A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD BOSTON
By AMANDA M. DOUGLAS
A. L. BURT COMPANY PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY.
To you, who have been a little girl in later Boston, I inscribe this story of another little girl who lived almost a hundred years ago, and found life busy and pleasant and full of affection, as I hope it will prove to you.
AMANDA M. DOUGLAS. NEWARK, N. J., 1898.
II. IN A NEW HOME
III. AUNT PRISCILLA
IV. OUT TO TEA
V. A MORNING AT SCHOOL
VI. A BIRTHDAY PARTY
VII. ABOUT A GOWN
VIII. SINFUL OR NOT?
IX. WHAT WINTER BROUGHT
X. CONCERNING MANY THINGS
XI. A LITTLE CHRISTMAS
XII. A CHILDREN'S PARTY
XIII. VARIOUS OPINIONS OF LITTLE GIRLS
XIV. IN THE SPRING
XV. A FREEDOM SUIT
XVI. A SUMMER IN BOSTON
XVII. ANOTHER GIRL
XVIII. WINTER AND SORROW
XIX. THE HIGH RESOLVE OF YOUTH
XX. A VISITOR FOR DORIS
XXI. ELIZABETH AND—PEACE
XXII. CARY ADAMS
XXIII. THE COST OF WOMANHOOD
XXIV. THE BLOOM OF LIFE—LOVE
A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD BOSTON
"I do suppose she is a Papist! The French generally are," said Aunt Priscilla, drawing her brows in a delicate sort of frown, and sipping her tea with a spoon that had the London crown mark, and had been buried early in revolutionary times.
"Why, there were all the Huguenots who emigrated from France for the sake of worshiping God in their own way rather than that of the Pope. We Puritans did not take all the free-will," declared Betty spiritedly.
"You are too flippant, Betty," returned Aunt Priscilla severely. "And I doubt if her father's people had much experimental religion. Then, she has been living in a very hot-bed of superstition!"
"The cold, dreary Lincolnshire coast! I think it would take a good deal of zeal to warm me, even if it was superstition."
"And she was in a convent after her mother died! Yes, she is pretty sure to be a Papist. It seems rather queer that second-cousin Charles should have remembered her in his will."
"But Charles was his namesake and nephew, the child of his favorite sister," interposed Mrs. Leverett, glancing deprecatingly at Betty, pleading with the most beseeching eyes that she should not ruffle Aunt Priscilla up the wrong way.
"But what is that old ma'shland good for, anyway?" asked Aunt Priscilla.
"Why they are filling in and building docks," said Betty the irrepressible. "Father thinks by the time she is grown it will be a handsome fortune."
Aunt Priscilla gave a queer sound that was not a sniff, but had a downward tendency, as if it was formed of inharmonious consonants. It expressed both doubt and disapproval.
"But think of the expense and the taxes! You can't put a bit of improvement on anything but the taxes eat it up. I want my hall door painted, and the cornishes,"—Aunt Priscilla always would pronounce it that way,—"but I mean to wait until the assessor has been round. It's the best time to paint in cool weather, too. I can't afford to pay a man for painting and then pay the city for the privilege."
No one controverted Mrs. Perkins. She broke off her bread in bits and sipped her tea.
"Why didn't they give her some kind of a Christian name?" she began suddenly. "Don't you suppose it is French for the plain, old-fashioned, sensible name of Dorothy?"
Betty laughed. "Oh, Aunt Priscilla, it's pure Greek. Doris and Phyllis and Chloe——"
"Phyllis and Chloe are regular nigger names," with the utmost disdain.
"But Greek, all the same. Ask Uncle Winthrop."
"Well, I shall call her Dorothy. I'm neither Greek nor Latin nor a college professor. There's no law against my being sensible, fursisee"—which really meant "far as I see." "And the idea of appointing Winthrop Adams her guardian! I did think second-cousin Charles had more sense. Winthrop thinks of nothing but books and going back to the Creation of the World, just as if the Lord couldn't have made things straight in the beginning without his help. I dare say he will find out what language they talked before the dispersion of Babel. People are growing so wise nowadays, turning the Bible inside out!" and she gave her characteristic sniff. "I'll have another cup of tea, Elizabeth. Now that we're through with the war, and settled solid-like with a President at the helm, we can look forward to something permanent, and comfort ourselves that it was worth trying for. Still, I've often thought of that awful waste of tea in Boston harbor. Seems as though they might have done something else with it. Tea will keep a good long while. And all that wretched stuff we used to drink and call it Liberty tea!"
"I don't know as we regret many of the sacrifices, though it came harder on the older people. We have a good deal to be proud of," said Mrs. Leverett.
"And a grandfather who was at Bunker Hill," appended Betty.
Aunt Priscilla never quite knew where she belonged. She had come over with the Puritans, at least her ancestors had, but then there had been a title in the English branch; and though she scoffed a little, she had great respect for royalty, and secretly regretted they had not called the head of the government by a more dignified appellation than President. Her mother had been a Church of England member, but rather austere Mr. Adams believed that wives were to submit themselves to their husbands in matters of belief as well as aught else. Then Priscilla Adams, at the age of nineteen, had wedded the man of her father's choice, Hatfield Perkins, who was a stanch upholder of the Puritan faith. Priscilla would have enjoyed a little foolish love-making, and she had a carnal hankering for fine gowns; and, oh, how she did long to dance in her youth, when she was slim and light-footed!
In spite of all, she had been a true Puritan outwardly, and had a little misgiving that the prayers of the Church were vain repetitions, the organ wickedly frivolous, and the ringing of bells suggestive of popery. There had been no children, and a bad fall had lamed her husband so that volunteering for a soldier was out of the question, but he had assisted with his means; and some twelve years before this left his widow in comfortable circumstances for the times.
She kept to her plain dress, although it was rich; and her housemaid was an elderly black woman who had been a slave in her childhood. She devoted a good deal of thought as to who should inherit her property when she was done with it. For those she held in the highest esteem were elderly like herself, and the young people were flighty and extravagant and despised the good old ways of prudence and thrift.
They were having early tea at Mrs. Leverett's. Aunt Priscilla's mother had been half-sister to Mrs. Leverett's mother. In the old days of large families nearly everyone came to be related. It was always very cozy in Sudbury Street, and Foster Leverett was in the ship chandlery trade. Aunt Priscilla did love a good cup of tea. Whether the quality was finer, or there was some peculiar art in brewing it, she could never quite decide; or whether the social cream of gentle Elizabeth Leverett, and the spice of Betty, added to the taste and heightened the flavor beyond her solitary cup.
Early October had already brought chilling airs when evening set in. A century or so ago autumn had the sharpness of coming winter in the early morning and after sundown. There was a cheerful wood fire on the hearth, and its blaze lighted the room sufficiently, as the red light of the sunset poured through a large double window.
The house had a wide hall through the center that was really the keeping-room. The chimney stood about halfway down, a great stone affair built out in the room, tiled about with Scriptural scenes, with two tiers of shelves above, whereon were ranged the family heirlooms—so high, indeed, that a stool had to be used to stand on when they were dusted. Just below this began a winding staircase with carved spindles and a mahogany rail and newel, considered quite an extravagance in that day.
This lower end was the living part. In one of the corners was built the buffet, while a door opposite led into the wide kitchen. Across the back was a porch where shutters were hung in the winter to keep out the cold.
The great dining table was pushed up against the wall. The round tea table was set out and the three ladies were having their tea, quite a common custom when there was a visitor, as the men folk were late coming in and a little uncertain.
On one side the hall opened in two large, well-appointed rooms. On the other were the kitchen and "mother's room," where, when the children were little, there had been a cradle and a trundle bed. But one son and two daughters were married; one son was in his father's warehouse, and was now about twenty; the next baby boy had died; and Betty, the youngest, was sixteen, pretty, and a little spoiled, of course. Yet Aunt Priscilla had a curious fondness for her, which she insisted to herself was very reprehensible, since Betty was such a feather-brained girl.
"It is to be hoped the ship did get in to-day," Aunt Priscilla began presently. "If there's anything I hate, it's being on tenterhooks."
"She was spoken this morning. There's always more or less delay with pilots and tides and what not," replied Mrs. Leverett.
"The idea of sending a child like that alone! The weather has been fine, but we don't know how it was on the ocean."
"Captain Grier is a friend of Uncle Win's, you know," appended Betty.
"Betty, do try and call your relatives by their proper names. An elderly man, too! It does sound so disrespectful! Young folks of to-day seem to have no regard for what is due other people. Oh——"
There was a kind of stamping and shuffling on the porch, and the door was flung open, letting in a gust of autumnal air full of spicy odors from the trees and vines outside. Betty sprang up, while her mother followed more slowly. There were her father and her brother Warren, and the latter had by the hand the little girl who had crossed the ocean to come to the famous city of the New World, Boston. Almost two hundred years before an ancestor had crossed from old Boston, in the ship Arabella, and settled here, taking his share of pilgrim hardships. Doris' father, when a boy, had been sent back to England to be adopted as the heir of a long line. But the old relative married and had two sons of his own, though he did well by the boy, who went to France and married a pretty French girl. After seven years of unbroken happiness the sweet young wife had died. Then little Doris, six years of age, had spent two years in a convent. From there her father had taken her to Lincolnshire and placed her with two elderly relatives, while he was planning and arranging his affairs to come back to America with his little daughter. But one night, being out with a sailing party, a sudden storm had caught them and swept them out of life in an instant.
Second-cousin Charles Adams had been in correspondence with him, and advised him to return. Being in feeble health, he had included him and his heirs in his will, appointing his nephew Winthrop Adams executor, and died before the news of the death of his distant relative had reached him. The Lincolnshire ladies were too old to have the care and rearing of a child, so Mr. Winthrop Adams had sent by Captain Grier to bring over the little girl. Her father's estate, not very large, was in money and easily managed. And now little Doris was nearing ten.
"Oh!" cried Betty, hugging the slim figure in the red camlet cloak, and peering into the queer big hat tied down over her ears with broad ribbons that, what with the big bow and the wide rim, almost hid her face; but she saw two soft lovely eyes and cherry-red lips that she kissed at once, though kissing had not come in fashion to any great extent, and was still considered by many people rather dubious if not positively sinful.
"Oh, little Doris, welcome to Boston and the United Colonies and the whole of America! Let me see how you look," and she untied the wide strings.
The head that emerged was covered with fair curling hair; the complexion was clear, but a little wind-burned from her long trip; the eyes were very dark, but of the deepest, softest blue, that suggested twilight. There was a dimple in the dainty chin, and the mouth had a half-frightened, half-wistful smile.
"Captain Grier will send up her boxes to-morrow. They got aground and were delayed. I began to think they would have to stay out all night. The captain will bring up a lot of papers for Winthrop, and everything," explained Mr. Leverett. "Are you cold, little one?"
Doris gave a great shiver as her cloak was taken off, but it was more nervousness than cold, and the glances of the strange faces. Then she walked straight to the fireplace.
"Oh, what a beautiful fire!" she exclaimed. "No, I am not cold"—and the wistful expression wandered from one to the other.
"This is my daughter Betty, and this is—why, you may as well begin by saying Aunt Elizabeth at once. How are you, Aunt Priscilla? This is our little French-English girl, but I hope she will turn into a stanch Boston girl. Now, mother, let's have a good supper. I'm hungry as a wolf."
Doris caught Betty's hand again and pressed it to her cheek. The smiling face won her at once.
"Did you have a pleasant voyage?" asked Mrs. Leverett, as she was piling up the cups and saucers, and paused to smile at the little stranger.
"There were some storms, and I was afraid then. It made me think of papa. But there was a good deal of sunshine. And I was quite ill at first, but the captain was very nice, and Mrs. Jewett had two little girls, so after a while we played together. And then I think we forgot all about being at sea—it was so like a house, except there were no gardens or fields and trees."
Mrs. Leverett went out to the kitchen, and soon there was the savory smell of frying sausage. Betty placed Doris in a chair by the chimney corner and began to rearrange the table. Warren went out to the kitchen and, as by the farthest window there was a sort of high bench with a tin basin, a pail of water, and a long roller towel, he began to wash his face and hands, telling his mother meanwhile the occurrences of the last two or three hours.
Aunt Priscilla drew up her chair and surveyed the little traveler with some curiosity. She was rather shocked that the child was not dressed in mourning, and now she discovered, that her little gown was of brocaded silk and much furbelowed, at which she frowned severely.
True, her father had been dead more than a year; but her being an orphan made it seem as if she should still be in the depths of woe. And she had earrings and a brooch in the lace tucker. She gave her sniff—it was very wintry and contemptuous.
"I suppose that's the latest French fashion," she said sharply. "If I lived in England I should just despise French clothes."
"Oh," said Doris, "do you mean my gown? Miss Arabella made it for me. When she was a young lady she went up to London to see the king crowned, and they had a grand ball, and this was one of the gowns she had—not the ball dress, for that was white satin with roses sprinkled over it. She's very old now, and she gave that to her cousin for a wedding dress. And she made this over for me. I got some tar on my blue stuff gown yesterday, and the others were so thin Mrs. Jewett thought I had better put on this, but it is my very best gown."
The artless sincerity and the soft sweet voice quite nonplused Aunt Priscilla. Then Warren returned and dropped on a three-cornered stool standing there, and almost tilted over.
"Now, if I had gone into the fire, like any other green log, how I should have sizzled!" he said laughingly.
"Oh, I am so glad you didn't!" exclaimed Doris in affright. Then she smiled softly.
"Does it seem queer to be on land again?"
"Yes. I want to rock to and fro." She made a pretty movement with her slender body, and nodded her head.
"Are you very tired?"
"You were out five weeks."
"Is that a long while? I was homesick at first. I wanted to see Miss Arabella and Barby. Miss Henrietta is—is—not right in her mind, if you can understand. And she is very old. She just sits in her chair all day and mumbles. She was named for a queen—Henrietta Maria."
Aunt Priscilla gave a disapproving sniff.
"Supper's ready," said Mr. Leverett. "Come."
Warren took the small stranger by the hand, and she made a little courtesy, quite as if she were a grown lady.
"What an airy little piece of vanity!" thought Aunt Priscilla. "And whatever will Winthrop Adams do with her, and no woman about the house to train her!"
Betty came and poured tea for her father and Warren. Mr. Leverett piled up her plate, but, although the viands had an appetizing fragrance, Doris was not hungry. Everything was so new and strange, and she could not get the motion of the ship out of her head. But the pumpkin pie was delicious. She had never tasted anything like it.
"You'll soon be a genuine Yankee girl," declared Warren. "Pumpkin pie is the test."
Mr. Leverett and his son did full justice to the supper. Then he had to go out to a meeting. There were some clouds drifting over the skies of the new country, and many discussions as to future policy.
"So, Aunt Priscilla, I'll beau you home," said he; "unless you have a mind to stay all night, or want a young fellow like Warren."
"You're plenty old enough to be sensible, Foster Leverett," she returned sharply. She would have enjoyed a longer stay and was curious about the newcomer, but when Betty brought her hat and shawl she said a stiff good-night to everybody and went out with her escort.
Betty cleared away the tea things, wiped the dishes for her mother and then took a place beside Warren, who was very much interested in hearing the little girl talk. There was a good deal of going back and forth to England although the journey seemed so long, but it was startling to have a child sitting by the fireside, here in his father's house, who had lived in both France and England. She had an odd little accent, too, but it gave her an added daintiness. She remembered her convent life very well, and her stay in Paris with her father. It seemed strange to him that she could talk so tranquilly about her parents, but there had been so many changes in her short life, and her father had been away from her so much!
"It always seemed to me as if he must come back again," she said with a serious little sigh, "as if he was over in France or down in London. It is so strange to have anyone go away forever that I think you can't take it in somehow. And Miss Arabella was always so good. She said if she had been younger she should never have agreed to my coming. And all papa's relatives were here, and someone who wrote to her and settled about the journey."
She glanced up inquiringly.
"Yes. That's Uncle Winthrop Adams. He isn't an own uncle, but it seems somehow more respectful to call him uncle. Mr. Adams would sound queer. And he will be your guardian."
"Well, he has the care of the property left to your father. There is a house that is rented, and a great plot of ground. Cousin Charles owned so much land, and he never was married, so it had to go round to the cousins. He was very fond of your father as a little boy. And Uncle Winthrop seems the proper person to take charge of you."
Doris sighed. She seemed always being handed from one to another.
She was sitting on the stool now, and when Betty slipped into the vacant chair she put her arm over the child's shoulder in a caressing manner.
"Do you mean—that I would have to go and live with him?" she asked slowly.
Warren laughed. "I declare I don't know what Uncle Win would do with a little girl! Miss Recompense Gardiner keeps the house, and she's as prim as the crimped edge of an apple pie. And there is only Cary."
"Cary is at Harvard—at college," explained Betty. "And, then, he is going to Europe for a tour. Uncle Win teaches some classes, and is a great Greek and Latin scholar, and translates from the poets, and reads and studies—is a regular bookworm. His wife has been dead ever since Cary was a baby."
"I wish I could stay here," said Doris, and, reaching up, she clasped her arms around Betty's neck. "I like your father, and your mother has such a sweet voice, and you—and him," nodding her head over to Warren. "And since that—the other lady—doesn't live here——"
"Aunt Priscilla," laughed Betty. "I think she improves on acquaintance. Her bark is worse than her bite. When I was a little girl I thought her just awful, and never wanted to go there. Now I quite like it. I spend whole days with her. But I shouldn't spend a night in praying that Providence would send her to live with us. I'd fifty times rather have you, you dear little midget. And, when everything is settled, I am of the opinion you will live with us, for a while at least."
"I shall be so glad," in a joyous, relieved tone.
"Then if Uncle Win should ask you, don't be afraid of anybody, but just say you want to stay here. That will settle it unless he thinks you ought to go to school. But there are nice enough schools in Boston. And I am glad you want to stay. I've wished a great many times that I had a little sister. I have two, married. One lives over at Salem and one ever so far away at Hartford. And I am Aunt Betty. I have five nephews and four nieces. And you never can have any, you solitary little girl!"
"I think I don't mind if I can have you."
"This is love at first sight. I've never been in love before, though I have some girl friends. And being in love means living with someone and wanting them all the time, and a lot of sweet, foolish stuff. What a silly girl I am! Well—you are to be my little sister."
Oh, how sweet it was to find home and affection and welcome! Doris had not thought much about it, but now she was suddenly, unreasonably glad. She laid her head down on Betty's knee and looked at the dancing flames, the purples and misty grays, the scarlets and blues and greens, all mingling, then sending long arrowy darts that ran back and hid behind the logs before you could think.
Mrs. Leverett kneaded her bread and stirred up her griddle cakes for morning. It was early in the season to start with them, but with the first cold whiff Mr. Leverett began to beg for them. Then she fixed her fire, turned down her sleeves, took off the big apron that covered all her skirt, and rejoined the three by the fireside.
"That child has gone fast asleep," she exclaimed, looking at her. "Poor thing, I dare say she is all tired out! And, man-like, your father never thought of her nightgown or anything to put on in the morning, and that silk is nothing for a child to wear. I saw that it shocked Aunt Priscilla."
"And she told the story of it so prettily. It is a lovely thing—and to think it has been to London to see the king!"
"You must take her in your bed, Betty."
"Oh, of course. Mother, don't you suppose Uncle Win will consent to her staying here? I want her."
"It would be a good thing for you to have someone to look after, Betty. It would help steady you and give you some sense of responsibility. The youngest child always gets spoiled. Your father was speaking of it. I can't imagine a child in Uncle Winthrop's household."
Betty laughed. "Nor in Aunt Priscilla's," she appended.
"Poor little thing! How pretty she is. And what a long journey to take—and to come among strangers! Yes, she must go to bed at once."
"I'll carry her upstairs," said Warren.
"Nonsense!" protested his mother.
But he did for all that, and when he laid her on Betty's cold bed she roused and smiled, and suffered herself to be made ready for slumber. Then she slipped down on her knees, and said "Our Father in Heaven" in soft, sleepy French. Her mother had taught her that. And in English she repeated:
"Now I lay me down to sleep," in remembrance of her father, and kissed Betty. But she had hardly touched the pillow when she was asleep again in her new home, Boston.
IN A NEW HOME
The sun was shining when Doris opened her eyes, and she rubbed them to make sure she was not dreaming. There was no motion, and her bed was so soft and wide. She sat up straight, half-startled, and she seemed in a well of fluffy feathers. There were two white curtained windows and a straight splint chair at each one, with a queer little knob on the top of the post that suggested a sprite from some of the old legends she had been used to hearing.
What enchantment had transported her thither? Oh, yes—she had been brought to Cousin Leverett's, she remembered now; and, oh, how sleepy she had been last night as she sat by the warm, crackling fire!
"Well, little Doris!" exclaimed a fresh, wholesome voice, with a laughing sound back of it.
"Oh, you are Betty! It is like a dream. I could not think where I was at first. And this bed is so high. It's like Miss Arabella's with the curtains around it. And at home I had a little pallet—just a low, straight bed almost like a bench, with no curtains. You slept here with me?"
"Yes. It is my bed and my room. And it was delightful to have you last night. I think you never stirred. My niece Elizabeth was here in the summer from Salem, and after two nights I turned her out—she kicked unmercifully, and I couldn't endure it. Now, do you want to get up?"
"Oh, yes. Must I jump out or just slip."
"Here is a stool."
But Doris had slipped and come down on a rug of woven rags almost as soft as Persian pile. Her nightdress fell about her in a train; it was Betty's, and she looked like a slim white wraith.
"Now I will help you dress. Here is a gown of mine that I outgrew when I was a little girl, and it was so nice mother said it should be saved for Elizabeth. We call her that because my other sister Electa has a daughter she calls Bessy. They are both named after mother. And so am I, but I have always been called Betty. So many of one name are confusing. But yours is so pretty and odd. I never knew a girl called Doris."
"I am glad you like it," said Doris simply. "It was papa's choice. My mother's name was Jacqueline."
"That is very French."
"And that is my name, too. But Doris is easier to say."
Betty had been helping her dress. The blue woolen gown was not any too long, but, oh, it was worlds too wide! They both laughed.
"I wasn't such a slim little thing. See here, I will pin a plait over in front, and that will help it. Now that does nicely. And you must be choice of that beautiful brocade. What a pity that you will outgrow it! It would make such a splendid gown when you go to parties. I've never had a silk gown," and Betty sighed.
They went downstairs. It would seem queer enough now to attend to one's toilet in the corner of the kitchen, but it was quite customary then. In Mrs. Leverett's room there were a washing stand with a white cloth, and a china bowl and ewer in dark blue flowers on a white ground, picked out with gilt edges. The bowl had scallops around the edge, and the ewer was tall and slim. There were a soap dish and a small pitcher, and they looked beautiful on the thick white cloth, that was fringed all around. It had been brought over from England by Mrs. Leverett's grandmother, and was esteemed very highly, and had been promised to Betty for her name. But Mrs. Leverett would have considered it sacrilege to use it.
It is true, many houses now began to have wash rooms, which were very nice in summer, but of small account in winter, when the water froze so easily, unless you could have a fire.
When people sigh for the good old times they forget the hardships and the inconveniences.
Doris brushed out her hair and curled it in a twinkling; then she had some breakfast. Mrs. Leverett was baking bread and making pies and a large cake full of raisins that Betty had seeded, which went by the name of election cake.
The kitchen was a great cheery place with some sunny windows and a big oven built at one side, a capacious working table, a dresser, some wooden chairs, and a yellow-painted floor. The kitchen opened into mother's room as well as the hall.
Doris sat and watched both busy women. At Miss Arabella's they had an old serving maid and the kitchen was not a place of tidiness and beauty. It had a hard dirt floor, and Barby sat out of doors in the sunshine to do whatever work she could take out there, and often washed and dried her dishes when the weather was pleasant.
But here the houses were close enough to smile at each other. After the great spaces these yards seemed small, but there were trees and vines, and Mrs. Leverett had quite a garden spot, where she raised all manner of sweet herbs and some vegetables. Mr. Leverett had a shop over on Ann Street, and attended steadily to his business, early and late, as men did at that time.
The dining table was set out at noon, and soon after twelve o'clock the two men made their appearance.
"Let me look at you," said Mr. Leverett, taking both of Doris' small hands. "I hardly saw you yesterday. You were buried in that big hat, and it was getting so dark. You have not much Adams about you, neither do you look French."
"Miss Arabella always said I looked like papa. There is a picture of him in my box. He had dark-blue eyes."
"Well, yours would pass for black. Do they snap when you get out of temper?"
Doris colored and cast them down.
"Don't tease her," interposed Mrs. Leverett. "She is not going to get angry. It is a bad thing for little girls."
"I don't remember much of anything about your father. Both of your aunts are dead. You have one cousin somewhere—Margaret's husband married and went South—to Virginia, didn't he? Well, there is no end of Adams connection even if some of them have different names. Captain Grier dropped into the warehouse with a tin box of papers, and your things are to be sent this afternoon. He is coming up this evening, and I've sent for Uncle Win to come over to supper. Then I suppose the child's fate will be settled, and she'll be a regular Boston girl."
"I do wonder if Uncle Win will let her stay here? Mother and I have decided that it is the best place."
"Do you think it a good place?"
He turned so suddenly to Doris that her face was scarlet with embarrassment.
"It's splendid," she said when she caught her breath. "I should like to stay. And Aunt Elizabeth will teach me to make pies."
"Well, pies are pretty good things, according to my way of thinking. There's lots for little girls to learn, though I dare say Uncle Win will think it can all come out of a book."
"Some of it might come out of a cookbook," said Betty demurely.
"Your mother's the best cookbook I know about—good enough for anyone."
"But we can't send mother all round the world."
"We just don't want to," said Warren.
Mrs. Leverett smiled. She was proud of her ability in the culinary line.
Mr. Leverett looked at Doris presently. "Come, come," he began good-naturedly, "this will never do! You are not eating enough to keep a bird alive. No wonder you are so thin!"
"But I ate a great deal of breakfast," explained Doris with naive honesty.
"And you are not homesick?"
Doris thought a moment. "I don't want to go away, if that is what you mean."
"Yes, that's about it," nodding humorously.
Warren thought her the quaintest, prettiest child he had ever seen, but he hardly knew what to say to her.
When the men had eaten and gone, the dishes were soon washed up, and then mother and daughter brought their sewing. Mrs. Leverett was mending Warren's coat. Betty darned a small pile of stockings, and then she took out some needlework. She had begun her next summer's white gown, and she meant to do it by odd spells, especially when Aunt Priscilla, who would lecture her on so much vanity, was not around.
Mrs. Leverett gently questioned Doris—she was not an aggressive woman, nor unduly curious. No, Doris had not sewed much. Barby always darned the stockings, and Miss Easter had come to make whatever clothes she needed. She used to go to Father Langhorne and recite, and Mrs. Leverett wondered whether she and the father both were Roman Catholics. What did she study? Oh, French and a little Latin, and she was reading history and "Paradise Lost," but she didn't like sums, and she could make pillow lace. Miss Arabella made beautiful pillow lace, and sometimes the grand ladies came in carriages and paid her ever so much money for it.
And presently dusk began to mingle with the golden touches of sunset, and Mrs. Leverett went to make biscuit and fry some chicken, and Uncle Winthrop came at the same moment that a man on a dray brought an old-fashioned chest and carried it upstairs to Betty's room. But Betty had already attired Doris in her silk gown.
Doris liked Uncle Winthrop at once, although he was so different from Uncle Leverett, who wore all around his face a brownish-red beard that seemed to grow out of his neck, and had tumbled hair and a somewhat weather-beaten face. Mr. Winthrop Adams was two good inches taller and stood up very straight in spite of his being a bookworm. His complexion was fair and rather pale, his features were of the long, slender type, which his beard, worn in the Vandyke style, intensified. His hair was light and his eyes were a grayish blue, and he had a refined and gentle expression.
"So this is our little traveler," he said. "Your father was somewhat older, perhaps, when we bade him good-by, but I have often thought of him. We corresponded a little off and on. And I am glad to be able to do all that I can for his child."
Doris glanced up, feeling rather shy, and wondering what she ought to say, but in the next breath Betty had said it all, even to declaring laughingly that as Doris had come to them they meant to keep her.
"Doris," he said softly. "Doris. You have a poetical name. And you are poetical-looking."
She wondered what the comparison meant. "Paradise Lost" was so grand it tired her. Oh, there was the old volume of Percy's "Reliques." Did he mean like some of the sweet little things in that? Miss Arabella had said it wasn't quite the thing for a child to read, and had taken it away until she grew older.
Uncle Winthrop took her hand again—a small, slim hand; and his was slender as well. No real physical work had hardened it. He dropped into the high-backed chair beside the fireplace, and, putting his arm about her, drew her near to his side. Uncle Leverett would have taken her on his knee if he had been moved by an impulse like that, but he was used to children and grandchildren, and the bookish man was not.
"It is a great change to you," he said in his low tone, which had a fascination for her. "Was Miss Arabella—were there any young people in the old Lincolnshire house?"
"Oh, no. Miss Henrietta was very, very old, but then she had lost her mind and forgotten everybody. And Miss Arabella had snowy white hair and a sweet wrinkled face."
"Did you go to school?"
"There wasn't any school except a dame's school for very little children. I used to go twice a week to Father Langhorne and read and write and do sums."
"Then we will have to educate you. Do you think you would like to go to school?"
"I don't know." She hung her head a little, and it gave her a still more winsome expression. There was an indescribable charm about her.
"What did you read with this father?"
"We read 'Paradise Lost' and some French. And I had begun Latin."
Winthrop Adams gave a soft, surprised whistle. By the firelight he looked her over critically. Prodigies were not to his taste, and a girl prodigy would be an abhorrence. But her face had a sweet unconcern that reassured him.
"And did you like it—'Paradise Lost'?"
"I think I did—not," returned Doris with hesitating frankness. "I liked the verses in Percy's 'Reliques' better. I like verses that rhyme, that you can sing to yourself."
"Ah! And how about the sums?"
"I didn't like them at all. But Miss Arabella said the right things were often hard, and the easy things——"
"Well, what is the fault of the easy things that we all like, and ought not to like?"
"They were not so good for anyone—though I don't see why. They are often very pleasant."
He laughed then, but some intuition told her he liked pleasant things as well.
"What do you do in such a case?"
"I did the sums. It was the right thing to do. And I studied Latin, though Miss Arabella said it was of no use to a girl."
"And the French?"
"Oh, I learned French when I was very little and had mamma, and when I was in the convent, too. But papa talked English, so I had them both. Isn't it strange that afterward you have to learn so much about them, and how to make right sentences, and why they are right. It seems as if there were a great many things in the world to learn. Betty doesn't know half of them, and she's as sweet as——Oh, I think the wisest person in the world couldn't be any sweeter."
Winthrop Adams smiled at the eager reasoning. Betty was a bright, gay girl. What occult quality was sweetness? And Doris had been in a convent. That startled him the first moment. The old strict bitterness and narrowness of Puritanism had been softened and refined away. The people who had banished Quakers had for a long while tolerated Roman Catholics. He had known Father Matignon, and enjoyed the scholarly and well-trained John Cheverus, who had lately been consecrated bishop. The Protestants had even been generous to their brethren of another faith when they were building their church. As for himself he was a rather stiff Church of England man, if he could be called stiff about anything.
"And—did you like the convent?" he asked, after a pause, in which he generously made up his mind he would not interfere with her religious belief.
"It's so long ago"—with a half-sigh. "I was very sad at first, and missed mamma. Papa had to go away somewhere and couldn't take me. Yes, I liked sister Therese very much. Mamma was a Huguenot, you know."
"You see, I really do not know anything about her, and have known very little about your father since he was a small boy."
"A small boy! How queer that seems," and she gave a tender, rippling laugh. "Then you can tell me about him. He used to come to the convent once in a while, and when he was ready to go to England he took me. Yes, I was sorry to leave Sister Therese and Sister Clare. There were some little girls, too. And then we went to Lincolnshire. Miss Arabella was very nice, and Barby was so queer and funny—at first I could hardly understand her. And then we went to a pretty little church where they didn't count beads nor pray to the Virgin nor Saints. But it was a good deal like. It was the Church of England. I suppose it had to be different from the Church of France."
"Yes." He drew her a little closer. That was a bond of sympathy between them. And just then Uncle Leverett and Warren came in, and there was a shaking of hands, and Uncle Leverett said:
"Well, I declare! The sight of you, Win, is good for sore eyes—well ones, too."
"I am rather remiss in a social way, I must confess. I'll try to do better. The years fly around so, I have always felt sorry that I saw so little of Cousin Charles until that last sad year."
"It takes womenkind to keep up sociability. Charles and you might as well have been a couple of old bachelors."
Uncle Win gave his soft half-smile, which was really more of an indication than a smile.
"Come to supper now," said Mrs. Leverett.
Doris kept hold of Uncle Win's hand until she reached her place. He went around to the other side of the table. She decided she liked him very much. She liked almost everybody: the captain had been so friendly, and Mrs. Jewett and some of the ladies on board the vessel so kind. But Betty and Uncle Win went to the very first place with her.
The elders had all the conversation, and it seemed about some coming trouble to the country that she did not understand. She knew there had been war in France and various other European countries. Little girls were not very well up in geography in those days, but they did learn a good deal listening to their elders.
They were hardly through supper when Captain Grier came with the very japanned box papa had brought over from France and placed in Miss Arabella's care. His name was on it—"Charles Winthrop Adams." Oh, and that was Uncle Win's name, too! Surely, they were relations! Doris experienced a sense of gladness.
Betty brought out a table standing against the wainscot. You touched a spring underneath, and the circular side came up and made a flat top. The captain took a small key out of a curious long leathern purse, and Uncle Win unlocked the box and spread out the papers. There was the marriage certificate of Jacqueline Marie de la Maur and Charles Winthrop Adams, and the birth and baptismal record of Doris Jacqueline de la Maur Adams, and ever so many other records and letters.
Mr. Winthrop Adams gave the captain a receipt for them, and thanked him cordially for all his care and attention to his little niece.
"She was a pretty fair sailor after the first week," said the captain with a twinkle in his eye. He was very much wrinkled and weather-beaten, but jolly and good-humored. "And now, sissy, I'm glad you're safe with your folks, and I hope you'll grow up into a nice clever woman. 'Taint no use wishin' you good looks, for you're purty as a pink now—one of them rather palish kind. But you'll soon have red cheeks."
Doris had very red cheeks for a moment. Betty leaned over to her brother, and whispered:
"What a splendid opportunity lost! Aunt Priscilla ought to be here to say, 'Handsome is as handsome does.'"
Then Captain Grier shook hands all round and took his departure.
Afterward the two men discussed business about the little girl. There must be another trustee, and papers must be taken out for guardianship. They would go to the court-house, say at eleven to-morrow, and put everything in train.
Betty took out some knitting. It was a stocking of fine linen thread, and along the instep it had a pretty openwork pattern that was like lace work.
"That is to wear with slippers," she explained to Doris. "But it's a sight of work. 'Lecty had six pairs when she was married. That's my second sister, Mrs. King. She lives in Hartford. I want to go and make her a visit this winter."
Mrs. Leverett's stocking was of the more useful kind, blue-gray yarn, thick and warm, for her husband's winter wear. She did not have to count stitches and make throws, and take up two here and three there.
"Warren," said his mother, when he had poked the fire until she was on 'pins and needles,'—they didn't call it nervous then,—"Warren, I am 'most out of corn. I wish you'd go shell some."
"The hens do eat an awful lot, seems to me. Why, I shelled only a few nights ago."
"I touched bottom when I gave them the last feed this afternoon. By spring we won't have so many," nodding in a half-humorous fashion.
"Don't you want to come out and see me? You don't have any Indian corn growing in England, I've heard."
"Did it belong to the Indians?" asked Doris.
"I rather guess it did, in the first instance. But now we plant it for ourselves. We don't, because father sold the two-acre lot, and they're bringing a street through. So now we have only the meadow."
Doris looked at the uncles, but she couldn't understand a word they were saying.
"Come!" Warren held out his hand.
"Put the big kitchen apron round her, Warren," said Betty, thinking of her silk gown.
He tied the apron round her neck and brought back the strings round her waist, so she was all covered. Then he found her a low chair, and poked the kitchen fire, putting on a pine log to make a nice blaze. He brought out from the shed a tub and a basket of ears of corn. Across the tub he laid the blade of an old saw and then sat on the end to keep it firm.
"Now you'll see business. Maybe you've never seen any corn before?"
She looked over in the basket, and then took up an ear with a mysterious expression.
"It won't bite you," he said laughingly.
"But how queer and hard, with all these little points," pinching them with her dainty fingers.
"Grains," he explained. "And a husk grows on the outside to keep it warm. When the winter is going to be very cold the husk is very thick."
"Will this winter be cold?"
"Land alive! yes. Winters always are cold."
Warren settled himself and drew the ear across the blade. A shower of corn rattled down on the bottom of the tub.
"Oh! is that the way you peel it off?"
He threw his head back and laughed.
"Oh, you Englisher! We shell it off."
"Well, it peels too. You peel a potato and an apple with a knife blade. Oh, what a pretty white core!"
"Cob. We Americans are adding new words to the language. A core has seeds in it. There, see how soft it is."
Doris took it in her hand and then laid her cheek against it. "Oh, how soft and fuzzy it is!" she cried. "And what do you do with it?"
"We don't plant that part of it. That core has no seeds. You have to plant a grain like this. The little clear point we call a heart, and that sprouts and grows. This is a good use for the cob."
He had finished another, which he tossed into the fire. A bright blaze seemed to run over it all at once and die down. Then the small end flamed out and the fire crept along in a doubtful manner until it was all covered again.
"They're splendid to kindle the fire with. And pine cones. America has lots of useful things."
"But they burn cones in France. I like the spicy smell. It's queer though," wrinkling her forehead. "Did the Indians know about corn the first?"
"That is the general impression unless America was settled before the Indians. Uncle Win has his head full of these things and is writing a book. And there is tobacco that Sir Walter Raleigh carried home from Virginia."
"Oh, I know about Sir Walter and Queen Elizabeth."
"He was a splendid hero. I think people are growing tame now; there are no wars except Indian skirmishes."
"Why, Napoleon is fighting all the time."
"Oh, that doesn't count," declared the young man with a lofty air. "We had some magnificent heroes in the Revolution. There are lots of places for you to see. Bunker Hill and Lexington and Concord and the headquarters of Washington and Lafayette. The French were real good to us, though we have had some scrimmages with them. And now that you are to be a Boston girl——"
"But I was in Old Boston before," and she laughed. "Very old Boston, that is so far back no one can remember, and it was called Ikanhoe, which means Boston. There is the old church and the abbey that St. Botolph founded. They came over somewhere in six hundred, and were missionaries from France—St. Botolph and his brother."
"Whew!" ejaculated Warren with a long whistle, looking up at the little girl as if she were hundreds of years old.
Betty opened the door. "Uncle Win is going," she announced. "Come and say good-by to him."
He was standing up with the box of papers in his hand, and saying:
"I must have you all over to tea some night, and Doris must come and see my old house. And I have a big boy like Warren. Yes, we must be a little more friendly, for life is short at the best. And you are to stay here a while with good Cousin Elizabeth, and I hope you will be content and happy."
She pressed the hand Uncle Win held out in both of hers. In all the changes she had learned to be content, and she had a certain adaptiveness that kept her from being unhappy. She was very glad she was going to stay with Betty, and glanced up with a bright smile.
They all said good-night to Cousin Adams. Mr. Leverett turned the great key in the hall door, and it gave a shriek.
"I must oil that lock to-morrow. It groans enough to raise the dead," said Mrs. Leverett.
There was quite a discussion about a school.
Uncle Win had an idea Doris ought to begin high up in the scale. For really she was very well born on both sides. Her father had left considerable money, and in a few years second-cousin Charles' bequest might be quite valuable, if Aunt Priscilla did sniff over it. There was Mrs. Rawson's.
"But that is mostly for young ladies, a kind of finishing school. And in some things Doris is quite behind, while in others far advanced. There will be time enough for accomplishments. And Mrs. Webb's is near by, which will be an object this cold winter."
"I shouldn't like her to forget her French. And perhaps it would be as well to go on with Latin," Cousin Adams said.
Mrs. Leverett was a very sensible woman, but she really did not see the need of Latin for a girl. There was a kind of sentiment about French; it had been her mother's native tongue, and one did now and then go to France.
There had been a good deal of objection to even the medium education of women among certain classes. The three "R's" had been considered all that was necessary. And when the system of public education had been first inaugurated it was thought quite sufficient for girls to go from April to October. Good wives and good mothers was the ideal held up to girls. But people were beginning to understand that ignorance was not always goodness. Mrs. Rawson had done a great deal toward the enlightenment of this subject. The pioneer days were past, unless one was seized with a mania for the new countries.
Mrs. Leverett was secretly proud of her two married daughters. Mrs. King's husband had gone to the State legislature, and was considered quite a rising politician. Mrs. Manning was a farmer's wife and held in high esteem for the management of her family. Betty was being inducted now into all household accomplishments with the hope that she would marry quite as well as her sisters. She was a good reader and speller; she had a really fine manuscript arithmetic, in which she had written the rules and copied the sums herself. She had a book of "elegant extracts"; she also wrote down the text of the Sunday morning sermon and what she could remember of it. She knew the difference between the Puritans and the Pilgrims; she also knew how the thirteen States were settled and by whom; she could answer almost any question about the French, the Indian, and the Revolutionary wars. She could do fine needlework and the fancy stitches of the day. She was extremely "handy" with her needle. Mrs. Leverett called her a very well-educated girl, and the Leveretts considered themselves some of the best old stock in Boston, if they were not much given to show.
It might be different with Doris. But a good husband was the best thing a girl could have, in Mrs. Leverett's estimation, and knowing how to make a good home her greatest accomplishment.
They looked over Doris' chest and found some simple gowns, mostly summer ones, pairs of fine stockings that had been cut down and made over by Miss Arabella's dainty fingers, and underclothes of a delicate quality. There were the miniatures of her parents—that of her mother very girlish indeed—and a few trinkets and books.
"She must have two good woolen frocks for winter, and a coat," said Mrs. Leverett. "Cousin Winthrop said I should buy whatever was suitable."
"And a little Puritan cap trimmed about with fur. I am sure I can make that. And a strip of fur on her coat. She would blow away in that big hat if a high wind took her," declared Betty.
"And all the little girls wear them in winter. Still, I suppose Old Boston must have been cold and bleak in winter."
"It was not so nearly an island."
There was a good deal of work to do on Friday, so shopping was put off to the first of the week. Doris proved eagerly helpful and dusted very well. In the afternoon Aunt Priscilla came over for her cup of tea.
"Dear me," she began with a great sigh, "I wish I had some nice young girl that I could train, and who would take an interest in things. Polly is too old. And I don't like to send her away, for she was good enough when she had any sense. There's no place for her but the poorhouse, and I can't find it in my conscience to send her there. But I'm monstrous tired of her, and I do think I'd feel better with a cheerful young person around. You're just fortunate, 'Lizabeth, that you and Betty can do for yourselves."
"It answers, now that the family is small. But last year I found it quite trying. And Betty must have her two or three years' training at housekeeping."
"Oh, of course. I'm glad you're so sensible, 'Lizabeth. Girls are very flighty, nowadays, and are in the street half the time, and dancing and frolicking round at night. I really don't know what the young generation will be good for!"
Mrs. Leverett smiled. She remembered she had heard some such comments when she was young, though the lines were more strictly drawn then.
"Has Winthrop been over to see his charge? How does he feel about it? Now, if she had been a boy——"
"He was up to tea last night, and he and Foster have been arranging the business this morning. Foster is to be joint trustee, but Winthrop will be her guardian."
"What will he do with a girl! Why, she'll set Recompense crazy."
"She is not going to live there. For the present she will stay here. She will go to Mrs. Webb's school this winter. He has an idea of sending her to boarding school later on."
"Is she that rich?" asked Aunt Priscilla with a little sarcasm.
"She will have a small income from what her father left. Then there is the rent of the house in School Street, and some stock. Winthrop thinks she ought to be well educated. And if she should ever have to depend on herself, teaching seems quite a good thing. Even Mrs. Webb makes a very comfortable living."
"But we're going to educate the community for nothing, and tax the people who have no children to pay for it."
"Well," said Mrs. Leverett with a smile, "that evens up matters. But the others, at least property owners, have to pay their share. I tell Foster that we ought not grudge our part, though we have no children to send."
"How did people get along before?"
"I went to school until I was fifteen."
"And when I was twelve I was doing my day's work spinning. There's talk that we shall have to come back to it. Jonas Field is in a terrible taking. According to him war's bound to come. And this embargo is just ruining everything. It is to be hoped we will have a new President before everything goes."
"Yes, it is making times hard. But we are learning to do a great deal more for ourselves."
"It behooves us not to waste our money. But Winthrop Adams hasn't much real calculation. So long as he has money to buy books, I suppose he thinks the world will go on all right. It's to be hoped Foster will look out for the girl's interest a little. But you'll be foolish to take the brunt of the thing. Now it would be just like you 'Lizabeth Leverett, to take care of this child, without a penny, just as if she was some charity object thrown on your hands."
Mrs. Leverett did give her soft laugh then.
"You have just hit it, Aunt Priscilla," she said. "Winthrop wanted to pay her board, but Foster just wouldn't hear to it, this year at least. We have all taken a great liking to her, and she is to be our visitor from now until summer, when some other plans are to be made."
"Well—if you have money to throw away——" gasped Aunt Priscilla.
"She won't eat more than a chicken, and she'll sleep in Betty's bed. It will help steady Betty and be an interest to all of us. I really couldn't think of charging. It's like having one of the grandchildren here. And she needs a mother's care. Think of the poor little girl with not a near relative! Aunt Priscilla, there's a good many things money can't buy."
Aunt Priscilla sniffed.
"Take off your bonnet and have a cup of tea," Mrs. Leverett had asked her when she first came in. "It's such a long walk back to King Street on an empty stomach. The children are making cookies, but Betty shall brew a cup of tea at once, unless you'll wait till the men folks come in."
Aunt Priscilla sat severe and undecided for a moment. The laughing voices in the other room piqued and vexed and interested her all in a breath. She had come over to hear about Doris. There was so little interest in her methodical old life. Mrs. Leverett sincerely pitied women who had no children and no grandchildren.
"They're quite as queer as old maids without the real excuse," she said to her husband. "They've missed the best things out of their lives without really knowing they were the best."
And perhaps at this era more respect was paid to age. There were certain trials and duties to life that men and women accepted and did not try to evade. A modern happy woman would have been bored at the call of a dissatisfied old woman every few days. But since the death of Mehitable Doule, Priscilla's own cousin, who had been married from her house, she had clung more to the Leveretts. Foster was too easy-going, otherwise she had not much fault to find with him. He had prospered and was forehanded, and his married son and daughters had been fairly successful.
"Well, I don't care if I do," said Aunt Priscilla, with a half-reluctance. "Though I hadn't decided to when I came away, and Polly'll make a great hole in that cold roast pork, for I never said a word as to what she should have for supper. She's come to have no more sense than a child, and some things are bad to eat at night. But if she makes herself sick she'll have to suffer."
"I'll have some tea made——"
"No, 'Lizabeth, don't fuss. I shan't be in any hurry, if I do stay, and the men will be in before long. So Winthrop wasn't real put out when he saw the girl?"
"I think he liked her. He's not much hand to make a fuss, you know. He feels she must be well brought up. Her mother, it seems, was quite quality."
"Queer the mother's folks didn't look after her."
"Her mother was an only child. Winthrop has the records back several generations. And when she died the father was alive, you know."
"Winthrop is a great stickler for such things. It's good to have folks you're not ashamed of, to be sure, but family isn't everything. Behaving counts."
Aunt Priscilla took off her bonnet and shawl, and hung them in the "best" closet, where the Sunday coats and cloaks were kept.
"You might just hand me that knitting, 'Lizabeth. I guess I knit a little tighter'n you do, on account of my hand being out. I've more than enough stockings to last my time out and some coarse ones for Polly. They spin yarn so much finer now. Footing many stockings this fall?"
"No. I knit Foster new ones late in the spring. He's easy, too. Warren's the one to gnaw out heels, though young people are so much on the go."
Aunt Priscilla took up the stocking and pinned the sheath on her side. How gay the voices sounded in the kitchen! Then the door opened.
"Just look, Aunt Elizabeth! Aren't they lovely! Betty let me cut them out and put them in the pans. Oh——"
Doris stood quite abashed, with a dish of tempting brown cookies in one hand. Her cheeks were like roses now, and Betty's kitchen apron made another frock over hers of gay chintz, that had been exhumed from the chest.
"Good-afternoon," recovering herself.
"The cookies look delightful. I must taste one," Mrs. Leverett said smilingly.
She handed the plate to Aunt Priscilla.
"It'll just spoil my supper if I eat one. But you may do up some in a paper, and I'll take them home. I'm glad to see you at something useful. Did you help about the house over there in England?"
"Oh, no. We had Barby," answered the child simply.
"Well, there's a deal for you to learn. I made bread just after I had turned ten years old. Girls in old times learned to work. It wasn't all cooky-making, by a long shot!"
Doris made a little courtesy and disappeared.
"I'd do something to that tousled hair, 'Lizabeth. Have her put it up or cut it off. It's good to cut a girl's hair; makes it thick and strong. And curls do look so flighty and frivolous."
"The new fashion is a wig with all the front in little curls. It's so much less trouble if it is made of natural curly hair."
"Are you going to set up for fashion in these hard times?" asked the visitor disdainfully.
"Not quite. But Betty Pickering is to be married in great state next month, and we have been invited already. I suppose I ought to consider her in some sort a namesake."
"I'm glad I haven't any fine relatives to be married," and the sniff was made to do duty.
Mrs. Leverett put down her sewing. She had drawn the threads and basted the wristbands and gussets for Betty to stitch, as they had come to shirt-making. The new ones of thick cotton cloth would be good for winter wear. One had always to think ahead in this world if one wanted things to come out even.
Then she went out to the kitchen, and there was a gay chattering, as if a colony of chimney swallows had met on a May morning. Aunt Priscilla pushed up nearer the window. She had good eyesight still, and only wore glasses when she read or was doing some extra-fine work.
Betty came in and rolled out the table as she greeted her relative. Aunt Priscilla had a curiously lost feeling, as if somehow she had gone astray. No one ever would know about it, to be sure. There were times when it seemed as if there must be a third power, between God and the Evil One. There were things neither good nor bad. If they were good the Lord brought them to pass,—or ought to,—and if they were bad your conscience was troubled. Aunt Priscilla had been elated over her idea all day yesterday. It looked really generous to her. Of course Cousin Winthrop couldn't be bothered with this little foreign girl, and the Leveretts had a lot of grandchildren. She might take this Dorothy Adams, and bring her up in a virtuous, useful fashion. She would go to school, of course, but there would be nights and mornings and Saturdays. In two years, at the latest, she would be able to take a good deal of charge of the house. All this time her own little fortune could be augmenting, interest on interest. And if she turned out fair, she would do the handsome thing by her—leave her at least half of what she, Mrs. Perkins, possessed.
And yet it was not achieved without a sort of mental wrestle. She was not quite sure it was spiritual enough to pray over; in fact, nothing just like this had come into her life before. She was not the kind of stuff out of which missionaries were made, and this wasn't just charitable work. She would expect the girl to do something for her board, but Polly would be good for a year or two more. Time did hang heavy on her hands, and this would be interest and employment, and a good turn. When matters were settled a little she would broach the subject to Elizabeth.
If Winthrop Adams meant to make a great lady out of her—why, that was all there was to it! Times were hard and there might be war. Winthrop had a son of his own, and perhaps not so much money as people thought. And it did seem folly to waste the child's means. If she had so much—enough to go to boarding school—she oughtn't be living on the Leveretts. Foster was having pretty tight squeezing to get along.
They all wondered what made Aunt Priscilla so unaggressive at supper time. She watched Doris furtively. All the household had a smile for her. Foster Leverett patted her soft hair, and Warren pinched her cheek in play. Betty gave her half a dozen hugs between times, and Mrs. Leverett smiled when Doris glanced her way.
The quarter-moon was coming up when Priscilla Perkins opened the closet door for her things.
"I'll walk over with Aunt Priscilla," said Warren. "It's my night for practice."
"Oh, yes." His father nodded. Warren had lately joined the band, but his mother thought she couldn't stand the cornet round the house.
"I aint a mite afraid in the moonlight. I come so often I ought not put anyone out."
"Now that the evenings are cool it seems lonesomer," said Mr. Leverett, settling in his armchair by the fire, really glad his son could be attentive without any special sacrifice.
Doris brought the queer little stool and sat down beside him. She looked as if she had always lived there.
"You'll all spoil that child," Aunt Priscilla said to Warren when they had stepped off the stoop.
"I don't believe there's any spoil to her," said Warren heartily. "She's the sweetest little thing I ever saw; so wise in some ways and so honestly ignorant in others. I never saw Uncle Win so taken—he never seems to quite know what to do with children. And he's asked us all over to tea some night next week. I was clear struck."
Mrs. Perkins made no reply. About once a year he invited her over to tea with some of the old cousins, and he called on her New Year's Day, which was not specially kept in any fashionable way.
Mrs. Perkins always said King Street, though in a burst of patriotism the name had been changed after the Revolution. It had dropped down very much and was being given over to business. There was a narrow hall floor set in a little distance, with a few steps, and the shop front with the plain sign of "Jonas Field, Flour, Grain, and Feed." The stairway led to an upper hall and a very comfortable suite of rooms, where Mrs. Perkins had come as a young wife, and where she meant to end her days. It was plenty good enough inside, and she "didn't live in the street."
The best room occupied the whole front and had three windows. Priscilla had been barely nineteen when she was married, and Hatfield Perkins quite a bachelor. And, as no children had come to disturb their orderly habits, they had settled more securely in them year after year.
Next to the parlor was the sleeping chamber. Now, it was the spare room, though no one came to stay all night who was fine enough to put in it. The smaller one adjoining she had used since her husband's death. There was a little tea room, and a big kitchen at the back. Downstairs the store part had been built out, and on the roof of this the clothes were dried. Polly always sat out here in pleasant weather, to prepare vegetables and do various chores. The lot was deep, and at the back were some fruit trees, and the patch of herbs every woman thought she must have, and a square of grass for bleaching.
A lighted lamp stood at the head of the stairs. Polly was dozing in the kitchen. Mrs. Perkins sent her to bed in short order. There were two rooms and a storage closet upstairs in the gables. One was Polly's. The other was the guest chamber that was good enough "for the common run of folks."
The moon was shining in the back windows. Priscilla snuffed out the candle; there was no use wasting candle light. She sat down in a low rocker, the only one she owned; and several list seats had been worn out in it besides the original one of rushes. She had never been really lonely in the sixty-five years of her life for she had kept busy, and was replete with old-fashioned methods that made work. She was very particular. Everything was scrubbed and scoured and swept and dusted and aired. The dishes were polished until they were lustrous. The knives and forks and spoons were speckless. There were napery and bedding that had been laid by for her marriage outfit, and not all worn out yet, though in the early years she had kept replenishing for possible children. There was plenty for twenty years to come, and though her people had been strong and healthy, they never went much over seventy. She was the youngest, and all the rest were gone. Her few real nieces and nephews were scattered about; she had made up her mind long ago she shouldn't ever have anyone hanging on her.
No one wanted to. No one even leaned on her. Yet somehow the life had never seemed real solitary until now. She had comforted her years with the thought that children were a great deal of trouble and did not always turn out well. She could see the picture the little foreign girl made as she folded her arms on Foster Leverett's knee. She wouldn't have that mop of frowzly hair flying about, and she would like to fat her up a little—she was rather peaked. She had imagined her going about in this old place, sewing, learning to work properly, reading and studying, and going to church every Sabbath. She had really meant to do something for a human being day after day, not in a spasmodic fashion. And this was the end of it.
She sprang up suddenly, lighted the candle again, went out to the kitchen to see that everything was right and there was no danger of fire. She opened the outside door and glanced around. There was an autumnal chill in the air, but there were no mysterious shadows creeping about in the yard below that might presage burglars. Then she bolted the door with a snap, and stood a moment in the middle of the floor.
"You are an old fool, Priscilla Perkins! The idea of all Boston being turned upside down for the sake of one little girl! People have come over from England before, big and little, and there's been a war and there may be another, and no end of things to happen. To be sure, I'd done my duty by her if I'd had her; and if the others spoil her—I aint to blame, the Lord knows!"
OUT TO TEA
"There! Does it look like Old Boston?"
They were winding around Copp's Hill. Warren had been given part of a day off, and the use of the chaise and Jack, to show the little cousin something of Boston before they went to Uncle Winthrop's to tea.
Doris had her new coat, which was a sort of fawn color, and the close Puritan cap to keep her neck and ears warm. For earache was quite a common complaint among children, and people were careful through the long cold winter. A strip of beaver fur edged the front, and went around the little cape at the back. Its soft grayish-brown framed in her fair face like a picture, and her eyes were almost the tint of the deep, unclouded blue sky.
They had a fine view of Old Boston, but they could hardly dream of the Boston that was to be. There were still the three elevations of Beacon Hill, lowered somewhat, to be sure, but not taken away entirely. And there was Fort Hill in the distance.
"Why, it looks like a chain of islands, and instead of a great sea the water runs round and round. At home the Witham comes down to the winding cove called The Wash. Boston is sort of set between two rivers, but it is fast of the mainland, and doesn't look so much like floating off. You can go over to the Norfolk shore, and you look out on the great North Sea. But it isn't as big as the Atlantic Ocean."
"Well, I should say not!" with disdain. "Why, you can look over to Holland!"
"You can't see Holland, but it's there, and Denmark."
"And we shall have to be something like the Dutch, if ever we mean to have a grand city. We shall have to dike and fill in and bridge. I have a great regard for those sturdy old Dutchmen and the way they fought the Spanish as well as the sea."
Doris didn't know much about Holland, even if she could make pillow lace and read French verses with a charming accent.
"That's the Mill Pond. And all that is the back part of the bay. And over there a grand battle was fought—but you were not born before the Revolutionary War."
"I guess you were not born yourself, Warren Leverett," said Betty, with unnecessary vigor.
"Well, I am rather glad I wasn't; I shall have the longer to live. But grandfather and ever so many relatives were, and father knows all about it. I am proud, too, of having been named for General Warren."
"And down there near the bay is Fort Hill. Boston wasn't built on seven hills like Rome, and though there are acres and acres of low ground, we are not likely to be overflowed, unless the Atlantic Ocean should rise and sweep us out of existence. And there is the old burying ground, full of queer names and curious epitaphs."
The long peninsula stretched out in a sort of irregular pear-shape, and then was connected to another portion by a narrow neck. The little villages about had a rural aspect, and some of them were joined to the mainland by bridges. And cows were still pastured on the commons and in several tracts of meadow land in the city. Many people had their own milk and made butter. There were large gardens at the sides of the houses, many of them standing with the gable end to the street, and built mostly of wood. But nearly all the leaves had fallen now, and though the sun shone with a mellow softness, it was quite evident the reign of summer was ended.
They drove slowly about, Warren rehearsing stories of this and that place, and wishing there was more time so they might go over to Charlestown.
"But Doris is to stay, and there will be time enough next summer. It is confusing to see so many places at once. And mother said we must be at Uncle Win's about four," declared Betty.
It was rather confusing to Doris, who had heard so little of American history in her quiet home. War seemed a dreadful thing to her, and she could not take Warren's pride in battle and conquest.
So they turned and went down through the winding streets.
"Do you know why they are so crooked?" Warren asked.
"No; why?" asked Doris innocently.
"Well, William Blackstone's cows made the paths. He came here first of all and had an allotment. Then when people began to come over from Charlestown he sold out for thirty pounds English money. Grandfather used to go over to the old orchard for apples. But think of Boston being bought for thirty pounds!"
"It wasn't this Boston with the houses and churches and everything. Come, do get along, or else let me drive," said Betty.
There was quite a descent as they came down. Streets seemed to stop suddenly, and you had to make a curve to get into the next one. From Main they turned into Fish Street, and here the wind from the harbor swept across to the Mill Pond.
"That's Long Wharf, and it has lots of famous stories connected with it. And just down there is father's. And now we could cut across and go over home."
"As if we meant to do any such foolish thing?" ejaculated Betty.
"I said we could. There are a great many things possible that are not advisable," returned the oracular young man. "And I have heard the longest way round was the surest way home. We shall reach there about nine o'clock to-night."
"Like the old woman and her pig. I should laugh if we found mother already at Uncle Win's."
"She's going to wait for father, and something always happens to him."
They crossed Market Square, and passed Faneuil Hall, that was to grow more famous as the years went on; then they took Cornhill and went over to Marlborough Street.
"That's Fort Hill. It's lovely in summer, when the wind doesn't blow you to shreds. Now we will take Marlborough, and to-night you will be surprised to see how straight it is to Sudbury Street."
They drove rapidly down, and made one turn. It was like a beautiful country road, over to Common Street, and there was the great tract of ground that would grow more beautiful with every decade. Tall, overarching trees; ways that were grassy a month ago, but now turning brown.
"Here we are," and they turned up a driveway at the side of the long porch upheld with round columns. Betty sprang out on the stepping block and half-lifted Doris, while Warren drove up to the barn.
Uncle Winthrop came out to welcome them, and smiled down into the little girl's face.
"But where is your mother?" he asked.
"Oh, she had some shopping to do and then she was to meet father. We have been driving up around Copp's Hill and giving Doris a peep at the country."
"The wind begins to blow up sharply, though it was very pleasant. I am glad to see you, little Doris, and I hope you have not grown homesick sighing for Old Boston. For if you should reach the threescore-and-ten, things will have changed so much that this will be old Boston; and, Betty, you will be telling-your grandchildren what it was like."
Betty laughed gayly.
There was the same wide hall as at home, but it wasn't the keeping-room here. It had a great fireplace, and at one side a big square sofa. The floor was inlaid with different-colored woods, following geometric designs, much like those of to-day. Before the fire was a rug of generous dimensions, and a high-backed chair stood on each of the nearest corners. There was a bookcase with some busts ranged on the top; there were some portraits of ancestors in military attire, and women with enormous head-dresses; there was one in a Puritan cap, wide collar, and a long-sleeved gown, that quite spoiled the effect of her pretty hands. Over the mantel was a pair of very large deer's antlers. Down at one corner there were two swords crossed and some other firearms. Just under them was a cabinet with glass doors that contained many curiosities.
A tall, thin woman entered from a door at the lower end of the hall and greeted Betty with a quiet dignity that would have seemed cold, if it had not been the usual manner of Recompense Gardiner, who could never have been effusive, and who took it for granted that anyone Mr. Winthrop Adams invited to the house was welcome. Her forehead was high and rather narrow, her brown hair was combed straight back and twisted in a little knot high on her head, in which in the afternoon, or on company occasions, she wore a large shell comb. Her features were rather long and spare, and she wore plain little gold hoops in her ears because her eyes had been weak in youth and it was believed this strengthened them. Anyhow, she could see well enough at five-and-forty to detect a bit of dust or dirt, or lint left on a plate from the towel, or a chair that was a trifle out of its rightful place. She was an excellent housekeeper, and suited her master exactly.
"This is the little English girl I was telling you about, Recompense—Cousin Charles' grandniece, and my ward," announced Mr. Adams.
"How do you do, child! Let me take off your hood and cloak. Why, she isn't very stout or rosy. She might have been born here in the east wind. And she is an Adams through and through."
"Do you think so?" with an expression of pleasure, as Recompense held her off and looked her over.
"Are her eyes black?" rather disapprovingly.
"No, the very darkest blue you can imagine," said Mr. Adams.
"Betty, run upstairs with these things. Your feet are younger than mine, and haven't done so much trotting round. Lay them on my bed. Why, where's your mother?" in a tone of surprise.
Betty made the proper explanation and skipped lightly upstairs.
Mr. Adams took one of the large chairs, drawing it closer to the fire. Recompense brought out a stool for the little girl. It was covered with thick crimson brocade, a good deal faded, but it had a warm, inviting aspect. Children were not expected to sit in chairs then, or to run about and ask what everything was for.
There had been children, little girls of different relatives, sitting at the fireside before. His own small boy had dozed in the fascinating warmth of the fire and hated to go to bed, and he had weakly indulged him, as there had been no mother to exercise authority. But Doris was different. She was alone in the world, and had been sent to him by a mysterious providence. He knew the responsibility of a girl must be greater. He couldn't send her to the Latin school and then to Harvard, and he really wondered how much education a girl ought to have to fit her for the position Doris would be able to take.
She was like a quaint picture sitting there. Betty had tied a cluster of curls high on her head with a blue ribbon, and just a few were left to cling about her neck over the lace tucker. Her slim hands lay in her lap. He glanced at his own—yes, they were Adams hands, and looked little like hard work. He was rather proud that Recompense should discern a family likeness.
Betty came flying down the oaken staircase, and Warren entered from the back door. For a few moments there was quite a confusion of tongues, and Recompense wondered how mothers stood it all the time.
"How queer not to have anyone know about Boston," began Warren with a teasing glance over at Doris. "We have been looking at it from Copp's Hill, and going through the odd places."
"And I wondered if people came to be fed in White Bread Alley," exclaimed Doris quickly.
"And I dare say Warren didn't know."
"Why, yes—a woman baked bread there."
"Women have baked bread in a great many places," returned Uncle Win, with a quizzical smile.
"Oh, I didn't mean just that."
"It was John Tudor's mother," appended Betty.
"Mrs. Tudor made the first penny rolls offered for sale in Boston, and little John, as he was then, took them around for sale."
"And Mr. Benjamin Franklin didn't make them famous either," laughed Warren.
"And Salutation Alley with its queer sign—its two old men with cocked hats and small clothes, bowing to each other," said Betty. "It always suggests a couplet I found in an old book:
"'O mortal man who lives by bread, What is it makes your nose so red? O mortal man with cheeks so pale, 'Tis drinking Levi Puncheon's ale!'"
"It is said the resolutions for the destruction of the tea were drawn up in the old tavern. It was famous for being the rendezvous of the patriots."
"It would be nice to drive all around Boston shore."
"Let it be summer time, then," rejoined Betty. "Or, like the Hollanders, we might do it on skates. Of course you do not know how to skate, Doris?"
Doris admitted with winsome frankness that she did not. But she could ride a pony, and she could row a little.
"There are some delightful summer parties when we do go out rowing. At least, the boys row mostly, because
"'Satan finds some mischief still For idle hands to do!'"
and Betty laughed.
"And the girls always take their knitting," appended Warren. "There's never any mischief for them to get into."
"I suppose it doesn't look much like Old Boston," inquired Miss Recompense. "And what do the little girls do there, my dear?"
Warren opened his eyes wide. The idea of Miss Recompense saying "my dear" to a child.
It had slipped out in a curiously unpremeditated fashion. There was something about the little girl—perhaps it was the fact of her having come so far, and being an orphan—that moved Recompense Gardiner.
"I didn't know any real little girls," answered Doris modestly, "except the farmer's children. They worked out of doors in the summer in the fields."
"And I was the youngest of five sisters," said Miss Recompense. "There were three boys."
"It would be so nice to have a sister of one's very own. There were Sallie and Helen Jewett on the vessel."
"I think I like the sisters to be older," said Betty archly. "There are the weddings and the nieces and nephews. And they are always begging you to visit them."
"And I had no sisters," said Uncle Win, as if he would fain console Doris for her loneliness.
She glanced up with sympathetic sweetness. He was a little puzzled at the intuitive process.
"Fix up the fire, Warren. Your mother and father will be cold when they get in."
Warren gave the burned log a poke, and it fell in two ends, neither dropping over the andirons. Then he pushed them a little nearer and a shower of sparks flew about.
"Oh, how beautiful!" and Doris leaned over intently.
Warren placed a large log back of them, then he piled on some smaller split pieces. They began to blaze shortly. He picked up the turkey's wing and brushed around the stone hearth.
"That was very well done," remarked Miss Recompense approvingly.
"Warren knows how to make a fire," said his uncle, "and it is quite an art."
"That is a sign he will make a good husband," commented Betty. "And I shall get a bad one, for my fires go out half the time."
"You are too heedless," said Miss Recompense.
"Now, we ought to tell some ghost stories," suggested Warren. "Or we could wait until it gets a little darker. The sun is going down, and the fire is coming up, and just see how they are fighting at the Spanish Armada. Uncle Win, when you break up housekeeping you can leave me that picture."
They all turned to look at the picture in the cross light, with one of the wonderful fleet ablaze from the broadside of her enemy. It was a vigorous if somewhat crude painting by a Dutch artist.
"Oh, Uncle Win," cried Betty; "do you really think there will be war when we have a new President?"
"I sincerely hope not."
"We ought to have an Armada. Well, I don't know either," continued Warren dubiously. "If it should go to pieces like that one," nodding his head over to the scene, growing more vivid by the reflection of the red light in the west. "Doris, do you know what happened to the Spanish Armada?"
"Indeed I do," returned Doris spiritedly. "I may not know so much about America, except that you fought England, and were called rebels and—and——"
"That we were the upper dog in the fight, and now we are citizens of a great and free Republic and rebels no longer."
"But the Spanish did not conquer England. Some of the ships were destroyed by English men-of-war, and then a terrific storm wrecked them, and there were only a few to return to Spain."
"Pretty good," said Uncle Win smilingly. "And now, Warren, maybe you can tell about the French Armada that was going to destroy Boston."
"Why, the French—came and helped us. Oh, there was the French and English war, but did they have a real Armada?"
"Why, after Louisburg was taken by the colonists—we were only Colonies in 1745. The French resolved to destroy all the towns the colonists had planted on the coast. You surely can't have forgotten?"
"The Revolution seems so much greater to this generation," said Miss Recompense. "That is almost seventy years ago. My father was called out for the defense of Boston. Governor Shirley knew it would be the first town attacked."
"And a real Armada!" said Warren, big-eyed.
"They didn't call it that exactly. Perhaps they thought the name unlucky. But there were twenty transports and thirty-four frigates and eleven ships of the line. Quite a formidable array, you must admit. The Duc d'Anville left Brest with five battalions of veterans."