling the
difficulty. I was immediately possessed with an intense desire to help
the poor lad, and, having won his confidence in a desponding moment, I
offered my little hoard as a loan, to be paid in time, if he would
accept it on no other condition.
I really don't think I could have done it for any one but Dick's
brother, and I did not desire any praise for it, since I made the boy
take a solemn vow that it should be a secret between us for ever. It was
reward enough to know that I had spared dear Dick another care, and done
something to be more worthy of him, though it was only a little
sacrifice like this.
So Geordie was a free man again, and my devoted slave from that day
forth, causing much merry wonderment in the family, and actually making
Dick jealous by his grateful gallantry.
My sacrifice cost me something more than the loss of my watch, however,
for with a part of the money I had planned to get a fine Christmas gift
for some one, and now I was obliged to content myself with such a poor
little offering that the girls called me mean, and nearly broke my heart
by insisting that I did not care for somebody who cared a great deal for
me. I bore it all and kept Geordie's secret faithfully; but I will
confess that, in a paroxysm of anger with myself, I clashed that hateful
rococo watch upon the floor and trampled on it as the only adequate vent
for the conflicting emotions which possessed me.
But the good fairies who fly about at Christmas time set every thing
right, and broke the evil spell cast over me by the Breton magician in
his gloomy cell. As we sat about the breakfast-table, talking over our
gifts on the morning of that happy day, Dick and Geordie came in to see
how we were after the fatigues of a grand family frolic the night
"Here's a new conundrum; guess it, girls," said Geordie, who had the
Dundreary fever upon him just at that time. "I was sent to India and
stopped there; I came back because I did not go there. Now what was it?"
We puzzled over it, but gave it up at last, and when Geordie answered,
"A watch," there was a general laugh, for since my ruinous speculation
that word always produced a sensation among us.
"The place mentioned should have been Brittany, not India, hey, Pen?"
said Dick, with a wicked twinkle of the eye.
"Don't," I began, pathetically, as the girls giggled, and Mary added,
with mock sympathy, "Hush, boys, and let that sacred sorrow be for ever
hidden in Pen's own breast."
"Watch and pray, dear, watch and pray, for I'm sure you have need of
both," cried Fan, seeing my rising wrath.
"Put your hands before your face but don't strike, I beg of you," cut in
Geordie, trying to be witty.
"It is a sad case, but I think I have a key that will wind up the affair
and set all going right," began Dick, still twinkling with fun.
To have him join the enemy was too much for me, because he had always
been very careful to avoid that tender point.
"If you say another word, I'll throw the horrid thing into the fire, for
I'm sick to death of hearing bad jokes made on it," I cried, feeling a
strong desire to shake them all round.
"No doubt; give it to me, and you shall never see or hear of it again. I
like old trinkets, and I'll never tell the story of that one, on my
honor as a gentleman," said Dick, in a tone that appeased my wrath at
"Do you really want it?" I asked, pleased and surprised, yet still a
little suspicious of some new joke.
"I do, because, although it will never go again, it will always remind
me of some of the happiest hours and minutes of my life, Pen."
There was no fun in Dick's eyes as he said that, and I was glad to hide
the sudden color in my cheeks by running away to get the poor old watch.
But I found there _was_ a surprise, and a very pleasant one, in store
for me; for, as I thrust the shabby box into Dick's pocket, he handed me
a little parcel prettily tied up with white ribbons, saying in his most
captivating way, "Fair exchange is no robbery, you know, so you must
take this, and then we shall be square."
"It looks like wedding cake," I said, surveying it with curiosity, and
wondering why Geordie and the girls did not stop to see the mystery
"No, that comes later, dear," answered Dick, in a tone that made me
devote myself to the white ribbons with sudden zeal.
A blue velvet case appeared, and I could not resist saying, in a voice
more tender than reproachful, "You extravagant man! I know it is
something costly and beautiful in return for the disgracefully mean gift
I gave you."
"Bless your innocent heart, did you think you could hide any thing from
me? Geordie couldn't keep a secret, and I'm only paying his debt, Pen
dear, with the sort of interest women like," Dick answered, with an
audacious arm around my waist and a brown beard close to my cheek.
As I did not refuse the offered interest, he added, in a softer tone,
"My own debt I never can settle unless with all my worldly goods I thee
endow; my heart you have had for years. Say yes, dear, and be my little
Never mind what I said, but I assure you if it had not been for Dick's
arm I should have gone under the table, when, a few minutes later, I
lifted the blue velvet lid and saw a dainty watch luxuriously lying on
its white satin bed.
BY THE RIVER.
A LEGEND OF THE ASSABET.
In the shadow of the bridge a boy lay reading on the grass,--a slender
lad, broad-browed and clear-eyed, barefooted and clad in homespun, yet
happy as a king; for health sat on his sunburned cheeks, a magic book
lay open before him, and sixteen years of innocence gave him a passport
to the freshest pleasures life can offer.
"Nat! Nat! come here and see!" cried a shrill voice from among the
alders by the river-side.
But Nat only shook his head as if a winged namesake had buzzed about his
ears, and still read on. Presently a twelve-years child came scrambling
up the bank, dragging a long rod behind her with a discontented air.
"I wish you'd come and help me. The fish won't bite and my line is in a
grievous snarl. Don't read any more. I'm tired of playing all alone."
"I forgot you, Ruthy, and it was ill done of me. Sit here and rest while
I undo the tangle," and Nat looked up good-naturedly at the small figure
before him, with its quaint pinafore, checked linen gown, and buckled
shoes; for this little maid lived nearly a hundred years ago and this
lad had seen Washington face to face.
"Now tell me a story while I wait. Not out of that stupid play-book you
are always reading, but about something that really happened, with
naughty children and nice folks in it, and have it end good," said Ruth,
beginning a dandelion chain; for surely it is safe to believe that our
honored grandmothers enjoyed that pretty pastime in their childhood.
Nat lay in the grass, dreamily regarding the small personage who ruled
him like a queen and whom he served with the devotion of a loyal heart.
Now the royal command was for a story, and, stifling a sigh, this rustic
gentleman closed the book, whose magic had changed the spring morning to
a Midsummer Night's Dream for an hour, and set himself to gratify the
little damsel's whim.
"You liked the last tale about the children who were lost. Shall I tell
one about a child who was found? It really happened, and you never heard
it before," he asked.
"Yes; but first put your head in my lap, for there are ants in the grass
and I like to see your eyes shine when you spin stories. Tell away."
"Once upon a time there was a great snow-storm," began Nat, obediently
pillowing his head on the blue pinafore.
"Whereabouts?" demanded Ruth.
"Don't spoil the story by interrupting. It was in this town, and I can
show you the very house I'm going to tell about."
"I like to know things straight along, and not bounce into a snow-storm
all in a minute. I'll be good. Go on."
"Well, it snowed so hard that people stayed indoors till the storm had
beat and blown itself away. Right in the worst of it, as a farmer and
his wife sat by the fire that night, they heard a cry at the door. You
see they were sitting very still, the man smoking his pipe and the woman
knitting, both thinking sorrowfully of their only son, who had just
"Don't have it doleful, Nat," briskly suggested Ruth, working busily
while the narrator's hands lay idle, and his eyes looked as if they
actually saw the little scene his fancy conjured up.
"No, I won't; only it really was like that," apologized Nat, seeing that
sentiment was not likely to suit his matter-of-fact auditor. "When the
cry came a second time, both of these people ran to the door. No one was
to be seen, but on the wide step they saw a little mound not there an
hour before. Brushing off the snow, they found a basket; and, when they
opened it, there lay a little baby, who put out its arms with a pitiful
cry, that went to their hearts. The woman hugged it close, fed it, and
hushed it to sleep as if it had been her own. Her husband let her do as
she liked, while he tried to find where it came from; but no trace
appeared, and there was no name or mark on the poor thing's clothes."
"Did they keep it?" asked Ruth, tickling Nat's nose with a curly
dandelion stem, to goad him on, as he lay silent for a moment.
"Yes, they kept it; for their hearts were sore and empty, and the
forlorn baby seemed to fill them comfortably. The townsfolk gossiped
awhile, but soon forgot it; and it grew up as if it had been born in the
farmer's house. I've often wondered if it wasn't the soul of the little
son who died, come back in another shape to comfort those good people."
"Now don't go wandering off, Nat; but tell me if he was a pretty, nice,
smart child," said Ruth, with an eye to the hero's future capabilities.
"Not a bit pretty," laughed Nat, "for he grew up tall and thin, with big
eyes and a queer brow. He wasn't 'nice,' either, if you mean good, for
he got angry sometimes and was lazy; but he tried,--oh! yes, he truly
tried to be a dutiful lad. He wasn't 'smart,' Ruth; for he hated to
study, and only loved story books, ballads, and plays, and liked to
wander round alone in the woods better than to be with other boys.
People laughed at him because of his queersome ways; but he couldn't
help it,--he was born so, and it would come out."
"He was what Aunt Becky calls shiftless, I guess. She says you are; but
I don't mind as long as you take care of me and tell me stories."
The boy sighed and shook his head as if a whole swarm of gnats were
annoying him now. "He was grateful, anyhow, this fellow I'm telling
about; for he loved the good folks and worked on the farm with all his
might to pay them for their pity. He never complained; but he hated it,
for delving day after day in the dirt made him feel as if he was nothing
but a worm."
"We are all worms," Deacon Hurd says; "so the boy needn't have minded,"
said Ruth, trying to assume a primly pious expression, that sat very ill
upon her blooming little face.
"But some worms can turn into butterflies, if they get a chance; so the
boy did mind, Ruthy." And Nat looked out into the summer world with a
longing glance, which proved that he already felt conscious of the
folded wings and was eager to try them.
"Was he a God-fearing boy?" asked Ruth, with a tweak of the ear; for her
friend showed signs of "wandering off" again into a world where her
prosaic little mind could not follow him.
"He didn't _fear_ God; he loved Him. Perhaps it was wrong; but somehow
he couldn't believe in a God of wrath when he saw how good and beautiful
the world was and how kind folks were to him. He felt as if the Lord was
his father, for he had no other; and when he was lonesomest that thought
was right comfortable and helpful to him. Was it wrong?" asked Nat of
"I'm afraid Aunt Becky would think so. She's awful pious, and boxed my
ears with a psalm-book last Sabbath, when I said I wished the lions
would bite Daniel in the den, I was so tired of seeing them stare and
roar at him. She wouldn't let me look at the pictures in the big Bible
another minute, and gave me a long hymn to learn, shut up in the back
bed-room. She's a godly woman, Deacon Hurd says; but I think she's
"Shall I tell any more, or are you tired of this stupid boy?" said Nat,
"Yes, you may as well finish. But do have something happen. Make him
grow a great man, like Whittington, or some of the story-book folks,
it's so nice to read about," answered Ruth, rather impatiently.
"I hope he did something better than trade cats and be lord mayor of
London. But that part of the story hasn't come yet; so I'll tell you of
two things that happened, one sad and one merry. When the boy was
fourteen, the good woman died, and that nearly broke his heart; for she
had made things easy for him, and he loved her dearly. The farmer sent
for his sister to keep house, and then the boy found it harder than ever
to bear his life; for the sister was a notable woman, well-meaning, but
as strict as Aunt Becky, and she pestered the lad as Aunt pesters me.
You see, Ruthy, it grew harder every year for him to work on the farm,
for he longed to be away somewhere quiet among books and learned folk.
He was not like those about him, and grew more unlike all the time, and
people often said: 'He's come of gentle blood. That's plain to see.' He
loved to think it was true,--not because he wanted to be rich and fine,
but to find his own place and live the life the Lord meant him to. This
feeling made him so unhappy that he was often tempted to run away, and
would have done it but for the gratitude that kept him.
"Lack-a-daisy! What a bad boy, when he had good clothes and victuals and
folks were clever to him! But did he ever find his grand relations?"
asked Ruth, curiosity getting the better of the reproof she thought it
her duty to administer.
"I don't know yet. But he did find something that made him happier and
more contented. Listen now; for you'll like this part, I know. One
night, as he came home with the cows, watching the pretty red in the
sky, hearing the crickets chirp, and picking flowers along the way,
because he liked to have 'em in his room, he felt uncommon lonesome, and
kept wishing he'd meet a fairy who'd give him all he wanted. When he got
to the house, he thought the fairy had really come; for there on the
door-stone stood a little lass, looking at him. A right splendid little
lass, Ruth, with brown hair long upon her shoulders, blue eyes full of
smiles, and a face like one of the pink roses in Madam Barrett's
"Did she have good clothes?" demanded Ruth, eagerly, for this part of
the tale did interest her, as Nat foretold.
"Let me see. Yes, nice clothes; but sad-colored, for the riding-cloak
that hung over her white dimity frock was black. Yet she stood on a pair
of the trimmest feet ever seen, wearing hose with fine clocks, and
silver buckles in the little shoes. You may believe the boy stared well,
for he had never seen so pretty a sight in all his days, and before he
knew it he had given her his nosegay of sheepsbane, fern, and
honeysuckle. She took it, looking pleased, and made him as fine a
courtesy as any lady; whereat he turned red and foolish, being shy, and
hurried off into the barn. But she came skipping after, and peeped at
him as he milked, watched how he did it for a bit, and then said, like a
little queen, 'Boy, get up and let me try.' That pleased him mightily;
so, taking little madam on his knee, he let her try. But something went
amiss, for all at once Brindle kicked over the pail, away went the
three-legged stool, and both the milkers lay in the dirt."
"Why, Nat! why, Nat! that was you and I," cried Ruth, clapping her hands
delightedly, as this catastrophe confirmed the suspicions which had been
growing in her mind since the appearance of the child.
"Hush! or I'll never tell how they got up," said Nat, hurrying on with a
mirthful face. "The boy thought the little maid would cry over her
bruised arm or go off in a pet at sight of the spoilt frock. But no; she
only laughed, patted old Brindle, and sat down, saying stoutly, 'I shall
try again and do it right.' So she did, and while she milked she told
how she was an orphan and had come to be Uncle Dan's girl all her life.
That was a pleasant hearing for the lad, and he felt as if the fairy had
done better by him than he had hoped. They were friends at once, and
played cat's cradle on the kitchen settle all the evening. But, when the
child was put to bed in a strange room, her little heart failed her, and
she fell a-sobbing for her mother. Nothing would comfort her till the
boy went up and sang her to sleep, with her pretty hand in his and all
her tears quite gone. That was nigh upon two years ago; but from that
night they were fast friends, and happier times began for the boy,
because he had something to love and live for besides work. She was very
good to him, and nowhere in all the world was there a dearer, sweeter
lass than Nat Snow's little maid."
During the latter part of this tale "founded upon fact," Ruth had been
hugging her playmate's head in both her chubby arms, and when he ended
by drawing down the rosy face to kiss it softly on the lips it grew a
very April countenance, as she exclaimed, with a childish burst of
affection, curiosity, and wonder,--
"Dear Nat, how good you were to me that night and ever since! Did you
really come in a basket, and don't you know any thing about your folks?
Good lack! And to think you may turn out a lord's son, after all!"
"How could I help being good to you, dear? Yes, I'll show you the very
basket, if Aunt Becky has not burnt it up as rubbish. I know nought
about my folk, and have no name but Snow. Uncle Dan gave me that because
I came in the storm, and the dear mother added Nathaniel, her own boy's
name, since I was sent to take his place, she said. As for being a
lord's son, I'd rather be a greater man than that."
And Nat rose up with sudden energy in his voice, a sudden kindling of
the eyes, that pleased Ruth, and made her ask, with firm faith in the
possibility of his being any thing he chose,--
"You mean a king?"
"No, a poet!"
"But that's not fine at all!" and Ruth looked much disappointed.
"It is the grandest thing in the world! Look now, the man who wrote this
play was a poet, and, though long dead, he is still loved and honored,
when the kings and queens he told about would be forgotten but for him.
Who cares for them, with all their splendor? Who does not worship
William Shakespeare, whose genius made him greater than the whole of
them!" cried Nat, hugging the dingy book, his face all aglow with the
beautiful enthusiasm of a true believer.
"Was Master Shakespeare rich and great?" asked Ruth, staring at him with
"Never rich or great in the way you mean, or even famous, till after he
"Then I'd rather have you like Major Wild, for he owns much land, lives
in a grand house, and wears the finest-laced coat in all the town. Will
you be like him, please, Nat?"
"No, I won't!" answered the lad, with emphatic brevity, as the image of
the red-faced, roystering Major passed before his mind's eye.
His bluntness ruffled his little sovereign's temper for a moment, and
she asked with a frown,--
"What do you think Aunt Becky said yesterday, when we found ever so many
of your verses hidden in the clothes-press, where we went to put
lavender among the linen?"
"Something sharp, and burnt the papers, I'll warrant," replied Nat, with
the resignation of one used to such trials.
"No, she kept 'em to cover jam-pots with, and she said you were either a
fool or a genus. Is a genus very bad, Nat?" added Ruth, relenting as she
saw his dreamy eyes light up with what she fancied was a spark of anger.
"Aunt Becky thinks so; but I don't, and, though I may not be one, sooner
or later folks shall see that I'm no fool, for I feel, I know, I was not
born to hoe corn and feed pigs all my life."
"What will you do?" cried Ruth, startled by the almost passionate energy
with which he spoke.
"Till I'm twenty-one I'll stay to do my duty. When the time comes, I'll
break away and try my own life, for I shall have a right to do it then."
"And leave me? Nay, I'll not let you go." And Ruth threw her dandelion
chain about his neck, claiming her bondsman with the childish tyranny he
found so sweet.
He laughed and let her hold him, seeing how frail the green links were;
little dreaming how true a symbol it was of the stronger tie by which
she would hold him when the time came to choose between liberty and
"Five years is a long time, Ruthy. You will get tired of my odd ways,
and be glad to have me go. But never fret about it; for, whatever
happens, I'll not forget you."
Quite satisfied with this promise, the little maid fell to sticking
buttercups in the band of the straw hat her own nimble fingers had
braided, as if bent on securing one crown for her friend. But Nat,
leaning his head upon his hand, sat watching the sunshine glitter on the
placid stream that rippled at his feet, with such intentness that Ruth
presently disturbed him by demanding curiously,--
"What is it? A kingfisher or a turtle?"
"It's the river, dear. It seems to sing to me as it goes by. I always
hear it, yet I never understand what it says. Do you?"
Ruth fixed her blue eyes on the bluer water, listened for an instant,
then laughed out blithely, and sprung up, saying,--
"It sings: 'Come and fish, Nat. Come and fish!'"
The boy's face fell, the dreamy look faded, and, with a patient sort of
sigh, he rose and followed her, leaving his broken dream with his
beloved book among the buttercups. But, though he sat by Ruth in the
shadow of the alder-bushes, his rod hung idly from his hand, for he was
drawing bright fancies from a stream she never saw, was dimly feeling
that he had a harder knot to disentangle than his little friend's, and
faintly hearing a higher call than hers, in the ripple of the river.
Five years later Ruth was in the dairy making up butter, surrounded by
tier above tier of shining pans, whence proceeded a breath as fresh and
fragrant as if the ghosts of departed king-cups and clover still haunted
the spot. Standing before a window where morning-glories rung their
colored bells in the balmy air, she was as pleasant a sight as any eye
need wish to see upon a summer's day; for the merry child had bloomed
into a sprightly girl, rich in rustic health and beauty. All practical
virtues were hers; and, while they wore so comely a shape, they
possessed a grace that hid the lack of those finer attributes which give
to womanhood its highest charm. The present was all in all to Ruth. Its
homely duties were her world, its petty griefs and joys her life, and
her ambition was bounded by her desire to show her mates the finest
yarn, the sweetest butter, the gayest cardinal, and the handsomest
sweetheart, in the town. An essentially domestic character, cheery as
the blaze upon the hearth, contented as the little kettle singing there,
and so affectionate, discreet, and diligent that she was the model
damsel of the town, the comfort of Uncle Daniel's age, the pride of Aunt
Becky's heart, the joy of Nat's life, and the desire of his eyes.
Unlike as ever, the pair were still fast friends. Nay, more, for the
past year had been imperceptibly transforming that mild sentiment into a
much warmer one by the magic of beauty, youth, and time. Year after year
Nat had patiently toiled on, for gratitude controlled ambition, and
Ruth's presence made his life endurable. But Nature was stronger than
duty or love, and as the boy ripened into the man he looked wistfully
beyond the narrow present into the great future, which allures such as
he with vague, sweet prophecies, hard to be resisted. Silently the
struggle went on, steadily the inborn longing strengthened, and slowly
the resolution was fixed to put his one gift to the test and learn if it
was a vain delusion or a lovely possibility. Each year proved to himself
and those about him that their world was not his world, their life his
life; for, like Andersen's young swan, the barnyard was no home to him,
and when the other fowls cackled, hissed, and scolded, he could only put
his head under his wing and sigh for the time when he should join "the
beautiful white birds among the rushes of the stream that flowed through
the poet's garden, where the sun shone and the little children played."
Ruth knew his dreams and desires; but, as she could not understand them,
she tried to cure them by every innocent art in her power, and nursed
him through many a fit of the heart-sickness of hope deferred as
patiently as she would have done through any less occult disease that
flesh is heir to. She was thinking of him as she worked that day, and
wishing she could mould his life as easily as she did the yellow lumps
before her, stamping them with her own mark, and setting them away for
her own use. She felt that some change was about to befall Nat, for she
had listened to the murmur of voices as the old man and the young sat
talking far into the night. What the result had been was as yet unknown;
for Uncle Daniel was unusually taciturn that morning, and Nat had been
shut up in his room since breakfast, though spring work waited for him
all about the farm.
An unwonted sobriety sat on Ruth's usually cheerful face, and she was
not singing as she worked, but listening intently for a well-known step
to descend the creaking stairs. Presently it came, paused a moment in
the big kitchen, where Aunt Becky was flying about like a domestic
whirlwind, and Ruth heard Nat ask for her with a ring in his voice that
made her heart begin to flutter.
"She's in the dairy. But for landsake where are you a-going, boy? I
declare for't, you look so fine and chirk I scursely knew yer," answered
the old lady, pausing in her work to stare at the astonishing spectacle
of Nat in his Sunday best upon a week day.
"I'm going to seek my fortune, Aunty. Won't you wish me luck?" replied
Aunt Becky had a proverb for every occasion, and could not lose this
opportunity for enriching the malcontent with a few suited to his case.
"Yes, child, the best of lucks; but it's my opinion that, if we 'get
spindle and distaff ready, the Lord will send the flax,' without our
goin' to look for't. 'Every road has its puddle,' and 'he that prieth
into a cloud may get struck by lightenin'.' God bless you, my dear, and
remember that 'a handful of good life is wuth a bushel of learnin'.'"
"I will, Ma'am; and also bear in mind that 'he who would have eggs must
bear the cackling of hens,'" with which return shot Nat vanished,
leaving the old lady to expend her energies and proverbs upon the bread
she was kneading with a vigor that set the trough rocking like a cradle.
Why Ruth began to sing just then, and why she became so absorbed in her
oleaginous sculpture as to seem entirely unconscious of the appearance
of a young man at the dairy door, are questions which every woman will
find no difficulty in answering. Actuated by one of the whims which
often rule the simplest of the sex, she worked and sang as if no anxiety
had ruffled her quiet heart; while Nat stood and watched her with an
expression which would have silenced her, had she chosen to look up and
The years that had done much for Ruth had been equally kind to Nat, in
giving him a generous growth for the figure leaning in the doorway
seemed full of the vigor of wholesome country life. But the head that
crowned it was such as one seldom sees on a farmer's shoulders; for the
brown locks, gathered back into a ribbon, after the fashion of the time,
showed a forehead of harmonious outline, overarching eyes full of the
pathos and the passion that betray the presence of that gift which is
divine when young. The mouth was sensitive as any woman's, and the lips
were often folded close, as if pride controlled the varying emotions
that swayed a nature ardent and aspiring as a flame of fire. Few could
read the language of this face, yet many felt the beauty that it owed to
a finer source than any grace of shape or color, and wondered where the
subtle secret lay.
"Ruth, may I tell you something?"
"Of course you may. Only don't upset the salt-box or sit down upon the
Nat did neither, but still leaned in the doorway and still watched the
trim figure before him, as if it was very pleasant to his eyes; while
Ruth, after a brief glance over her shoulder, a nod and a smile, spatted
away as busily as ever.
"You know I was one-and-twenty yesterday?"
"I'm not like to forget it, after sewing my eyes out to work a smart
waistcoat as a keepsake."
"Nor I; for there's not such another in the town, and every rosebud is
as perfect as if just pulled from our bush yonder. See, I've put it on
as knights put on their armor when they went to fight for fortune and
their ladies' love."
As he spoke, Nat smilingly thrust his hands into the pockets of a
long-flapped garment, which was a master-piece of the needlework in
vogue a century ago. Ruth glanced up at him with eyes full of hearty
admiration for the waistcoat and its wearer. But something in those last
words of his filled her with a trouble both sweet and bitter, as she
"Are you going away, Nat?"
"For a week only. Uncle has been very kind, and given me a chance to
prove which road it's best for me to take, since the time has come when
I must choose. I ride to Boston this afternoon, Ruth, carrying my poems
with me, that I may submit them to the criticism of certain learned
gentlemen, who can tell me if I deceive myself or not. I have agreed to
abide by their decision, and if it is in my favor--as God grant it
be--Uncle leaves me free to live the life I love, among my books and all
that makes this world glorious. Think, Ruth,--a poet in good truth, to
sing when I will, and delve no more! Will you be pleased and proud if I
come back and tell you this?"
"Indeed, I will, if it makes you happy. And yet"--She paused there,
looking wistfully into his face, now all aglow with the hope and faith
that are so blissful and so brief.
"What is it, lass? Speak out and tell me all that's in your heart, for I
mean to show you mine," he said in a commanding tone seldom heard
before, for he seemed already to have claimed the fair inheritance that
makes the poet the equal of the prince.
Ruth felt the change with a thrill of pride, yet dared suggest the
possibility of failure, as a finer nature would have shrunk from doing
in such a happy, hopeful hour as that.
"If the learned gentlemen decide that the poems have no worth, what
He looked at her an instant, like one fallen from the clouds, then
squared his shoulders, as if resettling the burden put off for a day,
and answered bravely, though a sudden shadow crossed his face,
"Then I give up my dream and fall to work again,--no poet, but a man,
who will do his best to be an honest one. I have promised Uncle to abide
by this decision, and I'll keep my word."
"Will it be very hard, Nat?" and Ruth's eyes grew pitiful, for in his
she read how much the sacrifice would cost him.
"Ay, lass, very hard," he said briefly; then added, with an eloquent
change in voice and face, "unless you help me bear it. Sweetheart,
whichever road I take, I had no thought to go alone. Will you walk with
me, Ruth? God knows I'll make the way as smooth and pleasant as a
faithful husband can."
The busy hands stopped working there, for Nat held them fast in his, and
all her downcast eyes could see were the gay flowers her needle wrought,
agitated by the beating of the man's heart underneath. Her color
deepened beautifully and her lips trembled, in spite of the arch smile
they wore, as she said half-tenderly, half-wilfully,--
"But I should be afeared to marry a poet, if they are such strange and
delicate creatures as I've heard tell. 'Twould be like keeping house for
a butterfly. I tried to cage one once; but the poor thing spoilt its
pretty wings beating against the bars, and when I let it go it just
dropped down and died among the roses there."
"But if I be no poet, only a plain farmer, with no ambition except how I
may prosper and make my wife a happy woman, what answer then, Ruth?" he
asked, feeling as the morning-glories might have felt if a cold wind had
blown over them.
"Dear lad, it's this!" and, throwing both arms about his neck, the
honest little creature kissed his brown cheek heartily.
After that no wonder if Ruth forgot her work, never saw an audacious
sunbeam withering the yellow roses she had caused to bloom, never heard
the buzz of an invading fly, nor thought to praise the labor of her
hands, though her plump cheek was taking off impressions of the buttons
on the noble waistcoat. While to Nat the little dairy had suddenly
become a Paradise, life for a moment was all poetry, and nothing in the
wide world seemed impossible.
"Ruth! Ruth! The cat's fell into the pork-kag, and my hands is in the
dough. For massy sake, run down suller and fish her out!"
That shrill cry from Aunt Becky broke the spell, dissolved the blissful
dream, for, true to her instincts, Ruth forgot the lover in the
housewife, and vanished, leaving Nat alone with his love--and the
He rode gallantly away to Boston that afternoon, and ten days later came
riding slowly home again, with the precious manuscript still in his
"What luck, boy?" asked Uncle Dan, with a keen glance from under his
shaggy brows, as the young man came into the big kitchen, where they all
sat together when the day's work was done.
"Pretty much what you foretold, sir," answered Nat, trying to smile
bravely as he took his place beside Ruth on the settle, where she sat
making up cherry-colored breast-knots by the light of one candle.
"Fools go out to shear and come home shorn," muttered Aunt Becky from
the chimney-corner, where she sat reeling yarn and brooding over some
delectable mess that simmered on the coals.
Nat did not hear the flattering remark; for he was fingering a little
packet that silently told the story of failure in its dog-eared leaves,
torn wrappers, and carelessly knotted string.
"Yes," he said rapidly, as if anxious to have a hard task over, "I
showed my poems to sundry gentlemen, as I proposed. One liked them much,
and said they showed good promise of better things; but added that it
was no time for such matters now, and advised me to lay them by till I
was older. A very courteous and friendly man this was, and I felt much
beholden to him for his gracious speeches. The second criticized my work
sharply, and showed me how I should mend it. But, when he was done, I
found all the poetry had gone out of my poor lines, and nothing was left
but fine words; so I thanked him and went away, thinking better of my
poems than when I entered. The third wise man gave me his opinion very
briefly, saying, as he handed back the book, 'Put it in the fire.'"
"Nay! but that was too harsh. They are very pretty verses, Nat, though
most of them are far beyond my poor wits," said Ruth, trying to lighten
the disappointment that she saw weighed heavily on her lover's spirit.
"In the good gentleman's study, I had a sight of some of the great poets
of the world, and while he read my verses I got a taste of Milton,
Spenser, and my own Shakespeare's noble sonnets. I saw what mine lacked;
yet some of them rang true, so I took heart and trimmed them up in the
fashion my masters set me. Let me read you one or two, Ruth, while you
tie your true lover's knots."
And, eagerly opening the beloved book, Nat began to read by the dim
light of the tallow candle, blind to the resigned expression Ruth's face
assumed, deaf to Aunt Becky's muttered opinion that "an idle brain is
the devil's workshop," and quite unconscious that Uncle Dan spread a
checked handkerchief over his bald pate, ready for a nap. Absorbed in
his delightful task, the young poet went on reading his most perfect
lines, with a face that brightened blissfully, till, just as he was
giving a love-lay in his tenderest tone, a mild snore checked his
heavenward flight, and brought him back to earth with a rude shock. He
started, paused, and looked about him, like one suddenly wakened from a
happy dream. Uncle Dan was sound asleep, Aunt Becky busily counting her
tidy skeins, and Ruth, making a mirror of one of the well-scoured pewter
platters on the dresser, was so absorbed in studying the effect of the
gay breast-knots that she innocently betrayed her inattention by
exclaiming, with a pretty air of regret,--
"And that's the end?"
"That is the end," he answered, gently closing the book which no one
cared to hear, and, hiding his reproachful eyes behind his hand, he sat
silent, till Uncle Dan, roused by the cessation of the melodious murmur
that had soothed his ear, demanded with kindly bluntness,--
"Well, boy, which is it to be, moonshine or money? I want you to be spry
about decidin', for things is gittin' behindhand, and I cattle'ate to
hire if you mean to quit work."
"Sakes alive! No man in his senses would set long on the fence when
there's a good farm and a smart wife a-waitin' on one side and nothin'
but poetry and starvation on the other!" ejaculated Aunt Becky, briskly
clattering the saucepan-lid, as if to add the savory temptations of the
flesh to those of filthy lucre.
Ruth said nothing, but looked up at Nat with the one poetic sentiment of
her nature shining in her eyes and touching her with its tender magic,
till it seemed an easy thing to give up liberty for love. The dandelion
chain the child wove round the boy had changed to a flowery garland now,
but the man never saw the thorns among the roses, and let the woman
fetter him again; for, as he looked at her, Nat flung the cherished book
into the fire with one hand, and with the other took possession of the
only bribe that could win him from that other love.
"I decide as you would have me, sir. Not for the sake of the farm you
promise me, but for love of her who shall one day be its happy mistress,
"Now that's sensible and hearty, and I'm waal pleased, my boy. You jest
buckle to for a year stiddy and let your ink-horn dry, and we'll have as
harnsome a weddin' as man could wish,--always providin' Ruth don't
change her mind," said Uncle Dan, beaming benignantly at the young pair
through a cloud of tobacco smoke; while Aunt Becky poked the condemned
manuscript deeper into the coals, as if anxious to exorcise its
witchcraft by fire, in the good old fashion.
But even in Ruth's arms Nat cast one longing, loving glance at his
first-born darling on its funeral-pyre; then turned his head resolutely
away, and whispered to the girl,--
"Never doubt that I love you, sweetheart, since for your sake I have
given up the ambition of my life. I don't regret it, but be patient with
me till I learn to live without my 'moonshine,' as you call it."
"Sunshine is better, and I'll make it for you, if I can. So cheer up,
dear lad, fall to work like a man, and you'll soon forget your pretty
nonsense," answered Ruth, with firm faith in the cure she proposed.
And, folding his wings, Pegasus bent his neck to the yoke and fell to
Nat kept his word and did try manfully, working early and late, with an
energy that delighted Uncle Dan, made Aunt Becky bestir herself to
bleach her finest webs for the wedding outfit, and caused Ruth to
believe that he had forgotten the "pretty nonsense;" for the pen lay
idle and he gave all his leisure to her, discussing house-gear and stock
with as deep an interest as herself apparently. All summer long he
toiled like one intent only on his crops; all winter he cut wood and
tended cattle, as if he had no higher hope than to sell so many cords
and raise likely calves for market.
Outwardly he was a promising young farmer, with a prosperous future and
a notable wife awaiting him. But deep in the man's heart a spark of the
divine fire still burned, unquenched by duty, love, or time. The spirit
that made light in Milton's darkness, walked with Burns beside the
plough, and lifted Shakespeare higher than the royal virgin's hand, sang
to Nat in the airy whisper of the pines, as he labored in the wintry
wood, smiled back at him in every ox-eyed daisy his scythe laid low
along the summer fields, and solaced him with visions of a fairer future
than any buxom Ruth could paint. It would not leave him, and he learned
too late that it was the life of his life, a gift that could not be
returned, a blessing turned into a curse; for, though he had burned the
little book, from its ashes rose a flame that consumed him, since it
could find no vent. Even the affection, for which he had made a costlier
sacrifice than he knew, looked pale and poor beside the loftier
loveliness that dawned upon him in the passionate struggle, ripening
heart and soul to sudden manhood; and the life that lay before him
seemed very bleak and barren when he returned from playing truant in the
enchanted world Imagination opens to her gifted children.
Ruth vaguely felt the presence of this dumb despair, dimly saw its
shadow in the eyes that sometimes wore a tragic look, and fancied that
the hand working so faithfully for her was slipping from her hold, it
grew so thin and hot with the inward fever, which no herb in all her
garden could allay. She vainly tried to rise to his level; but the busy
sparrow could not follow the aspiring lark, singing at heaven's gate. It
could only chirp its little lay and build its nest, with no thought
beyond a straw, a worm, and the mate that was to come.
Nat never spoke of the past, and Ruth dared not, for she grew to feel
that he did "regret it" bitterly, though too generous for a word of
reproach or complaint.
"I'll make it up to him when we are married; and he will learn to love
the farm when he has little lads and lasses of his own to work for," she
often said to herself, as she watched her lover sit among them, after
his day's work, listening to their gossip with a pathetic sort of
patience, or, pleading a weariness there was no need to feign, lie on
the old settle, lost in thoughts that made his face shine like one who
talked with angels.
So the year rolled round, and May came again. Uncle Dan was well
satisfied, Aunt Becky's preparations were completed, and Ruth had not
"changed her mind."
"Settle about the weddin' as soon as you like, my girl, and I'll see
that it is a merry one," said the old man, coming in from work, as Ruth
blew the horn from the back porch one night at sunset.
"Nat must decide that. Where is he, Uncle?" asked the girl, looking out
upon the quiet landscape, touched with spring's tenderest green.
"Down in the medder, ploughin'. It's a toughish bit, and he'll be late,
I reckon; for he took a long noon-spell, and I give him a piece of my
mind about it, so I'll venter to say he won't touch a bit of victuals
till the last furrow is laid," answered Uncle Dan, plodding away to wash
his hands at the horse-trough.
"Nay, Uncle, it is his birthday, and surely he had a right to a little
rest, for he works like a slave, to please us, though far from well, I'm
thinking." And, waiting for no reply, Ruth hurried in, filled a tankard
with cider, and tripped away to bring her lover home, singing as she
went, for Nat loved to hear her voice.
Down the green lane toward the river the happy singer stepped, thinking
in what sweet words she could give the old man's message. But the song
died on her lips and the smiling eyes grew wistful suddenly; for,
passing by the willow-trees, she saw the patient oxen standing in the
"Nat is hunting violets for me," she thought, with a throb of pleasure;
for she was jealous of a viewless rival, and valued every token of
fidelity her lover gave her.
But as she drew nearer Ruth frowned; for Nat lay beside the river,
evidently quite forgetful of scolding, supper, and sweetheart. No, not
of the latter; for a little nosegay of violets lay ready near the paper
on which he seemed to be writing a song or sonnet to accompany the gift.
Seeing this, the frown faded, as the girl stole noiselessly across the
grass, to peep over his shoulder, with a soft rebuke for his imprudence
Alas for Ruth! One glance at the placid face, pillowed on his arm, told
her that this birthday was Nat's last; for the violets were less white
than the cheek they touched, the pencil had fallen from nerveless
fingers, and Death's hand had written "Finis" to both life and lay. With
a bitter cry, she gathered the weary head into her arms, fearing she had
come too late to say good-by. But the eyes that opened were so tranquil,
and the pale lips that answered wore such a happy smile, she felt that
tears would mar his peace, and hushed her sobs, to listen as he
whispered brokenly, with a glance that brightened as it turned from the
wide field where his last hard day's work lay finished, to the quiet
river, whose lullaby was soothing him to sleep.
"Tell Uncle I did not stop till the job was done, nor break my promise;
for the year is over now, and it was so sweet to write again that I
forgot to go home till it was too late."
"O Nat, not too late. You shall work no more, but write all day, without
a care. We have been too hard upon you, and you too patient with our
blindness. Dear lad, forgive us, and come home to live a happier year
than this has been," cried Ruth, trying with remorseful tenderness to
keep the delicate spirit that was escaping from her hold, like the
butterfly that died among her roses with broken wings.
But Nat had no desire to stay; for he _was_ going home, to feel hunger,
thirst, and weariness no more, to find a love Ruth could not give, and
to change earth's prose to heaven's immortal poetry. Yet he lingered on
the threshold to look back and whisper gently: "It is better so,
sweetheart. There was no place for me here, and I was homesick for my
own friends and country. I'm going to find them, and I'm quite content.
Forget me and be happy; or remember me only in the springtime, when the
world is loveliest and my birthday comes. See, this is all I had to give
you; but my heart was in it."
He tried to lift the unfinished song and give it to her; but it
fluttered down upon his breast, and the violets dropped after, lying
there unstirred by any breath, for with the words a shadow deeper than
that twilight laid upon the fields stole over the face on Ruth's bosom,
and all the glory of the sunset sky could only touch it with a pathetic
peace, as the poet lay asleep beside the river.
He lies there still, the legend says, under the low green mound, where
violets bloom earliest, where the old willows drop their golden tassels
in the spring, and blackbirds fill the air with their melodious ecstasy.
No song of his lived after him; no trace of him remains, except that
nameless grave; and few ever heard of one who came and went like the
snow for which they christened him. Yet it seems as if his gentle ghost
still haunted those sunny meadows, still listened to the enchanted
river, and touched with some mysterious charm the places that knew him
once. For strangers find a soft attraction in the quiet landscape;
lovers seek those green solitudes to tell the story that is always new;
and poets muse beside the shadowy stream, hearing, as he heard, a call
to live the life that lifts them highest by unwavering fidelity to the
gift Heaven sends.
Letty sat on the doorstep one breezy summer day, looking down the road
and wishing with all her heart that something pleasant would happen. She
often did this; and one of her earliest delights when a lonely child was
to sit there with a fairy book upon her knee, waiting and watching in
all good faith for something wonderful to happen.
In those days, Cinderella's golden coach dashing round the corner to
carry her away was the favorite dream; but at eighteen one thinks more
of the prince than either golden coach or splendid ball. But no prince
as yet had cut his way through the grove of "laylocks" round the gate,
and the little beauty still dreamed waking dreams on the doorstep, with
her work forgotten in her lap.
Behind her in the quaint, quiet room Aunt Liddy dozed in her easy chair,
the clock ticked, the bird chirped, old Bran snapped lazily at the
flies, and nothing else broke the hush that brooded over the place. It
was always so, and Letty often felt as if an earthquake would be a
blessed relief to the dreadful monotony of her life.
To-day it was peculiarly trying, for a slight incident had ruffled the
calm; and, though it lasted but a moment, it had given Letty a glimpse
into that lovely "new world which is the old." A carriage containing a
gay young couple on their honeymoon trip had stopped at the gate, for
the bride had a fancy for a draught from the mossy well, and the
bridegroom blandly demanded that her whim be gratified.
Letty served them, and while one pretty girl slaked her thirst the other
watched her with admiring eyes and a tender interest, touched by envy.
It was all over in a minute. Then bonny bride and enamoured bridegroom
rolled away on that enchanted journey which is taken but once in a
lifetime, leaving a cloud of dust behind and a deeper discontent in
With a long sigh she had gone back to her seat, and, closing her eyes
upon a world that could offer her so little, fell a-dreaming again, till
a rough voice startled her wide awake.
"I say, miss, can you give a poor fellow a bite and a sup?"
Opening her eyes, she saw a sturdy tramp leaning over the low gate, so
ragged, dusty, worn, and weary that she forgave the look of admiration
in the bold black eyes which had been fixed on her longer than she knew.
Before she could answer, however, Aunt Liddy, a hospitable old soul,
called out from within,--
"Certin, certin. Set right down on the doorstep and rest a spell, while
we see what we can do about vittles."
Letty vanished into the pantry, and the man threw himself down in the
shady porch, regardless of Bran's suspicious growl. He pulled off his
hat, stretched out his tired limbs, and leaned his rough head back among
the woodbine leaves, with a long breath, as if nearly spent.
When Letty brought him a plate of bread and meat, he took it from her so
eagerly and with such a ravenous look that she shrank back
involuntarily. Seeing which he said, with a poor attempt at a laugh,--
"You needn't be afraid. I look like a rough customer; but I won't hurt
"Lawful sakes! We ain't no call to be afraid of no one, though we be
lone women; for Bran is better'n a dozen men. A lamb to them he knows;
but let any one try to pester Letty, and I never see a fercer beast,"
said Aunt Liddy, as the girl went back for more food, seeing the
"He knows _I'm_ all right, and makes friends at once, you see," answered
the tramp, with a satisfied nod, as Bran, after a brief investigation,
sat down beside him, with a pacific wag of the tail.
"Well, I never! He don't often do that to strangers. Guess you're fond
of dumb critters," said Aunt Liddy, much impressed by Bran's unusual
"They've been my best friends, and I don't forget it," returned the man,
giving the dog a bone, though half-starved himself.
Something in the tone, the act, touched Letty's tender heart, and made
her own voice very sweet and cordial as she said,--
"Please have some milk. It's nice and cold."
The tramp put up both hands to take the bowl, and as he did so looked
into a face so full of compassion that it seemed like an angel's leaning
down to comfort a lost and weary soul. Hard as life had been to the poor
fellow, it had not spoiled him yet, as was plainly proved by the change
that softened his whole face like magic, and trembled in the voice that
said, as if it were a sort of grace, "God bless you, Miss," as he bent
his head and drank.
Only a look of human sympathy and human gratitude; yet, in the drawing
of a breath, it cast out Letty's fear, and made the stranger feel as if
he had found friends, for it was the touch of Nature that makes the
whole world kin. Every one seemed to feel its influence. Bran turned his
benevolent eyes approvingly from his mistress to his new friend: the
girl sat down confidingly; and the old lady began to talk, for, being
fond of chat, she considered a stranger as a special providence.
"Where be you travellin'?"
"Nowhere in particular."
"Where did you come from, then?" continued Aunt Liddy, undaunted by the
"Do tell! Guess you've been one of the rovin' sort, ain't you?"
"Haven't done much else."
"It don't appear to have agreed with you remarkable well," said the
blunt old lady, peering at him over her spectacles.
"If I hadn't had the devil's own luck, I'd have been a rich man, instead
of a beggar," answered the tramp, with a grim look and an ireful
knitting of his black brows.
"Been unfort'nate, have you? I'm sorry for that; but it 'pears to me
them as stays to home and works stiddy does better than them that goes
huntin' after luck," observed Aunt Liddy, feeling it her duty to give a
word of advice.
"Shouldn't wonder if you were right, ma'am. But some folks haven't got
any home to stay in; and fellows of my sort have to hunt after luck, for
it won't come to 'em."
"Ain't you got no friends, young man?"
"Not one. Lost the last yesterday."
"Took suddin, I suppose?" and the old lady's face was full of interest
as she put the question.
"Merciful sakes! How did it happen?"
"Got hurt, couldn't be cured, so I drowned him, and"--
"What!" shrieked Aunt Liddy, upsetting her footstool with a horrified
"Only a dog, ma'am. I couldn't carry him, wouldn't leave him to suffer;
so put him out of pain and came on alone."
The tramp had ceased eating, and sat with his head on his hand in a
despondent attitude, that told his story better than words. His voice
was gruffer than ever as he spoke of his dog; but the last word was
husky, and he put his hand on Bran's head with a touch that won the good
creature's heart entirely, and made him lick the downcast face, with a
little whine of sympathy and satisfaction.
Letty's eyes were full, and Aunt Liddy took snuff and settled her
footstool, feeling that something must be done for one who showed signs
of being worth the saving.
"Poor creter! And you was fond of him?" she said in a motherly tone; for
the man of five or six and twenty was but a boy to her.
"I'd have been a brute if I wasn't fond of him, for he stuck to me when
all the other fellows cut me, and tried to drag himself along with a
broken leg, rather than leave me. Talk about friends! Give me a dumb
animal if you want one worth having."
A bitter tone was in the man's voice and a wrathful spark kindled in his
eyes, as if wrong as well as want had made him what he was.
"Rest a little, and tell us about California. A neighbor went there, and
we like to hear news of that great, splendid place."
Letty spoke, and the half-eager, half-timid voice was very winning,
especially to one who seldom heard such now. Seeing her kindly interest,
and glad to pay for his meal in the only way he could, the man told some
of his adventures in brief but graphic words, while the old woman plied
him with questions and the young one listened with a face so full of
pretty wonder that the story-teller was inspired to do his best.
Aunt Liddy's cap-frills stood erect with horror at some of the
hair-breadth escapes recounted; but to Letty it was better than any
romance she had ever read to listen to tales full of danger and
hardship, told by a living voice and face to face with the chief actor
in them all, who unconsciously betrayed that he possessed many of the
manly attributes women most admire.
"After adventures like these, I don't wonder it seems hard to settle
down, as other folks do," she said warmly, when the man stopped short,
as if ashamed of talking so much of his own affairs.
"I wouldn't mind trying it, though," he answered, as he glanced about
the sunny little room, so home-like and reposeful, and so haunted by all
the sweet influences that touch men's hearts when most forlorn.
"You'd better," said Aunt Liddy, decidedly. "Git work and stick to it;
and, if luck don't come, bread and butter will, and in a world of woe
mebby that's about as much as any one on us ought to expect."
"I have tried to get it. But I'm such a hard-looking chap no one wants
me; and I don't blame 'em. Look at that hat, now! Ain't that enough to
spoil a man's chance, let alone his looks?" The young fellow held up a
battered object with such a comical mixture of disgust and indignation
that Letty could not help laughing; and the blithe sound was so
contagious that the wanderer joined in it, cheered already by rest and
food and kindly words.
"It's singular what store men-folks do set by their hats. My Moses
couldn't never read his paper till he'd put on his'n, and as for drivin'
a nail bare-headed, in doors or out, he'd never think of such a thing,"
said Aunt Liddy, with the air of one well versed in the mysterious ways
But Letty clapped her hands, as if a brilliant idea had flashed upon
her, and, running to the back entry, returned with a straw hat, brown
and dusty, but shady, whole, and far more appropriate to the season than
the ragged felt the man was eying hopelessly.
"It isn't very good; but it might do for a time. We only keep it to
scare folks, and I don't feel afraid now. Would you mind if I gave it to
you?" stammered Letty, coloring up, as she tried to offer her poor gift
"Mind! I guess I'd be glad to get it, fit or no fit," and, dropping the
old hat, the tramp clapped on the new one, making his mirror of the
bright eyes before him.
"It does nicely, and you're very welcome," said the girl, getting rosier
still, for there was something beside gratitude in the brown face that
had lost the dogged, dangerous look it wore at first.
"Now, if you was to wash up and smooth that hair of yourn a trifle,
you'd be a likely-looking young man; and, if you're civil-spoken and
willin' to lend a hand anywheres, you'll git work, I ain't a doubt,"
observed Aunt Liddy, feeling a growing interest in the wayfarer, and,
womanlike, acknowledging the necessity of putting the best foot
Letty ran for basin and towel, and, pointing to the well, modestly
retired into the kitchen, while Aunt Liddy watched the vigorous
scrubbing that went on in the yard; for the tramp splashed the water
about like a Newfoundland dog, and Bran assisted at the brief toilet
with hospitable zeal.
It seemed as if a different man came out from that simple baptism; for
the haggard cheek had a glow upon it, the eyes had lost their
hopelessness, and something like courage and self-respect shone in the
face that looked in at the door as the stranger gave back basin and
towel, saying, with a wave of the old straw hat,--
"I'm heartily obliged, ma'am. Would you kindly tell me how far it is to
the next big town?"
"Twenty miles. The cars will take you right there, and the deepo ain't
fur," answered Aunt Liddy, showing the way.
The man glanced at his ragged shoes, then squared his broad shoulders,
as if bracing himself for the twenty long hot miles that his weary feet
must carry him, since his pockets were empty, and he could not bring
himself to ask for any thing but food enough to keep life in him.
"Good-by, ma'am, and God bless you." And, slouching the hat over his
eyes, he limped away, escorted to the gate by Bran.
At the turn of the road he stopped and looked back as wistfully as ever
Letty had done along the shadowy road, and as he looked it seemed as if
he saw a younger self setting off with courage, hope, and energy upon
the journey, which alas! had ended here. His eye went to the old well,
as if there had been some healing in its water; then turned to the
porch, where he had been fed and comforted, and lingered there as if
some kindly memory warmed his solitary heart.
Just then a little figure in blue gingham ran out and came fluttering
after him, accompanied by Bran, in a state of riotous delight. Rosy and
breathless, Letty hurried to him, and, looking up with a face full of
the innocent compassion that never can offend, she said, offering a
parcel neatly folded up,--
"Aunt Liddy sends you some dinner; and this, so that you needn't walk,
unless you like, you are so lame."
As if more touched than he cared to show, the man took the food, but
gently put away the little roll of greenbacks, saying quickly,--
"Thank you for this; but I can't take your money."
"We ain't rich, but we love to help folks. So you needn't be proud about
it." And Letty looked ruffled at his refusal.
"I'll take something else, if you don't mind," said the tramp, pulling
off his hat, with a sudden smile that made his face look young and
"What is it?" And Letty looked up so innocently that it was impossible
to resist the impulse of a grateful heart.
His answer was to stoop and kiss the blooming cheek, that instantly grew
scarlet with girlish shame and anger as she turned to fly. Catching her
by the hand, he said penitently,--
"I couldn't help it, you're so good to me. Don't begrudge me a kiss for
luck. I need it, God knows!"
The man's real destitution and despair broke out in these words, and he
grasped the little hand as if it was the only thing that kept him from
the manifold temptations of a desperate mood.
It thrilled the girl like a cry for help, and made her forget everything
except that a fellow-creature suffered. She shook the big hand warmly,
and said, with all her heart,--
"You're welcome, if it helps you. Good-by and good luck to you!" and ran
away as fast as she had come.
The man stood motionless, and watched her till she vanished, then turned
and tramped sturdily on, muttering to himself, with a suspicious
gruffness in his voice,--
"If I had a little mate like that alongside, I know my luck would turn."
A wild December night, with bitter wind and blinding snow, reigned
outside the long, rude building, lighted only by furnace fires, that
went roaring up the tall chimneys, whence poured clouds of smoke and
showers of sparks, like beacons through the storm. No living thing
appeared in that shadowy place except a matronly gray cat, sitting bolt
upright upon an old rug spread over a heap of sand near one of the
fires. A newspaper and a tin pail were beside her, and she seemed to
have mounted guard, while the watchman of the Foundry went his rounds.
A door stood half-open upon the sheltered side of the building; and
suddenly, as if blown thither like a storm-driven bird, a little figure
came fluttering in, breathless, half-frozen, and quite bewildered by a
long struggle with the pitiless gale. Feebly brushing away the snow that
blinded her, the poor thing looked about her with frightened eyes; and,
seeing no one but the cat, seemed to take courage and crept toward the
fire, as if suffering for the moment conquered fear.
"Oh! Pussy, let me warm myself one minute, for I'm perished with the
cold," she whispered, stretching two benumbed hands to the blaze.
The cat opened her yellow eyes, and, evidently glad to meet one of her
own sex, began to purr hospitably as she rustled across the newspaper to
greet her guest. There was something inexpressibly comforting in the
sound; and, reassured by it, the girl pushed back her drenched hat,
shook her snowy garments, and drew a long breath, like one nearly spent.
Yet, even while she basked in the warmth that was salvation, her timid
eyes glanced about the great, gloomy place, and her attitude was that of
one ready to fly at a moment's warning.
Presently a step sounded on a flight of stairs leading to some loft
above. The wanderer started like a hare, and, drawing nearer to the
door, paused as if to catch a glimpse of the approaching face before she
fled away into the storm, that howled just then with a violence which
might well daunt a stouter heart.
A tall man, in a rough coat, with grizzled hair and beard under an old
fur cap, came slowly down the steps, whistling softly to himself, as he
swung his lantern to and fro.
"An old man, and the cat is fond of him. I guess I'll dare to ask my
way, or I'll never get home," thought the girl, as her eye scanned the
new-comer with a woman's quickness.
An involuntary rustle of her dress caught his ear, and, lifting the
lantern, he saw her at once; but did not speak, as if afraid of
frightening her still more, for her pale face and the appealing gesture
of the outstretched hand told her fear and need better than her hurried
"Oh! please, I've lost my way and am nearly frozen. Could I warm myself
a bit and find out where I am?"
"Of course, you may. Why, bless your heart, I wouldn't turn a dog out
such a night as this, much less a poor little soul like you," answered
the man, in a hearty tone, that rang true on the listening ear of the
Then he hung up the lantern, put a stool nearer the fire, and beckoned
her to approach. But even the kindly words and act failed to win the
timid creature; for she drew back as he advanced, gave a glance at the
door, and said, as if appealing to the best instincts of the man, whom
she longed yet feared to trust,--
"Thank you; but it's getting late, and I ought to be getting on, if I
knew the way. Perhaps you've got some girls of your own, so you can
understand how scared I am to be lost at night and in such a strange
place as this."
The man stared, then laughed, and, shaking the snow from his curly hair
and beard, showed himself to be a young and pleasant-looking fellow,
with a merry eye, an honest brown face, and a hearty voice.
"You thought I was an old chap, did you? Wish I was, if it would be any
comfort to you. I've got no little girls, neither, more's the pity; but
you needn't be afraid of me, though it is late and lonely. Why, Lord
love you, child, I'm not a brute! Sit down and thaw out, while you tell
me where you want to go."
The half-indignant tone of the man made his guest feel as if she had
insulted him; and she obeyed with a docility which appeased his anger at
once. Seating herself upon the stool, she leaned toward the fire with an
irrepressible shiver, and tried to keep her teeth from chattering as she
told her little story.
"I want work badly, and went a long way, hoping to get some. But I
didn't find it, and that discouraged me very much. I had no money, so
had to walk, and the storm got so bad I lost my way. Then I was scared
and half-frozen, and so bewildered I think I'd have died if I hadn't
seen the light and come in here."
"I guess you would. And the best thing you can do now is to stop till
the storm lifts. Shouldn't wonder if it did about midnight," said the
man, stirring up the red embers, as if anxious to do something for her
"But that is so late, and I must be ever so far away from home; for I
came over the wrong bridge. Oh, me! What shall I do?" And the poor thing
wrung her hands in dismay.
"Won't your folks go to look for you?"
"I haven't any one in the world to care for me. The woman where I board
won't trouble herself; or she'll think I've run away, because I owe her
money. I might be dead in the river, and no one would mind!" sighed the
girl, leaning her head on her hands, while some bright, dishevelled hair
fell over her face, as if to hide its youth and innocence from a world
that seemed to have no shelter for either.
"That's hard! But don't you be down-hearted, child. Things often mend
when they seem worst. I know; for I've been through the mill, and had
friends raised up to me when I'd about done with living, as a bad job. I
can't leave here till sunrise; but I'll do the best I can for you till
then. Sam will be along early, and he'll see to you, if you can't trust
me; for he is as gray as a badger, and he's got six girls of his own, if
that's a recommendation. I've got nothing but a cat; and she trusts me.
Don't you, old Sally?"
As he spoke, the man sat down upon the sand-heap, and Sally leaped to
his knee, rubbing her head against his cheek, with a soft sound of
confidence and contentment which seemed to afford her friend great
satisfaction. The girl smiled faintly, and said, in an apologetic tone,
for there had been something like reproach in the man's voice, as he
asked the dumb animal to vouch for his character,--
"I don't believe I'd have dared to come in here if I hadn't seen Pussy.
But I thought anyone who was good to her would be good to me; and now
I'm sure of it."
"That's right. You see, I'm a lonesome sort of a chap and like something
to pet. So I took old Sally, and we get on capitally. She won't let the
other fellows touch her, but always comes and sits with me when I am
alone here nights. And it's surprising what good company she is."
He laughed as he spoke, as if half-ashamed of the amiable weakness, yet
anxious to put his guest at her ease. He evidently succeeded; for she
stretched two shabby little boots toward the fire and leaned her head
against a grimy beam, saying, with a sigh of weariness,--
"It is very comfortable; but the heat makes me feel queer and dizzy."
"You're just about used up; and I'm going to give you a cup of hot
coffee. That'll bring you round in a jiffy. It's time for supper. Hey,
As he spoke, the man set his pail in the hot ashes, unfolded a parcel of
bread and meat, and, laying a rude sandwich on a clean bit of paper,
offered it with a hospitable--
"Have a bit. Do, now. You've had a hard pull and need something to set
Leaning forward to give and take, two faces came into the clear red glow
of the furnace-fire, and a look of recognition flashed into each so
suddenly that it startled both man and maid into involuntary frankness
"Why, it's little Letty!"
"And you are my tramp!"
A change so rapid as to be almost ludicrous came over the pair in the
drawing of a breath. She smoothed back her hair and hid the shabby
boots, yet sat more erect upon the stool, as if she had a right there
and felt no longer any fear. He pulled off his cap, with a pleasant
mixture of respect, surprise, and satisfaction in his manner, as he
said, in a half-proud, half-humble tone,--
"No, miss; for, thanks to you, I'm a decent man now."
"Then you did find work and get on?" she exclaimed, with a bright,
wistful look, that touched him very much.
"Didn't you get my letter?" he asked eagerly. "I sent you the first
dollar I earned, and told you and the old lady I was all right."
Letty shook her head, and all the light passed out of her face, leaving
it pathetic in its patient sorrow.
"Aunt Liddy died a week after you were there, so suddenly that every
thing was in confusion, and I never got the letter. I wish _she_ had
known of it, because it would have pleased her so. We often talked about
you and hoped you'd do well. We led such quiet lives, you see, that any
little thing interested us for a long time."
"It was a little thing to you, I dare say; but it was salvation to me.
Not the money or the food only, but the kindness of the old lady,
and--and the look in your sweet face, miss. I'd got so far down, through
sickness and bad luck, that there didn't seem any thing left for me but
deviltry or death. That day it was a toss-up between any bad job that
came along first and drowning, like my dog. That seemed sort of mean,
though; and I felt more like being revenged somehow on the world, that
had been so hard on me."
He stopped short, breathing hard, with a sudden spark in his black eyes
and a nervous clenching of the strong hands that made Letty shrink; for
he seemed to speak in spite of himself, as if the memory of that time
had left its impress on his life.
"But you didn't do any thing bad. I'm sure you didn't; for Aunt Liddy
said there was the making of a man in you, because you were so quick to
feel a little bit of kindness and take good advice."
The soft, eager voice of the girl seemed to work the miracle anew, for a
smile broke over his face, the angry spark was quenched, and the
clenched hand opened to offer again all it had to give, as he said, with
a characteristic mingling of fun and feeling in his voice,--
"I don't know much about angels; but I felt as if I'd met a couple that
day, for they saved me from destruction. You cast your bread upon the
waters, and it's come back when, maybe, you need it 'most as much as I
did then. 'Tisn't half as nice as yours; but perhaps a blessing will do
as well as butter."
Letty took the brown bread, feeling that he had said the best grace over
it; and while she ate he talked, evidently moved to open his heart by
the memory of the past, and eager to show that he had manfully persisted
in the well-doing his angels had advised.
"That was nearly two years ago, you know, and I've been hard at it ever
since. I took any thing that come along, and was glad to get it. The hat
did that, I firmly believe." And he laughed a short laugh, adding
soberly, "But I didn't take to work at first, for I'd been a rover and
liked it; so it took a long pull and a strong pull and a pull all
together before I settled down steady. The hat and the"--he was going to
say "kiss;" but a look at the lonely little creature sitting there so
confidingly made him change the word to--"the money seemed to bring me
luck; and I followed the advice of the good old lady, and stuck to my
work till I got to liking it. I've been here more than a year now, and
am getting on so well I shall be overseer before long. I'm only watchman
for a short time. Old Sam has been sick, and they wanted some one they
could trust, so they chose me."
It was good to see him square his broad shoulders and throw back his
head as he said that; and pretty to see Letty nod and smile with
sincerest pleasure in his success, as she said,--
"It looks dark and ugly now; but I've seen a foundry when they were
casting, and it was splendid to watch the men manage the furnaces and do
wonderful things with great hammers and moulds and buckets of red-hot
melted iron. I like to know you do such things, and now I'm not afraid.
It seems sort of romantic and grand to work in this place, where every
one must be strong and brave and skilful to get on."
"That's it. That's why I like it; don't you see?" he answered,
brightening with pleasure at her artless praise. "You just come some
casting day, and I'll show you sights you won't forget in a hurry. If
there wasn't danger and noise and good hard work wrastling with fire and
iron, and keeping a rough set of fellows in order, I shouldn't stay; for
the restless fit comes on sometimes, and I feel as if I must cut away
somewhere. Born so, and can't help it. Maybe I could, if I had something
to anchor me; but, as you say, 'Nobody would care much if I was in the
river,' and that's bad for a chap like me."
"Sally would care," said the girl, quite soberly; for she sympathized
now with the man's loneliness as she could not have done two years ago.
"So she would; but I'll take her with me when I leave--not for the
river, mind you. I'm in no danger of that nonsense now. But, if I go on
a tramp (and I may, if the fit gets too strong for me), she shall go
too; and we'll be Dick Whittington and his cat over again."
He spoke in a devil-may-care tone, and patted the plump Tabby with a
curious mixture of boyish recklessness and a man's sad knowledge of life
in his face.
"Don't go," pleaded Letty, feeling that she had a certain responsibility
in the matter. "I should mind, as well as Sally; for, if Aunt Liddy and
I helped put you in a good way, it would be a disappointment to have you
go wrong. Please stop here, and I'll try and come to see you work some
day, if I can get time. I'm likely to have plenty of it, I'm afraid."
She began eagerly, but ended with a despondent droop of the whole
figure, that made her new friend forget himself in interest for her.
"I'll stop, honor bright. And you come and look after me now and then.
That'll keep me steady. See if it don't. But tell me how you are getting
on? Little down on your luck just now, I guess? Come, I've told my
story, you tell yours, and maybe I can lend a hand. I owe you a good
turn, you know; and I'm one that likes to pay his debts, if he can."
"You did pay yours; but I never got the letter, for I came away after
Aunty died. You see I wasn't her own niece,--only sort of a distant
relation; and she took me because my own people were gone. Her son had
all she left,--it wasn't much; and she told him to be good to me. But I
soon saw that I was a burden, and couldn't bear to stay. So I went away,
to take care of myself. I liked it at first; but this winter, times are
so hard and work so scarce, I don't get on at all."
"What do you do, miss?" asked Whittington, with added respect; because
in her shabby dress and altered face he read the story of a struggle
Letty was too proud to tell.
"I sew," she answered briefly, smoothing out her wet shawl with a hand
so thin and small it was pathetic to see, when one remembered that
nothing but a needle in those slender fingers kept want and sin at bay.
The kindly fellow seemed to feel that; and, as his eye went from his own
strong right arm to the sledge-hammer it often swung, the instinct of
protection so keen in manly men made him long to stand between poor
Letty and the hard world he knew so well. The magnetism of sympathy
irresistibly attracted iron to steel, while little needle felt assured
that big hammer would be able to beat down many of the obstacles which
now seemed insurmountable, if she only dared to ask for aid. But help
came without the asking.
"Been after work, you say? Why, we could give you heaps of it, if you
don't mind it's being coarse and plain. This sort of thing, you know,"
touching his red shirt with a business-like air. "Our men use 'em
altogether, and like 'em strong in the seams. Some ain't, and buttons
fly off just looking at 'em. That makes a fellow mad, and swearing comes
But Letty shook her head, though she couldn't help smiling at his sober
way of explaining the case and its sad consequences.
"I've tried that work, and it doesn't pay. Six cents for a shirt, and
sometimes only four, isn't enough to earn one's board and clothes and
fire, even if one made half a dozen a day. _You_ can't get them for
that, and somebody grows rich while _we_ starve.
"Hanged if I ever buy another! See here, you make me enough for a year,
and we'll have a fair bargain between us. That is, if you can't do
better and don't mind," he added, suddenly abating his warmth and
looking almost bashful over the well-meant proposal.
"I'd love to do it. Only you mustn't pay too much," said Letty, glad of
any thing to keep her hands and thoughts busy, for life was very bare
and cold just then.
"All right. I'll see to it directly, and nobody be the wiser," returned
her new employer, privately resolving to order a bale of red flannel on
the morrow, and pay fabulous prices for the work of the little friend
who had once kept him from worse than starvation.
It was not much to offer, and red flannel was not a romantic subject of
conversation; but something in the prompt relief and the hearty
good-will of the man went to Letty's heart, already full to overflowing
with many cares and troubles. She tried to thank him, but could only
cover up her face and sob. It was so sweet and comfortable to find any
one who cared enough for her to lift her out of the slough of despond,
which was to her as dangerous a mood as the desperate one he had known.
There were hands enough to beckon the winsome creature to the wrong side
of the quagmire, where so many miss the stepping-stones; but she felt
that this was the right side, and the hand an honest one, though rough
and grimy with hard work. So the tears were glad and grateful tears, and
she let them flow, melting the fatal frost that had chilled her hope and
faith in God and man.
But the causer of them could not bear the sight, for the contrast
between this forlorn girl and the blithe, blooming Letty of that
memorable day was piteous. Manlike, he tried to express his sympathy in
deeds as well as words, and, hastily filling a tin cup from the
coffee-can, pressed it upon her with a fatherly stroke of the bent head
and a soothing,--
"Now, my dear, just take a sip of this, and don't cry any more. We'll
straighten things out. So cheer up, and let me lend a hand anywhere,
But hunger and fear, weariness and cold, had been too much for poor
Letty; and, in the act of lifting up her wet face to thank him, the
light left her eyes, and she would have slipped to the ground, if he had
not caught her.
In a minute she was herself again, lying on the old rug, with snow upon
her forehead and some one fanning her with a newspaper.
"I thought I was going to die," she whispered, looking about her in a
dazed sort of way.
"Not a bit of it! You're going to sleep. That's what you want, and old
Sally's going to sit by while you do it. It's a hardish pillow; but I've
put my handkerchief over it, and, being Monday, its spick-and-span
Letty smiled as she turned her cheek to the faded silk handkerchief laid
over the rolled-up coat under her head, for Pussy was nestling close
beside her, as if her presence was both a comfort and defence. Yet the
girl's eyes filled even while she smiled, for, when most desolate, a
friend had been raised up to her; and, though the face bending over her
was dark and shaggy, there was no fear in her own, as she said
"I don't believe I could go if I tried, I'm so worn out. But you'll take
care of me, and in the morning show me the way home?"
"Please God, I will!" he answered, as solemnly as if taking an oath,
adding, as he stepped back to the stool she had left: "I shall stay here
and read my paper. Nothing shall scare you; so make yourself
comfortable, and drop off with an easy mind."
Sitting there, he saw her lay her hands together, as if she said some
little prayer; then, turning her face from the light, she fell asleep,
lulled by the drowsy purr of the humble friend to whom she clung even in
her dreams. He only looked a minute, for something that was neither the
shimmer of firelight nor the glitter of snow-dust made the quiet group
dance mistily before his eyes; and, forgetting his paper, he fell to
drying Letty's hat.
It was both comical and pleasant to see how tenderly he touched the
battered thing, with what interest he surveyed it, perched on his big
hand, and how carefully he smoothed out the ribbons, evidently much
bewildered as to which was the front and which the back. Giving up the
puzzle, he hung it on the handle of the great hammer, and, leaning his
chin on his hand, began to build castles in the air and watch the red
embers, as if he saw in them some vision of the future that was very
Hour after hour struck from the city clocks across the river; the
lantern burned itself out, untrimmed; the storm died away; and a soft,
white silence followed the turmoil of the night. Still Letty slept like
a tired child, still old Sally, faithful to her trust, lay in the circle
of the girl's arm; and still the watchman sat before the fire, dreaming
waking dreams, as he had often done before; but never any half so
earnest, sweet, and hopeful as those that seemed to weave a tender
romance about the innocent sleeper, to whom he was loyally paying a debt
of gratitude with such poor hospitality as he could show.
Dawn came up rosy and clear along the east; and the first level ray of
wintry sunlight, as it struck across the foundry walls, fell on Letty's
placid face, with the bright hair shining like a halo round it.
Feeling very much as if he had entertained an angel unaware, the man
stood enjoying the pretty picture, hesitating to wake her, yet fearing
that a gruff hallo from old Sam might do it too suddenly. Somehow he
hated to have her go; for the gloomy foundry seemed an enchanted sort of
place this morning, with a purer heaven and earth outside, and within
the "little mate" whom he felt a strong desire to keep "always
alongside," for something better than luck's sake.
He was smiling to himself over the thought, yet half ashamed to own how
it had grown and strengthened in a night, when Letty opened wide a pair
of eyes full of the peace sleep brings and the soft lustre that comes
after tears. Involuntarily the man drew back, and waited silently for
her to speak. She looked bewildered for a moment, then remembered, and
sprang up, full of the relief and fresh gratitude that came with her
first waking thought.
"How long I've slept! How very kind you were to me! I can go now, if you
will start me right."
"You are heartily welcome! I can take you home at once, unless you'd
rather wait for Sam," he answered, with a quick look toward the door, as
if already jealous of the venerable Samuel.
"I'd rather go before any one comes. But perhaps you ought not to leave
yet? I wouldn't like to take you from your duty," began Letty, looking
about her for her hat.
"Duty be--hanged! I'm going to see you safe home, if you'll let me.
Here's your hat. I dried it; but it don't look quite shipshape somehow."
And taking the shabby little object from the nail where it hung, he
presented it with such respectful care that a glimmer of the old
mirthfulness came into Letty's face, as she said, surveying it with much
"It is almost as bad as the one I gave you; but it must do."
"I've got that old thing up at my place now. Keep it for luck. Wish I
had one for you. Hold on! Here's a tippet--nice and warm. Have it for a
hood. You'll find it cold outside."
He was so intent on making her comfortable that Letty could not refuse,
and tied on the tippet, while he refilled the cup with hot coffee,
carefully saved for her.
"Little Red Riding Hood! Blest if you ain't!" he exclaimed admiringly,
as he turned to her again, and saw the sweet face in its new head-gear.
"But you are not the wolf," she answered, with a smile like sunshine,
bending to drink from the cup he held.
As she lifted her head, the blue eyes and the black exchanged again the
subtle glance of sympathy that made them friends before; only now the
blue ones looked up full of gratitude, and the black ones looked down
soft with pity. Neither spoke; but Letty stooped, and, gathering old
Sally in her arms, kissed the friendly creature, then followed her guide
to the door.
"How beautiful!" she cried, as the sun came dazzling down upon the snow,
that hid all dark and ugly things with a veil of purity.
"Looks kind of bridal, don't it?" said the man, taking a long breath of
the frosty air, and straightening himself up, as if anxious to look his
best by daylight.
He never had looked better, in spite of the old coat and red shirt; for
the glow of the furnace-fire still seemed to touch his brown face, the
happy visions of the night still shone in his eyes, and the protective
kindliness of a generous nature gave dignity to the rough figure, as he
strode into the snow and stretched his hand to Letty, saying cheerily,--
"Pretty deep, but hold on to me, and I'll get you through. Better take
my hand; I washed it a-purpose."
Letty did take it in both her little ones; and they went away together
through the deserted streets, feeling as if they were the only pair
alive in the still white world that looked so lovely in the early
The girl was surprised to find how short the way seemed; for, in spite
of drifts, she got on bravely, with a strong arm to help and a friendly
voice to encourage her. Yet when she reached the last corner she
stopped, and said, with a sudden shyness which he understood and
"I'd best go on alone now. But I'm very grateful to you! Please tell me
your name. I'd love to know who my friend is, though I never shall
forget his kindness."
"Nor I yours. Joe Stone is my name. But I'd rather you called me your
tramp till we get something better," he answered, with a laugh in his
eyes, as he bent toward her for a hearty shake of the slender hand that
had grown warm in his.
"I will! Good-by, good-by!" And, suddenly remembering how they parted
before, Letty blushed like a rose, and ran away as fast as the drifts
would let her.
"And I'll call you my Letty some day, if I'm not much mistaken," Joe
said to himself, with a decided nod, as he went back to the foundry,
feeling that the world looked more "sort of bridal" than ever.
He was not mistaken; for, when spring budded, his dream came true, and
in the little sewing-girl, who bound him with a silken thread so soft
and strong it never broke, he found an anchor that held him fast to
happiness and home. To Letty something wonderful happened at last. The
prince came when most she needed him; and, though even when the beggar's
rags fell off his only crown was the old hat, his royal robes red
flannel and fustian, his sceptre a sledge-hammer, she knew and loved
"The man was a man for a' that."
_HOW THEY WALKED INTO LENNOX'S LIFE_
"Come out for a drive, Harry?"
"Have a game of billiards?"
"Go and call on the Fairchilds?"
"Having an unfortunate prejudice against country girls, I respectfully
"What will you do, then?"
"Nothing, thank you."
And, settling himself more luxuriously upon the couch, Lennox closed his
eyes, and appeared to slumber tranquilly. Kate shook her head, and stood
regarding her brother despondently, till a sudden idea made her turn
toward the window, exclaiming abruptly,--
"Scarlet stockings, Harry!"
"Where?" and, as if the words were a spell to break the deepest
day-dream, Lennox hurried to the window, with an unusual expression of
interest in his listless face.
"I thought that would succeed! She isn't there, but I've got you up, and
you are not to go down again," laughed Kate, taking possession of the
"Not a bad manoeuvre. I don't mind: it's about time for the one
interesting event of the day to occur, so I'll watch for myself, thank
you," and Lennox took the easy chair by the window with a shrug and a
"I'm glad any thing does interest you," said Kate, petulantly. "I don't
think it amounts to much, for, though you perch yourself at the window
every day to see that girl pass, you don't care enough about it to ask
"I've been waiting to be told."
"It's Belle Morgan, the doctor's daughter, and my dearest friend."
"Then, of course, she is a blue-belle?"
"Don't try to be witty or sarcastic with her, for she will beat you at
"Not a dumb-belle, then?"
"Quite the reverse: she talks a good deal, and very well, too, when she
"She is very pretty: has anybody the right to call her 'Ma belle'?"
"Many would be glad to do so, but she won't have any thing to say to
"A Canterbury belle, in every sense of the word, then?"
"She might be, for all Canterbury loves her; but she isn't fashionable,
and has more friends among the poor than among the rich."
"Ah, I see, a diving-bell, who knows how to go down into a sea of
troubles, and bring up the pearls worth having."
"I'll tell her that, it will please her. You are really waking up,
Harry," and Kate smiled approvingly upon him.
"This page of 'Belle's Life' is rather amusing, so read away," said
Lennox, glancing up-the street, as if he awaited the appearance of the
next edition with pleasure.
"There isn't much to tell; she is a nice, bright, energetic,
warm-hearted dear; the pride of the doctor's heart, and a favorite with
every one, though she is odd."
"Does and says what she likes, is very blunt and honest, has ideas and
principles of her own, goes to parties in high dresses, won't dance
round dances, and wears red stockings, though Mrs. Plantagenet says it's
"Rather a jolly little person, I fancy. Why haven't we met her at some
of the tea-fights and muffin-worries we've been to lately?"
"It may make you angry, but it will do you good, so I'll tell. She
didn't care enough about seeing the distinguished stranger to come;
that's the truth."
"Sensible girl, to spare herself hours of mortal dulness, gossip, and
dyspepsia," was the placid reply.
"She has seen you, though, at church, and dawdling about town, and she
called you 'Sir Charles Coldstream,' on the spot. How does that suit?"
asked Kate, maliciously.
"Not bad; I rather like that. Wish she'd call some day, and stir us up."
"She won't; I asked her, but she said she was very busy, and told Jessy
Tudor she wasn't fond of peacocks."
"I don't exactly see the connection."
"Stupid boy! she meant you, of course."
"Oh, I'm peacocks, am I?"
"I don't wish to be rude, but I really do think you _are_ vain of your
good looks, elegant accomplishments, and the impression you make
wherever you go. When it's worth while, you exert yourself, and are
altogether fascinating; but the 'I come-see-and-conquer' air you put on
spoils it all for sensible people."
"It strikes me that Miss Morgan has slightly infected you with her
oddity, as far as bluntness goes. Fire away! it's rather amusing to be
abused when one is dying of ennui."
"That's grateful and complimentary to me, when I have devoted myself to
you ever since you came. But every thing bores you, and the only sign of
interest you've shown is in those absurd red hose. I _should_ like to
know what the charm is," said Kate, sharply.
"Impossible to say; accept the fact calmly as I do, and be grateful that
there is one glimpse of color, life, and spirit in this aristocratic
tomb of a town."
"You are not obliged to stay in it!" fiercely.
"Begging your pardon, my dove, but I am. I promised to give you my
enlivening society for a month, and a Lennox keeps his word, even at the
cost of his life."
"I'm sorry I asked such a sacrifice; but I innocently thought that,
after being away for five long years, you might care to see your orphan
sister," and the dove produced her handkerchief with a plaintive sniff.
"Now, my dear creature, don't be melodramatic, I beg of you!" cried her
brother, imploringly. "I wished to come, I pined to embrace you, and, I
give you my word, I don't blame you for the stupidity of this confounded
"It never was so gay as since you came, for every one has tried to make
it pleasant for you," cried Kate, ruffled at his indifference to the
hospitable efforts of herself and friends. "But you don't care for any
of our simple amusements, because you are spoilt by the flattery,
gayety, and nonsense of foreign society. If I didn't know it was half
affectation, I should be in despair, you are so _blasé_ and absurd. It's
always the way with men: if one happens to be handsome, accomplished,
and talented, he puts on as many airs, and is as vain as any silly
"Don't you think if you took breath you'd get on faster, my dear?" asked
the imperturbable gentleman, as Kate paused with a gasp.
"I know it's useless for me to talk, as you don't care a straw what I
say; but it's true, and some day you'll wish you had done something
worth doing all these years. I was so proud of you, so fond of you, that
I can't help being disappointed to find you with no more ambition than
to kill time comfortably, no interest in any thing but your own
pleasures, and only energy enough to amuse yourself with a pair of
Pathetic as poor Kate's face and voice were, it was impossible to help
laughing at the comical conclusion of her lament. Lennox tried to hide
the smile on his lips by affecting to curl his moustache with care, and
to gaze pensively out as if touched by her appeal. But he wasn't,--oh,
bless you, no! she was only his sister, and, though she might have
talked with the wisdom of Solomon and the eloquence of Demosthenes, it
wouldn't have done a particle of good. Sisters do very well to work for
one, to pet one, and play confidante when one's love affairs need
feminine wit to conduct them; but when they begin to reprove, or
criticise, or moralize, it won't do, and can't be allowed, of course.
Lennox never snubbed anybody, but blandly extinguished them by a polite
acquiescence in all their affirmations, for the time being, and then
went on in his own way as if nothing had been said.
"I dare say you are right; I'll go and think over your very sensible
advice," and, as if roused to unwonted exertion by the stings of an
accusing conscience, he left the room abruptly.
"I do believe I've made an impression at last! He's actually gone out to
think over what I've said. Dear Harry, I was sure he had a heart, if one
only knew how to get at it!" and with a sigh of satisfaction Kate went
to the window to behold the "Dear Harry" going briskly down the street
after a pair of scarlet stockings. A spark of anger kindled in her eyes
as she watched him, and when he vanished she still stood knitting her
brows in deep thought, for a grand idea was dawning upon her.
It _was_ a dull town; no one could deny that, for everybody was so
intensely proper and well-born that nobody dared to be jolly. All the
houses were square, aristocratic mansions with Revolutionary elms in
front and spacious coach-houses behind. The knockers had a supercilious
perk to their bronze or brass noses, the dandelions on the lawns had a
highly connected air, and the very pigs were evidently descended from
"our first families." Stately dinner-parties, decorous dances, moral
picnics, and much tea-pot gossiping were the social resources of the
place. Of course, the young people flirted, for that diversion is
apparently irradicable even in the "best society," but it was done with
a propriety which was edifying to behold.
One can easily imagine that such a starched state of things would not be
particularly attractive to a travelled young gentleman like Lennox, who,
as Kate very truly said, _had_ been spoilt by the flattery, luxury, and
gayety of foreign society. He did his best, but by the end of the first
week ennui claimed him for its own, and passive endurance was all that
was left him. From perfect despair he was rescued by the scarlet
stockings, which went tripping by one day as he stood at the window,
planning some means of escape.
A brisk, blithe-faced girl passed in a gray walking suit with a
distracting pair of high-heeled boots and glimpses of scarlet at the
ankle. Modest, perfectly so, I assure you, were the glimpses; but the
feet were so decidedly pretty that one forgot to look at the face
appertaining thereunto. It wasn't a remarkably lovely face, but it was a
happy, wholesome one, with all sorts of good little dimples in cheek and
chin, sunshiny twinkles in the black eyes, and a decided yet lovable
look about the mouth that was quite satisfactory. A busy, bustling
little body she seemed to be, for sack-pockets and muff were full of
bundles, and the trim boots tripped briskly over the ground, as if the
girl's heart were as light as her heels. Somehow this active, pleasant
figure seemed to wake up the whole street, and leave a streak of
sunshine behind it, for every one nodded as it passed, and the primmest
faces relaxed into smiles, which lingered when the girl had gone.
"Uncommonly pretty feet,--she walks well, which American girls seldom
do,--all waddle or prance,--nice face, but the boots are French, and it
does my heart good to see them."
Lennox made these observations to himself as the young lady approached,
nodded to Kate at another window, gave a quick but comprehensive glance
at himself and trotted round the corner, leaving the impression on his
mind that a whiff of fresh spring air had blown through the street in
spite of the December snow. He didn't trouble himself to ask who it was,
but fell into the way of lounging in the bay-window at about three P.M.,
and watching the gray and scarlet figure pass with its blooming cheeks,
bright eyes, and elastic step. Having nothing else to do, he took to
petting this new whim, and quite depended on the daily stirring up which
the sight of the energetic damsel gave him. Kate saw it all, but took no
notice till the day of the little tiff above recorded; after that she
was as soft as a summer sea, and by some clever stroke had Belle Morgan
to tea that very week.
Lennox was one of the best-tempered fellows in the world, but the
"peacocks" did rather nettle him, because there was some truth in the
insinuation; so he took care to put on no airs or try to be fascinating
in the presence of Miss Belle. In truth, he soon forgot himself
entirely, and enjoyed her oddities with a relish, after the prim
proprieties of the other young ladies who had simpered and sighed before
him. For the first time in his life, the "Crusher," as his male friends
called him, got crushed; for Belle, with the subtle skill of a
quick-witted, keen-sighted girl, soon saw and condemned the elegant
affectations which others called foreign polish. A look, a word, a
gesture from a pretty woman, is often more eloquent and impressive than
moral essays or semi-occasional twinges of conscience; and in the
presence of one satirical little person Sir Charles Coldstream soon
ceased to deserve the name.
Belle seemed to get over her hurry and to find time for occasional
relaxation, but one never knew in what mood he might find her, for the
weathercock was not more changeable than she. Lennox liked that, and
found the muffin-worries quite endurable with this _sauce piquante_ to
relieve their insipidity. Presently he discovered that he was suffering
for exercise, and formed the wholesome habit of promenading the town
about three P.M.; Kate said, to follow the scarlet stockings.
_WHERE THEY LED HIM._
"Whither away, Miss Morgan?" asked Lennox, as he overtook her one bitter
"I'm taking my constitutional."
"So am I."
"With a difference," and Belle glanced at the blue-nosed, muffled-up
gentleman strolling along beside her with an occasional shiver and
"After a winter in the south of France, one does not find arctic weather
like this easy to bear," he said, with a disgusted air.
"I like it, and do my five or six miles a day, which keeps me in what
fine ladies call 'rude health,'" answered Belle, walking him on at a
pace which soon made his furs a burden.
She was a famous pedestrian, and a little proud of her-powers; but she
outdid all former feats that day, and got over the ground in gallant
style. Something in her manner put her escort on his mettle; and his
usual lounge was turned into a brisk march, which set his blood dancing,
face glowing, and spirits effervescing as they had not done for many a
"There! you look more like your real self now," said Belle, with the
first sign of approval she had ever vouch-safed him, as he rejoined her
after a race to recover her veil, which the wind whisked away over hedge
"Are you sure you know what my real self is?" he asked, with a touch of
the "conquering hero" air.
"Not a doubt of it. I always know a soldier when I see one," returned
"A soldier! that's the last thing I should expect to be accused of," and
Lennox looked both surprised and gratified.
"There's a flash in your eye and a ring to your voice, occasionally,
which made me suspect that you had fire and energy enough if you only
chose to show it, and the spirit with which you have just executed the
'Morgan Quickstep' proves that I was right," returned Belle, laughing.
"Then I am not altogether a 'peacock'?" said Lennox, significantly, for
during the chat, which had been as brisk as the walk, Belle had given
his besetting sins several sly hits, and he couldn't resist one return
shot, much as her unexpected compliment pleased him.
Poor Belle blushed up to her forehead, tried to look as if she did not
understand, and gladly hid her confusion behind the recovered veil
without a word.
There was a decided display both of the "flash" and the "ring," as
Lennox looked at the suddenly subdued young lady, and, quite satisfied
with his retaliation, gave the order, "Forward, march!" which brought
them to the garden-gate breathless, but better friends than before.
The next time the young people met, Belle was in such a hurry that she
went round the corner with an abstracted expression which was quite a
triumph of art. Just then, off tumbled the lid of the basket she
carried; and Lennox, rescuing it from a puddle, obligingly helped
readjust it over a funny collection of bottles, dishes, and tidy little
rolls of all sorts.
"It's very heavy, mayn't I carry it for you?" he asked, in an
"No, thank you," was on Belle's lips; but, observing that he was dressed
with unusual elegance to pay calls, she couldn't resist the temptation
of making a beast of burden of him, and took him at his word.
"You may, if you like. I've got more bundles to take from the store, and
another pair of hands won't come amiss."
Lennox lifted his eyebrows, also the basket; and they went on again,
Belle very much absorbed in her business, and her escort wondering where
she was going with all that rubbish. Filling his unoccupied hand with
sundry brown paper parcels, much to the detriment of the light glove
that covered it, Belle paraded him down the main street before the
windows of the most aristocratic mansions, and then dived into a dirty
back-lane, where the want and misery of the town was decorously kept out
"You don't mind scarlet fever, I suppose?" observed Belle, as they
approached the unsavory residence of Biddy O'Brien.
"Well, I'm not exactly partial to it," said Lennox, rather taken aback.
"You needn't go in if you are afraid, or speak to me afterwards, so no
harm will be done--except to your gloves."
"Why do _you_ come here, if I may ask? It isn't the sort of amusement I
should recommend," he began, evidently disapproving of the step.
"Oh, I'm used to it, and like to play nurse where father plays doctor.
I'm fond of children and Mrs. O'Brien's are little dears," returned
Belle, briskly, threading her way between ash-heaps and mud-puddles as
if bound to a festive scene.
"Judging from the row in there, I should infer that Mrs. O'Brien had
quite a herd of little dears."
"And all sick?"
"More or less."
"By Jove! it's perfectly heroic in you to visit this hole in spite of
dirt, noise, fragrance, and infection," cried Lennox, who devoutly
wished that the sense of smell if not of hearing were temporarily denied
"Bless you, it's the sort of thing I enjoy, for there's no nonsense
here; the work you do is pleasant if you do it heartily, and the thanks
you get are worth having, I assure you."
She put out her hand to relieve him of the basket, but he gave it an
approving little shake, and said briefly,--
"Not yet, I'm coming in."
It's all very well to rhapsodize about the exquisite pleasure of doing
good, to give carelessly of one's abundance, and enjoy the delusion of
having remembered the poor. But it is a cheap charity, and never brings
the genuine satisfaction which those know who give their mite with heart
as well as hand, and truly love their neighbor as themselves. Lennox had
seen much fashionable benevolence, and laughed at it even while he
imitated it, giving generously when it wasn't inconvenient. But this was
a new sort of thing entirely; and in spite of the dirt, the noise, and
the smells, he forgot the fever, and was glad he came when poor Mrs.
O'Brien turned from her sick babies, exclaiming, with Irish fervor at
sight of Belle,--
"The Lord love ye, darlin, for remimberin us when ivery one, barrin' the
doctor, and the praste, turns the cowld shouldther in our throuble!"
"Now if you really want to help, just keep this child quiet while I see
to the sickest ones," said Belle, dumping a stout infant on to his knee,
thrusting an orange into his hand, and leaving him aghast while she
unpacked her little messes, and comforted the maternal bird.
With the calmness of desperation, her aid-de-camp put down his best
beaver on the rich soil which covered the floor, pocketed his gloves,
and, making a bib of his cambric handkerchief, gagged young Pat
deliciously with bits of orange whenever he opened his mouth to roar. At
her first leisure moment, Belle glanced at him to see how he was getting
on, and found him so solemnly absorbed in his task that she went off
into a burst of such infectious merriment that the O'Briens, sick and
well, joined in it to a man.
"Good fun, isn't it?" she asked, turning down her cuffs when the last
spoonful of gruel was administered.
"I've no doubt of it, when one is used to the thing. It comes a little
hard at first, you know," returned Lennox, wiping his forehead, with a
long breath, and seizing his hat as if quite ready to tear himself away.
"You've done very well for a beginner; so kiss the baby and come home,"
said Belle approvingly.
"No, thank you," muttered Lennox, trying to detach the bedaubed
innocent. But little Pat had a grateful heart, and, falling upon his new
nurse's neck with a rapturous crow, clung there like a burr.
"Take him off! Let me out of this! He's one too many for me!" cried the
wretched young man in comic despair.
Being freed with much laughter, he turned and fled, followed by a shower
of blessings from Mrs. O'Brien.
As they came up again into the pleasant highways, Lennox said, awkwardly
"The thanks of the poor _are_ excellent things to have, but I think I'd
rather receive them by proxy. Will you kindly spend this for me in
making that poor soul comfortable?"
But Belle wouldn't take what he offered her; she put it back, saying
"Give it yourself; one can't buy blessings,--they must be _earned_ or
they are not worth having. Try it, please, and, if you find it a
failure, then I'll gladly be your almoner."
There was a significance in her words which he could not fail to
understand. He neither shrugged, drawled, nor sauntered now, but gave
her a look in which respect and self-reproach were mingled, and left
her, simply saying, "I'll try it, Miss Morgan."
"Now isn't she odd?" whispered Kate to her brother, as Belle appeared at
a little dance at Mrs. Plantagenet's in a high-necked dress, knitting
away on an army-sock, as she greeted the friends who crowded round her.
"Charmingly so. Why don't you do that sort of thing when you can?"
answered her brother, glancing at her thin, bare shoulders, and hands
rendered nearly useless by the tightness of the gloves.
"Gracious, no! It's natural to her to do so, and she carries it off
well; I couldn't, therefore I don't try, though I admire it in her. Go
and ask her to dance, before she is engaged."
"She doesn't dance round dances, you know."
"She is dreadfully prim about some things, and so free and easy about
others: I can't understand it, do you?"
"Well, yes, I think I do. Here's Forbes coming for you, I'll go and
entertain Belle by a quarrel."
He found her in a recess out of the way of the rushing and romping, busy
with her work, yet evidently glad to be amused.
"I admire your adherence to principle, Miss Belle; but don't you find it
a little hard to sit still while your friends are enjoying themselves?"
he asked, sinking luxuriously into the lounging chair beside her.
"Yes, very," answered Belle with characteristic candor. "But father does
not approve of that sort of exercise, so I console myself with something
useful till my chance comes."
"Your work can't exactly be called ornamental," said Lennox, looking at
the big sock.
"Don't laugh at it, sir; it is for the foot of the brave fellow who is
going to fight for me and his country."
"Happy fellow! May I ask who he is?" and Lennox sat up with an air of
"My substitute: I don't know his name, for father has not got him yet;
but I'm making socks, and towels, and a comfort-bag for him, so that
when found he may be off at once."
"You really mean it?" cried Lennox.
"Of course I do; I can't go myself, but I _can_ buy a pair of strong
arms to fight for me, and I intend to do it. I only hope he'll have the
right sort of courage, and be a credit to me."
"What do you call the right sort of courage?" asked Lennox, soberly.
"That which makes a man ready and glad to live or die for a principle.
There's a chance for heroes now, if there ever was. When do you join
your regiment?" she added, abruptly.
"Haven't the least idea," and Lennox subsided again.
"But you intend to do so, of course?"
"Why should I?"
Belle dropped her work. "Why should you? What a question! Because you
have health, and strength, and courage, and money to help on the good
cause, and every man should give his best, and not _dare_ to stay at
home when he is needed."
"You forget that I am an Englishman, and we rather prefer to be strictly
neutral just now."
"You are only half English; and for your mother's sake you should be
proud and glad to fight for the North," cried Belle warmly.
"I don't remember my mother,--"
"But, I was about to add, I've no objection to lend a hand if it isn't
too much trouble to get off," said Lennox indifferently, for he liked to
see Belle's color rise, and her eyes kindle while he provoked her.
"Do you expect to go South in a bandbox? You'd better join one of the
kid-glove regiments; they say the dandies fight well when the time
"I've been away so long, the patriotic fever hasn't seized me yet; and,
as the quarrel is none of mine, I think perhaps I'd better take care of
Kate, and let you fight it out among yourselves. Here's the Lancers, may
I have the honor?"
But Belle, being very angry at this lukewarmness, answered in her
"Having reminded me that you are a 'strictly neutral' Englishman, you
must excuse me if I decline; _I_ dance only with loyal Americans," and,
rolling up her work with a defiant flourish, she walked away, leaving
him to lament his loss and wonder how he could retrieve it. She did not
speak to him again till he stood in the hall waiting for Kate; then
Belle came down in a charming little red hood, and going straight up to
him with her hand out, a repentant look and a friendly smile, said
"I was very rude; I want to beg pardon of the English, and shake hands
with the American, half."
So peace was declared, and lasted unbroken for the remaining week of his
stay, when he proposed to take Kate to the city for a little gayety.
Miss Morgan openly approved the plan, but secretly felt as if the town
was about to be depopulated, and tried to hide her melancholy in her
substitute's socks. They were not large enough, however, to absorb it
all; and, when Lennox went to make his adieu, it was perfectly evident
that the Doctor's Belle was out of tune. The young gentleman basely
exulted over this, till she gave him something else to think about by
"Before you go, I feel as if I ought to tell you something, since Kate
won't. If you are offended about it please don't blame her; she meant it
kindly, and so did I." Belle paused as if it was not an easy thing to
tell and then went on quickly, with her eyes upon her work.
"Three weeks ago Kate asked me to help her in a little plot; and I
consented, for the fun of the thing She wanted something to amuse and
stir you up, and, finding that my queer ways diverted you, she begged me
to be neighborly and let you do what you liked. I didn't care
particularly about amusing you, but I did think you needed rousing; so
for her sake I tried to do it, and you very good-naturedly bore my
lecturing. I don't like deceit of any kind, so I confess; but I can't
say I'm sorry, for I really think you are none the worse for the teasing
and teaching you've had."
Belle didn't see him flush and frown as she made her confession, and
when she looked up he only said, half gratefully, half reproachfully,--
"I'm a good deal the better for it, I dare say, and ought to be very
thankful for your friendly exertions. But two against one was hardly
fair, now, was it?"
"No, it was sly and sinful in the highest degree, but we did it for your
good; so I know you'll forgive us, and as a proof of it sing one or two
of my favorites for the last time."
"You don't deserve any favor; but I'll do it, to show you how much more
magnanimous men are than women."
Not at all loth to improve his advantages, Lennox warbled his most
melting lays _con amore_, watching, as he sung, for any sign of
sentiment in the girlish face opposite. But Belle wouldn't be
sentimental; and sat rattling her knitting-needles industriously, though
"The Harbor Bar was moaning" dolefully, though "Douglas" was touchingly
"tender and true," and the "Wind of the Summer Night" sighed
romantically through the sitting-room.
"Much obliged. Must you go?" she said, without a sign of soft confusion
as he rose.
"I must; but I shall come again before I leave the country. May I?" he
asked, holding her hand.
"If you come in a uniform."
"Good night, Belle," tenderly.--"Good-by, Sir Charles," with a wicked
twinkle of the eye, which lasted till he closed the hall-door, growling
"I thought I'd had some experience, but one never _can_ understand these
Canterbury did become a desert to Belle after her dear friend had gone
(of course the dear friend's brother had nothing to do with the
desolation); and as the weeks dragged slowly Belle took to reading
poetry, practising plaintive ballads, and dawdling over her work at a
certain window which commanded a view of the railway station and hotel.
"You're dull, my dear; run up to town with me to-morrow, and see your
young man off," said the Doctor one evening, as Belle sat musing with a
half-mended red stocking in her hand.
"My young man?" she ejaculated, turning with a start and a blush.
"Your substitute, child. Stephens attended to the business for me, and
he's off to-morrow. I began to tell you about the fellow last week, but
you were wool-gathering, so I stopped."
"Yes, I remember, it was all very nice. Goes to-morrow, does he? I'd
like to see him; but do you think we can both leave home at once? Some
one might come you know, and I fancy it's going to snow," said Belle,
putting her face behind the curtain to inspect the weather.
"You'd better go, the trip will do you good; you can take your things to
Tom Jones, and see Kate on the way: she's got back from Philadelphia."
"Has she? I'll go, then; it will please her, and I do need change. You
are a dear, to think of it;" and, giving her father a hasty glimpse of a
suddenly excited countenance, Belle slipped out of the room to prepare
her best array, with a most reckless disregard of the impending storm.
It did not snow on the morrow, and up they went to see the --th regiment
off. Belle did not see "her young man," however, for while her father
went to carry him her comforts and a patriotic nosegay of red and white
flowers, tied up with a smart blue ribbon, she called on Kate. But Miss
Lennox was engaged, and sent an urgent request that her friend would
call in the afternoon. Much disappointed and a little hurt, Belle then
devoted herself to the departing regiment, wishing she was going with
it, for she felt in a warlike mood. It was past noon when a burst of
martial music, the measured tramp of many feet, and enthusiastic cheers
announced that "the boys" were coming. From the balcony where she stood
with her father, Belle looked down upon the living stream that flowed by
like a broad river, with a steely glitter above the blue. All her petty
troubles vanished at the sight; her heart beat high, her face glowed,
her eyes filled, and she waved her handkerchief as zealously as if she
had a dozen friends and lovers in the ranks below.
"Here comes your man; I told him to stick the posy where it would catch
my eye, so I could point him out to you. Look, it's the tall fellow at
the end of the front line," said the Doctor in an excited tone, as he
pointed and beckoned.
Belle looked and gave a little cry, for there, in a private's uniform,
with her nosegay at his button-hole, and on his face a smile she never
forgot, was Lennox! For an instant she stood staring at him as pale and
startled as if he were a ghost; then the color rushed into her face, she
kissed both hands to him, and cried bravely, "Good-by, good-by; God
bless you, Harry!" and immediately laid her head on her father's
shoulder, sobbing as if her heart was broken.
When she looked up, her substitute was lost in the undulating mass
below, and for her the spectacle was over.
"Was it really he? Why wasn't I told? What does it all mean?" she
demanded, looking bewildered, grieved, and ashamed.
"He's really gone, my dear. It's a surprise of his, and I was bound over
to silence. Here, this will explain the joke, I suppose," and the Doctor
handed her a cocked-hat note, done up like a military order.
"A Roland for your Oliver, Mademoiselle! I came home for the
express purpose of enlisting, and only delayed a month on
Kate's account. If I ever return, I will receive my bounty at
your hands. Till then please comfort Kate, think as kindly as
you can of 'Sir Charles,' and sometimes pray a little prayer
Belle looked very pale and meek when she put the note in her pocket, but
she only said, "I must go and comfort Kate;" and the Doctor gladly
obeyed, feeling that the joke was more serious than he had imagined.
The moment her friend appeared, Miss Lennox turned on her tears, and
"played away," pouring forth lamentations, reproaches, and regrets in a
"I hope you are satisfied now, you cruel girl!" she began, refusing to
be kissed. "You've sent him off with a broken heart to rush into danger
and be shot, or get his arms and legs spoiled. You know he loved you and
wanted to tell you so, but you wouldn't let him; and now you've driven
him away, and he's gone as an insignificant private with his head
shaved, and a heavy knapsack breaking his back, and a horrid gun that
will be sure to explode: and he _would_ wear those immense blue socks
you sent, for he adores you, and you only teased and laughed at him, my
poor, deluded, deserted brother!" And, quite overwhelmed by the
afflicting picture, Kate lifted up her voice and wept again.
"I _am_ satisfied, for he's done what I hoped he would; and he's none
the less a gentleman because he's a private and wears my socks. I pray
they will keep him safe, and bring him home to us when he has done his
duty like a man, as I know he will. I'm proud of my brave substitute,
and I'll try to be worthy of him," cried Belle, kindling beautifully as
she looked out into the wintry sunshine with a new softness in the eyes
that still seemed watching that blue-coated figure marching away to
danger, perhaps death.
"It's ill playing with edged tools; we meant to amuse him, and we may
have sent him to destruction. I'll never forgive you for your part,
never!" said Kate, with the charming inconsistency of her sex.
But Belle turned away her wrath by a soft answer, as she whispered, with
a tender choke in her voice,--
"We both loved him, dear; let's comfort one another."
_WHAT BECAME OF THEM._
Private Lennox certainly _had_ chosen pretty hard work, for the --th was
not a "kid-glove" regiment by any means; fighting in mid-winter was not
exactly festive, and camps do not abound in beds of roses even at the
best of times. But Belle was right in saying she knew a soldier when she
saw him, for, now that he was thoroughly waked up, he proved that there
was plenty of courage, energy, and endurance in him.
It is my private opinion that he might now and then have slightly
regretted the step he had taken, had it not been for certain
recollections of a sarcastic tongue and a pair of keen eyes, not to
mention the influence of one of the most potent rulers of the human
heart; namely, the desire to prove himself worthy the respect, if
nothing more, of somebody at home. Belle's socks did seem to keep him
safe, and lead him straight in the narrow path of duty. Belle's
comfort-bag was such in very truth, for not one of the stout needles on
the tri-colored cushion but what seemed to wink its eye approvingly at
him; not one of the tidy balls of thread that did not remind him of the
little hand he coveted, and the impracticable scissors were cherished as
a good omen, though he felt that the sharpest steel that ever came from
Sheffield couldn't cut his love in twain. And Belle's lessons, short as
they had been, were not forgotten, but seemed to have been taken up by a
sterner mistress, whose rewards were greater, if not so sweet, as those
the girl could give. There was plenty of exercise nowadays, and of hard
work that left many a tired head asleep for ever under the snow. There
were many opportunities for diving "into the depths and bringing up
pearls worth having" by acts of kindness among the weak, the wicked, and
the suffering all about him. He learned now how to earn, not buy, the
thanks of the poor, and unconsciously proved in the truest way that a
private _could_ be a gentleman. But best of all was the steadfast
purpose "to live and die for a principle," which grew and strengthened
with each month of bitter hardship, bloody strife, and dearly bought
success. Life grew earnest to him, time seemed precious, self was
forgotten, and all that was best and bravest rallied round the flag on
which his heart inscribed the motto, "Love and Liberty."
Praise and honor he could not fail to win, and had he never gone back to
claim his bounty he would have earned the great "Well done," for he kept
his oath loyally, did his duty manfully, and loved his lady faithfully,
like a knight of the chivalrous times. He knew nothing of her secret,
but wore her blue ribbon like an order, never went into battle without
first, like many another poor fellow, kissing something which he carried
next his heart, and with each day of absence felt himself a better man,
and braver soldier, for the fondly foolish romance he had woven about
the scarlet stockings.
Belle and Kate did comfort one another, not only with tears and kisses,
but with womanly work which kept hearts happy and hands busy. How Belle
bribed her to silence will always remain the ninth wonder of the world;
but, though reams of paper passed between brother and sister during
those twelve months, not a hint was dropped on one side in reply to
artful inquiries from the other. Belle never told her love in words; but
she stowed away an unlimited quantity of the article in the big boxes
that went to gladden the eyes and--alas for romance!--the stomach of
Private Lennox. If pickles could typify passion, cigars prove constancy,
and gingerbread reveal the longings of the soul, then would the
above-mentioned gentleman have been the happiest of lovers. But
camp-life had doubtless dulled his finer intuitions: for he failed to
understand the new language of love, and gave away these tender tokens
with lavish prodigality. Concealment preyed a trifle on Belle's damask
cheek, it must be confessed, and the keen eyes grew softer with the
secret tears that sometimes dimmed them; the sharp tongue seldom did
mischief now, but uttered kindly words to every one, as if doing penance
for the past; and a sweet seriousness toned down the lively spirit,
which was learning many things in the sleepless nights that followed
when the "little prayer" for the beloved substitute was done.
"I'll wait and see if he is all I hope he will be, before I let him
know. I shall read the truth the instant I see him, and if he has stood
the test I'll run into his arms and tell him every thing," she said to
herself, with delicious thrills at the idea; but you may be sure she did
nothing of the sort when the time came.
A rumor flew through the town one day that Lennox had arrived; upon
receipt of which joyful tidings, Belle had a panic and hid herself in
the garret. But when she had quaked, and cried, and peeped, and listened
for an hour or two, finding that no one came to hunt her up, she
composed her nerves and descended to pass the afternoon in the parlor
and a high state of dignity. All sorts of reports reached her: he was
mortally wounded; he had been made a major or a colonel or a general, no
one knew exactly which; he was dead, was going to be married, and hadn't
come at all. Belle fully expiated all her small sins by the agonies of
suspense she suffered that day, and when at last a note came from Kate,
begging her "to drop over to see Harry," she put her pride in her pocket
and went at once.
The drawing-room was empty and in confusion, there was a murmur of
voices upstairs, a smell of camphor in the air, and an empty wine-glass
on the table where a military cap was lying. Belle's heart sunk, and she
covertly kissed the faded blue coat as she stood waiting breathlessly,
wondering if Harry had any arms for her to run into. She heard the
chuckling Biddy lumber up and announce her, then a laugh, and a
half-fond, half-exulting, "Ah, ha, I thought she'd come!"
That spoilt it all; Belle took out her pride instanter, rubbed a quick
color into her white cheeks, and, snatching up a newspaper, sat herself
down with as expressionless a face as it was possible for an excited
young woman to possess. Lennox came running down. "Thank Heaven, his
legs are safe!" sighed Belle, with her eyes glued to the price of beef.
He entered with both hands extended, which relieved her mind upon
another point; and he beamed upon her, looking so vigorous, manly, and
martial, that she cried within herself, "My beautiful brown soldier!"
even while she greeted him with an unnecessarily brief, "How do you do,
The sudden eclipse which passed over his joyful countenance would have
been ludicrous, if it hadn't been pathetic; but he was used to hard
knocks now, and bore this, his hardest, like a man. He shook hands
heartily; and, as Belle sat down again (not to betray that she was
trembling a good deal), he stood at ease before her, talking in a way
which soon satisfied her that he _had_ borne the test, and that bliss
was waiting for her round the corner. But she had made it such a very
sharp corner she couldn't turn it gracefully, and while she pondered how
to do so he helped her with a cough. She looked up quickly, discovering
all at once that he was very thin, rather pale in spite of the nice tan,
and breathed hurriedly as he stood with one hand in his breast.
"Are you ill, wounded, in pain?" she asked, forgetting herself entirely.
"Yes, all three," he answered, after a curious look at her changing
color and anxious eyes.
"Sit down--tell me about it--can I do any thing?" and Belle began to
plump up the pillows on the couch with nervous eagerness.
"Thank you, I'm past help," was the mournful reply accompanied by a
hollow cough which made her shiver.
"Oh, don't say so! Let me bring father; he is very skilful. Shall I call
"He can do nothing; Kate doesn't know this, and I beg you won't tell
her. I got a shot in the breast and made light of it, but it will finish
me sooner or later. I don't mind telling you, for you are one of the
strong, cool sort, you know, and are not affected by such things. But
Kate is so fond of me, I don't want to shock and trouble her yet awhile.
Let her enjoy my little visit, and after I'm gone you can tell her the
Belle had sat like a statue while he spoke with frequent pauses and an
involuntary clutch or two at the suffering breast. As he stopped and
passed his hand over his eyes, she said slowly, as if her white lips
"Back to my place. I'd rather die fighting than fussed and wailed over
by a parcel of women. I expected to stay a week or so, but a battle is
coming off sooner than we imagined, so I'm away again to-morrow. As I'm
not likely ever to come back, I just wanted to ask you to stand by poor
Kate when I'm finished, and to say good-by to you, Belle, before I go."
He put out his hand, but, holding it fast in both her own, she laid her
tearful face down on it, whispering imploringly,--
"Oh, Harry, stay!"
Never mind what happened for the next ten minutes; suffice it to say
that the enemy having surrendered, the victor took possession with great
jubilation and showed no quarter.
"Bang the field-piece, toot the fife, and beat the rolling drum, for
ruse number three has succeeded. Come down, Kate, and give us your
blessing!" called Lennox, taking pity on his sister, who was anxiously
awaiting the _dénouement_ on the stairs.
In she rushed, and the young ladies laughed and cried, kissed and talked
tumultuously, while their idol benignantly looked on, vainly endeavoring
to repress all vestiges of unmanly emotion.
"And you are not dying, really, truly?" cried Belle, when fair weather
set in after the flurry.
"Bless your dear heart, no! I'm as sound as a nut, and haven't a wound
to boast of, except this ugly slash on the head."
"It's a splendid wound, and I'm proud of it," and Belle set a rosy
little seal on the scar, which quite reconciled her lover to the
disfigurement of his handsome forehead. "You've learned to fib in the
army, and I'm disappointed in you," she added, trying to look
reproachful and failing entirely.
"No, only the art of strategy. You quenched me by your frosty reception,
and I thought it was all up till you put the idea of playing invalid
into my head. It succeeded so well that I piled on the agony, resolving
to fight it out on that line, and if I failed again to make a masterly
retreat. You gave me a lesson in deceit once, so don't complain if I
turned the tables and made your heart ache for a minute, as you've made
mine for a year."
Belle's spirit was rapidly coming back, so she gave him a capital
imitation of his French shrug, and drawled out in his old way,--
"I have my doubts about that, _mon ami_."
"What do you say to this--and this--and this?" he retorted, pulling out
and laying before her with a triumphant flourish a faded blue ribbon, a
fat pincushion with a hole through it, and a daintily painted little
picture of a pretty girl in scarlet stockings.
"There, I've carried those treasures in my breast-pocket for a year, and
I'm firmly convinced that they have all done their part toward keeping
me safe. The blue ribbon bound me fast to you, Belle; the funny cushion
caught the bullet that otherwise might have finished me; and the blessed
little picture was my comfort during those dreadful marches, my
companion on picket-duty with treachery and danger all about me, and my
inspiration when the word 'Charge!' went down the line, for in the
thickest of the fight I always saw the little gray figure beckoning me
on to my duty."
"Oh, Harry, you won't go back to all those horrors, will you? I'm sure
you've done enough, and may rest now and enjoy your reward," said Kate,
trying not to feel that "two is company, and three is none."
"I've enlisted for the war, and shall not rest till either it or I come
to an end. As for my reward, I had it when Belle kissed me."
"You are right, I'll wait for you, and love you all the better for the
sacrifice," whispered Belle. "I only wish I could share your hardships,
dear, for while you fight and suffer I can only love and pray."
"Waiting is harder than working to such as you; so be contented with
your share, for the thought of you will glorify the world generally for
me. I'll tell you what you _can_ do while I'm away: it's both useful and
amusing, so it will occupy and cheer you capitally. Just knit lots of
red hose, because I don't intend you to wear any others hereafter, Mrs.
"Mine are not worn out yet," laughed Belle, getting merry at the
"No matter for that; those are sacred articles, and henceforth must be
treasured as memorials of our love. Frame and hang them up; or, if the
prejudices of society forbid that flight of romance, lay them carefully
away where moths can't devour nor thieves steal them, so that years
hence, when my descendants praise me for any virtues I may possess, any
good I may have done, or any honor I may have earned, I can point to
those precious relics and say proudly,--
"My children, for all that I am, or hope to be, you must thank your
honored mother's scarlet stockings."
INDEPENDENCE: A CENTENNIAL LOVE STORY.
"Stupid-looking old place! Dare say I shall have to waste half an hour
listening to centennial twaddle before I get what I want! The whole
thing is a bore, but I can't quarrel with my bread and butter, so here
goes;" and, with an air of resignation, the young man applied himself to
the rusty knocker.
"Rather a nice old bit; maybe useful, so I'll book it;" and, whipping
out a sketch-book, the stranger took a hasty likeness of the griffin's
head on the knocker.
"Deaf as posts; try, try, try again;" and, pocketing his work, the
artist gave an energetic rat, tat, tat, that echoed through the house.
Having rashly concluded that the inhabitants of the ancient mansion were
proportionately aged, he assumed a deferential expression as steps
approached, and prepared to prefer with all due respect the request
which he had come many miles to make. The door opened with unexpected
rapidity, but the neatly arranged speech did not glide glibly off the
young man's tongue, and the change which came over him was comically
sudden; for, instead of an old woman, a blooming girl stood upon the
threshold, with a petulant expression on her charming face, which only
made it more charming still.
"What did you wish, sir?" asked the rosy mouth, involuntarily relaxing
from a vain attempt to look severe, while the hazel eyes softened with a
mirthful gleam as they rested on the comely, but embarrassed countenance
"Beg pardon for making such a noise. I merely wished to inquire if the
famous chair in which Washington sat when he visited the town is here,"
replied the stranger, clutching off his hat with a very different sort
of respect from that which he had intended to show, and feeling as if he
had received a shock of some new and delightful sort of electricity.
"Yes;" and the girl began to close the door, as if she knew what
question was coming next.
"Could I be allowed to sketch it for 'The Weekly Portfolio'? All such
relics are so valuable this year that we venture to ask many favors, and
this is such a famous affair I've no doubt you are often troubled by
requests of this sort," continued the artist, with the persuasive tone
of one accustomed to make his way everywhere.
"This is the fifth time this week," replied the damsel, demurely; though
her lips still struggled not to smile.
"It's very good of you, I'm sure, to let us fellows in, but the public
demand is immense just now, and we only obey orders, you know," began
the fifth intruder, fervently hoping the other four had been refused.
"But Mrs. Hill never does let artists or reporters in," was the gentle
quencher which arrested him, as he was industriously wiping his feet on
"Never?" he asked, stopping short, while an expression of alarm changed
suddenly to one of satisfaction.
"Never," answered the damsel, like a sweet-voiced echo.
"Then the other fellows lost their chance, and that makes the old thing
doubly valuable. If I could see Mrs. Hill for a moment, I've no doubt
she will allow _me_ to sketch the chair."
"She is not at home."
"So much the better; for, when I tell you that I've come fifty miles to
pick up antiquities in this town, I know you _won't_ have the heart to
send me away without the gem of the collection," replied the artist,
nothing daunted; for his quick eye read the artless face before him, and
saw a defiant expression come over it, which made him suspect that there
had been a falling out between mistress and maid, if such they were. He
was sure of it when the girl threw open the door with a decisive
gesture, saying briefly,--
"Walk in, if you please; she won't be home for an hour."
"What a little beauty!" thought the young man, admiring her spirit, and
feeling that the "stupid old place" contained unexpected treasures, as
he followed her into the room where the ubiquitous Father of his Country
was reported to have dried his august boots, and drunk a mug of cider
some hundred years ago.
It seemed as if the ghosts of many of the homely household articles used
then had come back to celebrate the anniversary of that thrilling event;
for there was nothing modern in the little room but the girl and her
guest, who stared about him at the tall andirons on the hearth, the
bright, brass candlesticks above it, the spinning-wheel on one side, a
dresser on the other strewn with pewter platters, porringers, and old
china, while antique garments hung over the settle by the fire.
"Bless my soul, what a capital old place!" he ejaculated, taking it all
in with an artist's keen appreciation. "I feel as if I'd gone back a
century, and the General might come in at any minute."
"_That_ is the chair he used, and _this_ the tankard he drank from,"
answered the girl, pointing out the sacred objects with a reverential
air which warned her visitor that he must treat the ancient and
honorable relics with due respect.
Then feeling that this was an unusual stroke of luck, he hastened to
make the most of it, by falling to work at once, saying, as he took a
seat, and pointed his pencils,--
"There is such a lot of treasures here that I don't know where to begin.
I hope I shall not be very much in your way."
"Oh, no! if you don't mind my going on with my work; for I can't leave
it very well. All these things are to be sent away to-morrow, that's why
the place is in such confusion," replied the girl, as she fell to
polishing up a brass snuffer-tray.
"Here's richness!" thought the artist, with a sigh of satisfaction, as
he dashed at his work, feeling wonderfully inspired by his picturesque
The dull winter sky gloomed without, and a chilly wind sighed through
the leafless elms; but within the little room fairly glowed with the
ruddy firelight that shone in the bright brasses, glimmered over the
tarnished silver of the quaint vests on the settle, and warmed the
artist's busy hand, as if it liked to help him in his task. But the
jolly flames seemed to dance most lovingly about their little mistress;
bathing the sweet face with a softer bloom, touching the waves of brown
hair with gold, peeping under the long lashes at the downcast eyes that
peeped back again half arch, half shy; glorifying the blue apron that
seemed to clasp the trim waist as if conscious of its advantages, and
showing up the dimples in the bare arms working so briskly that even the
verdigris of ages yielded to their persuasive touch.
"Who can this pretty Priscilla be? I must make her talk and find out.
Never shall get the eyes right, if she doesn't look up," thought the
artist, who, instead of devoting himself to the historical chair, was
basely sketching the girl whose youth and beauty were wonderfully
enhanced by the antiquity around her.
"Mrs. Hill is a rich woman, if all these treasures have a history. Even
if they haven't, they would bring a good price; for things of this sort
are all the rage now, and the older the better," he said aloud in a
sociable tone, as he affected to study the left arm of the famous chair.
"They are not hers to sell, for they belonged to the first Mrs. Hill,
who was a Quincy, and had a right to be proud of them. The present Mrs.
Hill doesn't value them a bit; but _she_ was a Smith, so _her_ family
relics are nothing to boast of," answered the girl, using her bit of
wash-leather as if the entire race of Smith ought to be rubbed out of
"And she is going to sell all these fine old things, is she?" asked the
artist, with an eye to bargains.
"No, indeed! they belong to--to the first Mrs. Hill's daughter, named
after her, Dorothy Quincy," the girl began impetuously, but checked
herself, and ended very quietly with a suddenly averted head.
"A fine name, and I shouldn't think she would be in haste to change it,"
said the artist, wondering if Miss Dorothy Quincy was before him.
"Not much hope of that, poor thing," with a shake of the head that made
several brown curls tumble out of the net which tried to confine a
riotous mass of them.
"Ah, I see, a spinster?" and the young man returned to his work with
greatly abated interest in the subject.
The bright eyes glanced quickly up, and when they fell the snuffer-tray
reflected a merry twinkle in them, as their owner answered gravely,--
"Yes, a spinster."
"Is she one of the amiable sort?"
"Oh, dear, no! very quick in her temper and sharp with her tongue. But
then she has a good deal to try her, as I happen to know."
"Sorry for that. Spinsterhood _is_ trying, I fancy, so we should be
patient with the poor old ladies. Why I asked was because I thought I
might induce Miss Dolly to let me have some of her relics. Do you think
she would?" he asked, holding his sketch at arm's length, and studying
it with his head on one side.
"I'm very sure she won't, for these old things are all she has in the
world, and she loves them dearly. People used to laugh at her for it,
but now they are glad to own her and her 'duds,' as they called them.
The Smiths are looking up every thing they can find of that sort, even
poor relations. All these things are going down to a fair to-morrow, and
Miss Dolly with them."
"As one of the relics?" suggested the artist, glancing at a green calash
and a plum-colored quilted petticoat lying on the settle.
"Exactly," laughed the girl, adding with a touch of bitterness in her
voice, "Poor Miss Dolly never got an invitation before, and I'm afraid
it's foolish of her to go now, since she is only wanted to show off the
old-fashioned things, and give the Smiths something to boast of."
"You are fond of the old lady in spite of her temper, I see."
"She is the only friend I've got;" and the speaker bent over the tray as
if to hide emotion of some sort.
"I shall probably have to 'do' that fair for our paper; if so, I'll
certainly pay my respects to Miss Dolly. Why not? Is she so very awful?"
he asked quickly, as the girl looked up with a curious mixture of mirth
and malice in her face.
"Very!" with a lifting of the brows and a pursing up of the lips
delightful to behold.
"You think I won't dare address the peppery virgin? I never saw the
woman yet whom I was afraid of, or the man either for that matter, so I
give you my word I'll not only speak to Miss Dolly, but win her old
heart by my admiration for her and her ancestral treasures, said the
artist, accepting the challenge he read in the laughing eyes.
"We shall see, for I'm going with her. I do the spinning, and it's great
fun," said the girl, prudently changing the conversation, though she
evidently enjoyed it.
"I never saw it done. Could you give me an idea of the thing, if it is
not asking too much?" proposed the artist in his most persuasive tone,
for somehow play of this sort was much more interesting than the study
of old furniture.
With amiable alacrity the girl set the big wheel buzzing, and deftly
drew out the yarn from the spindle, stepping briskly to and fro,
twirling and twisting with an ease and grace which convinced the
admiring observer that the best thing ever invented to show off a round
arm, a pretty foot, a fine figure, and a charming face, was a
This opinion was so plainly expressed upon his own countenance that the
color deepened in the girl's cheeks as she looked over her shoulder to
see how he liked it, and dropping the thread she left the wheel still
whirling, and went back to her work without a word.
"Thank you very much; it's beautiful! Don't see how in the world you do
it," murmured the young man, affecting to examine the wheel, while his
own head seemed to whirl in sympathy, for that backward glance had
unconsciously done great execution.
A moon-faced clock behind the door striking eleven recalled the idler to
his task, and resuming his seat he drew silently till the chair was
done; then he turned a page, and looked about for the next good bit.
"Rather warm work," he said, smiling, as he shook the hair off his
forehead, and pushed his chair back from the hearth.
"This is what makes the place so hot. I've been learning to make
old-fashioned dishes for the fair, and this batch is going down to show
what I can do."
As she spoke, the girl threw open the door of a cavernous oven, and with
an air of housewifely pride displayed a goodly array of brown loaves
round as cannon-balls, earthen crocks suggestive of baked beans and
Indian pudding, and near the door a pan of spicy cakes delectable to
smell and see. These she drew forth and set upon the table, turning from
the oven after a careful inspection of its contents with the complexion
of a damask rose.
"Delicious spectacle!" exclaimed the artist, with his eyes upon the
pretty cook, while hers were on her handiwork.
"You shall taste them, for they are made from a very old receipt and are
called sweethearts," said the innocent creature, setting them forth on a
large platter, while a smile went dimpling round her lips.
"Capital name! they'll sell faster than you can make them. But it seems
to me you are to have all the work, and Miss Dolly all the credit,"
added this highly appreciative guest, subduing with difficulty the rash
impulse to embrace Miss Dolly's rosy handmaid on the spot.
She seemed to feel the impending danger, and saying hastily, "You must
have some cider to go with your cake: that's the correct thing, you
know," she tripped away with hospitable zeal.
"Upon my soul, I begin to feel like the Prince of the fairy tale in this
quiet place where every thing seems to have been asleep for a hundred
years. The little beauty ought to have been asleep too, and given me a
chance to wake her. More of a Cinderella than a princess, I fancy, and
leads a hard life of it between Miss Dolly and the second Mrs. Hill.
Wonder what happy fellow will break the spell and set her free?" and the
young man paced the kitchen, humming softly,--
"And on her lover's arm she leant,
And round her waist she felt it fold;
And far across the hills they went,
In that new world which is the old,"
till the sound of a light step made him dart into a chair, saying to
himself with a sudden descent from poetry to prose, "Bless her little
heart, I'll drink her cider if it's as sour as vinegar."
In came the maid, bearing a tankard on a salver; and, adding several
sweethearts, she offered the homely lunch with a curtsey and a smile
that would have glorified even pork and beans.
"You are sitting in the General's chair, and here is the tankard he
used; you can drink his health, if you like."
"I'd rather drink that of the maker of sweethearts;" and, rising, the
artist did so, gallantly regardless of consequences.
But the cider was excellent, and subsiding into the immortal chair he
enjoyed his lunch with the hearty appetite of a boy, while the damsel
began to fold up the garments airing on the settle, and lay them into a
chest standing near; the one quite unconscious that he was drinking
draughts of a far more potent liquor than apple-juice, the other that
she had begun to spin a golden thread instead of yarn when she turned
the great wheel that day.
An eloquent sort of silence filled the room for a moment, and a ray of
sunshine glanced from the silver tankard to the bright head bent over
the chest, as if to gild the first page of the romance which is as fresh
and sweet to-day as when the stately George wooed his beloved Martha. A
shrill voice suddenly broke that delicious pause, exclaiming, as a door
opened with a bang,--
"Not packed yet! I won't have this rubbish cluttering round another
minute--" There the voice abruptly fell, and the stranger had time to
see a withered, yellow face in a pumpkin hood stare sharply at him
before it vanished with an exclamation of unmistakable disapproval.
"Miss Dolly seems more afraid of me than I of her, you see," began the
young man, much amused at the retreat of the enemy; for such he regarded
any one who disturbed this delightful _tête-à-tête_.
"She has only gone to put her cap on, and when she comes back you can
pay your respects to--Mrs. Hill;" and the girl looked over the lid of
the chest with dancing eyes.
"Then I'd better be off, since reporters and artists are not allowed on
the premises," exclaimed the visitor, rising with more haste than
"Don't hurry; she is only a woman, and you are not afraid, you know."
"I'm afraid _you_ will get a scolding," began the artist, pocketing his
sketch-book, and grasping his hat.
"I'm used to that," answered the girl, evidently enjoying the rout with
But the sharp, black eyes and the shrill voice had effectually broken
the pleasant day-dream; and Mrs. Hill in a pumpkin hood was quite enough
for his nerves, without a second appearance in one of the awe-inspiring
caps such ladies affect.
"I couldn't think of repaying your kindness by intruding any longer, now
that I've got my sketch. A thousand thanks; good-morning;" and, opening
the first door he came to, the dismayed man was about to plunge into the
buttery, when the girl arrested his flight and led him through the long
On the steps he took breath, returned thanks again with grateful warmth,
and pulling out a card presented it, as if anxious to leave some token
behind which should prevent being forgotten by one person at least.
"John Hancock Harris" read the card, and glancing up from it, with
sudden interest in her eyes, the girl exclaimed impulsively,--
"Why, then you must be a relation of--"
"No, I regret to say I'm not related to the famous Governor, only named
for him to please my father. I've always been contented with a modest
initial until now; but this year every one does their best to hang on to
the past, so I've got proud of my middle name, and find it useful as
well as ornamental," hastily explained the honest young fellow, though
just then he would have liked to claim kinship with every member of the
"I hope you will be worthy of it," answered the damsel with a little
bow, as if saluting the man for his name's sake.
"I try to be," he said soberly, adding with that engaging smile of his,
"May I ask to whom I am indebted for this very profitable and agreeable
Instantly the sweet sobriety vanished, and every feature of the pretty
face shone with mirthful malice as the girl answered sweetly,--
"Miss Dolly. Good-morning," and closed the door, leaving him to stare
blankly at the griffin on the knocker, which appeared to stare back
again with a derisive grin.
_A CINDER AND A SPARK._
One of the few snow-storms of the memorably mild winter of 1876 was
coming quietly down, watched with lazy interest by the passengers in a
certain train that rumbled leisurely toward the city. Without it was
cold and wintry enough, but within as hot as an oven; for, with the
usual American disregard of health, there was a roaring fire in the
stove, every ventilator shut, and only one man in the crowded car had
his window open.
Toward this reckless being many a warning or reproachful glance was cast
by rheumatic old gentlemen or delicate women who led the lives of
hot-house flowers. But the hearty young fellow sat buried in his
newspapers, regardless alike of these expressive glances and the fresh
wind that blew in an occasional snow-flake to melt upon his shoulder,
hair, or beard.
If his face had not been obscured by the great sheet held before it, an
observer might have watched with interest the varying expressions of
amusement, contempt, indignation, and disgust which passed over it as he
read; for it was a very expressive face, and too young yet to have put
on the mask men so soon learn to wear. He was evidently one of the
strong, cheery, sympathetic sort of fellows who make their way
everywhere, finding friends as they go from the simple fact that they
are so full of courage and good-will it is impossible to resist them.
This had been proved already; for during that short journey three old
ladies had claimed his services in one way or another, a shy little girl
had sat upon his knee for half an hour and left him with a kiss, and an
obstreperous Irish baby had been bribed to hold its tongue by the
various allurements he devised, to the great amusement, as well as
gratitude, of his neighbors.
Just now, however, he looked rather grim, knit his brows as he read, and
finally kicked his paper under the seat with an expression which proved
that he had as much energy as kindliness in his composition, and no
taste for the sorrowful record of scandal, dishonesty, and folly daily
offered the American public.
"Upon my word, if this sort of thing goes on much longer, the country
won't be fit for a decent man to live in," he said to himself, taking a
mouthful of fresh air, and letting his eyes wander over the faces of his
fellow-travellers as if wondering which of the eminently respectable
gentlemen about him would next startle the world by some explosion of
iniquity. Even the women did not escape the scrutiny of the keen blue
eyes, which softened, however, as they went from one possible Delilah to
another; for John Harris had not yet lost his reverence for womankind.
Suddenly his wandering glance was arrested, a look of recognition
brightened his whole countenance, and an involuntary "Hullo!" rose to
his lips, instead of the romantic "Ha, 'tis she!" with which novel
heroes are supposed to greet the advent of the charmer.
The object which wrought so swift and pleasant a change in the young
man's mood and manner was a girl's face seen in profile some seats in
front of him. A modest little hat with a sweeping feather rested easily
on a mass of wavy hair, which was not spoilt by any fashionable device,
but looped up in a loose sort of braid from which rebellious tendrils
here and there escaped to touch her white throat or shade her temples.
One particularly captivating little curl twined round her ear and seemed
to be whispering some pleasant secret, for the blooming cheek dimpled
now and then, the soft lips smiled, and the eyes were full of a dreamy
thoughtfulness. A book lay in her lap, but her own fancies seemed more
interesting, and she sat watching the snow-flakes flutter down, lost in
one of the delightful reveries girls love, quite unconscious of the
admiration of her neighbors, or the fixed stare of the young man behind
"Miss Dolly, by all that's good!" he said to himself, suddenly
forgetting the sins of his native land, and finding it quite possible to
stop a little longer in it. "She said she was going to town with the old
things, and there she is, prettier than ever. If it hadn't been for
those provoking papers, I should have seen her when she got in, and
might have secured a seat by her. That stout party evidently doesn't
appreciate his advantages. I can't order him out, but I'll watch my
chance, for I really ought to apologize for my stupidity yesterday.
Wonder if she has forgotten all about it?"
And John fell into a reverie likewise, for he was in just the mood to
enjoy any thing so innocent and fresh and sweet as the memory of little
Dolly at her spinning-wheel. It all came back to him with a redoubled
charm, for there was a home-like warmth and simplicity about it that
made the recollection very pleasant to a solitary fellow knocking about
the world with no ties of any sort to keep him safe and steady. He felt
the need of them, and was all ready to give away his honest heart, if he
could find any amiable creature who could be satisfied with that alone,
for he had nothing else to offer. He was rather fastidious, however,
having an artist's refined taste in the matter of beauty, and a manly
man's love of the womanliness which shows itself in character, not
clothes. But he had few opportunities to discover his ideal woman, and
no desire to worship a fashion plate, so here was an excellent heart to
let, and no one knew it, unless they had the skill to read the notice in
The reveries of both young people were rudely disturbed by the "stout
party," who having finished his paper, and taken a comprehensive survey
of his thoughtful little neighbor, suddenly began to talk as if he did
"appreciate his advantages," and meant to make the most of them.
John watched this performance with deep interest, and it soon became
rather exciting; for Miss Dolly's face was a tell-tale, and plainly
betrayed the rapid transitions of feeling through which she passed. The
respectful attention she at first gave in deference to the age of the
speaker changed to surprise, then to annoyance, lastly to girlish
confusion and distress; for the old gentleman was evidently of the
Pecksniffian order, and took advantage of his gray hairs to harass the
pretty damsel with his heavy gallantry.
Poor Miss Dolly looked vainly about her for any means of escape, but
every seat was full, and she was quite unconscious that an irate young
man behind her was burning to rush to the rescue if he had only known
how. As no way appeared, John was forced to content himself with
directing such fiery glances at the broad back of the ancient beau it
was a wonder they did not act like burning-glasses and set that expanse
of broadcloth in a blaze.
A crisis soon arrived, and woman's wit turned the tables capitally; for
when the old gentleman confiscated her book under pretence of looking at
it, and then, laying his arm over the back of the seat, went on talking
with a fat smile that exasperated her beyond endurance, Dolly gave him
one indignant glance and opened her window, letting in a blast of cold
air that made her tormentor start and shiver as if she had boxed his
"Good! if that does not rout the enemy, I'm much mistaken," said John to
himself, enjoying it all with the relish of a young man who sees an old
one usurping his privileges.
The enemy was not routed, but his guns were silenced; for, having
expostulated with paternal solicitude, he turned up his coat-collar and
retired behind his paper, evidently much disgusted at finding that two
could play at the game of annoyance, though the girl had to call the
elements to her aid.
"If I dared, I'd offer to change seats with him; not because he is
suffering agonies at the idea of getting tic-douloureux or a stiff neck,
that would only serve him right, but because _she_ will get the worst of
it. There, she has already! Confound that cinder! why didn't it go into
his eye instead of hers?" added John, as he saw the girl shrink
suddenly, and begin to wink and rub her eye with distressful haste,
while the "stout party" took advantage of the mishap to close the window
with an expression of vengeful satisfaction on his rubicund visage. He
offered no help, for his first rebuff still rankled in his memory, but
placidly twirled his thumbs, with a sidelong glance now and then at his
companion, who, finding all her winking and rubbing in vain, shrouded
her face in a veil, and sat a pathetic picture of beauty in distress,
with an occasional tear rolling over her cheek and her dear little nose
reddening rapidly with the general inflammation caused by that fatal
This affecting spectacle was too much for John, who not only felt the
chivalrous desire of a man to help the gentle sex, but remembered that
he owed the girl a good turn for her hospitality the day before, not to
mention the apology he quite burned to make. Knowing that the train
would soon stop a few minutes for the passengers to lunch, he resolved
then and there to cast himself into the breach and deliver the doubly
afflicted damsel at all costs.
Happily the station was reached before any great damage was done to the
girl's features, or the young man's impatience became uncontrollable.
The instant the stout gentleman rose to seek refreshment John dived for
his valise, and, cleaving his way through the crowded aisle, presented
himself beside the empty place, asking, with an attempt to look and
speak like a stranger, which would not have deceived Dolly a bit, had
she not been half-blind, "Is this seat engaged, madam?"
"No, sir," she answered, unveiling to discover what new affliction fate
had sent her.
It was delightful to see the one wistful eye light up with a look of
recognition, the one visible cheek flush with pleasure, and the lips
smile as they added, with the impulsive frankness of a tormented girl,
"Oh, please take it quickly, or that dreadful man will come back!"
Quite satisfied with his welcome, John slipped into the coveted place,
resolving to keep it in spite of a dozen stout gentlemen.
"Thanks, now what else can I do for you?" he asked, with such an evident
desire to lend a hand somewhere that it was impossible to decline his
"_Could_ you take this thing out of my eye? It hurts dreadfully, and I
shall be a spectacle by the time I get to Aunt Maria's," answered Dolly,
with a little moan that rent the hearer's susceptible heart.
"That is just what I want to do, and you may trust me; for I've been a
great traveller, and have had much experience in the extraction of
cinders," said John, adding, as he produced a pencil in a capable sort
of way, "now open your eye wide, and we'll have it out in a jiffy."
Dolly obeyed with a courage and confidence most flattering, and John
peered into the suffering eye with an intensity which it was impossible
for the most artful cinder to escape.
"I see it!" he cried, and turning back the lid over his pencil he
delicately removed the black atom with a corner of Dolly's veil.
It was all over in an instant, and both displayed great nerve and
coolness during the operation; but, as soon as it was done, Dolly
retired into her handkerchief, and John found himself as flushed and
breathless as if he had faced some great danger, instead of merely
looking into a girl's eye. Ah! but it was a very eloquent eye in spite
of the cinder,--large and soft, tearful and imploring, and the instant
during which he had bent to examine it had been a most exciting one; for
the half-open lips were so near his own their hurried breath fanned his
cheek, the inquisitive little curl tumbled over her ear to touch his
wrist as he held up the eyelid, and a small hand had unconsciously
clutched softly at his arm during the inspection. Bless you! the famous
scene between Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman was entirely surpassed on
this occasion, because the actors were both young and neither artful.
"Such relief!" sighed Dolly, emerging from a brief retirement, with a
face so full of gratitude that it was like a burst of sunshine after an
"Let me see if it is all right;" and John could not resist another look
into the clear depths through which he seemed to catch delicious
glimpses of an innocent young heart before maiden modesty drew the
curtain and shut him out. As the long lashes fell, a sudden color in her
cheeks seemed to be reflected upon his, and with a hasty,--
"It is a good deal inflamed, so I'm going to prescribe a wet bandage for
a few minutes, if you can spare your handkerchief,"--he hurried away to
the water tank near by.
"That's very comforting. Thank you so much!" and Dolly patted her
invalid eye assiduously; while John, feeling that he had earned his
place, planted his valise on the seat with a defiant glance over his
shoulder, then turned to Dolly, saying, "You must have some lunch," and
waiting for no denial dashed out of the car as if on an errand of life
He was gone but a moment or two; but in that time Dolly had smoothed her
hair, retied her hat, whisked a nicer pair of gloves out of her pocket,
and taken a rapid survey of herself in a tiny glass concealed from other
eyes in the recesses of her bag. She had just time to close and cast the
aforesaid bag recklessly upon the floor as her knight came up, bearing a
cup of tea and a block of cake, saying in the pleasantly protecting way
all women like,--
"Dr. Harris prescribes refreshment after the operation, and this is the
best he can find. Your aged admirer was at the counter, eating against
time and defying apoplexy," he added with a laugh, as Dolly gratefully
sipped the tea, which, by the way, was as weak as that made at the
famous Boston tea-party, when, as every one knows, water was liberally
"You saw him, then, when he was plaguing me?"
"I did, and longed to throw him out of the window."
"Thanks. Did you recognize me before you spoke?"
"Of course I did, and wanted to approach, but didn't dare till the
cinder gave me an excuse."
"The idea of being afraid of _me_!"
"How could I help being afraid, when you told me Miss Dolly was
'awful'?" asked John, twinkling with fun, as he sat on the arm of a seat
sociably eating a sandwich, which under other circumstances would have
struck him as being a remarkable combination of sawdust and
Before Dolly could reply except by a guilty blush, a bell rang, and John
hurried away with the empty cup.
A moment or two later the stout gentleman appeared, wiping his mouth,
evidently feeling in a better humor, and ready to make up with his
pretty neighbor. Smiling blandly, he was about to remove the valise,
when Miss Dolly laid her hand upon it, saying with great dignity, "This
seat is engaged, sir. There are plenty of others now, and I wish this
for my friend."
Here John, who was just behind, seeing his prize in danger, gave a
gentle shove to several intervening fellow-beings, who in turn propelled
the "stout party" past the disputed place, which the young man took with
an air of entire satisfaction, and a hearty "Thank you!" which told
Dolly he had overheard her little speech.
She colored beautifully, but said with grateful frankness,--
"It wasn't a fib: a friend in need is a friend indeed, and in return for
the cinder I'm glad to give you a seat."
"Blessed be the cinder, then!" murmured John, feeling at peace with all
mankind. Then taking advantage of the propitious moment, he added in a
"I want to apologize for my stupidity and unintentional rudeness
"About what?" asked Dolly, innocently, though her eyes began to sparkle
"Why, taking it into my head that Miss Hill must be oldish, and going on
in that absurd way about spinsters."
"Well, I _am_ a spinster, and not so young as I have been. _I_ ought to
apologize for not telling you who I was; but it was so very funny to
hear you go on in that sober way to my face, I couldn't spoil it," said
the girl, with a look that upset John's repentant gravity; and they
laughed together as only the young and happy can.
"It is very good of you to take it so kindly, but I assure you it
weighed upon my conscience, and it is a great relief to beg pardon," he
said, feeling as if they had been friends for years.
"Have you been sketching old things ever since?" asked Dolly, changing
the conversation with womanly tact.
"Yes: I went to several places further on, but didn't find any thing
half so good as your chair and tankard. I suppose you are taking the
relics to town now?"
"All but one."
"Which is that?"
"The pumpkin hood. It is the only thing my step-mother admires among my
treasures, and she would not give it up. You rather admired it, didn't
you?" asked Dolly, with her demurest air.
"I deserve to be laughed at for my panic," answered John, owning up
manfully; then pulled out his sketch-book, with an eye to business even
in the middle of a joke.
"See here! I tried to get that venerable hood into my sketch, but
couldn't quite hit it. Perhaps you can help me."
"Let me see them all," said Dolly, taking possession of the book with a
most flattering air of interest.
"Nothing there but queer or famous things, all a hundred years old at
least," began John, quite forgetting his stolen sketch of a pretty girl
cleaning a snuffer-tray, which he had worked up with great care the
night before. Perhaps this made the book open at that particular page,
for, as the words left his lips, Dolly's eyes fell on her own figure,
too well done to be mistaken, even if the artist's face had not betrayed
"What 'queer' or 'famous' _old_ person of the last century is that,
please?" she asked, holding it off, and looking at it through her hand,
while her lips broke into a smile in spite of her efforts to look
Knowing that a pretty woman will easily forgive a liberty of that sort,
John got out of the scrape handsomely by answering with mock gravity,--
"Oh, that's Madam Hancock, when a girl. Did you never see the famous
portrait at Portsmouth?"
"No. The dress is rather modern, and not quite in keeping with the
antique chair she is sitting in," observed the girl, critically.
"That's to be added later. I have to work up things, you know,--a face
here, a costume there, and so on: all artists do."
"So I see. There's the hood; but it wants a cape," and Dolly turned the
leaf, as much amused at his quickness as flattered by his compliment.
There were not many sketches as yet, but she admired them all, and, when
the book was shut, chatted on about antiquities, feeling quite friendly
and comfortable; for there was respect, as well as admiration, in the
honest blue eyes, and the young man did not offend as the old one had
"As you are interested in curiosities, perhaps you may like to see some
that I have here in my bag. I am very fond and proud of them, because
they are genuine, and have histories of old times attached to them," she
"I shall feel much honored by being allowed to look at them," replied
the artist, remembering that "people used to laugh at poor Miss Dolly
and her 'duds.'"
"This little pin, made of two hearts in diamonds and rubies, with a
crown above, used to be worn by my mother's great aunt, Madam Hancock.
She was a Quincy, you know. And this long garnet buckle fastened the
Governor's stock," began Dolly, displaying her store with a gentle pride
pleasant to see.
"Most interesting! but I can't help feeling grateful that this J. H.
doesn't have to wear a stock requiring a foot-long buckle like that,"
answered John, picturing himself in the costume of the past century, and
wondering if it would suit his manly face and figure.
"Now don't laugh at this relic, for it is very curious, though _you_
won't appreciate it as a woman would;" and Dolly unfolded an
old-fashioned housewife of red velvet, lined with faded yellow damask.
"That was made by my dear mother out of a bit of the velvet lining of
the Governor's state-coach, and the coverlet that a French Comte tore
with his spurs."
"Come, that sounds well! I appreciate coaches and spurs, if I'm not up
to brooches and needle-books. Tell the story, please," besought John,
who found it the most delightful thing in the world to sit there,
following the pretty motions of the small hands, the changeful
expression of the winsome face, and enjoying the companionship of the
confiding creature beside him.
"Well, you see, when Madam married Captain Scott many of the Governor's
things were taken from her, among them the state-coach. By the way, it
is said to be in existence now, stored away in somebody's barn down in
Portland. You had better go and sketch it," began Dolly, smoothing out
the old housewife, and evidently glad to tell the little story of the
ancestress whom she was said to resemble, though she modestly refrained
from mentioning a fact of which she was immensely proud.
"I will!" and John soberly made a memorandum to visit the ancient coach.
"When my great-great aunt was told she must give up the carriage, she
ripped out the new velvet lining, which had been put in at her expense,
and gave the bits to her various nieces. Mother made a spencer of hers,
and when it was worn out kept enough for this needle-book. The lining is
a scrap of the yellow damask counterpane that was on the bed in which
the Frenchman should have slept when he came with Lafayette to visit
Madam, only he was so tipsy he laid on the outside, and tore the fine
cover with his spurs. There's a nice Comte for you!"
"I'd like to see the spurs, nevertheless. Any more treasures?" and John
peered into the bag, as if he thirsted for more antiquarian knowledge.
"Only one, and this is the most valuable of all. Stoop down and look:
I'm afraid I may be robbed, if I display my things carelessly."
John obediently bent till the sweeping feather of her hat touched his
cheek, to the great annoyance of the banished peri, who viewed these
pleasant passages from afar with much disfavor.
"This is said to be Madam's wedding ring. I like to think so, and am
very proud to be named for her, because she was a good woman as well as
"Beauty," put in John, as the speaker paused to open a faded case in
which lay a little ring of reddish gold.
"I was going to say--as well as a brave one; for I need courage," added
the girl, surveying the old-fashioned trinket with such a sober face
that the young man refrained from alluding to the remarkable coincidence
of another John and Dolly looking at the wedding ring together.
She seemed to have forgotten all about her companion for a moment, and
be busy with her own thoughts, as she put away her treasures with a care
which made it a pleasure to watch her tie knots, adjust covers, repack
her little bag, and finally fold her hands over it, saying gravely,--
"I love to think about those times; for it seems as if people were
better then,--the men more honest, the women more womanly, and every
thing simpler and truer than now. Does it ever seem so to you?"
"Indeed it does; for this very day, as I read the papers, I got quite
low-spirited, thinking what a shameful state things have got into. Money
seems to be the one idea, and men are ready to sell their souls for it,"
answered John, as soberly as she.
"Money is a good thing to have, though;" and Dolly gave a little sigh,
as she drew her scarf over the worn edges of her jacket.
"So it is!" echoed John, with the hearty acquiescence of a man who had
felt the need of it.
"My name and these old treasures are all my fortune, and I used to be
contented with it; but I'm not now, dependence is so hateful!" added the
girl, impulsively; then bit her lip, as if the words had escaped in
spite of her.
"And this is all mine," said John, twirling the pencil which he still
held; giving confidence for confidence, and glad to do it, if it made
them better friends, for he pitied little Miss Dolly, suspecting what
was true, that her home was not a happy one.
She thanked him mutely for the kind look he gave her, and said
"Skill is money; and it must be a very pleasant life to go about drawing
beautiful or curious things."
"So it is sometimes,--yesterday, for instance," he answered, laughing.
"_I_ have no modern accomplishments to earn a living by. Mine are all
old-fashioned; and no one cares for such nowadays, except in servants. I
may be very glad of them, though; for playing lady doesn't seem half so
honest as going out to service, when one has nothing but an empty pair
of hands," she said with a wistful yet courageous look at the wintry
world outside, which made her companion feel a strong desire to counsel
and protect this confiding young Columbus, who knew so little of the
perils which would beset her voyage in search of a woman's El Dorado.
"Come to me for a recommendation before you try it. I can vouch for your
cooking, you know. But I'd advise you to play lady till you discover a
good safe place. I don't believe you'll find it hard, for the world is
likely to be very kind to such as you," he answered, so cheerily that
she brightened like a flower to which a stray sunbeam is very welcome.
A shrill whistle announced that the journey was over, and everybody
began at once to fuss and fumble. John got up to take his valise from
the rack, and Dolly began to struggle into her rubbers. She was still
bending down to do this, with as little damage as possible to her best
gloves, when she heard a sounding slap and a hearty voice cry out,--
"Hullo, John!" then add in a lower tone, "So there _is_ a Mrs. Harris,
you sly dog, you?"
"Hush! there isn't. How are you, George?" returned another voice,
beginning in a hurried whisper and ending in an unnecessarily loud
What happened for a minute or two after that Dolly did not know; for the
rubbers proved so refractory that she only rose from the encounter
flushed and hurried, as the train entered the station.
"Let me make myself useful in looking after your baggage," said her
self-constituted escort, handing her out with great respect and care.
"Thank you: all my things come by express, so I've nothing to do but get
into a carriage."
"Then allow me to see you safely there, for the sake of the treasures,
if nothing else;" and John led her away, utterly ignoring the presence
of "George," who stood looking after them, with a face full of
good-humored interest and amusement.
"I'm very much obliged. Good-by," said Dolly, from the coach window.
"Not good-by: I'm coming to the fair, you know," answered John,
lingering at the door as if loath to lose sight of his little friend.
"I forgot all about it!"
"I didn't; for I depend on the cakes and ale and all the other good
things promised me."
"You will find them there," with a smile, and then a sudden blush as she
remembered that he had not only agreed to speak to "Miss Dolly," but to
"win her old heart."
He remembered also, and laughed as he bowed with the same audacious look
he had worn when he made that rash vow.
"I wonder if he _will_ come?" thought the girl, as she drove away.
"As if _I_ should forget!" said John to himself, as he trudged through
the snow, quite regardless of his waiting friend; for from the little
cinder had been kindled a spark of the divine fire that moves one of the
great engines which transport mankind all the world over.
John Harris promised to "do" the fair, and kept his word handsomely; for
he was there every day for a week, lunching in the old-fashioned
kitchen, and then, in his official capacity, sketching every relic he
could lay his eyes on. Such punctuality caused the pretty waiters to
smile affably upon this faithful devourer of primitive viands, and the
matrons to predict great things from the young artist's application to
Little guessed the girls and the gossips that love was ravaging their
generous patron's heart more persistently than he did their tables, and
that nature not art caused his devotion to modern beauty rather than
ancient ugliness. For all John saw in the crowd that filled the place
was Dolly, tripping to and fro tray in hand, spinning at her wheel, or
resting beside Aunt Maria, twin sister of Mrs. Hill, in an imposing cap
instead of the pumpkin hood. Pretty Dolly was the belle of the kitchen;
for she alone of all the dozen damsels on duty looked her part, and was
in truth a country girl, rich in the old-fashioned gifts and graces of
health, modesty, housewifely skill, and the sweet maidenliness which
girls who come out at sixteen soon lose for ever. Her dress, too, was
wonderfully complete and becoming, though only a pink and white chintz,
a mob-cap, and an uncompromising apron, with the pin-ball, scissors,
keys, and linen pocket hanging at the side. The others looked like stage
soubrettes, and acted like coquettish young ladies who knew nothing
about their work. But Dolly was genuine throughout, so she proved a
great success; and Aunt Maria took all the credit of it to herself, felt
that she had done a good thing in bringing so much youth, energy, and
loveliness to market, and expressed her satisfaction by talking a great
deal about "our family," which, as she was a Smith, was certainly large
enough to furnish endless gossip.
Another person watched, admired, and hovered about the girl like a
blue-bottle fly about a rose; and that was Mr. Aaron Parker, a dapper
little man of fifty, who, having made a snug fortune, was now anxious to
marry and settle. Aunt Maria was evidently his confidant and friend; and
it was soon apparent that Aunt Maria intended to make a match between
her niece and this amiable gentleman, who set about his wooing with
old-fashioned formality and deliberation.
All this John saw, heard, or divined with the keenness of a lover, while
he watched the events of that week; for he very soon made up his mind
that he adored "Miss Dolly," as he always called her to himself. The
short time which had elapsed between the car episode and the opening of
the fair seemed endless to him; and, when he came beaming into the
kitchen the very first day, his heart sang for joy at sight of that
bonny face once more. She welcomed him so kindly, served him so
prettily, and showed such frank and friendly pleasure at meeting him
again, that the lonely fellow felt as if he had suddenly found a large
and attached family, and yielded to the charm without a struggle. She
seemed to belong to him somehow, as if he had discovered her, and had
the first right to admire, help, and love her; for he alone of all the
men there had seen her at home, had looked deepest into the shy, bright
eyes, and heard her call him "friend."
This delightful state of things lasted for a few days, during which he
felt as if quaffing nectar and tasting ambrosia, while he drank the
promised cider and ate the spicy "sweethearts" which Dolly always
brought him with a smile that went directly to his head, and produced a
delicious sort of intoxication. He never could have but a word or two,
she was so busy; but, as he sat apart, pretending to sketch, he was
living over those brief, blissful moments, and concocting wonderfully
witty, wise, or tender speeches for the morrow.
Well for him that no one looked over his shoulder at such times, for his
portfolio would have betrayed him, since it was a wild jumble of
andirons and mob-caps, antique pepper-pots and pretty profiles,
spinning-wheels, and large eyes with a profusion of lash; while a dainty
pair of feet in high-heeled slippers seemed to dance from page after
page, as if the artist vainly sought to exorcise some persistent fancy
by booking it over and over again.
Suddenly a change appeared both in the man and in his work; for Parker
had arrived, and clouds began to gather on the horizon which was rosy
with the dawn of love. Now John discovered that the cider was sour and
the cake stale, for the calls of a voracious rival cruelly abbreviated
his moments of bliss. Now he glared and brooded in corners where once he
had revelled in dreams of a dim but delightful future. Now the pages of
his sketch-book bore grotesque likenesses of a round, snub-nosed
countenance in all sorts of queer places, such as a clock-face, under a
famous cocked hat, or peeping out of a memorable warming-pan; while a
dapper figure was seen in various trying attitudes, the most frequent
being prone before the dancing feet, one of which was usually spurning a
fat money-bag, with contempt in every line of the pretty slipper.
At this stage, the fair ended, and Aunt Maria bore the charmer away,
leaving John to comfort himself with the memory of a parting look of
regret from behind Governor Hancock's punch-bowl, which Dolly embraced
with one arm, while the other guarded Madam's best china tea-pot.
Maddening was it to haunt the street before Aunt Maria's door, and hear
a gay voice singing inside fit to melt a paving stone, to say nothing of
a young man's heart. More maddening still to catch occasional glimpses
of the girl shut up in a carriage with the dragon, or at concerts and
theatres under the escort of Mr. Parker. But most maddening of all was
the frequent spectacle of this enamoured gentleman trotting up the
street, simpering to himself as he went, and freely entering at the door
which shut the younger lover out of Paradise.
At such trying periods, John (now very far gone indeed, for love feeds
on air) would feel a wild desire to knock the little man down, storm
Aunt Maria's mansion, and carry his Dolly away from what he felt assured
was an irksome bondage to the girl. But, alas! where could he carry the
dear creature when he had got her? For all the home he possessed was one
room in a dull boarding-house, and his only fortune the salary his
pencil earned him. Then, as he groaned over these sad facts, a great
temptation would assail him; for he remembered that with a word he could
work the miracle which would give him half a million, and make all
things possible but the keeping of his own self-respect.
Hard times just then for John Harris; and for some weeks he went about
his daily duties with such a divided mind and troubled spirit that the
stoniest heart might have pitied him. But comfort came when least
expected, and in trying to help another he got help himself and hope
One gusty March morning he arrayed himself in his best, put a posy in
his button-hole, and went gallantly away to Aunt Maria's door, bound to
make a call in spite of her frowns at the fair, and evident desire to
ignore his existence since. Boldly ringing the forbidden bell, he
inquired for the ladies. Both were engaged; and, as if nothing should be
wanting to his chagrin, as he went down the steps Mr. Parker, bearing a
suggestive bouquet, went up and was instantly admitted.
It was too much for poor John, who rushed away into the park, and
pulling his hat over his eyes tramped wrathfully down the mall,
muttering to himself,--
"It's no use; I _must_ give in; for with a fortune in my pocket I could
carry all before me,--bribe Aunt Maria, outbid Aaron, and win my Dolly,
if I'm not much mistaken."
Just then a sharp yelp roused him from his excited reverie, and looking
up he found that he had kicked a fat poodle, who was waddling slowly
along, while some way before him went a little figure in a gray hat, at
sight of which John's heart gave a leap. Here was bliss! Dolly alone at
last, and he could defy the dragon and all her machinations. Parker and
his fine bouquet were nowhere; Harris and his button-hole posy had the
best of it now; and, leaving the fat poodle to whine and waddle at its
own sweet will, the happy man hurried forward to make the most of this
As he drew near, he observed that a handkerchief went more than once to
the face which drooped in a thoughtful way as the feet paced slowly on.
"Bless her heart! she is catching cold, and dreaming dreams, here all
alone," thought John, as, stepping to her side, he said gently, that he
might not startle her, "Good-morning, Miss Dolly."
He did startle her, nevertheless, and himself as well; for, as she
turned quickly, he saw that her face was bathed in tears. Instantly all
his own troubles took wing; and, with no thought but how to comfort her,
he said impetuously,--
"I beg pardon, but do tell me what is the matter?" He came upon her so
suddenly that there was no time to hide the tell-tale tears. He looked
so eager, kind, and helpful, she could not be offended at his words; and
just then she needed a friend so much, it was hard to resist confiding
in him. Yet, womanlike, she tried to hide her little worries, to make
light of her girlish grief, and turn a brave face to the world. So she
brushed the drops from her eyes, put on a smile, and answered stoutly,--
"It was very foolish of me to cry, but it is so dull and lonely here I
think I was a little homesick."
"Then perhaps you won't mind if I walk on a bit with you and apologize
for kicking your little dog?" said John, artfully availing himself of
"No, indeed. He is Aunt Maria's dog; but how came you to do it?" asked
the girl, plainly showing that a human companion was very welcome.
"I was in a brown study, and did it by accident. He's so fat it didn't
hurt him much," answered the young man, assuming his gayest manner for
her sake. Then he added, with an excuse which did not deceive her a
"The fact is, I'd ventured to call on you to see if I could get a sketch
of the punch-bowl; but you were engaged, the girl said, and I was rather
"What a fib! I'm sorry I was out; but the house was gloomy and Aunt
rather cross, so I ran away under pretence of giving old Tip an airing."
"Ah, you don't know what you lost! Mr. Parker went in as I came out,
with such a nosegay!--for Aunt Maria, I suppose?" and John tried to look
quite easy and gay as he spoke.
Dolly's face darkened ominously, and a worried look came into her eyes
as she glanced behind her, then quickened her steps, saying, with a
little groan that was both comic and pathetic,--
"It does seem as if it was my doom to be tormented by old gentlemen! I
wish you'd get rid of this one as you did of the other."
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," answered John, with such
heartiness that a sudden color dried Dolly's wet cheeks, as she
remembered that he had got rid of tormentor number one by taking his
Cheered by the knowledge that a champion was ready to defend her, she
ventured to show him a safer way in which to serve her, saying very
"I think I may be glad of the recommendation you once promised me.
Should you mind giving it?"
"Are you tired of 'playing lady' so soon?" he asked anxiously.
"So tired that I felt to-day as if I'd like to run away and take service
with the first person who would engage me."
"Don't!" exclaimed John, with such energy that the fat poodle barked
shrilly and made a feeble charge at his boots, feeling that something
was wrong somewhere. "Run away home, if you must run, but pray don't get
discouraged and do any thing rash," he went on with great earnestness;
for he saw by her face that she was in some real trouble.
"I haven't even a home to run to; for Mrs. Hill agrees with Aunt that
it's time I ceased to be a burden. It's very hard, when I only ask a
safe corner in the world, and am willing to work for it," cried the
girl, with an irrepressible sob; for the trials of many weeks had grown
unbearable, and a kind word made the full heart overflow.
Neither spoke for a minute, then John said with a respectful earnestness
which touched her very much,--
"Miss Dolly, you once called me a friend, and I was very proud to be so
honored. Forget that I am any thing else, and, if you have no one wiser
and older to consult, trust me, and let me help you. I've knocked about
the world enough to know how hard it is for a man to get an honest
living, doubly hard for a woman, especially one as young and beautiful
as you are. There are safe corners, I am sure; but it takes time to find
them, so pray be patient and do nothing without care."
"I called you a friend in need, and so you are; for, strange as it may
seem, there is no one to whom I can go for disinterested advice. I know
so little of the world that I'm afraid to trust my own judgment, yet I
am driven to decide between dependence of a sort I despise, or to stand
alone and take care of myself. _Will_ you advise me?" and she looked up
with an appealing glance, which read such a reassuring answer in the
honest eyes full of sincerest sympathy that she was comforted before he
"Indeed I will! for what are we all here for, if not to help one
another? Do you know I think there is a sort of fate about these things,
and it's no use to struggle against it. We seem to be two 'lone, lorn'
creatures thrown together in queer ways, so let's agree to be old
friends and stand by each other. Come, is it a bargain?"
He seemed so firmly convinced of the inevitability of this fate that the
girl felt relieved from farther scruples, and agreed in all good faith.
"Now about the troubles?" began John, trying to look old, reliable, and
wise; for he guessed the one she was most reluctant to tell.
"I suppose marrying for an establishment or earning their bread is a
question most poor girls have to settle sooner or later," observed
Dolly, in a general sort of way, as an opening; for, in spite of his
praiseworthy efforts, her young counsellor did not succeed in looking
like a sage.
"If pretty, yes; if plain, no. We needn't discuss the latter class, but
go on to the question," returned John, keeping to the subject in hand
with masculine pertinacity.
"I'd rather be an old man's housekeeper than his wife; but people won't
believe it, and laugh at me for being what they call so foolish," said
the girl, petulantly; for she did not seem to be getting on well with
"I thought from what I saw at the fair that Parker seemed ready to offer
both situations for your acceptance."
John could not help saying that, for a jealous pang assailed him at the
mere idea. He feared that he had spoilt the _rôle_ he was trying to
play; but it happened to be the best thing he could have done, for the
introduction of that name made things much easier for Dolly, as she
proved by kindling up as suddenly as if the word had been a match to
fire a long train of grievances.
"He did; and Aunt scolds me from morning till night, because I won't
accept the fine establishment he offers me. That's what I was sent here
for! My step-mother wants me out of the way, Aunt Maria hands me over to
Mr. Parker, and he takes me because I know how to cook and nurse. I
might as well be put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder!" she
cried, with eyes flashing through indignant tears.
"It's abominable!" echoed John, with equal indignation, though the words
"highest bidder" rung in his ears, as he thought of the fortune waiting
for him, and the youth which would tell so strongly in the race against
"old Parker," as he irreverently called the little man; for fifty seems
a patriarchal age to four-and-twenty.
"I know that sort of thing is done every day, and thought quite right;
but I am so old-fashioned it seems terrible to marry merely for a home.
Yet I'm very tired of being poor, and I _should_ like a taste of ease
and pleasure while I can enjoy them," added Dolly, with a very natural
longing for the bright and happy side of life.
"And I could give her all she wants," thought John, with the temptation
getting stronger every minute. But he only said a little bitterly,
"You'd better give in, if you want ease and pleasure, for money can buy
"No, it can't buy love, and that is better than all the splendor in the
world," answered the girl, in a tone that thrilled her hearer to the
heart. "What _I_ call love seems to have gone out of fashion; and that
is what troubles me; because, if there _isn't_ any such thing, I may as
well take the next best, and try to be contented. No one seems to value
love for itself alone, to feel the need of it as much as light and air,
to miss it when it goes, or try to earn and keep it as the most precious
thing in the world. Money and position are every thing, and men work and
women marry for these, as if they had no other hope or end; and I'm
frightened at the things I see and hear in what is called society."
"Poor child, I don't wonder; but I assure you there _is_ an ocean of
love in the world, only it gets put out of sight in the rush, wasted on
those who don't deserve it, or dammed up by adverse circumstances. It
exists though, the real genuine article, waiting for a market. _Do_
believe it, and wait for it, and I'm sure it will come in time."
John was so divided between a rash impulse to prove his point by a
declaration then and there, and the conviction that it would be
altogether premature, his metaphors got rather mixed, and he had to pull
himself up abruptly. But Dolly thought it a beautiful speech, was glad
to believe every word of it, and accepted this piece of advice with
"I'll wait, and meantime be looking about for the safe corner to run to
when Aunt Maria gets tired of me, because I don't mean to go home again
to be a burden." Then, as if anxious to slip away from a too interesting
topic, she asked with a very winning expression of interest and
"Now what can I do for you? I'm sure you have worries as well as I, and,
though not very wise, perhaps I might advise in my turn."
"You are very good, but I couldn't think of troubling you;" and the
young man looked both pleased and flurried by the girl's offer.
"We agreed to help one another, you remember; and I must do my part, or
the bargain won't be a fair one. Tell me what the brown study was about,
and I'll forgive the kick poor Tip got," persisted Dolly; for her
feminine instinct told her that a heavy cloud of some sort had been
lifted to let sunshine through for her.
John did long to know her opinion on a certain matter, but a man's pride
would not let him speak as freely as the girl had done, so he took
refuge in a mild subterfuge, and got advice on false pretences.
"It was only a quandary I was in about a friend of mine. He wants my
judgment in a case something like yours, and perhaps you _could_ help me
with an opinion; for women are very wise in such matters sometimes."
"Please tell me, if you may. I should so love to pay my debts by being
of some use;" and Dolly was all attention, as she pushed back her vail
as if to get a clear and impartial view of the case about to be
Fixing his eyes on the sparrows who were disporting themselves among the
budding elm-boughs, John plunged abruptly into his story, never once
looking at his hearer and speaking so rapidly that he was rather red and
breathless when he got through.
"You see, Jack was plodding along after a fashion all by himself, his
people being dead, when an old friend of his father's took it into his
head to say, 'Come and be a son to me, and I'll leave you a handsome
fortune when I die.' A capital thing it seemed, and Jack accepted, of
course. But he soon found that he had given up his liberty, and was a
slave to a very tyrannical master, who claimed him soul and body, heart
and mind. That didn't suit Jack, and he would have broken away; but, as
you say, he was 'tired of being poor, and wanted a little ease and
pleasure in his life.' The old man was failing, and the money would soon
be his, so he held on, till he suddenly discovered that this fortune for
which he was waiting was not honest money, but, like many another great
fortune, had been ground out of the poor, swindled out of honest men, or
stolen from trusting friends, and hoarded up for a long lifetime, to be
left to Jack with the curse of dishonesty upon it. Would you advise him
to take it?"
"No," answered the girl, without a moment's hesitation.
"Well, he didn't, but turned his back on the ill-gotten money, and went
to work again with clean but empty hands," added John, still looking
away, though his face wore a curiously excited expression under its
"I'm glad, very glad he did! Wasn't it noble of him?" asked Dolly, full
of admiring interest in this unknown Jack.
"It was very hard; for you see he loved somebody, and stood a poor
chance of winning her without a penny in his pocket."
"All the nobler in him then; and, if she was worth winning, she'd love
him the more for the sacrifice," said Dolly, warmly; for the romance of
the story took her fancy, though it was poorly told.
"Think so? I'll mention that to Jack: it will cheer him up immensely,
for he's afraid to try his fate with nothing to offer but his earnings."
"What's his business?" asked Dolly suddenly.
"Connected with newspapers,--fair salary, good prospects,--not ashamed
to work," answered John, staring hard at the sparrows, and wiping his
forehead, as if he found the bleak day getting too warm for him.
"Is the girl pretty?"
"The most captivating little creature I ever beheld!" cried John,
"Oh, indeed," and Dolly glanced at him sharply, while a shadow passed
over her face, as she asked with redoubled interest, "Is she rich?"
"Has nothing but her sweet face and good name I believe."
"Isn't that enough?"
"Indeed it is! but Jack wants to make life beautiful and easy for her,
and he can by saying a word. He is awfully tempted to say it; for the
old man is dying, has sent for him to come back, and there is yet time
to secure a part of the fortune. He won't take it all, but has a fancy
that, if he leaves half to charity, it would be a sort of purification
to the other half; and he might enjoy it with his love. Don't you think
"No, it would spoil the whole thing. Why cannot they be contented to
begin with nothing but love, and work up together, earning every clean
and honest penny they spend. It would be a comfort to see such a pair in
this mercenary world, and I do hope they will do it," said the girl,
heartily, though a slightly pensive tone had come into her voice, and
she stifled a small sigh, as she put down her vail as if there was
nothing worth seeing in the landscape.
"I think they _will_ try it!" answered John, with decision, as he smiled
sympathetically at a pair of sparrows chirping together at the door of
one of the desirable family mansions provided for their use.
Here Tip ended the dangerous dialogue by sitting down before Dolly with
a howl of despair, which recalled her to her duty.
"The poor old thing is tired, and must go in. Good-morning, and many
thanks," she said, turning toward the steps, which they would have
passed unseen but for the prudent poodle's hint.
"Good-by, and a thousand pardons for boring you with my affairs," began
John, with a penitent, yet very grateful glance.
"By the way, I've been so interested in Jack's affairs that I've
forgotten exactly what your advice was to me," she added, pausing on the
upper step for a last word.
With his hat in his hand and his heart in his eyes, John looked up and
answered in a tone that made few words necessary,--
"Don't sell yourself for a home."
And Dolly answered back with a sweet, shrewd smile that made him flush
"Don't smother your conscience with a fortune."
Tip's constitutionals were taken with praiseworthy regularity about that
time, and the poor asthmatic animal was nearly walked off his legs by
the vigor with which his little mistress paraded the park at
unfashionable hours. A robust young man, who did not look as if he
needed early walks, was continually meeting Dolly by accident as it
were, till on the fourth _rencontre_ they both burst out laughing, gave
up all further subterfuge, and felt that it was vain to struggle against
fate. The next time they met, both looked very sober; and John said,
watching her face as he spoke,--
"It is all over with me, Miss Dolly. The old man is dead, and my chance
is lost for ever."
"You look so solemn, I'm afraid he left you something, after all."
"Not a penny. All went to various charities, and I have nothing but my
salary and these two hands."
"I'm glad of that! I'd like to shake those honest hands, and wish them
all success. May I?" she said, putting out her own with such cordial
approval in voice and eyes that John lost his head, and, holding both
the small hands fast in his, answered all in one fervently incoherent
"May you? Let me keep them, and then I _shall_ succeed! Dearest Dolly,
you said you didn't want any thing but love; and here's a whole heart
full, aching to be poured out. You said you'd like to see Jack and his
wife working their way up together, contented to be poor. Here's Jack
and the wife he wants, if she cares enough for him to try that beautiful
experiment. You said you hadn't any home to run to when those cruel
women called you a burden. Run to me, my darling, and be the pride and
joy and comfort of my life!"
No one saw what Dolly did but Tip, who sat lolling out his tongue in an
imbecile manner; and no one heard what she said but some bright-faced
crocuses blooming early in that lonely corner of the park. But from what
took place afterward, it was evident that her reply had not been
entirely unpropitious; for her hand lay on John's arm, her face was in
an April state between smiles and tears, and to her eyes midsummer
warmth and radiance seemed to have fallen suddenly upon the earth. It is
hardly necessary to mention that the other party in this little
transaction looked as if _he_ owned the entire world, was yearning to
embrace all mankind, and had nothing more to ask of Heaven in the way of
"You don't regret saying yes, like an angel," asked this unreasonable
lover, five minutes after he had surprised her into uttering that
"You know that it is very selfish of me to ask you, when I've nothing to
give; and very unwise in you to take me, because you have much to lose."
"The devoted Parker and his plump pocket-book."
It was good to hear Dolly laugh at that, and to see John glance
defiantly at an elderly gentleman in the distance, as if all that
harmless portion of the race ought to be exterminated, to leave room for
happy young fellows like himself.
"He will believe now that, when I say 'No,' I mean it," answered Dolly,
with an assumption of dignity, which changed with comic suddenness to
one of dismay, as she added, "Oh, my heart, what _will_ Aunt Maria say!"
"Don't tell her just yet, or she will shut you up, whisk you away, or do
some awful thing to part us. Keep this delicious secret for a little
while, and we can enjoy many happy minutes in peace."
"Yes, John," with a docility that was altogether captivating to the new
"I must look about me, and be getting ready to take you into my home as
well as my heart, when the storm breaks. There is sure to be one, I
fancy; and, for my part, I rather relish the idea. The air will be
clearer and things more settled after it."
"I don't know what they will say and do to me, but I shall not mind, now
I have you to take care of me;" and Dolly's other hand went to join the
one on John's arm, with a confiding gesture which glorified the old
coat-sleeve, in his eyes, more than any badge it could have worn.
"I suppose we _must_ live somewhere, and eat occasionally, since we are
mortal. Love certainly _is_ the best capital to start on, but a trifle
of cash is necessary likewise; so we must take a little thought for the
morrow. Wish the city would provide us with a house rent free, and board
thrown in, as it does our feathery confidants here," observed the
husband elect, eying the sparrows with a vague sense of domestic cares
already stealing over his masculine mind.
"Don't think of all those worries yet. Just love and be happy for a
time, and things will settle themselves somehow," cried Dolly, whose
womanly nature would not be so soon defrauded of the sweet romance which
comes but once in a lifetime.
"Very well. We'll give a month to clear bliss, and then talk about the
But, with the charming inconsistency of her sex, no sooner had she
forbidden a subject than she felt an intense desire to talk about it;
and after a moment's pause, during which her lover had been looking down
at her thoughtful face in silent rapture, Dolly emerged from a brief
reverie, clapping her hands and exclaiming,--
"John, I've got the most delicious idea that ever was. Now don't laugh
and say, 'It isn't practical,' for I know it is; and it would be so new
and appropriate and economical, and altogether nice, that I hope you'll
approve. We shall want a home by and by, shall we not?"
"I want it now, if you've no objection."
"Be serious. Well, a room or two must content us at first, and we want
them to be decent, not to say pretty and comfortable, don't we?"
"They can't help being all three, if you are there, my Dolly."
"No, John, not in public! Now answer me this: won't you have to save up
a long time, to get enough to buy furniture and things, no matter how
"I'm afraid I should; for at present my housekeeping stock is about as
large and varied as that of Tommy Traddles. His consisted of a bird-cage
and a toasting-fork, I believe; mine, of an easel and a boot-jack.
Wouldn't they do to begin with?"
"Please don't joke, but listen; for _this_ is the new idea. Take my dear
old relics and furnish our nest with them! What _could_ be more
economical, picturesque, and appropriate for this centennial year?"
Dolly stopped short to see how this amazing proposal struck her lord and
master. It seemed to take him off his legs; for he sat suddenly down
upon a seat that fortunately was behind him, and looked up at the
beaming little woman with an expression of admiration and contentment,
which answered her question so emphatically that she nestled down beside
him with all her doubts laid at rest.
"I thought you'd like it! Now let's plan it all out, and see what we've
got. Every thing is as old as the hills, you know; but still so good and
strong we can get years of wear out of it. We don't have such well-made
furniture nowadays," she went on, happily blind to the deficiencies of
the time-worn chairs, clumsy tables, and cracked china, which were all
"My blessing on every stick of it! I wasn't thinking about the
furniture, though. I was rejoicing over the fact that, if I needn't save
up for that sort of thing, we could be married all the sooner. That's
the beauty of the idea, don't you see?" and John regarded the originator
thereof with unmitigated satisfaction.
"So we can; but _do_ think about the furniture, because you ought to be
interested in helping me make an artistic home," said Dolly, knowing
that the word "artistic" would arrest his attention, and keep him to the
subject in hand; for as yet the other idea was too new to bear much
"I will. In fact, I see it now, all complete. Two or three rooms in an
old house, if possible,--they are always the cheapest, my love; so don't
look as if you saw cobwebs and blue mould, and felt black beetles
running over your feet. In one room we'll have that spider-legged table
on which you cleaned the snuffer tray, and the claw-footed chairs: there
were three, I think,--one for each of us, and the third for a friend.
Then on the dresser we'll put all the porringers out of which we are to
eat mush and milk, and the pewter platters for an occasional 'biled
dish,'--that's the proper name for the mess, isn't it? Likewise the dear
fat tea-pots, the red china cups, all cracked, the green-handled knives
and forks, the wooden spoons, funny pepper-pots, and all the rest of the
"Don't forget _the_ tankard," cried Dolly, as John paused for breath in
the middle of his rhapsody.
"That will be in our parlor, set forth in state on the little stand I
used to have my lunch at during the fair. I'm afraid I scratched your
initials all over it, that being a trick of mine about that time."
"I thought you did it! Never mind, but go on, please."
"We shall put flowers in the immortal mug, and I shall paint them, earn
sums, and grow famous, such will be the inspiration of my surroundings.
For, while I sit in the General's chair at my delightful work, you in
the pretty chintz gown and the fly-away cap,--promise me to wear it, or
I won't go on?"
"I'll wear any thing you like, in the house, and can have a water-proof
and a linen duster for the street. Artists' wives usually do have to
make guys of themselves, I believe."
"Thank you, dear. Well, you will always be doing one of three things,
making sweethearts, spinning, or looking over my shoulder. I prefer the
latter occupation on the whole, and when I'm at home that will be your
mission. During my absence, you can attend to the housework you love so
well, and do so prettily. Never did I see such brilliant candlesticks in
my life; and as for the copper tea-kettle, it was like a mirror. I saw
you steal peeps at it more than once, Little Vanity, that day as I sat
stealing a sketch of you."
"Then you think it can be done, John?" ignoring the accusation.
"It not only _can_, but it _shall_ be done, and I shouldn't wonder if we
set the fashion of furnishing bridal bowers with relics of all sorts,
throwing in a glue-pot gratis, to mend up the old things when they
tumble to pieces. I'm great at that, and can get my living as a
cabinetmaker when art fails."
"I do believe you can do every thing, John!"
"No, I couldn't cure pneumonia, if you should get it by sitting in this
chilly wind. Now I've got you, I intend to take great care of you, my
It was so sweet to Dolly to be cared for, and so delightful to John to
do it, that they forgot all about poor Tip till he tumbled into the
pond, and was with difficulty fished out by his ears and tail, being too
fat to do any thing but float. This catastrophe shortened an interview
which might otherwise have been prolonged till nightfall, for
"Lightly falls the foot of time
That only treads on flowers."
"Why, John, do you know that this is the first of April?" asked Dolly,
as they went homeward, with Tip forlornly dripping in the rear. "A very
fitting day for such an imprudent couple as we are to begin their
journey," she added, enjoying the idea immensely.
"So it is! Never mind! we'll prove that we are no fools, though a
mercenary world may call us so," returned John, as blithe as she.
Alas, poor things! they thought their troubles were all over, now they
had found each other; whereas a cruel fate was laughing at them round
_THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE._
Unfortunately for these deluded young persons, their month of bliss
turned out to be the most tempestuous one they had ever passed; for,
before the first week was over, some malignant imp inspired Aunt Maria
to spy, from a certain end window which commanded a corner of the park,
the lingering adieux of the lovers, and then it was all up with them.
A single stormy debate, during which John manfully claimed his Dolly,
she stoutly defended her right to love whom she chose, and Aunt Maria
thundered and lightened unavailingly, resulted in the banishment of the
claimant, the strict seclusion of the damsel, and the redoubled devotion
of the decorous but determined Parker, who, cheered on by his ally,
still besieged the rebellious heart, undaunted by the reinforcements
The prospect was certainly not a hopeful one; but the young people never
lost courage, rather enjoyed it on the whole, and revolved endless
schemes in their busy brains, which they confided to one another by
means of notes slipped under Tip's collar when he took his solitary
airings on the steps. For a time persecution lent its zest to their
love; but presently separation grew unbearable, and they were ready for
"I _must_ see you," wrote John, in note number 37.
"You _shall_," answered Dolly, and bade him meet her at one of the many
Centennial Balls which afflicted the world in 1875-76.
To hear was to obey; and though said ball was to be eminently select,
thanks to a skilful use of his middle name, John was able to keep the
appointed tryst, well knowing that there is no solitude like that to be
found in a crowd. Costumes were in order; and there was a general
resurrection of ancient finery, which made the handsome hall look as if
time had rolled back a hundred years. Every one who had a hair powdered
it, and those who had not made up the deficiency by imposing wigs.
Spindle-legged gentlemen affected top-boots and spurs; those blessed
with a manly development of calf pranced in silk stockings and buckled
shoes. British and Continental uniforms amicably marched shoulder to
shoulder; dimity and brocade mingled prettily together; and patriotic
ardor animated the hearts under the lace stomachers and embroidered
waistcoats as warmly as of old, for the spirit of '76 was all alive
Aunt Maria looked like a parrot of the most brilliant plumage; for the
good lady burned to distinguish herself, and had vainly tried to wear a
suit of Madam Hancock's belonging to Dolly. Fortunately, Madam was a
small woman, and Aunt Maria quite the reverse; so she was forced to give
it up, and content herself with being one of many Martha Washingtons who
filled the dowagers' corner.
So Dolly bloomed into the sweetest little old-time lady ever seen, and
was in truth by nature as by name a Dorothy Quincy. Not as the matron,
but as the maid, with all her curly locks turned over a roller before
they fell on her white neck, where shone the jewelled hearts she prized
so much. Lilies of the valley embroidered her white gown, and nestled
among the lace that rose and fell upon her bosom. From under her quilted
satin petticoat "her little feet stole in and out," wearing Madam's
wedding-shoes, so high in the heels and so pointed at the toes that
Dolly suffered martyrdom with a smiling face, and danced at the risk of
her life. Long gloves, with Lafayette's likeness stamped on the back,
kept splitting at the time-worn seams, so plump were the arms inside. A
quaint scent-bottle hung at her waist; and she hid her blushes behind a
great fan, whose dim mirror had reflected faces history has made
"You are simply perfect, Miss Hill, and nothing could be added,"
whispered the still hopeful Parker, who was on duty and much elated by
the fact; for the girl was unusually friendly that evening for reasons
of her own.
"Except the Governor," she answered, peeping over her fan with eyes full
of anxiety as well as merriment; for John had not yet appeared, and the
little man beside her was very funny in a voluminous white neckcloth,
furred coat-collar, and square-toed shoes, carefully kept in the "first
position." He had longed to personate the character she suggested.
Stature forbade, however; and he had contented himself with personating
Benjamin Franklin, flattering himself that his placid countenance and
neat legs would be remarkably effective, also the fact that he had been
connected with the printing interest in early life.
"If you had only told me, I would have attempted it for your sake: you
have but to express a wish, and I am charmed to gratify it," murmured
the enamoured Benjamin, with a tenderly reproachful sigh, which stirred
his rampant shirt-frill like a passing breeze.
At that moment, as if a wish _had_ brought him, a veritable John Hancock
stood before them, looking comelier than ever, in a velvet suit, as he
laid his cocked hat upon his heart and asked, with a bow so deep that it
afforded a fine view of the garnet buckle in his stock,--
"May I have the honor, Madam?"
Glad to hide a traitorously happy face, Dolly made him a splendid
curtsey, and took his arm with a hasty--
"Excuse me, Mr. Parker. Please tell Aunt I'm going to dance."
"But--but--but--my dear Miss, I promised not to lose sight of you,"
stammered the defrauded Franklin, turning red with helpless rage, as the
full audacity of the lovers burst upon him.
"Well, you needn't. Wait for me here till my dance is over, then Aunt
won't know any thing about it," laughed wilful Dolly over her shoulder,
as she was swept away into the many-colored whirlpool that circled round
the hall to the entrancing music of a waltz.
While it lasted, words were needless; for eyes did the talking, smiles
proud or tender telegraphed volumes of poetry, the big hand held the
little one so close that it burst quite out of the old glove rosy with
the pressure, and the tall head was often so near the short one that the
light locks powdered the dark ones.
"A heavenly waltz!" panted Dolly, when it ended, feeling that she could
go on for ever, blind to the droll despair of poor Parker, as,
heroically faithful to his trust, he struggled frantically to keep the
happy pair in sight.
"Now we'll have a still more heavenly promenade in the corridor. Ben is
busy apologizing to half a dozen ladies whose trains he has walked up in
his mad career after us, so we are safe for a time," answered John,
ready to brave the wrath of many Aunt Marias; for the revolutionary
spirit was high within him, and he had quite made up his mind that
resistance to tyrants _was_ obedience to the little god he served just
"Oh, John, how glad I am to see you after all this worry, and how nice
it was of you to come in such grand style to-night! I was so afraid you
couldn't manage it," said Dolly, hanging on his arm and surveying her
gallant Governor with pardonable pride.
"My blessed girl, there was nothing I couldn't manage with the prospect
of meeting you before me. Hasn't it been hard times for both of us?
You've had the hardest, I'm afraid, shut up with the dragon and no
refuge from daily nagging and Parker's persecution. If you hadn't the
bravest little heart in the world, you'd have given up by this;" and,
taking advantage of a shadowy corner, John embraced his idol, under
pretence of drawing her cloak about her.
"I'll never give up the ship!" cried the girl, quoting Lawrence of the
"Chesapeake," with a flash of the eye good to see.
"Stand to your guns, and we'll yet say, 'We've met the enemy, and they
are ours,'" answered John, in the words of brave Perry, and with a ring
to his voice which caused a passing waiter to pause, fancying he was
Beckoning to him, John gave Dolly a glass of lemonade, and, taking one
himself, said with a look that made the toast a very eloquent one to
both of them,--
"The love of liberty--and--the liberty of love."
They drank it silently, then paced on again, so intent upon their own
emotions that neither saw a flushed and agitated countenance regard them
from a doorway, and then vanish, smiling darkly.
"Things have come to a crisis, and I've taken a resolution," began
Dolly, remembering that time was short.
"So have I."
"This is mine,--I'm going to Philadelphia."
"How? when? why?"
"Be calm and listen. Aunt has given me just three days to choose between
accepting P. and being sent home in disgrace. I don't intend to do
either, but take matters into my own hands, and cease to be a burden."
"Hear! hear! but how?"
"At the fair the kitchen was a success, and there is to be a grand one
at the Exposition. Girls are wanted to wait there as here; they are
taken care of, and all expenses paid while they serve. I know some nice
people who are going for fun, and I'm to join them for a month at least.
That gives me a start, and afterward I certainly can find something to
do in the city of Brotherly Love."
"The knowledge that _I'm_ to be there on duty had nothing to do with
this fine plan of yours, hey, my Dolly?" and John beamed at her with
such a rapturous expression she had to turn him round, lest an advancing
couple should fancy he had been imbibing something stronger than
lemonade and love.
"Why, of course it had," she answered with adorable candor. "Don't you
see how lovely it will be to meet every day and talk over our prospects
in peace, while we are working away together till we have earned enough
to try the experiment we planned in the park?"
Stopping short, John grasped the hand that lay on his arm, looking as if
suddenly inspired, and exclaimed in a solemn yet excited tone,--
"_I've_ got a plan, a superb plan, only it may startle you a bit at
first. Why not marry and go together?"
Before Dolly could find breath to answer this momentous question, a
bomb-shell, in the shape of Aunt Maria, exploded before them, and put an
end to the privy conspiracy and rebellion.
"You will _not_ go anywhere together, for my niece is in the care of
this gentleman. I did think we should be free from annoyance here, but I
see I was mistaken. Mr. Parker, will you oblige me by taking Dolly home
Every feather in the old lady's gray wig trembled with ire, as she
plucked the girl from one lover and gave her to the charge of the other,
in whom the conflicting emotions of triumph and trepidation were so
visible that the contrast between his countenance and costume was more
comical than ever.
"But, Aunt, it isn't time to go yet," protested Dolly, finding
submission very hard after her taste of freedom.
"It is quite time for persons who don't know how to behave with
propriety in public. Not a word! Take my wrap, and go at once. Mr.
Parker, please leave her in Mrs. Cobb's care, and return to enjoy
yourself. There is no reason why _your_ evening should be spoilt;" and
Aunt Maria bundled poor Dolly into an ugly shawl, which made her look
like a lovely tea-rose done up in brown paper.
This sudden fall from the height of happiness to the depths of helpless
indignation left John speechless for an instant, during which he with
difficulty resisted a strong desire to shake Aunt Maria, and spit
Benjamin Franklin on the sword that hung at his side. The sight of his
Dolly reft from him, and ruthlessly led away from the gayety she loved,
reminded him that discretion was the better part of valor, and for her
sake he tried to soften the dragon by taking all the blame upon himself,
and promising to go away at once. But, while he was expostulating, the
wary Parker carried off the prize; and, when John turned to say
good-night, she had vanished, and Aunt Maria stalked away, with a grim
laugh at his defeat.
That laugh made him desperate; and, rushing downstairs, he was about to
walk away in the rain, regardless of the damage to his costly suit, when
the sound of a voice checked his reckless flight, and, looking back, he
saw Dolly pausing on the stairs to say, with a glance from the ancestral
shoes to the wet pavement outside, "I don't mind wetting my feet, but I
cannot spoil these precious slippers. Please get my overshoes from the
dressing-room: I'll wait for you here."
"Certainly, certainly; and my coat also: we must be prudent after such
heat and excitement," replied Mr. Parker, glad to guard himself against
the rheumatism twinges which already began to afflict his lightly clad
As he hurried back, a voice whispered, "Dolly!" and, regardless of the
perilously high heels, she ran down to join a black velvet gentleman
below, who said in her ear, as he led her toward the door,--
"I _must_ have a word more. Let me take you home; any carriage will do,
and it's our last chance."
"Yes, John, yes; but oh, my shoes!" and for one instant Dolly lingered,
as reverence for her relics contended with love for her Governor.
But he was equal to the occasion, and, having no cloak to lay under his
queen's feet, just took her in his arms, and before she knew it both
were in the coach, an order given, and they were off.
"Oh, John, how could you?" was all she said, casting away the big shawl,
to put both hands on the powdery shoulders before her; for her escort
was on his knees, quite in the style of the days when Sir Charles
Willoughby carried Evelina off in his chariot.
How he did it John never knew; but there he was, as unconscious of his
long limbs as if he had been a cherub, so intent was he on improving
this precious moment.
"I'd like to do a great deal more than that, but not to-night, though
I'm sorely tempted to run away with you, Dolly," he answered, feeling as
if it would be impossible to relinquish the little bundle of silk and
swan's down his arm enclosed.
"Oh, John, please don't! How could I in this dress, and no place to go
to, or any thing?"
"Don't be frightened, dear: I won't be rash. But, seriously, it must
come to that, and the sooner the better; so make up your mind to it, and
I'll manage all the rest. This is my plan, and yours will make it all
the easier. We _will_ go to Philadelphia; but we'll be married first,
and that shall be our wedding journey."
"But I'm not ready; we haven't any money; and only three days! I
couldn't, John, I couldn't!" and Dolly hid her face, glad, yet
half-frightened, at this prospect of such a release from all her woes.
"I knew it would startle you at first; but getting married is the
easiest thing in life when you set about it. You don't want any wedding
finery, I've got money enough, and can borrow more if I need it; and
three days is plenty of time to pack your trunk, have a farewell fight
with Aunt Maria, and run away to be the happiest little wife that ever
was. Say yes, darling; trust every thing to me, and, please God, you
never shall regret it."
Dolly had doubted the existence of genuine love nowadays, and John had
assured her that there were oceans of it. There certainly seemed to be
that night; and it was impossible to doubt the truth of his assertion
while listening to the tender prayers and plans and protestations he
poured into her ear, as they rolled on, regardless of the avenging
furies behind, and the untried fate before them. Storms raged without,
but peace reigned within; for Dolly showed signs of yielding, though she
had not consented when the run-away ride ended.
As John set her down in the hall, he added as a last appeal,--
"Remember, there were 'Daughters of Liberty,' as well as sons, in the
old times you love so well. Be one, and prove yourself worthy of your
name, as you bid me be of mine. Come, sweetheart, resist tyranny, face
poverty, love liberty, and declare your independence as bravely as they
"I will!" and Dolly signed the declaration her Hancock headed, by giving
him her hand and sealing the oath with a kiss.
"One word more," he said hurriedly, as the clatter of an approaching
carriage sounded through the street: "I may not be able to see you
again, but we can each be getting ready, and meet on Monday morning,
when you leave for '_home_' in good truth. Put a lamp in the end window
the last thing Sunday night as the bells ring nine, then I shall be sure
that all is right, and have no delay in the morning."
"Good-night, and God bless you!"
There was no time for more; and as distracted Parker burst out of one
carriage, and Aunt Maria "came tumbling after," happy John Harris
stepped into the other, with a wave of the cocked hat, and drove away in
_PEACE IS DECLARED._
The age of miracles is not over yet, and our young people wrought
several during those three days; for in love's vocabulary there is no
such word as fail.
Dolly "stood to her guns" womanfully, and not only chose to go "home,"
but prepared for her banishment with an outward meekness and an inward
joy which made each hour memorable. Aunt Maria had her suspicions and
kept a vigilant watch, she and her maid Cobb mounting guard by turns.
Parker, finding that "no surrender" was the countersign, raised the
siege and retreated in good order, though a trifle demoralized in
dignity when he looked back during the evacuation and saw Tip bolt
upright in the end window, with the rebel flag proudly displayed.
John meanwhile was circulating briskly through the city, and showing
such ardent interest in the approaching Exposition that his mates
christened him "Centennial Harris;" while the higher powers felt that
they had done a good thing in giving him the job, and increased his
salary to make sure of so excellent a servant. Other arrangements of a
private but infinitely more interesting nature were successfully made;
and he went about smiling to himself, as if the little parcel done up in
silver paper, which he was constantly feeling for in his vest pocket,
had been a talisman conferring all good gifts upon its happy owner.
When the third night came, he was at his post long before the time, so
great was his impatience; for the four-footed traitor had been
discovered and ordered into close confinement, where he suffered, not
the fate of André, but the pangs of indigestion for lack of exercise
after the feast of tidbits surreptitiously administered by one who never
forgot all she owed to her "fat friend."
It seemed as if nine o'clock would never come; and, if a policeman ever
was where he should be, the guardian of that beat would have considered
John a suspicious character as he paced to and fro in the April
starlight. At last the bells began to chime, promptly the light
appeared, and, remembering how the bell of the old State House rang out
the glad tidings a hundred years ago, John waved his cherished parcel,
joyfully exclaiming, "Independence is declared! ring! ring! ring!" then
raced across the park like another Paul Revere when the signal light
shone in the steeple of the old North Church.
Next morning at an early hour a carriage drove to Aunt Maria's door, and
with a stern farewell from her nightcapped relative Dolly was sent forth
to banishment, still guarded by the faithful Cobb. The mutinous damsel
looked pale and anxious, but departed with a friendly adieu and waved
her handkerchief to Tip, disconsolate upon the door-mat. The instant
they turned the corner, however, a singular transformation took place in
both the occupants of that carriage; for Dolly caught Cobb round the
neck and kissed her, while smiles broke loose on either face, as she
"You dear old thing, what _should_ I have done without you? Am I all
right? I do hope it's becoming. I had to give up every thing else, so I
was resolved not to be married without a new bonnet."
"It's as sweet as sweet can be, and not a bit the worse for being
smuggled home in a market-basket," returned the perjured Cobb, surveying
with feminine pride and satisfaction the delicate little bonnet which
emerged from the thick veil by which its glories had been prudently
"Here's a glass to see it in. Such a nice carriage, with white horses,
and a tidy driver; so appropriate you know. It's a happy accident, and
I'm so pleased," prattled the girl, looking about her with the delight
of an escaped prisoner.
"Bless your heart, Miss, it's all Mr. Harris's doings: he's been dodging
round the corner ever since daylight; and there he is now, I do declare.
I may as well go for a walk till your train is off, so good-by, and the
best of lucks, my dear."
There was barely time for this brief but very hearty congratulation,
when a remarkably well-dressed highwayman stopped the carriage, without
a sign of resistance from the grinning driver. Cobb got out, the
ruffian, armed not with a pistol, but a great bouquet of white roses,
got in, and the coach went on its way through the quiet streets.
"May day, and here are your flowers, my little queen."
A short answer, but a very eloquent one, when accompanied with full
eyes, trembling lips, and a face as sweet and lovely as the roses.
It was quite satisfactory to John; and, having slightly damaged the
bridal bonnet without reproof, he, manlike, mingled bliss and business,
by saying, in a tone that made poetry of his somewhat confused
"Heaven bless my wife! We ought to have had the Governor's coach to-day.
Isn't Cobb a trump to get us off so nicely? Never saw a woman yet who
could resist the chance of her helping on a wedding. Remembered every
thing I told her. That reminds me. Wasn't it lucky that your relics were
boxed up in dear Aunt Maria's shed, so all Cobb had to do was to alter
the directions and send them off to Philadelphia instead of home?"
"I've been in a tremble for three days, because it seemed as if it
couldn't be possible that so much happiness was coming to me. Are you
quite sure you want me, John?" asked Dolly, careless for once of her
cherished treasures; for she had been busy with hopes and fears, while
he was attending to more material affairs.
"So sure, that I've got something here to bind you with. Do you mind
trying it on to see if it fits, for I had to guess at the size,"
answered John, producing his talisman with all a bridegroom's pride and
"Please let me wear that as a guard, and use this one to be married
with. I've a superstition about it, for it suits us and the year better
than any other;" and Dolly laid the little ring of reddish gold beside
the heavier one in John's palm.
"So it does, and you shall have it as you like. Do you know, when you
showed it to me three months ago, I had a fancy that it would be the
proper thing for me to put it on your finger; but I didn't dream I ever
should. Are you very certain that you don't regret the advice you gave
my friend Jack?" asked the young man, thinking with fond solicitude of
the great experiment that lay before them; for he knew by experience how
hard this world's ways sometimes are, and longed to smooth the rough
places for the confiding little creature at his side.
"Do I look as if I did?" she answered simply, but with a face so full of
a true woman's instinctive faith in the power of love to lighten labor,
sweeten poverty, and make a heaven of the plainest home, that it was
impossible to doubt her courage or fear her disloyalty.
Quite satisfied, John pocketed the rings and buttoned Dolly's gloves,
saying, while she buttoned his, both marvellously enjoying this first
service for each other, "Almost there now, and in less than half an hour
we shall be so safe that all the Aunt Marias in Christendom can't part
us any more. George has stood by me like a man and a brother, and
promised that every thing should be all right. The church will look a
trifle empty, I dare say, with only five of us to fill it; but I shall
like it better than being made a spectacle of; so will you, I fancy."
"The church? I thought runaways were married in an office, by a justice,
and without much ceremony to make it solemn. I'm very glad it isn't so,
for I shall never have but one wedding, and I'd love to have it in a
sacred place," faltered Dolly, as a sudden sense of all it meant came
over her, filling her girlish heart with tender awe.
"I knew that, dear, and so I did my best to make you feel no lack of
love, as I could not give you any splendor. I wish I had a mother to be
with you to-day; but George has lent me his, so there will be a woman's
arms to cry in, if you want to drop a tear; and fatherly old Dr. King
will give you to the happiest man alive. Well, well, my Dolly, if you'd
rather, cry here, and then let me dry your tears, as, please Heaven, I
will do all your life."
"So kind, John, so very kind! I can't thank you in words, but I'll show
by deeds how much I honor, trust, and love my husband;" and nobly Dolly
kept her word.
No one saw them as they went in, but the early sunshine made a golden
path for them to tread, and the May wind touched them with its balmy
kiss. No congratulatory clamor greeted them as they came out; but the
friendly sparrows twittered a wedding march, and the jovial George sent
them merrily away, by saying, as he gave John's hand a parting grasp,--
"I was right, you see, and there _is_ a Mrs. Harris?"
If any one doubts it, let him look well about him, and he may discover
the best thing America could send to her Exposition: an old-fashioned
home, and in it an ambitious man who could not be bought, a beautiful
woman who would not be sold; a young couple happy in their love and
labor, consecrating this centennial year, by practising the
old-fashioned virtues, honesty and thrift, independence and content.